The creatures of the night, what music they made. New York in the 80’s was sexy and bloody, like a Hammer Films horror movie, and Raoul Lionel Felder and Barry Slotnick were monsters of the New York bar, prowling the city’s fog-shrouded court system. With their tailored, monogrammed clothing, lupine facial hair and feral outer-borough stares, they were Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” come to Gotham. And somehow the bloody viscera of their cases always ended up smeared all over the tabloids and the local news. This being the show-all, tell-all 80’s, Messrs. Slotnick and Felder knew when to offer a vein or two to the media, which drank greedily and, as anyone familiar with the legend of Dracula knows, fell under the lawyers’ spell.
Not that their clients weren’t interesting. Mr. Slotnick was representing subway vigilante Bernard Goetz and alleged Gambino crime boss John Gotti (before his former partner Bruce Cutler became the Dapper Don’s mouthpiece). And Mr. Felder was representing theatrical theater impresario David Merrick in his divorce, as well as Nancy Capasso, the wife of the millionaire ditch-digger who was having an affair with the city’s cultural affairs commissioner, Bess Myerson.
Alas, the gruesome displays are over, the Lugosi-esque showmanship of Messrs. Felder, Slotnick and their brethren (Mr. Cutler was Tor Johnson) has been replaced with Alien -like cool and efficient killing. Now all the best divorce cases-including billionaire Ronald Perelman’s split from Patricia Duff and Rolling Stone co-owner Jann Wenner’s split from his wife Jane-are conducted under the cloak of Anonymous v. Anonymous. If the lawyers are sucking blood these days, they’re doing it in private, and from sanitized little vials.
But for the last two and a half years, those farsighted enough to have begun their 80’s nostalgizing have been enjoying what may be the last known display of vintage lawyering: Iolanda Quinn v. Anthony Quinn. Which meant Mr. Slotnick v. Mr. Felder.
The two lawyers seem to have clashed only once before, and not in a real courtroom. (Indeed, in 1988, they announced that they were going to share offices-never happened.) In 1993, Mr. Felder served as the prosecution and Mr. Slotnick the defense in a mock TV trial of Joey Buttafuoco that Geraldo Rivera (!) conducted. The trial sought to determine whether Mr. Buttafuoco, who was not present, should be prosecuted on the charge of the statutory rape of Amy Fisher; whether he should be prosecuted for instigating Ms. Fisher’s assault on his wife, Mary Jo; and finally, whether the media had ruined Mr. Buttafuoco’s chances to receive a fair trial. The proceedings were memorable for the comment of one man in the audience, who said, “I just want to go on the record as saying [Joey Buttafuoco]’s a damn good mechanic,” and Mr. Buttafuoco was acquitted in absentia on the second charge. A hung jury resulted in the first and third.
In the Quinn case, Mr. Felder represented Iolanda and Mr. Slotnick got Anthony. And then the sniping started. Mr. Felder said in the Daily News’ Rush & Molloy column that Mr. Slotnick was “a piker in divorce court.” Mr. Slotnick countered that his firm “has handled some major matrimonial matters. We just haven’t publicized them.”
But when The Transom caught up with them, they kept their sniping muted: “He has a unique ability to garner publicity, more than I do,” said Mr. Slotnick of his opponent.
Of Mr. Slotnick’s performance during the Quinns’ brief trial, Mr. Felder said: “I wasn’t particularly impressed.”
Those who waited to see the attorneys go at each other in the trial ended up disappointed. After a day in which one of Mr. Quinn’s sons testified that the actor beat his wife, the two parties hammered out a settlement. Mrs. Quinn told the press that her husband was “a sad old man. He should die alone in bed with nobody there,” she said.
The cast of characters brings to mind something from Ed Wood’s oeuvre , but truth be told, this is a Cindy Adams script. Ms. Adams, the New York Post gossip, has almost single-handedly kept alive the city’s interest in Mr. Quinn-star of Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur and Ghosts Can’t Do It -who, despite being 82 years old, has rather recently fathered two children with his 35-year-old former secretary, Kathy Benvin.
