April 27, 1998


Maybe it pays to be as neurotic as Woody Allen – especially when doing business with his handlers. Independent producers Web Stone and brother Rob Stone were recently approached by an executive working for Allen’s producer, Jean Doumanian, and asked to present some new scripts. While meeting with Doumanian and executives John Logigian and Lettie Aronson (Woody’s sister), the Stones pitched Marshall Karp’s coming-of-age tale Cherry Pink, a script they had been given permission to represent to studios and were hoping to produce. “They said it was wonderful, that they were eager to work with us,” says Web Stone. “They couldn’t thank us enough.” But Doumanian’s gratitude had its limits. Two weeks later, the Stones learned that, unbeknownst to them, Doumanian had gone ahead and purchased Cherry Pink. “They completely side-stepped us,” says Web Stone, who soon publicly confronted Logigian at a cocktail party. “Logigian said all we could expect is a small finder’s fee taken from Karp’s money,” continues an insulted Stone, who claims the industry standard would be at least $75,000. “We want what would be customary in the trade. Ask any agent at CAA or ICM – this is not the protocol.” An attorney for Doumanian says: “The Stones had no contractual right to the script, and therefore no rights we could divest them of as a result.” Adds a spokesperson for Doumanian: “Karp offered some type of fee to them, but they are demanding more. It is not Jean Doumanian’s place to make such decisions.” While Karp declined to comment (“I’m just a writer,” he said repeatedly), Stone says, “We are the ones who brought the material to Jean Doumanian as producers. Ergo, she is responsible for getting us paid as producers – not book scouts.”


Here’s one story out of the Washington Post’s New York bureau that won’t make it into the paper: It’s about columnist Richard Cohen and why he’s just moved his office from the twelfth floor of the paper’s New York bureau to the twenty-second floor of the Newsweek building. The New York-bureau chief, Blaine Harden, passed along to management a complaint against Cohen made by Devon Spurgeon, a 23-year-old female special correspondent in the bureau. One Post insider says Harden and others in the bureau witnessed several instances in which Cohen made inappropriately sexual remarks to the young assistant. Management took the situation seriously enough to fly to New York to talk with Cohen on April 3, the insider continues, while Spurgeon was asked to take a paid leave of absence during the negotiations. Eventually, management decided that Cohen’s office would be moved. Cohen vehemently denies the charges. “There was, for want of a better term, a personality conflict,” he explains. “It didn’t involve sexual harassment – it didn’t involve sex, it didn’t involve harassment – and no disciplinary action was taken.” Neither a Washington Post spokeswoman nor deputy managing editor Milton Coleman would comment on personnel matters, and neither Harden, Spurgeon, nor managing editor Robert Kaiser returned calls.


Is Christopher Buckley and John Tierney’s God Is My Broker, a comic novella about a Wall Street broker who becomes a monk named Brother Ty, too offensive for newly civilized New Yorkers? Evidently the folks at WNBC-TV think so: Channel 4 banned ads for the book, which parodies Deepak Chopra and New Age hucksterism more than it does the Catholic Church. But the ad features a “monk” (actually, a Yale classmate of Buckley and Tierney’s) staring right at the camera and offering his “7 and 1/2 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth.” The 60-second ad, an all-too-convincingly low-budget spoof of infomercials, was shown late at night in Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and New York – except on WNBC. “There were elements in it that were insensitive,” explains WNBC spokeswoman Terry Doll. “Were I a conspiracy theorist,” counters Buckley, “I would wonder if they weren’t more concerned about offending the delicate sensibilities of the late-night info hucksters.”


PAGING PUFFY: Now that Sean “Puffy” Combs has mastered Sting’s oeuvre, the rap impresario is tackling some real rock and roll. He and Jimmy Page will be recording an updated version of the Led Zeppelin classic “Kashmir” for the Godzilla soundtrack. According to a spokesman at Sony, which is releasing the album, the song’s tracks were recorded separately, by Puff Daddy in Los Angeles and Page in London, then instantly sent from one to the other using the new ED NET technology, which transmits high-quality sound over phone lines. As if that weren’t wired enough, a video of the boys at work with their new techno toys was shot simultaneously.

