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City of Angles

Independent Jerry Stiller

November 22, 2001

Morty Fineman is a filmmaker extraordinaire: writer, director and producer of 427 films, including such classics as "Free Love for Sale," "Meter Reader Lolita" and "Cheerleader Camp Massacre." On Tuesday, he called from New York to chat about a new documentary being made to honor his life and work.

It's about time, he said. "I made movies that grabbed people's consciousness," said Fineman, speaking through Jerry Stiller, who plays the fictional director in the new mockumentary "The Independent."

The joke of the film, which opens Dec. 7, is that the director's opus is schlock, sold by the pound like sausage, and guided by such Fineman wisdom as: "When life gives you lemons, quickly sell the lemons," and "There is no shame in nudity, especially if a person is paid to be nude."

"You can have dreams, but you may not have all of the goods," said Stiller. "Morty was a guy who could make three movies in a week, with the same actors and the same script, and only change the costumes," he said, adding that "The Independent" is the "This Is Spinal Tap" version of a Hollywood story.

In the movie, fiction and reality blend. Hollywood luminaries, including Peter Bogdanovich, Nick Cassavetes and Ron Howard, appear as themselves to comment on Fineman's importance as a filmmaker. Stiller's wife, Anne Meara, stars as Fineman's ex-wife. His son, Ben Stiller, has a cameo, playing an actor in a fictional Fineman production.

In real life, his son became an actor and comedian "by osmosis," said Stiller. "We didn't have any dynasty ideas," Stiller said. "We took everything moment to moment. The kids came along when we toured, and it worked. There was no plan to it."

In the movie, Janeane Garofalo plays Fineman's daughter Paloma, who finally puts the director out of his misery by serving him with Chapter 11 papers.

Ben Stiller introduced his father to Garofalo eight years ago. "She came to my house with Ben," said Stiller. "She sat down on the windowsill with her feet dangling, and I was afraid she was going to fall out the window without ever saying a word."

Stephen Kessler, the director of "The Independent," said he made the movie about the fictitious director because he had "seen so many people in Hollywood giving everything for their art, although most of the art was pretty dopey," he said. "Including myself."

The final word on Fineman, fact and fiction?

"A lot of people out there can identify with this character," said Stiller. "This is a guy who had very little talent but great ambition."

Wedding Bells for Stephanopoulos

Celebrities packed the aisles at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Manhattan Tuesday as former Bill Clinton aide, now ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos married actress Alexandra Wentworth in a Greek Orthodox ceremony. The couple were married by George's father, Robert Stephanopoulos, dean of the cathedral.

Wedding guests included Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters, Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer, as well as Marisa Tomei, director Joel Schumacher and James Carville. Neither of the New York-based Clintons attended.

The bride wore a Vera Wang silk organza gown. The groom opted for a black Gucci suit, Armani tie and white shirt.

The couple met on a blind date earlier this year, said Wendy Morris, a spokeswoman for the actress. This is the first marriage for both.

Janet Jackson and a Restraining Order

Janet Jackson and her family recently received some unwanted attention from a man who allegedly came to their house several times, sometimes in the buff. On Monday, L.A. Superior Court Judge Susan Speer issued a temporary restraining order directing Everett Lee McCrimmon to stay at least 100 yards away from the family on charges of stalking Janet Jackson and members of her family.

The 52-year-old McCrimmon, on probation following a vandalism conviction in Malibu earlier this year, allegedly came to the Jacksons' house five times during November, beginning Nov. 7 and culminating Nov. 13, according to court documents filed in Van Nuys. Jorge Gama, a security guard for the family, testified that on Nov. 12, around 5:24 p.m., he saw McCrimmon outside the gates, wearing only blue pants. He began jumping up and down, yelling that he "wanted to see Janet" and that "he was her husband and the father of her children."

After threatening the guard, the chef and Janet's brother, Jermaine Jackson, who had all come to the gate, McCrimmon took off his pants, court papers say. After a short while, he reportedly left, and on returning to the house the next day, he dispensed with clothes altogether. He was later arrested.

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