February 26, 2001

Bubba Was Framed!
While businessman-fugitive Marc “the Crocodile” Rousso’s doings have already linked him to Robert Torricelli’s 1996 Senate run, the Croc’s antics actually reached as high as the presidency. According to artist Mark Kostabi, Rousso – a key figure in the federal investigation of possible fund-raising violations during Torricelli’s campaign, who has also admitted committing securities fraud as well as money laundering – persuaded him to paint a $10,000 portrait of Bill Clinton and present it to the president at a Torricelli fund-raiser in New Jersey. Federal ethics rules allow the chief executive to accept pricey gifts – except when the present is given at the solicitation of a third party. “He said it would be a good opportunity to get some positive publicity,” says Kostabi. Clinton never personally accepted the painting. And while the New York Times reported that proceeds from some three dozen Kostabi works auctioned off at the event for about $1,000 each are still MIA, those paintings may have been just the tip of the iceberg. Kostabi tells us that the FBI is investigating what became of some 120 to 130 paintings he sold to Rousso. “He paid me $1,000 each in cash. I don’t know whatever became of them.” Rousso could not be reached for comment.

Rule 36: Don’t Deny You’re Divorcing
Rules III (The Rules for Marriage) will hit the stores this June, and Paramount has optioned the rights to the notorious gaming guidebook for single women, but unbeknownst to her devoted followers, author Ellen Fein is about to lose her man. She and her husband, Paul Feingertz, have both filed for divorce for abandonment in the Supreme Court of Nassau County. When contacted, Fein – whose Rules include “Don’t Stare at Men or Talk Too Much” and “Don’t Call Him and Rarely Return His Calls” – denied that she and her husband were splitting. “We are happy and there are no papers being filed. My husband has no lawyer. I have an entertainment lawyer but no divorce lawyer,” she insisted. Her attorney, however, disagrees. “There is a divorce action between Ellen and her husband. I represent Ellen,” said Stephen Gassman. Louis Reich, meanwhile, confirms that he has filed for Feingertz. Yet Fein’s denial continues. “There are no problems. I really can’t comment. I have a client consultation now,” she told us. And that, girls, costs only $150 for fifteen minutes.

Rosie Publisher Lacks the Rights Stuff
After stumping for all those striking sag actors, Rosie O’Donnell can look forward to finding herself in the center of a bitter controversy involving fair pay for writers. Gruner + Jahr, which will publish the morning talker’s upcoming glossy, Rosie: The Magazine, is on the outs with the American Society of Journalists and Authors for forcing freelancers to sign a contract with a particularly noxious clause. According to several sources, scribes taking on assignments for such G+J titles as Child, Family Circle, and YM were presented last year with a contract intended to retroactively slash royalties the writers had negotiated in their previous contracts. Payments for the reuse of work on the Internet, through syndication, or via reprints would be severely reduced with the new contract. “They presented it as ‘Sign as is or you’ll never work for us again,’ ” says writer Leah Ingram, now a former contributor to Family Circle. San Antonio Express-News reporter and ASJA vice-president of contracts Richard Marini says he reached out to G+J CEO Dan Brewster back in August and hasn’t heard from him since. Marini also expressed his hope that Rosie would support the writers, but it now looks like it won’t be necessary. After the Intelligencer contacted G+J, a company rep let us know the contract is being “revised” and will no longer apply retroactively. Don’t mention it.

Wooing Albright: Tina’s Private Urban Fetch
Anyone who says working for Tina Brown is no bed of roses ought to check with one of her top editors. According to a source close to Talk, features editor Charles Gandee received a call from the boss at home near dawn recently, expressing an urgent need for flowers. It seemed Madeline Albright was coming to the office that day to discuss a possible book deal – the rights to which Brown did indeed end up scoring – and the place had to look just so. Ever the good soldier, the eminently stylish Gandee quickly dispatched his assistant to a local flower market, cell phone in hand, and the two men determined the appropriate flora for the former secretary of State: two big vases of tulips. Notes a rep for the mag, “Hey, it worked.”

