Last July, Christian Curry told a New York Post reporter: “I don’t owe money to a single living ass!” But the former Morgan Stanley junior analyst, whose termination became a cause célèbre in 1998, couldn’t make that claim today. Gil Chachkes, an attorney representing the Manhattan-based weekly newspaper The Black Star News , told The Transom that he is currently searching for Mr. Curry’s assets now that the State Supreme Court in Manhattan has issued a judgment determining that Mr. Curry owes in excess of $2 million for failing to make good on his agreement to purchase a majority interest in the paper.
Mr. Chachkes’ search may finally answer a question that has long lingered in the halls of Morgan Stanley: When Mr. Curry and Morgan Stanley announced in September 2000 that they had resolved, out of court, the differences that led to Mr. Curry’s $1.3 billion racial- and sexual-discrimination suit against his former employer, the press release stated Mr. Curry received “no payment” in exchange for dropping his complaint. (The company did make a $1 million charitable contribution to the National Urban League.) Morgan Stanley has never wavered from this original statement. Nonetheless, several published reports that followed Mr. Curry’s free-spending post-scandal ventures indicated that he had gotten tens of millions of dollars-the figures have ranged from $15 million to $52 million-via some confidential arrangement (the scenarios have varied as well) with his former employer. The February 2001 issue of Brill’s Content , for example, cited “a source familiar with the agreement” who claimed that Morgan Stanley “circumvented any direct payment to Curry by compensating three other litigants, all of whom were also suing the firm for discrimination in actions filed shortly after Curry’s, and all of whom were represented by Curry’s attorney Benedict Morelli.” The source contended that it was left up to Morelli “to parcel out the money among his clients.”
And yet the trail of failed business ventures and lawsuits that Mr. Curry has left in his wake since settling with Morgan Stanley seems at odds with those reports of his windfall. Mr. Curry’s much-hyped attempts to become a nightlife impresario fizzled last summer when Conscience Point, the Hamptons nightclub that he had leased and refurbished, closed mid-season last July. Soon after that came reports that vendors were trying to collect money owed to them by the club. And in October, Mr. Curry’s parents sued him over what the complaint called their son’s “scheme to defraud his parents of their valuable home.”
And as Mr. Chachkes said in reference to the Black Star News case: “If you have a lot of money, you don’t walk away from these kinds of judgments.”
The Black Star News , which was started in 1997 by its current publisher and editor in chief, Milton Allimadi, aggressively covered Mr. Curry’s brouhaha with Morgan Stanley, where he was briefly employed as a junior analyst. Shortly after photographs of Mr. Curry, naked and in an aroused state, were published in Playguy (and two other gay-erotica magazines), Morgan Stanley fired him for allegedly padding his expense accounts. After he was terminated, Mr. Curry was arrested on criminal charges after he allegedly attempted to hire an undercover cop to hack into Morgan Stanley’s computer system and plant racist messages. But the charges were dropped when the district attorney’s office learned that Morgan Stanley had paid $10,000 to Charles Joseph Luethke, an acquaintance of Mr. Curry who had brokered the meeting that led to Mr. Curry’s arrest-a scoop that was broken by The Black Star News . Mr. Curry then slapped his former employer with a $1.3 billion discrimination suit.
On Oct. 10, 2000, less than a month after the announcement that he and Morgan Stanley had settled, Mr. Curry made a deal with Mr. Allimadi to purchase a 51 percent interest in the paper for $2 million. According to a copy of the lawsuit, Mr. Curry made a $10,000 down payment for his purchase. “He said he felt indebted in terms of what we had done,” Mr. Allimadi said. “Therefore he wanted to make an investment in the paper.”
Mr. Curry then hired a publicist and held a press conference to announce his purchase, placed his name on The Black Star News ‘ masthead as “Chairman and Publisher,” designated the paper as a “Christian Leigh Curry Co. Publication,” got a press card and assigned himself a column called “Curry’s Corner.”
What he didn’t do, apparently, was make many more payments toward his purchase. According to the complaint, Mr. Curry gave another $27,000 toward his agreement, which left more than $1.8 million to go.
Mr. Allimadi said that the last contact he’d had with Mr. Curry was in April of last year. The complaint was filed in August, when, the paper’s founder said, “it became clear that he was either not going to fulfill his obligations or just drag things out.” More important than the money, Mr. Allimadi said, was the fact that readers and potential advertisers “were confused in terms of the ownership of the paper. We had to end that ambivalence.”
Mr. Curry, who’s pushing 30, didn’t even put up a fight, according to Mr. Chachkes. “He didn’t defend this lawsuit. He didn’t even answer the complaint or appear at the inquest,” The Black Star News ‘ attorney said. “He walked away from it completely. Maybe he didn’t care.” Mr. Curry also didn’t respond to attempts to reach him through his father, and his attorney, Benedict Moretti, didn’t return calls to his office.
