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May 4, 1998

Mike McAlary, Abner Louima, Alec and Jocelyne Wildenstein, Roman Polanski, Geraldine Ferraro, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Moyers, David Bouley and more . . .

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FITS OVER THE NEWS THAT’S PRINT

Despite healthy ratings, New York 1 is still fighting for recognition. According to insiders at the local station, when Mike McAlary won the Pulitzer Prize earlier this month for his reporting on the Abner Louima police-brutality case, the Daily News’s coverage of the victory angered the team at NY1, which resents the tabloid’s failure to mention that the local news channel broke the story the night before the News hit the stands. An April 15 News article about the Pulitzer Prizes cited “the McAlary column that broke open the Louima case.” Steve Paulus, senior vice-president of news, says, “I would think they wouldn’t want to print something that isn’t fact. As journalists, they should know better.” In retaliation, NY1 staff discussed ignoring the News in its In the Papers roundup of stories from the dailies but ultimately settled for covering it in brief. “We wanted them to know we were angry,” says a NY1 insider. Responds McAlary, “I was the first person to interview Abner Louima; I was the only one with him in that hospital room. The next day, the only photo of Louima appeared in the News. I was the first to interview accused ringleader Justin Volpe and the only one to interview Volpe’s girlfriend.”

A. M. HOMES’S FRENCH TWIST

So much for French sophistication. Belfond, the French publisher who’d signed up A. M. Homes’s The End of Alice, has just decided to drop the controversial book. The novel is told from the point of view of a middle-aged jailed pedophile-murderer, and it was due to come out in the land of baguettes this September. But after it provoked an outcry in Britain, the French publisher had second thoughts. “We have decided against the publication of this book in France,” confirms Belfond’s Valerie Marechal, adding that the work faced “a total rejection from the journalists here in France” and from the company’s sales force, largely because of a recent high-profile pedophilia case in Belgium. “They thought people were especially sensitive to the issue, which is all the more reason, I think, for the book to be out there,” says Homes, who adds that the decision seems “shocking, because we don’t think of the French as being particularly squeamish when it comes to sexuality. They sheltered Roman Polanski, and they published Lolita first, when it couldn’t be published here.”

HAPPY TRAILS FOR RUDY AND ZACCARO

LIKE MOTHER, LIKE SON: At least one member of Geraldine Ferraro’s family doesn’t have to wait until September 15 for election results. John Zaccaro Jr., who runs the Ravioli Store on Sullivan Street, is now running for office in Fire Island’s Saltaire, where his family has vacationed for years. Zaccaro, former manager of his family’s restaurant Cascabel, is one of six candidates running for two nonpaying positions on the board of trustees that governs Saltaire. The candidates debate on Saturday, May 9, and the election is on Friday, May 22. But don’t assume that Junior’s got his mother’s vote: Ferraro is registered to vote in Queens, so she won’t be able to vote in her only son’s first election. Zaccaro, on vacation, could not be reached for comment.

CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE: Was Rudy Giuliani just blowing smoke when he vowed to support Arizona senator John McCain? The mayor flew to Phoenix recently to speak at a re-election fund-raiser for the Republican McCain, fueling rumors that Giuliani may soon be hitting the campaign trail himself. Questions as to Giuliani’s true intentions heated up when, after the fund-raiser, the mayor lit up a cigar, despite McCain’s staunchly anti-tobacco platform. At least Giuliani tried to be discreet: He retreated to Arizona’s outpost of SoHo’s MercBar before smoking the stogie. (Keeping him company were press secretary Cristyne Lategano, Deputy Mayor Randy Levine, and two other aides.) MercBar owner John McDonald is forgiving of Giuliani’s indiscretion. “I am vehement in my ban against cigar-smoking in my establishment,” he says. “But hey, I’m a New Yorker. It doesn’t pay to make enemies with the mayor.”

SMOOTH OPERATOR: He may be revered for his in-depth documentaries, but sometimes Bill Moyers just phones it in. The PBS star was asked to honor legendary political campaigner and sound engineer Tony Schwartz at the Museum of Television & Radio last month but was called to Africa for an assignment. That didn’t stop Moyers from getting his message heard. The event program still listed Moyers, but then read: “To hear his two-minute recorded statement . . . please call (212) 586-3821.” Callers were treated to Moyers saying: “I will not be present . . . to express my admiration . . . but I’m glad that, through a medium Tony made famous called sound, I can do it this way.” Says Schwartz: “There are three lines set up, so feel free to call!”

