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July 20, 1998

Betsy McCaughey Ross, Bob Squier, Al Gore, Anna Wintour, Alec Larkin, Alexandra Von Furstenberg, George Miller, Danny DeVito, Larry David and more . . .

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WILL BETSY ROSS LOSE HER SQUIER?

Political insiders are buzzing about tensions between Betsy McCaughey Ross and her media consultant, Washington's Bob Squier, who also works for Vice-President Al Gore. McCaughey Ross, who's known for summarily firing staffers, has resisted Squier's entreaties to spend money on ads, according to several political insiders. "The argument in the campaign is, they should be on television now, and they aren't putting up the money," explains one. "Wilbur McCaughey Ross's husband thought he could raise the money for her, and he hasn't raised it." But a campaign insider answers that charge by pointing out that "media buyers always want to buy as often and as much as they can," because they make a 5 to 10 percent commission on every buy. McCaughey Ross's spokesman, Kevin Davitt, says radio spots are beginning this week in the Rochester and Syracuse areas and declares that the delay so far has been a "matter of strategy." Davitt insists that after McCaughey Ross's next financial report becomes public later this week, "all our naysayers are going to be very disappointed." Squier could not be reached for comment.

BABE II: NO PIGGY PROMOTIONS

Though the Babe follow-up film is being touted as one of the surefire hits for the fall movie season, Pig in the City won't be hogging the lucrative market of promotional products. Though commercial tie-ins can bring in substantial revenue (especially to family-friendly films), Universal, the studio behind Pig in the City, has no plans to slap its porcine star's likeness on everything that stands still. Apparently, that's because of demands from Pig in the City writer-director George Miller, who believes Babe should avoid excessive hype even if that cuts profits. "Miller is insistent about this," says one insider. "Even though tie-ins are where these films make a lot of money, Miller knows when to say when." A spokesperson for Kennedy-Miller, the film's production company, says, "George just wants to protect the character he created. Nowadays, everyone gets in your face, and it becomes excessive -- Godzilla should have taught us all that." Miller thinks that ultimately, his pig can stand alone. "With the first film, the people came and discovered us, not the other way around," says the spokesperson. "George wants to stay true to that with this film as well." A Universal representative did not return calls.

A SEINFELD EPISODE ON THE DISNEY LOT

Lloyd Braun, head of Buena Vista Television Productions at Disney, apparently thinks big: First, he engaged in a bloody housecleaning shortly after arriving on the job in the spring. Now he's telling Mouse House execs that he wants to land a deal with TV-writing demigod and Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, according to a Hollywood insider. Braun, formerly David's lawyer, was the namesake for the sitcom's "Lloyd Braun" character, whose polished good looks belied the madness beneath the surface. But David's manager, Gavin Pollone, says Braun hasn't made his former client an offer. "I'm sure he'd want to," says Pollone, "but he knows Larry well enough to know that his focus is on his next movie now." Nor has Braun been able to sign up David's wife, Sour Grapes producer Laurie Lennard. The former Fox TV executive and talent booker for David Letterman turned him down to continue her nonprofit work in arts education. Braun insists that the offer wasn't part of a master plan to entice David. "There is no wooing him; we know each other too well," explains Braun, who adds that Lennard "has a standing offer, which remains open for as long as I'm in this job."

STRAUSS PUTS OUT; VIBE PAIRS UP

STICKY FINGERS: Despite rumors in the trades that Strauss Zelnick, North American president and CEO of BMG Entertainment, is about to take on even more responsibility as the company's worldwide president and CEO, the wunderkind seems to have some time on his hands. Zelnick has been bottling his own recipe of barbecue sauce and sending twelve-packs to his friends, including Sean "Puffy" Combs, Carly Simon, and Clint Black. The label of "Strauss in the House" displays a head shot of the mogul, and the bottle is probably the only one in the sauce biz with the address of a record company's corporate headquarters on the back.

BIZ BUZZ: Where fashion goes, can media be far behind? Now the business of urban culture has been deemed so influential it needs its own publication. Variety is teaming up with Vibe magazine to publish a single issue of Vibe Biz, to be sent to select subscribers of each publication. Vibe CEO Keith Clinkscales says, "After the initial response, we hope to sit down and decide what to do in 1999." Biz is being produced from Variety's Los Angeles offices, though Vibe is making sure the finished product is authentically street-savvy by having its writers contribute as well.

