April 5, 1999

The Oscars may have been a triumphant night for fashion designer Randolph Duke, but his evening ended in sheer disaster. Duke, who left Halston last year to start his own company and dressed such fashionable favorites as Geena Davis, Kim Basinger, Lisa Kudrow, Rita Wilson, and Minnie Driver for this year’s big night, appears to have had a messy meltdown following the event. According to fashion insiders and a police report, the high-strung blond Duke was so unhappy about some fashion-related fiasco that after the awards, he returned to the trendy Avalon Hotel and became apoplectic, loudly berating his assistant, Maureen Walsh, and shoving her against a wall. “She seemed scared for her life,” says an observer who watched as the episode unfolded in the lobby like a scene out of The Shining. According to another insider, a terrified Walsh hightailed it for the airport soon after. (She filed a police report when she got home to New Jersey.) Sources say she and a number of other employees haven’t reported to work since the incident. When New York called the designer’s office in an effort to locate the MIA employees, we were told that “they are taking some time off after the success of the Oscars.” This imbroglio, as it turns out, was not the first such episode for the tantrum-prone tailor. Earlier this year, Duke slapped one of his executives across the face. Says another former employee, “He always tenses up before a major event and lashes out. He’s so talented, but he desperately needs help.” Duke did not return calls.

Not only are New York’s finest taking shots from outraged citizens – now they’re also firing at one another. The bitter battle to control the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is heating up as the union prepares to hold its only contested election in sixteen years this June. First, the current favorite, acting PBA president James “Doc” Savage, refused to show for a New York 1 debate against his two challengers, officers Pat Lynch and Jim Higgins, calling it “pointless” to face “self-proclaimed candidates.” Soon after, Lynch’s campaign sent out a flyer listing the “Top 10 Reasons Why ‘Duck’ Savage Is Ducking Debates.” Savage angrily responded by attacking Lynch’s lawyer and “so-called brains,” Ed Hayes, who spent years embroiled in a very nasty battle with the Warhol Foundation. KEEP THIS LAWYER’S SLIMY HANDS OUT OF OUR POCKETS! blared the headline of the mailing, which went on to ask, “How do we let a bankrupt lawyer accused of fraud, a lawyer who has already betrayed his fiduciary responsibility, get access to the billions in our funds? Wouldn’t that be like putting the fox in the hen house?” Lynch retaliated with yet another locker-stuffer defending his attorney, who, he points out, has also represented “many police officers,” George Pataki, and former police commissioner William Bratton. Hayes himself is hopping mad.”They can’t defend their own failures running the PBA; they can’t defend their own lawyers, who are in federal prison; they can’t find anything on my client,” he says. “So the only thing they can do is attack me.”

ELECTROBOY PLUGS IN: An 820-word piece for The New York Times Magazine turned into $450,000 – and counting – for one lucky writer. ICM agent Suzanne Gluck was able to sell Random House, three foreign publishers (to date), and HBO on a memoir by Andy Behrman based on “Electroboy,” the story of his electroshock treatments for manic-depression. In the eighties, Behrman was the peripatetic publicist behind that one-man artistic employment agency Mark Kostabi; in the nineties, the increasingly erratic promoter went to prison for selling fake Kostabis to unwitting Japanese collectors. Behrman, who was in and out of the hospital eighteen times in 1995, is enthusiastic about his latest project. “Anyone who loves drugs, sex, and crime will love this book,” he says confidently.

WYNN, LOSE, OR DRAW: It’s back to business for the Bellagio, a tiny Village restaurant that shares a name with Steve Wynn’s colossal casino in Vegas. After three months, restaurateur Donato Di Saverio has given in to the demands of the hotel’s high-powered lawyers by adding three crucial letters to its name: The restaurant, which opened at the same time as Wynn’s hotel, will henceforth be known as Bel Villagio. “Bellagio, Bel Villagio – most people, they don’t know the difference,” observes Di Saverio. Although he’d wanted to fight to keep the Bellagio name, a higher power – higher even than the law – persuaded Di Saverio to give in: “My wife says, ‘Change it. We don’t want this kinda problem.’ She’s very, you know, strict.

POWER MOVE: Marie Hallas, the ultradiscerning maître d’ who orchestrated the Regency’s high-octane “power breakfasts,” has a new gig. Restaurateur Allan Stillman just hired her to separate the whole wheat from the chaff at his luxe Park Avenue Café, two blocks north of the Regency. Last year, the well-connected Hallas was abruptly canned by the Regency’s Jonathan Tisch, and her subsequent age-discrimination suit was quietly settled. For now, the Café serves only lunch and dinner, but Hallas is raring to take on the Tisches. “Maybe eventually we’ll do a power breakfast,” she muses. “I don’t think it would be a bad idea.”

TUNNEY CONTROL: Actress Robin Tunney came close to literally blowing her big scene in an upcoming Arnold Schwarzenegger pic. Although she plays the oversize actor’s love interest in the doomsday action flick End of Days, Tunney gets a kiss from Gabriel Byrne, in the role of the Devil. But as Byrne leaned in for the dramatic lip-lock, Tunney, who was battling a bad cold, froze up. “I was afraid I was going to make him sick,” she says. “But more selfishly, I was worried I’d sneeze right in his face. It would have been really embarrassing.”

