It’s difficult to imagine Dana Giacchetto has many friends left in this world. Nevertheless, those remaining stalwarts were the targets of a recent letter from the disgraced investment adviser to the stars, whose now-bankrupt Cassandra Group once served such high-profile clients as Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and talent manager Mike Ovitz.
Mr. Giacchetto currently resides at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, after pleading guilty in August to one count of investment fraud for misappropriating as much as $10 million from his clients’ accounts and using some of that money to pay for his jet-setting lifestyle. Set to be sentenced on Dec. 6, he faces up to five years in prison and a steep fine.
In late October, Mr. Giacchetto’s lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, sent out a letter to his client’s friends and family, asking them to compose letters to the Honorable Robert Patterson-the U.S. District Court judge presiding over the case-to vouch for Mr. Giacchetto’s character and possibly influence the judge come sentencing time.
Such a letter-writing campaign is not uncommon for prisoners in Mr. Giacchetto’s straits. But what’s a bit more unusual is the letter from Mr. Giacchetto himself that came attached to Mr. Fischetti’s letter.
“Dear Friend,” Mr. Giacchetto wrote in his grammatically mangled typewritten missive, dated Oct. 25. “You know I’ve always hated form letters-impersonal, predictable and, most of all, a form of inextinguishable clutter that used to attack my office. So maybe it’s another form of twisted justice that I’m sitting in federal prison writing just that!! An informal form letter!”
Mr. Giacchetto begged his readers not to let the form of his letter be a distraction. “Here, in prison,” he wrote, “only one of my powers remain, that is my ability to communicate with my friends.
“I’ve always felt, since I was a little boy, that I was put on this planet to do good things. In the most basic terms, put here to be a good human being,” Mr. Giacchetto continued. He then got to the point: “Maybe you’re asking yourself what happened to Dana? The Dana I know! I’m asking the same questions myself, yet God has blessed me with the will to effect my destiny-and perhaps more importantly-to effect the destiny of those around me.”
While that line might make a few of Mr. Giacchetto’s former clients shudder, what followed was an apology that appeared in boldfaced and underlined type: “I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused my family, my loved ones and friends.”
Returning to Roman type, Mr. Giacchetto wrote: “Over the last few months I have gone inside, examined my soul. I have been riddled with questioning my role in life.” Among the hard questions he apparently has been asking himself: “How does one form a clear opinion of oneself? Has my essential spirit and ego been sublimated by the fear and hopelessness of a prison life without freedom?” And the big one: “Why have I let everyone down?
“Truth itself obviates the need for easy answers,” Mr. Giacchetto wrote, adding: “But I do know this, I have much hope left. One thing is perfectly clear and has remained steadfast; I want to effect positive change, but now, in this time of great need, I am doing something that’s very hard for me, I am asking for your help.”
Noting the scheduled date of his sentencing, which has already been delayed once, Mr. Giachetto wrote: “To say the least, the last year of my life has been extraordinarily difficult.” Then he broke out the pop psychology that no doubt once led Mr. Ovitz to brag that Mr. Giacchetto was not only his financial adviser, but his “life adviser” as well.
“In the complex quagmire many of us call success, self perception can quickly become self de ception and it is difficult for me to create an accurate picture of myself in the context of the turmoil of late,” Mr. Giacchetto wrote. But then he asked his friends “to try to impart to Judge Patterson just what kind of individual Dana Giacchetto was (and is).”
After explaining just what his pals could put in their letters to illuminate “the real Dana Giacchetto,” Mr. Giacchetto concluded: “I remain hopeful that you’ll write a few words, the power of which will shape my fate, reaffirming what I feel most powerfully-love.”
But in his accompanying letter, Mr. Fischetti offered Mr. Giacchetto’s compatriots some level-headed guidance lest they get carried away: “There is no point in the writer expressing that he or she cannot believe that Mr. Giacchetto has committed a crime and that it all must be some kind of mistake since Mr. Giacchetto has already entered a plea of guilty.”
