February 9, 1998


Journalists weren’t the only ones to raise their eyebrows when Tim Russert put cybergossip Matt Drudge on his Meet the Press panel alongside New York Times columnist William Safire, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, and National Journal’s Stuart Taylor. After the January 25 broadcast, Russert and NBC News president Andy Lack promptly got a letter from attorney William McDaniel, who represents Sidney Blumenthal. (The journalist turned Clinton aide is suing Drudge for $30 million over a story that the natty Net-worker quickly retracted – namely, the erroneous report that Blumenthal was once charged with wife-beating.) “You introduced Mr. Drudge as offering ‘expert insight and analysis’ when you introduced him on Meet the Press, and you then offered Mr. Drudge to your audience as though you believed him to be a reputable journalist,” wrote McDaniel. “The Blumenthals are interested in learning whether you intend to testify on behalf of Mr. Drudge … to vouch for his credentials as a journalist. If you do, we wish to take your deposition.” Russert headed off the not-so-thinly-veiled threat of a subpoena by calling McDaniel directly. “I said, ‘I don’t vouch for anyone,’” explains Russert. “So that’s it; case closed.”


At least one party involved in the battle for Rudolf Nureyev’s estate has reconciled with the late ballet star’s combative family. Rosa Noureeva and daughter Gouzel, Nureyev’s sister and niece, have been embroiled in a lengthy legal battle over his will, in which the dancer requested that all $7 million of his American assets go to create the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation. Now the European counterpart of that organization has settled with Rosa and Gouzel. “The European Foundation felt it would be better to settle the matter quickly than deal with dragging it through the French courts,” explains Nureyev’s lawyer, Barry Weinstein. The women received an undisclosed sum, and a source close to Rosa claims the two got Nureyev’s Paris apartment in addition to cash. “They received a substantial amount of money,” says the friend. The women plan to continue their battle against the U.S. foundation.


What do actors do with their Golden Globes? Well, if you’re Michael J. Fox, who just won one for Spin City, you play hide-and-seek with it. Pranksterish writers decided to play a little game with Fox’s new toy while taping “Deaf Man Walking,” an episode that will air this spring. The show’s warm-up comedian, Mike Royce, initiated a game of “Where’s Waldo?” with the oddly shaped statue, which balances a globe on a marble pedestal. Royce told the audience that the globe would be hidden in a different place on the set whenever Fox was in the scene and asked them to find the wandering globe during breaks in the taping. “You could hear oohs and aahs as people spotted it,” reports one of the globe watchers. “Anyone with an eagle eye could track it from set to set.” Wonder whether they’d be as cavalier with a People’s Choice.


BROADCAST NEWS: There’s another Cuomo-Kennedy pairing in the works, but this one probably won’t lead to wedding bells. Christopher Cuomo, one of Playgirl’s “10 Sexiest Men,” will soon be sharing screen time with his brother-in-law Douglas Kennedy (Cuomo’s brother Andrew is married to Kennedy’s sister Kerry). The 27-year-old Cuomo, a lawyer at the finance group Cassandra Partners, has just been hired as a news analyst by the Fox News Channel, where Kennedy is currently a reporter. There has been speculation that the network lured Cuomo and Kennedy onboard to help counter its right-wing image. Responds Cuomo: “I believe that my being hired is indicative of the channel’s commitment to doing things differently, and having analysis come from people other than rank-and-file party members.”
MERGER & ACQUISITION: Love triumphed over experience yet again last Thursday, when one of the city’s top divorce attorneys got married. Robert Stephan Cohen, who handled divorces for Ivana Trump and Joni Evans, got married to Wall Streeter Stephanie Stiefel. The newlyweds celebrated with a family dinner at the St. Regis.
DO-IT-YOURSELF DINER: When he quietly opened the intimate bistro 131 Duane Street only two weeks ago, chef Henry Meer was merely testing the waters for a larger TriBeCa venture. Meer, the man behind SoHo’s Cub Room, is already planning to combine 131 Duane with a defunct restaurant next door, creating an enlarged emporium in the heart of David Bouley and Drew Nieporent’s turf. Meer will unveil the grand space, tentatively called City Hall, this May. The expanded restaurant will feature what Meer calls “market restaurant fare,” with customers creating their own entrées. “We don’t want to plan the plate for our customers,” explains Meer. “They’ll chose their own destiny.”
PRIME SELECTION: Forget Balthazar. The best spot for celebrity-watching these days is the gritty waiting room where prospective Manhattan jurors go to serve their time. Last week, a ponytailed Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg made an appearance. Woody Allen, Henry Kissinger, Roone Arledge, and even Mayor Rudy have recently made the scene as well.
SCENT OF A WOMAN: Does Valeria Mazza smell as good as she looks? The world will soon find out, as the Argentine supermodel joins the ranks of Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, and Cindy Adams as she becomes the first mannequin to launch her own fragrance. The perfume, cleverly named Valeria, has been in the works for over a year and should hit stores this summer. “The fragrance really gives you a sense of who I am,” explains Mazza. “It’s fresh and floral.” But perfume may be just the first step in Mazza’s ventures off the catwalk. “I have a lot of ideas,” she enthuses, freshly and florally. “Clothing or lingerie could be next!”