The judgment against Mr. Curry was issued on May 29.
Asked what he made of Mr. Curry’s behavior, The Black Star News ‘ publisher said: “I refrain from going into personal stuff. I’m much more comfortable relating to the factual issues. People can make their own judgments.
“The only reason we ever met was because he was wronged by Morgan Stanley,” Mr. Allimadi said of Mr. Curry. He added that the legal imbroglio hadn’t changed his opinion on that matter. But Mr. Allimadi did say that at the time he struck his October 2000 deal with Mr. Curry, “his words and actions were much more different than more recent reports concerning him.”
Asked if he thought that Mr. Curry had received some kind of settlement from Morgan Stanley, Mr. Allimadi said: “I think he had a strong case against them. It would be difficult for me to imagine that he would just walk away without getting anything.” Indeed, after Mr. Curry had settled his suit, Mr. Allimadi said he once saw that Mr. Curry had “at least a couple hundred thousand” in his checking account, but when asked if he thought Mr. Curry would make good on the judgment, he said: “We’re not holding our breath.”
Still, Mr. Chachkes continues to look for Mr. Curry’s assets. “If he keeps assets offshore, there are countries that don’t give out that kind of information,” the attorney said. “Who knows? From what I’ve been reading about him, that may not be what his motivation is these days.”
In his search for Mr. Curry’s money, Mr. Chachkes may find that he’s in competition with Mr. Curry’s parents, Dr. William T. Curry Sr., a surgeon, and Katherine Curry, a homemaker. Last October, the couple sued their son in the State Supreme Court in Westchester County. Their complaint charged that Christian convinced them to transfer the title of their 6.9-acre Chappaqua, N.Y., home to a company he had formed called Villa Christian L.L.C. In exchange, Curry fils promised to pay his parents $2 million and to give his father an interest in the company, but instead he allegedly encumbered the property with $2 million in mortgages. The suit charged that “Christian intended to use the Premises as collateral to obtain massive loans to finance his lavish lifestyle and various purported business ventures.” The lawsuit also “seeks to recover substantial monies” -nearly $1 million, according to the complaint-that Dr. Curry had advanced to his son.
Reached at his Upper East Side practice, Dr. Curry told The Transom that “the whole thing’s in reconciliation now” and “nearing resolution.” He said that he and his wife hadn’t lost their house.
Asked if he was certain his son had received a monetary settlement from Morgan Stanley, Dr. Curry said: “The form of his settlement is sealed. That information is not really available.”
Dr. Curry said he didn’t have a number for his son, but offered to let him know that The Transom had called. When asked if he knew what his son was up to these days, he said: “He basically has been involved with financing and money management.” Dr. Curry didn’t know the name of his son’s firm. “I’m not even sure who the principles are,” he said. But he did know this: “He’s quite busy, in fact.”
T3 : Rise of the Porcine
If Arnold Schwarzenegger decides not to run for governor of California, perhaps he should just try running.
Readers of the July 20 edition of the New York Post are still talking about the candid beach shot of the 56-year-old Mr. Schwarzenegger that put an abrupt end to the actor’s almost three-decade standing as the hard-assed international symbol of unattainable physical perfection. Featured in a spread entitled “Sun, Stars and Cellulite,” the image of the original Terminator was enough to make Saturday Night Live ‘s onetime Ah-nuld worshippers, Hans and Franz, weep into their creatine shakes. The southward drift of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s ample stores of flesh looked as if someone had left his Madame Tussaud’s doppelgänger out in the sun: His slab-like pectorals were deflated and sprinkled with gray chest hair, and his once-chiseled abdominal six-pack had disappeared beneath a thick frosting of flab. His love handles looked like small valises. And yet, Mr. Schwarzenegger seemed undaunted by his physical appearance. No high-waisted surfer’s jams for him. The actor wore a skin-tight black bikini brief that broadcast not only his physical condition, but the size of “Junior” and the “twins” as well.
The photo seemed especially mystifying to those who have just seen Terminator 3 . Mr. Schwarzenegger claimed to have put in extra nights at the gym to get into shape for the role, which, in one scene, required him to walk into a bar naked while being filmed from behind. To the untrained eye, Mr. Schwarzenegger seems to be in top physical form as he strolls into a roomful of rowdy women (his acting is another story, however)-but after scrutinizing the scene, The Transom noticed that Mr. Schwarzenegger’s obliques wiggled when he walked.
