Gwyneth: Not the New Yoko, But Maybe Linda

Gwyneth Paltrow | Barry Levinson | Ruth Brown | JFK Jr. | Preview of Next Week

Gwyneth: Not the New Yoko, But Maybe the Next Linda

Gwyneth Paltrow is not trying to become the new Yoko Ono, but she might be a Linda McCartney-in-training.

Spies at New York's Hit Factory told me the other night that Paltrow has been a steady visitor to the studio as husband Chris Martin and his group Coldplay record their next album.

"Gwyneth is there all the time," my source said, "and she brings the baby."

Yes, the baby's name is Apple, despite the assertion by certain friends that it's just a decoy name for the public. Personally, I never doubted it.

Apple, I am told, is not present in the studio when daddy is playing at full volume. That's good news.

So far, I am also told that Gwyneth, who may be in Oscar contention this year for her lead role in "Proof," has not joined in on any of the tracks. There were rumors last year that she would either lend vocal or instrumental help to Coldplay. I do think, though, that these were just rumors.

Other Coldplay fans fearful of wifely interference have been poring over boring videos of recording sessions that are posted on the band's Web site in anticipation of finding Paltrow sitting Ono-like in the background.

Alas, it hasn't happened yet.

Rain Man Director: Hollywood's Vapid Desires

Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson came to the Avon Theater in Stamford, Conn., on Wednesday night.

The occasion was a double bill of two Levinson films, "Tin Men" and "Liberty Heights."

He's also made, in case you've forgotten, "Wag the Dog," "Diner," "Avalon," "The Natural," "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Disclosure," "An Everlasting Piece," "Sleepers," the TV drama "Homicide" and the new Fox series "The Jury."

At the Avon, some of the guests included David Apicella, the Ogilvy & Mather creative guy who put Barry together with Jerry Seinfeld for those Superman "Webisodes" on the American Express site; Avon founders Chuck and Deborah Royce, who refurbished the theater with their own money and have turned it into an overnight hit; and audio whiz Dick Sequerra celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary with wife Eileen.

Sequerra, a co-founder of Marantz Audio, now makes stunning and affordable stereo installations for CEOs and movie stars. His "mini" speakers, which sell for $750 a pair, are the 9th wonder of the world. (You can find him at

But it was Levinson's night, and he told a couple of very interesting stories.

One involved the late-'80s hit rock group Fine Young Cannibals, who perform in "Tin Men" and wrote the score. Their song "Good Thing" is all over the film.

He was most amusing giving his take on Hollywood execs today.

"I always find it funny when they say something's 'a good summer movie,'" he said. "What if you rent it in February? Is it not good then? Hollywood executives basically want films about nothing. If you don't have to think about it, it won't cause any problems. They want a lot of action, in and out, that's it."

Sad, but true. But if you want to see a great film this weekend, try renting "Tin Men" or any from the Levinson catalogue.

Ruth Brown's in Town, Making History

A Bing Crosby song, of all things, got Ruth Brown her audition at the Apollo Theater in 1943.

"That was all my father would let us listen to on the radio," she said last night at Au Bar (East 58th and Madison). She's playing there through July 25.

The 76-year-old R&B legend is not to be missed. At last night's show she performed two of her original Atlantic Records hits — "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean" and "Have A Good Time" — and "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" as if she were still 21 and shocking audiences with her stunning vibrato.

She brought the audience to a standing ovation with a soul version of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile (Though Your Heart Is Breaking)."

Maybe you've never heard of Ruth Brown. She preceded Aretha Franklin and Carla Thomas and all the big soul divas. She and LaVern Baker invented R&B. ("They used my initials," she said with a laugh.)

Baker is gone now. But Ruth — who has survived strokes and all kinds of ups and downs — is a fighter. Bonnie Raitt is her best friend and supporter. It was money she fought for that started the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

She is an American treasure on a par with Ray Charles and Aretha, but Ruth Brown hasn't got one gold record, a Grammy award or a Kennedy Center honor. It's shameful.

Still, if you can get into Au Bar (call them at 212-308-9455) this is history in the making. Ruth is kicking it right now, but no one is invincible. And her band of jazz/R&B stars is extraordinary as well.

JFK Jr.: The 5th Anniversary

It's hard to believe that John Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn and her sister Lauren Bessette died five years ago this weekend in a plane crash off the coast of Martha's Vineyard.

There will be plenty of "special reports" this weekend to commemorate this event, with lots of speculation about the couple's personal life. The vultures always come out for these things.

I expect Michael Bergin and Richard Blow, two people who wrote books in hopes of cashing in on the tragedy of these deaths, will be all over the place.

My advice: Turn it all off.

One story did intrigue me from, of all places, The National Enquirer. They suppose that a cell phone call placed by Carolyn may have interfered with the autopilot system and sent the plane into a nosedive.

Is it possible? Sure. It's plausible, and for the Enquirer, not as salacious as you might expect.

The real hero in this story, of course, is John's sister, Caroline. She's lost her entire immediate family but still goes on to write books, make speeches and raise a family. She deserves a lot of credit for getting up in the morning, I think. Good for her.

At John's funeral, Caroline read a poem by Stanley Kunitz that I've reprinted here before. It was a lovely choice. Here it is:

The Long Boat
When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,

he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.

Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.

He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.

Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!

As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

Time Off for Good Behavior

If no shocking upheavals occur in the world of culture or entertainment this weekend, this column will resume on Tuesday with a report on Jonathan Demme's hotly anticipated remake of "The Manchurian Candidate."

By then, "Fahrenheit 9/11" will have crossed the $90 million mark and be on track for quite a milestone. Some are already talking Oscar, and I do not mean just in the documentary category. Weirder things have happened, my friends.