July 26, 1999


While speculation about the fate of George and whether John F. Kennedy Jr. will remain with Hachette Filipacchi abounds, the magazine’s co-founder Michael Berman has quietly opted to quit that publishing empire. Berman left George two years ago in the midst of rumored creative conflicts with Kennedy to become president of Hachette Productions, a film-and-TV-production subsidiary. But he’s decided not to pick up the option on his contract, due to expire at the end of the year, and made an early exit, effective this week. Berman is forming a cyber-media and -entertainment company with Florida-based financier Douglas Eger. Neither Berman nor a Hachette spokesman would comment.


With Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott and Will Smith outpacing the current rock offerings, rap is clearly where the money’s being made. That must be why Sony is shelling out a reported $40 million for BMG’s share of Steve Rifkind’s urban-music label, Loud Records. Loud, an acronym for Listeners of Urban Dialect, carries with it a great deal of street credibility thanks to its resident hip-hop mavericks Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep. Rifkind isn’t sweating the new position in Tommy Mottola’s behemoth: “I’m excited. This is only going to make us stronger.” In the new partnership, the label will merge with Sony’s current hip-hop imprint Relativity while retaining the more buzz-worthy moniker Loud – becoming Relatively Loud?


No wonder the carpetbagger issue doesn’t have resonance with Judith Hope.The chairman of New York State’s Democratic Party has roots in Arkansas even deeper than those of Hillary Clinton. Hope is a native of Warren, Arkansas, and her father spent 28 years in the state’s House of Representatives. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette profiled her on July 11 – a piece that was gleefully faxed around New York last week. The Empire State’s top Democrat, who used to be East Hampton’s town supervisor, says that she’s just bought a weekend retreat in Nantucket. East Hampton, Hope tells reporter Phyllis Brandon, “got discovered by the jet-set group and Hollywood crew, and now it has an unfortunate glitzy connotation.” But Hope is herself famous for bringing out the stars, charges one political insider. “You can’t get a coat of paint between her and the Baldwins,” the source says, adding that Hope is off to Cape Cod, yet she’s “bringing Ms. Glitterati – the world’s greatest personality – in to run for Senate” in New York. Hope bought “a modest two-bedroom home” in Nantucket, says her spokesman, who shrugs off the criticism: “Even party bosses need an all-star break.”


Bob Woodward really reads the Washington Post. The best-selling author and star reporter was deep into the paper – scanning the list of upcoming book reviews in the “Style” section – when he found his own name. That’s how the Watergate sleuth learned that the esteemed presidential historian Robert Dallek had been assigned to review his latest book, Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate. Woodward immediately alerted his bosses to a potential conflict: On May 17, he’d interviewed Dallek’s son, Matthew, who was interested in working on Woodward’s next book. Top management decided to kill the review, and managing editor Steve Coll delivered the bad news to Dallek, according to one publishing-world source. The Post’s deputy book-review editor, Marie Arana, says that no one in her department knew about Matthew’s interview with Woodward. “And Bob Dallek did not know, either,” she adds. Dallek’s review is in the current issue of The Nation; the Post ran a slightly tougher review of the book by Alan Wolfe on July 6. “I was interested in protecting the Washington Post, myself, Matthew Dallek, and Robert Dallek from an appearance of some conflict of interest,” says Woodward. Dallek and Coll did not return calls.


Lou Dobbs is apparently better at reporting financial news than balancing his own books. The former CNNfn president, CNN executive vice-president, and Moneyline anchor, who departed last month to start up the Space.com Website, has, according to television insiders, left behind questions about expenditures. CNN confirms that a “detailed” financial review of CNNfn, led by CNN chief operating officer Steve Korn, is under way, though a spokesperson refers to the audit as “absolutely routine … anytime that a company has significant managerial changes within an operating unit.” Meanwhile, Dobbs’s alleged dubious accounting practices apparently triggered an internal e-mail two weeks ago requiring all CNN New York-bureau employees – including on-air talent and direct-deposit staff – to sign in on the twenty-first floor of 5 Penn Plaza in order to pick up their paychecks. “If you see us on the air,” remarked an incredulous reporter of the unprecedented payment policy, “chances are we work here.” When reached, Dobbs, who plans to launch his new Website this week, would not comment.


Is there a hot restaurateur who isn’t opening in the meatpacking district? First Keith McNally found a spot on Little West 12th Street, which he will open as a bistro, Pastis, in the fall. Last week, Mark Strausman (Campagna, Fred’s) signed a lease on a Gansevoort Street space, which he will open in the winter as a “Mediterranean brasserie” called Cinghiale. Now Mercer Hotel partner Ira Drukier has taken a space across from McNally’s restaurant that he may turn into a hotel, and Will Regan and David Rabin (Union Bar) have signed a lease on a West 14th Street place they plan to turn into a lounge with food. Jonathan Morr of BondSt and Republic fame has been contemplating a space in the meatpacking district for a nightspot, and Bowery Bar’s Eric Goode has been combing the area for a new restaurant. Says McNally, “I think neighborhoods are developed best by young, unsuccessful people with fresh ideas, not middle-aged, somewhat successful people like myself.”


Mia Farrow is once again taking on the case of underprivileged children in developing countries. At the unicef House at United Nations Plaza on July 22, the actress and serial-adopting mother will join unicef executive director and ex-president of the New York City Council Carol Bellamy and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala to release the annual unicef “Progress of Nations” report about the quality of children’s lives around the world. According to the U.S. Committee for unicef spokeswoman Marsha Zeesman, Farrow will speak about the international eradication of polio. Curing polio is an issue close to her heart. Not only did Farrow suffer from polio as a child, but her own adopted Indian son Thaddeus, 10, was also afflicted with the illness, which left him permanently disabled. Says Farrow, “I remember when I was a young girl diagnosed with polio, how other kids were scared to come near me. We now have a moral obligation to lend our support.”


PUMPIN’ FLATIRON: Gramercy Tavern chef-co-owner Tom Colicchio is going out on his own. He plans to open a “simple, à la carte, family-style American” restaurant in the Flatiron district next spring. But Colicchio will not be leaving his stove at the acclaimed Danny Meyer restaurant. In fact, Colicchio “offered Danny a piece” of the new place, but Meyer declined, explaining that he was too busy running Gramercy Tavern and the other restaurants on his plate: Union Square Cafe, Tabla, and 11 Madison. As to the likelihood of Colicchio’s new place going up against his old place, the chef downplays talk of a conflict. “Where Gramercy Tavern is rack of lamb with fava beans, morels, and asparagus,” he says, “the new restaurant will be just the lamb. I have no intention of competing against Danny … or myself.” We’ll see.

OVERGROWN VINEYARD: Bill Bradley really is making inroads on Al Gore’s turf. Now even summer vacationers on the Clinton stronghold of Martha’s Vineyard are feeling the heat. Lazard Frères’ Steve Rattner, who’s already been suggested as a member of a potential Gore administration, is hosting his annual Vineyard party on August 7. This year, it’s been downgraded to a cocktail party from 6 to 8 p.m. – the very same time that Spike Lee and Frank Biondi will be hosting a fund-raiser for Bradley at another Vineyard estate. “It’s too late for anyone to reschedule,” reports one island source. “People are in a swivet.”

July 26, 1999