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Ben Widdicombe

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Gossip Guru Baird Jones Reported Dead

Baird Jones
According to Ben Widdicombe, the New York gossip world has lost one of its enduring fixtures. Baird Jones, the "Webster Hall curator" who supplied items to "Page Six," "Rush & Molloy," Gatecrasher, and Cindy Adams, was found dead in his apartment yesterday, a friend says. The death isn't yet confirmed by authorities (we are waiting to hear back from the NYPD, who told us they are looking into it), but Widdicombe's source is a close friend of the reporter. If it's true, we are saddened by the news. We knew Baird from the party circuit and he was an odd duck, but always very friendly and helpful. He had an uncanny knack for getting celebrities to tell funny stories, and an incredible memory for odd details. He also used to sneak us beers if the party we were at only served froufrou cocktails. We'll let you know if the NYPD will confirm the report. We, and surely Cindy, Ben, Richard, Paula, George and Joanna, are hoping that they won't. 'Baird Jones Has Passed Away' [Ben Widdicombe's Oscar blog, via Gawker] Update: The NYPD confirms that Jones was found dead in his East Village apartment last night around 10:30. They were unable to determine the cause of death, but they detect "no criminality at this time." His family has been notified, and the investigation is ongoing.

‘Daily News’ to Start New Gossip Column on Sunday

Jo Piazza
After over a year without a weekend-only gossip column, the Daily News is going to launch "Full Disclosure With Jo Piazza" on Sunday, we hear.* Running a half-page once a week, the column will cover the same kind of dish and celebrity news as the tabloid's current columns, "Rush & Molloy" and Ben Widdicombe's "Gatecrasher." Piazza, whom you may remember as the girl who got hit on by a married Nick Lachey at the Super Bowl in 2005, has been covering celebrities since her days as a legwoman for "Rush & Molloy" three years ago. She also has a Fashion Week blog and column. Previous weekend columnists for the tab, which has tested a handful out to compete with "Page Six"'s seven-day coverage, have included Widdicombe and Michael Gross. We think this is good news, because it's okay for you to not read us for your latest news and gossip on the weekends. After all, you need to read about Britney Spears sometime. *We hear this because Jo has totally been besties with Daily Intel editor Chris since the day Jo body-slammed her way past a doorman at Bungalow 8 to get into Chris's birthday party in 2004, earning his respect forever.

Def Jam Wants Its Turn to Retire Jay-Z

The true story of what is going on with Jay-Z at Island Def Jam seems to be unfolding in the gossip pages. Murmurs that the hip-hop impresario was set to leave the label have been buzzing since last year. In July, Ben Widdicombe's "Gatecrasher" column reported that "he is in negotiations to jump to rival Columbia," citing this year's appointment of Jermaine Dupri to head up Island's Urban group as one cause of strife. At that point, it looked like it was all Jay's idea to look for a new job. But now, in "Rush & Molloy," we learn that maybe the Island Def Jam brass aren't that happy with their 2005 hire:
Island/Def Jam CEO L.A. Reid and his boss, Doug Morris, are said to have found Jay's demands "excessive" in light of the time he's been spending on tour. "People have lost count of how many times he's come out of retirement," the source says. "Everybody knows he's not around the office much. Everybody at Universal loves him, but they can't justify paying him the money he wants when so many people have been laid off." His contract is said to expire at the end of this month. Friends of the rapper, who last night was celebrating his 38th birthday in Paris, scoffed at claims that Reid and Morris had thrown in the towel.
We've heard a lot on this topic: That Jay's longtime girlfriend, Beyoncé, wants him to quit. That Jay's singles are tanking. That L.A. Reid is tired of Jay getting all the attention. Which makes us want to yell about something we've been wondering for years: When will Jay make an honest woman out of Beyoncé!? Jay-Z in Jam over Contract [NYDN]

Can't We All Just Gay Along?