It’s unclear just who received Mr. Giacchetto’s letter. A number of his former clients, who requested anonymity, said that they had not received such a letter. Mr. Fischetti did not return The Transom’s calls. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office did not return a call either, but sources familiar with Mr. Giacchetto’s case said that, in addition to reading letters from Mr. Giacchetto’s friends, Judge Patterson will also be scrutinizing “victim impact statements”-letters from former clients of the financial adviser who claim they were wronged. Surely some of those letters are bound to offer a different perception of the real Dana Giacchetto.
Ann Powers, who writes about hipster music for The New York Times and whose latest book, Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America , carries an epigram from indie-rock goddess Juliana Hatfield (“Become what you are”), was at Montblanc’s Madison Avenue flagship store on Nov. 16, shilling a not-so-Bohemian, not-so-American $400 fountain pen called “Bohème.”
“They bought 50 copies of my book,” Ms. Powers said sheepishly. “How could I refuse?” She then bolstered her reasons for being there by adding that she’d actually been to Chamonix, not far from the real Mt. Blanc.
Was she, you know, into fancy pens? “Oh yes, I wrote my book with a Montblanc,” Ms. Powers deadpanned. “When I wasn’t using my Mac. Ha!” Did she even own a fancy pen? “I do now,” she cackled affably.
As bad-ass as she was, though, Ms. Powers seemed a little insecure about her Bohemian-ness. She grabbed hold of her polyester blouse. “Let me tell you a secret, and don’t tell anyone here,” she said. “I mean, this is the most pen-like shirt I have. Doesn’t it remind you of pen-swirling? It’s pen-like! But the skirt? I found it on the street. Corner of Second Avenue and East Third. So there you go.”
Ms. Powers’ skirt story attracted the attention of another partygoer, a blond Internet executive who began pointing excitedly to a green shawl that was draped awkwardly around her shoulders. “It’s a tablecloth!” she said. “Nineteen dollars! From a yard sale!”
Ms. Powers looked psyched. “Really?” she boomed. “That’s so good. That is such a good idea!”
“It works, doesn’t it?” the Web worker continued. “It looks like a tablecloth if you tell people it’s a tablecloth, but otherwise….”
Ms. Powers interrupted: “I mean, I thought it was some fabulous pashmina, some new evolution of fashion.”
“It has a little food stain,” the blond executive admitted. She pointed to the flaw. “It’s probably from a candle, actually. Don’t look at it!” She changed the subject. “This is great. What could be more truly Bohemian than going to parties and getting free food?”
Ms. Powers nodded. “Actually, when I was working at Tower-well, ‘Planet’ or whatever it’s called in my book; I had to make up a fake name because it’s about stealing records. Anyway, a friend of mine who worked there … he knew these people, brother and sister, and they were very beautiful, arty Bohemian types. They lived in their car, and their whole sustenance was art openings. Everything they did, everything they ate-a lot of cheese, a lot of French bread. That ‘s Bohemian: crashing fancy parties.”
But Ms. Powers wasn’t crashing. She was the guest of honor. Did that make her … a tool of The Man?
“My position on that,” she said, “is that, you know, we’re all part of capitalism, right? So you sort of choose your battles, you choose your-” She cut herself off. “I figure, you get fancy people to read my book, it’s not just good for me-it is good for me, of course-but I mean, they’re reading about sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll !” She grinned wickedly. “You know, and it’s like, maybe they’ll be shocked, maybe they’ll put it down, maybe they’ll be horrified. But-maybe they’ll go: ‘Hmmm … maybe my kid who’s taking Ecstasy isn’t such a weirdo!’ Or whatever, you know?”
Ms. Powers had to go pose for a photo with some Montblanc executives. But before she skedaddled, she left The Transom with a bit more evidence of her authenticity: “I am Bohemian,” she said. “I took the subway here.”
Turtleneck Sex Party
Every guest who walked into the Greenwich Village nightclub Spa for nerve.com’s book party for Nerve/The New Nude on Nov. 15 was carded at the door. Though most of the partygoers happily fished through their Kate Spade and Manhattan Portage bags for their ID’s, the requirement seemed anomalous-a throwback to frat parties and student bars-at an event billed by the online erotica magazine as a very adult celebration of free lust.
