March 15, 1999

In January, the news hit that Barry Diller was going to pick over Edgar Bronfman Jr.’s carcass yet again by snapping up October Films and parts of Polygram’s film division from Bronfman’s Universal. Now, according to a well-placed Hollywood source, both sides are close to making a deal, and it looks like Killer Diller may well be back in the movie business this year. Bronfman was ready to sell October to Diller back in January, but his minority partners wouldn’t go along. Diller’s January offer for the company that released The Apostle, Breaking the Waves, and Secrets and Lies was either $10 million to $15 million (per Daily Variety) or $20 million to $30 million (per The Hollywood Reporter). Both agree that Diller would have paid with stock in his USA Networks – a company that was created when Diller bought Universal’s domestic TV operations a year and a half ago.

Even if Monica Lewinsky herself doesn’t whine about the rough handling she regularly gets in Cindy Adams’s column, her stepdad, Peter Straus, isn’t so patient. The press-savvy Straus, whose company owns eleven radio stations and five newspapers in New York and New Jersey, recently called the Post, according to a media insider, to complain about Adams’s Monica coverage, citing an alleged inaccuracy in reporting Monica’s current job search. The undaunted gossip grande dame says she did get wind of a grievance but points out that Monica has never personally complained, and that the only other time a family member called was to object to the misspelling of Straus. Says Adams, “I pee on her every week, and this is what they complain about?” Straus denies having made the calls.

Donald Trump: Lovable soccer dad or tough developer bigfooting all over a Little League baseball field? To West Siders right now, he’s both. Trump earned kudos in the community by building a soccer field for local kids while the site, then known as Riverside South, was going through its laborious public-review process. (The field, as expected, gave way to high-rise development last year.) Now Trump is breaking ground on a third high-rise, which he has, not quite uncharacteristically, renamed Trump Place. But this excavation has damaged the West Side Little League’s diamond. “The field was in the way of one of the buildings,” explains Trump. “We’re going to be moving things around so everybody’s happy.” Last Wednesday, representatives from the Little League and the Parks Department met at the field. Little League president Michael Orbison says, “I’ve been assured by the Parks Department that it will be repaired” in time for the teams’ first practices, on April 3. The always enthusiastic Trump promises to build “a much bigger park” on the site. Sky boxes?

LOFTY CHANGE: After twenty years, Ross Bleckner is ready for a change. He’s just put his home on the market – the six-story loft building that used to house the Mudd Club, which the painter converted to a studio and single residence. All 15,000 square feet, with a landscaped terrace on the roof, can be yours for $9 million. His broker is Coldwell Banker’s Deborah Gimelson, who knows a thing or two about changing gears herself: Before switching to real estate, Gimelson wrote about art. Bleckner insists he’s not moving out of the neighborhood because folks like Rupert Murdoch are moving in. “It’s not a commentary on any of the changes that are taking place around me,” he says with a laugh. “I thought it would be nice to walk to work.”

INTENSIVE COUTURE UNIT? Cynthia Rowley is prescribing a dose of chic for patients at the Hackensack University Medical Center. For its annual fund-raiser last October, the hospital had asked such design companies as Rowley’s, Jill Stuart, Nicole Miller, Halston, and Anne Klein to redesign the standard hospital gown. Now the hospital has ordered a full shipment of Rowley’s design, and soon patients will be free of that embarrassing slit up the back. “I wanted to make people feel better about themselves,” says Rowley, who adds that the medical center is spearheading the effort. “We want to make patients feel terrific about their stay at the hospital,” says a hospital spokesperson. At the very least, they’ll look terrific.

ALL IN THE GOURMET FAMILY: Clearly Ruth Reichl sees nothing wrong with Los Angelenos’ reviewing New York restaurants. Now that the departing New York Times critic, who was once the Los Angeles Times’ food editor, is taking over at Gourmet, sources say she’ll be snatching Jonathan Gold away from L.A. Weekly to make him the magazine’s New York restaurant critic. A transplanted Gold need not worry about being lonely here: His wife, Laurie Ochoa, will be Gourmet’s new executive editor. Gold will succeed David Rosengarten, who’s leaving his post because of a potential conflict of interest – he plans to open a restaurant, Rosengarten, with Tavern on the Green’s Warner LeRoy. Rosengarten says he’ll stay on as a contributing editor at Gourmet, writing food and travel stories only – nothing about New York or restaurants. “Now that Ruth is coming, maybe this will be the most gracious time to make the change,” he says.

