Officials have stopped making public their counts of the revelers who pour into Times Square every New Year's Eve, the Times tells us this morning. “Whatever the count was, it was usually never enough for whatever group was involved," a Police Department spokesperson told the paper wearily. So they just gave up. Generally, it seems that over the years, the crowd hovered between 300,000 and 600,000, except for back when Rudy Giuliani was mayor. Then, it seems, the city was so safe and fun and happy that everyone was there! Or maybe not?
The one major exception was Dec. 31, 1999, for the countdown to 2000. Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was mayor at the time, said that the crowd was "pushing two million." That prompted an analysis by The Times, which found reason for skepticism.
As thousands of European budget travelers swarmed the rainy city and prepared to gaze at the big crystal ball in Times Square, many New Yorkers had already moved on to 2008. Bill Clinton worried about Mayor Bloomberg’s buying his way into the presidential race: “He could spend $1 billion and hardly miss it,” said the former president.
Recently, we were watching John Waters's 1998 movie Pecker, which starred all kinds of great people like Martha Plimpton and Lily Taylor and Edward Furlong, before he got weird and started getting arrested and dating his manager. Anyway, as in all John Waters movies, there were about five really brilliantly funny parts in it, one of which was a game the characters played called "Shopping for Others," in which they'd go to the supermarket and sneak things into the shopping carts of fellow shoppers when they weren't looking. (Like a long phallic gourd in the cart of a mousy single woman or a stack of Depends for a smarmy dude in tight jeans, etc.) Anyway, we got to thinking: How about if, this year, we make New Year's resolutions for others? We've never made New Year's resolutions ourselves — it's weird, every year New Year's Eve rolls around, and we realize we're still kind of perfect! — but we've always felt we were missing out on that great American tradition. Not to mention, frankly, there are people that could use our assistance. So. To celebrate the great New Yorkers who make this blog possible and to help them continue their gloriousness into 2008, we've generously ginned up some resolutions for their benefit.
A publicist for model Annabel Vartanian claims that the model fainted at a La Perla party because "she wore herself out," not because she has an eating disorder. Kim Cattrall is donating all the furs she wore in the Sex and the City movie to PETA, which in turn will give them to charity. Cindy Adams is taking credit for breaking Enquirer's John Edwards–is–having–an–affair story. East Village landmark dive bars Sophie's and Mona's are both going up for sale after the holidays. Police commish Ray Kelly says he won't make a decision about running for mayor until after the presidential scrum plays out. Donald Trump will be David Letterman's first guest back when he goes live on January 2. Model Selita Ebanks, who may have been dating James Blake, was at a Knicks game with Giants lineman Osi Umenyira.
Lindsay Lohan has been hanging out a lot with Courtenay Semel, the daughter of Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel and a "power lesbian." Also her dad, Michael Lohan, played Joseph in a Times Square Nativity scene. Dennis Miller and Jon Voight are among the Rudy Giuliani supporters in Hollywood. The Spears line continues: Britney's 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, is pregnant. Is Damon Dash's junk mind-blowing? A woman is claiming that he made her bipolar when he exposed his genitals to her.
New Yorkers watching Will Smith walk through the ruins of an uninhabited Manhattan onscreen in I Am Legend knew just how he felt; it was a week for contemplating loneliness. Rudy Giuliani, indulging in fantasy population control of his own, envisaged a city in which he’d deported 400,000 illegal aliens. (“I would have had fewer problems,” he’s quoted as saying in a new book.)
If you watched Meet the Press last weekend, chances are you noticed how demented Rudy Giuliani seemed when he kept talking about the Florida primary. Tim Russert would ask about Giuliani's flagging numbers in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, and Giuliani would just reply something along the lines of: "FLORIDA! FLORIDA! FLORIDA!" Giuliani has always been banking on his lead there to overcome any shortcomings in primaries that come earlier, but last weekend he seemed a little bonkers about it. And USA Today reports today that he's finally changing his strategy.
Instead of emulating former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope strategy and letting his opponents tire themselves out in contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, the former New York mayor has had to start swinging hard in those states.