RISEN IN THE RANKS: In the latest clash of the news-media titans, the New York Times has come out on top. Political scribe James Risen, currently at the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times, was being courted by the Washington Post and Time, according to a source. But after personal wooing from Time managing editor Walter Isaacson, reports the source, Risen (who broke the story of the FBI’s investigation into a CIA plot to kill Saddam Hussein) has opted for the Paper of Record. “He’s an extremely diligent reporter with very good sources in the intelligence community,” says New York Times Washington-bureau chief Mike Oreskes.

LEARNING FROM BERENDT THE HARD WAY

Maybe the Learning Annex could offer a course in How to Appease Angry Writers, taught by Tom Dwyer, its program director. Dwyer had signed up Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil author John Berendt for a lecture on May 7. But when the school’s catalogue announced on the cover that Berendt would speak on “How to Write a Best-Seller,” Dwyer had to field phone calls from the angry author, who had never agreed to that topic. “We didn’t realize that he would get mad about it,” explains Dwyer. “But I think we’ve done everything we can to make it up to him.” That included calling all the students to clarify that Berendt would instead speak on creative nonfiction. Berendt insists that he has no tips to offer on writing blockbusters. “It would be presumptuous of me to try,” says the writer, who’s been on the New York Times best-seller list for 197 weeks. “I had no idea I was writing one, and so I can’t say how I did it.”

A TAXING SITUATION FOR WILDENSTEIN

The cost of divorce is starting to add up for Alec Wildenstein, whose multi-million-dollar split from the surgically enhanced Jocelyne is now spawning a tax investigation. The city’s Department of Finance is looking into whether Alec has been avoiding New York City’s income tax by claiming Swiss residency, according to a source close to the warring couple. Alec tried to have his divorce heard in Switzerland, but New York’s state and appellate courts rejected his argument and kept the case here. When New York Supreme Court justice Marylin Diamond granted Jocelyne $160,000 a month in temporary maintenance in March, she virtually waved a red flag for the tax man, writing, “It is undisputed that the parties have never paid United States income taxes.” Alec appealed that decision -- and faced sharp questions from the appellate judge on the question of his residency. Now Jocelyne’s attorney, Bernard Clair, has asked the court to charge Alec, who has continued to withhold support, with contempt -- which could mean jail time. Meanwhile, one source insists that Clair has already been subpoenaed in the tax investigation. The lawyer refused to discuss that, and a Department of Finance spokesman would neither confirm nor deny whether an investigation is under way.

REPORTER SIGNS UP FOR MOORE ACTION

One lawyer seems to have cornered the market for writers with personal-injury claims. Thomas Moore, who represented Daily News columnist Sidney Zion after the death of his 18-year-old daughter, Libby, has been retained by New York Times reporter Neil MacFarquhar, who was hit by an out-of-control bus whose driver may have suffered an epileptic seizure. “We filed a notice of claim” against the city, reports Moore, who adds that he’s currently drafting MacFarquhar’s civil action, which will probably be served by the end of this week. “The fact is that Neil has gone through a terrible ordeal and -- despite the best of hopes and aspirations -- will have this with him for the rest of his life,” Moore continues. MacFarquhar has had five operations, spent four months in the hospital, and will need lifelong physical therapy. “As a New Yorker,” he says, “I ought to be able to ride my bike or walk down the street without worrying that the next bus that comes along is an unguided missile.”

RESERVATIONS FOR BOULEY AND LEROY

It looks as if the partnership between David Bouley and Warner LeRoy may not make it to the opening of even one of their much-heralded projects. Restaurant insiders speculate that during the endless efforts to finance the projects, which were to include the renovation of the Russian Tea Room, the two have grown impatient with one another. According to financial-world sources, the star chef has been searching for someone other than LeRoy to finance his downtown ventures, including a school, a store, and the restaurant Danube, which LeRoy and Bouley traveled to Austria together to research. Executives at First Boston have been considering investing their private funds in the projects, and Bouley has been enticing them with his talents. According to one company insider, “Bouley has been wining and dining executives at First Boston in an effort to interest them in the financing, and these people love that sort of thing.” Meanwhile, a source close to Bouley says he had initially worked on recipes for the Tea Room but has long since abandoned that pursuit, and a restaurant-world source says, “Warner’s been meeting with every other chef in town.” Bouley refused to comment on the situation, saying, “It’s all boring,” and a spokesperson for LeRoy would say only, “The Russian Tea Room is moving full steam ahead.”

Additional reporting by Kate Coyne.


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