AN ITALIAN COUP DE VILLA FOR NYU
Another illegitimate child may be causing problems for Bill Clinton this spring. Clinton is scheduled to take part in a New York University conference with British prime minister Tony Blair in a few months at the Italian villa bequeathed to the university by the late Sir Harold Acton. But the gift, one of the largest ever made to a university, is the subject of a protracted court case in Florence brought by Liani Beaci, who claims to be Sir Harold's illegitimate half-sister. After four years of legal wrangling, she just won the right to bring her lawsuit in the Italian court system, and NYU did not appeal that verdict. "How can an academic institution, which teaches law to its students, for four years battle and deny to my mother, who is 83 years old, the right to her paternity?" asks Beaci's daughter. But a university source argues that even if Beaci proves she's the biological daughter of Sir Harold's father, Arthur, she would at best be entitled to just a fraction of the estate, since most of the riches came from Sir Harold's mother. "I have a son who is starting at the university of law. I don't know if he will see the end of this story," says the university's lawyer in Florence, Andrea Scavetta. "I'm 50; I will not see the end of the story for sure." A spokeswoman for the conference says plans for the Clinton-Blair summit are not yet finalized.
MISCOMMUNICATION AT GRACIE MANSION
Now that Bruce Teitelbaum's gone, insiders at City Hall are appreciating exactly how much he did as Rudy Giuliani's chief of staff. According to one longtime Republican Party apparatchik, Gracie Mansion turned into a battlefield after the mayor announced that Teitelbaum's duties would be split between communications director Cristyne Lategano and deputy chief of staff Anthony Carbonetti. Lategano was called the "co-mayor" by an unnamed source in the New York Times -- a reference that did not sit well with the mayor's wife, Donna Hanover. The Republican Party insider confirms that report, insisting that "Donna went ballistic. She's been a silent, loyal team player, and he keeps throwing Lategano in her face." Even the just-promoted Carbonetti was said to be furious that Lategano would be running the show. "He might want to go to the pac with Bruce rather than work under Lategano at City Hall," the source continues. Lategano is taking over the mayor's correspondence and special events -- except those at Gracie Mansion, which will be under Carbonetti's domain, according to yet another insider with ties to City Hall. Lategano and Carbonetti managed to finish each other's sentences when they called jointly to deny the story. Carbonetti pointed out that he hasn't even been in his office since the announcement, because he's had tendon surgery. Hanover's spokeswoman did not return calls.
NEVIS EVEN HAS HAUTE DRIFTWOOD
Holiday guests at the Four Seasons Resort on Nevis enjoyed plenty of fishing -- for their fashionable resortwear. A single afternoon's eight inches of rain flooded the island, its golf courses, and a number of ground-floor rooms at the hotel, where high-paying guests had hoped to enjoy a peaceful season. Park Avenue dermatologist Patricia Wexler found her things adrift in six inches of water. "Floating Blahniks," she reports. "Like little boats on the canal. It was quite a sight." The hotel moved Wexler's family upstairs and gave guests the sodden night gratis. At least it's still in fashion to go barefoot on the beach.
FEUD DISPLAY ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE
The gourmet stores Citarella and Fairway have escalated their foodie fight on Broadway between 74th and 75th Streets. The war began years ago when Citarella Fish Market started offering meat, and then prepared foods, fresh pastas, deli items, and more. Fairway parlayed with its own prepared-food section and, eventually, a fish market, with slashed prices on salmon and the like. Now Citarella has launched its own produce section, which previously consisted of just a few common cooking ingredients like lemons and potatoes. "This is the final insult," says an amazed local, pointing to an overflowing array of fruits and vegetables on display just a few yards away from Fairway's teeming stands. But no, claims a Citarella spokesperson, "it just seemed like a natural extension of what we do already. We have produce on the East Side." Owner Joe Gurrera hints at another motive, noting that Fairway upped the ante by "putting fish and meat in first." Fairway's owner, Howie Glickberg, doesn't feel threatened, claiming, "It's a joke." Gurrera sniffs that Citarella serves "a different kind of customer," adding, "There is McDonald's, and then there is Daniel."
NEW YORKER DROPS; CAROLYN SHOPS
AD-ING UP THE LOSSES: Less really is more at Condé Nast these days. The New Yorker lost 177 ad pages last year, but the corporate side of the magazine is couching the loss in silver-lining terms. Not only did the weekly face cataclysmic personnel changes -- switching publishers from Tom Florio to David Carey in June and losing editor Tina Brown a month later for David Remnick -- but it also officially joins the Condé Nast stable at the beginning of this year, meaning that the old New Yorker policy of discounting ads off the rate card has to end. So new publisher Carey pruned discounted ads and bargain advertorials throughout the second half of 1998, explains a source in the business department. Carey concurs. "We're focusing only on the pages that are the most profitable for us," he says, adding that pages were up in December and early January.