ASHMAN’S NEW CREDIT: With movie folk crowding Noel Ashman’s Veruka restaurant and lounge, it was perhaps inevitable that he’d try to break into the business himself. The restaurateur is associate producer and story consultant on Speedway Junkie, an indie film executive-produced by Gus Van Sant that premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Ashman regrets not being having been able to take a walk-on role alongside stars Daryl Hannah, Jesse Bradford, and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. “I just couldn’t get out to Vegas,” he says, “which really had me bummed.”

JEAN-JEAN: After finally satisfying his quest to open a restaurant in New York, super-chef Jean-Louis Palladin has apparently decided one is not enough. Already set to launch Palladin in the Time Hotel, the feisty Frenchman, says a source, will take over Bombay Palace’s 52nd Street location to open a place called Jean-Louis. Backing him in the venture are his bosses at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, where he runs the Napa restaurant, says the source. “Our intentions are to open a restaurant in New York with Jean-Louis, but that’s as far as we can say,” says a Rio spokesperson.

In this post-Monica age, it turns out that romance can hit even editorial-page editors. Michael Kramer, whose ex, Judge Kimba Wood, finally married the kazillionaire Frank Richardson, is now dating Dr. Anne Dyson. She’s the daughter of the late Charles Dyson, an architect of the Roosevelt administration’s Lend-Lease Act who later founded one of the nation’s largest privately held investment companies. Dyson’s 1997 obituary reported that his industrial businesses alone generated annual sales of $600 million. One of his sons, John Dyson, used to be a deputy mayor for Rudy Giuliani. Anne, a pediatrician who is active in the family’s charities, was fixed up with the editorialist by Calvin (Bud) and Alice Trillin, reports a friend. Recently a top editor at Brill’s Content, Kramer is now the opinion editor of the Sunday Daily News, whose five-page section debuts on March 28. Meanwhile, Howell Raines, who runs the New York Times’s editorial pages, was, until very recently, dating the beautiful blonde painter Lindsay McCrum, who used to go out with artist John Alexander. Although the romance seemed to be going well – Raines “lost twenty pounds,” reports one friend – the couple has just broken up. So don’t expect any rose-tinted editorials in the Times.

Madonna may have been a big winner at the Grammys this year, but her night ended in a bit of a disaster. After shuttling with a bunch of pals over to the party her label, Maverick, tossed at L.A.’s Les Deux Cafés, the currently brunette chanteuse was happily letting loose on the dance floor when an oversize candle tipped over and covered her with wax. “It started at her head and dripped all the way down,” recounts one observer. “The person who knocked it over moved away so fast we never found out who it was.” Friends, including the singer Maxwell, rushed over and alternately applied warm water and ice in an effort to remove the hardening liquid from her hair and clothing, but the situation was already out of control. “It ruined her entire night,” according to the source. “There had been such a great vibe in that room, and suddenly the party came to an abrupt halt.” Since when does hot wax ruin Madonna’s night?

One photo they left out of this month’s Playboy was of model Cindy Guyer festooned in poison oak. Guyer, who typically adorns the covers of supermarket bodice-rippers, was being shot for Playboy done up as Lady Godiva when her not-so-trusty steed went wild. “I was wearing nothing but hair,” says Guyer, when Crazy Horse “took off.” When the angry equine bucked, the female Fabio became airborne, landing in a patch of poison oak. “It was humiliating – I looked hideous, and I couldn’t move my neck,” says the Playmate, adding that she couldn’t work for a month because “no makeup artist would touch me.” Guyer holds no grudge against the folks at Playboy, who, she claims, whisked her off to the emergency room and have been paying her medical bills since. But a spokesperson for the magazine minimizes the situation, contending that Guyer wasn’t injured and there were no bills to pay. Whatever the damage, the company that provided the untame mount may have to pony up some cash – Guyer says she intends to sue.

Forget about swimming to Cambodia: Director Sydney Pollack and financier Herb Allen are going to be bicycling through Vietnam later this month, according to a well-informed source. Pollack, for one, will need a break by then. Not only has he been directing Random Hearts, he’s also been giving “acting lessons” to a buddy, presidential wannabe Bill Bradley, according to a West Coast source. Pollack coached Bradley before his keynote speech at the 1992 Democratic convention, and he famously hovered over the then?senatorial candidate before a big L.A. fund-raiser in 1989, checking makeup and helping with the speech. Pollack loyally sent him $1,000 last year, and longtime supporters Emanuel Azenberg, Roger Berlind, and Rocco Landesman are planning a “Broadway for Bradley” fund-raiser this fall. A spokesman for the former Knick?former senator confirmed that Pollack and the candidate “have a friendship, and they talk about things related to Bradley’s political career,” but he wasn’t sure whether the Tootsie director had been providing coaching help recently. The candidate himself couldn’t be reached – traveling, though not in the basketball sense.

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman and David Kover.

March 15, 1999