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June 5, 2000

Frédéric Fekkai, Bill Murray, Bette Midler, Russell Simmons, Betty Thomas, Charles Stone III, Snapple, and more . . .

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Fekkai and Johnson: Living the Penthouse Life

Not since Jon Peters shacked up with Barbra Streisand has a hairdresser lived so well. According to real-estate sources, stylist-to-the-stars Frédéric Fekkai's rumored fiancée, pharmaceutical heiress Libet Johnson, has just purchased producer Keith Barish's fifty-first-floor spread at Trump International Hotel & Tower for more than $22 million. Johnson sold her River House duplex to financial whiz Lynn Forester last month for around $12 million, but she already owns three penthouses in Trump's Central Park West building. Barish, who paid a mere $7 million for the apartment just over two years ago, invested in an Internet venture when he left Planet Hollywood last year, and has decided he'd rather live downtown. "He wants to move somewhere hipper," says the source. With the $15 million he just made on that little turnover, finding chic downtown digs should be no problem.

Bill Murray's Faux-Dough Op

Bill Murray is giving his Hollywood money away, but not everyone's impressed. Recently, the Hamlet star was spotted in Nancy's Wines For Food on the Upper West Side, where he pretended to pay for a $15 bottle of Vino Nobile with fake movie money. Each of Bill's bills read this note is not valid. it is for use in motion pictures only and is not negotiable. "I told him he'd have to clear it with the owner," reports the store's operations manager, Wayne Centabar, which prompted Murray to break out some real dough. But the impatient woman on line behind him didn't feel like waiting out a bogus barter session. "I didn't know it was him," she recalls sheepishly. "So I told him I was in a hurry." The actor's response to her? "Here, this will help," he said, handing her a fake $10 bill. Murray could not be reached for comment.

Bette Midler's Park Eats

The often-outrageous Bette Midler is looking to pursue some tasteful ventures. The Divine Miss M is helping her park-loving buddies in the New York Restoration Project open a restaurant. The not-for-profit group -- which the singer-actress launched in 1995 -- is turning an old concession stand into a lavish café at its first successful clean-up site in Fort Tryon Park, near the Cloisters. Profits from the eatery will go toward park maintenance. "It's a wonderful moment in the history of parks," gushes group president Joseph Pupello. Douglas Rodriguez, the Latin culinary pioneer (owner-chef of Peruvian hot spot Chicama), has been helping the star and her crew get cooking. Midler will be whipping up more than just seviche -- this fall she's starring in her own CBS sitcom, which the network is hoping will be Wednesday's final answer to the Regis ratings dynamo Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Simmons Raps Rudy in Ad Campaign

Now that we can no longer look forward to seeing Rudy Giuliani on campaign spots, the mayor's mug will be gracing a different round of promotions. A particularly unflattering shot of Giuliani will appear on the print ads for rap mogul Russell Simmons's new Website, 360HipHop.com, which a press release describes as "a voice for the urban community and . . . a forum for real social change." On the left side of the ad are four hip-looking twentysomethings -- each representing a different ethnicity -- along with the caption I AM HIP-HOP. Opposite those with-it folks is a hunched-over, grimacing Giuliani (complete with powerhouse comb-over), looking positively Nixonian and slapped with the motto I AM NOT HIP-HOP. Simmons tells us, "Hip-hop people wouldn't lock up homeless people. They believe in freedom of expression. They're compassionate. They talk about education." And the Def Jam Records founder doesn't believe the ads should irk the mayor a bit: "He should be happy about it. He should look at this and think, 'Great! I'm not hip-hop.' " But isn't Simmons worried about getting into a tussle with the famously litigious mayor (who declined to comment)? "Maybe he'll sue me," says Simmons. "That could be good, though." You know, it just might be.

