January 26, 1998

How much cash can last-minute candidate Geraldine Ferraro count on from EMILY’sList? At least one long-time contributor recently spurned the list, which raises money for female candidates nationwide. Last month, producer Chase Mishkin (Gross Indecency, As Bees in Honey Drown), who has regularly donated $5,000 to EMILY’s List in past election years, informed list founder Ellen Malcolm that she was already supporting Charles Schumer. “I think the idea of just supporting women candidates is divisive,” explains Mishkin, who during the tense meeting told Malcolm that she was resigning from the list. “If there’s a guy who’s good, he deserves our support, too,” she continues, adding with a sigh, “I think I probably lost a friend over it.” Evidently, Malcolm didn’t get the idea. Through a spokeswoman, she insists that Mishkin is still a member in good standing. “Chase was expressing dismay about politics in general, not EMILY’s List,” explains the spokeswoman. Says Mishkin: “If she’s kept me on that list, she’s done it without me paying, because I’m definitely not going to.” Even a personal call from Ferraro a few weeks later proved fruitless. “It’s not that I’ve lost faith in her,” says Mishkin. “I’ve lost faith in her ability to beat D’Amato.”

Strike one man off the city’s most-eligible-bachelor list. Tom Freston, chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, and Kathy Law, a Los Angeles-based writer and actress, have decided to tie the knot this April. Says Freston, “I’m very excited and lucky and I’m anxious for the spring.” While a small family affair is the current plan, MTV’s large family of rock stars might yet turn this into a wild event.

If Bill Koeppel’s ambitious lawyers have their way, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Donna Hanover may take the stand to testify in a nasty legal battle that’s pitting son against mother. Koeppel is suing his mother over his father’s estate, and his attorneys filed a list of potential witnesses that includes the city’s First Couple. Not only did they introduce the real-estate scion (and Giuliani fund-raiser) to the woman who became his wife, Jean Herbage, but they also visited Bill and Jean in Palm Beach and Westchester. The mayor even spoke at their 1995 wedding, where Bill’s mother, Roberta Koeppel, created a family drama. “She expressed great discomfort at being there,” reports Melanie Korn, a neighbor and therapist who gave a deposition for Bill. Korn says she sat with Roberta at the wedding because “I agreed with her that she should not circulate and tell people that this wedding will not last.” Within days of the ceremony, Bill consulted Korn professionally. Among other things, they discussed the armed guard he’d hired at his wedding “to prevent any inappropriate, embarrassing actions by his mother,” Korn says in her deposition. The case is now in discovery, report attorneys for both sides.

As PEN prepares for its annual gala on May 11, some members of the writers’ group are wondering about Michael Ovitz and his $400,000. The co-chair of last year’s gala, Ovitz lined up supporters and raised a lot of money, although the dinner ultimately didn’t meet the lofty financial goal of $400,000 set by PEN. Insiders report that the organization was seriously considering cutting back staff and programs to cover the shortfall. “It’s true. We were very apprehensive and very concerned,” admits PEN president Michael Scammell. But a recent audit proved that they aren’t in such bad shape after all. “We actually ended up in the black, which I’m still rubbing my eyes over,” says Scammell. Another insider says the group is expecting Ovitz’s final payment “in the next few months.” Scammell reports that PEN’s original discussions were with Disney and that Ovitz only took over the event after he left the company. This year’s gala will be co-chaired by board member Toni Goodale and John Sargent of St. Martin’s Press. Meanwhile, the group’s longtime executive director, Karen Kennerly, is leaving in June to write a nonfiction book of her own – but she’s pledged to see PEN through the gala.

