Byline: Merle Ginsberg

Nobody gawks at The Royalton. Not for Anna Wintour, Tina Brown, Graydon Carter, Calvin Klein, Gianni Versace or S.I. Newhouse himself, when they all arrive to take up their booths at 44 for lunch. But when Mickey Rourke strides in, late and shrouded head to toe in black leather and black wraparound sunglasses, a chain reaction of rubbernecking begins that spreads around even Manhattan’s most jaded media crowd.
Rourke, used to it, is far from oblivious.
“Let me sit here,” he says, his back to the crowd. “I want to avoid that guy in the corner who’s staring at me. There’s always one person who won’t look away.”
Hollywood’s baddest boy has switched coasts and announced his new New York residency (on upper Madison Avenue, no less) with a bang on Fashion Week when he turned up front-row center at a number of shows and made tabloid headlines accusing him of stalking his estranged model/wife, Carré Otis.
“I needed a change from L.A.,” Rourke admits. “I’d pissed a lot of people off there, so they put me on the bench for a while. Everyone was afraid to work with me. I’ve been boxing now for 2 1/2 years, but this year I got hurt a lot: I fractured my cheek-bone, broke my hand four times, my knuckles twice, ribs twice and my left toe. So I decided it was time to go back to movies.
“It’s been hard coming back to New York cause this is where I lived for 13 years, and I can’t pass a five-block radius where I didn’t have an odd job or a dive hotel I didn’t live in. At least Madison Avenue is the one place I didn’t live. Right now I’m getting my apartment there decorated.”
While Rourke claims never to read any of his reviews or articles about himself, he’s deeply aware of the fuss his presence kicked up during Fashion Week.
“Due to all the press that certain people choreographed,” he says mysteriously, “which backfired on them, we got some press in Italy and raised Italian money to make a Western I’ve been developing for me and Ice T.”
Publicity wasn’t the only thing on Rourke’s mind at the shows. He claims to be doing research for a fashion movie he’s writing with a partner he calls “White Horse” and wants Terence Stamp to play a designer. And then, there’s the babe motive. “I like lookin’ at the girls,” he smiles, almost — but not quite — boyishly. “I’ll be honest with ya — I like lookin’ at the girls. I don’t have a girl at the moment. I like lookin’ at the clothes, too. And I get a kick out of the characters that go, they’re really full of themselves, they go there to be seen. I’m a people-watching kind of person, so in between it all, I like to watch the little charade that goes on. These people fancy themselves quite a bit.”
“It’s quite interesting because I know my presence unnerves a lot of them,” he says. “It’s not that I get a kick out of it. It’s a bit frightening to me, too, why it bothers them so much that I’m there!”
Although the tabloids cooked up a romance between Rourke and model Bridget Hall, Mickey says nothing happened.
“I’m not looking right now,” he says soberly. “You know what I noticed about these girls? Certain ones I’ve seen from advertisements, really famous ones, can’t walk — and I don’t think that helps the clothes at all. But there was this one girl that walks great — Carla Bruni. She was in a different class.”
Rourke’s own taste in clothes runs mostly to black leather, but he did enjoy watching the work of the more venerable designers, and even turned up at the Oscar de la Renta show.
“The more established guys go more all out. But I also liked Marc Jacobs; he seems like an interesting character, a cool guy. Some of the younger guys had to resort to a sort of scandalous way to get heat for their names.”
Rourke won’t name names, but perhaps he’s referring to Mark Eisen, who’s dating his wife and featured her in his runway show.
“It’ll catch up to them,” Rourke hints. “Sometimes you can’t rush into things. You gotta take care of things slow. I will.”
Now what about those stories about how Rourke “took care” of his room at the Plaza Hotel 10 days ago?
“I’ll tell you exactly what happened,” he confesses. “I did spill some red wine on the floor. There were definitely some carpet stains from my two Chihuahuas. And my trainer fell asleep and burned two holes on the couch. I’d had my hair dyed darker and I leaned back and there was a stain. I told them I’d take care of the rug and the couch. The story made it sound like we trashed the room. Somebody who used to work for [Donald] Trump said, ‘Oh, they just did that for publicity.’
“I’m sort of desensitized to a lot of this stuff now. I mean, what am I gonna do? Defend myself every time someone says I did something? I’m not gonna give it the time. All the stuff that was written about me that I was barred from going to some shows — I wasn’t planning on going to those shows. It’s too bad about the controversy because the show’s should’ve just been about the shows. It’s bullshit.”
Richard Puhlman, Rourke’s publicist, interrupts to say that “Mr. Rourke” was not barred from the Plaza at all, and that the Plaza called to apologize for the story getting to the papers. But Rourke interrupts him.
“I don’t care what they say. To me, it doesn’t really matter. I went to Christy Turlington’s auction the other night and Tupac [Shakur] and I walked in together — it was quite interesting. The room got quiet for a minute, to put it mildly. It doesn’t bother me, believe me. I’m used to it.”
Then he starts again.
“OK, maybe deep inside there’s a little feeling. But over a period of time — you get hardened to it all. Besides, one of these days, I’ll get even.”
Could he mean by breaking loose and belting somebody, as it was reported he almost did at the end of Fashion Week party?
“I can do anything I want,” he smiles. “Whatever happens, I can live with it. Even if I have to pay a price. I can live with whatever I do.”

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