That's because Giuliani is behind in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, polls show. So while Ali's strategy enabled him to unseat heavyweight champ George Foreman in 1974, it won't help Giuliani win next year's Republican presidential nomination.
He's buying more ads in New Hampshire and hoping to shorten Romney's thirteen-point lead, but staying quiet about it because he doesn't want to look vulnerable if he can't pull it off. This whole story made us realize that we should be reading USA Today more frequently. Not for the political analysis, really, but more for the writing. That Muhammad Ali metaphor was practically Shakespearean!
Giuliani shifts tactics, goes on offensive [USAT]
Update: According to one poll, Giuliani has even lost his lead in Florida.
Today's Observer story on Rudy Giuliani peeks into his intimate relationship with the conservative Manhattan Institute. Last year, they report, at an Institute award ceremony, Giuliani credited them with masterminding a huge portion of his platform.
“If there was kind of like a charge of plagiarism for political programs, I’d probably be in a lot of trouble because I think we plagiarized most of them, if not all of them, from the pages of the [Institute publication] City Journal and from the thinking and analysis of the Manhattan Institute.”
The Observer suggests that this is a unique scenario, where a candidate's "policy dossier is built nearly from scratch on the theories of academics." “I can’t imagine any other instance or any on the horizon where a think tank has that direct an influence,” author Tom Wolfe told the Observer. He may be right about a think tank in specific terms, but in general this story looks familiar. We can't help but recall a time not long after our last president was elected when journalistsbeganpointingout how strongly George Bush and his team were influenced by the thinking of German Jewish political philosopher Leo Strauss.
Rudy's latest television ad in New Hampshire has the Republican candidate giving this short speech, over a backdrop of pictures and soft elevator music:
"I remember back to the 1970s and early 1980s, Iranian Mullahs took American hostages and they held the American hostages for 444 days. And they released the American hostages in one hour. That should tell us a lot about these Islamic terrorists we're facing. The one hour in which they released them was the one hour in which Ronald Reagan was taking the oath of office as president of the United States. The best way you deal with dictators, the best way you deal with tyrants and terrorists is you stand up to them, you don't back down. I'm Rudy Giuliani, and I approve this message."
Simple, effective message, right? It would be if it weren't backward. As the Chicago Tribune points out, in 1981 "the United States freed the hostages by begrudgingly signing the Algiers Accords, which required the United States to pledge 'that it is, and from now on, will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs.'" Which is, as we understand it, exactly the opposite of Rudy "Never take the military option off the table" Giuliani's stance. Click above to see watch the short ad, and look closely. Did they digitally remake those hostage photos into 3-D? Wowza.
Giuliani TV Ad Questioned [Chicago Tribune via NYO]
Mayor Bloomberg calls the oatmeal-raisin cookies served up at Gracie Mansion “addictive,” an opinion not shared by Giuliani, who didn't care for the in-house baker's sweets. [NYDN]
Fresh owner Eric Tevrow pleaded guilty to pocketing more than $1 million in sales and payroll taxes from his restaurants. [NYP]
Tickets for Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s tribute dinner at next year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival have already sold out, despite being $500 a pop. Naturally, scalpers are already reselling them on eBay. [NYP]
• Viacom screws over its army of freelancers by rolling back benefit programs drastically. Merry Christmas! [MixedMedia/Portfolio]
• The Washington Post is sending veteran reporter and inveterate partier Keith Richburg to town to take over the paper's New York bureau. He's well known for throwing parties with, get this, as many as 30 people! Will Manhattan will be able to handle it? [NYO]
• No holiday party at Time Inc. or the New York Times. Suckas! [Radar]
• The New Republic pulled back on its long-embattled "Baghdad Diarist" series, admitting they could no longer stand behind the author, an army private serving in Iraq. Meanwhile, The National Review suffered its own Middle Eastern credibility scandal and struck back in a novel way: "As one of our sources put it: 'The Arab tendency to lie and exaggerate about enemies is alive and well among pro-American Lebanese Christians as much as it is with the likes of Hamas.'" Yikes. [NYTMixed Media/Portfolio]
• Big layoffs ahead at NBC News? "There are going to be firings very soon — everybody is terrified," according to a "former network insider," who claims tens of millions in cuts will happen in the next two weeks. [Jossip]
• New NBC programming honcho Ben Silverman is looking to clear up a conflict of interest and cash in on his old production company, which Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter to Rupe, is buying for around $200 million. Not bad for a guy who built his career on stealing foreign shows like The Office and Ugly Betty and then repackaging them for the U.S. [NYP]
So we've been feeling guilty all week because we missed picking up on Wayne Barrett's super-duper Village Voice report about Rudy Giuliani's ties to Qatar, which in turn tie him to terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It was a big story that we even read but then got caught up in other things and didn't end up covering it. And then today, Joe Conason at Salon.com totally called us out on it.
