March 22, 1999

There might be something besides Senate races pulling Hillary Clinton to the city. New York University’s law school has offered the First Lady an associate professorship, according to a high-ranking source in the Democratic Party. A spokesperson for the school wouldn’t confirm or deny the offer but says, “Hillary is a great friend of the law school.” A Hillary mouthpiece says only, “She hasn’t accepted anything.” Another Democratic insider muses that “it’s not a lot of work. Maybe she lectures once a week, and it gives her a good New York platform if she decides to run. Maybe she’ll pull a Stephanopoulos and take the job, then not show up.” One place she did show up was at the dinner former deputy Treasury secretary Roger Altman hosted at his Upper East Side townhouse on March 3. Barry Diller arrived without longtime pal Diane von Furstenberg, and Children’s Television Workshop founder Joan Ganz Cooney didn’t bring along her husband, Blackstone Group’s Pete Peterson. It turns out guests weren’t allowed to bring significant others. “That seemed strange at first, when the invitation came. But it worked. It was a nice party,” reports one attendee. Altman – whose wife, the writer Jurate Kazickas, was there – were joined by such temporary singles as 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl, Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal of Phoenix House, and Mort Zuckerman. “Space was a consideration, and we wanted as diverse a group as possible,” explains Kazickas. Michael Bloomberg got one of the coveted invites but sent regrets. Evidently he doesn’t go stag.

While renovating the Chrysler Building, Tishman Speyer has run into its own little shop of horrors. The developer bought the building next door, which it planned to demolish and replace with a Philip Johnson-designed glass atrium in a matching Art Deco style. But the plans had to be adjusted to work around a dentist who didn’t want to move, according to a neighborhood source, so now just the back of the building at 155 East 42nd Street is being demolished. Dr. Kenn Kakosian, the 38-year-old dentist with the long-term lease, says he hasn’t yet seen Johnson’s final plan, so he can’t speak about what will happen. “I don’t want to think about that,” he says with a sigh. “I have my business to run.” But a source close to the developers confirms that the dentist has won the right to keep his office – and his view of 42nd Street. “They’re building around him,” reports the source. “They’ll be drilling while he’s drilling.” Forman’s, the cut-rate Orchard Street ladies’ dress shop whose northern outpost is on the ground floor of another adjacent building Tishman Speyer owns, also has a long-term lease. It’ll still be there – surrounded, the developer hopes, by more upscale stores – after the building recovers from its face-lift.

A NEW LEAGUE: Academy Award winner turned Oscar-night celebrity-jostler Geena Davis must have had a moment’s ESP when she passed on the chance to star opposite Robert De Niro. The pucker-mouthed thespian rejected a role in last year’s spy flop Ronin, narrowly avoiding her third box-office whimperer in a row, after The Long Kiss Goodnight and Cutthroat Island. But will sticking an ABC mike in her colleagues’ faces as they file into the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion be Davis’s comeback special? “This is an assignment that we all try to avoid,” confides one Hollywood source. “It’s not exactly a plum gig.” Says her rep, “She’s doing it all in good fun.”

59TH STREET DISNEYLAND: New York’s a small town for David Garth. The political consultant for Ed Koch, and for Rudy Giuliani’s first win, was reportedly “talking to” mayoral hopeful Freddy Ferrer last year. So when Koch buddy Peter Vallone and the political guru had a sit-down last month, they chose Coco Café, which is close to Garth’s office on 59th Street but, significantly, far from City Hall and the Grand Concourse. So imagine their surprise when Ferrer walked up to them, saying, “Hi guys.” Ferrer must have been tipped off to the meeting, insists one politico. But his spokesman says it was just a coincidence that the Bronx borough president was there. “Most of the people who are politically ambulatory, I talk to,” says Garth, adding that he’s still a free agent.

RESTAURANT NOTES: Macau on West 14th Street, which was opened by downtown favorite Cliff Williams and his partner Michelle Jean, became instantly trendy with parties for Vivienne Westwood and Elektra Records. But now a financial disagreement has erupted, the partners have gone to court, and as a result Williams is being bought out. Neither Williams nor Jean would comment… . Maya, the trendiest restaurant in St. Barts, is scouting locations in the East End of Long Island. “Yes, we’re looking. It would be fun, but no deals have been made yet,” says Randy Gurley, who runs the hot spot and happens to be married to Maya.

