April 6, 1998


There are 108,452 lawyers in New York State, so it’s hard to explain why the city’s cops seem to have such a tough time finding a good one. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has been shopping for a new firm since its former attorneys – Lysaght Lysaght & Kramer – disbanded after the January 26 racketeering conviction of partners James Lysaght and Peter Kramer, who paid kickbacks to the now-defunct transit union. In a February 4 letter, PBA president Lou Matarazzo reassured his members that the pair “will not be in any way involved in nor will they receive any financial benefit or payment from the firm/firms that will be chosen.” In the meantime, Matarazzo’s letter continued, any members who need a lawyer should “call the office of Trager, Cronin & Byczek, “ a firm that has appeared at union delegate meetings to make a pitch for the business. But alert cops noticed that the firm has the same phone number, the same Lake Success address, and many of the same lawyers as the defunct Lysaght Lysaght. The similarities are particularly galling since Lysaght Lysaght itself morphed out of the firm of former PBA lawyer Richard Hartman, who was forced to give up his license in 1988. (When Lysaght Lysaght took on the lucrative PBA contract, the firm promptly hired Hartman as a $1.5 million-a-year consultant.) “There’s a bid going on, and Trager, Cronin & Byczek is a law firm, and it’s putting in a bid. More than that I really can’t discuss with you,” says partner Marshall Trager. PBA spokesman Joseph Mancini says that Trager, Cronin is “one of 116 bidders, and no decisions have been made.”


Moving to California isn’t going to turn David Ross’s life into a day at the beach. Although the outgoing Whitney chief doesn’t take over San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art until July 1, he already has a problem: longtime museum supporters John and Frances Bowes. On February 26 – while the search for a new director was under way – Frances, no fan of Ross’s, was asked by the board to resign. Sources say she was contentious and impeding the search. “She resigned on Thursday, and John resigned on Friday,” says one insider. But after checking the museum’s bylaws, the couple rescinded their resignations. Tensions continue to run high, and some Bay Area art lovers expect the couple to quietly leave the board later this year – a denouement that would be popular among New Yorkers who still blame Frances for leading the 1996 coup that forced Ashton Hawkins off the board of the Dia Center for the Arts. “I’m not going to resign,” says Frances, “because I feel that I can still make a contribution – if, in the future, the museum will reveal itself as an institution that’s confident enough to tolerate dissenting voices.”


FAKE OUT: If you’ve been admiring the six Hélion paintings on display at Nica’s, the Stanhope Hotel’s restaurant, brace yourself: Not only are the paintings fakes, but they’re coming down. New York artist Michael Herstand had painted them in sizes varying from the originals, but the knockoffs weren’t different enough to satisfy Hélion’s widow, who was contemplating a lawsuit, according to April’s Art & Auction. Jacqueline Hélion told the magazine she didn’t relish telling owners that “a copy of their painting is hanging in a hotel in New York with Hélion’s name signed on the bottom.” Although it’s perfectly legal to display the copies publicly, claims hotel owner André Balazs, he’s deferring to the widow: “Since the homage to Hélion seems to have been misinterpreted, we’re going to take them down.”

WHAT ABOUT JUNE? The Beav is back. Sort of. Jerry Mathers, better known to millions as Beaver Cleaver, is working on a new show starring his Leave It to Beaver co-stars Ken Osmond, who played the weaselly Eddie Haskell, and Tony Dow, who played the Beaver’s older brother, Wally. While the men won’t be reprising the roles that made them famous, they will be staying true to type in their show about divorced boomers. “Of course, Ken will play someone who’s a little slimy, and Tony will be the good guy, and I’ll get into lots of trouble,” says Mathers, who’s slated to play a retired child actor. “But it won’t be Leave It to Beaver, Continued.” At any rate, there will be less of Mathers to see when he returns to the small screen – since losing 50-plus pounds, he has become a spokesperson for Jenny Craig diet centers.

