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August 30, 1999

Conrad Janis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Al D'Amato, Lizzie Grubman, Lara Shriftman, Frédéric Fekkai, Eartha Kitt, Woody Allen, and more . . .

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YOU SAY D'AMATO, HE SAYS #$@%ING MARINARA!

The staff at Henry's in Bridgehampton was thrilled when a group of heavy-hitting politicos decided to celebrate Al D'Amato's 62nd birthday there recently. But according to a witness, their adulation faded as a dozen rowdy men and women arrived nearly two hours late for their reservation. After ordering another round of Cosmos, the group -- which included Governor Pataki; Charles Gargano; his girlfriend, the actress Phyllis George; and Earle Mack -- ordered pasta, an item not on the menu. As a waitress poured libations, one of the guests growled, "Where did you learn how to fucking pour wine?" and grabbed her arm, making her spill it. "Where's my fuckin' food?" chimed in the birthday boy. The governor left before dinner, not a moment too soon. When the pasta arrived, a guest shrilled, "What the fuck is this? I wanted marinara!" Says the insider, "It was a circus. I never have encountered such rude people in my life. It got really ugly." A D'Amato rep insists that "the mood was more festive than rude,'' while Pataki spokeswoman Zenia Mucha, who was at the dinner, offers, "I know not to go out and behave that way, especially in that town. It's a fishbowl. I don't know why people would ever go there."

A FAMILY FEUD HITS THE ART WORLD

The Sidney Janis Gallery was famously known for championing Abstract Expressionism, but there's nothing abstract about the nasty feud that's brewing between the two brothers who inherited the gallery when their father died in 1989. In a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court on August 17, Carroll Janis is accusing his brother and sister-in-law, Conrad and Maria Janis, of forcing the gallery to close last month. In his court papers, Carroll charges that Conrad's "every move is written and directed by Maria" and that he "abandoned his family business, leaving Carroll with the sole responsibility" to pay off the estate's huge tax bill and to run the business. Carroll claims that he asked his brother to leave Beverly Hills and help out in the family business when the art market hit the skids in the early nineties. Not only did Conrad refuse, but, his brother charges, he hired his own lawyer and accountant to review the books and wrote himself checks totaling $200,000, "purportedly for his living expenses while in New York City without ever providing any receipts." Then Conrad gave his power of attorney to Maria, "who caused substantial disruption" to the business. Now Carroll is insisting that he be "fairly compensated" for his work. His lawyer did not return calls.

THE POWER GIRLS BLOW A FUSE

Being young and fabulous isn't as easy as it looks. Check out the fireworks between Lizzie Grubman and Lara Shriftman, two of the Power Girls who run New York's nightlife. Last month, publicist Liz Cohen left Shriftman's shop to go to work for Grubman, taking along her assistant, Jessica Meisels. At a recent polo match in the Hamptons, Meisels felt the heat, according to a chukker fan in attendance. "Lara decided to pull Jessica aside for a little talk," reports the eyewitness, who adds that Shriftman accused Meisels of stealing her mailing list and threatened to sue. " 'I've got the best lawyers in the country working for me for free,' " Shriftman snapped at Meisels, the source reports. But when called for comment, all four publicists downplayed the incident and denied they're at war. In fact, Shriftman says that Cohen and Meisels sent flowers with a "beautiful" note when they left. But clearly there is some tension. Shriftman couldn't help asking, "Did someone in Lizzie's office plant this with you?"

A SPLICE OF LIFE AT ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

For some creative New Yorkers, dropping to one knee to propose or hiding the engagement ring in a dessert has become just a little bit clichéd. When Entertainment Weekly senior writer A. J. Jacobs decided to merge with EW ad-sales rep Julie Schoenberg, he put his muse to work. "Julie had hinted that she didn't want any traditional crap,'' says Jacobs. So he contacted the stars of her favorite TV show, Sex and the City, and asked them to read from a script he had drafted (of course, it didn't hurt that he had done EW's cover story on the show the week before). Then he got hold of an advance Sex and the City episode and spliced in his personal proposal scene. When he and Schoenberg settled in to view the tape, there was Sarah Jessica Parker, mid-episode, saying, "My relationship with Mr. Big was going nowhere, and I had no possibility of course with A. J. Jacobs, because he wants to marry Julie Schoenberg.'' The other actresses also participated, with the exception of Kim Cattrall, who was under the weather. Jacobs also added a De Beers diamond commercial into which he had spliced pictures of himself and repeated entreaties such as "Please,'' "It'll be fun,'' and "Would it kill ya?" "Julie was watching the show, and all of a sudden they were talking about us,'' says Jacobs. "She was shocked. The only thing she was upset about is that she was wearing boxer shorts when she was proposed to. I'm just glad her favorite show is Sex and the City -- not Oz."

