Many journalists wondered where Michael Moore obtained footage of U.S. soldiers in Baghdad for "Fahrenheit 9/11." After all, Moore did not go to Iraq himself.
I can now tell you that the producer of a new documentary set to air on VH1 had a hand in the Moore project.
The footage came from an Australian documentary filmmaker and artist named George Gittoes. Indeed, that footage — in which rock group Metallica is cited as a favorite of the soldiers' — is so integral to "Fahrenheit" that Moore wound up making special concessions to Gittoes.
According to my sources, Gittoes' friend saw the filmmaker's footage in "Fahrenheit" at the Cannes Film Festival and felt that he hadn't been credited properly. It's unclear whether Gittoes wanted credit at all. He was finally listed as a field producer, and his company, Gittoes Dalton Productions, was listed among the providers of archival footage.
"He was worried about his safety," insists a source, "and kept changing his mind about how he wanted the credit to read."
According to other sources, Gittoes immediately complained to Moore, who promptly sent him a $50,000 check.
"We flew him to New York and worked out a deal," says my insider, "to make sure that he was happy. There are no legal issues. We have an enormous respect for him."
But there was more to come. During to his talks with Moore, Gittoes negotiated a plum concession: A trailer for his own documentary, "Soundtrack to War," will run at the beginning of the DVD for "Fahrenheit" when it comes out later this year. (The highest-grossing documentary in recorded history, "Fahrenheit" should cross the $115 million mark soon.)
Moore's camp denied to me yesterday that there was ever a problem with Gittoes.
"He sent us all his field cassettes from Baghdad," a source says. "He sent us footage for licensing.
"The footage used in the film came from a lot of different sources," this insider continued, but declined to name other names.
In the end, though, Gittoes got more from Moore than some of the other filmmakers whose work wound up in "Fahrenheit."
A representative for Moore insists that only three minutes of Gittoes' film was used for Moore's movie.
One of the other outcomes of Gittoes' negotiations is that he now seems to be represented by the Endeavor talent agency, the same firm that represents Moore. The office of Ari Emanuel, Moore's agent, calls Gittoes a "semi-client," whatever that means.
But Gittoes' main triumph is that he's placed "Soundtrack to War" on VH1, which will air it on August 18th. It is not to be missed, although I'm looking forward to the DVD version without commercials, which will hopefully be expanded from the VH1 format.
Nevertheless, the cable version is fascinating and moving, with lots of candid interviews with U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
You will be surprised to hear that one outfit likes to listen to "Diane Krall," as they sweetly but incorrectly call Diana Krall. Tupac Shakur and Eminem are, unsurprisingly, popular artists in battle, too.
There are also a lot of amateur musicians in the armed forces, with varying degrees of talent. Two soldiers, rapper (male) Jaimeron Tippins and (female) singer Janel Daniels, seem exceptionally talented. Their respective off-the-cuff performances are at once more poignant and heartfelt than anything we've heard on various TV talent shows.
The No. 1 book on Amazon.com right now is "Unfit to Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," but the author may not be telling us everything about himself.
It was only last April that John E. O'Neill, then just a Houston attorney critical of John Kerry, told C-SPAN that he was not a political person.
He didn't mention that in just four months he'd be releasing a book called "Unfit to Command" about Kerry's war experiences. The book, published by Washington-based Regnery, has zoomed to the top of the bestseller list in the last few days.
On C-SPAN, O'Neill stated toward the end of his half-hour interview: "I have not been involved in any way in politics for many, many years and I've had no interest in being involved in politics for many, many years."
Alas, that's not completely true. Even though O'Neill has not given money to the campaign of the current President Bush, he did donate $1,000 to George Herbert Walker Bush's campaign in 1992. A year later he gave $2,500 to the Texas Republican Congressional Committee, and he did the same in 1994.
O'Neill has also given to several individual Republican candidates, including Peter Wareing, who twice ran for local office in Houston and lost.
Calls to O'Neill and his publisher were not returned.
As an author, O'Neill will not be new to the media circuit. In 1971 Kerry and O'Neill debated the Vietnam War on the old Dick Cavett show.
O'Neill was then a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. He is now a partner in the Houston law firm Clements, O'Neill, Pierce, Wilson and Wulkerson, along with former Enron lawyer and George W. Bush presidential counsel Margaret A. Wilson.
Oy! You'd think our little "Steven Tyler goes solo" story Wednesday was akin to news of WMD. Joe Perry, not satisfied with not having aged at all for three decades, sends word that he's happy for Tyler.
Perry writes: "It's ridiculous that someone would say that I'm upset about Steven wanting to do a solo album. Aerosmith is purposely taking the rest of the year off so the members of the band can do exactly these kinds of projects that we ordinarily can't when we're touring."
He does not mean skeet shooting and learning Tuscan cooking.
Even though I've heard that the break being taken is for non-musical reasons, here's what else Mr. Perry relates: "He's making his own solo album! I've encouraged the band to pursue other interests during this hiatus," he continued, then added something I did not know.
"I myself have released three solo albums" — with his early-'80s band the Joe Perry Project — "and am working on my fourth. I can't tell you exactly when it'll be out — we're still getting over our Japanese [tour] jet lag, but you never know what might be under the Christmas tree."
Brown but Not Blue in NYC
Ruth Brown wraps up her second extended week at Au Bar's Le Jazz Club this weekend. The R&B legend literally put the place on the map, but she has to go home to Las Vegas and take a breath. She's been here since July 12, already! My guess is, she'll be back this fall. Au Bar owner Howard Stein, once a disco king of the '70s, still has good taste. ...
On the town last night: Emmy-deprived "As the World Turns" and "Law & Order" star Tamara Tunie with her husband and niece at the "Collateral" premiere. ...
Eternally gorgeous Marisa Berenson at Elaine's, with her beautiful social-worker daughter, just back from shooting three films in Europe. ...
Also at the "Collateral" showing: Sire Records founder Seymour Stein, the man who gave us Madonna, Talking Heads and the Ramones 20 years ago, with ex-wife and pal famous realtor Linda Stein. They are no relation to Howard. ...
Frank Pellegrino Jr. serving delicious old-world Italian cuisine at Baldoria on West 49th St. His dad, Frank Sr., plays an FBI agent on "The Sopranos" and is the owner of 11-table Rao's waaaay uptown. ...
Joan Rivers at Ballato's on Houston Street, where Lenny Kravitz, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are regulars. ...
Rufus Wainwright, Loudon's singing son, goofing around on 6th Avenue in the Village. ...
Joan Allen at Carne on Broadway above 100th Street. ...
Little Steven van Zandt, of E Street Band fame and Silvio on "The Sopranos," working out at Crunch on East 13th St.
Here's something to chew on over the weekend.
He's gotten so self-important, he looks as though he might take off and fly away on his own. For years he had a mistress — who was married — unbeknownst to his wife. She was imported.
He created a job for her, and kept her on while all others raised eyebrows. Then the wife found out, filed for divorce and the mistress was put on the back burner.
Other women were fed into the rumor mill as decoys, but the mistress was waiting her turn. And getting her own fashionable divorce. Maybe the wife was fooled.
Now all parties are free and clear, and the nuptials are around the corner.