Sunday, November 9, 1997 Home Edition Section: Life & Style Page: E-3 Out & About;

A Brave ‘New’ Script;


You’ve seen her as a murderous lesbian and a murderous heterosexual. Now Sharon Stone is playing a truly shocking role—literary archeologist. A new, old Aldous Huxley-Christopher Isherwood manuscript has been unearthed thanks to Stone’s uncanny reading of Isherwood’s massive “Diaries” (HarperCollins). Perusing its mere thousand pages, she came across a mention of a screen treatment written in the ’40s by Huxley and Isherwood. “Jacob’s Hands” tells the story of a faith healer in the high California desert who has a love interest named—surprise!—Sharon. The work was so obscure that even Isherwood and Huxley’s literary agent, Dorris Halsey, hadn’t heard of it. Stone, who’s a Huxley fan, had already snagged an option to remake the 1948 film “A Woman’s Vengeance” based on the Huxley story “The Gioconda Smile.” Universal made that deal with Halsey, who manages Huxley’s estate. “They paid very handsomely, thank you very much, after being cute about it, and talking to me as if I were an idiot,” Halsey says. Talk about a woman’s vengeance.

When Stone’s “people” asked about the treatment, Halsey hooked up with Huxley’s widow, Laura, a former psychotherapist and concert pianist who lives in the Hollywood Hills. “We went through boxes and files and Lord knows what,” Halsey says. “And miraculously—because the Huxley house [in the Hollywood Hills] had burned down to the ground in 1961—they only saved the manuscript of his last novel, ‘Island’ and this. I immediately had copies made at great expense because it was typewritten on onionskin paper in the 1940s. And I sent it immediately via messenger to Sharon.”

Who then declined.

Halsey says the real Sharon didn’t find the fictional Sharon to be sympathetic. The agent sent the 102-page treatment to six publishers who were equally uninterested.

“I got magnificent comments and snide comments. [Henry] Holt said what a pleasure it was to read this kind of writing, but since it was written as a film treatment they couldn’t see how to publish it.”

Nina Wiener, the West Coast editor of Buzz Books, got wind of “Jacob’s Hands,” figuring it fit nicely into the St. Martin’s Press imprint’s niche for California stories. She sent it to New York, and voila. The title will be on Buzz Books’ fall 1998 list as a novella with an original cover by the artist Don Bachardy, Isherwood’s lover. The film option went to Dorothea Petrie and Arthur Axelman of Rialto Films.

“You always wonder if it wasn’t written by these guys would you [publish] it,” muses Jim Fitzgerald, executive editor of St. Martin’s. “Who knows? I think it’s clever. ‘L.A. Confidential’ cashed in on noir ’40s L.A. This cashes in on the ’20s in L.A. with a little spirituality mixed in, a little Aimee Semple MacPherson. That’s one of the things that really attracted me to it.”

Not to mention publishers in Germany, the U.K., France and Japan who clamored over the find at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair. Indeed, Huxley and Isherwood were somewhat outdone by that other literary star, Elton John, whose memoir was on the block.

“It was a tremendous reaction,” Fitzgerald says. “It was kind of refreshing that gosh, there are still people in book publishing who know who Aldous Huxley is. What movie was he in?”

Back home, Halsey is putting her commission to good use. The agent—whose late husband, Reece, represented William Faulkner when he was head of the literary department at William Morris many moons ago—is paying her business’ Sunset Boulevard rent month to month.

Just as she has for the past 40 years.

“I refused to sign a lease,” she says. “I was superstitious. I didn’t want to commit myself to anything and they let me get away with it.”


He’s faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings at a single bound….

OK, so Russell Simmons has to take limos to get around like the rest of us mere mortals. At the very least some earthbound mode of transportation, which got him to the recent Actors Fund benefit performance of “Rent.” Moments before, he’d been sky-bound, flying in from Hawaii where he’d been reading scripts on the beach. La, la, la.

“By the fourth script, when they brought me a towel I realized how tough my life was,” Simmons said. He was enjoying the night smog outside the after-party at Cicada, which hauled in turnstiles and debris to give the place a subway-like je ne sais quoi, which fortunately did not include the food.

Ah, the life of the hip-hop mogul.

Simmons has so many irons in the fire someone should alert 911. Having scaled the heights of hip with Def Jam Recordings, Simmons is jamming in film, TV, advertising, magazine publishing and fashion. But these days he only has eyes for Phat Farm, his line of classic, urban men’s clothing. And now the Napoleon of hip-hop is taking on Ralph Lauren.

Watch out, Mr. GQ. Here comes Puff Daddy.

“Department stores have labeled it an ethnic brand,” Simmons says. “This pink argyle vest I’m wearing now, there’s nothing ethnic about it. And there’s an American flag on the jeans. We’re going after Polo and Tommy. We don’t want to be positioned with skateboard brands.”

Just in case you were wondering, we investigated the etymology of Phat, and it ain’t pretty. We called Simmons’ People in New York: “It basically stands for how you would describe a woman. The P, I’m sure you can guess. H is for hip. A is for….”

Never mind.

“And the T, I’m sure you can guess.”

Put it all together and P-H-A-T spells cool. “So if a man calls you phat, he means a girl who has everything.” But fat.


They were the days of lightly trafficked freeways, the days when everyone knew your name. Namely valets.

“We never gave out car checks. We’d park 60 or 70 cars, but we knew everyone in town.”

That’s valet extraordinaire Chuck Pick, rhapsodizing about the salad days of the legendary Romanoff’s at a party for Jane Pejsa’s “Romanoff: Prince of Rogues” (Kenwood). And restaurateur, natch.

Oh, for the days when valets could actually leave keys in cars—and not lose them. When they’d race through Dunhill’s next door to Romanoff’s before it closed in 1961, and the store employees would simply wave.

“They knew we were going after Edward G. Robinson’s car. Now you can’t park anywhere.”

That was a time when Gary Cooper tooled around town in a green Bentley Corniche with a Dunhill cut crystal bald eagle hood ornament. “It was just beautiful,” Pick sighed.

But these days, valet parking is more a science than an art. “When we did the premiere of ‘Mad City,’ we parked 350 cars in 20 minutes. Someone will wait 20 minutes for their steak, but no one will wait three minutes for their car.”

Pick should know. He’s the Chuck of Chuck’s Parking Service in Sherman Oaks, which dispatches 75 attendants to park cars all over town. Says Pick: “My parents used to say, ‘Are you going to park cars all your life?’ As it turns out, I am.”

PHOTO: Clothing designer Russell Simmons chats with Cheri Caspari at the after-party of a benefit performance of “Rent” at Cicada. Simmons is also into film, TV, advertising and magazines these days. PHOTOGRAPHER: BOB CAREY / Los Angeles Times PHOTO: George Jessel, Ann Miller and restaurateur Michael Romanoff lay the cornerstone for Romanoffs II in the days when valet parking was simple. PHOTOGRAPHER: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archives / UCLA PHOTO: (E1, 3 photos) The Sharon Stone-Aldous Huxley-Christopher Isherwood connection

Copyright (c) 1997 Times Mirror Company