Bloomberg Spoils A&Amp;P's Appetite

Bloomberg Radio isn't afraid to take a stand on the crucial issue of upscale grocery shopping -- sponsors be damned. The A&P-owned supermarket franchise Food Emporium was a proud sponsor of the station's traffic reports, with spots airing six times a day, until one of Bloomberg's broadcasters scoffed at the chain's attempt to become a bit more tony. When Peter Elliot, host of Bloomberg's "Executive Dining Guide," got a load of the new Food Emporium in the posh Bridge Market Tower, he was unimpressed. "Just because you put an everyday grocery store in an upscale area does not keep it from being an everyday grocery store," Elliot told listeners. He then added, "Food Emporium will not become another Balducci's just by being located in Sutton Place." Understandably unhappy supermarket suits quickly fired off a memo stating that they would no longer be advertising with Bloomberg. "That's their prerogative," says a Bloomberg spokeswoman. "When Elliot does a piece, he doesn't do it with advertiser consideration, obviously." A call to A&P was not returned.

Snapple Marked For Cyber War

Score one more for the little man: Yet another disgruntled consumer has discovered that the Internet is a great way to get a corporation's attention. When one Snapple drinker in Manhattan discovered an anomalous white glob in his Diet White Grape earlier this month, he quickly set up grossnapple.com to share his experience -- and close-up photos of the offending blob -- with other thirsty consumers. The Webmaster, who wishes to remain anonymous, says his site is a public service intended to force Snapple to print sell-by dates on every label. As it is, the age of the usually tasty beverages is revealed by codes on the bottles that only retailers can decipher. But grossnapple.com claims it has obtained a code key and will provide anxious iced-tea fanatics with the sell-by date of any bottle in question. According to the site, one Queens man has already been saved from downing a Snapple that was six months past its prime. "Perhaps the problems are more widespread than we originally thought," the report reads. A Snapple spokesman insists that the date codes have more to do with "the quality of taste" than with "health or safety" and adds, "Snapple distributors and retailers are advised to routinely rotate product." The flack also points out that his company offered to analyze the Webster's drink, but he refused to allow it. The Webmaster contends that the company required him to put his questionable cocktail into Snapple's hands with no assurance of getting it back. Meanwhile, the site has been translated into Spanish. How do you say, "Too much free time"?

Betty Thomas Takes on a Pair

Private Parts director Betty Thomas's next project will feature buxom breasts as prominently as her Howard Stern biopic did, but it looks to be even weirder. According to a source close to the deal, Thomas is in talks with Fox Searchlight Films to helm a movie based on Maxim magazine's 1998 article "The Man With the $100,000 Breasts." The story detailed the escapades of Brian Zembic, a professional gambler who in 1996 got size 38C breast implants to win a $100,000 bet. Although the wager required Zembic to keep his heaving bosom for just one year, the gambling man never ended up getting rid of the implants, claiming they enhanced his sex life. In another freakish episode, Zembic spent 30 days in a bathroom to win $14,000. Nice work, if you can get it.

Whassup?; Model's Pupset

WHASSUP AT MIRAMAX: The man behind those popular Budweiser commercials in which a group of guys scream "Whassup!?" at one another is taking his talents to the big screen. Director Charles Stone III has just signed a deal with Miramax's Dimension Films to direct his first motion picture, titled Paid in Full. The movie, produced by Black and White's Ron Rotholz, won't be a funny little number like Stone's beer ads. It's a gritty true-crime drama about the rise of a Harlem drug kingpin in the mid-eighties, set to go into production in July. No word yet about the director of those Budweiser frog spots.

PIECE OF THE ROCK: You don't have to be a Backstreet Boy to get caught up in a little merchandising madness. Rockefeller Center's owners (who put the twelve-building property up for sale last week) have signed a deal with Silverstone Imports to license images of the plaza -- including the Christmas tree -- for seasonal giftware and ornaments. Retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue and the NBC store will peddle glass Christmas-tree replicas and ornaments featuring scenes such as the Rockefeller Center skating rink. Could a plush Prometheus be far behind?

MAN BREAKS DOG: The most fragile member of the Victoria's Secret delegation to Cannes did not escape the media circus unscathed. Shortly after the gang of lingerie models arrived in France for their Fashion 2000 show, mannequins Aurelie Claudel, Daniela Pestova, Tyra Banks, and Heidi Klum were mobbed by a frantic crowd of paparazzi. While the willowy Claudel managed to get away without injury, she dropped her three-pound Pomeranian in the rush and the poor thing broke a tiny leg. The canine, Minosh, spent the rest of the film festival in a smart yellow cast. Now everybody will want one.

Additional reporting by Brooke Gosin and Suny Sehgal.

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