Julia Roberts Keeps the Snow Away for Big Night
"It's the first time I've ever been saluted," Julia Roberts said last night. She was guest of honor for the American Museum of the Moving Image's annual gala at the Waldorf. Everyone expected a big snowstorm, but it never came. In fact, the skies were incredibly calm while the presumed Best Actress of 2000 was toasted and roasted by her friends.
Among the guests: George Clooney, James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Steven Soderbergh, Dermot Mulroney, last year's Best Actress winner Hillary Swank with husband Chad Lowe, plus Diane Sawyer, The Mexican director Gore Verbinski, and Rupert Everett.
Mexican co-star Brad Pitt and the head of Revolution Films, Joe Roth, skipped the flight across the country because of blizzard fears. But Julia's business partner/former manager Elaine Goldsmith Thomas was there and the star dedicated the night to her, to her sister, and to her boyfriend Benjamin Bratt.
Clooney, who admitting to not knowing her well, did get the biggest laugh when he called Roberts "J-Ro," a send up of Jennifer Lopez's "J-Lo."
Roberts, who looked stunning as usual, is in what you might call "The Zone" — that cool spot where everything is going right and you can do no wrong. The Mexican opened with a respectable $20 million box office take and was number 1 for the weekend. She's headed to the Oscars as a cinch for Erin Brockovich. With Revolution, she's literally got her own film company. Not bad.
"Of course they don't invite people who don't like you to these things," she said as she accepted her honors. "And believe me, there are plenty of people who don't like you."
Well, not the case with this star. Tim Robbins said during his toast that on the second day of shooting Pret-à-Porter Roberts knew the name of every member of the Paris crew. "She said, Hello Pierre, hello Michel. And we were only contracted to be there for ten days!"
All in all, a classy night for a class act.
I have to mention my odd encounter with James Gandolfini, the Emmy award-winning actor and star of The Sopranos He's in the no.1 movie of the weekend, and his HBO series had its big premiere last night. You'd think he'd be on top of the world.
So how does it feel, I asked him? We were sitting at an abandoned dinner table after Julia's big party. He looked, what can I say? — glum.
"You have the no. 1 movie and the no. 1 show, James."
"You realize it's completely separate from my life. Without David Chase, there's no Sopranos. Without Julia, there's no Mexican."
"Okay," I offered. "But you made a contribution, no?"
"No more than the focus puller," he said, referring to one of the more obscure jobs you can have on a movie.
What can you say after that? "Just trying to keep it level," I said, a little flustered.
"Something like that," he said.
Hey, James — lighten up, for gosh sakes! We like you, big guy. Just accept it and be happy.
But it does sound like all that work with Dr. Melfi has been for naught.
You'll be seeing pictures of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani any minute now — wearing a sparkly Rockettes jacket, top hat, and no pants.
For last night's annual Inner Circle dinner, the Mayor topped off the very inside, very funny, off-beat and certainly off-key night by ripping off his pants to reveal shaved legs and an under-wraps sense of humor.
The Inner Circle dinner was a black-tie event held at the New York Hilton for politicians and members of the press corps who cover them. It included everyone from New York Times editors such as Howell Raines to the New York Post's own Marc Kalech with his wife Marcia Kramer, a political reporter from WCBS Channel 2. I even ran into the Wall Street Journal's John Fund.
Rudy and the Rockettes were the culmination of a four-hour program that included a full parody of The Godfather written by the mayor's staff and starring Rudy as Don Giuliani.
Yes, it was spot-on and priceless, with appearances by members of the Sopranos cast (Dominic Chianese, Lillo Brancato, Tony Sirico, and Federico Castelluccio) as well as a knockout musical number by the great Danny Aiello.
But the Mayor was the star, finishing the show with his penultimate number — a parody of Paul Anka's "My Way" with the chorus changed to "You did it my way."
Giuliani's group even produced its own Playbill, with cast bios and pictures. It was paid for, I am told, by local millionaires Marty Richards and Marshall Rose (aka Candice Bergen's husband).
In the audience were Senators Hillary Clinton — who sat at New York Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman's table — and Chuck Schumer, as well as legions of New York press who cover City Hall, the courts, and report the day's events on radio, for TV, and in the papers.
All the potential successors to Giuliani were there — Mark Green, Freddie Ferrer, Alan Hevesi, Peter Vallone, Michael Bloomberg. Plus gubernatorial candidates Carl McCall and Andrew Cuomo. And much was made of the Mayor's animosity toward Governor Pataki and former Senator Al D'Amato. There was also reference to the mayor's running for governor next year.
Prior to the Mayor's Godfather show, the press corps — led by WNYW Fox 5 anchor Jim Ryan as Rudy, in a Yankee cap, TV anchor Tony Guida as Bill Clinton, and Court TV anchor Sheila Stainback as Hillary — put an a hilarious show of their own called "Frontal Rude-Ity."
Other highlights of that show included WPIX Channel 11's Lynn White as Denise Rich, Stainback as Hillary, WOR-FM's Shelly Strickler as Rudy's "special friend" Judy Nathan, Fox 5 News at Ten anchors Rosanna Scotto and John Roland in a musical duet as Libby Pataki and Rick Lazio.
Former NY Daily News writer James Harney really brought down the house, as they used to say, as Al Sharpton singing Billy Preston's "Nothing from Nothing." And former NY Post reporter Richard Steier — in one of the night's best amateur voices — lampooned Senator Schumer in a song "A Schleppy Kind of Guy" sung to the tune of "New York State of Mind." It went: "Got no charisma, never cheat and never lie."
Senator Schumer said afterwards, "If that's all they can say about me, then I can definitely laugh about it." Another line later in the show, about crooked election lawyers, actually gave him a belly laugh and he clapped hard.
Both Clinton and Schumer were terrific sports, staying right to the end and laughing heartily at all the jokes made at their expense. And there were plenty for Mrs. Clinton to cringe at, including references to Monica Lewinsky, the pardons, and President Clinton's roving eye.
One particular barbed song, sung to "Chattanooga Choo Choo," was sung by several pardoned Hasidic Jews. It began: "Pardon me goy, We got a presidential pardon," etc. You get the picture.
Mrs. Clinton and I chatted a couple of times during the night. When I mentioned that she was taking it all well, she did indeed laugh. "You have to have a sense of humor."
She also noted that the Denise Rich characterization was pretty good. "She looked so much like her, too, with the hair and all," Mrs. Clinton said. Lynn White wore quite a wig in the impersonation.
Stainback, who is African-American but wore a blonde wig to play Hillary, did an outrageous take off on Britney Spears' "Oops, I Did It Again." Senator Clinton seemed to enjoy that one especially.
Mayor Giuliani's acting as Don Corleone was so good, by the way, it was scary. He was on stage for almost 90 minutes without a break, never lost his cotton-mouth Brando mumbling, the hunched shoulders, or missed a line.
In one particular good sequence he and members of the cast — playing politicians who'd come to ask for favors — kept hugging and kissing each other on the cheeks over and over in a hilarious send-up of tough mobsters who only know how to say goodbye one way.