Will Halberstam’s Widow Sue UC Berkeley for Negligence?Prominent speakers and performers from Gay Talese to Paul Simon will eulogize David Halberstam at a Riverside Church memorial service tomorrow afternoon, but across the country at the University of California, Berkeley, the school’s lawyers are bracing for a lawsuit from Halberstam’s family, which has already asked for $20 million in damages. The Pulitzer Prize–winning author was killed in April in a car accident that happened while a Berkeley journalism student was driving Halberstam, who had spoken at the university, to a nearby interview. “We’re examining the situation more closely, in the anticipation they may take some action,” Mike Smith, a lawyer for the school, told New York. “It’s a very tricky situation, and a delicate one.”
the morning line
• The city’s medical examiner has, for the first time, directly tied a death to 9/11 dust, thus making Felicia Dunn-Jones the 2,750th victim of the attack. The decision’s potential impact is, obviously, enormous. [NYDN]
• Yesterday’s human chain around Stuy Town, apart from serving up a mini-flashback to Hands Across America, had a specific purpose: to repeal the law that allows landlords to deregulate apartments once the rent hits $2,000. [Metro NY]
• The city is closing its high schools for pregnant girls, sixties inventions now beset with “abysmal test scores [and] poor attendance” (in one hair-raising example, a quilting class was being passed off as geometry). [NYT]
• After facing suits for a few knee-jerk post-9/11 arrests, the city reached a deal with the New York Civil Liberties Union to stop pestering photographers and filmmakers operating handheld cameras on the street. No permit is now needed. [amNY]
• And an infamous distributor of pirated Web content has been sentenced to five years for a real-world crime of, well, blowing up a portable toilet. It’s like when they got Al Capone on tax charges, except not. [NYP]
Isabella Blow, ‘Fashion’s Nutty Aunt,’ Is DeadIsabella Blow — editor, character, inspiration — died in London today, and the news came as a sad shock to the fashion community, particularly those who adore that world’s more eccentric side. Blow, 48, was fashion’s nutty aunt: always dressed perfectly in an outrageous hat, couture duds, painfully high stiletto heels; her lips were always fuchsia, scarlet, aubergine, and richly so. She worked formally in a variety of industry jobs, starting as Anna Wintour’s assistant at Vogue and later serving as style editor of London’s Sunday Times and fashion director of Tatler. She served less formally as muse to and champion of some of today’s greatest talents: Alexander McQueen drew inspiration from Blow’s extravagant, jolie laide persona, and Philip Treacy, London’s top milliner, long designed with Blow in mind. Her personal life was famously rocky: She was painfully disinherited from her father’s estate and was open about the difficulties she and her similarly stylish husband, Detmar, faced when trying to conceive. But, above all else, she loved fashion. She’ll be missed for that, for her flair, her wit, her generosity of spirit, her style. —Harriet Mays Powell and Amy Larocca
Related: In Memory of Isabella Blow [Fashion Week Daily]
the morning line
Subway Worker Killed
• An MTA worked died yesterday after being hit by the G train at Hoyt-Schermerhorn, the second such incident in one week. His colleague is at Bellevue in stable condition. Worst train in the city. [MetroNY]
• The NYPD is using so-called “scarecrows” — unmanned cop cars — to spook drivers into obeying the speed limit on Belt Parkway, L.I.E., and elsewhere. A spokesman was quick to note that the practice is not related to the department’s short staffing. [NYDN]
• The Upper West Side’s Claremont Riding Academy, one of the oldest stables in the country, shut its doors Sunday. There were tears, from mothers more so than from daughters. [NYT]
• When we read the headline “New York City Bar Urges Bush Administration to Abandon Restrictions,” we were briefly awed by our drinking establishments’ political sway. But it was merely our lawyers lobbying the White House to stop placing blame at Guantánamo on, well, lawyers. [WHDH-TV]
• Joe Torre’s brother Frank, 75, is getting a kidney transplant tomorrow; he had a new heart put in eleven years ago. One of his daughters will be the donor. [NYP]
in the magazine