Just beyond the bouncer, the revelers got an immediate taste of the bacchanal that could be: Two human guest-books waved pens and asked them to sign some skin. The woman was clad in tall black boots and a gold thong. Gilded blossoms covered her nipples, and her marked-up flesh shimmered slightly in the club lights. On the walls were photographs from Nerve/The New Nude , a slide show of provocative images and a live video feed from a booth in the club, where patrons could get down with their bad selves for all the party to see.
On a raised stage, “artists” were body-painting mostly nude models with MAC cosmetics. In front of the stage, two white blocks also emblazoned with the MAC logo served as pedestals for go-go dancers: an anorexic man in a golden Speedo and a full-bodied woman in a bikini.
So this was supposed to be sexy?
A Brazilian woman who wouldn’t divulge her name didn’t think so. “Sexy is like me,” she said, convincingly waving a hand down her tank-top-encased torso. “Sexual is like that .” She gestured at the dancers dismissively.
In another part of the overcrowded club, Susan Dominus, editor in chief of Nerve’ s print magazine, wrestled with the same question. The party, she said, was “about as sexy as every other New York party. There’s the milling and the form-fitting clothing, and then there’s the free alcohol.” Ms. Dominus did not require another drink to acknowledge that, for a magazine that was purportedly about sex, the first two issues of Nerve suffered from a paucity of penises. “Even my mother’s partner at the yarn store was upset that there wasn’t more dick,” Ms. Dominus said.
That sentiment seemed to prevail at the party as well. “So have you found any perverts here tonight?” asked 28-year-old Miramax business affairs worker Dahlia Smith as she slid into one of Spa’s booths. “I was hoping to, but it’s a bunch of uptight, silly-glasses-wearing New York so-called men.”
“How do you know they’re not perverts?” asked Todd Barry, 36, a stand-up comic.
“Because they’re just silly yuppies into upscale, online smut,” Ms. Smith replied.
The two noted somewhat derisively that Mr. Barry, who has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and as an animated character on Dr. Katz , was “the biggest celebrity here tonight.”
Ms. Smith was on a tear: “The guys are all wearing turtlenecks, which is always a bad sign.” She squinted at one such man who was hacking up the dance floor. “Oh, stop!” said Ms. Smith. “You are not going to get down in that woolly-ass turtleneck!”
On the booth-cam, a bearded, big-chested guy in a striped shirt and baseball hat danced as if he were back at the Delta house.
When they’d finished rolling their eyes, Mr. Barry and Ms. Smith left the booth to continue their search for perverts. The Transom ran into Ondrea Barbe, a 29-year-old photographer for Nerve . “There’s more reality than there is fantasy,” she said.”The most beautiful thing in the world is the acceptance of self,” she said. “Five hundred pounds or 90 pounds, everything is beautiful.”
Freelance writer Paul Katz disagreed. Eyeing the stitch-straining derriere of one leather-pants-clad woman, he noted: “Just because the Gap has made leather affordable does not mean that you should purchase it!”
As midnight approached, a “real” celebrity, actress Molly Ringwald, walked in. Did she think the party was sexy? “It depends on what your idea of sexy is. For some people, this is definitely sexy. I guess you need to be into club culture. Like that cat,” she said, pointing to a slide on the wall. “Cats are sexy.” At least she didn’t bring up horses.
“I feel like I’m in 1986,” Ms. Ringwald continued, apparently only half-aware that, for many of us, she is 1986. “That’s the last time I was in a club. I’m not really a club person.”
Around this time, the dancers that occupied the body-painting stage had come together and were dry-humping each other against the cage-like barrier to the side of the platform. Partygoers, juiced on free alcohol, were beginning to strip for copies of Nerve/The New Nude . And next morning, the phone lines would burn with reports that a hand job had been broadcast on the booth-cam. No one seemed to remember if the recipient was wearing a turtleneck.
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