Intelligencer: May 11, 1998

Talk about stacking the deck. Even as Mike Milken is reportedly offering $3 billion to $5 billion in a bid for publishing giant Simon & Schuster, his brother Lowell Milken is financing a $35 million lawsuit against the company. Lowell has been quietly funding a 1992 libel suit filed byhis lawyer, Michael F. Armstrong, over James Stewart’s controversial Den of Thieves. In his best-selling book – which covered the criminal investigation of Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert – Stewart accused Armstrong of trying to persuade another client to lie on Lowell’s behalf, according to Armstrong’s lawsuit. Simon & Schuster’s lawyers have been trying to discover just how much the Milkens have forwarded the attorney so far. The publisher’s court papers portray Armstrong as “a stalking-horse,” who, “with Milken money,” embarked on “a mission to take on the integrity of the book that took on the Milkens.” Armstrong tried to keep the details of his loan secret, charging in court papers that S&S just wants to know how much money he “has available to him … so they can further hone their course in an effort to exhaust those resources.” The judge disagreed, ruling that Armstrong has to cough up the records “so that defendants … may argue to the jury the extent of Lowell Milken’s interest in the outcome of the case.” So what will happen to Armstrong’s lawsuit – and Stewart – if the Milkens manage to buy the company? Unfortunately, no one’s talking.

It’s not easy being an icon. But it’s even more difficult writing about one. Johnny Depp was so livid over the current cover story about himself in Icon magazine that both his publicist and his agent called editor David Getson to complain. They pointed out several mistakes in Dana Shapiro’s eleven-page profile – a profile that would strike someone who’s not on the actor’s payroll as a pretty positive take on the quirky star. But they were most disturbed by the fact that Shapiro – who was trying to lampoon tabloid culture – managed to squeeze an impressive number of titillating tidbits into his article, from Depp’s occasional nom de plume (Mr. Donkey Penis) to his trip to a gay bar with John Waters. The 6,000-word piece had room for only 19 words on Depp’s new film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Getson says Depp’s agent, ICM’s mercurial Tracey Jacobs, was particularly enraged. “She thought that we butchered Johnny,” says the bewildered editor, who apologized for the errors but stood by the piece. One error Getson particularly regrets: The magazine spelled Jacobs’s first name Tracy. “Maybe that’s why she was so upset,” he hypothesizes. Retorts Jacobs: “We never even discussed my name.” The article upset her, she adds, only because “it misrepresented Johnny.”

Andrew Sullivan hasn’t lost his talent for stirring up trouble. The former New Republic editor and Gap model has just handed Knopf the manuscript of his second book, Love Undetectable, and publishing insiders are already buzzing about the flak he’ll catch when it hits the stores this fall. Turns out that Sullivan is something of a closet Freudian. The author, who has in the past argued in favor of gay marriage and gays in the military, takes a contrarian view of recent research suggesting that homosexuality may be genetically rooted. Instead, he espouses the notion that “homosexuality is environmentally rooted in early childhood development. I certainly think there’s more to that than some of the geneticists would have you believe.” Sullivan insists he hasn’t written his book “to stir things up … but rather to confront issues that many of us are a little scared to confront.”

SCREEN SAVER: Just because it’s the country’s No. 1 network doesn’t mean NBC is above a little small-time squabbling. New York 1 news reporter Annika Pergament was supposed to appear as herself in the upcoming remake of The Out-of-Towners starring Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. She was to play a reporter who shot footage of the couple, which would then be broadcast on the Times Square Jumbotron TV screen. But NBC, which owns the Jumbotron, nixed the scene because it featured a reporter from a rival station. “It was really petty,” sighs Pergament. “I don’t know why NBC had to make such a big deal over such a little scene.” An NBC spokesman had no comment.

HANKS FOR NOTHING: If you think two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks can coast through his roles without working up a sweat, think again. The actor was pondering a career change after a short scene for his upcoming film You’ve Got Mail turned into seven hours of torture on a treadmill. After Hanks huffed and puffed on the exercise machine at Equinox’s 63rd Street club for six hours, union rules entitled him to a break. But director Nora Ephron begged her star to keep up the pace until the scene was nailed. Hanks was a good sport, if a near-lifeless one, according to observers. “In the beginning, they spritzed him so he’d look sweaty, but by the end, he was sweating plenty all his own.”

