At first, Doug Faneuil seemed entirely miscast. This slight young man was supposed to be the heavy in our courtroom drama? This was the fellow who ratted out Martha Stewart and betrayed his boss, Peter Bacanovic? Then, of course, he quickly took over the show. Before Faneuil showed up, Martha owned the runway: The press treated her daily arrival like a fashionable perp walk, an opportunity to critique her wardrobe and hair and accessories. But Martha-watching was suddenly, surprisingly preempted when Faneuil arrived. The press had a new fetish object: A “baby-faced” waif who “looks 16” (he’s actually 28) and is “lighter-than-air.”
He was, by instant consensus, the trial’s (and, by extension, the city’s) “It” boy—but the press could agree on little else about him. Was he a sweet-faced innocent forced to lie for his boss? Or something more cynical and two-faced?
With its now-notorious front-page shot of him flexing an unspectacular bicep, the New York Post made him into a devilish pop pinup. Based on the photo, which was several years old, the paper speculated that Faneuil once aspired to be a model or an actor. The most curious thing about the image, though, was that it had been cropped: In the original, Faneuil is propping up his bicep with his other hand. The effect is comical, whether intended or not.
But his real star turn was on the stand. His testimony in court instantly turned him (in my view, anyway) into the trial’s only sympathetic figure, particularly after the tabloids shrugged off revelations about his past drug use. He was impeccably well mannered yet terribly entertaining, offering dishy, granular detail about Martha’s awfulness. “Martha yelled at me again today,” he wrote to his boyfriend in a 2001 e-mail read aloud in court, “but I snapped in her face and she actually backed down! Baby put Ms. Martha in her place!!!”
Still, it was harder to overlook the fact that he had royally screwed over his boss, who had given him the job, in part, as a favor to Faneuil’s boyfriend, W magazine staffer Rob Haskell.
Can we forgive Faneuil this rather astonishing betrayal? Well, it helps that Faneuil, who studied art in college, is now working at a Chelsea gallery. The fact that his likely future now reflects his arty past reinforces the sense that he never had that much to do with Martha and Peter’s haughty worlds in the first place. His job at Merrill Lynch was . . . a job. And in some ways, his relationship with Bacanovic followed an anti–All About Eve model: He had no interest in becoming his boss, a Wall Street workaholic who was clearly desperate for Martha’s approval. And that “Baby” e-mail—the defense’s attempt to paint Faneuil as a wronged employee with an ax to grind—actually made him, for many trial watchers, into something of an office-slave hero.
It was a neat little psychological card trick: The betrayer was recast as the trial’s Little Guy, who embodied the fundamental ethos of the government’s case: That Ms. Martha needed to be put her in her place.