February 16, 1998


New York hoteliers have no time for rest and relaxation these days. Ian Schrager, who’s about to open two hotels in London and has just purchased a fourth New York outpost, now adds the Miramar, a 213-unit hotel near Santa Barbara, to his portfolio. Now it looks like he’s restructuring his company. Industry sources say the former co-owner of Studio 54 and his backers are getting ready to offer a reit (real-estate-investment trust), which could infuse his growing company with some serious megabucks. Meanwhile, real-estate developer Philip Pilevsky, a partner in the Royalton and the Paramount, is taking the opportunity to part ways with Schrager. Not a moment too soon: Pilevsky and Brian McNally are opening a hotel on 40th Street (a mere four blocks from Schrager’s Royalton) and another in Miami (near Schrager’s Delano), and they’re making plans for a third, having acquired the Astor Place building that houses a Starbucks. In that space, they plan to open a 170-room hotel, the first of its size in the Village. Neither Schrager nor Pilevsky would comment.


HBO’s latest film, Gia, starring Angelina Jolie, may turn out to be as controversial as the woman it’s based on. Supermodel Gia Carangi’s dramatic rise and fall – she died of aids at 26 after becoming a heroin addict – was first given prominence in Stephen Fried’s 1993 book Thing of Beauty. Gia’s co-writers, Jay McInerney and Michael Cristofer (who’s also the director), insist their script in no way drew upon Fried’s work. Now it seems Fried begs to differ. “We are evaluating Mr. Fried’s rights and remedies regarding copyright infringement involved in the film,” says his attorney, Stephen Rohde. Fried is concerned that Gia makes use of the book’s content, format, and framework and plagiarizes his copyrighted expression of the facts. An HBO spokesperson responds, “We are in discussions with Mr. Fried regarding issues in that arena, but it’s preliminary, factual, and exploratory.”


It was a long time coming, but Sylvester Stallone has finally ended another rocky relationship. Stallone has at last let go of a 1978 Francis Bacon painting titled Oedipus Rex and the Sphinx, After Ingres. Stallone had come close to unloading the painting to a group of dealers in 1990 after receiving nearly $2.1 million for it. But when Stallone changed his mind after complications stalled the painting’s delivery, the would-be buyers sued, and Stallone ultimately kept the work and returned the cash. Now Roger Bevan reports in the newsletter The Baer Faxt that Stallone recently sold the piece to London dealer Ivor Braka, who has loaned it to London’s Hayward Gallery for its Bacon exhibition. Art insiders say Stallone probably got around $2 million in the current sale, but neither Stallone nor Braka would comment on the transaction. Maybe Stallone should have held on to his investment just a little bit longer: A biopic on Bacon called Love Is the Devil will debut at Cannes this year, no doubt increasing interest in the artist’s works.


DRUDGE WORK: Just as cybercolumnist Matt Drudge was becoming a talking head, his own television service in Los Angeles was cut off. “I owe 60 bucks, and now I’ve got to cough up,” he explains. America Online pays Drudge $3,000 a month to carry his famous report, and the columnist says that’s pretty much the sum of his income. Now Drudge is fighting to move Sidney Blumenthal’s $30 million defamation suit against him from D.C. to L.A., “just because I can’t afford to keep traveling back and forth.” Blumenthal’s lawyer, William McDanielb, is fighting the change of venue, arguing that “it’s equally expensive and inconvenient for the Blumenthals.” Drudge protests, “I’m the poorest famous person in America!”
SIGNIFICANT OTHERS: Could this be the Gap ad for the new millennium? If the designers behind the Anne Klein label have their way, appearing in one of their new magazine ads will soon have a similar cachet. The label is being relaunched with a campaign entitled “Significant Women,” featuring noteworthy femmes photographed by Annie Leibovitz. “This isn’t about pretty faces – it’s about reality,” says the label’s co-designer Isaac Franco. Not that some of the posers won’t be beauties: Chicago star Bebe Neuwirth is one who’s already said yes. Klein’s designers are now asking women ranging from Anna Quindlen and Toni Morrison to Dee Dee Myers and Marcia Clark.
PAS DE DEUX: For seventeen years, Kay Mazzo has taught at the School of American Ballet, training ground for New York City Ballet stars like Suzanne Farrell. But she’s also the wife of the chairman of the school’s board, Albert Bellas, so her recent promotion to faculty co-chairman raised a pointed question. Mazzo was at the January 27 meeting when president Larry Alan Smith announced her appointment. “It was suddenly presented to us, and there she was, sitting there,” says a board member, who calls it “a shock.” Another member expressed concern about appearances; the board’s lawyer quickly answered that Bellas was not involved in any decisions about his wife’s job or salary. Smith says that it’s clear “that there were no conflicts of interest.”


