December 14, 1998


Who wouldn’t want to be Tom Selleck’s lawyer? The litigious actor is getting the unauthorized-bio treatment – St. Martin’s Press plans to distribute Larry Manetti’s Aloha Magnum in January – which is translating into billable hours for Selleck’s lucky L.A. lawyer, John Lavely. After hearing from Lavely, Manetti’s publisher deleted a paragraph in the 272-page book, evidently agreeing with the lawyer that there was “no factual basis” for the “idle speculation” about Selleck’s friendship with Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson. Uncorrected galley proofs had already been sent out to some editors, who were then bombarded with a four-page single-spaced letter from Lavely, complete with formal citations of nine previous libel and privacy cases, some of which had gone through several appeals that were duly noted by the meticulous attorney. “We were trying to spell it out in some detail, so people were aware that it wasn’t just some flippant position that was being taken but rather was a thought-out position,” Lavely explains, adding that he doesn’t remember exactly how many billable hours went into the letter’s composition, but that it was “enough time.”


What self-respecting media baron would do anything that might invite comparisons between himself and such nineties punch lines as Steve Forbes and Ross Perot? Michael Bloomberg, who, according to a source, has been musing about adding the presidency to his long list of acquisitions. Bloomberg has been telling friends that his self-named PC-based subscription news service is raking in $100 million a month, and now he’s thinking of using that cash to get himself officially named the most powerful man in the world, says the source. A spokesperson for Bloomberg says that 106,266 subscriptions do indeed bag more than $1 billion a year in revenues but denies that Bloomberg has any presidential aspirations. Considering what fun Bill Clinton’s been having lately, the newly single tycoon might be better off keeping his money in his pants.


The newspaper of note might have to run a retraction of one of its own policies next month. In a move to prevent any possible conflicts of interest, the Times, which has famously employed many couples, last November instituted a rule that spouses and couples “may not report to one another or edit one another’s work” – but it has just hired Newsweek senior writer Rick Marin to be a reporter for the style department, where his girlfriend, Ilene Rosenzweig, is a deputy editor. A Times spokesperson maintains that Marin will report directly to department head John Montorio and never to his sweetheart, though he may write articles for her “Sunday Styles” section that she will not edit. “No matter what they say, he’s going to end up reporting to his girlfriend,” says one source at the Times, adding, “What if they break up?” “We’re not married,” says Marin, “we don’t live together, and she isn’t my editor. So there won’t be any impropriety or weirdness.” Says another Times source, “It’s certainly not the first time we’ve had this kind of situation.”


The case sure sounded juicy. Former New School for Social Research controller Marina Vasarhelyi sued the university and its president, Jonathan Fanton, after she was fired, charging “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” The problem began when private notes Fanton wrote found their way into the hands of his staff, and the furious president hired a team of lawyers to investigate the leak. Vasarhelyi’s lawsuit claims that the investigation quickly zeroed in on her and that she suffered a series of “hostile, abusive, and threatening” questionings. Judge Franklin Weissberg, who refused to dismiss the case on summary judgment last spring, wrote that Vasarhelyi’s complaint suggested “an extremely abusive investigation and interrogation in which she was improperly asked about her marriage, threatened by the supposedly looming presence of the FBI, and subjected by a private attorney acting as a quasi-prosecutor to a heavy-handed line of questioning intended to intimidate her into a confession.” Two weeks after she stopped cooperating with the New School’s lawyers, she was fired. The trial and her tribulations were cut short last Thursday, when both sides reached a confidential settlement.


THE PAPER CHASE: Blaine Harden has yet to begin work at the New York Times, but he’s already whipping up passions in two newsrooms. Harden, who ran the New York bureau of the Washington Post, was also one of that paper’s star correspondents, and managing editor Steve Coll led a futile effort to entice him to stay. The 46-year-old reporter left after 21 years at the Post because he was given a combo deal that guarantees him a few pieces a year in the Times Magazine, although he’ll primarily be a metro reporter. Adding insult to injury in D.C. are memories of last spring. On April 28, Harden wrote a well-received story for the Post about the city’s busiest public library, in Flushing, Queens – which many felt was slavishly copied by the Times on May 31. “That’s the way we saw it, anyway,” says Edward Cody, who runs the Post’s national bureaus. But Times metro editor Joyce Purnick insists she never saw Harden’s earlier story. “I don’t have the time to read every paper every day,” says Purnick. “I’ve got to plead ignorance on that.” She adds that she’s “absolutely thrilled” to have Harden on board. “It’s true that the Post tried very hard to keep me,” says Harden, adding that the Magazine deal was “the sweetener” that made up his mind.