PECK TURNS A PAGE: Thirty isn’t too young for a mid-life crisis in Dale Peck’s book. Called “one of the most eloquent voices of his generation” by the Times’s Michiko Kakutani when he published his first novel in 1993, the East Village novelist celebrated his third – Now It’s Time to Say Goodbye, due this May from Farrar, Straus & Giroux – by ditching his agent of seven years, Irene Skolnick, in favor of Über-agent Andrew Wylie, who showered Peck with promises that one of his next three books would be a major best-seller, according to a source at Peck’s publisher. Skolnick insists the switch was amicable. “These things happen all the time – although it’s the first time it’s happened to me,” she says. Zoë Pagnamenta, the Wylie agent assigned to Peck, doubts her boss would ever make such a ridiculous promise. A source close to Peck responds, “I would be surprised to hear that Wylie didn’t say that to everyone he wants to sign.”

ETHAN OUT: Like Greta Garbo, Ethan Hawke likes to walk around New York City. But he could take a lesson in discretion from the late screen idol. Spotted in front of Chelsea’s Old Navy on March 22 were Hawke and Uma Thurman in what looked like a fairly heated spat. Something about dating and the meaning of family, says our source. Sometimes reality really does bite.


Though it’s been reported that Leonardo DiCaprio spent part of the evening at Moomba, everyone was wondering just where, or even whether, the young heartthrob would be watching the Academy Awards. Despite having been overlooked for a nomination, DiCaprio did tune in to the Oscar telecast, ensconced in the company of a select group of good friends, including superwaif Kate Moss (to whom DiCaprio was once romantically linked) and magician David Blaine. After dining on sushi, the group headed off to the SoHo apartment of a friend of DiCaprio’s, joining up with Chris Cuomo. DiCaprio, according to one witness, watched the show and “was cheering everyone on. He was just genuinely happy.” DiCaprio continued partying the following night, dining with Cuomo and Co. again at the midtown bistro Bellini, where Mary J. Blige rushed over to request an autograph.


Rock stars notoriously want special perks when they go on tour, but most people would be surprised at what Keith Richards requested – and got. At the beginning of the “Bridges to Babylon” tour, Richards asked the staff at the Sunset Marquis in Los Angeles, where the Rolling Stones often stay, to install state-of-the-art cardiovascular equipment and several weight machines (among them a Precor treadmill and a ClimbMax stair-climber) in the hotel’s small gym. In order to accommodate the valued customer – who, along with his fellow Stones, likes to use the getaway’s on-site recording studio – the hotel complied, shelling out more than $10,000. The machines have remained there ever since. Richards – someone never before mistaken for a model of physical fitness – “told us what he wanted, and specifically recommended different machines, which he then used every single day,” says the hotel’s general manager. So that’s why he’s still alive.


You’d think that when singers get to a certain level of fame, they can stop playing weddings. But there were Celine Dion and Lionel Ritchie up on the podium, belting out tunes at a Hotel Bel-Air reception just nights before the Oscars. Turns out Dion wasn’t resting her precious vocal cords before the big performance of “My Heart Will Go On” at the awards broadcast because the groom was Humberto Gatica, an album engineer for both Dion and Ritchie, who had requested the songs as a gift for his new bride. “There were only 30 guests. It was so personal and direct,’’ sighs one witness. “It was a lovely gift.” Sure beats a toaster.


With all the lending of designer duds to celebrities, mysterious disappearances are on the rise. One case in point: Jennifer Lopez and the Versace dresses. According to fashion-industry insiders, before the Golden Globe Awards, the house of Versace sent Lopez four dresses at the St. Regis, where she was staying. When a representative for Versace later went to collect the gowns from the hotel, they were nowhere to be found. A source close to the designer says Lopez brought one dress with her to L.A. and eventually returned it but claimed she had given the rest to the front desk at the St. Regis. “It’s a little hard to believe the St. Regis would just lose all those dresses,” says the source. A spokesperson for the hotel says there is no record of the desk’s having received the gowns during Lopez’s stay or being informed they were missing. Lopez’s publicist, meanwhile, claims she never even requested any Versace. If not, it may be the only label Lopez didn’t consider. Designer Pamela Dennis arrived for a consultation at Lopez’s room the night before the Oscars just as dozens of dresses were being cleared away. She ended up finding a shoe from her own collection in the garbage. When asked about the vanished Versace gowns, Lopez – who wore Badgley Mischka to the Oscars – shrugged. “I don’t handle stuff like that,” she said. “My publicist does.”

Additional reporting by Kate Coyne.

April 6, 1998