August 31, 2001 10:00 AM

When Russell Crowe and his band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, performed at Stubbs Barbeque in Austin, Texas, earlier this month, the “Gladiator” star waved his best actor Oscar at the fans. Asked at a New York press conference this week whether that gesture possibly was immodest, Crowe, 37, replied that it was simply a joke. At the Austin gig, said Crowe, fans held up a sign that read, “Is that an Oscar in your pocket, or are you just glad to see us?” So, Crowe, explained, “I asked one of the guys in the crew to drop what he was doing, run back to the hotel and see if he could find (the Oscar) amongst the debris and, uh, he did.” Crowe says the fans laughed, and he doesn’t care if the press labels him egotistical. “That was a moment between me and the people that really support what I do, and respect it and understand it. It wasn’t a media moment,” he said. At his New York concert this week, reports The New York Times in its review of 30 Odd Foot of Grunts in Friday’s editions, Crowe and his fans shared another fun moment. He reportedly expressed his obligatory indignation and cursed anyone who asked him to remove his shirt during Wednesday’s gig. He told the crowd it was a concert, not a Tinseltown peep show. As for the band’s performance, The Times called it “seasoned, very straightforward, very Australian . . . fronted by a singer (Crowe) with a compellingly crusty baritone.” The critic, Ann Powers, also noted that women’s screams greeted “Crowe’s every sip of tea.”

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