Alas, the onetime Hollywood equivalent of Atlas turns out to be just another girly-man. “I call it the waist belt,” said Radu, the Romanian personal trainer to the stars. According to him, this area of the body-deemed the “mid-range spread” in the boxing world-is “absolutely the problem area” for aging men. “It’s not staying up; it’s hanging down over the belt. They bring the belt lower and lower.” But Mr. Schwarzenegger need not fret; according to Radu, the situation is correctable. “It takes a little discipline,” he said. “Work! Work!”
A Schwarzenegger campaign advisor said, “If you look at Arnold at the beginning of T3 , he looks as fit and as toned as he did in T2 and T1 . If he decides to take the political route, it is based on the fact that he has conquered the body building world, he conquered the motion picture industry and now he wishes to take on public policy.” But the advisor added, “There are times when you are promoting the movie when you are not spending time in a gym.”
If the actor does decide to join California’s gubernatorial race, the Post photo could end up being an inadvertent boon for the actor’s political image. Mr. Schwarzenegger now looks more like the sedentary constituents he may soon represent-and, if truth be told, like another veteran politician with a die-hard following: his in-law, Senator Edward Kennedy.
Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth and The Autograph Man , has projected the image of a self-taught Wunderkind since she scored a reported £250,000 advance from Hamish Hamilton on the strength of the first 80 pages of her début novel. The then-21-year-old was widely quoted on her “horror” of writing workshops, dismissing them as “support groups for the kind of people who think that writing is therapeutic.”
Well, it looks like her year as a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard-working on a book of essays called The Morality of the Novel -has turned her around. Ms. Smith is staying on for the fall semester at Harvard to teach a seminar on 20th-century novels and-yikes!-a creative-writing class.
“I was 21 when I said that. What do I know? I’ve never been in one,” Ms. Smith said of the “support group” crack.
She also admitted she’s far from sure-footed about the teaching thing.
“I don’t know what to do, I’m very nervous about it,” she said. “It’ll either be great or a total, total disaster.”
Ms. Smith said the classes would be small-no more than 15 students-and at least one of the two classes would likely be for freshmen only. “I’m only 28. I don’t want to teach anyone older than 19, 20-that would be ridiculous,” she said. “This is all completely an experiment.”
The Transom caught Ms. Smith on the phone 15 minutes after she got off the New York-Boston shuttle, exhausted from a reading and signing in Central Park the day before. “Sorry, I’ve just noticed, coming back to my apartment after three months, droppings in my house. It’s bigger than mice. Fuck. God, sorry-go on.”
While Ms. Smith dislikes being doted over by fans and reporters, she claimed to be enjoying the tepid reviews that have soaked The Autograph Man , her latest book. “It’s just like being in college,” she said of the criticism. “It’s like being graded at the end of the term.”
She was, however, miffed that reviewers failed to mention the research she’d done for The Autograph Man, which explores a range of topics from Kafka to the Kabbalah.
“I felt like I had done all this work and then nobody had noticed it, so I was a bit pouty,” she said.
But where did she get her material about the culture of London Jews, the weird fanboy-autograph industry and the mechanics of a violent, five-day LSD trip?
Ms. Smith interrupted the question with a weary, ready answer.
“It’s called books,” she replied. “I pick up books and I read them. And that’s how it works. I do that quite often.” Ms. Smith said it’s her dream to get a Ph.D. and be “attached” to a university in England or Ireland.
But what’s wrong with Harvard?
“I think American universities are very ambitious. It seems you have to be quite active and do a lot of things; it’s not really my scene,” she said. “In England, you’re allowed to just totter around until you die.”
A weekly American magazine published by the owners of London’s The Guardian newspaper is still on the drawing boards, but former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal wants it to become a reality.
“Nothing’s been decided yet; we’re kicking ideas around. I think it would be incredibly exciting,” Mr. Blumenthal, the former New Yorker writer and author of the recently published memoir, The Clinton Wars , told The Transom as he sipped a glass of red wine at Lotus on Thursday, July 24.
As the Daily News ‘ Rush & Molloy reported, Mr. Blumenthal would be editor in chief of the magazine, which accounted for his enthusiasm and his attempts to spread it at the Lotus after-party for “The Media At War,” a conference co-sponsored by-who else? -The Guardian , as well as New York magazine and the New School’s World Policy Institute.
During a series of day-long panels held at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium, media luminaries from both sides of the Atlantic, including CNN’s Bill Hemmer, Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, Time magazine’s Michael Elliot and Harper’s president and publisher John (Rick) MacArthur, engaged in a meta-debate on the media’s role in the coverage of the made-for-TV war in Iraq. But the question on everyone’s mind was what a new American magazine by The Guardian would look like.