Federal officials may be investigating 39-year-old Wall Street banker Carlos Gomez for allegedly bilking Citibank out of millions, but what Upper East Siders really want to know is what his apartment looks like. In Quest’s March issue, the magazine features a layout on the Park Avenue apartment of Gomez and his interior-designer wife, Alison Spear. “The feature was under way for two months,” explains editor Kristina Stewart. “It is meant to portray Alison’s work, and it is unrelated to the situation with Carlos.” The editors did have enough leeway before press time to make a brief reference to “embattled banker Carlos Gomez, who is currently charged with defrauding Citibank of $10 million.” The article then moves on to glowing accounts of the apartment (“filled with surprises”) and its details (“the master bath is the kind that breeds envy in most New Yorkers”). After all that, it’s hard to disagree with the writer’s conclusion that “no amount of change can alter the fact that Park Avenue is as much a state of mind as an address of choice.”


The public may rank journalists down there with lawyers and politicians these days, but the editors at the New York Post are saints as far as Sean Delonas is concerned. “Page Six” cartoonist Delonas, who recently finished painting a triptych for Saint Agnes Church on East 43rd Street, followed the tradition of his Renaissance predecessors, finding models for his saints among friends and acquaintances. Saint Ignatius, for example, bears an uncanny likeness to Post editor Ken Chandler. “There is some resemblance,” says Chandler. “But unlike me, the guy in the picture has no gray hair, and he’s about 30 pounds thinner.” Some even see Post music critic (and Delonas officemate) Dan Aquilante in the face of Saint Augustine, and Saint Christopher is a dead ringer for the paper’s managing editor, Joe Robinowitz. Standing before his masterpiece, Delonas refused to disclose all his sources of inspiration, although he did point out his wife, Judi (Saint Felicity), and his son, Ryan (the cherub pulling on Saint Nick’s gown). “Actually, I also put myself in,” Delonas added, pointing to the frog below Saint Christopher.


She may have been left at the altar, but Nicole Contos has not given up on the singles scene. The jilted bride, whose aborted November wedding was tabloid fodder for days, is re-entering the dating world just in time for Valentine’s Day. On February 12, she’ll appear in a live version of The Dating Game at Caroline’s Comedy Nation, posing questions to three New York-based comedian bachelors. “’How do I know you’ll show up for our date?’ is definitely a good question to ask,” Contos says good-naturedly. The lucky bachelor will get to escort Contos to dinner and a show at Caroline’s on the 14th, assuming he doesn’t get cold feet.


Billy Joel flipped his lid when he got the Pop-Up Video treatment. VH1’s hit show has been airing its version of Joel’s 1984 video “Keeping the Faith,” complete with requisite snipes at the performer’s style (“The white shoes were Billy’s idea”), his dancing (“The choreographer says Grease was his inspiration. But Michael Jackson ‘Beat It’ by two years”), and his ex-wife Christie Brinkley (“It’s rumored Christie didn’t keep the faith with Billy”). The video’s teaser was particularly dramatic, indelicately asking a question about Joel’s medical history. Late last month, Joel called VH1 president John Sykes to complain, according to a station source. “His kid was being teased at school,” adds the insider. Sykes obligingly pulled the entire episode. A VH1 spokesman confirms that the episode was yanked to please Joel: “He’s a friend of the channel. It’s a very rare thing when this sort of objection comes up, but when it does, if it’s warranted, we will listen.” Pop-Up co-creator Tad Low refused to discuss the incident except to say, “We just make sure that everything’s absolutely true in the show; it’s up to VH1 to decide what they want to put on their air.” But Joel’s spokeswoman insists that the segment had “misinformation” that “hurt his child,” so he asked Sykes to fix or pull that segment; Joel has laughed off pop-ups in the past.

Additional reporting by Kate Coyne.

February 16, 1998