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Reversal of Fortune

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Her father's connections were undoubtedly one of the reasons why Lizzie caught the eye of publicist Nadine Johnson, the tall Belgian who's married to Richard Johnson of "Page Six." But a Rolodex wasn't all Lizzie inherited.

Like her father, Lizzie's a born fixer, with a gift for putting people at their ease. When Tommy Mottola broke up with Mariah Carey, Lizzie, then only 26, became a primary person he turned to for support; she took him out on the town, got him over his funk. One night, he was hanging out with a few friends, including Sony's then-latest would-be chanteuse, Samantha Cole. A paparazzo tried to shoot the two together, but Grubman would have none of it. She marched over to the photographer and returned with his film in hand.

In 1998, Lizzie appeared, with her cell phone and little black dress, on the cover of this magazine, along with friendly rivals Lara Shriftman and Ally B., in a story titled "Power Girls." And even by the time it was published, Lizzie was clearly the most powerful girl of all.

Lizzie took pride in the fact that her career was no longer buried in the shadow of her famous father's. "It's getting to the point," Allen liked to joke, "where people are coming up to me and asking me if I'm Lizzie Grubman's father."

In recent years, Allen began work on a house for Lizzie on his sprawling Georgica Pond property, with its lawn that rolls down toward the ocean. Already on the property are a tennis court, a putting green, a basketball court, and a swimming pool -- all generally unused. Lizzie's house, also designed by Cook, stood in the shadow of her famous father's manor but was at the same time a quite separate entity. Lizzie was still a Grubman. But she was no longer daddy's little girl.

In the past few years, the Hamptons social scene has ballooned even faster than the real-estate prices, and the Grubman Fourth of July party was a key measure of its superheated intensity. Allen had to install a huge white party tent in the backyard, as if it were a wedding. It took weeks of planning, and it began to seem -- even to a family that's never exactly minded excess -- excessive. Allen announced two summers ago that the tradition was at an end -- which left Lizzie needing a social focus for the Fourth of July weekend.

Conscience Point was unusually crowded when Lizzie Grubman drove up on the night of July 6, sometime after midnight, having spent upwards of two hours partying at the Von Furstenbergs. The crowd at Conscience Point is young and flashy. The club is too big to be truly A-list like, say, the recently shuttered Moomba, Grubman's signature Manhattan account. "It's more Jimmy Choo than Manolo Blahnik," explains one clubgoer. But it was a place where she felt comfortable -- it was her clubhouse. "She always liked to swing by, say hello, pay her respects," says a regular.

One of the favorite looks of summer 2001 is a white-top-and-jean skirt combination, and most of the girls that night seemed to be wearing it. Lara Shriftman, who bailed out of the Von Furstenberg party before midnight, was wearing it. So was Grubman.

When Lizzie arrived, she ran into trouble. Blocked from parking in the VIP parking section, she reportedly argued briefly with a parking attendant and had a friend move the pylons in her path. (The parking attendants and bouncers work separately; Scott Conlon's attorney says he has no knowledge of this altercation.) Lizzie was mingling near the door, presumably in close proximity to bouncer William Maston and his supervisor, Scott Conlon, by around 1 a.m. She even personally let Lara Shriftman in with a party of perhaps ten friends.

Inside the club, says a source, Grubman got into a heated argument with an old boyfriend. A published report identified this boyfriend as Andrew Sasson, the feisty British club impresario with whom Grubman had lived two years ago both in her New York apartment and, for extended stretches, at the Grubmans' Lily Pond Lane house. Sasson, however, disputes this entire account. "I wasn't in any fight with Lizzie that night, and I never set foot inside the club," he says from his parents' home in London.

Neal Travis of the New York Post darkly intimated that Grubman, while milling around the club entrance, was warned by one of the bouncers to "be more discreet" with some unnamed behavior. The allegation dovetailed with Conlon's allegations -- hotly disputed by Grubman's camp -- that she was both on drugs and drinking that night.

Whether she was already leaving the club on her own accord or responding to a request to please move her car from the fire lane remains unclear. But Lizzie was soon behind the wheel once again.

Christopher Modelewski, a young Huntington lawyer handling Conlon's $21 million case, tells a simple story about the events that evening. The incident began, he says, around 2 a.m. "My understanding of what happened is, Billy Maston is the first person who approached the car and asked her to move the car. She says, 'Fuck you. Get someone with higher authority,' or words to the effect. He comes back to his supervisor, Scott Conlon. Tells him about what she said. Thereafter, he notices at some point in time that the car hasn't moved.

"Lizzie is in the car at this point. Conlon walks over with Billy and asks her to move the car. 'Fuck you, white trash,' she says. 'Get someone with more authority.' That's when they both retreat. After that, at least one if not two club employees get involved in having her move the car. And then, some moments after that -- we're talking a couple of minutes -- that's when she moves into the grassy area. Shortly thereafter, whether intentional or not, she drops it down into reverse."

This much is clear: When the car, with Grubman at the wheel and Cooperman and Loughery as passengers, began to move, it didn't stop. The 342-horsepower motor roared like a jet engine, gravel flying. The SUV squealed backward. Witnesses saw no brake lights. The car rocketed as far as 35 feet into a tight scrum of 30 behind a velvet rope near the door. A couple of people managed to dive out of the way. Others didn't even see the car. The Mercedes plowed through the velvet rope, striking sixteen people, including Conlon, and barreled into the club's shingle wall, where two women were pinned.

Immediately afterward, the door of the Mercedes was opened and Grubman, in apparent shock, stumbled out onto the turf, Conlon says. Another club employee jumped behind the wheel and lurched forward to free anyone who was pinned. Grubman stayed at the club for about ten minutes more. A friend -- it's not clear who -- drove her to Andrew Sasson's house. One report identified Sasson as the driver, a statement denied categorically by Sasson.

Deep inside the club, many didn't even notice the thump. But for those near the door, the impact was seismic.

"There was just a huge crash," says a woman on the other side of the wall. "People sitting in the banquette next to the wall got tossed to the floor."

This witness poked her head out the club window and saw the SUV sitting amid "carnage." There was blood. There were moans. Otherwise, the scene was weirdly silent. People were trying to tend to the wounded and just make sure they were going to make it. Leslie Arnold, an associate litigator in the Atlanta law firm King & Spalding's Manhattan office, suffered a fractured pelvis and arm when she was pinned against the wall (she has since filed a $30 million lawsuit). The victims included A-listers like Sarah Thorne, group associate publisher for Hamptons and Gotham magazines. Another victim, Jacqueline Powers, out on the town last week, told friends she had undergone full-body cat scans and that none of the damage appeared to be permanent; she had no intention of suing.


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