Occasionally, as in the case of Rudolph Giuliani during this past week, the sudden appearance of not one but two juicy investigations overwhelms the system's capacity to absorb and regurgitate. But when the nation's news executives decided which of two highly embarrassing Giuliani stories to feature, nearly all of them made the wrong choice. While they lavished enormous attention upon a Politico story dealing with adultery and bureaucracy, they should be devoting at least as much time to yet another in the long series of Wayne Barrett scoops in the Village Voice, because this one involves business and terrorism.
Conason is right. Barrett is a little obsessed and maybe does push pins into dolls of Giuliani every night, but his reporting is accurate, smart, and in this case, important. Conason even comes up with ten questions that reporters can ask Giuliani about his Qatar connections so they don't have to read the whole Voice story. So readers, go read the article. And Conason, thanks for giving us a bloggily self-referential way to assuage our own guilt.
Giuliani's Terrorist Ties [Salon]
Rudy's Ties to a Terror Sheikh [VV]
If you watched last night's Republican CNN/YouTube debate, you were probably struck by the awkwardness of the exchange between retired Brigadier General Keith Kerr, who is gay, and the candidates. Kerr's YouTube submission asked about why gays can't openly serve in the military, and after a few answers (including one where Mitt Romney assholicly contradicted his previous statements once again), debate moderator Anderson Cooper brought Kerr out from the audience to see whether he felt satisfied. He didn't (though seeing Romney get booed and look so uncomfortable must have made him a little happy), and combined with audience boos and applause, the whole thing made for some strange political theater. Almost instantaneously, a whole slew of blogs researched Kerr and discovered that he is on the gay-rights steering committee of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Many accused Clinton of inserting a plant into the audience (a common chargethese days), which the Clinton camp denies. But it seems to be the viral story of the morning, which has got to make Rudy and Mitt feel better, as their early-debate bickering has been universally panned in the papers. Click above to watch the awkwardness unfold, and be sure to pay close attention to the untold disaster of last night's broadcast: the size of Anderson Cooper's collar.
Gay YouTube General a Hillary Plant – So What? [Outside the Beltway]
Rudy Giuliani, in the later years of his mayoralty, was in the habit of billing travel expenses to obscure city agencies. Politico.com's Ben Smith reports that among the expenses (hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth were racked up during Giuliani's aborted run for senator) are over $30,000 which might be related to the mayor's clandestine affair with Judith Nathan. In other words, taxpayers may have been paying the tab for part of his shenanigans. Starting in the summer of 1999 Giuliani began quietly billing visits Southampton (where Nathan kept an apartment and the Post reported he went to spend time with her) to offices like the Loft Board, the Office for People with Disabilities, and the Procurement Policy Board, even though none of the trips were on his official schedule. Bills were largely related to his constant police escort, which stayed in Southampton Inns (what if Paris Hilton needed a room?!) while he was there. Giuliani's marriage to Donna Hanover did not end until the spring of 2000. This is big, big news, but Giuliani's spokespeople aren't commenting. In that vacuum, we can't wait to see who does have something to say. We have some ideas
Giuliani Billed Obscure Agencies for Trips [Politico.com]
Rudy Giuliani has had gay friends for years. In fact, after he was kicked out of Gracie Mansion by Donna Hannover, he crashed at the pad of two of his gay BFFs. So he of all people should know, YOU DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM A BITCH WHILE HE IS TALKING TO YOU. That's what he's been trying to do lately, as gay groups reach out to him to maintain the pro-LGBT agenda he had as mayor. Since the summer, he's been slowly retreating on his support of gay issues and trying to avoid the topic in his campaign platform. So Alan Van Capelle from the Empire State Pride Agenda, had his team assemble "The Giuliani Files," a record of all of the letters and speeches Giuliani made to ESPA, including videos of testimony and addresses. Now that he's afraid to talk about (or to) the gays, Capelle thought a walk down memory lane, to a place where Giuliani was a Friend of Friends of Dorothy, might be nice.