And word on the street is that a column by Ms. Adams, which appeared shortly after the Quinns reached a settlement in August, may have instigated the latest wrinkle.
In the column, titled “Poor Tony Wasn’t Left a Pauper,” Ms. Adams wrote: “Don’t cry for Argentina-or Anthony Quinn,” adding: “Yesterday’s headlines? About how he forked over his ‘fortune’? Didn’t exactly fork over his fortune.” The columnist also wrote that Mrs. Quinn’s deal is “big on property, small on money.”
Mrs. Quinn apparently agreed, and shortly thereafter, sources familiar with the situation said that she sent one letter to Justice Sherry Klein-Heitler of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, and one to Mr. Felder, expressing remorse over her settlement.
In the letter that was sent to the judge, a copy of which was obtained by The Transom, Mrs. Quinn wrote that after reading the settlement at home the day after she signed it, “I realized I had signed a very unjust and unconscionable agreement pertaining to my well being,” and asked that the judge set aside the settlement.
Mrs. Quinn, who is from Italy, went on to explain that the house outside Rome that she got in the settlement actually belonged to her before she married Mr. Quinn. She added that the couple’s two adjoined East End apartments, which she also got, had a $875,000 mortgage on them. According to the letter, Mr. Quinn would pay, only for six months, the mortgage and maintenance on the Manhattan property; taxes and maintenance on the Italian pad, and $1,000-a-week maintenance for his ex-wife. After that, Ms. Quinn wrote, she had to vacate the New York apartment, whether it had been sold or not, and fend for herself. (The couple was also supposed to split $500,000 in cash.)
Mrs. Quinn then suggested a new settlement package, including alimony, half of all the artworks and sculpture that her husband got and the requirement that Mr. Quinn pay her mortgage and taxes for at least two years or until the Manhattan apartment sold: “I sincerely believe that after 35 years of being a loyal, dutiful wife … I deserve better.”
The letter intended for Mr. Felder-he does not acknowledge receiving this one-covered much of the same ground, but concluded: “I wish to go back to the judge and review my divorce papers. I learned a word somebody told me that the judge will understand: ‘duress.'”
It wasn’t long after the settlement that Mrs. Quinn got a letter from Mr. Felder, dated Sept. 8. “It has come to my attention that you are making public defamatory statements around town designed to injure my reputation. This includes, but is not limited to the statement that I ‘ … sold [you] down the river.’ The foregoing is all the more ludicrous since I am owed over two hundred thousand dollars.” Mr. Felder added: “I wonder what is the Italian word for … ‘whining’ [and] ‘never satisfied.'”
Ms. Quinn fired back with a letter refuting Mr. Felder’s charges. “I have not spoken one public word” about the case, she wrote. “I felt that between you and my husband, you have done enough damage to me and my family.” Mrs. Quinn went on to explain that she was merely discussing with friends “my unhappiness with the divorce settlement that I feel was forced upon me.”
Addressing Mr. Felder’s complaint about his fee, Mrs. Quinn reminded Mr. Felder of a 1995 letter he had written to her, allegedly stating: “We will not look to you for all or any part of legal fees incurred in your matter.”
Mrs. Quinn then informed Mr. Felder that she was no longer in need of his services and had retained “your former associate William Betz.” Sources close to the situation said that Mr. Betz had worked at Mr. Felder’s firm when Mrs. Quinn brought her case there. They also noted that when Mr. Betz left the firm, he and Mr. Felder did not part on good terms.
Mr. Betz declined to comment on the case, but sources close to the situation tell The Transom that Mrs. Quinn’s new attorney has since opposed Mr. Felder’s fee application, which tops $400,000, and argues that Mr. Felder should not be paid at all.