How many lawyers does it take to threaten an author? Four, if you’re the Pressman siblings. While the family bristles at any depictions of domestic strife in Joshua Levine’s new book, The Rise and Fall of the House of Barneys, which arrives in bookstores this week, they didn’t exhibit much togetherness when it came to warning the journalist not to step on their well-heeled toes. Levine has been contacted, separately, by attorneys for Bob Pressman, his wife, Holly (to whom Bob’s still happily married), and his brother Gene (right). Sisters Nancy and Liz Pressman did show some sororal closeness by choosing a single hotshot from powerhouse Skadden, Arps to represent them both. Levine won’t discuss the content of the many letters he’s received from this legal Legion of Doom but calls them “very menacing.” Holly offered to confirm or deny anything written about her, which Levine didn’t think was necessary since “there’s virtually nothing about her.” John Meerbergen, Holly’s lawyer, says that while Holly “has not read the book or any portions pertaining to her,” she is “concerned that what is written is accurate.” And if she should happen to consider any part of the book inaccurate when it comes out? “No comment,” says Meerbergen, quickly adding, “You can imagine.”

Talk about the writer becoming the story. Freelancer Degen Pener got a lesson in empathy recently when he interviewed Calista Flockhart for In Style magazine. Pener and the actress spent about 40 minutes shopping in Beverly Hills, an excursion that did not go entirely unnoticed: Last week, a friend in Australia told the writer that he’d become news Down Under. The February 27 issue of New Idea magazine has Flockhart on the cover with the headline ALLY’S REAL LIFE LOVER. Inside, a two-page spread (ALLY’S IN LOVE!) features six paparazzi shots of Flockhart and Pener walking, talking, and laughing. “When her mystery new man flew into town, it was apparent the star was a woman so-o-o in love,” reads the text. “She giggled like a schoolgirl as the couple strolled around Beverly Hills by day, then wined and dined the night away.” Pener says he had no idea he was being photographed. “It’s like what the stars say all the time, ‘I felt so invaded’ – but I did feel so invaded.” He points out that the magazine was demanding “a certain amount of suspension of disbelief from its readers, because I’ve got a pad of paper in my hand, I’m taking notes. We hardly look like Brad and Jennifer, you know.” Ironically, Pener adds, just before the two hit the streets he’d asked Flockhart about the difficulties of dating when you’re famous. ” ‘If you go out to a restaurant, all of a sudden people say you’ve been going out for six months and you’re going to get married,’ ” Flockhart told him. ” ‘But it’s just your first date.’ ” Or interview.

As the finishing touches are being put on the new Condé Nast headquarters in Times Square, Anna Wintour may well be considering equipping her offices with a private dressing room. According to an insider at the publishing empire, the svelte queen of fashion received some outfits from Calvin Klein to wear to an event awhile back and eagerly rushed to the haute couture-stocked Vogue closet to try them on. Such was her hurry that the two security cameras, usually turned off when she tries on clothing, remained on, and Anna’s image suddenly appeared on one of the TV monitors at the desk in the main lobby. One of the security guards took a look and frantically shut down the system. “He was a bit shocked when he saw her on that screen,” says the source. “He said, ‘I don’t care how glamorous and thin you are, no one wants to be seen hopping on one foot and trying to squeeze into tight clothes.’ ” According to the insider, the videotape was removed and destroyed, “so no one could give it to the Enquirer.” Says Vogue spokesman Patrick O’Connell, “Luckily for Anna, she’s photogenic.”

Random House quickly obliterated the obvious signs of Harry Evans when he decamped for Mort Zuckerman’s empire – remember those breakfasts at Barneys? But his imprint can still be felt in the company. Witness the numbers game playing out around the house’s new release The Times of My Life, by former New York Times executive editor Max Frankel. Evans snapped it up for Random House for a figure industry sources estimate to be close to $300,000. Sonny Mehta and his team at Knopf had offered Frankel’s agent, Jane Gelfman, about $100,000 less, according to one source, although another source intimately involved in the deal insists that the offers were virtually identical. But the Evans-free Random House decided to print only 10,000 copies for the first run, according to two insiders. “It’s reality,” sighs one publishing source, who says that 10,000 copies pays out about $34,000 of the author’s advance. Others stress that all first print runs are low these days, and publishers go back for reprints quickly. Even before the book’s official publication date, it’s already gone back to the presses twice, for an additional 5,000 copies, the insiders add. “We love this book, and we’re going to push it as far as we can,” says Frankel’s editor, Kate Medina.

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman.

March 22, 1999