Nicole Kidman’s new movie "Fur" is going to be remembered for many things, but one in particular: lots of nude people. I mean, like naked men and women, full frontal, the whole deal.
"Fur," directed by Steve Shainberg, is an imagined story about the life of legendary photographer Diane (pronounced “de-ahn”) Arbus.
Arbus’ revered work includes nude portraits of regular people, as well as many hundreds of irregular types: short people, tall people and even a woman who used her feet for hands.
The film, which is simultaneously genius and bizarre, features the greatest selection of “freakish” characters since Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories.” Whoever did the secondary casting deserves a prize.
But what will catch the most attention when “Fur” is released on Nov. 10 are the opening scenes in which Arbus, played brilliantly I thought by Kidman, arrives to take pictures at a nudist colony.
Right away, we are treated to what the British call “naughty bits,” and plenty of them. Shainberg does not shy away from it at all. But believe me, there’s nothing erotic here. These are not models from a Madonna video.
Later in the film, Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. -- who plays a kind of imagined hairy beast who lives above the Arbuses in their apartment house -- have a sex scene slightly more graphic that we’re used to in a Kidman film.
And later, when the nudist colony scene picks up, Kidman flashes one breast just long enough to be surprising (and not unwelcome). And, of course, there’s more of the colonists.
It’s a little early to tell you more about “Fur,” except to explain the title. Arbus’ parents were very wealthy New York furriers, and there is a tie-in thematically between the chinchillas and minks they sell and Downey’s hirsute recluse with whom Kidman’s Arbus falls in love. It makes sense, just wait and see.
This much I will tell you also now: “Fur” puts Nicole into the very hotly contested Best Actress race with Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, Renee Zellweger, Penelope Cruz, Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren.
“Fur” will also garner attention for spectacular cinematography by Bill Pope (he did the “Matrix” movies) and an unbelievably good jazz score by Carter Burwell. I want the soundtrack now!
You may not know the name Pauley Perrette right away, but if you watch CBS primetime, you know her face. She’s the attractive, spunky actress who plays Abby Scuito on “NCIS,” starring Mark Harmon.
Abby is known for her high level of intelligence and playful energy, but in real life, the actress who plays her has been going through hell.
The reason is her ex-husband, 41-year-old Canadian Francis “Coyote” Shivers, a sometime musician and part-time club disc jockey who Perrette claims has been harassing her for the last two-and-a-half years, after almost four years of marriage.
Shivers — who according to court documents has many aliases, including Paul Edwards and Frank Keber — didn’t start his reign of terror with Perrette. His second-most recent ex-wife, Bebe Buell, who lives in Maine, has been inundated with a mountain of false police reports, invented complaints and restraining orders for years — all of which came after she told Shivers to leave and try to find work in Los Angeles in 1998.
“Instead, he found Pauley,” Buell says. “His next meal ticket.”
According to both women, Shivers stalked them and inflicted upon each of them endless mental distress. They each claim he terrorized them sexually during their respective relationships. When they compared notes, Buell and Perrette found that their situations, in fact, were eerily the same.
The women say Shivers, who denies everything, has been clever in his manipulation of the court system, too.
“He uses Family Court as his arena to harass women," Perrette alleges. "There’s no link between Family Court and Criminal Court. So he can commit perjury. He can put illegally gotten e-mails and false declarations into the court record. There’s no penalty for it.”
In 1999, once he was established in California, Shivers got a restraining order against Buell, even though she was 3,000 miles away and hadn’t seen him in a year.
Buell opted not to fight it, since she wasn’t going west, and eventually it expired. But she says her total costs in battling Shivers’ legal haranguing have now spiraled into the high five figures.
Perrette didn’t want her story to become public — “I didn’t want to be attached to him in the press,” she says — but once another alleged victim of Shivers came forward, she felt she had no choice.
In July, one of Shivers’ former girlfriends, Angela Garber, filed a complaint against him in Los Angeles Superior Court for assault, battery, sexual battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
But Garber waited two years to see an attorney after the alleged incidents, which is why the Los Angeles Police Department never took the case, I’m told.
“He threatened her if she ever talked to anyone,” Perrette said. Eventually, Garber contacted Buell, who put her in touch with Perrette.
Garber’s charges, which are on public record, are frightening if proved to be correct. They include several episodes of rape and sodomy, not to mention descriptions of Shivers locking her in car trunks or just plain hitting her.
At least one of these episodes occurred in Perrette’s house, only hours after she left. Shivers, in his court-filed response, denies all these charges. He claims that all these women are in collusion against him and even claims that they stalked him.
Full disclosure: I knew Shivers slightly in the mid-1990s when he was married to Buell and living in New York, although I haven’t seen him in at least eight years. Then around 32 years old, he fancied himself a rock star, although his only means of support was the occasional gig at tiny rock clubs in the East Village. His income was almost wholly derived from his marriage to Buell, who was then managing the career of her daughter, actress Liv Tyler.
When I heard four months ago that Shivers was making Perrette's life miserable, I went to visit her at her recently regained Hollywood home. According to Perrette, when she filed a restraining order against Shivers during their divorce, the judge in the case gave her two options:
“I could either have a restraining order or live there with him. Because of my fear of him, I left. I grabbed my two dogs, my cat and my laptop and I ran.”
For almost two years, Perrette has fought Shivers in court for the old rambling house she’d bought with her relatively small TV salary (she’s fifth-listed in billing on "NCIS"). When she finally took it back — after paying Shivers to leave a house he never owned or had title to, she says — Perrette says the place had been vandalized. There was writing and drawing on the walls and damage to pretty much every room.