Halberstam in ‘New York’: On Book Tour With the KnicksDavid Halberstam, who died yesterday, is one of the very few reporters — you can count them on your fingers — who shifted the history of the United States. It was his field reporting for the Times, very early in the Vietnam War, that first sent the message home that this war was not going to be like the others, that Americans were heading into something deeper and murkier than they expected, something that they couldn’t wrap up tidily. That sort of legacy suggests a fierce and even dour sort of man, and in fact Halberstam was a very serious person. But when he brought his seriousness to bear on nominally more frivolous subjects, his depth gave them extra dimensions. (Even his odd, elliptical, semi-repetitive prose grew on you after a while.) In the seventies, he wrote occasional pieces for New York, and the most charming of them managed to touch on both his rising authorial fame and his love of pro basketball. It’s a diary of a month in 1973, kept during the book tour for The Best and the Brightest, detailing the extraordinary measures he’s taking to watch the Knicks-Bullets playoffs in a variety of hotel rooms and friends’ houses. You can read it here. “I am worried about our entire front line,” he says at one point, “which seems old and without rhythm.” It may have been true of the Knicks, or for that matter of the American generals then prosecuting an unwinnable war. But never of him. —Christopher Bonanos
A Fan’s Notes: There Were Other Obsessions Besides Watergate and Biaggi [NYM, 5/14/73]
David Halberstam on Poetry, Bush, and BaseballWe last saw David Halberstam, who died yesterday in a car crash in Menlo Park, California, two weeks ago at Alice Tully Hall. It was the annual Poetry & the Creative Mind benefit, which raises money for National Poetry Month, and Halberstam was one of the celebrity readers. He talked to New York about his introduction to poetry via the Kennedys, the “national tragedy” of the Bush administration, and his desire for a baseball stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, so he could easily “wander out to a good meal” after the game.
Remembering Kitty Carlisle Hart, a Last Link to Glamorous New York
Kitty Carlisle Hart belonged to the heyday of the ‘21’ Club and Sardi’s, of Harpo Marx acting up at parties where George Gershwin (who once proposed to her) played only his own songs. Her death today, at a vibrant 96, severs one of the last links to a New York that had more glamour than celebrity, more sophistication than wealth. In a newspaper interview a few years ago — between cabaret engagements, dates with beaux, and the other social commitments incumbent upon a “living landmark” of the city — she wondered what had happened to the place. Decades ago, she recalled, “we used to get all dressed up and go out dancing, then we’d go out for breakfast, and then we’d go to work the next day. I don’t know why they don’t do that anymore.”
it just happened
ESB Suicide Discovered When Leg Found on 33rd StreetThis just in from the Associated Press, and more than a bit disconcerting:
NEW YORK (AP) — A man jumped to his death Friday out the window of a 69th-floor law office in the Empire State Building.
Police responded to the New York City landmark shortly before 3 p.m. after a 911 caller reported seeing a severed leg — covered in a gray sock — on the street below. The rest of the body was recovered from a setback on the 30th floor.
Apparently more than 30 people have jumped to their deaths from the 76-year-old tower. The AP does not report how many dismembered themselves in the process.
Man Jumps to Death From Empire State Building [AP via NYT]
Galliano’s No. 2, Steven Robinson, Is DeadSteven Robinson, John Galliano’s right-hand man, was found dead in his Paris home Wednesday, most likely of cardiac arrest. The 38-year-old had been working on the new Dior resort collection, which is expected to show this summer. Robinson was credited by colleagues as the “huge engine and realizer” at Galliano and Dior. Fashion writer Suzy Menkes called him “a robust and burly figure in the shadows, but the one who made everything work.” Now Galliano, often touted as a fashion maverick, will really go it alone.
Steven Robinson, Dior Designer [IHT]
in other news
Good News: A Murder a Day!You can be forgiven for catching a whiff of Dinkins-era New York around the city lately: cops shooting civilians; psychos shooting cops; homelessness hitting record numbers, with more guaranteed to come as banks move in on the overmortgaged lower middle class. It may come as a surprise, then, that the most gruesome barometer of a big city’s health — the murder rate — keeps dropping. The NYPD is reporting a mere 84 homicides from the beginning of the year through last Sunday, which makes for exactly one murder a day. The same period in 2006 claimed 117 victims, or 28 percent more.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About ‘Sopranos’ Whackings
Because no aspect of the Sopranos phenomenon should be left unexplored in the publicity blitz leading up to next Sunday’s premiere of the final season, midtown’s Museum of Television and Radio last night hosted “The Whacked Sopranos,” a panel discussion at which we gained yet more perspective on the show from five of its late and lamented. The big lesson: Even though they lost paychecks and prominence, the actors who played the whacked characters understand that they needed to go. “Whadaya gonna do,” asked Vincent Pastore, who played “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, “put him in witness protection? That’s NBC.”