WAITING TO EXHALE: “Leon works terribly hard,” Katharine Graham told Vanity Fair three years ago. “He’s writing some very eggheaded book of some kind.” That book – a philosophical reflection on sighing – is still being pondered, but now The New Republic’s literary editor of fifteen years, Leon Wieseltier, is putting the final touches on his first serious full-length work. Tentatively titled Kaddish and scheduled to be published by Knopf in September, the work is based on a journal Wieseltier kept the year he said Kaddish for his father. It’s not a memoir but instead a “scholarly and philosophical” look at “Jewish prayer and the rituals of mourning,” explains Wieseltier. It’ll be more than 400 pages long, which should finally put to rest talk about Wieseltier’s legendary writer’s block. Next up (groan): The long-delayed opus on sighing.
TV DINNER: Move over, Robin Leach. Globe-trotter George Hamilton will soon be indulging in his own champagne wishes and caviar dreams. The permanently bronzed actor plans to host a syndicated half-hour program creatively called The Best of Food and Wine. The show will operate in a magazine format, with Hamilton introducing segments on the latest trends and trendsetters in the culinary world. “It’s like 60 Minutes or 20/20,” says the show’s executive producer, Scott Wooley. “George will be like a Hugh Downs, leading viewers in and out of segments about food and wine, taking them around the world.” The show goes into production in March, with plans to debut this summer.

Patrons at the Upper West Side Indian restaurant Mughali got more than their money’s worth last week when Alec Baldwin, while dining with a pal, began rehearsing his Macbeth role – for nearly two hours – to a captive but entertained audience. “He was really acting out, ranting and standing up for emphasis,” says the witness, who adds that pedestrians paused by the restaurant’s window to enjoy the impromptu performance. “All the customers started watching. It was unbelievable,” he adds. For those of us who missed the moment, the dialogue will be repeated at the Public Theater next month. As for the quality of the work, one vindaloo-lover would only say, “I don’t know that much about Shakespeare, but everyone enjoyed it.”

Some actresses don’t save their emoting for the movies. During a recent basketball game at the Reebok Sports Club, bystanders waiting on the sidelines for a court were startled by a rather vociferous young woman cheering on the players. “Generally, people are pretty quiet while they’re waiting for their turn, but not her,” says one witness. The woman was so enthusiastic, in fact, that many of the players began to wonder if they knew her personally. She certainly looked familiar, and no wonder: It was Linda Fiorentino. The Last Seduction actress, who has very publicly lamented her single status, may have thought the Reebok courts offered a good opportunity to make new friends. “She was really cheering the guys on – like ‘Wooo! Great shot! Way to go!,’” says the amused bystander. As soon as the game was over, Fiorentino wasted no time and asked to join a coed team that was taking the court. At least one player thought the actress was more appealing on the big screen: “She usually plays all these sultry, sensual characters, but in her gym stuff, she just looked thin and pale.” Representatives for Fiorentino did not return calls.

After delivering her second annual speech to the United Nations, astrologer Joan Quigley is setting her sights on cyberspace. Quigley, famous as the woman who guided Nancy Reagan, is at work on a software program that would allow users to create their own astrological charts – and Quigley’s rep says the Reagan-era prognosticator is trying to negotiate a meeting with Microsoft chief Bill Gates to market the software. “According to our charts, we should meet,” says Quigley, who compares the program to “the chess program Big Blue – more knowledgeable than a human.” Her predictions for her possible partner? Quigley goes out on a really prophetic limb: That in 1998 his “projects would turn wildly profitable,” leading to “megabucks and enormous power.”

Sean “Puffy” Combs is not satisfied with just being a rapper, producer, songwriter, and Svengali – now he’s looking for yet another career. Sources close to the music whiz say Combs has been schmoozing with film types and discussing possible roles. “Puff and I talked about his acting in a film. He’s interested in doing character roles at this point,” says Scott Derrick, president of Usonia Pictures, in L.A. Combs, who has previously acted only in his videos, also recently met with Warner Bros. and Oliver Stone. According to the music impresario’s manager, Benny Medina, “We are very conscious of finding roles that represent him as Sean Combs the actor, as opposed to Puff Daddy the musician and producer. We want a role that’s a stretch, not a street kid or a rapper. We want him to tap into his emotions. Sometimes I think film is his first love.”

Additional reporting by Kate Coyne.

January 26, 1998