Ashley Dupré: Overachieving Ho?We suppose it was inevitable that Girls Gone Wild head honcho Joe Francis would get involved with the whole Eliot Spitzer mess. But even we couldn’t have predicted the depth to which “Kristen,” a.k.a. Ashley Dupré, had penetrated the promiscuity market. Imagine Joe’s surprise when, after he offered $1 million to Dupré to film her, a Daily News reporter called him and told him that she already starred in one of the GGW movies! Francis told the Post: “I personally remember Ashley. She was really at her peak back then. I’m glad I got to her before Spitzer — she looked a lot better at 18.” You can judge for yourself in the tabloid’s online photo gallery of Ashley from the movie (they’re pretty tame, nothing like the “very good shower scene that alone is worth the money” Francis describes). So let’s review. Ashley Dupré was a high-class call girl and, by the age of 22, had arranged for an expensive topless photo shoot for herself, and had gotten it on with another girl for the Girls Gone Wild cameras when she was 18. And you thought there was only one gifted go-getter in Room 871.
Steve Schwarzman Takes the Fun Out of BuybacksFINANCE
• Steve Schwarzman found yet another way to stiff his investors, using the GSO deal as an elaborate cover to buyback shares of Blackstone without the typical benefit a buyback program gives to other shareholders. No wonder the Chinese, who have lost $1 billion on Blackstone, hate him. [DealBook/NYT]
• Bank of America bought Countrywide Financial, the huge mortgage company teetering at the edge of bankruptcy, for $4 billion in stock. Some observers worry the deal will take the bank down, but considering Countrywide was worth $30 billion before the mortgage meltdown, it may yet make B of A CEO Ken Lewis a king. [Deal Journal/WSJ]
• Merrill Lynch will likely take a $15 billion write-down next week, far in excess of the $12 billion some already bearish analysts had predicted. John Thain is looking to rescue the bank with still more foreign investment capital, but with the Senate getting anxious, that stream dry up. [NYT, NYP]
A Very ‘Gossip Girl’ ChristmasOur mind-shatteringly detailed guide to what in this week’s episode of Gossip Girl could pass for real-life New York experience, what seemed kinda fake, and what really put the “Jesus Christ” back in our Christmas.
All the Petraske You’ve Been Dreaming OfHow many openings has Grub Street broken in the last 24 hours? So many we’ve nearly lost count. First was news of a new Sasha Petraske saloon, this one to forgo the mixology maven’s usual carefully constructed cocktails for beer and wine. Next was the report that Amalia, the restaurant and lounge scheduled to open a few weeks ago in the Dream Hotel, won’t awaken there till late January. (But Grub’s got renderings now!) Finally came one more bit of Petraskiana: The Milk and Honey and Little Branch proprietor wants to add food to his empire, aiming to open a restaurant in the old Grange Hall space in the West Village. Need to know more? It’s all on Grub Street.
Milk and Honey Owner to Do Wine and Beer — and Queens! [Grub Street]
Dream Hotel’s Restaurant Still a Dream, But Opening in January [Grub Street]
Sasha Petraske to Take on Fine Dining, Too [Grub Street]
Ralph Lauren to Open Hamptons Eatery, No Doubt to Be Filled With Old-Time AmericanaAt last, there’ll soon be a chance for East Enders to actually eat at Ralph’s. Designer Ralph Lauren, who owns the steak-and-seafood joint RL in Chicago, is taking over the space in East Hampton that for 25 years has housed the popular, unprepossessing, vaguely surf-themed Blue Parrot. “They signed the contract, and we should close in a couple of weeks,” confirms Parrot owner Lee Bieler, who is moving to L.A. to pursue an acting career. “They said they wanted to renovate the building and do a restaurant. His designer said it would be a concept similar to the Ivy in Beverly Hills.” The restaurant, complete with outdoor patio, is next door to the Polo player’s East Hampton boutique. Word is it’ll be open for business by the spring. —Beth Landman
Elite Enclave in Midtown EastMake no mistake: Beekman Place and its nearby blocks are as rarefied as the moneyed thoroughfares of Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue. No matter that it’s just minutes away from unpretty Second Avenue with its fratty bars and dusty traffic. (Why else would the Rockefellers, the Barrymores, and the Vanderbilts have roosted here?) One Beekman Place is the queen of this tiny kingdom, a highly selective, white-glove building with stunning river views that’s supposedly terribly fussy but, without a doubt, grand. Open houses are unlikely there (it’s that exclusive), but a walk through the enclave and the few buildings hosting showings there this Sunday (listed below) will be enough to give you a hint of the good life. S. Jhoanna Robledo
Paying for Drinks, Partying With Deitch
MIAMI BEACH — South Beach started to resemble spring break last night — but with much more money, and with Europeans. There was a preview of the actual art at Art Basel from 6 to 8, which gave everyone a chance to check out the maze of work from galleries all over the world. A VIP collectors’ suite was actually for collectors of other expensive things, like jets and beachside condos. Cipriani, Related, Netjets, and Bulgari had outposts to offer consolation prizes if you couldn’t get the art you wanted because it had already been bought or, more likely, because the gallery wanted to sell it to someone better than you. Unlike New York corporate parties, however, there were no free drinks flowing to impair inhibitions. These companies may have had enough marketing cash to be in a classy place, but there was a cash register set up on the bar. Not classy at all.
