September 13, 1999

It seems nothing is more sacred to Ivana Trump than money. According to social insiders, the home-shopping queen was traveling through Europe with her children earlier this summer when she got word that her former father-in-law, Fred Trump, had succumbed to pneumonia. Ivana packed up the kids and flew them back to New York for their grandfather’s funeral. Donald may have been touched by the effort but quickly changed his mind when he received a bill from his famous first wife. He promptly returned the statement to Ivana with a note saying that since she was already receiving $650,000 a year in alimony and child support, a bill seemed tacky. The source says Ivana responded just as speedily with a note of her own, saying succinctly, “It was your father.” Donald declined to comment on the incident, and Ivana, through a spokeswoman, claimed no knowledge of it.

Even Ralph Lauren pays retail once in a while. On a recent Saturday in East Hampton, the sportswear Savonarola and his wife Ricky, both clad in head-to-toe vintage Ralph Lauren, browsed the racks, fingered fabrics, questioned salespeople, and purchased several items at full price from Lauren’s East End store. When asked by another shopper why he didn’t rate an employee discount, the designer replied, “It’s all part of it.” But an employee of the store helpfully clarified: “They like to be able to just come in and shop. It’s convenient for them, and it boosts morale in the store. Of course, we reimburse them for everything they spend.”

Playing the lead in Annie Get Your Gun for six months has made Bernadette Peters a little queasy. During the first act of a recent performance, the czarina of the Broadway musical went silent, brought her hand to her mouth, and moved briskly offstage. One of her co-stars, left alone onstage, made do by spouting off a few limp jokes until an announcer explained that there would be a brief intermission. A few minutes later, the stunned crowd was informed that Peters had taken ill but was feeling better and the show would go on. To uproarious applause, the Tony-award winner humorously ad-libbed her way back into the show; she then proceeded to belt out Irving Berlin’s “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly.” But Peters’s rebound was short-lived: She barely stumbled through a nauseous rendition of “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun” before racing off again. Peters was replaced by her understudy, Valerie Wright, who received a standing ovation. Says a spokeswoman for Peters, “Something was going around backstage. A lot of people were coming down.” Thankfully for the resilient Peters, adds the flack, “it was just a little 24-hour stomach bug.”

Even around East Hampton’s tony Georgica Pond, there’s a difference between east and west. Steven Spielberg, Courtney Sale Ross, and Martha Stewart live on the east side, while more low-key millionaires like lawyer Michael Kennedy, financier Eric Gleacher, and Faith Popcorn are on the west. But it’s the west side that has the last undeveloped land in the area, five pristine acres on the pond and ocean that’s been on the market for the past two years. Last winter, a west-side association started fund-raising to buy the plot and donate it to the Nature Conservancy, preserving it forever. But without the east side’s gazillionaires, they weren’t able to raise the dough. Meanwhile, other potential buyers came around, including Wasserstein, Perella president Fred Seegal, and, two weeks ago, New York Observer owner Arthur Carter, who offered some $7.25 million. Then a west-sider – Goldman, Sachs’s second-in-command John Thornton – jumped in to buy the land and save it. He closed last Monday, according to several local sources, although the broker who’s said to have handled the deal, Sotheby’s John Golden, refused to comment. In any case, Carter doesn’t sound too upset to have lost out. “I was going to buy it and possibly put up a house – not too fancy,” he says. “But that was that.”

Just because sex rarely makes it into the New York Times doesn’t mean there aren’t a few hormones still raging in the Gray Lady – at least according to a biography of the Sulzberger family due later this month, Susan Tifft and Alex Jones’s The Trust. While serious issues of succession and journalism form the backbone of the 870-page book, it also makes the Times newsroom sound a lot more fun than we ever suspected. In the mid-fifties, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger fathered an illegitimate child with a widowed Times reporter, and in the eighties, then-executive editor Abe Rosenthal had an affair with “a young Times secretary” whom he promoted “to an executive position.” Punch, according to the book, had to step in to end the affair, and he told Tifft and Jones that Rosenthal “didn’t have a nervous breakdown, but he was close to it.” Rosenthal laughed a few times when these passages were read to him, but refused to comment, saying, “I have not read the book yet. I intend to.” He did, however, read an excerpt in The New Yorker, which he complains “repeated the legend” that he’s homophobic. “It’s the opposite of the truth,” insists Rosenthal.

