March 19, 2001

Puff Daddy: Easy Rider
SeanPuffyCombs had better hope the jury likes him more than some of the folks who work at the Supreme Court building do. According to a source at the court, lawyers and security officers alike are miffed at the accused rapper over arrangements that allow him to breeze in and out of the courthouse. While the hundreds of judges, attorneys, and clerks who work in the court hunt for rare parking spaces near 110 Centre Street regularly, the star has no such trouble. Things came to a head last Wednesday when Combs’s case ran an hour and a half later than usual and an officer went through a courtroom calling out, “Who’s parked in Puffy’s space?” A witness explains that a car was “blocking the space where the Supreme Court officers put out horses and cones to make a convenient place for Puffy’s car. Everyone was pissed. I couldn’t believe it. The guy’s like the king of the courthouse. Nobody gets that kind of treatment.” And once Puff’s chariot does arrive, officers stop traffic to ensure his speedy exit, in one case keeping a judge waiting in her vehicle. A court clerk denies that Puffy receives any special consideration. Somebody ought to tell that to the judge.

Publisher: The Dog Ate Your Pulitzer
After getting universally rave reviews and winning the prestigious Bancroft Prize, David Nasaw’s biography of William Randolph Hearst looked like a shoo-in for a Pulitzer. Too bad his own publisher didn’t get onboard. The Chief won’t even be considered, because publisher Houghton Mifflin neglected to submit it to the jury that determines nominees in the biography category. Megan Wilson, assistant to Houghton Mifflin president Wendy Strothman, bravely jumped on the grenade when we called. “That was me,” she said. “I submitted every book under the sun, and I don’t know how I missed it.” It’s no solace for Nasaw, who spent six years working on the massive tome. “This is a rather large event for me,” the historian understated. “I’m not getting another shot.” Nasaw’s agent, Virginia Barber, said, “They don’t have any kind of backup plan? We are very, very, very unhappy.” No wonder – along with the prestige, Pulitzers spike sales. Wilson, meanwhile, says she has been in touch with the Pulitzer people to plead her case: “I’m going to pray that there’s some way we can get it in.”

Bad Memories, Small Members
Terrified artists and dealers across the country are desperately trying to remember if they’ve ever had a run-in with painter Julie Harvey – because now she’s taking revenge. As reported in the Post, Harvey sent out postcards last week reproducing her unflattering painting of SoHo dealer Tony Shafrazi – naked, obese, and bearing a strikingly underdeveloped male member. But now the story seems to be getting even juicier. It turns out the portrait was triggered by Harvey’s memory of a Hamptons encounter with Shafrazi in the eighties, when she says attempts were made to compromise her virtue. More than a decade later, she has joined up with a Boston collector who is funding the painting and the postcards, which contain the line “Thought we wouldn’t remember?” – a reference not only to her own incident with Shafrazi but also to the dealer’s legendary 1974 vandalization of a Picasso at MoMA. Shafrazi was traveling and did not respond to repeated calls, but Harvey told us she’s not worried about repercussions from the dealer, adding, “I talked to lawyers about this – it’s art.” She also revealed that her next portraits will be of two well-known artists. “I’m aiming at the good-ol’-boys club in the New York art world,” she says. The paintings will be ready in time for the East End’s summer season, where her target has a studio. Watch out, boys – this girl might forgive, but she definitely doesn’t forget.

Celeb Tension Cut by Vanity Fair Sofa
As if being Hollywood’s most celebrity-heavy event weren’t enough, this year’s Vanity Fair Oscar party at Mortons may host real-life dramas of Peyton Place proportions. A spate of high-profile breakups have split such once-happy regular-attendee couples as Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres, Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, and Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin. Paparazzi are frothing at the mouth to get their first post-breakup shots of the couples in the same room, but VF head honcho Graydon Carter foresees an obstacle: “Our architect Basil Walter has designed undulating 30-foot-long sofas for the party that are big enough to sit a separated couple and a dozen of their friends in between.” None of the stars’ reps would confirm whether they’ll be in attendance (although Meg doesn’t have to worry about bumping into Dennis, who will be out of town working on his latest film). No word either on whether Judge Judy will be attending – but they might just need her.