But later things got classier.
Brian Lehrer, Will Shortz to Rage at CiprianiTonight’s boldfaced parties:
• WNYC gala. Cipriani 42nd Street, 110 E. 42nd St., nr. Vanderbilt Ave., 6 p.m. Scheduled attendees include Brian Lehrer, Ira Glass, Liz Smith, Rosanne Cash, and Will Shortz. This is the first time crossword guru Shortz has shown up in our boldfaced column; while he used to be a regular on the circuit, there’s hardly a New York party promoter left who’s willing to deal with the coke dealers, prostitutes, and figures from the cockfighting underworld that he insists on bringing along with him.
Jay-Z to Post Lowest Stats Ever, Miss PlayoffsJay-Z’s comeback album, Kingdom Come, found its way onto the Internet this weekend, and after hearing it, we’re thinking it would be smart for Jay to stop calling himself the Michael Jordan of hip-hop. The best producers money can buy — Dre, Just Blaze, the Neptunes, Kanye West (though not, oddly, Timbaland) — turn in competent but overfamiliar work, while Jay-Z sounds altogether too comfy as he raps about how mature he is these days (there’s even a song called “30-Something”). There might be a 50-point game in here somewhere — like the title track, with its deconstructed “Superfreak” beat — but, mostly, this is the laid-back sound of a middle-aged superstar nursing his balky knee through a long, grueling season, only to just miss the playoffs. (Meantime, Lil’ Wayne, the Lebron James of hip-hop, sounds lean, mean, and hungry over Jay-Z’s beats.) Jay-Z might keep in mind what happened after MJ’s final comeback: He got fired from the executive suite.
Young H.O.- “30’s the New 20, N-gga!” [Notes From a Different Kitchen]
The King Has Returned [Discobelle.net]
Leak of the Week: Jay-Z Does Not Have Time for MySpace [Idolator]
in other news
‘Times’ Agrees With Microsoft: Zune Is Cool
The Times runs a long Bizday piece today on Microsoft’s fancy new MP3 player called Zune. The breathless article tells us not only how super! duper! amazing! the device is but also just how gritty, dedicated, and, well, real the Microsoft operation to build it was. There are many pieces of evidence offered for this thesis — an executive who uses merely “J” as his first name; the “creatively fervid overcrowded office space” in which the team worked, where on “hot summer days” the engineers “had to decide between lights and air-conditioning” — but one is by far the most convincing. It’s the accompanying photos, apparently shot by MSFT itself and credited to it. With engineers and marketing execs who seem quite so, well, punk rock, there’s no way these guys didn’t make the coolest MP3 player around. And wasn’t it nice of the Times to gamely run the company-provided photos that prove the point?
Microsoft Counting on a Twist to Make Zune Shine in Shadow of iPod [NYT]
Columbia B-School Explores Northern FrontierDumbo: In our version of The Straight Story, the old man on the tractor is a Jehovah’s Witness. [Brooklyn Papers]
Lower East Side: Queens of the Stone Age will break in a new, giant restaurant-theater, the Box, tonight. [Brooklyn Vegan]
Morningside Heights: Columbia Business School will move to Manhattanville campus and take 25 to 30 years to complete. [Curbed]
Park Slope: New FAO Schwartz may be within Bugaboo-pushing distance. [Crain’s New York via NY1]
Times Square: Photographic proof why New York is a city of singles. [Bagel in Harlem]