WONDER BAR: Not every great performance on Oscar night was televised. Stevie Wonder was having drinks at Los Angeles’s Four Seasons bar Sunday night with family and friends when he succumbed to a midnight urge to perform. Stepping to the piano, Stevie gave an impromptu 45-minute show. The bar, which had erected a giant-screen television to view the awards show, was packed with people who were thrilled by the free concert – drinks not included.

BONES AND BELUGA? Pampered Upper East Side puppies might live an even more luxurious life if Peter and Penny Glazier get their way. The restaurateurs, who own the Monkey Bar, Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse N.Y.C., and Tapika, are working on a proposal to the Health Department to open a dog-friendly restaurant. The Glaziers are currently negotiating for a space in the Fifties between Fifth and Sixth. “We may have a separate room for dogs and patrons,” says Peter. But either way, “we’re going to have great food for dogs and their people.” Sounds appetizing.

GOLIN … GOLIN … GONE, reads the card sent to Condé Nast heavyweights S. I. Newhouse, James Truman (right), Steve Florio, Anna Wintour, Bonnie Fuller, and Art Cooper. Maxim’s British owner, Felix Dennis, magnanimously invited the whole glittering gang to his good-bye party for editor Mark Golin, who’s leaving for Condé Nast’s ailing Details. Everyone who shows up at Keens Chophouse will get a “Sammy” – a stuffed version of the hamster who is serving as Maxim’s acting editor until Dennis finds a slightly sharper replacement. (“Big Cheese Takes Over as Maxim Acting Editor” is Sammy’s first editor’s letter: “Now that I’m a big shot, it’s limos, a SoHo-style Habitrail loft and lunch at The Four Seasons for this Sammy-in-Chief.”) “He certainly is a lot cheaper than employing real editors,” says Dennis, who personally penned the insightful cover lines that grace the mags current issue, such as TONGUE-TWIST HER. “Do you think an American could do that?” asks Dennis modestly. “No, only a person who’s grown up with Mr. Murdoch’s newspapers as his bread and butter can come up with stuff like that.” Or with good-bye gifts for Golin like snake-venom antidote, glasses with mirrors “so he can watch his back while leaning forward,” and a ready-made resignation letter, “so all Mark has to do is fill in the blanks” when the time inevitably comes. GQ editor Art Cooper says he’ll be there. “I’m the only person who hasn’t been mentioned as a successor to Mark. So I’m coming with my résumé,” says Cooper. Informed that Dennis is notoriously cheap, Cooper quips: “He won’t be if he hires me.”

The fashion world’s about to get even thinner. It seems that the once-mighty Boss Models has just closed its Miami branch and is planning to shutter its London office within six months, leaving outposts only in New York and Cape Town. “I want to start leaner, fresher, and more well-groomed,” trills Calvin French, the new director of the mostly male agency. French admits that there is some truth to rumors about Boss’s notorious financial problems, but blames them on his predecessor, whom he describes as “the biggest money-eater in the world.” Though ex-Boss models such as Calvin Klein’s Joel West (right) have been complaining bitterly that the agency has neglected to pay them, French is not terribly sympathetic. “Some have been paid,” he says simply, “and some are going to be.” Boss booker Shane Allen has even less patience with the disgruntled male mannequins: “All this madness about Mr. Ex-model being owed $100,000 is ridiculous. Joe Schmo thinks he did a job, and he forgets the $4,000 he owes us.” French remains undaunted, promising that Boss will be great again, “if I can turn this damn thing around.”

Ron Perelman may have failed her, but maybe Monica Lewinsky relied on the wrong mogul to find her a job. Asked if he wanted to meet Monica Lewinsky at Vanity Fair’s Oscar party, movie producer Nicholas Loeb, the nephew of Seagram’s chairman Edgar Bronfman Sr., let slip that the sex-starved intern is a relative of his. Nicholas’s father, John Loeb, the U.S. ambassador to Finland, is happy to explain the Bronfman-Lewinsky connection, but warns, “You practically have to be a genealogist to understand it.” Indeed, the family tree Loeb eagerly faxed to New York reveals that Lewinsky’s stepsister Diane Straus Tucker shares an eighteenth-century ancestor with Loeb and therefore, through marriage, with Bronfman. Monica will be glad to know she’s also related to Emma Lazarus and legendary justice Benjamin Cardozo.

It looks like Cate Blanchett stayed in character as Queen Elizabeth I right up to Oscar night. Other nominees had no problem choosing free accessories from the vast $7.5 million collection imported especially for the Oscars by London’s Edward Asprey, jeweler to the more dowdy real-life Queen Elizabeth II. The persnickety Blanchett, however, complained that none of the pricey baubles matched her John Galliano floral-print dress. “We were given a direction,” says Asprey. “She wanted colored stones.” And she wanted them fast. Within 24 hours, Asprey’s amethyst Daisy collection was hastily shipped from England under the tightest security. When the ten-piece set arrived the next day, Blanchett chose two bracelets and a pair of ear clips as well as earrings, valued at $45,000 in total. She ended up wearing the earrings in her hair.

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman.

April 5, 1999