When New York media and social types write novels about life in the city, it usually becomes a parlor game to guess which characters are based on real-life characters. From Anna Wintour in The Devil Wears Prada to the Weinsteins in The Twins of Tribeca to Rocco DiSpirito in 4% Famous, it's always fun to play "Who's Who." In June, "Page Six" editor Paula Froelich's lively Mercury in Retrograde is sure to spawn the same type of gossip. We got ahold of a galley, and already found one unmistakable cameo: that of power publicist Lizzie Grubman. Froelich and Grubman used to be such good friends that at one point the writer moved into Grubman's apartment. But the portrayal of "Elly Portman," the Grubman character in Mercury, didn't have the publicist laughing. The Portman character is only mentioned once, in a gossipy conversation among the three female protagonists of the book, during which Grubman's infamous accident at Jet East in the Hamptons is recounted and her pregnancy weight gain — which, in real life and in the book, left her with a broken foot — is teased. "Although I am honored that my dear friend Paula would include me in her fictional novel, which I look forward to reading, there is not a day that goes by that I am not reminded about all the people injured in my car accident eight years ago," Grubman told us. "I wish she hadn’t included this topic in her book as I would never want to rehash this for anyone involved, as we all know this is not a laughing matter." Froelich, for her part, adds: "It should be noted that the Elly character is a composite, as Lizzie doesn't nor ever has done drugs."
In this scene, main characters Lipstick (you'll get it when you read it), Penelope, and Dana chat during a yoga session taught by their friend and instructor, Sally:
"I can't believe you want to get pregnant so badly. It freaks me out. My friend Elly Portman got pregnant last year and it did not go well."
"Oh. I know Elly," Sally said, doing a full backbend. "She used to do private sessions until she started Pilates."
"Wasn't she the socialite who ran over all those people in the Hamptons?" Penelope asked.
"Accidentally." Lipstick exhaled, starting another sun salutation.
Elly Portman, a model-turned-PR powerhouse, was well know to almost everyone in New York as six years ago she'd "accidentally" backed her SUV into a crowd of people lining up outside Aero nightclub in Southampton at three in the morning. Elly had immediately been whisked away by friends, preventing the police from getting a Breathalyzer test, but not from charging her with leaving the scene of a crime. The story had made the front page of the Telegraph, the Post and the Daily News — for six weeks.
Two months in prison, a year of community service and over three million dollars worth of payouts to the victims later, Elly met the love of her life at a work function and, a little over a year later, married him. Soon after she'd gotten pregnant and subsequently found out that during pregnancy, one couldn't use any recreational/prescription drugs, cigarettes, or other appetite suppressants. And oddly enough, people actually encouraged her to stuff her mouth full of food. For the first time in her tiny, anorexic life, Elly Portman could eat whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted — and not be judged.
Sadly, for Elly, she went a little overboard.
"You guys, it was terrifying," Lipstick said, breathing into downward dog. "She gained over ninety pounds."
"That is a lot," Dana sighed, matching Lipstick's pose.
"She was only eighty-five pounds to start with," Lipstick said.
"Oh, I remember that," Penelope said, trying in vain to stand on one foot. "The Telegraph ran a picture of her eight months pregnant and called her 'Jabba the Portman.'"
"She got so fat she broke her foot — just by walking on it!" Lipstick cried.
"Oh come on," Dana said, "that's ridiculous. Nobody gets that fat."
"Elly did," Lipstick said.