Look out, DonaldIvana is going into the casino business. Relax, Donald – it’s in war-torn Croatia. The savvy home-shopping queen, already partnered with a group of Croatian businessmen in the newspaper Slobodana Dalmacija (where she will be a regular columnist) and the nation’s largest department-store chain, Prima (where her ritzy fashion line will be on prominent display), is now investing in a swank entertainment complex in scenic Dubrovnik. In addition to the gambling establishment, the project is to feature a gourmet restaurant, a Mediterranean bistro, a “casual” ice-cream parlor, and a nightclub. Says Ivana: “It’s the most beautiful place, just three hours from Venice. I will spend the summer there on my yacht.’’ Meanwhile, after a brief modeling stint, daughter Ivanka is spurning the glamorous life. “Now she wants to be a criminal lawyer,’’ confides her proud mom.

Malcolm Morley, whose well-regarded paintings depict warships, planes, bloody battlefield scenes, and crashes, seems to court combat in his financial affairs as well. Morley, who left the Pace Gallery for Mary Boone in the early nineties, has just signed with Angela Westwater, who says she’s “thrilled” to work with the “real painter’s painter.” Insiders suggest that Boone might be just as thrilled to be rid of the artist. Boone sold two Morleys at Christie’s last November: Columbus Day (which netted $18,400, just above the high estimate) and Sailing (which didn’t fare as well at $29,900, just below the low estimate). While one art-world insider says that Morley was “upset” that his former dealer sent his work to auction, another source insists that she had to sell the paintings “to settle the debt” Morley had with her gallery. “That’s not true,” fires back the artist’s lawyer, John Silberman. “Malcolm didn’t owe her a penny.” Boone’s attorney, Hugh Freund, says Morley himself suggested an auction because he refused to repay Boone’s advance when the paintings – which had been sold – were returned. Meanwhile, Westwater is planning a Morley show this fall.

Imagine 60 Minutes without Don Hewitt. Michael Mann can. The director starts shooting a movie this month in Louisville, Kentucky, based on Marie Brenner’s Vanity Fair story about the tobacco-industry scandal that caused the CBS show no end of embarrassment. Al Pacino will star as Lowell Bergman, the 60 Minutes producer who got embattled Brown & Williamson whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand’s story on the air. Russell Crowe will play Wigand, and Christopher Plummer will play Mike Wallace. But it looks as if no one will be cast as Hewitt, the crusty 60 Minutes founder. The film’s producers are seriously considering renaming him in the movie, apparently because he comes off so badly. The script implies that business considerations – namely, Laurence Tisch’s then-pending deal to sell CBS to Westinghouse – provoked a nervous Hewitt to cave when network brass ordered him to kill the Wigand story. (It eventually aired after weeks of bad press.) Hewitt says he hasn’t seen the script but sounds nonchalant. “They can do anything they want,” he says. “I mean, it’s a movie.” A spokesman for the still-untitled film wouldn’t comment on whether Hewitt’s name will be used. “While this is a dramatization,” he said, “a lot of research went into being as on-target as we could.”

They weren’t pleased about it, but the very fancy folks at W just got a rare look at how the other half lives. At last week’s Waldorf-Astoria awards ceremony hosted by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME), the social-conscious style sheet took home the prize for outstanding photography. But the thrill of victory was tempered for W chief Patrick McCarthy, who had to trek to the podium all the way from the balcony, where he had been banished along with representatives of Yankee and Reader’s Digest. ”Our table was in the nosebleed section,” sniffs one appalled attendee. “Patrick was very sad, and somewhat stunned, to be stuck up there. Let’s face it, we are never seated in the balcony!” McCarthy confirms that seating arrangements were not to his liking – “I was upset, and surprised, at first” – but is quick to take the blame. “It’s all my fault,” he says. “After we were nominated, I was so excited I kept adding more and more people to our table.” The balcony was the only place with enough room to accommodate a table for sixteen. Still, McCarthy must have been happier than Condé Nast honcho,Si Newhouse, who, though prominently seated, glumly saw all his nominated magazines (other than The New Yorker) lose in every category they were up for.

Additional reporting by Kate Coyne and Emily Spilko.

Intelligencer: May 11, 1998