Did Blair kick Kati off 'Gossip Girl'? Does Gwyneth really eat? Is Diane Von Furstenberg really a dominatrix? (Christiane Amanpour says so!) The answers to these questions lie in today's roundup of gossip.
Ivana and her fiancé seem to have some pre-wedding jitters, Tom Cruise and Sumner Redstone canoodle, and still more New Yorkers cop to encounters with Ashley Alexandra Dupre in our daily roundup of news from New York's best gossip columns.
According to a press release sent to us from embittered Viacom freelancers, 3 p.m. is the hour that they will storm out of the offices today to protest large changes in the company's benefit program. Though Sumner's army of evil attempted to make some concessions last week, it seems like it's still on. From the release:
The holiday season has arrived and you work for one of the largest
media corporations in the world. You receive your invitation to the company’s annual
holiday gala event, and along with it, you are given the alarming news that in a few
weeks, large portions of your employee benefits – including health insurance and
retirement benefits – will be slashed or cut.
It sounds like a tale only Scrooge could spin, but this was the case for thousands
who work each day for Viacom but are classified as ‘freelancers’, some of whom
have been working for the company as long as 9 years.
Wow, Scrooge? Someone get these creative people a raise! Any readers planning on walking out, too? Send us what's going on in the interior; we're dying to know. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. After the jump, the full press release.
Viacom employees and freelancers weren't sure what to expect from their holiday party last night. After the company announced they were making major cuts to employee and freelancer benefits, no one was in a great mood. People talked about protesting at the party, wearing "Permalancers Are People, Too" T-shirts and handing out stickers that someone had made on which WTF replaced the MTV logo. Some people were talking about boycotting the party altogether. But at 5 p.m., after HR veep JoAnne Griffith sent around a memo announcing the cuts would be less severe than previously announced, the rage subsided, the angst transmuted into relief, and Sumner Redstone's serfs succumbed to Weimar-esque debauchery. Daily Intel got a report from inside the belly of the beast.
• Sumner Redstone, the octogenarian CEO of CBS and Viacom, is trying to play all lovey-dovey with his spurned daughter Shari, but the succession to the $50 billion empire is nowhere near resolved. [LAT]
• With more than a 1,000 job cuts at Time Inc. behind her, Ann Moore, the CEO who rose from the back room to the boardroom, thinks there's still plenty of fat to cut — she asked some McKinsey consultants to keep sharpening their knives. [NYP]
• ABC News has done gangbusters over the last year, leading nightly news and finally catching up in the morning, so why did their Disney overlords decide to shuffle management at the top? [NYP]
We're guessing Tom Freston is trying to stifle a smile as he sweats in his private ashram today, what with the news spreading that he was just appointed to the board of DreamWorks Animation. The powerful studio makes megapopular children's movies like Shark Tale and the Shrek series, which are in turn marketed and distributed by Paramount. Paramount, you may recall, was under Freston's purview when he was co-president of Viacom (before he was ousted in 2006). The appointment is a "clear act of defiance against Viacom," explains Variety, as Freston will now have a hand in the future of the company. DreamWorks animation, while distributed by Viacom, is a publicly traded studio and therefore free of the corporate giant's control. Which is all well and good for Freston, but we're more excited about what this means for DreamWorks. Freston knows a lot about the "kids these days" from his years at MTV, which is what the company needs. We don't know if we could take another Bee Movie–type publicity blitz.
Dreamworks Animation Adds Freston [Variety]
Nan and Gay Talese are at work on his and her memoirs about their allegedly open marriage. Jon Bon Jovi is not pleased an energy drink named Mijovi is selling well near his New Jersey residence. Ted Koppel dropped the asking price for his Potomac, Maryland, residence from $4.1 million to $2.3 million. Hillary Clinton complained about the traffic in the Hamptons during her fund-raising stint out east. Stand-up comic Phil Stellar entertained an audience at the Ziegfeld after a movie projector broke during a showing of Hairspray. Meryl Streep says she was kicked out of Yale Drama School for not working hard enough. Gwyneth Paltrow uses face cream that contains snake venom.
A panel of Jewish food luminaries gathered recently to discuss the state of the deli. They didn't paint a very sunny picture. [Serious Eats]
Related: Mother of Mercy! Is This the End of Katz’s?
Don’t blame the government for not letting great Chinese chefs into the country: It’s our fault for not wanting better Chinese cuisine. [NYT]
Manhattan’s secret spots range from sushi in a midtown basement to the bar across the street from the Corner Bistro. [NYP]
Ellen Barkin claims that Ron Perelman owes her another $3.4 million because he promised to fund a production company for her and her brother. (She already got $40 million in the divorce.) Lindsay Lohan was dropped as the potential face of Louis Vuitton after stealing a lot of clothing during an Elle photo shoot. Sagg Pond in the Hamptons was jokingly renamed On Goldman Pond after Lloyd Blackfein and other GS employees bought houses on it. Some staffers at the Russian Tea Room claim the restaurant is haunted. Sumner Redstone may sell Paramount to settle family squabbling. Keith Richards did snort his dad's ashes — just not with cocaine.
Just how nuts is Sumner Redstone? Clearly quite nuts, or at least quite senile. But there's also a chance he hasn't been quite as nuts, for quite as long, as today's Times suggest. Yes, yes: He's probably trying to oust his daughter and heir apparent, Shari, from their companies. And yes, yes: He summarily fired Tom Cruise last year and then ousted Tom Freston. But perhaps he hasn't always been quite this bad. Consider one of the best anecdotes in the Times story:
In 1999, at a news conference for Viacom’s purchase of CBS, Mr. Redstone interrupted Mel Karmazin, CBS’s chief executive, by blurting “I’m in control! Remember — I’m in control!” into a microphone. Despite being widely considered Mr. Redstone’s successor, Mr. Karmazin left the company in 2004.
We were amused, and intrigued, and wanted to find out what happened next in the press conference. So we went to trusty Nexis, where we discovered something interesting.
They'll probably never end up in Iraq, or in whichever poor country we'll be bull-in-the-china-shopping by the time they grow up, but it turns out rich Upper East Side kiddies like to play with guns. Yesterday's Times unearthed the Knickerbocker Greys — a kind of atavistic, paramilitary scout group, instituted in 1881 and still chugging along under the radar, providing 6- to 14-year-olds a place to have fun wearing Army uniforms and handling (unloaded) guns. Less than two dozen strong, the co-ed kiddie regiment spends its time over soda and marching drills in the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue. Most of the children, naturally, hail from military or law-enforcement dynasties, and, as behooves the neighborhood, there doesn't appear to be a public-school kid in the bunch. We'll let you decide whether this sort of thing is adorable or repulsive or a little bit of both. Before you do, however, let little Tommy, a proud Grey, help us collectively shake the mental image of, say, a Somali preteen with an AK-47. "I’m not going to ever join the military," he told the Times. "Not unless my parents go bankrupt."
Manhattan’s Littlest Soldiers [NYT]