One document that may work in Mr. Felder’s favor is a transcript of proceedings that occurred on the day after the settlement was signed. When Mr. Felder asked his client if she was satisfied with “the quality of the legal representation” she had gotten, Mrs. Quinn replied: “Yes.” She also told Justice Klein-Heitler that she understood the document she had signed. (When it came time for Mr. Slotnick to ask his questions, Mrs. Quinn protested: “I hate that man. I don’t want him to come over here.”)
Mrs. Quinn may not have to worry about her cash shortage for very long. It looks like she has an offer, at the healthy price of $2.5 million, for the Manhattan apartment. (See Manhattan Transfers, page 29.)
With Mr. Felder under fire from his former client Mrs. Quinn and from a former lawyer of his firm, the question remains what role Mr. Slotnick will play in all of this. If the skirmish between Mrs. Quinn and Mr. Felder is prolonged, it could prove advantageous to Mr. Quinn, in terms of how and when the settlement is executed, for example.
“Mr. Quinn believes the settlement is fair. It’s been resolved, it’s finished, it’s final,” Mr. Slotnick told The Transom. “Let’s go on to the next movie.”
As SCTV ‘s Count Floyd would say, This one has been verrrry scary.
How can this be explained? Bob Dylan, most recently deified on the cover of Newsweek and basking in the glow of extraordinary reviews for his new record, Time Out of Mind , showed up at the Lotos Club on the evening of Oct. 16 to receive the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for the “man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world.” The confluence of the late Ms. Gish and Mr. Dylan is a good if weird one. But that’s not the inexplicable part.
The musical icon arrived on foot, promptly at 6:20 P.M., dressed in black and carrying an umbrella, and only seven well-informed, well-behaved fans were waiting for him on the street. No paparazzi. When Mr. Dylan reached the front door, a clutch of bodyguards surrounded him and walked him down the club’s outdoor staircase leading into its basement. No one said a word.
Upstairs on the second floor in a half-empty room, fewer than a hundred guests sipped champagne and chatted quietly before the ceremony began. Basement Tapes scholar Greil Marcus delivered an ode to his hero which carried the locomotive power of Blonde on Blonde . When photographer Richard Avedon presented the award to Mr. Dylan (previous recipients were Frank Gehry, Ingmar Bergman and Robert Wilson), the laconic one got up and said, “Don’t have anything to say,” before amending that slightly with, “I wish Lillian Gish was still alive. I wish I’d made a movie with her.”
Afterward, Mr. Dylan remained to chat with some of his admirers. Looking around the room, Mr. Avedon seemed annoyed with the organizers. “I could have gotten anyone to come here,” said the photographer. “But they told me they already had 300 people invited to a room that only seats 200. I could have invited a lot of glamorous people. It would have been fun for Bob.”
The Transom Also Hears
… “Oh, I’ve misspelled everybody’s name. I’ve misspelled love . I’ve misspelled happiness ,” said Carolyne Roehm as she looked out at the sizable line of social swells waiting for her to sign her new coffee-table book, A Passion for Flowers . There were days during her divorce from leveraged buyout king Henry Kravis when much of New York thought that she had altogether misplaced love and happiness. But in the dark-paneled interior of the Union Club, Ms. Roehm looked like she had pulled off what F. Scott Fitzgerald had deemed impossible: a second act. “Oh, I hope there’s a third and fourth,” she told The Transom.
The tasteful setting was packed with trophy wives, their husbands and others who had come to cheer on Ms. Roehm, including several of her “dates,” according to her publicist, her former employer Oscar de la Renta, Patricia Duff, Gayfryd Steinberg, Robert and Blaine Trump, Sharon Hoge and, surprise, Mr. Kravis’ daughter, Kimberly, who bought a book and asked Ms. Roehm to sign it. “I didn’t cry until then,” said Ms. Roehm. “I’ve known her since she was 6 years old. We decided we’ll have a girls’ night out.”
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