The Peril of Pauline
Either there’s a couture bandit on the loose or fashion designer Pauline Trigère has a particularly larcenous fan.
In July, Ms. Trigère reported to her local police precinct that at least eight of her couture creations, dating in origin back to the 1940′s, had been stolen from her 10th-floor office space at 498 Seventh Avenue.
“I feel so bad about it. This is part of my life,” Ms. Trigère told The Transom. She then invited us up to her office (where she met us in a red-on-red suit) to show pictures and drawings of the missing clothes, all of them evening wear, that were pilfered. They include a full-length gold lamé dress that she designed in 1942; an intricate 1964 number that consists of embroidered black paillettes hand-sewn from nun’s veiling material (“extremely lightweight wool,” explained Ms. Trigère); black-jersey couture pajamas, hand-embroidered with gold crosses; and another dress with a skirt made of ostrich feathers.
The police report lists the value of the one-of-a-kind vestments at $40,000, but Ms. Trigère said, “To me, they were irreplaceable.” Indeed, the designer, who is in her 80′s, said that she would be hard pressed to replace the workmanship and fabrics that went into the clothes and even if she could, she couldn’t afford it. Ms. Trigère, who retired from the fashion business in 1993 (she still designs jewelry and scarves and sells her own perfume, Liquid Chic) said that she had promised the dresses to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, but that she was keeping them on hand as visuals for her occasional speaking engagements.
“They certainly knew what they were doing,” Ms. Trigère said of the thieves. She pointed out that they had first to bypass an electronically locked outer door to her office (she has some indication that her power was temporarily turned off), and then another door with double locks. The police report notes that there were no signs of forced entry and it was unknown how the perps entered and exited the office; hence her suspicion that the thieves had a key. She said that a videocamera that should have recorded the heist revealed nothing. The thieves then had to lift the dresses–which were encased in plastic–off a wall rack that was not easily reached. (The police officer handling the case did not return calls.)
“Every one of these dresses could still be worn today,” said Ms. Trigère with certain pride. She has notified the local auction houses to be on the lookout for anyone trying to consign them. Ms. Trigère figured that the clothes were too heavy to wear in the heat of August, but once the fall galas begin, she wondered if she might see one of her missing dresses out on the town. “The mystery of this, I have to solve,” she said. “I have to go out at night for that.”
Vanity, Thy Name Is Ashman
The business of being a nightclub promoter actually has a lot to do with self-promotion. Promoters push to get items into the gossip columns that place celebrities of the moment at their parties, thus creating the illusion that such events transcend the usual nightclub crowd of drunken stockbrokers on the make.
Recently, however, one veteran promoter, Noel Ashman, almost got fired from the nightclub called Life for pushing himself a little too aggressively. Mr. Ashman, who has been shilling for nightclubs starting in prep school (he continued even while attending Boston University), ran afoul of Steve Lewis, Life’s executive director. Mr. Lewis told The Transom that he was upset with Mr. Ashman over an item that ran in the New York Post ‘s Page Six column on July 29. It read: “So eager was Sean Combs to make the scene at Noel Ashman’s party Friday” at the Southampton branch of the nightclub, that “the rap mogul was nailed in his Mercedes Convertible with a speeding ticket.” The item went on to say Mr. Combs, or Puff Daddy, as he’s known, was a “model of gallantry” compared to another rapper, Heavy D, who yanked one woman’s tube top down around her midriff.
Mr. Lewis explained: “We had authorized Noel to run a Leo [DiCaprio] piece, and he ran a Puffy/Heavy D piece. It was a really stupid item. I was on the verge of firing him a week ago. When I get upset I am firm.” Mr. Ashman apparently also had upset the party promoters who handle Friday nights at Life in Southampton. “He didn’t even work on [the] Friday night when he took credit,” said Mr. Lewis. “The promoters who worked that night wanted a Leo item. Instead, they get Noel Ashman.” Apparently, Mr. Ashman’s sworn night is Saturday.
Sensing an opportunity, his rivals filled the night-life grapevine with tales of his termination. One version was that Mr. Ashman had lost “his following.”
“Noel is not fired,” said Mr. Lewis. “Performance-wise, we are not unhappy.” Mr. Lewis did add, rather vehemently, that his employee “is annoying.”
Reached by phone for comment, Mr. Ashman explained that although he and Life owner Roy Stillman had decided to “give the item” about Mr. Combs and Heavy D–which he insisted was true–to a gossip columnist, Mr. Ashman had not personally placed the item with Page Six. “I don’t know how that came about,” said Mr. Ashman, conceding that there “were some other promoters who were jealous my name was in it.” Asked if he works Fridays, Mr. Ashman replied, “I kind of work every night.”
