March 29, 1999

Forbes isn’t content just to keep writing about all those rich initial public offerings for Internet companies. Evidently, Steve Forbes wants to play, too. Word is seeping out that company execs have quietly been meeting with Wall Streeters to explore an IPO. The idea, according to one source, would be to spin off the Forbes Website and other Internet businesses to make a pile of cash. Last week, Forbes became the first person to announce his presidential candidacy on the Net, leading to speculation that the money could come in handy for his political campaign. A Forbes spokeswoman said only, “We’re a private company and don’t comment on rumors.” But the magazine empire already knows that not everything on the Web runs smoothly. Forbes hired Chris Isaak to perform at the party for the magazine’s first “Power Celebrity 100” issue – an event ballyhooed in an ad that promised “a free live Webcast” over the rocker’s name. But the star had a contract that specifically prohibited advertising or broadcasting for corporate dates. “His tour manager had seen the ad,” says Isaak’s publicist, Liz Rosenberg. “But it was straightened out before it ever became a problem. The Forbes people called up and said, ‘Ignore the ad. There was a miscommunication.’ ” Isaak played for an hour and a half for the invited guests, while the Website was reduced to running interviews with the partygoers.

Casa Casuarina, the Xanadu by the beach created by the late Gianni Versace, may be on the market soon. Since the designer’s murder in 1997, rumors that his family would sell the Miami Beach mansion have surfaced regularly, always to be denied. But now a source close to the situation says the decision has been made to list the house quietly with an agent, perhaps for as much as $30 million. “Plans are under way to sell this house, but I don’t know exactly when,” says the source. The sixteen-bedroom pleasure palace, which was restored and decorated exquisitely, is the only home on a busy commercial strip, making it a hard sell for your typically reclusive billionaire. Donatella Versace and her brother Santo stayed in the casa last week for the first time since the tragedy. As soon as she arrived, Donatella put several dozen red roses on the steps leading to the front door, the spot where her brother died, according to a Miami source. Versace’s spokesman insists that the house isn’t for sale: “Donatella and Santo are at the house and enjoying it tremendously.” Last Thursday night, the Versaces hosted a dinner there for Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art with Anna Wintour, Bruce Weber, and Kate Moss. No real-estate agents were invited.

Violinist Pinchas Zukerman is playing a sad tune in Manhattan Supreme Court. He filed for divorce in December from his wife of thirteen years, actress Tuesday Weld. The musician is clearly aggrieved over his soon-to-be-ex’s lack of interest in his profession, according to a courtroom source. His court papers quote her as saying, “Why do I need to go to another concert when I’ve heard the piece before?” and “I can’t stand the backstage scene. I don’t want to hear another note.” Weld’s attorney, Norman Sheresky, is sympathetic to his client’s plight. “She did get a little tired of the same concerts all the time,” he says, going on to dismiss the complaint as “slim pickin’s.” Zukerman’s attorney, Eleanor Alter, didn’t return calls.

Subtle cultural differences can present any amount of difficulty to the average traveler, let alone a famous drag queen strolling through the Vatican. Downtown fixture and Wigstock founder Lady Bunny was ejected from the pontiff’s place two weeks ago after showing up in a zebra-print cocktail dress. “It covered her down to her wrists and ankles,” insists peta director Dan Mathews, who was with Bunny. “She fit the dress code fine.” Members of the Swiss Guard first noticed Bunny when tourists gathered around her, aiming their cameras. “The guards kept saying, ‘No pictures of the signora.’ Then, they realized she wasn’t a signora,” says Mathews. “I felt like I was on vacation with Jayne Mansfield.” For Bunny, the experience wasn’t all bad. “The most devilishly cute man in uniform insisted I take a picture with him, and he put his arm around me,” says Bunny. “But he turned out to be a garbage man – I guess he’s used to picking up trash.”

COPY EDIT: Are the editors at Departures magazine fans of House & Garden, or do they just have similar taste? The same photo of a John Saladino-designed Park Avenue apartment that appeared in the February 1997 issue of House & Garden is serving as the cover of Departures’ current special issue on home design. Departures editor-in-chief Gary Walther admits he was aware of its prior appearance, but says, “We didn’t really use it on a story on Saladino. It was just an example of the taste level and style that the issue was about.” House & Garden’s publisher, Lisa Hughes, says, “Reruns on the cover? This is a Departure from journalism.”

MATINEE IDLE: Among those who lost out on seeing Death of a Salesman when Brian Dennehy took ill was Michael Eisner. The head of Disney and his family showed up for a Sunday matinee in casual chic, mogul-style: sportswear and a four-wheel-drive complete with chauffeur. The driver was still there to whisk them away when the chief Mouseketeer and his brood discovered that the performance had been canceled. Dennehy was back on the boards last Wednesday, though not before John Lithgow and Al Roker also had to reschedule plans to see the play.