Today's "Gatecrasher" column in the Daily News includes a truly excellent story that also appears in the Village Voice. Turns out News gossip Ben Widdicombe and Voice scribe Michael Musto were sharing a table at Bowery Bar last Tuesday during the weekly gay party, Beige. With them was former Village People cowboy Randy Jones, who had a delightful tale to tell. From "Gatecrasher":
In 1977, [Jones] found himself sharing a table at Studio 54 with two people he recalls as being Paris' parents, Rick and Kathy Hilton. "There was one rock of cocaine left, and it rolled off the table," he said. "They just didn't even bother bringing it back up to a hard surface — they just crushed it into the carpet and snorted it off that."
Jones explained, "Whatever Paris Hilton is, she came by it honestly!" (Not the adverb we would necessarily use.) Now Rick Hilton denies this story ever happened, and it may be too good to be true. But it is a lovely little example of the gay media mafia at work. Widdicombe needs to fill a column every day, but he nonetheless waited an entire week to run this item so that he and Musto could run it at the same time. Thus, nobody was unduly scooped. See? Gay gossip columns will help you out! Unlike straight gossip columns, which threaten to rape you. Violence is Golden [VV] Hilton Story Doesn't Seem to Check Out [NYDN]

Whose Interviews These Are

The New Yorker confuses Robert Frost and David Frost (whoops!), much to the amusement of both "Page Six" and the Gatecrasher. Porn star Jenna Jameson has lost a lot of weight and has started acting unprofessionally since her divorce. Real-estate developer Harry Macklowe gets preferential treatment at all Icon parking garages in Manhattan. Ben Widdicombe got an earful from Pauly Shore. The Russian Tea Room uses out-of-context quotes to give the impression that it has been well reviewed. Tom Wolfe will give a speech in Miami about art and architecture. A number of J.P. Morgan bankers are expected to attend Dana Vachon's book party tomorrow night, despite the treatment the firm (or, rather, the fictitious firm based on Morgan) gets in the book.

Anderson, Celebutante

Fox News compares Anderson Cooper to Paris Hilton, and CNN isn't happy. (Which we imagine was the point.) Steve Madden will underwrite Fashion Week's Designers for Darfur even though IMG backed out. Hillary Clinton is trying to infuse her campaign with some stand-up comedy. Jeremy Piven jokes that he'd like to settle down with a girlfriend if he weren't "gayer than Liberace in 1972." Parsons fashion chairman Tim Gunn to become chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne (but still do Project Runway). Bill Clinton will not be the next president of Harvard.

Now With Daily Gatecrasher!

Rosie O'Donnell called Barbara Walters a "(bleeping) idiot" in the latest round of The View–related acrimony, according to "Page Six." (Ben Widdicombe has a slightly more reserved account.) Dita Von Teese and Marilyn Manson are squabbling over custody of their cats but not dogs. The TV critic who wrote a book about Bill O'Reilly wants George Clooney to play the title character. Fox is giving James Cameron a cool $200 million budget for his next film, Avatar. Julia Roberts may be pregnant with twins again. Arnold Schwarznegger forgets how old his mother is. Breaking: The Gotti Boys wear a lot of hair gel, gaudy jewelry. The Insider's Lara Spencer might join Today when it adds a fourth hour. Snoop Dogg to host a television documentary on his childhood. David Schwimmer made out with a girl in public, possibly a ploy by her to get into the papers. (Success!) Disgraced Miss USA Tara Conner flirted with a bunch of male photo assistants at a cover shoot for New York Dog magazine, though her stint in rehab means she won't actually be on the cover. The owner of Star Room in East Hampton set to open a branch in the Chelsea Hotel, described it as "elitist." Bono got drunk in Utah. Mary-Louise Parker, dumped by Billy Crudup while pregnant, hung out with him at their son's birthday party. Jessica Biel drinks water and champagne to stay pretty. Cindy Adams says Bryan Adams says he loves New York.