Mr. Ashman then conferenced in Mr. Stillman, who assured The Transom that all was peachy between him and his party promoter. Mr. Stillman added that the “meaningful substance” of the item involving Heavy D’s pulling of the tube top was “attractive, for the large part.”
Bonfire of the Prenuptials
The invitation depicted caricatures of Alfred Shuman, managing director of Bear Stearns & Company, and his wife, Stephanie. Ms. Shuman was holding a match, Mr. Shuman a sheaf of papers that said “Pre Nup.” The copy inside the invite connected the two images: “Please join us as we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and the ceremonial burning of our prenuptial agreement.”
So, in this era of the Wildenstein and Wendt divorces, the Shumans and 140 of their friends gathered around a fire in the backyard of the couple’s East Hampton, L.I., home on July 25 and torched the sucker.
The guests, who sipped cocktails and noshed on coconut shrimp and other hors d’oeuvres by the pool, included attorney and Livent chief executive Roy Furman and his wife, Frida; Stanley Shuman, Allen & Company’s executive vice president, who is Fred Shuman’s brother, and his wife, Sidney; Blackstone Group chief executive Steve Schwarzman and his wife, Christine; Georgetown Group chairman Marshall Rose; New Line Cinema president Michael Lynne and Ninah Lynne; USA Networks executive vice president Henry Schlieff; and venture capitalist Alan Patricof and his wife, Susan. Only seven people on the guest list had attended the Shumans’ wedding in 1983. And only two of those seven were still married to the person they’d brought to the wedding. (Talk about amicable: Two people who used to be married to each other showed up with their new spouses.)
When the ceremony began, Ms. Shuman, a philanthropist, made a brief speech. She recalled how distasteful it was to sign the agreement, and how great it was, after 15 years of marriage, to be doing away with the thing. The Shumans’ lawyer, Jeffrey Cohen, spoke next. Mr. Cohen (who is currently representing restaurateur Warner LeRoy in the divorce suit brought against him by Kay LeRoy), told the guests that from a professional standpoint, he didn’t agree with the decimation of the prenup. But in his capacity as the couple’s friend, he added, he was delighted for them. According to Mr. Shuman, Mr. Cohen then cracked up the crowd when he told them that “the greatest thing [the Shumans] share is a mutual love of Fred. Stephanie loves Fred, and Fred loves Fred.”
Fred Shuman then told a story that many of the assembled knew: how he and Stephanie had endured the accidental death in 1988 of his 18-year-old son from a previous marriage, and that they had since realized that not only were they still solid as a couple, they were finally ready for a new and more public era. Throwing a party to rid themselves of the prenup on their 15th wedding anniversary seemed a fitting way to declare that, Mr. Shuman said. When he was finished, he and his wife tossed the original document and all copies into the flames to a round of applause.
Mr. Shuman told The Transom that despite the celebratory mood of the party, the notion that the couple was going to burn a legal agreement caused a bit of controversy. “Not only did people want to read it, but they also pointed out that burning a prenuptial agreement does not necessarily make it null and void. So people were thinking a lot of things we weren’t thinking,” said Mr. Shuman. “Several people were quite distressed that we raised the issue and said that it caused their own relationships some discomfort.”
Divorce attorney Raoul Felder said that there are various ways to legally nullify a prenup. Some documents have clauses that allow them to essentially self-destruct after a certain amount of time. If such a clause is not included, however, Mr. Felder said, most lawyers suggest drawing up a short document that says “we revoke and nullify the agreement.” A third way to cancel a prenup is for husband, wife and lawyer to gather together and scribble “void” across the top in pen. Some agreements indicate that they can only be terminated by a written instrument, in which case burning the thing may not be good enough.
Mr. Shuman said, “I, of course, would have liked to renew our vows. But talk is cheap.”
The Transom Also Hears …
Some Democrats who attended the fund-raising events honoring Bill Clinton’s visit to the Hamptons were surprised that the Democratic activist and former squeeze of Ronald Perelman, Patricia Duff, was nowhere in attendance. One source close to Ms. Duff said she’d really wanted to attend but that her current beau, Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, is no fan of the Hamptons and he prevailed upon Ms. Duff to fly to Martha’s Vineyard with him. Mr. Torricelli’s spokesman didn’t get back to us with an answer, but another source familiar with the situation said that Mr. Torricelli had long ago committed to attend an annual Democratic Senate Campaign Committee function that took place on the Vineyard the weekend of the President’s visit to the South Fork. In the end, Mr. Torricelli had to cut short that trip as well, because of a death in the family.