Noise Pollution? Fill'er up!
We like both Los Angeles pundit Arianna Huffington and New York Post gossip czar Richard Johnson, so we really don't want to get in the middle of their bitter little spat. Alas, we have no choice.
Yesterday Huffington phoned us to complain that Johnson has deliberately misrepresented her ongoing jihad against gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles. Johnson -- a proud SUV owner who on Monday devoted much of his Page Six column to the "Detroit Project," Huffington's anti-SUV ad campaign -- accused her and her Hollywood cohorts of hypocrisy.
In a letter signed by movie producer Lawrence Bender, talent agent Ariel Emanuel -- brother of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) -- and Laurie David, wife of writer-comedian Larry David, Huffington scolded New York Post editor Col Allan: "You have an obligation to [retract the item], as we have already been approached by other media outlets that are using this fabricated article as a foundation for their own stories."
Their beef: Johnson's item described the group as "Hollywood celebrities [and] ... hypocrites who consume huge quantities of fossil fuels in their stretch limos, Gulfstream jets and oversized Beverly Hills mansions," and identified television mogul Norman Lear -- who once built a 21-car garage, the item says -- as "spearheading the conservation crusade." Page Six claimed that Mercedes-Benz SUV driver Gwyneth Paltrow has appeared in the commercials linking gas-guzzling to terrorism. "Norman Lear is only one of more than a 1,800 individual contributors to The Detroit Project," wrote Huffington et al. "He is not 'spearheading' the project." As for Paltrow, she hasn't appeared in any anti-SUV commercials, and "she has had no contact whatsoever with the Detroit Project," they added. "We expect an apology and correction immediately."
We'd advise Huffington & Co. not to hold their breath. "Arianna lives in a 9,000-square-foot house with a swimming pool," Johnson told us. "I imagine that it takes a lot of BTUs to air-condition in the summer and heat in the winter, and I'm sure the pool is heated."
Johnson also scorched Huffington's willingness to hitch rides on her powerful friends' corporate jets. "Saying that she can do it because there's an empty seat," Johnson argued, "is a little like saying 'the elephant's already dead, so I might as well buy the ivory.' "
Huffington's reply: "As any fifth-grader can tell you, it's a simple problem of algebra: If a commercial airliner is going from Los Angeles to Washington, and a corporate jet is already leaving on the same trip, and you take a seat on the corporate jet, how much extra oil is burned? Zero!"
Mia Farrow, Out to Kill the Death Penalty
* Movie star Mia Farrow headlines tonight's anti-death-penalty fundraiser at the Warner Theatre -- where, until Sunday, she also stars in "The Exonerated," a play weaving the true stories of six people wrongly sentenced to death.
"I am against the death penalty, and I have always been against the death penalty," Farrow, still luminous at 57, told us yesterday. "If people consider this issue, they'll find out that we stand shoulder to shoulder with Iran, Iraq, Congo and China in committing 80 percent of the executions that take place in the world. That's not great company."
Farrow, who joins Brian Dennehy and Chad Lowe in the play and tonight's benefit for Georgetown University's Constitution Project and American University's Innocence Project, slammed President Bush for presiding over 152 executions when he was governor of Texas.
"That is heartbreaking and tragic, putting it mildly," she said. "I would think that at the very least he would have been agonizing over this, and not making fun of someone like Karla Faye Tucker" -- the convicted murderer whose pleas for mercy Bush famously mocked in a magazine interview during the presidential campaign. In the end she was put to death by lethal injection. "Maybe it's some sort of cowboy thing."
We asked Farrow if she has similar misgivings about how Attorney General John Ashcroft's aggressive anti-terrorism policies have affected civil liberties. "Really, I'm an actress -- who cares what I think?" she said, laughing. "I'm picking my shots."
THIS JUST IN...
* Homecoming queen: Washington's own Roberta Flack returns Monday to give a rare performance at the Kennedy Center -- and what's more, it's free. The Post's Jacqueline Trescott reports that the balladeer will join the Georgetown University Gospel and Chapel Choirs at 6 p.m. on the Millennium Stage -- part of the day's events honoring Martin Luther King Jr.