March 16, 1998

The report on New York’s Police Department soon to be released by Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral task force is bound to contain some unpleasant criticism of the boys in blue. But no matter how harsh the findings are, they will pale in comparison with those in another report due out the same week. The mayor’s task force was assigned to investigate charges of police brutality following the Abner Louima incident. But now task-force members Norman Siegel, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, are releasing a dissenting report charging that Giuliani never supported the task force. Says Meyers: “Giuliani never gave us a budget, and he never gave us a staff. He just abandoned us.” Meyers says that when he and Siegel voiced their complaints, “Giuliani suddenly announced he wanted everything finished in 60 days. We were aborted.” According to Meyers, the dissenting report will “address widespread and systematic police misconduct, and the total managerial meltdown of policies intended to monitor such behavior.” The official report, from the team’s assorted collection of public citizens (whom Meyers classifies as “Giuliani allies”), will be “fluffy stuff about cultural-diversity training and creating community dialogues,” says Meyers. “Everyone else did what Rudy said, and they rolled over, because they were never critics of his. But Norman and I are not rolling over.” A representative of the task-force committee would say only: “I feel we should wait until our report is out before commenting on the nature of our efforts.”

No sooner had Katie Couric come back to work than rumors of her imminent departure from NBC started to circulate. Couric, whose contract is up in July, is being courted by at least two syndicators, ABC, and CBS, several industry insiders report. On Today since Deborah Norville left in 1991, Couric reportedly earns $2 million a year. “She’s really underpaid, when you figure that that’s what Forrest Sawyer makes at ABC,” points out one industry source. The Peacock Network was already negotiating with the morning anchor in December, when it signed a complicated deal with Geraldo Rivera that is estimated to pay him around $5 million a year – more, industry insiders speculate, than the network was initially offering her. TV Guide’s J. Max Robins reported in January that Jeffrey Katzenberg was dangling a DreamWorks syndicated show before Couric, and those talks are continuing, according to two knowledgeable sources, as are discussions with other outlets. But most insiders expect her not to leave her home base so soon after the death of her husband. Says one source close to Couric, “Right now, she’s really not focusing on it. She’s worried about getting her life and her family together.”

Drew Nieporent, Joe Baum, and David Emil may have beaten out the competition for the much-coveted contract to take over the Rainbow Room, but now it looks like they may walk away from the opportunity. Sources close to the situation say that Emil, Baum, and Nieporent are refusing to pay the approximately $4 million annual rent that landlord Tishman Speyer is asking. Says Nieporent, “We still want to do it, and we think highly of them as landlords. Hopefully, there will be some resolution.” But a source close to management claims that the real problem is with the partners. “The partnership has blown up; Drew backed out for his own reasons, and Rockefeller Center doesn’t want to go ahead with just the others,’’ says the source. “Now they are talking to other restaurateurs.” The partners maintain that that’s just not so. “There is absolutely no problem with Drew,” says Emil. “We are all just having a problem reaching a conclusion on the economic terms.” Meanwhile, the owner of Nobu, Tribeca Grill, and Montrachet is readying his restaurant in the Doral Hotel, and word is he is about to sign a lease on the space in the Sony building that formerly housed the Quilted Giraffe. Nieporent would not comment on this last venture.

WILL THE LEOPARD CHANGE HER SPOTS? Monica Lewinsky isn’t the only gal in Washington whose future career is uncertain. Rumors are rife around CBS that Laura Ingraham, the conservative pundit famous for wearing a leopard-print miniskirt on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, may soon be demoted from her slot as a political correspondent for the network. When CBS News chief Andrew Heyward flew to Washington on February 27, everyone assumed he was about to tell the blonde Gingrich fan that her contract wouldn’t be renewed. One CBS insider says the network is “looking for different ways to use” Ingraham; another source confirms that Ingraham has always been viewed as a controversial figure around Black Rock. A spokeswoman for Heyward insists he went to D.C. to participate in a Marvin Kalb panel. Ingraham did not return a call placed at deadline.
BERENDt’S EMPIRE EXPANDS: When your work goes Hollywood, it really pays off. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil scribe John Berendt, whose book was recently turned to celluloid after spending three years on the best-seller list, has finally moved out of his small Upper West Side one-bedroom and into a sprawling brownstone nearby. A historic one, of course. Berendt’s response to the move: “No comment.’