MOVE OVER, GOODYEAR: Apparently, Tommy Hilfiger believes that size does matter. So much so, in fact, that he is about to launch the first-ever designer blimp. “Technically, it’s called an air ship,” explains a rep, who says that this particular type of craft – larger than most at a whopping 196 feet long – is one of only three in existence; the others are owned by Fuji and, of course, Goodyear. Hilfiger’s zeppelin will be used to tout his new Hilfiger Athletics line of sportswear. Says Hilfiger’s rep: “We are charting the blimp, er, air ship’s course right now and expect to float it this summer over numerous high-profile events around the country.”


The romance between Kate Moss and Leonardo DiCaprio may have looked like a model relationship, but it appears to be as over as Vamp nail polish. According to a source close to the waif, “It was a Cuba thing. It started there, and then they saw a lot of each other in New York and Paris, but it’s totally fizzled.” While word is that the puckish actor chose to move on, the source says the cool-as-an-iceberg Moss is unfazed. “It was way too brief a relationship for her to be upset, and she has no shortage of men around her,” the observer says. “Besides, he’s too all-over-the-map.” As for Johnny Depp, “He certainly wasn’t pleased about Leo, but he and Kate are not seeing each other right now. Although they have been back and forth so much, they could easily wind up together again.” Moss’s spokesperson declined to comment on personal matters, as did DiCaprio’s.


Maybe the market won’t bear six-figure rents after all. Although most apartments these days are snatched up within milliseconds of hitting the market, Donald Trump’s Central Park West penthouse palace, available since January for a much-marveled-at record rate of $100,000 a month, still has not been leased or sold. But Trump swears he has an occupant who’s about to sign on. “It’s virtually a done deal,” he promises. Trump claims his lofty standards are what’s come between him and a host of would-be tenants: He says he’s rejected several potential suitors willing to pay the sky-high fee for the apartment perched atop Trump International Hotel & Tower on the grounds that they weren’t “high quality” enough (he won’t reveal the name of the prospective tenant or those he’s rejected). But according to real-estate expert Bill May, managing director of William B. May Company, it’s the fee that’s no doubt prolonging the search. “They would be silly to spend that kind of money in rent when they could go out into the market and buy something better… . I see putting a $100,000 rent on that apartment as a marketing ploy. As a real expectation, it’s not reasonable.” A Trump spokesperson insists it’s a good deal. “The apartment has every amenity known to man.”


Sometimes you can’t win. When Rudy Giuliani announced the raises for his City Hall staff last week, many gasped at the total of $97,000 to be distributed among just fifteen top aides. In fact, the mayor had actually scaled back the increases he had originally intended. According to one political insider, pay hikes as high as 15 percent had been planned for some employees. But fearing negative press spin, chief of staff Bruce Teitelbaum and his deputy, Tony Carbonetti, took the mayor aside and told him to scale back his generosity to a 10 percent maximum raise. “Teitelbaum was afraid of bad press if the raises got too hefty, so he advised the mayor to put a cap on it,” says the source. The resulting decision left some staff members with less than they were expecting: “People had been told one number, and suddenly they were handed a smaller one,” says the insider. A spokesperson for Teitelbaum (whose pay jumped $8,724) and Carbonetti (the beneficiary of a $9,510 increase) did not return calls. “Hey, as long as Rudy got good press coverage,” snipes the insider.


There’s at least one place in East Hampton where the customer isn’t always right: Alexis Stewart’s East Hampton Gym. Martha Stewart’s demanding daughter has barred several patrons from her health club, according to three ex-clients. “It just seems like harassment to me,” says one of the fired customers, who was told not to come back when he absentmindedly left his membership card in the locker room. Another ex-gym rat got a message on his answering machine from Stewart telling him not to come back when he resisted paying the gym $10 for a replacement card. Membership renewal was denied to another longtime client who had complained about Stewart’s high-handed management style. All three report that Stewart gets pumped up over relatively minor infractions like lost membership cards or wearing sandals. “I asked one person to leave,” says Stewart, who explains that sandals aren’t safe to wear in a gym and that such disputes are common at all health clubs. “You have to wear your shoes and bring in your membership card,” she insists. “It’s a gym to work out in; it’s not a social-climbing club.”

Additional reporting by Kate Coyne.

April 27, 1998