October 18, 1999


The police have made a lot of noise lately about cozying up to citizens, but it seems to help if they’re attractive celebrities. When Claire Danes threw a circus-themed Saturday-night birthday party for her Aussie rocker boyfriend Ben Lee, things became a bit rowdy. Neighbors at her Wooster Street loft lost patience and called the cops when water balloons started flying out the windows and the scent of cannabis filled the street. But according to observers, when the cops arrived to check out the complaints, they were hypnotized by the star power of such revelers as Liv Tyler, Michael Stipe, and Janeane Garofalo and opted to stay for hours and join the festivities rather than break them up. “They just got excited,” admits a spokeswoman for the doe-eyed Yalie. “They sort of hooked on to Liv and were having their pictures taken with pretty girls. After they got all the photos taken, they left.” The 1st Precinct denies knowledge of the incident, and not surprisingly, no report appears to have been filed.


Don’t believe the hype: Donna Hanover still doesn’t like hanging with her husband. While Rudy Giuliani and his mate have publicly been more affectionate since his senatorial aspirations surfaced and Cristyne Lategano departed City Hall, the two aren’t exactly Courteney Cox and David Arquette. When management at the new Palm Restaurant in Times Square recently asked the stealth spouse for permission to display a caricature of her among the numerous other celebrity cartoons adorning the walls, says a restaurant-industry source, the city’s First Lady agreed, but with one stipulation: “She asked that her cartoon not be too near the mayor’s.” A spokesman for the legendary steak-and-stogie eatery, Jeff Phillips, says he doesn’t know if the mayor’s wife made the request but carefully added, “Marriages sometimes … well, some people don’t want their drawings next to each other.” But another Palm insider had a diplomatic explanation for the separation: “Donna is still working hard to maintain her independence.” The caricatures of Governor and Mrs. Pataki, by the way, are side by side.


Marla Maples has a new man in her life. No, not Michael Mailer – this one’s an Orthodox rabbi. The Georgia peach now regularly blooms at cabala classes that she attends with her fiancé, the movie-director son of pugilist-author Norman Mailer. Following in the footsteps of such ersatz Jews as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Lionel Richie, who sang Passover prayers together at their celebrity seder this year, and Michael Jackson, who showed up in shul for Simchath Torah, Maples, who relocated to L.A. to pursue her acting career, has taken up Jewish mysticism. “In my last relationship, I thought one person’s spirituality could do the work for two, but I was wrong,” confides Maples. “Michael is also spiritual; he’s someone I could go through fires with. My rabbi has taught me more about the Torah and the Bible than I ever knew growing up,” reveals the Southern Baptist. Commenting on L.A.’s puzzling interest in esoteric Jewish doctrine, one power type pronounced cabala classes L.A.’s millennial answer to networking at AA meetings: “I’m tired of all this Jewish-come-lately stuff,” he sniffed. “These people arrive from the South and Midwest and know that 90 percent of the people who would hire them are Jewish, so suddenly, they all have rabbis.”


West Side leather men may soon be trading in their chaps for canapés as the meatpacking district’s gold rush intensifies. Earlier this year, both Keith McNally and Mark Strausman secured spaces in the area, and restaurant sources say four-star chef Gray Kunz has given up his Upper East Side aspirations and is close to securing a space on Gansevoort Street. Now Steve Hanson (pictured) has signed a lease on the triangular building that’s the cornerstone of the district, at 675 Hudson Street, which currently houses the S&M Hellfire club and J’s Hangout, another onetime sex club. Hanson, who owns eight successful Manhattan restaurants, including Ruby Foo’s and Blue Water Grill, plans to erect a basement-level sushi-and-jazz nightspot as well as a bi-level steakhouse in the legendary sin dens. Says Hanson, “I only hope my customers enjoy themselves in the building as much as the patrons of the past did. Not that I would know,” he adds, laughing.


The Brooklyn Museum isn’t the only cultural institution that has felt Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s wrath. Earlier this year, the mayor snatched $32,000 of a program grant promised to the New-York Historical Society by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, funneling it to a museum closer to his heart. What happened, according to one former City Hall insider, is that the mayor and his then-aide, Cristyne Lategano, were peeved to discover that Betsy Gotbaum’s Historical Society had invited Giuliani nemesis Bill Bratton to participate in a panel about the NYPD last spring. The mayor was so annoyed, in fact, that he decided to pull the money and give it to a more favored venue, the Museum of the City of New York, where Lategano happens to be a board member. The museum already gets almost $1.3 million from the city in operating funds. The Historical Society, on the other hand, doesn’t get any operating funds from the city. “In a sense, you’re stealing from the poor to pay the rich,” reports one inside source. The already well-funded MCNY used its bonanza for a new show on “The New York Century.” Neither Gotbaum nor embattled DCA commissioner Schuyler Chapin would comment. But the insider says that no one “had ever seen that kind of last-minute intervention” before. Not, that is, until Rudy went to war against the Brooklyn Museum.


