May 17, 1999

Divorce has been thrice-married Ronald Perelman’s albatross but he’s never had a hard time finding his way to the altar. Not so, however, son Steve, who last week announced his third engagement in the past four years. A beaming Ron was on hand as 30-year-old Steve’s engagement was announced at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, though some temple members experienced a sense of déjà vu, having heard similar happy news celebrated twice before. The junior Perelman’s previous fiancées reportedly ran off when their attorneys cried foul at the prenuptial agreement insisted on by Perelman père. Little is known about Steve’s latest flame, who is said to be South African born and in the words of one clucking congregant “very sweet.” Steve’s siblings haven’t fared as well. Steve’s brother Josh was reportedly disowned for having the temerity to get hitched without Ron’s approval. And his 27-year-old daughter, Hope, broke off with the owner of a Brooklyn dry-cleaning chain last month, after she had already picked out her bridesmaids and her wedding dress.

Not content to do battle with, say, gossip columnists, flack catchers are fighting among themselves these days. After Bernard Weinraub’s tribute to superpublicist Pat Kingsley in the New York Times last Monday, longtime nemesis Bobby Zarem fired off a letter to the reporter (cc’ed to, among others, Kingsley herself), purporting to correct her version of history. The two worked together at Rogers & Cowan almost 30 years ago. Zarem claims Kingsley “literally attacked me with a letter opener” after she suspected him of moving in on her client Marcello Mastroianni. “I agreed not to prosecute as a result of Warren Cowan’s intervention and the promise that she would change or augment her psychiatric treatment,” wrote Zarem. “However sordid this sounds, it is all one hundred percent true, a word that is unfortunately foreign to the people in and covering the industry.” Zarem claims he’s still “chilled” by the incident, adding, “She came around my desk, and I had to crawl under it.” Soon after, Kingsley left Rogers & Cowan to found her own company, eventually becoming a partner in PMK. Cowan calls Zarem’s account “totally insane,” saying he was not aware of the contretemps. “I remember they were not getting along,” he adds. “I don’t even remember working with Marcello Mastroianni. I don’t believe he was our client.” Says Kingsley: “The incident didn’t happen.”

Christopher Hitchens is eager to break the ice with his former friend Sid Blumenthal. Even Bill Clinton alluded to the war the Vanity Fair scribe incited when he ratted out his old friend to the House Republicans. “Last year, Sid Blumenthal swore he would get me into the Vanity Fair party,” quipped the president at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “This year, I have to take him.” In fact, the usually bouncy Blumenthal didn’t bother to mingle with John Kennedy Jr., Sean Penn, Sherry Lansing, and Claire Danes at the magazine’s after-party. Instead, he told Christopher Buckley that he was going home to watch a rerun of, yes, Friends. In friendlier days, it turns out, Hitch and Blumenthal always greeted each other as cousin, since the columnist’s mother was born a Blumenthal. At the dinner, Hitchens reports, he had “a brief moment” with his former pal: “I saw him before he saw me, and I said, ‘Cousin’ … and he bowed.” Hitchens says he doesn’t regard his breech with Blumenthal as irreparable. “He’s never libeled me,” says the columnist. “He’s never said a mean or abusive thing – in public at least.” Blumenthal did not return calls.

Devoted fans of trash novelist Sidney Sheldon may soon be able to lick the back of his head. The best-selling author of countless hausfrau fantasies is about to grace his own stamp – in Guyana. The proposed stamp is part of a series called Great Writers of the 20th Century organized by the Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation, which also placed Maya Angelou’s mug on a stamp in Ghana. But seriously, Sydney Sheldon as one of the century’s great writers? “He’s not Hemingway,” admits one IGPC spokesperson, adding quickly that Sheldon is the most-translated author in the world and that Guyana is “very selective as to which living people they put on stamps.” Undoubtedly. After all, the nation’s postage also features no less a luminary than Sly Stallone.

