Fashion Week: Outta Gas?
What do Detroit assembly lines have to do with Manhattan hemlines?
Phil Guarascio’s announcement on March 17 that he will retire as vice president of corporate advertising and marketing for General Motors Corporation has heightened Seventh Avenue scuttlebutt that the Council of Fashion Designers of America is in danger of losing its biggest sugar daddy.
For three years now, General Motors has been the title sponsor of the C.F.D.A.’s twice-annual, Seventh on Sixth fashion show, a relationship that is reflected in the event being billed as General Motors Fashion Week-Seventh on Sixth. In 1999, G.M. played a key role in the C.F.D.A.’s less than successful effort to turn its annual fashion awards gala into a television property. And since 1996, G.M. and the C.F.D.A. have been partners in Concept: Cure, a marketing program that raises money for breast cancer research through various avenues.
Although G.M.’s sponsorship of fashion week and its involvement in Concept: Cure are considered separate, one source close to the automaker estimated that, all told, G.M. spends $5 million to $6 million annually on the two programs.
But the automaker’s future involvement with the C.F.D.A. is not looking so solid. Although G.M. spokesman Peg Holmes told The Transom that the company’s sponsorship of fashion week continues for the time being–the automaker has one more season left on its contract, according to C.F.D.A. sources–another G.M. spokesman, Terry Sullivan, told The Transom, “Concept: Cure is certainly a very worthwhile and popular cause, but … what’s happening now with the changeover in personnel and modification of budgets, the group is really re-evaluating how they want to move forward in its relationship with Concept: Cure.” Mr. Sullivan added, “the decision has not been finalized.”
While other sources close to G.M. said the company has been questioning its involvement with the C.F.D.A. and Concept: Cure for some time, others suggest that any re-evaluation that the carmaker may be making has more to do with other developments in G.M.’s neck of the woods.
Not long after Mr. Guarascio underwent triple-bypass surgery on Feb. 2, an article appeared in Advertising Age magazine reporting that an internal audit of the company’s advertising department may have been sparked by the abrupt departure last October of another G.M. executive, Dean Rotondo, director of Olympic advertising and media relations. Ad Age reported that Mr. Rotondo “said he left after G.M. discovered that he had been convicted of a felony” and that his departure was one catalyst of the audit. According to Ad Age , Mr. Rotondo and the brother of his former wife, Nick Mancini, pleaded guilty to a number of counts of “fraud over $100″ in 1997, in an incident unrelated to General Motors. (Mr. Rotondo told Ad Age : “I made a huge mistake, but I paid the price and fixed it. The mistake I made is not disclosing it to G.M.”)
Meanwhile, Mr. Mancini had been working at Harris Marketing Group, an agency that G.M. hired to help target women. It was Harris Group which designed and coordinated the Concept: Cure partnership between G.M. and the C.F.D.A. At Harris, Mr. Mancini worked on Concept: Cure. He left in the summer of 1999, not long after, according to Ad Age , a Harris accountant “uncovered financial irregularities.” Harris president Janice Shukle reportedly contacted G.M. about the matter, after an attorney she consulted told her it was her legal duty to do so.
Although Mr. Guarascio’s decision to retire was said to be entirely his own and a decision to “take advantage of some unique opportunities” according to the press release announcing his departure, Ad Age reported that the executive may have been under some corporate pressure because the incident involving Mr. Rotondo happened on his watch. Mr. Sullivan denied this. “This was his call,” he said.
Mike Huget, an attorney representing Ms. Shukle, told The Transom that the dealings between G.M. and Harris over this matter were “confidential.” Mr. Rotondo declined comment.
“They’ve asked us to produce some paper work and we’ve complied,” was all that C.F.D.A. executive director Fern Mallis would say about the G.M. audit. But Ms. Mallis downplayed any reevaluation that the automaker might be doing. With one more season–spring 2001, unveiled in the fall–left on G.M.’s contract, Ms. Mallis said, “When you’re at the end of a multiyear contract, you re-evaluate everything.” She added that if G.M. chose to end its sponsorship, “we’ll address that when the time comes. We have had a lot of sponsors. Some have moved on and others were quick to take their spots. We’ll proceed on course.”
Rudy à Clef?
Even in the unfettered medium of fiction, Rudolph Giuliani’s love life remains a mystery.
