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MLK Show’s Last-Minute Flack Attack

Ride the peace shvitz?

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Russell Simmons just wants to get designer Tommy Hilfiger and PR fixer Howard Rubenstein in the same steam room. “We need to go to the bathhouse and sweat it out,” he says. Leading up to the “Dream Concert” at Radio City last week, during which Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ludacris, and Garth Brooks all played to raise money for a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in D.C., a tiff broke out. Hilfiger is one of the memorial’s big supporters (Simmons is too) and was unhappy at the lack of preconcert buzz—which Rubenstein Associates had been hired to drum up. In one meeting, Hilfiger read them the riot act and threatened to fire the firm; Rubenstein, in turn, resigned, citing “philosophical differences” and adequate press placements; Hilfiger, in turn, asked him not to resign; Rubenstein, in turn, insisted on quitting. The show had to scramble to fill the empty seats. So, will Rubenstein shvitz? “It’d make a great photo op,” he says, “but I have to check with my doctor. I have high blood pressure.”

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