The rush to cover newsstands with alluringly undressed stars might force at least one publisher to dress up for court. Tyson Beckford, the model most famous for the way he wears his Polo jeans, wasn’t wearing those jeans (or much else) in the picture that turned him into Playgirl’s September cover boy. Beckford’s lawyer, Edward Hayes, promptly contacted the publisher, complaining that his client had never given the magazine authorization to use the photo. “A Playgirl cover is not a venue where one would ordinarily see Tyson Beckford – especially since nobody told him about it beforehand,” says Hayes. Counters Playgirl’s general counsel, Caroline Landau: “I’m not worried about it at all, because we bought the right to use the photo.” She says the magazine got the photo from a reputable stock house, which claimed to have the rights from the photographer. Hayes says the picture might have been taken during a shoot for Essence, for which it was evidently deemed too risqué. “Under the New York statute, you have to have a written authorization,” insists Hayes. “I fully expect to sue these people.”

Ken Aretsky may be in control of his two hot restaurants, but one important piece of his personal life seems to have slipped from his grasp. During the recent 50th-birthday party for Aretsky’s ex-wife, Adria, at the Greenwich Country Club, her new husband, George Roush, toasted the adoption of his new stepson – who happens to be Aretsky’s son. For her part, Adria Roush claims to have “no hard feelings” toward Aretsky – the proprietor of Patroon and Butterfield 81 – and insists that she wants nothing from her ex-husband. When contacted, Aretsky confirmed the adoption, but when asked why his son is being adopted by another man, he would say only, “No comment.” Aretsky now lives with the young children he had with his current wife.

DIPLOMATIC IMPUNITY: Richard Holbrooke is going to have a hard time improving the reputation of the United Nations – at least with New York City’s notoriously tough landlords. Even the president-designate of the U.N. General Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab, had trouble renting an apartment recently. The foreign minister of Namibia, Ben-Gurirab wanted to spend about $10,000 a month – guaranteed by his mineral-rich country – for a place in which he could entertain. But two deals fell through when the landlords “wanted him to waive his diplomatic immunity,” says broker James Ferrari of Benjamin James. The irony, according to Ferrari, is that “the same landlord would take a 24-year-old kid at a start-up Internet company.” So how did the broker finally clinch a deal for a penthouse with river views? “It was an educated owner,” explains Ferrari, adding that the landlord had family in Namibia “and so was aware of Gurirab’s prestige.”

HOT KOHLE: Remember Kohle Yohannan? He was famous for a minute or two as the toy-boy twentysomething fourth husband of the fiftysomething designer Mary McFadden (pictured, left) Now 30 and divorced, Yohannan is curating a show on Wallis Simpson, the duchess of Windsor, at Baltimore’s Maryland Historical Society, and co-curating “Dazzling by Design: Fashion Jewelry by Kenneth Jay Lane,” which opens at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s museum on October 12. Will his ex make it to FIT? “Oh, I would hope so,” he says. “I think it would be a great disappointment, certainly to Kenneth, if she wasn’t there.”

PARTY HEARTY, RUDY: Fun-loving Mayor Rudy Giuliani is feverishly making plans to party like it’s, well, 2000. The mayor is scouting spaces in the Condé Nast Building at 4 Times Square, at 1500 Broadway, and at 1545 Broadway – which all boast first-rate views of the ball drop – for his own private New Year’s Eve festivities.

1-DIMENSIONAL: Howard Safir just can’t make up his mind about New York 1. On August 10, the embattled police commissioner – angered by the cable station’s series on police-community relations – twice told general assignment reporter Rebecca Spitz that she should “go work at a real station.” Apparently blessed with a short memory, Safir appeared the very next night as a guest on NY1’s New York Close-Up with host Sam Roberts to discuss his views on law-and-order issues.

FAST TIMES: Score one for the New York Times. Marc Lacey, the Los Angeles Times’ special reporter in its Washington, D.C. bureau, is defecting to join the other Times as a White House correspondent. Lacey’s reporting caught the eye of the paper’s D.C. bureau chief, Mike Oreskes, who admits, “We worked hard to steal him.”

Additional reporting by David Amsden and Ken Frydman.

September 13, 1999