“Rat and mice feces were all over the floor,” she says.
At a friend’s apartment where she was staying just down the hill, Perrette told me of her nightmare trying to get away from Shivers.
She detailed an unending series of harassments, including Shivers’ penchant for hacking into her computer — something she and Buell realized they had in common — and leaving thousands of notes on small pieces of yellow paper.
While we were talking, Perrette turned over a standing ashtray, and a yellow missive fell out.
“I thought I got the last of them,” she said, “but they are everywhere.”
She said the notes almost always carried threats written in the third person, like “Do not betray him.”
Shivers would leave confetti cut into heart shapes, she said, copied from a tattoo they’d both gotten long ago (and she has since had removed).
Perrette points out that the vandalism seems to be tied to the physical abuse. In Garber’s complaint, she alleges that Shivers branded the letter “C” into her back while she was tied to a chair. Perrette found the same branding all over her house.
Over the last two years, Perrette, Buell and several of Shivers’ other accusers have bonded. It's ironic, since it was Perrette’s signature on a complaint that secured a restraining order against Buell a few years ago.
Perrette claims that she knew nothing about it, and that her name was forged.
“I told Bebe she’s a really crappy stalker,” Perrette says with a rueful laugh. “She should try something else. In eight years I’ve never met her! She’s obviously not good at it!”
Perrette herself got a restraining order against Shivers in late 2004, which has been renewed several times. Nevertheless, she says, “Every bit of vandalism in my house is a violation of the restraining order. The restraining order states, among other things, no harassment, no leaving notes, etc. He destroyed my house, [and] that is as harassing as it gets.”
The next renewal hearing comes in November.
“My whole goal was to be able to work in television and film and maintain a normal life, never be in a tabloid. I was clean as snow. And now there’s this guy. And I find myself in the middle of a horror movie I didn’t audition for.”
Efforts to reach Shivers’ most recent attorney of record, Barbara J. Youngman, were frustrated by the lack of a phone listing anywhere, even in legal directories.
The inability to nail Shivers down and see him prosecuted for anything so far has been his accusers' biggest frustration. Perrette says many visits to the police have yielded no help.
“I’ve filed several police reports for violation of restraining order. He’s shown up at events he wasn’t invited to, and claimed I was stalking him. I reported the vandalism. I’ve been working with the Threat Management Unit, which is supposed to work on stalking cases.”
There have been no results so far. Why?
“That’s the question,” she says. “No one knows. Two different police officers and one lawyer told me I should have stayed and let him break my arms.”
Perrette recently turned to famed Los Angeles private investigator John Nazarian for help.
“I saw that he worked with the unit. You know, I love cops and I wanted to work well with them. His logo is 'Make Your Problem My Problem.' I feel like he’s working on this 24 hours a day so I can do my job. And I love my job.”
Nazarian says that after dealing with many celebrity stalkers, Shivers — who, we must add, denies it all — may be the worst. Perrette agrees.
“I’m the only thing standing between him and his next victim,” she says. “The three of us,” she adds, “fear for our lives 24 hours a day. We’re always looking over both shoulders.”
The word is: Britney Spears has fired her longtime and loyal flack, Leslie Sloane Zelnick. She blames Zelnick for all her bad publicity.
The fact is, Spears was lucky to have Zelnick. She is basically famous for being trashy, and has no actual skills at this point other than having babies with her equally trashy husband.
Zelnick spent all her time with Spears putting out fires the onetime teen star started. Zelnick is lucky to be relieved of this chore now …
R&B hip-hop group Outkast has left their longtime manager, Blue Williams, because their movie and soundtrack, “Idlewild,” were not hits. But I’m told the real fault lies with Jive Records, which thought it could piggyback the marketing for their CD on to Universal Pictures’ film release.
“Jive wouldn’t spend any money,” sources tell me. “The whole thing was destined to fail.”
When Universal realized what was happening, my sources tell me, they pulled the plug on the movie. Everybody lost. This is amazing considering Outkast’s previous album was a bestseller and multiple Grammy winner …
There’s word that NBC’s “Kidnapped” may already be in trouble. I sure hope not. Emmy-winner Dana Delany leads a great cast, and Delany alone is worth the price of admission …
Sightings: Matt Lauer and very pregnant wife Annette having a romantic dinner at La Goulue on Madison Avenue … Martha Stewart CEO Charles Koppleman at the Hotel Plaza Athenee, where Serena Williams has also been a frequent guest … Joyce DeWitt, of “Three’s Company” fame, dining with pals at Elaine’s … Don King in a serious lunch huddle at The Palm West, while “Soul Man” Sam Moore broke bread with famed New York jock Ken Dashow …former “American Idol” star Mario Vazquez celebrating the release of his J Records album at Capitale on the Bowery …
And a personal note: my grandfather, Herman Friedman, would have been 100 years old today. An avid fisherman, he also loved big band and jazz and swing music. My father inherited that gene, and it’s descended to yours truly in the form of R&B. If you’re under 30 and don’t know what this means, go to iTunes and download some Benny Goodman. Hear what real music can be …
Tonight: a double header in Lincoln Center. At 7p.m., right before "The Queen" opens the New York Film Festival, famed photographer Jill Krementz debuts her 2007 desk calendar across the street at Barnes & Noble. Rumor is her equally famous hubby Kurt Vonnegut will give an introduction ...