Rosie O’Donnell apparently likes to play the field. Faced with a crowded race for the Democratic senatorial primary, O’Donnell is publicly supporting two candidates – so far. She’s hosting a $100-a-person fund-raiser for Geraldine Ferraro on March 24 at the Manhattan Center Studios. And last year, she co-hosted a benefit held for Mark Green to raise funds for both his public-advocate and Senate-primary races at Carolines Comedy Nation. This time around, Ferraro enlisted O’Donnell’s support personally, asking the talk-show queen to help her out when they met at the wake for Katie Couric’s husband, Jay Monahan. “Everyone knows that if the Knicks are playing the Nets, you can’t root for both to win,” says one longtime Democrat supporting Green in this race. “Rosie just wants to beat Alfonse D’Amato, and I think she’ll help anybody who has a possibility of doing that,” explains O’Donnell’s publicist.

Screenwriter Roger Wilson has plenty of real-life material to draw on in his work. Last week, news broke that model Kathleen McManamon, his ex-girlfriend, was accused of making death threats and charged with harassing him once he left her for his current flame, Showgirls star Elizabeth Berkley. Wilson also played a supporting role in the insider-trading scandal involving former Wall Street Journal reporter R. Foster Winans: The scheme was cooked up by friends of Winans’s who were trying to make money quickly to replace the millions they’d stolen from Wilson’s account. An heir from New Orleans, Wilson was a Studio 54 habitué who became known as a serial model-dater. First, he briefly married cover girl Shaun Casey; then he dated models Kelly LeBrock and Christy Turlington. “The current case is a serious matter being pursued by the D.A.’s office, and no celebrity is going to ignore a death threat in this day and age,” says his lawyer, Paul LiCalsi. McManamon’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, says he “eagerly awaits the opportunity to cross-examine Wilson.”

And some models say their work is boring. When Milla Jovovich, star of Spike Lee’s upcoming film He Got Game, joined with photographer David LaChapelle to shoot the cover of this month’s Detour magazine in Los Angeles, the pair almost ended up in jail. LaChapelle’s idea for the shoot was a “young new beauty lands in Hollywood” theme. “We just went crazy, goaded on by Milla’s mother,” reports LaChapelle. “She kept saying: ‘More makeup, less clothes.’ It became our mantra.” The entire crew ended up in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater, with Jovovich holding a giant inflatable Oscar and posing in little more than a Gucci thong. When a gathering crowd of tourists added to the commotion, police arrived on the scene. Jovovich and LaChapelle (who had no permission or permits for the site) fled from the authorities. “We just ran to the van and took off, with our smoke machine still running, leaving behind this trail of white smoke,” he says, laughing. Jovovich’s outrageous antics didn’t make it onto the glossy’s cover; the magazine went with a more “conservative” shot instead.

Elephants really do never forget. Mayoral chief of staff Bruce Teitelbaum headed to the Republican National Committee in Washington recently to discuss site selection for the next convention, but while he was there, he started laying the groundwork for a possible presidential bid by Rudy Giuliani. Teitelbaum was hoping to find GOP support for the Giuliani nomination, but he encountered one big stumbling block: Several committee members invoked the name Cuomo, a reminder that the mayor crossed party lines to support Mario Cuomo during the 1994 gubernatorial race. “Why should they give Bruce what he’s asking for when Rudy turned his back on them four years ago?” says one political insider. Colleen Roche, a mayoral spokesperson, said Teitelbaum met with the GOP only to discuss convention sites. “There was no talk about Rudy for president; Bruce wasn’t putting out feelers,” Roche insists. A spokesperson for the RNC confirmed that Teitelbaum did meet with the committee but declined to comment further.Additional reporting by Kate Coyne and Emily Spilko.

March 16, 1998