DON'T LABEL HER: While street vendors scramble to affix the coveted Prada label onto cheapo look-alikes, some who can easily afford the genuine article aren't at all interested in advertising it. Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, in the height of minimalist chic, recently put employees of Prada in SoHo to work snipping all the little red tags sewn onto the ski gear she was buying. "She's a basic kind of girl," says a salesperson who witnessed the purging of the approximately three-inch-long stripes. "Not big into labels." If Bessette-Kennedy -- who could not be reached for comment -- takes this modesty to extremes, perhaps we'll next see clerks taking chisels to the Louis Vuitton luggage.
PERELMAN DATE NOT DEFLOWERED
Even New York's most eligible bachelors need to give a girl some notice when asking her out for New Year's Eve. Upper East Side sources say that just before he left for St. Barts, Ron Perelman rushed a dozen roses to the home of a thirtysomething woman in the fashion business. Attached to the stems were a note and tickets to join him on the once-hip island and then at his home in Palm Beach. Unfortunately, the woman explained, she was already busy for the holidays. "She was just playing hard-to-get,'' surmises one of the Upper East Siders. "You can't just jump at that sort of invitation.'' "No,'' says another. "She met someone else she's really excited about.'' A source close to Perelman concedes that the mogul did invite her to Palm Beach but not to St. Barts, and insists there were no flowers involved. Not so, say those who know the fashionista -- she was cool only on the surface and actually took a Polaroid of the blooms. When reached for comment, the would-be date confirmed the invitation to St. Barts but denied the part about the flowers and photo. Bottom line: Perelman went solo, enjoying his trip with pals Penny Marshall and Martha Stewart, who had been asked along well in advance. Wonder if they got flowers.
THE NOT-SO-ROCKIN' NEW MCCARTNEY VIDEO
As long as Chloe's head designer, Beatle offspring Stella McCartney, is busy trying to shame her fellow designers about cruelty to animals, she might want to focus on her own parent company, the Vendome Luxury Group. McCartney teamed up with PETA to make and circulate a graphic video of a fur ranch in which caged, starving foxes are driven to cannibalism and animals are electrocuted for their skins in extreme close-up. While Vendome does not own any businesses that produce fur items, some of the companies under its umbrella, such as Cartier, Dunhill, Montblanc, and Sulka, as well as Chloe, do produce leather goods and items made with such rare skins as alligator, and the Vendome-owned Purdey's even does a brisk business in handmade hunting rifles. A Chloe representative maintains that the company supports McCartney and is anti-fur, but a spokesperson for Vendome paused, then issued a terse "no comment." As for the video, many in the fashion world do not look kindly on the shocking techniques of PETA supporters, such as dumping a dead raccoon on Anna Wintour's lunch plate and throwing bloody money on stunned spectators at a fur-coat show, and while several designers confirmed receiving the tape, the responses were cool. Nicole Miller said she hadn't watched it, and a spokesperson for Calvin Klein said, enigmatically, "We won't be proceeding with it."
CIPRIANIS SHARPEN KNIVES
The Cipriani brothers allow no one to take the family name in vain. When Tino's.com, a new midtown restaurant, recently published ads referring to "our chef Mario Deruda (formerly of H. Cipriani)," Giuseppe Cipriani called the restaurant to express his disapproval in no uncertain terms. "He said, 'Ti rompo la testa' -- 'I break your head,' " according to owner Tino Scarpa. "It was an Italian threat, not a real threat. But who is he to tell me what I can say about my chef? If it wasn't for his father's name, he would probably be a busboy at one of my tables." A Cipriani spokesperson at first maintained that Deruda never even worked for the famed father and son: "This happens all the time, especially in Italy. People claim to have worked for the Ciprianis.'' Says Scarpa, "Mario worked there about five years ago as a sous-chef for over a year and a half. Let Cipriani sue me, and I will produce my chef's tax returns from that year.'' Cipriani will concede only that Deruda "might have been a dishwasher or something,'' and insists that he did not threaten Scarpa: "I called to let him know he would be hearing from my lawyer.''
COURTNEY SALE ROSS: HOW SWEDE IT IS
The Ross School, the experimental East Hampton school founded by Steve Ross's widow, Courtney Sale Ross, has a history of bringing in high-profile consultants. Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, and Dr. Robert Thurman have all added their two cents' worth to the school's curriculum, but even they didn't attract as much talk as the school's new consultant from Sweden, Anders Holst. The handsome businessman is dating the very wealthy widow, whose Time Warner stock options have exploded in value this past year. Ross just turned 50 last spring, and Holst is around 40, according to Ross's friends, who also report that she recently bought an apartment in Stockholm. "They seem to be very much in love," confirms Ross's lawyer, Bert Fields. But, he adds, "they have no immediate plans to marry." The place in Stockholm is just for visits, according to Fields. "She's totally committed to the Ross School and would never leave the U.S," he says.
Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman and Elana Zeide.