BARKIN SMOKES OUT RON'S BAD HABIT
Revlon chairman Ron Perelman, a longtime poster boy for the cigar set, is giving up his stogies. The balding billionaire, who once owned a cigar company and has appeared on the cover of Cigar Aficionado, is on a new health regimen, thanks to the influence of girlfriend Ellen Barkin. Though the sultry star appears with a cigar in hand on the current cover of Smoke, a cigar magazine, explaining that cigars are "sexy on a man. That's all there is to it," apparently she likes them better at a distance. Since she and Perelman became a couple, he has been adding a little West Coast flair to his image, sporting a slicker haircut, trendy glasses, and a hipper wardrobe. "Ellen and I have been working out twice a day," he announced at Russell Simmons's dinner party last weekend, while beaming at his latest California girl. (You'd never guess Barkin was born in the Bronx.)
YOU CAN CALL HIM AL -- NOT FAT ALBERT
Al Gore seems to be in a lot better shape than his campaign these days. Even before he climbed Mount Rainier with his son, the once-chunky candidate had been dropping pounds as quickly as George W. has been dropping the words "compassionate conservative." Dressed casually at a recent Sag Harbor fund-raiser, the seemed positively "buff," reports one supporter. Another guest asked Gore about his regimen. It seems that the vice-president had packed on some pounds after injuring his Achilles' tendon playing basketball, but he's recently been running and lifting weights -- and, as befits a 51-year-old man, dieting assiduously. "He's eating steak every night and no carbs," reports the source, who adds that the veep has taken off 40 pounds in the last three months. The high-protein, low-carb diet is evidently popular in the Gore campaign: Finance committee chairman Johnny Hayes used it to shave off 28 pounds. The candidate's spokesman confirms that Hayes has been dieting since a reporter called him "portly," but insists that Gore is not on any specific diet.
APRÈS LE DELUGE COMES THE LAWSUIT
Don't mess with Nancy Richardson. When the mercurial millionairess's eighteen-room Fifth Avenue apartment was flooded, Richardson shelled out more than $100,000 to repair the damage and filed a claim with the St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company. Richardson had plans to sell her lavish $16.5 million co-op, but took it off the market late last year -- several months after renovations by her upstairs neighbor caused the damage. Evidently hoping it would be so much water under the bridge, Richardson supplied details to her insurer. But the company kept asking for more and more information, finally demanding that she sit for a deposition. When she refused, St. Paul claimed she was "in breach of the policy." A week later, her lawyer, Paul Batista, retaliated with a lawsuit, asking for $1 million in punitive damages on top of her original claim. St. Paul declined to comment.
DESIGNING TODDLER; CUTTING BACK CAROL
CHODOROW DOWN: Jeffrey Chodorow has signed his first deal without Ian Schrager since going into partnership with the hip hotelier at the end of last year. Chodorow, who owns the Asia de Cuba restaurants in Schrager's hotels, as well as China Grills in New York, Miami, and Las Vegas, has just signed a deal with developer Charles Cohen to open a bi-level, 300-seat outpost of his Miami restaurant Tuscan Steak in Cohen's new 39-story Grand Central Plaza, at 622 Third Avenue. The room will be designed by Jeffrey Beers, who also gussied up the interiors at China Grill.
HEREDITARY CHIC: Jill Stuart's 3-year-old daughter may barely know how to read and write, but that hasn't stopped her -- or many of her older colleagues -- from landing a plum, high-visibility, ultrafabulous job as a model. Thanks to her cherub cheeks and Shirley Temple ringlets, the diminutive Sophie has just been signed by Ford. Was it her fashion-designer mom who urged her to strike a pose? To the contrary. "She's always posing and she wanted to be a model," says Stuart. "She asked me!"
SINGING THE BLUES AT CAROL: Carol Publishing's owner, Steve Schragis, laid off 51 people last Wednesday, leaving him with only a skeleton staff. Schragis says a planned merger with the LPC investing group fell apart earlier in the week. "The returns just caught up to us," says the publisher of C. David Heymann's 1991 best-seller A Woman Named Jackie. He says his bank "has been cooperative" while he's looking for new financing.
Additional reporting by David Amsden.