Dick Morris knows a pretty woman when he sees one, but sometimes not well enough. On a recent flight from Austin to New York, Morris didn’t realize that the perky blonde he started a conversation with was Jane Pratt, editor-in-chief of Jane magazine. Morris apparently found freedom in his airborne surroundings, telling someone during a flurry of cell-phone calls, “I’m seated safely back in coach where no one will hear me.” When he then began discussing the impeachment trial with someone named Bill, Pratt, seated in front of him, thought she might be within earshot of the president. “It was not Clinton,” says Morris now. “I haven’t spoken to him in a year. Besides, I don’t call the president Bill on the phone.” The next call in the telethon was on the topic of George Stephanopoulos’s All Too Human, which Morris leafed through while announcing inaccuracies to the party on the other line. Morris says he was discussing a critique he wrote for the National Review that will appear this week, in which he calls the book “the most gripping tale of a man’s struggle against his conscience since Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich.” Pratt remained an anonymous fellow traveler even after landing and sharing a taxi with Morris. “Despite his reputation,” says Pratt, “he was quite a gentleman. He gave me a ride back to my hotel and didn’t try anything.” Morris asserts that there were two other people in the cab with them.

Just because you’ve paid $5.7 billion for the company doesn’t mean you get to take the glasses home, as Clarissa Bronfman discovered last Tuesday night. Her husband, Seagram’s CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., has been stuck with troubled Universal studios for all the billions he’s spent in Hollywood so far, but such folks as director Ron Howard, producer Brian Grazer, and stars Matthew McConaughey, Jenna Elfman, Elizabeth Hurley, Ellen DeGeneres, and Woody Harrelson came out for the premiere of Universal’s EDtv. While the Bronfmans were waiting for their limo after the event, a security guard noticed that Clarissa still had a drink in her hand. Not recognizing the boss’s wife, he walked up to her and demanded the glass back, according to a well-placed West Coast source. “Clarissa, to her credit, didn’t cause a fuss. She didn’t do one of those ‘Do you know who I am?’ or ‘You won’t have a job here tomorrow’ speeches,” the source says. “She just very meekly handed him the drink.” Even though, quips the source, “it’s her liquor in more ways than one.” Well, not in that glass. Clarissa, who is pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, was drinking water.

The feud between freelance fashion critic Joan Rivers and the style editor of The New York Times Magazine, Amy Spindler, isn’t over yet. Spindler threw the first barb by dissing Rivers’s Oscar coverage in the current W, a skirmish that was duly reported in the Post’s “Page Six.” The comedian responded by giving out the Times’s phone number on her radio show. “I said, ‘Call her – or call her editor, even better,’ ” says Rivers. “Why should I be the only one to say we don’t like the fashion section of the Times Magazine?” But Spindler says she only got one “very long and very funny” message from Rivers and ten others – four con and six pro. “Believe me, I had no intention of starting a guerre,” she says, laughing. But she’s not waving the white flag either: “Joe McCarthy was really upset when Edward R. Murrow spoke out about him for the first time, too, so I can understand Joan Rivers’s being upset.” Rivers reports that publicist Nadine Johnson (wife of Richard, of “Page Six”) has offered to broker a peace between the two. “I’m dying to meet Spindler,” says Rivers. “I want to see if she can wear a pink thing with a safety pin, which is what she featured last week. I have a feeling she’s one of those all-in-black ladies.” Retorts Spindler: “She told everyone she did windows at B. Altman, so I could ask her if she used Windex when she did the windows.” Maybe there’s still time to take up a collection toward a flak jacket for would-be mediator Johnson.

Some of the folks at the Board of Education are getting serious about cutting governmental fat – from their waists. Each Thursday afternoon, about 40 well-nourished staff members, including deputy chancellor Judith Rizzo and chief-of-staff Lynne Savage, have been getting a little continuing education of their own by attending Weight Watchers meetings at the Board of Ed building. “You tend to eat badly here,” says Karen Crowe, a board spokesperson (who’s lost eight pounds so far). “You skip lunches and end up eating five candy bars at the end of the day.” Portly chancellor Rudy Crew isn’t part of the group, but, says another spokesperson, “we wish he’d join. We worry about him. He is a bit … robust.” But Priscilla Wooton, chair of the City Council’s education committee, thinks Crew is looking quite svelte. “I had to do a double take,” she says of his appearance at a recent budget hearing. “I barely recognized him.” Crew was equally impressed by Wooton’s reduction from a size 22 to a size 16. “Let the record reflect that the councilwoman has lost a lot of weight,” he said at the hearing.

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman.

March 29, 1999