Levittown Widow Heir to Fashionista Friend’s Estate?
Heavies like WWD executive editor Bridget Foley, Lincoln Center Theater chief Andre Bishop, and socialite Brooke Garber Neidich packed the Frank E. Campbell funeral home to remember Janet Brown, 59. who died of a heart attack on March 16 while driving to her Port Washington, Long Island, boutique. There she’d charmed clients including Betsey Whitney and C.Z. Guest since 1983 while introducing them to rags by Prada and Jil Sander. But the big question on many mourners’ minds was whether Brown would leave any of her modest fortune to her ex-cohabitant, Simone Levitt.
it just happened
Anna Nicole Smith Is DeadThere is no particular New York connection to this, but it still seems worth mentioning: Anna Nicole Smith, who gave birth to a daughter in September and then watched her 20-year-son die while visiting her in the hospital days later, died today. The legal battle over the estate of J. Howard Marshall — the elderly oil millionaire she married when he was in his eighties — was never resolved, though it reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006. She was 39.
Anna Nicole Smith Dies After Collapsing in Hotel [CNN.com]
the morning line
Spitzer: Budget Cuts for Everyone!
• First hospitals, now prisons. Governor Eliot Spitzer considers closing or consolidating some correctional facilities, in part because crime has plummeted in New York City. But he’ll face opposition from pols upstate, where the clinks employ thousands. [NYT]
• And he also wants to cut $328 million in aid to the city, which has Bloomberg none too pleased and on his way to Albany to complain about it. [NYT]
• Seabiscuit meets Snakes on a Plane in a bizarre grand-jury probe of whether Saratoga racehorses were doped up with painkilling serpent venom to enhance their game last summer. [NYP]
• The Reverend Al Sharpton may file a racial-profiling lawsuit in response to new NYPD stats that 55 percent of cop stop-and-frisks in the city happen to blacks. Such data were mandated after the 1999 police shooting of Amadou Diallo. [NYS]
• Talk about rolling out of bed: An actor on the HBO hit Oz was arraigned in the death of a Bronx man who fell five flights to his death down the elevator shaft of trendy Chelsea nightclub BED. [amNY]
the morning line
State Regulators Make It Official: Con Ed Sucks• Con Ed might want to change its slogan from “On It” to “In It.” State regulators, in what even the Times calls “a devastating condemnation,” place full blame on the utility giant for last July’s Queens blackout. (Even better: Regulators determined Con Ed also lied about the number of affected customers.) [NYT]
• In a Dickensian tableau of class inequality, an Upper East Side antiques dealer is suing a homeless man — for a million dollars! — for loitering in front of his windows and obstructing the view of the wares. Be sure to catch the A-grade Post prose (“dingy socks, soiled shoes and layers of odorous old clothing”). [NYP]
• Carlton Ingleton, a well-known local sculptor who taught art at Medgar Evers College, is dead after a violent confrontation with his son. Cops say the artist was beaten to death “with a pipe and a hatchet.” The son, Carl Assawa, is undergoing psychiatric evaluation after attacking police officers while in custody. [amNY]
• Mayor Bloomberg’s expectedly upbeat State of the City speech — the state of the city is “alive with hope” — included a novel law-enforcement initiative: Crime witnesses and victims will be able to send camera-phone pictures straight to 911 operators. Also, the property tax goes down 5 percent. [NYDN]
• Also on the hopeful techy note: OMG Internet over power lines! “Broadband over power lines is coming to New York, says the City Council’s technology commission. Get ready for Web-enabled toasters, blenders, and hair dryers. [GG]
the morning line
Bad News and Bad News
• After undercover cops fired 50 rounds into a group of unarmed bachelor-party revelers at a Queens nightclub, killing the groom, the five officers involved are on leave and stripped of their guns; crowds demanded more action against them at an angry Sunday vigil. The situation is developing fast, with new witnesses coming to the fore. [NYP, WNBC (on new witnesses), NYDN (on the emotional toll), NYT (“experts offer theory”)]