Gramercy Park’s Bouncing Race Card
National Arts Club president O. Aldon James Jr. has another battle on his hands – and this one’s coming from the inside. Angry NAC members are circulating a letter criticizing what they call James’s “seemingly obsessive behavior” and demanding that he withdraw the club’s participation in its most recent lawsuit against the Gramercy Park Trust and its chairwoman, Sharen Benenson. Relations between the trust, which oversees the city’s only private park, and the club – which has privileges to Gramercy Park – were strained by prior litigation over Benenson’s chopping down of some park trees. Now the club is involved in another suit, which accuses Benenson of ejecting NAC-invited students from the exclusive oasis because of their race. The letter’s signers are skeptical of James’s social-justice crusade, claiming it’s simply “an exercise to gain control of Gramercy Park.” James responds by describing the rabble-rousers as “a very small, factional group, driven by people who have other issues with the club.” He cites the fact that several protesters are former tenants of NAC-run apartments with housing gripes. Indeed, in another document, one petitioner accuses the club of denying her and her family housing at the club because – get this – she’s a member of a minority group. Did we just miss something?

Garofalo Wonders If Maxim Bites
Feminist funnywoman Janeane Garofalo is lightening up on boys. The gruff but lovable comedian declined to pose for pictures when she showed up at a party thrown at Aspen’s St. Regis Hotel by Maxim. When asked to smile for the cameras, Garofalo said no thanks, explaining that she wasn’t sure she “supported the magazine.” Editor-in-chief Keith Blanchard – on hand to promote his mag’s “First Annual 125th Maxim Awards” – got wind of the situation and hurried right over to turn on the charm. When Garofalo admitted she’d never actually read Maxim and was basing her opinion on the flesh-baring cover girls, Blanchard went into sell mode, explaining that there was more in the pages than just fabulous babes. Touched, Garofalo promised to give the latest issue a read and then posed for a shot with Saturday Night Live’s Darrell Hammond and Chris Kattan. As far as the Maxim awards go, winners won’t be announced until April 1 on, but an insider tells us readers gave Eminem the coveted Most Overrated Artist prize. Damn, Slim – you just gonna take that?

No Rat Meat for This Survivor
Whether or not Survivor contestant Keith Famie leaves the Australian outback victorious, he can look forward to one hell of a party when his last episode airs. Although his fellow Ogakor tribe members berated him for being unable to cook rice on a recent episode, Food & Wine magazine listed him among the ten “Best New Chefs” in the country in 1989, based on dishes he was serving up at Detroit’s Les Auteurs. With this new bout of fame, Food & Wine’s decided to honor its old friend by throwing him a big NYC dinner catered by a few of his fellow Best New Chef alumni. Onboard for the feast are Cafe Boulud’s Daniel Boulud and Andrew Carmellini; Gramercy Tavern’s Tom Colicchio; Tom Valenti, formerly of Butterfield 81; and Union Pacific’s Rocco DiSpirito. The party’s locale is such an anxiously guarded secret that even the invitations won’t reveal it. They’re probably trying to keep Richard Hatch from finding out.

Emergency Call for Vagina Gals
The cast of The Vagina Monologues gave a literally heart-stopping performance last week at the Westside Theatre. While actress Ruthie Henshall was delivering a monologue about rape victims in Bosnia, a loud gasp echoed through the dark. Henshall first thought an audience member had taken offense to the subject matter, but it turned out a woman was suffering a heart attack. “It was blood-curdling,” says Cynthia Garrett, former host of NBC’s Later, who was in just her second week with the show when the emergency occurred. “That sound of breath leaving a body – it scared the shit out of me,” says Garrett. “We called for lights and stopped the show for fifteen minutes while everyone tried to help this poor woman.” The EMS workers who took the cardiac victim away later called to say she was doing just fine. “It was some introduction to New York theater,” Garrett laughs. “Does this happen all the time?” Not since Kelsey Grammer’s Macbeth.

Kiernan’s Cable Wars
Before the zealous beavers from RCN camped out in an Upper West Side building last week, they should have done a little research about the residents. The ultra-aggressive cable, phone, and Internet company, which attempts to convert customers by setting up shop in high-rise lobbies, didn’t know that Time Warner’s own NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan lives at that particular address until numerous residents haughtily informed them. In fact, the loyal Kiernan neighbors also warned the RCN crew that the company would have a tough time signing clients in the building. Kiernan, whom we caught up with at the Zagat Survey pajama party, didn’t seem terribly surprised when we informed him of his neighbors’ slavish devotion. “You know, I was thinking of doing my own campaign in the building, passing out flyers for Time Warner,” quipped the anchorman. We just hope he doesn’t send his flunkies after us.

Additional reporting by Aric Chen and Paige Herman.

Contact the Intelligencer here.

March 19, 2001