Vanity Fair on the Bride of Wildenstein Personalities: Two stories involve Jocelyne Wildenstein and the family she's divorcing, while over at Civilization, Martin Scorsese guest-edits.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Yes, Madonna has once again nabbed the cover of Vanity Fair, with a new promotional spin that features a pair of old staples -- motherhood and spiritual awakening. But the top cat of the March issue is an eerily photogenic creature named Jocelyne Wildenstein, who has recently been plastered all over New York, People, and other glossy magazines.

Wildenstein is a walking argument against plastic surgery, with a face that has been manipulated into something rubbery and non-human, a tight, haughty, feline mask. Indeed, her surgeon is said to have watched a potential patient flee his office after glimpsing the woman the Daily News calls "the Bride of Wildenstein" and New York Magazine dubbed "The Lion Queen." Can Wildenstein close her eyes to sleep? Do her ears wiggle when she smiles (if she can smile)? Are her lips steel-plated? She's human arrogance and self-loathing on parade, the Hollywood will to youth and perfection taken to terrifying and desperate extremes. She makes Michael Jackson look all-natural.

Still, Jocelyne Wildenstein makes great copy -- it is impossible not to stare in amazement -- and Vanity Fair has two stories that include her, with three large photos and a sweet pre-mutilation snapshot that only highlights the tragedy. She is currently entangled in a hugely messy divorce from Alec Wildenstein, member of the art-collecting family accused of possessing works confiscated by the Nazis. The first story in Vanity Fair, by Suzanna Andrews, reports on the mysterious Wildenstein collection and the charges that a family member collaborated with the Nazis; the second story, by George Rush, details Jocelyne's hardships since the marriage broke off.

She still lives in the Wildenstein family's East 64th Street townhouse, but the servants are forbidden to cater to her; her guests must use the servants' entrance; and the kitchen staff refuses to fill her bedside fruit bowl. Alas, the family billions are not in Alec Wildenstein's name, and so Jocelyne has a long, hard, tabloid-infested fight ahead of her. She better have her claws sharpened.

Scorsese gets civilized

Martin Scorsese is the guest editor of the February/March issue of Civilization, the magazine of the Library of Congress, which has been active in film restoration. The director of "Raging Bull," "GoodFellas" and other movies conceptualized the articles, assigned the writers, chose the artwork and supervised the design. As editorial director Nelson Aldrich points out in his introduction, if Civilization is going to exploit the celebrity culture, it's going to exploit celebrities with depth. Future issues are expected to be edited by Saul Bellow, Julia Child, Vaclav Havel and Paloma Picasso.

Scorsese's choice of stories is solid, if lacking in imagination. He's a big Herman Melville fan, so he has novelist William T. Vollmann writing an impressionistic piece about Melville and his Pittsfield, Mass., home, and he himself conducts a quickie interview with Gregory Peck about his appearances in "Moby Dick" adaptations.

He's a fan of animation, so he's got Chuck Jones paying "marbled tribute" to Warner Bros. producer Leon Schlesinger; and he's a student of religion, so he's assembled a portfolio of "Sacred Images." The most substantive piece is a conversation between Scorsese and historian Simon Schama about adapting history. "I know a book is not going to be any good, that the setting of the history is not going to work," says Schama, "unless I know what it was like to put on breeches and boots at that time."

The Nicholson mouth

Jack Nicholson talks pretty openly in the cover interview of Rolling Stone for March 19. Asked about a feminist critic's point that he's become a poster boy for older men who end up in bed with younger women, he says:

"These people continually try to socialize and intellectualize these issues. Nature don't care about that. In its primitive form, nature has to do with procreation and who is childbearing stock. Jack's done a little research, you know."

About his on-again relationship with the mother of his two children, Rebecca Broussard, he says, "She disagrees with me a lot, and, you know, at some moments I'm not loving it," and he says that the kids have kept him from "bolting from an uncomfortable situation."

And he explains the reason for his trademark sunglasses: "They're an instrument of torment, those flashbulbs. Well, they're not getting me."

GQ on indies

In the March GQ, Terrence Rafferty writes a very smart critic-at-large column about independent movies like "Deconstructing Harry" and "Boogie Nights," and their false affectations of moral value.

We tend to lavish acceptance on indie movies simply because they aren't crass big-budget event movies, he writes. "But that sort of generic approval can be dangerous for individual artists; it encourages them, in a way, to be less rigorous with themselves."

Also in the issue, a shamelessly packaged profile of Liam Neeson with a cover line reading, "Liam Neeson Is Huge" and the opening sentence: "Liam Neeson has dropped his pants."

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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