“I think that The Guardian in America would be the most important progressive voice in news and opinion. You know, if The New York Times can publish The International Herald Tribune , The Guardian can have a similar impact in the United States. There’s a huge vacuum here, but now we’re planning. No decisions have been made,” Mr. Blumenthal said as he sampled one of Lotus’ vegetable spring rolls.
With Mr. Blumenthal at the helm, readers of the American Guardian could expect stories such as the one that he let drop during his conversation with The Transom. According to Mr. Blumenthal, evidence of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” once proclaimed by Hillary Clinton can be found on The New York Times Book Review ‘s best-seller list.
“What I think the key question is for Ann Coulter and all these other right-wing writers is, why is there a dagger in the New York Times best-seller list next to their books?” Mr. Blumenthal said in reference to the small symbol that appears next to Treason , which rocketed to the top of the Times list. According to the fine print at the bottom of the Times list, the dagger denotes “that some bookstores report receiving bulk orders.”
“That means that someone is buying their book in bulk to put them on the best-seller list. These are bogus best-sellers,” Mr. Blumenthal told The Transom. “I want to know why [Ms. Coulter] won’t come clean and explain which rich right-wing sugar daddies are putting her on the best-seller list.”
So who’s buying up all these books?
“I don’t know. I don’t even know if she knows, but I know she’s benefiting, and I know that all the other right-wing authors whose books have no merit in any way, on substance or as fact, are simply being put on there through a well-organized campaign involving vast resources of money of wealthy Republicans,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Ann Coulter is a phony best-seller.”
“I think he’s confusing my books with Stupid White Men ,” Ms. Coulter said when reached for comment, referring to Michael Moore’s populist spin on American politics. “I have asterisks for Treason for one reason: I now belong to Premier Speakers Bureau, which sells directly to consumers at speaking events and concerts. Bookstores hide conservative books, so outfits like Premier create ‘alternative bookstores’ at places like Six Flags Great Adventure-and The New York Time bills 1,000 individual Americans buying my book as a ‘bulk sale,’” she said. “I sign a thousand books at a clip for individual consumers at big, public, recorded events. Where did Michael Moore’s ‘bulk sales’ go?”
On Wednesday, July 23, a line of expectant Kiss fans waited outside of the Best Buy on East 86th Street, hoping to get a glimpse of their reptilian heroes, who were at the store to publicize their new album, Symphony: Alive IV . A Kiss impersonation band called Parasite, billing themselves as “The Reincarnation of Kiss,” roamed the block-long line, shaking hands and looking remarkably like the real thing.
Indeed, the only discernible difference was that the real band, standing inside on a stage surrounded by reporters and photographers, had cracks in their substantial makeup from the enormous amount of Juicy Fruit gum they were chewing.
Towering over the room in their huge platform boots, their jaws grinding, Kiss looked like a band of malicious, middle-aged frogs-especially bassist Gene Simmons, who occasionally stuck his trademark tongue out at the crowd, and drummer Peter Criss, who wore bright green makeup around his eyes.
The gum seemed to come from a tall, long-haired biker guy holding a dozen packs in his big hand, maneuvering past the garish quartet with an ease reserved for those who know what they’re doing. When asked what flavor they were consuming with such relish, Mr. Simmons replied: “Free gum.”
The chewing was especially jarring because it almost allowed you to see the real men behind the makeup. For those who haven’t exactly followed the band, there was a brief period when Kiss made a go of it sans maquillage . But that didn’t last very long.
Still, we had to ask: Do they get recognized without their makeup on?
Mr. Criss smiled. “Sometimes,” he said.
Mr. Simmons interrupted. “It’s like the same with girls,” he said. “When girls take off their makeup, do they get recognized? Sometimes you wake up with a girl next to you and you’re not sure if it’s the same girl from the night before.”
Mr. Criss popped another stick into his mouth. “He said that, not me.”
The Transom Also Hears …
At a July 24 Hugo Boss/Gen Art party on a sprawling West 26th Street rooftop, Tony Lucia, the president and chief executive of Hugo Boss USA, told The Transom: “Tonight is about getting drunk and seeing lots of women.” He was wearing all black-except for his boating shoes, which were white and scuffed. Better-dressed guests mingled under the billowing white canopies with fortune tellers, falcons, peacocks and parrots. For the kinkier partygoers, there was also a codpiece-sporting male contortionist and two Grivet monkeys, only one of which, Ungowa, was allowed to be “touched.” Ungowa, who was wearing a white diaper, didn’t warm to the ladies, however. He hissed at them all, including a perturbed Mini Anden, the stunning, wide-eyed model. But later in the evening, the monkey developed a crush on Yul Vazquez, star of Bad Boys II and Traffic . “He only likes boys,” the monkey handler said.
-Anna Jane Grossman