Rudy’s $3 Million Lovefest
Maybe the key to bipartisan cooperation is just a matter of signing on the dotted line. The $3 million, two-book deal with Talk Miramax that brought Rudy Giuliani together with his adversaries-cum-publishers Harvey Weinstein and Tina Brown has also helped form an alliance between onetime political foes Bruce Teitelbaum and Matthew Hiltzik. Relations between mayoral aide Teitelbaum and former state Democratic spokesman Hiltzik, now Miramax’s director of communications, have been less than friendly in the past. Teitelbaum has been irritated with the anti-Rudy flyers Hiltzik distributed at mayoral press events while working for the Dems; Hiltzik, on the other hand, has been annoyed with, well, Rudy. But now “we’re working together and we both want the mayor’s book to succeed,” says a conciliatory Hiltzik. “I happen to like Matt now; he’s a good guy,” responds Teitelbaum. “We’ve found some common ground.” Maybe Hillary should have made her book deal with the Heritage Foundation.

Missing McCarthy Mystifies Many
The scene of fashionistas circling the tents at Bryant Park was frenzied as usual, but one thing was decidedly different. The most powerful man in the fashion industry – Patrick McCarthy, the chairman and editorial director of Fairchild Publications and editor of W and WWD – was missing from his usual front-row seat. A Fairchild spokesperson confirms that the popular editor hasn’t been at the office for a couple of weeks and blames the flu. “We expect him back very soon,” she says.

Posties Sweat Over Gym Offer
Some scribes at the New York Post were wringing their ink-stained fingers recently when it appeared that the paper had struck a deal with one of its favorite targets. Just days after the most recent installment of reporter Susan Edelman’s series of articles attacking the Bally gym chain for heavy-handed tactics in signing new clients to expensive long-term memberships, the paper’s staff was offered three-year memberships to the gym for a mere $120 per year. A spokesman for News Corp., the Post’s parent company, explains that the offer is being made to every American branch of the business, and that the timing is an unfortunate coincidence. According to the rep, the Bally deal had already been in effect for a year with the Post’s West Coast sister company, News Digital Media, and the offer happened to go corporation-wide shortly after Bally took its most recent beating from Edelman. The rep also assured us that the newspaper will not be backing off in its “pursuit of Bally,” adding, “and that’s why we love the Post.

Anna Wintour Flees Fashion Crime Scene
Last fall, fashion darling Miguel Adrover earned salutes with a military-inspired collection, but at his much-pooh-poohed show last week, he could have used the National Guard. We hear the crowd that assembled before Adrover’s runway affair on Essex Street sent an agoraphobic Anna Wintour packing. According to writer Bruce Benderson, the Vogue grande dame pulled up with a friend to the Lower East Side mob scene in a black chauffeur-driven car. Says Benderson: “She came out in a Dolce & Gabbana coat and hovered on the periphery of the crowd like a nervous moth for not more than three minutes,” after which she “handed her invitation to a young girl and fled back to the limo.” Wintour’s rep confirmed that she bolted, but denied that she handed off her ticket. We hope she found a seat at Michael’s.

HBO’s Charitable Bent
Good Machine, the production company behind HBO’s movie version of the Off Broadway play The Laramie Project, is looking for a slew of celebrity cameos for the upcoming film – and it’s using a novel approach to bring the stars onboard. Apparently, producers have told actors that if they donate their fees to a charity, the company will match the contribution. Since The Laramie Project is based on the Matthew Shepard hate-crime story, it’s no wonder that there is a charitable air surrounding the film’s production. As producer Ted Hope told us, “It seemed like a wonderful way to give back to the community at large.” Although Hope could not confirm the names of actors who will be appearing in the film, he added, “The actors who said yes were saying yes for the right reasons.”

Two Scotts Dive Into Swamp
With the Hamptons summer land-grab in full swing, a legendary hot spot has just gone off the market. An East End informant tells us that the gay Club Swamp and the Annex Restaurant – for sale for two years – finally have new owners. Two young New York-based men (who will reveal that they’re both named Scott – no surnames, please – and that they work in public relations and on Wall Street) are in contract to purchase the restaurant and disco. The club will be renamed, uh, Swa (pronounced “sway”), and major renovations are in the works. The pair are looking to create a more loungey, upscale feel for the Swamp and import D.J.’s from South Beach. Linda Batincela, a current proprietress of the club and restaurant, says that she will stay on board in a management role for at least a year, so regular patrons like Randolph Duke and Isaac Mizrahi are sure to see a familiar face.

Additional reporting by Aric Chen and Paige Herman.

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February 26, 2001