Writers are generally assumed to be careful readers – a truism that doesn’t seem to hold in the case of Tony Schwartz. The co-author of Michael Eisner’s “autobiography” says he can’t remember who signed his checks for the decade he spent laboring over Work in Progress. That puts him in good company: Eisner can’t remember, either. When the head of Disney was being cross-examined by Jeffrey Katzenberg’s lawyer Bert Fields last Tuesday, Schwartz was a key topic. It was in the author’s notes that the explosive quote about Katzenberg – “I think I hate the little midget,” Eisner told Schwartz – was revealed. The head Mouseketeer told Fields that he didn’t remember how Schwartz was paid for the book, which had disappointing reviews and sales. Did Disney shareholders unwittingly bankroll the ill-fated project? “I don’t know the answer to the question,” replied Schwartz. “The way that I got paid made it impossible for me to know.” Huh? “I don’t know whether I was paid by Michael Eisner or by the Disney Company,” Schwartz repeats. He doesn’t sound too happy about his notes’ being subpoenaed, either. “If this had been an ordinary journalistic situation, obviously I would have fought it,” explains Schwartz. “The notes belonged to Disney, and it was Michael Eisner’s book, so I was advised by counsel that I could not exercise ordinary journalistic privilege.” Disney did not return calls for comment.

Stumped for words? Maybe Dick Morris can help. When the frisky consultant asked Ed Koch to say a few words about his latest tome, The New Prince, the former mayor gave the political pundit license to write his own epitaph. In a note to Koch, Morris wrote, “At your suggestion, I have attempted to come up with three Koch-like quotes” to praise the book. Among Morris’s submissions: “If you have to run a country, a city, a corporation, or anything, you should read this book… .” But apparently, the quotes were insufficiently Koch-like. The mayor turned columnist decided to go with a blurb of his own creation, which will appear on Morris’s book jacket along with no doubt equally sincere quotes from Trent Lott, Donald Trump, Arianna Huffington, and William F. Weld. Koch insists there’s nothing wrong with a writer’s supplying his own kudos: “These are just suggestions; I use my own language to make sure the quote is me.” Adds Michael Dougherty, marketing director for Renaissance Media, publishers of the Morris book, “This is by no means unusual. People are busy. Maybe someone only had a chance to scan-read a book. Or they feel the author might have a better way with words. I don’t know how good a writer Mr. Koch is, but Mr. Morris is a great one.”

SAFIR SAILING: Maybe Howard Safir will be able to buy a new boat called The Marcia to dock alongside his current one, which could well be dubbed The Geraldo. The city’s top cop – who’s an avid sailer – very quietly settled his $20 million lawsuit against CBS over Marcia Kramer’s report that he’d used a city check to pay for a $1,000 dinner at a reputed mob hangout. In fact, the bill was picked up by New York’s Finest Foundation, a nonprofit that claims its mission is to provide scholarships for cops and their kids and to “educate the public to the dangers, difficulties and problems” of the police. The settlement has a confidentiality clause, and no one involved in the case would say whether CBS paid the commissioner. But ABC paid Safir $235,000 in 1984, just as his $10 million lawsuit against 20/20’s then-correspondent Geraldo Rivera was about to go to trial. Safir’s attorney, Raoul Felder, had no comment, and a CBS spokesman would only say, “The matter is no longer pending.”

WEEDING OUT THE TRUTH: Former florist Robert Isabell now creates environments, like the English estate he transformed into a Greek temple for Marie-Chantal Miller’s wedding to Prince Pavlos. But his greatest creation may well be himself. Turns out Robert grew up as Bruce in Duluth, Minnesota. “That was a name that was dropped 30 years ago, and it’s not even legal,” sniffs the tony tastemaker, who insists that he be called “Robert Isabell, period.” He’s not as particular on the question of his age. For years now, reporters have listed Isabell as 41, but when he told the New York Times he was in his “late thirties” last December, those in the know had a good laugh. “We just said, ‘By the time next year comes, we’ll be doing Robert’s bar mitzvah,’ ” recalls a former employee, who insists that Isabell will turn 47 on June 2. “I am 39!” retorts Isabell, “and will be for the rest of my life.”

AGIT PROP: Martha Stewart just got another prop to maintain her lifestyle. Make that 20,000 props, in fact: She bought out the entire stock of Vito Giallo, who rents out his antiques to stylists. “I decided to sell the business,” explains Giallo, “and I thought, well, since she’s our biggest customer, maybe she’d be interested.” Was she ever. The next day, Stewart wrote a check for the entire inventory, lock, stock, and plate. She flew in her own packers from Maine and put them up at the Barbizon. The antiques were packed in bubble wrap (Martha hates wrapping in paper), inserted into huge tubs, which were ferried by stretch limo from the Bowery. Stewart’s spokeswoman explains that the style queen’s company bought the props for a use “still to be determined.”

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman.

May 17, 1999