Anatoli Boukreev, the hero who carried Sandy Hill Pittman and several others to safety after a storm hit Everest last year, died in a Christmas Day avalanche on Nepal’s Annapurna. Before leaving on what would be his final trip, the great climber – and author of his own Everest book, The Climb – was visited in Santa Fe, New Mexico, by the ex-Mrs. Pittman. “She flew out specifically to see Anatoli, and it was touching to him that she would make the effort,” says Linda Wylie, Boukreev’s grieving girlfriend, a nurse-practitioner. They had a quiet dinner at home, “where we laughed and where Anatoli was able to tell her, ‘You know, Sandy, you did achieve the summit, and you should be proud of that.’ She was able to say that she was grateful that he was there… . She thanked him, but she had done that before.” Relations among the survivors of the Everest expedition had been strained in the glare of publicity that came down particularly hard on Hill, whom some accused of giving new meaning to the term social climber. Anatoli “felt that the way Sandy had been treated was unfair,” Wylie says.


People may not be tuning in to her talk show for free, but it seems somewhere out there someone is willing to pay plenty to hear perky former congresswoman Susan Molinari speak. Molinari now rakes in a whopping $20,000 fee for speaking engagements, which must be comforting given the less-than-spectacular ratings of her CBS program, Saturday Morning. “While that figure doesn’t rank her with the big boys – say, George Bush or Henry Kissinger – it’s definitely a substantial sum,” says a well-placed industry insider. “This puts her in the same league as a George Stephanopoulos or James Carville.” But Molinari, who declined to comment on the figure, may leave the speaker’s circuit for the campaign trail. According to Albany’s Times Union, Molinari is being touted as a “dream candidate” for comptroller this year, a position that would rescue her from the flailing Saturday Morning. “Susan knows to make this money while she can. She is concerned for herself and her daughter,” her father, Guy Molinari, says cryptically. “She doesn’t yet know what the future will hold.” Sadly, the Nielsens may provide a clue.


After eleven years in New York, it looks like Jean-Georges Vongerichten has finally landed a downtown outpost. Now that the long-awaited Mercer Hotel in SoHo is partially up and running, its restaurant, the 120-seat Mercer Kitchen, is not far behind, and owner André Balazs is close to sealing a partnership deal with the famed chef-owner of Jean Georges, Jo Jo, and Vong; and with chef Kerry Simon, who for the last year has been opening Vong offshoots throughout the world. Vongerichten says the new restaurant will be “very homey,’’ with an open kitchen, a rotisserie and some communal tables. The hotel is slated to open officially in April, according to Balazs.


Whoever says that size doesn’t matter hasn’t told Ira Rennert. Rennert, head of the Renco Group in Manhattan, a privately owned holding company, is about to make his mark – a 63-acre one – in Sagaponack. He plans to construct Fair Field, the largest house in Hamptons history. The 66,000-square-foot mansion will be equipped with a separate 10,000-square-foot “playhouse” that will include a gym, a squash court, a billiard room, and a bowling alley. Six ancillary buildings will surround the estate. “I don’t know what would be worse, having eight houses built on that land or one 66,000-square-foot one,” says one dismayed local. According to Paul Houlihan, Southhampton’s chief building inspector, though plans for Fair Field have been approved by the architectural-review board, the town’s building department has yet to issue a permit. “After all,” sneers one local, “that land may not be properly zoned for theme parks.”

Additional reporting by Kate Coyne and Emily Spilko.

February 9, 1998