DECORATOR DISSES KITT'S CABOODLE

Eartha Kitt is in a snit. The last thing the taxi-voice chanteuse expected when she hired decorator Gilbert Holmes was to find herself in court. But it looks like that's what's going to happen. Nearly a year ago, Kitt commissioned the tony furniture mover to transform her self-made "needlework tapestries" into a headboard for her Westchester bedroom, at a cost of more than $2,000. She later forwarded him another $7,000 as a "loan." But neither the loan repayment nor her headboard ever arrived. Last January, when Holmes failed to drop off her tapestries as promised, Kitt turned catty. She says she tried contacting Holmes for months, but he had disappeared. Now she's contacting her lawyers. "This is just ridiculous," says her daughter and assistant, Kitt Shapiro. "It's not the money that she's worried about. It's the principle." Holmes did not return calls.

FRÉDÉRIC FEKKAI'S SUMMER SHAMPOO

Frédéric Fekkai, the New York version of Warren Beatty's seductive hairdresser in 1975's Shampoo, just edged a little closer to his on-screen mentor by splitting with his wife. Fekkai married Elizabeth Shiell last year, although they'd lived together before that and have a 5-year-old son. "Frederic and I, a week before vacation, decided very amicably to talk about a separation," says Elizabeth. "Then he went to France, and I remained in New York." The model turned art consultant insists that she and her soon-to-be-ex "are very friendly now." But just before the wedding, Fekkai admitted, "We've had a rocky situation sometimes, I guess because we both have a strong character." And Elizabeth played up the Shampoo theme when she sighed to Elle last year, "You're living with a man who's surrounded by beautiful women."

ARTHUR CARTER STEELS HIMSELF

Arthur Carter didn't forge a deal to sell his New York Observer to Conrad Black, but the hands-on publisher of the salmon-colored weekly is welded to a brand-new passion: Now he's a sculptor. The 67-year-old megamillionaire has been at it for the past five or six years, working in steel and bronze to create abstract sculptures that reach as high as 27 feet. Carter is furiously finishing up pieces for his first show, which will be at the Salander-O'Reilly Galleries on East 79th Street February 2 through 26, 2000. "I spend quite a bit of time at it," reports Carter. "I have a fabrication facility in Roxbury, Connecticut, and I do a lot of the fabrication there." Will this hobby turn into another moneymaker for the financier turned publisher turned artist? "I have sold a couple of pieces, as a matter of fact," he says, while declining to list his patrons. Carter's more forthcoming about his artistic mentors, saying that he's studied the work of "what I consider the great sculptors of the twentieth century: Lipchitz, Brancusi, and David Smith." And in the end, why worry about painting the Observer Black when you can forge bronze à la Brancusi?

LITTLE GRAY MATTER; CAPITAL OFFENSE

CLASS ACT: Maybe acting ability is learned, not inherited. The children of monologuist Spalding Gray and playwright David Mamet were spotted this summer on Martha's Vineyard taking improv classes taught by M. J. Munafo, artistic director of the Vineyard Playhouse. Students were given "suggestions" to act upon and, according to Munafo, the Gray and Mamet offspring all show "theatrical promise" as dramatic and comedic actors.

LIVING LOUD: Fans of free performance art should head to the Market Diner at 43rd Street and Eleventh Avenue any Friday afternoon between 2:30 and 2:45. That's when Linda Stasi and Marc Simone, co-hosts of New York 1's weekly "What a Week" segment, rehearse their current-events point-counterpoint show, which tapes at four. Sitting across from each other, noshing on chicken salad, the dour duo act out their routine. The unusual venue was chosen because "they have a parking lot, the food is good, and they let us sit there," explains Stasi.

GRACE'S GUY: The betting is that the divorce between Grace Hightower and Robert De Niro will get down and dirty now that Hightower's hired Stanley Arkin as her lawyer. Arkin has handled high-profile divorces before -- for Frank Richardson and Ron Perelman -- although he's most famous as the pit-bull litigator Wall Streeters call when they get in trouble. De Niro is battling back, retaining William Beslow, a matrimonial lawyer known for handling the tough ladies. He was the lawyer for four years of Judith Regan's seven-year divorce and, very, very briefly, represented Patricia Duff.

CHOPPING WOODY: Woody Allen may get a chillier reception next time he applies for a film permit in New York, now that he has inadvertently bruised the ego of a big shot in the mayor's Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting. Wally Rubin, the office's director of theater, recently sent an internal memo complaining of being left out of the loop about the current Allen project shooting in Times Square. "Reminder, anything that is to be filmed in the Times Square or Theatre District area . . . no matter what it is, I need to know about in advance," Rubin wrote. Allen was unavailable for comment, but a spokeswoman for the film office said, "This is just a casual memo." Casual? DID WE MENTION THAT RUBIN USED ALL CAPITAL LETTERS?

Additional reporting by David Amsden.


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