August 16, 1999


The last thing you expect when you shop at a charity bazaar is to get subpoenaed years later. But that’s just what’s happened to Nan Kempner, Karen LeFrak, and the other socialites behind the Dream Team, a group that grants wishes to hospital patients. Their 1994 Christmas sale at the Mayfair Hotel featured shahtoosh shawls, woven from the fine wool of a nearly extinct Tibetan antelope. Now the shahtoosh-buyers have been hit with subpoenas from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “I believed the story about people picking the hair off bushes in the rocks,” says Kempner. “It wasn’t until much later that it came out that there were mass slaughters of these animals.” Her lawyer, Joel Cohen, says both Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Attorney’s office assured him that the ladies “are not suspected of any wrongdoing.” In fact, “the Fish & Wildlife people have been absolutely enchanting,” trills Kempner. “The last thing I’d do today is buy a shahtoosh.”


When she served as the mayor’s mouthpiece, Cristyne Lategano had few good things to say about the city’s embattled college system, but unemployment seems to have softened her a bit. It seems the departed communications director is about to sign on as a cuny adjunct teacher – a position that pays $2,500 to $3,500 per course. Stan Altman, dean of the School of Public Affairs at cuny’s Baruch College, denies rumors that mayoral pal and recent CUNY appointee Herman Badillo helped the much-maligned spinmeister land the position at cuny and insists he made the move on Lategano unprompted. “When I heard she was reducing her involvement at City Hall, I asked if she had any interest in teaching,” says Altman. “We haven’t formalized anything, but my expectation is that we’ll offer her a position.” Altman is dangling two courses before Lategano: an undergraduate civics course and the chance to team with an academic to teach a graduate course in communications. Lategano did not return calls.


Does Puff Daddy’s punching bag have a tendency to puff up the truth? Interscope record exec Steven Stoute gained fame after claiming that Sean “Puffy” Combs broke his jaw and arm in an April assault, although it was later reported that his injuries had been exaggerated. In a recent New York Post interview, Stoute bragged about his days as a star running back at Syracuse University. He may, at six feet and 300 pounds, look like a running back, but that seems to be it. “I never said I was a star,” Stoute insists. But Syracuse’s athletic department couldn’t even find a record of his pigskin days. “There is nothing, nothing by that name,” said a university spokesman. In fact, there’s no record of his ever attending the university. Yet Stoute holds firm: “I could send a team photo anytime.”


CELL-FISH: Cell phones really don’t play on Broadway. Just ask Brian Dennehy. When a mobile phone rang out four times during Death of a Salesman’s intense second act on a recent Saturday night, the Tony winner broke character to roar, “Turn that damn thing off!” Annoying cells have interrupted his show a few times, Dennehy says, explaining that it usually happens during the second act rather than the first. “People go on their cell phones during intermission and forget to turn them off,” he says. “Who the hell do you have to speak to at 10:30 on a Saturday night anyway?”

GIRL POWER: With Patricia Duff around, lawyers needn’t worry about lack of employment. When her rancorous custody-and-child-support battle with her ex-husband, Revlon CEO Ron Perelman, resumes this week, Duff will argue her case with an all-new, all-female lineup. Following a chain of sixteen firms, lawyers Vivian Shevitz and Julia Heit are Duff’s latest soldiers in the multi-million-dollar lawsuit. The legal shenanigans, by the way, have now officially outlasted the marriage.

EATING AROUND: When she left her post at the New York Times to become editor of Gourmet, it was assumed Ruth Reichl would never review another restaurant – but she couldn’t go cold-turkey. The oft-disguised diner has expanded the magazine’s restaurant coverage to include a regional section each month, and for the first month, she was plying her old trade, flying to Minneapolis to taste the food at Lucia’s, Aquavit, and Big Bowl. Is this Reichl’s final review? “Definitely!” says the editrix. “Then again, I’ve said that before.”

Additional reporting by David Amsden.

August 16, 1999