If Talk magazine continues to bomb, don’t blame Ted Kaczynski. Though the Unabomber consented to a rare interview, the writer of the piece became so fed up with editor Tina Brown’s meddling that he decide to peddle his exclusive elsewhere. Stephen Dubner originally wrote a story about David Kaczynski, but then he managed to land a hard-to-get interview with the incarcerated bomber himself. The article was scheduled for Talk’s third issue, and Brown demanded a series of edits that were “relatively painless,” according to one source close to the situation. Then she ordered up yet another revision, which Dubner didn’t get a chance to read until late on closing day. “The story was totally fact-checked, laid out, and ready to close,” reports the insider, “when the writer saw the last edit and pulled the story.” The brouhaha helped push features editor Lisa Chase, who had assigned the story, to leave the troubled start-up. Now Dubner’s story is being seriously considered by Time. “Tina is tearing out her hair,” says a source at the defection-plagued magazine, but a Talk spokesman declined to comment. Meanwhile, the Unabomber’s book, Truth Versus Lies, which was to be released this month, has been postponed. Context Books publisher Beau Friedlander says he hopes to publish it later this year, explaining that Kaczynski’s pending appeal delayed the project.


Every dieter knows that it helps to have a phone buddy, a person to reach out to instead of the Häagen-Dazs. So it’s nice to hear that the reclusive, roly-poly superstar Marlon Brando has someone to call. In fact, Brando reaches out to the queen of talk herself: Oprah Winfrey. Marlon and Oprah exchange dieting tips on the phone, reports one well-connected Hollywood source. (Oprah’s office confirms the two big stars have spoken on the phone once but declines to give any details.) Whatever tips they shared seem to be working. Sources who saw Brando during a rare appearance last Monday night to introduce his 1969 film Burn! at Creative Artists Agency’s Beverly Hills offices report that the actor seems to have lost a lot of weight. Of course, Oprah’s not the only one on Brando’s phone list. His penchant for telephone relationships is well known. When the actor was working on his autobiography, he placed a call to Random House that was answered by an assistant passing in the hall, who kept trying to take a message. “Well, won’t you talk to me?” Brando asked. “Forty-five minutes later, he’s asking about my first sexual experience,” says the assistant. “It was like going into deep Freudian analysis.”


MARTIN’S ROOM: Everyone has good things to say about the late Martin Burke, who was in charge of security for former governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo. But not everyone actually made it to Burke’s funeral upstate in Hopewell Junction. Howard Safir, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, and Cuomo atended the September 27 funeral. But Carey, who spends much of his time in Florida these days, didn’t make it. Nor did any of Carey’s children–a fact that did not go unnoticed by others at the standing-room-only memorial to the popular marshal. “Burke took care of them and protected them–and there were many of them: Carey and his twelve children,” recalls one mourner. Son Michael Carey, who works in the city’s Economic Development Corporation, says no one in the family got the news in time to attend the funeral of the 56-year-old guard, whom he calls “a gentleman through and through, a real class guy.” Cuomo, who found time not only to travel upstate but also to send the widow a chalice, says that Buke “was a very big part of our lives, and frankly one of the best parts.” Michael Carey says his family is making a contribution to charity in Burke’s name.

A HUMBLER HAMPTONS: For at least one East End jillionaire, less is more. While construction of Ira Rennert’s gargantuan Sagaponack Xanadu continues to spark debate, another big spender is giving hope to those for whom the Hamptons are about more than huge hedges and Range Rovers. Sources say Cellular Information Systems CEO Richard Treibick is soon to sign a contract on a sprawling 42-acre Bridgehampton farm with the intention of preserving the land and estate, without even adding a gable or gazebo. Says current owner Richard Hendrickson, “I’m just a lowly farmer. I don’t know what he’s going to do. He’s put down a deposit. That’s all I know.”

Additional reporting by David Amsden and Suny Seghal.

October 18, 1999