In Red Sky at Morning , an action-adventure novel written by one “Paul Garrison” and published by Avon Books, an armada of Chinese submarines surfaces in New York Harbor with the goal of taking the city hostage, so that China can then invade Taiwan without U.S. interference. But what’s really stimulating the adrenal glands of those who have seen the book is the mysterious Mr. Garrison’s portrayal of a hard-assed mayor who runs Gotham, and the lovely 28-year-old press secretary who is always at his side.
Red Sky ‘s fictional Hizzoner is one Rudy Mincarelli, a former prosecutor with a “I-am-doing-this-now-my-way fire-hydrant stance” and an equally strong-willed press secretary named Renata Bradley, a “gangly, curly-haired brunette” with “angular features and schoolgirlish galumphing gait.” The two characters are rather obviously modeled after Mr. Giuliani and his former communications director, Cristyne Lategano. Indeed, Publishers Weekly ‘s review of the novel noted that the character of Mayor Mincarelli fit Mr. Giuliani “to a tee.”
Ms. Lategano, who is currently the president and chief executive officer of NYC & Company, the city’s travel and visitor’s bureau, recently married sports writer Nicholas Nicholas. “The stuff of the past was meant for fiction,” Ms. Lategano-Nicholas said, referring to her rumored personal relationship with Mr. Giuliani. “It probably has found its proper place in a novel.”
But it seems that even Mr. Garrison’s name is fictional. The book jacket to Red Sky at Morning has no author’s photo and the author’s description says only that he works “with boats, tugs and ships.” Marie Elena Martinez, senior publicist for Avon Books, said Mr. Garrison “is completely under wraps and that not even his editor or Avon’s publisher knows his identity.”
(Mr. Garrison has written a previous novel, Fire and Ice , for Avon, which–sleuths, take note!–is owned by one of Mr. Giuliani’s biggest fans, Rupert Murdoch.)
Chapter 3 of Red Sky opens with Mayor Mincarelli and Ms. Bradley sharing pizza on the Mayor’s desk at 2 A.M. in Gracie Mansion. The New York tabloid media has been debating “daily, nightly, and all weekend long, the Mayor’s fidelity to Mrs. Mincarelli–who had recently accepted the directorship of a prestigious environmental consulting firm in Seattle, and taken the children with her.”
Yet, for all the innuendo, the book curiously hedges from portraying any hanky-panky between Rudy and Renata. “If you read about the fictional Rudy with a close eye,” said the author, “you would come to conclusion that these are two extremely close people and exactly how close is nobody’s business.”
“No, you’re not going to find a specific sex scene,” he said. “The novel unfolds in the course of 24 extremely busy hours. A sex scene would be distracting. In a thriller, one doesn’t want to distract.”
The author added, “The fact that at no moment in the book do they take off their clothes in the same room allows the reader to observe the relationship and think about its implications and fantasize, shall we say.”
Renata Bradley does some fantasizing herself in the novel. She dreams that “Rudy was making love to her on a blanket on a blanket.… In the dream, she thought it was a dream, then realized with blinding joy that it was not a dream: his wife had died and his children were in boarding school.”
Later on, Renata finds herself hiding out from the invading forces with a lawyer named Samantha Cummings.
“Hon, I did the same thing you’re doing,” Samantha tells Renata. “I loved the untouchable. I never got touched. I never got laid. I never even got kissed.”
The plucky Renata defends the Mayor. “He is a good man. He works 24 and seven to make the city a decent place.”
But Samantha, who will probably be played by Kim Cattrall if this book is ever made into a movie, replies: “You don’t have to tell me. I used to get wet watching him prepare a RICO indictment.”
That angers Renata, who thrusts “a Rudyesque finger” in Samantha’s face. “We do good,” she said. “We have made the city better. If people don’t like it, tough. Rudy has a vision.”
“You might want to ask yourself why you chose to fall for a man who won’t take you to bed,” Samantha replies.
But for The Transom’s money, the money shot comes near the end, when Admiral Tang Li, the mastermind of the invasion, has a rifle aimed at the Mayor’s head. Renata steps between the admiral and the Mayor. The Chinese admiral then “grazed her cheek with an insolent caress … ‘Renata?’ he said, locking eyes with Rudy, mocking him, daring him. ‘The mayor’s concubine? Your revels have enlivened Beijing’s newspapers.'”
“I had a lot of fun with this,” said the author, who said he was in his mid-40’s and said he met Mr. Giuliani back when the Mayor was a prosecutor. “There was a time, through friends, that I got connected to your Rudy. He was generous in helping me learn about prosecutors and the mafia. We would have lunch together on occasion. I was always struck by how he deeply inspired people who worked with him. The guy could motivate top people to really, really put out.”