Intelligencer: April 4-11, 2005

It Happens This Week
• Rare public appearances of icons from very different fields: Barry Diller speaks at the 92nd Street Y (be the first to ask Barry why he bought Ask Jeeves), and Lou Reed plays Crobar.
• A Max Ernst retrospective opens at the Met, while the Mets play the Astros in their home opener at Shea.
• And More magazine’s marathon for women over 40 takes place in Central Park.

Photo: William Regan/Globe Photos

Puffy’s 6,000-S.F.Pent-Office
Downstairs, things aren’t nearly so spacious for staff.
When Sean Combs consolidated his various entertainment and clothing operations into one big Puffy Palace at 1710 Broadway, the bad boys and girls were surprised at how cramped it was. “It’s a gorgeous building,” says a Sean John insider, “but it’s not big enough for 150 employees. Senior-ranking people are sharing offices.” Not Combs, of course. His office is 6,000 square feet—the entire top floor. “A big space that’s not sectionalized,” he told David Letterman (whose studio is across the street) on March 23. “Amenities? I got a few,” he went on: Jacuzzi, theater, bedroom, and bar (“I need a drink every now and then”). Still, his rep insists that the employees downstairs in steerage will be able to enjoy the penthouse, too. “He definitely won’t be sitting up there in an ivory tower. His door is always open.” But our source just rolled his eyes. “Even in the old buildings regular employees knew there were certain sections you just didn’t hang out in. This sounds like it’ll be one of those sections.”
—Amy Zalneraitis

Photo: Dennis Van Tine/LFI

Going Down With the S.S. Miramax
Harvey to employees: You stay as long as I stay.
As Bob and Harvey Weinstein surrender their Tribeca-moored battleship Miramax to Disney, the remaining members of their dwindling crew (which was close to 500 last fall and is now less than half that, owing to cost-cutting firings and attrition) have been, logically enough, looking for work. Such prominent Miramaxers as the head of its book division, Jonathan Burnham, and its head of events, Dina Wise, have already bolted. But a Miramax source says that those who haven’t finished out their contracts yet are being forced to go down with the ship. Looking forward to the September 30 end date of the Weinsteins’ Disney employment, employees have been asking to get out of their contracts as they get job offers, but “Harvey’s being really petty. There’s really nothing left, but they won’t let people out early.”

Sontag Acolyte Gets Revenge
And memorial disinvitation.
When Stanford English professor Terry Castle wrote an essay for the London Review of Books detailing her lackeylike friendship with Susan Sontag, she was trying to sort out what she now calls her “obviously mixed feelings” over Sontag’s death. But apparently Sontag’s son, David Rieff, wasn’t very happy about such anecdotes as the time Castle worried that she might have woken Sontag from a nap: “It was as if I had accused her of never having read Proust, or of watching soap operas all day. Her face instantly darkened and she snapped at me violently… . Didn’t I know she never had naps?” By e-mail he disinvited Castle from last Wednesday’s tribute to Sontag at Carnegie Hall. Castle told Rieff she understood, but added “that I felt he had missed a fundamental part of my essay, which was my admiration of his mother.” He wrote back: “Admiration? Personal assassination is more like it.” Rieff says Castle “was just taking posthumous revenge for her unrequited crush on my mother—hardly of great interest. Had she been writing about one of the London Review of Books’ darlings—Edward Said, say—they would never have printed the piece.”
—Jada Yuan

Let Them Eat Steak! BLT x 3
Restaurant still has scant room for “general public.”
Laurent Tourondel is about to attempt a restaurant hat trick. While BLT Steak is still a celebrity cattle-call for the likes of Katie Couric and Britney Spears, and his new BLT Fish is luring in Jessica Simpson and Claire Danes, the chef-restaurateur is quietly readying a third spot—the space on East 22nd Street that housed Rocco DiSpirito’s Union Pacific. BLT Prime, which will have a dry-aging room and more extensive meat offerings than its uptown counterpart, will open next month. Are the owners worried about getting too mass-market? “We’ve tried to find neighborhoods that aren’t competitive with each other,” explains Keith Treyball, one of Tourondel’s partners. “But on weekends we have 200 people on the waiting list. At least we will have somewhere to send them.’’ Does that mean we’ll be able to get tables at 8 P.M.? “We have to protect slots that are left for VIPs,” says Treyball. “We don’t offer the general public the middle of the evening.”
—Beth Landman

Plaza Unionites Hit the Trail
Take the anti-condo show to Tel Aviv.
The campaign to save the Plaza from Elad Properties’ condo-ization has gone global. Last week, as the hotel-workers union picked up endorsements from Woody Allen, Susan Sarandon, and Sarah Jessica Parker (during her 40th-birthday party at the hotel’s Grand Ballroom), its reps were working the media on Elad’s home turf: Tel Aviv. The union sent a doorman, a waiter, and a lawyer (who speaks Hebrew) to get out their message. “The doorman was walking down the street and a guy politely poked him in the chest,” says union rep John Turchiano. “He said, ‘You work at the Plaza! I saw you on TV. We all support you!’ ” The Save the Plaza campaign has cost the union $2 million, $20,000 of which went to fund the Israel mission. “We think it’s weird,” says Elad president Miki Naftali. “We think there’s a better way to spend that money. This is a New York issue. It should be dealt with here.”
—Sarah Bernard


Intelligencer: April 4-11, 2005