Rambling Reporter

2012-17 TOWN Tom Cruise Rock of Ages H

When Tom Cruise was cast as hard-rock frontman Stacee Jaxx in "Rock of Ages," out June 15, fans wondered whether the actor would be able to carry a tune. Well, he can -- but it required serious training.

Not-So-Risky Business: When Tom Cruise was cast as hard-rock frontman Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages, out June 15, fans wondered whether the actor would be able to carry a tune. Well, he can -- but it required serious training. "Now he's like a seven [out of 10], but he started off at a one," says the film's executive music producer Adam Anders. The two trained together at Lenny Kravitz's Miami recording studio, where Cruise practiced to perfection his signature musical moment, Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City." Observes Anders: "Even though he was completely green, his vocal cords were amazing. He could do anything."

Divine Brown for Sale on Sunset Again

Storied Hollywood hangout Ye Coach & Horses reopened last month as the Pikey. L.A. hospitality impresario Sean MacPherson (Roger Room, Il Covo) and partner Jared Meisler couldn't use the old name, so when casting about for new monikers, they first thought about calling it Grant & Brown, as a wry nod to Hugh Grant famously having picked up Divine Brown in 1995 a block and a half away on Sunset Boulevard. "But then we thought people wouldn't get the joke," says Meisler. Still, Grant's mug shot is up, and Divine Brown's on the cocktail menu: Dr Pepper mixed with cheap whiskey.

The Avengers' Westside Shawarma Swarm

The shawarma shout-outs in box-office shattering The Avengers -- Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark tells his superhero compadres he's jonesing for one during the climactic scene, and after the credits the group is shown chowing down on them -- has apparently prompted a run on the Levantine Arab-style pita sandwiches filled with meat. At Sunnin, the cult favorite shawarma spot in Westwood, copycat fanboys fresh out of theaters ordered the dish in droves. "We ended up selling out by 7:30 on Saturday evening -- and we never sell out," says owner George Chammaa.

VP's Staff Not Hot on Veep

HBO's new White House comedy Veep, already picked up for a second season, may be acclaimed for its insider's take on the goings-on in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, but not with those who actually work there. "It would have been more watercooler-conversation-inspiring if it had been funnier," one staffer to Vice President Joe Biden tells THR. "The show gets the D.C. personalities right, but it has what's funny about the VP all wrong." The source notes that in real life the VP -- unlike Julia Louis-Dreyfus' character in the pilot -- would never be snubbed by a senator: "A senator would come to him, not the other way around." So what would make for good comedy? "That the VP paradoxically has enormous power and no power -- is treated like the president but isn't. But they missed that."

Small-Screen Domination

Book agents aren't the only ones rabid for racy sexual material a la EL James' Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Vince Vaughn is developing the book I Was a Teenage Dominatrix into a series called Whipped for FX, and Showtime's mulling over The Box, from producer Harris Salomon and based on the real-life experiences of famed Mistress Raven. Raven's had other premium cable gigs: Nick Broomfield made a doc about her club called Pandora's Box for HBO in 1996. In fact, HBO's Bored to Death shot there. Now retired, Raven lived the S&M life successfully for many years. "I just want to ask the writer of Fifty Shades of Grey," she told THR, "if she's engaged in this activity in her personal life. I'm really surprised no one has asked her that."

Power Lunch

All crowding Soho House at various tables on April 27: Laurence Fishburne, Olivia Munn, producer Ed Pressman (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), manager-producers Mason Novick (500 Days of Summer) and Mikkel Bondesen (The Killing), screenwriter Chad Kultgen (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone), IM Global CEO Stuart Ford and Ellen DeGeneres with Portia de Rossi. … Scarpetta regular Jimmy Iovine at a table by the window on May 1, holding court in a white baseball cap worn backward and a screen-printed T-shirt. … The same afternoon, a few blocks away, Kevin Bacon took a seat at Barney Greengrass. … Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn stopped into Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica on two consecutive days. They've long been regulars, since their production office was once upstairs. … Conan O'Brien went green with a salad at FarmShop. … UTA's Jason Burns dined with producer Todd Lieberman at Cube. Elsewhere in the room, from the same agency: Ramses Ishak and Michael Sheresky breaking bread with Larry Auerbach, the former William Morris partner who is now the associate dean at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. … Larry David popped into Il Moro. … Jennifer Lopez, her manager, Benny Medina, and her boyfriend, Casper Smart, hit up Ago. On other days Harvey Weinstein stopped by and Mary-Kate Olsen visited with Robert Thorne, the producer on Olsen oeuvre classics like When In Rome and New York Minute. … Rachel McAdams settled into the patio at Café Pinot downtown. … Also going al fresco was Danny McBride at Italian staple Dominick's.