Flashbulbs lighted up the stage as Liza Minnelli and David Gest walked out dressed in dark colors and fashionably 45 minutes late to their press conference Thursday at the House of Blues. They were announcing their new VH-1 "musical reality series," which debuts in October.
"Liza and David" will be an "intimate" look at the star couple and life inside their lavish Manhattan penthouse. "We're simple people," said Gest, seemingly without irony. Later, Minnelli added, "I won't let anyone in the bedroom or the bathroom. You have to have some privacy."
Gest, a producer, and Minnelli plan to host dinner parties with entertainer friends such as Dr. Dre, Usher and Mary J. Blige. When asked if Gest's close friend Michael Jackson would make a cameo on the show, Gest ignored the question.
As Gest spoke, Minnelli fidgeted, giggled and clung to her husband, clearly uncomfortable with all the attention from a crowd of about 75 reporters, photographers and camera crews. "What am I most nervous about?" she replied to one reporter. "You really want to know the truth? This press conference."
"We are two people who love to laugh, joke and enjoy each other's company," Gest said in a statement. "When guests step into our house, they become a part of our family. We both love every type of music from hip-hop and pop to country and rock. We plan to introduce our viewers to great music from every genre."
Before the couple arrived at the West Hollywood club, Out magazine senior editor Jeffrey Epstein found a seat in the front row. "I'm so excited! I'm so excited! .... It's different from Ozzy.... You're looking at a different demographic."
Romanian TV reporter Andreea Marin, 28, sat nearby, detailing the singer's popularity in the Eastern European nation. "Asking me about Liza Minnelli," she said, quoting lyricist and Minnelli fan Fred Ebb, "is like asking a child his opinion of Christmas." Her producer Marius Daniel Popa added, "In Romania, they're crazy for her."
With Elements of Fact
Ethan Hawke is still a bit jet-lagged when he calls Los Angeles just before 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the same day his second novel, "Ash Wednesday," hit stores. He recently returned from an eight-week visit to China, where his wife, Uma Thurman, is filming a movie, their daughter Maya Ray, 4, and infant son Roan by her side. Hawke sounds eager to get the interview done. He calls 10 minutes early ("I figured, why not get on with it?") from his home in New York.
"Ash Wednesday" is a love story told in dual narrative by a pair of conflicted lovers--Jimmy, an AWOL soldier, and his pregnant sweetheart, Christy, who meet in Albany, N.Y., and drive together to Texas. Hawke admits that both characters possess shades of his personality. But the 31-year-old author won't reveal which traits he shares with the stars of his book. "You should talk to my shrink about that," he says.
The novel is dedicated to "Karuna," Thurman's middle name. Hawke started writing it in 1997, long before marriage and children. "When I started it, it was about something else," he says. But the story emerged as his family took shape. "For the last few years, I felt that in no way was I really prepared for all the emotional changes that are asked of you getting married and becoming a father," he said. "I came up with a story that I thought would be a good forum for a lot of the emotional themes.... I'm basically taking a three-year [personal] journey and condensing it into a one-month [fictional] road trip."
She's Still Welcome
in the Hamptons
Martha Stewart, the domestic goddess whose stock trading is under investigation by Congress, will be honored for her charitable contributions Saturday by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons with a $1,000-per-plate gala at his home in East Hampton.
Stewart is being feted along with "Sex and the City's" Cynthia Nixon, Black Enterprise magazine founder Earl G. Graves and Radio One founder Cathy Hughes for helping support Simmons' pet charity, the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation's Art for Life, which supports arts education for at-risk youth in New York City.
Event organizers expect to raise $850,000 on Saturday.
The decision to celebrate Stewart apparently was made before allegations of insider trading involving Stewart became public.
"She's been a good friend to me and Rush Philanthropic over the years and has helped us to fulfill our mission of providing at-risk youth with access and exposure to the arts," said Simmons, founder of DefJam Records and chief executive of Rush Communications, in a statement.
A House committee is investigating whether Stewart sold shares of ImClone Systems Inc. based on a tip from one of her friends, Samuel Waksal, the drug maker's former chief executive. Stewart, head of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., has denied wrongdoing.
In Section 12 of the Universal Amphitheatre at the Monday night premiere of "Austin Powers in Goldmember" were Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen chatting with Jon Voight and his goddaughter Skyler Shaye, Monica Lewinsky wearing a knit shawl and, separately, Jack Black.
City of Angles runs Tuesday and Friday. E-mail: angles@latimes. com