WITH SPENCER MORGAN
April 26, 2004
Fashion Move: Armani’s Exchange
Is Giorgio Armani stepping down as head designer of his Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, and Collezioni collections and wooing Narciso Rodriguez to take over? A source within the company says that Armani, who turns 70 in July, wants to appoint the Cuban-American designer to be his heir. According to the source, Rodriguez has yet to accept the multimillion-dollar package, which stipulates that he must give up his own collection. If the deal gets signed, Armani would make the transition after the spring-summer 2005 collection. A spokeswoman for Armani denied that Armani had approached Rodriguez or had any plans to step down. Rodriguez’s publicist declined to comment.
Political Conversation: Condi’s Slip
A pressing issue of dinner-party etiquette is vexing Washington, according to a story now making the D.C. rounds: How should you react when your guest, in this case national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice, makes a poignant faux pas? At a recent dinner party hosted by New York Times D.C. bureau chief Philip Taubman and his wife, Times reporter Felicity Barringer, and attended by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Maureen Dowd, Steven Weisman, and Elisabeth Bumiller, Rice was reportedly overheard saying, “As I was telling my husb—” and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, “As I was telling President Bush.” Jaws dropped, but a guest says the slip by the unmarried politician, who spends weekends with the president and his wife, seemed more psychologically telling than incriminating. Nobody thinks Bush and Rice are actually an item. A National Security Council spokesman laughed and said, “No comment.”
No-Show Eisner: Forget The Alamo
Is Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner hiding out? Eisner, 62, has exhibited signs of uncharacteristically antisocial behavior since the Disney board stripped him of his title of chairman of the board last month. People were surprised when Eisner and his wife, Jane, were no-shows at the John Kerry fund-raiser at investor Ron Burkle’s Beverly Hills mansion earlier this month. They made a contribution to the campaign but said they had to go to New York at the last minute. Eisner was also noticeably absent at the premiere of The Alamo. The box-office disaster, which cost more than $100 million to make, was said to be a “labor of love” for Eisner, and he’s reportedly upset by its failure. “He was really counting on this one to save his ailing reputation and career,” says a source. Alamo producer Mark Johnson is said to be furious that Eisner snubbed the premiere. Eisner’s spokesperson insists he’s not avoiding public appearances: “In fact, he’s attending an event today at USC.”
The Hotel Business: Budgetary Balazs
Fresh from the success of the Raleigh in South Beach, Andre Balazs is opening another hotel—this time in a former office building on 45th Street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway. But it’s going to be closer to his discounted L.A. hotel, the Standard, than to the Mercer. “It’s going to be less expensive than the Standard, more like a hostel,” Balazs says, joking that he considered naming it the SubStandard, but is more likely to call it the 45th Street Why? (Apparently with the question mark.) “It’s going to be very, very, very affordable.” So, as cheap as the real Y, or at least less than $100 a night? “Probably not, but it will be very, very, very reasonable.” Balazs will also offer bunk beds starting at $50. The hotel—which is being designed by architect Lindy Roy and should be ready next year—will have a bar but no restaurant, and, in the words of Balazs, “there’s going to be very, very, very minimal service.”
Real Estate: Chez Beyoncé
Indefatigable Beyoncé Knowles is spending some of her newly acquired cash. The superstar, who won five Grammys this year for her first solo album, Dangerously in Love, just signed a contract for more than $9 million for two apartments (one for her; one for her mother) at a new condo development on East 58th Street and Lexington Avenue that should be ready by next winter. New neighbors include NBC News anchor Brian Williams. Her brokers, Dennis Mangone and Pablo Alfaro of the Corcoran Group, declined to comment.