MSNBC’S FIRING LINE: How many times can this leopard change her spots? Laura Ingraham, the conservative info-babe famous for wearing a leopard-print miniskirt on the cover of The New York Times Magazine, landed a talk show, Watch It, at MSNBC after CBS let her go this past spring. Now comes word that her cable perch isn’t secure, either. Ingraham was originally given the coveted 9 a.m. slot following Don Imus, but two weeks ago, her show was moved to 11 a.m. “She wasn’t holding the Imus audience at all,” reports one industry source. “She was unprepared technically for the job,” says another source, who adds that Ingraham had a “rather rough start” that led to “trouble with the techies on the show.” MSNBC is currently tinkering with its morning lineup, leaving some to wonder whether Ingraham will survive. “We do not comment on contracts, rumors, or speculation,” says an MSNBC spokeswoman – and neither does Ingraham.


Looks like Raquel Welch has gone all pie-eyed. The ageless sex symbol will soon wed Richie Palmer, a Bronx-born restaurateur whose Beverly Hills-based Mulberry Street Pizzerias serve New York-style slices to homesick Hollywood stars like Sly Stallone, John Travolta, Joe Pesci, Christina Ricci, and Stephen Dorff. The happy couple – along with Jack Nicholson pal Alan Finkelstein of the Monkey Bar and Indochine – plans to extend Palmer’s pizza empire as far as the East Coast. This month, the expansion starts with two Richie’s Neighborhood Pizzerias at the Irvine Spectrum mall and the Block in Orange, California, and on December 10, the saucy bride-to-be, with the help of pal Penny Marshall, will serve up pizza at the latter. As for the wedding, a date has yet to be decided, but perhaps the band should start rehearsing “That’s Amore.”


The newly unveiled W New York bills itself as an urban oasis, but some guests might not agree. When the hotel held its opening-night party last week, guests who had reserved rooms months before and dared to follow Cindy Crawford, Donald Trump, Michael Ovitz, and Martha Stewart into the main entrance were rebuffed. Joan Smith from Virginia returned from the 1998 Radio City Christmas Spectacular with her friends only to be told that the lobby, lounge, and restaurant were closed for a private party and that they would have to leave and re-enter the hotel through the back entrance. A W spokesperson admits that guests were not invited to the party – but says that anyone who “expressed concern” was to be let in at once. Furthermore, the guest entrance was “definitely not a back door. It was a groovy, creative little door” facing the same side of the street. Still, the hotel management must have sensed that something was awry – why else did W greet guests with conciliatory “amenity packages” filled with handmade chocolates and champagne and appease nondiscount guests with a complimentary stay? Maybe when – if – they return, the hotel will be less starstruck.


Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana sure know when to seize an opportunity – or an employee. While on a recent holiday on St. Martin, the designing duo became enamored of a butler at the luxury resort La Samanna. The fastidious chap unpacked their luggage, brought chilled towels to the beach, and offered refreshing sorbet with such style that the pair hired him away to serve in their own empire. “Most people only steal the robes,” quips one hotel insider. Perhaps the designers thought those a bit last-season. Dolce & Gabbana could not be reached for comment.


Michael Govan really is the George Steinbrenner of the art world. Like the boss who once wanted to move his team across the river, Dia’s director has been threatening to relocate part of the art center’s contemporary collection from Chelsea to Massachusetts. In a bid to wrest several million dollars out of state economic czar Charles Gargano, Govan has been dangling the prospect of a Dia outpost at the new Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (mass moca), says a source close to the talks. Govan helped develop mass moca when he was employed by Thomas Krens, who fourteen years ago had the idea of turning an abandoned Berkshires factory into a museum. North Adams, Massachusetts, mayor John Barrett says he’s had “discussions” with Dia. “I’d say they probably go back close to a year,” he adds. “I don’t know if Govan’s been talking to others.” A New York source calls the talks “a classic relocation threat,” though a Massachusetts source insists that Govan does in fact prefer the Berkshires but faces a skeptical board. Govan says through a spokesperson that he’s been to mass moca and other sites “both inside and outside New York City” while searching for the “ideal space” for Dia’s collection, but that he has made no decisions yet.

Additional reporting by Ian Spiegelman and Elana Zeide.

December 14, 1998