Meryl Streep | Jerry Seinfeld | Huvanes Family

Meryl Subs for Liam

Meryl Streep wasn't so keen on being at an awards show recently. In fact she never does it. But when the GQ Man of the Year Awards called, she had to accept.

Streep accepted an award for her friend Liam Neeson  who couldn't make it to the ceremony the other night when GQ gave him their theatre actor of the year award.

How did she get roped into it? "Too many dinners at Liam and Natasha's house," she said of Neeson and wife Natasha Richardson. "I had to do something for them."

Streep spent the evening in the green room upstairs rather than hang out at the dinner -- a wise move considering the lamb chops weren't cooked and still seemed to be moving around on the plate.

I have to say that my time with Meryl was pretty nice — she's one of the great ladies and she's got a good sense of humor. A few times we had to explain who the presenters were to her — we could see them on the monitors. But Streep is hip, and she delighted in getting to know the MTV generation.

By the way, Streep — perhaps our greatest American actress in any format — stars in two new movies this fall, Adaptation and The Hours. She is likely to be nominated for at least one Oscar. And don't be surprised if she wins.

Also in the green room during the GQ awards: the lovely Naomi Watts and boyfriend Heath Ledger, he with close-cropped hair. They are charming Aussies, and get along great despite their 10-year age difference.

And Hugh Grant stopped in — to get makeup, of all things. It accounts for his rosy glow. And this was after he'd been on camera to win his award. Go figure.

Seinfeld: Crab Apples

Even with all his fortune, Jerry Seinfeld is having trouble with landscaping.

You may remember that last year he bought Billy Joel 's Hamptons estate for $35 million — as is.

But Billy, according to sources, doted on his famous apple orchard on the estate's property. With careful gardening he was able to have a great autumn apple fest every year.

Unfortunately, Seinfeld has not attended to the apple orchard. "He didn't want it sprayed with anything," a source in East Hampton said. "The result is that the orchard has been dying and it's been very upsetting to everyone including Billy."

So friends and neighbors of Seinfeld in the posh area of Georgica Pond have gotten together and convinced the comedian to remove the orchard tree by tree.

"People are signing up left and right to come and take the apple trees," said a Seinfeld neighbor.

Huvanes: An American Success

(When I saw the blurb on the Huvane family in New York Times Magazine, I thought it might be interesting to pull out the first feature written about them. It was published in Talk magazine's debut issue in August 1999. It's been updated and edited a bit, but here it is.)

If ever there were two branches of the Hollywood establishment whose camaraderie could spell trouble for everyone, publicists and talent agents are the pair. So maybe not everyone in the community was thrilled that the Huvane brothers — Kevin and Steven — have seemed to emerge simultaneously from out of nowhere.

Kevin, 40, a partner at Creative Artists Agency was one of the Young Turks who inherited the fabled establishment from the Ovitz era. Steven, 35, an upstart publicist, came to town and quickly established himself as a publicist who loved to run interference for his clients  — many of whom are the same as Kevin's: Jennifer Aniston, Julianne Moore, and Helen Hunt among them.

Recently their youngest brother, Chris, 25, went to work for Steven and now people are getting worried.

"They're multiplying like Tribbles from Star Trek," frets one media wag.

There are six Huvane siblings, a sort of Nineties Kennedy clan who were reared in the Bronx by two loving parents. Sister Denise runs the finance department for a computer consultant.  Two other brothers, Michael and Robert, have managed to stay away from the life of power lunches.

Explains Chris, "We did have a strong work ethic. But mainly our parents let us experience things on our own. We grew up feeling pretty good about ourselves."

On the face of it, the two more seasoned brothers could not be less alike. Where Kevin — whom Meryl Streep once jokingly called her "bodyguard agent"— is open faced and affable with rounded edges, Steven is sharp, angular and wears a perpetual scowl in public.

At the premiere of  Shakespeare in Love, he shadowed Gwyneth Paltrow as if he were her parole officer.

"It's funny," says Kevin, "because when we were younger I was the tough one, ready to get in a fight. Steven was the pacifist, the peacemaker. I'm so surprised now when people tell me about him. But even at a premiere, I know not to bother him when he's with a client."

They are sensitive about low rumblings of a familial conspiracy. "Most of my clients are with PMK," says Kevin of the industry's gold standard PR agency. "It's important to keep things separate as much you can."

Their accidental dynasty can be attributed to Denise, who worked at Manhattan's celebrity enclave the Wyndham Hotel in the 1970s. Sirs Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov, Henry Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Carol Burnett, Irish novelist Edna O'Brien, John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands would call the Wyndham home for weeks or months at a time. The Huvane boys found that the hotel was the perfect summer job.

"Martin Sheen used to bring me cookies after his performances in Death of a Salesman ," Kevin recalls. "The Cassavetes took me to my first film set when I was about 17."

Kevin matriculated from elevator operator to assistant manager until he was "discovered" by the late romance novelist Cynthia Freeman. "She said, You should be an agent. The next thing I knew I got a call from Nat Lefkowitz , the head of the William Morris agency. I thought it was one of my friends fooling around, and hung up. The next day I got a letter from saying, 'No this is not a joke. Please come see me.'"

Kevin was sent to the legendary Morris mailroom. He worked himself up to agent status before leaving for CAA in 1988. It wasn't long before Steven followed Kevin to Hollywood, establishing relationships with up and comers like Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Peter Berg.

"They have exquisite manners," says Moore, also a former Wyndham resident. "Their mother raised them right. When you're schlepping something they're the first to say 'let me carry that.' It's very old fashioned and totally unnecessary."

A few years ago, all the Huvanes had to band together to help their mom, Genevieve , 65, through a cancer crisis. When she was diagnosed around Thanksgiving 1998, Kevin flew 27 members of his mom's family to Los Angeles for a weekend of Disneyland and bonding. (Sadly Genevieve passed away in 2000.)

"It's very simple," Steven says of his siblings' high success rate. "We always knew we were loved. And our parents always wanted us to be happy."