Rambling Reporter

Benoit Photo/AP Photo

New in the MGM Stable
Spyglass heads Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber have their hands pretty full these days running MGM. But they still find time to run something else: a racehorse named Comma to the Top, which they own with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group chief Kevin Tsujihara. In May, the three should be heading to the Kentucky Derby; their 3-year-old gelding is a shoo-in for the race after picking up enough earnings to qualify. “This is really Gary Barber’s hobby, but they own Comma together,” says the horse’s trainer, Peter Miller. Sounds like Barber and Birnbaum took their 2003 movie Seabiscuit pretty seriously.

Soho House to Get a Rival
Watch out, Soho House: A second members-only social club is headed to town. The Norwood, which opened on West 14th Street in New York in 2007, is bidding on an L.A. space and will host talks, screenings and parties for its members. But owner Alan Linn denies recent rumors that a major Hollywood studio chief is funding Norwood. Can L.A.’s social scene sustain both spots? Or will it be a private-club rumble? Linn says he’s seeking Angelenos from the worlds of art and music in particular. “We don’t have celeb members,” he says. “We have creative members.”

Channeling Billy Crystal?
Newly minted Catwoman Anne Hathaway isn’t taking any chances with her stint as Oscar co-host. She just bought two healing crystals for Oscar good luck at Melrose Avenue shop Crystalarium. She might need the positive vibes; few recent hosts have received stellar reviews.

Gucci Does Grammy
Since their celeb-stocked party at Cannes last year, we’ve noticed Gucci’s stepping up to compete with the red-carpet likes of other Italian luxe labels Armani, Versace and Valentino. It was at Cannes that Gucci creative director Frida Giannini launched Gucci Premiere, the label’s first private-client couture line. Then they procured James Franco as the face of their male fragrance ad; Jennifer Lopez with her kids for another. Now Gucci’s in bed with the Grammys. Giannini is flying in from Milan to co-host a private pre-Grammy brunch Feb. 12 with original Gucci guy Jay-Z and his Roc Nation label. The day before, pal Lopez will present her with a special UNICEF award for the brand’s support of the group’s work in Africa; Mary J. Blige and Rihanna are among the names expected. On Grammy night, Giannini will attend the awards presentation. However, she won’t be sticking around for the Oscars; her fall 2011 show is Feb. 23 in Milan. But that doesn’t mean she won’t leave a few dresses behind.

Bening’s Oscar Campaign
Everyone knows you can’t win an Oscar without wining, dining and wooing voters. And it might seem Annette Bening isn’t trying that hard. But those in the know say the four-time nominee is simply going about it a different way. “If Natalie Portman’s doing Audrey Hepburn, Annette’s doing it like Katharine Hepburn,” one Oscar insider says. “She’s quietly hosting small dinners for voters, saying, ‘It’s all about the body of work.’ ”

Next Gen Scripters
To celebrate their company’s one-year anniversary, the three former WME agents who are principals of Verve talent and literary agency — Bryan Besser, Adam Levine and Bill Weinstein — decided to head back to school: specifically, Linwood E. Howe Elementary in Culver City. On Feb. 4, they brought writer clients from Toy Story 3, Tron: Legacy and The Princess and the Frog to introduce the kids to storytelling. Look out for new scripts from 9-year-olds. “You’re not used to watching agents give back to the community,” quips Marvel writer, Rich Wilkes, who took part.



Now that it’s reopened after a short hiatus for renovation, Sushi Roku on 3rd Street is back as a go-to spot on the power-lunch circuit: Mark Wahlberg is a regular, as is Don Cheadle. Recently, the latter was spotted at a secluded table with Kristen Bell. … ICM’s Doug MacLaren breaking bread with client and Oscar nominee Tom Hooper at Chateau Marmont. … Colin Firth catching lunch while staying at the Four Seasons on Doheny, across the dining room from Judi Dench. … House Speaker John Boehner spotted at BOA Sunset on the patio with friends. The group ordered oysters, the tableside Caesar salad and two bottles of wine. Ryan Seacrest also catching a leisurely meal at the steakhouse. … Kate Beckinsale and friends were observed at BOA Santa Monica, celebrating a birthday. Cuba Gooding Jr. grabbed a casual bite at the bar and took dinner to go. … e.baldi continues its power streak. Recently spotted: Ari Emanuel, Richard Lovett, Elton John and, together, Bob Daly and Brad Grey. Former First Lady Laura Bush even popped in. … Bruce Willis at Napa Valley Grille in Westwood for a Willis-style lunch: two vodkas, a pile of salad and dessert. … Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro opted for a tame night at Delphine for a change, with a large group of friends having drinks at the bar. … Arnold Schwarzenegger dined at LA Market in the JW Marriott L.A. Live for a business meeting, where he ordered oatmeal and a banana. Now we know how he stays in shape. … Spied at Santa Monica’s FIG restaurant in the Fairmont Hotel: CAA’s Jae Goodman, director Leslie Iwerks, writer Brad Hall and Larry David.