Hey, remember yesterday when Salon's Rob Polner did an awesome, in-depth story looking back over Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani's last political contest, the 2000 Senate race? It walked you through all of the icky details of Rudy's self-destruction then, from the time he relentlessly attacked her for accidentally playing "Captain Jack" at a campaign rally to the whole mess with his prostate cancer and surprisingly revolting public affair. Polner also reminded us of the time when a cop killed 26-year-old Patrick Dorismond and instead of apologizing, Giuliani released a statement saying Dorismond was "no altar boy" himself (in case you forgot, he was an altar boy). The Salon piece noted how now Giuliani is using some of the same absurd anti-Hillary attacks that didn't work the first time, and Hillary is using her same hardworking, calm but tough grassroots strategy. Yeah, it really was a good article. We can only assume that's why Adam Nagourney wrote the same exact one in the Times today.
When Rudy Met Hillary [Salon]
Senate Race that Fizzled Honed Skills for '08 [NYT]
For a bald, overweight, mustached cop, Bernie Kerik sure got showered with gifts like an 18-year-old concubine. At least that’s the picture emerging from his indictment papers. Today’s Times focuses on a mysterious $250,000 loan from a “wealthy Israeli industrialist” (whom the paper fingers as Eitan Wertheimer, part of Israel’s richest family). We’re more intrigued by the “real estate developer Steven C. Witkoff, who paid more than $236,000 in rent for Mr. Kerik from 2001 to 2003.” Hang on a second — that’s $118,000 in rent a year, which translates to just under ten grand a month. Nice! And that, we’d like to add, is not counting another specially procured apartment of which Kerik had famously availed himself over the same period: a little two-bedroom number with a view of ground zero. —Michael IdovKerik Loan Activity Is Brought to Light After Indictment [NYT]
• Jeff Bercovici wants to know: "What's Regan's price for selling out her country?" After all, if Regan's info on Giuliani is that damaging, shouldn't she divulge it in any case, no matter how much Uncle Murdoch is willing to offer? [Mixed Media/Portfolio]
• Dan Rather's lawyers are getting fed up with CBS nondisclosure agreements. "Who do these guys think they are? The National Security Agency?" [NYO]
• Intrepid Observer reporter spends 45 minutes staring through a window just to see who showed up to a lame Times party. Now that's journalism! [Media Mob/NYO]
Today's Observer story on the Judith Regan lawsuit offers a good peek into the former publishing magnate's thought process as she tries to take down HarperCollins, Jane Friedman, Rupert Murdoch, and even Rudy Giuliani. The salmon paper reveals that at the start of all of this, the wannabe If I Did It publisher was offered $6.5 million to settle, but she turned it down. They even talk to Judith herself! Her quotes are actually sort of tepid and unrelated to the case, which makes sense, as she's probably banned by her lawyers from talking about it. But there are a lot of quotes by people who are "familiar" with her thinking and with the lawsuit. So let's play a game! Which of the below quotes from unnamed "sources" are actually from Regan herself, dementedly speaking in the third person?
• "The men don't want a woman who can outshine them," one source with knowledge of Ms. Regan's thinking told the Observer. "They want women who can look up to them and bat their eyelashes. But honestly? She was more interesting than they were. She had a better life. She had more creativity. Men want to be on top."