Party of Five Star Finally Eats Something | Sidney Lumet Conquers Television, Of Course | Farewell to a Publisher Always on Fire
Party of Five's Paula Devicq — who stars in Sidney Lumet's new TV series 100 Centre Street — swore to me last night she does not have an eating disorder.
"I eat! Look at me! I'm always trying to eat." Devicq, who at one point in the last season of Party of Five looked as though she was going to slip through the cracks of the Salinger house, has been on the cover of all the tabloids cited as an anorexic.
"I just laugh when I see that stuff," she said. "As long as they spell my name right it's good publicity, I guess. But last year I was literally going back and forth from New York to Los Angeles, doing Party, getting ready for this show, doing a play, trying to move back to New York, which I've done. I think that's what took its toll on me."
Devicq, who's from Vancouver, pointed to her youthful and quite fetching mother as an example. "You see, it's all in the genes. Look at her. Same thing." From not too far away, Mrs. Devicq could easily be mistaken for her daughter. So much for the rumors.
"Do you hear that?" Paula said to a friend. "Everyone thinks I'm too thin." In person, to tell you the truth, she's quite radiant and healthy looking.
What's happened to the Party of Five gang? "I'm friends with all of them," Devicq said. "I just spoke to Lacey Chabert, and I talk to the producers all the time. One of them asked if it was too early for a reunion show! I said, I think so, we just wrapped!"
God bless Sidney Lumet. The famed director of such gritty New York dramas as Prince of the City, Serpico, and Q & A is back big time. His TV series, called 100 Centre Street, debuts Monday night on A&E. It's a winner.
100 Centre Street marks the 76-year-old Lumet's return to television after nearly 50 years. After all, it was he who directed the recently deceased Jason Robards in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh in 1960, as well as many other high quality pieces from the medium's golden age.
But film is where Lumet has excelled. What a career! Fail-Safe with Henry Fonda, Dog Day Afternoon, Garbo Talks, Deathtrap, Daniel, The Wiz, The Verdict, The Morning After, Equus, Running on Empty, the underrated Night Falls on Manhattan, and the classic 12 Angry Men are all among his many celebrated accomplishments. (Isn't it time he got the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy?)
In 100 Centre Street he also returns to what he knows best: New York. With the genius stroke of casting Alan Arkin as a judge known for letting criminals walk (based on a real-life New York judge of some years ago), Lumet introduces us in the first two-hour episode to a number of continuing characters including a fledgling assistant D.A. played by Party of Five's Paula Devicq (see above), and a female African-American judge played by LaTanya Richardson — and she's such a revelation in her scenes with the terrific Arkin you can't believe she hasn't been a star all her life.
Right away, 100 Centre Street establishes itself as different. The opening scene is 12 minutes long — extraordinary for a TV series — and it's just a scene in the courtroom with Arkin presiding over an unruly and realistic night court, with Devicq trying get through her first night. You keep waiting for a cut to some other scene, but Lumet stays with it. On a regular network this would not be possible. But A&E has wisely given Lumet enough control that he's calling the shots.
At last night's premiere for the series at New York's Guastavino, I sat with the director and asked him about this. "It is 12 minutes long," he said, "and there was never a discussion of cutting it. I had to set it up because this is what the series is about."
When I asked him why the series looked so much like a "Sidney Lumet film," he shook his head. "It's just good people doing what they do best."
It's more than that — and Lumet knows it. A&E is trying to wedge its way into Sopranos territory here by launching an original, quality drama. They've done it. Viewers should get hooked right away on most of the characters, and Devicq — who was whiny and looked like she suffered from an eating disorder on Party of Five — gets to shine at last as a rich girl trying to break from her affluent Park Avenue father.
Not to knock Law and Order — but this show, which is produced by Law and Order's David Black — feels fresher and more alive than the other has in many seasons. Since A&E runs Law and Order reruns, the audience is there. I think we can look forward to many more seasons of 100 Centre Street.
Bernie Geis died on Monday. He was 91; I had no idea what had happened to him, but in his heyday Geis was the publisher who brought Jacqueline Susann to prominence with Valley of the Dolls. He published hundreds of bestsellers, mostly commercial fiction, none well-written but all incredibly popular, good reads. One of his nonfiction bestsellers was called Happiness Is a Stock That Lets You Sleep at Night. That sort of thing.
I knew Bernie Geis in 1980 when he shared office space with Nat Sobel, a literary agent for whom I worked briefly on East 56th St. They were on the fourth and fifth floors of a five-story building that has since been all gussied up by the new prosperity. In 1980 that address was kind of run down. The building had five floors but the elevator only went to the fourth floor. It was like the old Catskills one liner about someone no longer being mentally well.
Because the elevator only went up to the fourth floor, it was necessary to walk one more flight, from Sobel to Geis, in order to see Bernie. It was a nice enough stairwell. But it was going down again that was always a little nerve-wracking. Bernie had put a fireman's pole into the office between four and five, cutting a wide hole in his floor. If you wanted to go to Sobel's office, you had to slide down the pole. Had to.
Some people protested — they were carrying papers. No problem. Bernie's very odd assistant, a gray, wiry woman named Alice whose lips were always pursed, simply clipped your papers into a large butterfly clip and lowered them through the hole on a long string. Why not? You don't want to go down? Alice looked at you as if you were the biggest jerk in town. Then she wrapped her arms around the pole, clicked her ankles together at the other end, and whoosh! If Alice could do it, so could you.
There was, luckily, a reward for going down via the pole. The fourth floor receptionist was happy to present you with it if you successfully made it downstairs. A pen, designed and ordered by Bernie Geis. The top half of it showed a young blonde girl, a secretary right out of 1960 with a Judy Jetson hairdo flip, sliding down the pole in a bright red mini skirt. Her legs were wrapped around the pole and she had a wide smile on her face. Bernie had had his name and phone number printed on the bottom part. The part of the joke offensive to women wouldn't have occurred to him: The pens were so old the phone number had letters in it. I treasure mine to this day.
Everyone went down that pole. Of course, the authors did, too. Around this time, Father Andrew Greeley showed up. He was the author of Geis's best-selling novel, The Cardinal Sins, a racy novel by a Catholic priest about a Catholic priest. Father Greeley — who had made the Catholics crazy — wore a velvet priest outfit since his big score, and had a beautiful Asian female assistant. It didn't matter who he was, though. Alice put his papers in the clip and snaked them through the hole. A crowd gathered. We'd seen everything come down that pole. A priest? Why not? And sure enough, Father Greeley came sliding down that shiny brass pole just like a fireman headed to a four-alarmer. Wheeee! His velvet was unmussed.
I do not know whether Father Greeley — whose books were heavily reworked and edited by a Geis editor — got the pen. I do know that no one who worked there ever forgot Bernie Geis. He had a sense of humor and a knowledge of publishing that has completely vanished and would be impossible to explain now to the corporate types who rule what was in Geis' day an older, better world.