Something fishy about Jeremy Piven's claim of a sushi O.D.

Broadway's miseries have spilled over to the fishing industry.

Jeremy Piven, the cocky little actor who made his name playing cocky little agent Ari Gold on HBO's Entourage, has bailed on his role in a revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, sending producers of the three-man play into a tizzy of re-casting so it can complete its run as scheduled on February 22.

Piven's doctor, Dr. Carlon M. Colker, blamed the reported toxicity of Piven's blood on his consumption of sushi and Chinese herbs. Naturally, the doctor doesn't really know for sure what's behind Piven's malady, but the nigiri gets the rap in the press anyway.

Fine. Blame the fish. They can't really defend themselves, and sushi's reputation was wrecked after the New York Times declared there were dangerous levels of mercury in bluefin tuna. Most other varieties of sushi, even other types of tuna, were not reported to be much of an issue, but the bad rap for raw fish appears to be sticking.

But for all those fans of raw fish, the Center for Consumer Freedom has an interesting tidbit to point out: If the story is true, then Piven would be the first documented case of someone getting mercury poisoning from sushi sold in American restaurants or grocery stores. It doesn't happen.

The non-profit group, which admits a viewpoint in the matter, thinks that Americans are being needlessly frightened by "junk science." In the case of mercury poisoning, the Times article that brought the mercury scare to light was based on informal purchases at just 20 New York City restaurants, when no government agency was conducting any scientific surveys.

And, as the CCF says on its mouthpiece site Mercury Facts, Piven would have had to have eaten 108 pieces of sushi (that's 3.4 pounds) a week for his entire life to reach the elevated levels his doctor reported. That's something even power-luncher Ari would have trouble doing.

However, the Times has another, less anecdotal fact to point out about Jeremy Piven himself: He had tried and failed to get out of his contract earlier, before the sushi excuse surfaced.

Playwright David Mamet gave Variety this tart response to Piven's explanation for breaking his contract: "My understanding is that he's leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer." Norbert Leo Butz and Mamet's old pal William H. Macy will pinch-hit in Piven's role for most of the rest of the run. But thanks to Piven's game of Pin The Blame On The Tuna, sushi may not be hot for a while.
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