WHY ADAM DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE

The storybook wedding on billionaire John Kluge's farm in Virginia last spring turned into a quickie divorce this summer for his daughter, socialite and Cosmopolitan editor Samantha Kluge, who had married Adam Cahan. Behind the breakup was a particularly opportunistic girlfriend, according to several of Samantha Kluge's friends. Alice Larkin was a young Englishwoman selling designer clothes at Betsy Boutique (a by-appointment shop now at the Surrey Hotel) and dating banker Dominic Lester, a friend of Cahan's from Brown University. She was taken up by Kluge and her friends, a glamorous circle that includes Carolina Herrera Jr. and Alexandra Von Furstenberg. "They wanted to make her Alice into this year's 'It' girl," reports another friend, explaining that the women invited Larkin "everywhere." Then they suddenly discovered this spring that she was having an affair with Cahan. "She was a pretentious social climber who pursued him," says one Kluge loyalist. "It was a shock to everyone," reports another. "But Samantha is already divorced and has moved on with her life." Cahan could not be reached, and neither of the women would comment, but Kluge's friends think Larkin and Cahan are still together.

ANNA IS WHERE? SHIRLEY YOU JEST

Is Anna Wintour perversely unfashionable or incredibly prescient when it comes to real estate? The powerful arbiter of fashion sold her house in Bellport last summer, and has since purchased a huge oceanfront spread in a decidedly unchic area near the towns of Mastic and Shirley, just west of Westhampton. "It's a spectacular piece of property; in East Hampton, it would cost about $15 million,'' says one fashion insider, "but the minute that you leave the compound, it's shocking.'' According to a friend of the Vogue editor, she enjoys the mid-island anonymity. "There's a total lack of pressure. If you go to the little grocery store, you are not hounded by media. In fact, you are not going to see anyone you know." Although the friend describes the surroundings as rundown ("It's a bit like saying, 'Wow, it's so beautiful' but ignoring the fact that there's a petrochemical plant next door"), he says it's clear the family is happy with its summer housing. A spokesperson for Wintour would say only, "She owns a lovely house in the country, and we're not going to comment on the time she spends at home with her family."

RUDY'S EARLY RACE

Even when there's no race, they can't keep themselves from running in Rudy Giuliani's City Hall. Five of them made it to Central Park by 6 a.m. last Wednesday for the Road Runners' annual breakfast run at Tavern on the Green. Communications director Cristyne Lategano ran the 3.5-miler (but deputy press secretary Jennifer Chait went for 6). Cheering them on from the sidelines was Mayor Giuliani, who hung around for 40 minutes or so, "waving and smiling," says one runner, "when suddenly he jumps off the platform and almost knocks it over." Lategano had just completed her last loop around the park. Giuliani cheered her on at the finish, then guided her into the Tavern, where all five of the City Hallers had breakfast together. "There was a lot of grumbling the rest of the day," laughs one co-worker who didn't get up to run at 6 a.m.

DANNY DEVITO'S LAP DANCE

Many performers would jump at the chance to schmooze a powerful producer, but only a few would be brazen enough to plop down in his lap and deliver a personal serenade. Every night at the Off Broadway hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hedwig, a.k.a. John Cameron Mitchell, leaves the stage to croon the show's big number to an audience member. Last week, shortly before starting his one-month leave from the show, Mitchell found the perfect recipient for his rendition of "Sugar Daddy": Danny DeVito, one of the owners of Jersey Shore, the company now in negotiations to produce Hedwig, the movie. "Let's see if there are any sugar daddies in the house tonight," Mitchell announced to the audience before alighting upon DeVito's lap and proclaiming, "As if there's any question!" DeVito appeared to be delighted by the attention -- "He was laughing the whole time," says a fellow audience member. A Hedwig spokesman swears that Mitchell rarely winds up on a celebrity's lap, let alone that of a celebrity offering a movie contract.

Additional reporting by Kate Coyne and India Landrigan.


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