• Incidentally, the trial is about to begin in a callous murder of two undercover policemen back in March 2003. The officers were killed execution style while attempting to buy a handgun from a Staten Island dealer. [amNY]
• New York’s health sector could lose thousands of jobs thanks to a report coming tomorrow. That’s when a state commission is expected to release a list of belt-tightening measures, including the downsizing of hospital and nursing-home staffs across the board. In a rare provision, only the whole plan can be rejected or accepted by the governor — no picking and choosing. [NYT]
• A 73-year-old Park Avenue rabbi is being sued by his mistress for a breach of the “cohabitation contract” the lovers signed at the outset of their seven-year affair. The paper demanded liposuction and continuing education from her (she complied) and fidelity from both sides (he evidently didn’t). [NYP]
• And, the future of dry cleaning is now: A fully automated “ADM,” currently testing in the Bronx (uh, okay), will now mangle your clothes and singe off the buttons just like the real thing. [NYDN]
Edelstein on Altman
Robert Altman — the greatest living American filmmaker until about this time yesterday, when he died suddenly at the age of 81 — told people he’d direct movies until his last breath, and that note of orneriness was his leitmotif: No one was going to tell him he couldn’t work. Sometimes he joked that he didn’t do much of anything anyway — which was a lie with a half-kernel of truth. Altman certainly didn’t direct the way others did. He assembled ecosystems (platoons of gifted actors with vast histrionic reserves), set them in motion, and then pointed a camera (often two cameras) and a microphone (always many microphones) at them. He would sift through his hours of vocal tracks for the words he wanted you to register — Bob Balaban, his collaborator on Gosford Park, marveled that Altman made choices in seconds that would have taken someone else months. He was a Zen director. His camera stood coolly back from the exhibitionists — sometimes contemptuously (if the characters were right-wingers or snobs), more often with wonder.
it just happened
Director Robert Altman Dies at 81
The AP is reporting that Robert Altman, the legendary director of M*A*S*H, Nashville, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and countless other classic films, has died at 81. If we were any good at the Web-video thing, we’d give you a long, carefully choreographed tracking shot of the office in his memory.
Robert Altman, Leading Director, Dies at 81 [AP via NYT]
New York Lawyer, Charged With Rape, Found Dead“It’s bizarre, unfortunate,” Steve Coleman, an Atlanta police officer, was saying about New York attorney Andrew Gardner.
Gardner, 39, was a litigation partner at Fried Frank. He had been an undergrad at Harvard and had gone to NYU for law school. He lived in Armonk with his wife and three kids. And he was found dead, a presumed suicide, on Monday.
today in astor-ia
Brooke Astor’s Kid Gets Ready to RuuuumbleDid you think the Astor family saga was finally effectively over? Us too. In fact, we were thinking about retiring that Today in Astor-ia tag and launching into a full-on obsession with the Aokis. But not so fast, it turns out.
Earlier this month, Brooke Astor’s son and heir Anthony Marshall, along with his wife Charlene, reluctantly agreed to give up running Brooke’s affairs and return about $1.3 million in disputed money. That seemed to be the end of them, for a while. But now they’re back, distributing morbid hints that they’ll be around for good, and soon. “There will be a battle royal when Brooke Astor dies,” Charlene informs the new Vanity Fair. The whistle-blowing grandson, Philip, notes dryly that now that Brooke is out of Marshalls’ care, her death is not quite as imminent as it was. Still, the Loathsome Couple appears content to lie in wait, expecting to receive everything they gave up (and more) when the will is read.
Of course, speaking of the will, a big juicy part of the scandal is an investigation into whether someone had altered it and/or forged Brooke Astor’s signature on one of its provisions. In short, it ain’t over till it’s over — and not even then.
Astor Kin Ready to Rumble [NYDN]