Pale, tender Leonardo DiCaprio, he of remarkably little facial hair, sat surrounded by hangers-on and security on the second-floor balcony area of the New York Public Library on March 2. Although one of his entourage, the magician David Blaine, entertained Mr. DiCaprio with magic tricks, the 22-year-old actor’s sensitive face conveyed slight discomfort as he autographed the party-favor masks of the children of the meritocracy-Spalding Gray brought his stepdaughter Marissa, 11; Dan Aykroyd and wife Donna Dixon brought their daughter Danielle, 8; director Paul Schrader brought his daughter Molly, 14. They had just seen the premiere of Mr. DiCaprio’s latest film, The Man in the Iron Mask , in which he plays two roles and generally looks like a girl.
The security contingent around Mr. DiCaprio looked even more uncomfortable as the V.I.P.’s and their spawn sought mementos of their brief encounters with the young actor. “Please, give him some space!” one female handler with an earpiece yelled. Minutes later, she could be heard talking, presumably not to herself but to some hidden microphone, about moving Mr. DiCaprio to a “safer” area.
On this night in the 10th week of Titanic ‘s ride atop the box office, Mr. DiCaprio was certainly the king of the evening, and word at the event was that the movie’s distributor, United Artists, had designed the lavish premiere and party (cost: in the neighborhood of $500,000, according to one informed source) with the intention of keeping Mr. DiCaprio happily in attendance. That meant that if the actor wanted to breeze through the lobby of the Ziegfeld Theater without acknowledging most of the camera crews camped out there, so be it. That also meant that when things got too hairy at the party, Mr. DiCaprio was moved from the second-floor balcony to a third-floor V.I.P. room in the library’s McGraw Rotunda, where no press-not even Regis Philbin-was allowed. (However, Pia Getty, Shoshanna Lonstein, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Berkley and Jennifer Grey were. Too bad for them that Mr. DiCaprio then left the third floor, Mira Sorvino, Gabriel Byrne and Claire Danes in tow, to go meet Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein at Elaine’s.)
Mr. DiCaprio, like King Louis XIV, whom he plays in the movie, had left his subjects hungry. They couldn’t even turn to the next-best A-lister of the evening. Sharon Stone, who had shown up to the Ziegfeld with her new husband, San Francisco Examiner executive editor Phil Bronstein, was mysteriously absent from the post-premiere party. Perhaps it had something to do with the incredibly bored look that Mr. Bronstein wore as he sat quietly in the Ziegfeld while his wife burbled to her wedding dress designer Vera Wang. Or perhaps, after hearing all that shrieking inside and outside the theater for Mr. DiCaprio, Ms. Stone decided that she just could not compete.
Had he the wisdom of age behind him, he might have behaved more like the three immediately recognizable men who sat in a relatively unpopulated part of the second floor, supping on the medieval-esque fare that Glorious Foods (lamb and lots of cheese!) had provided, chatting with two ladies who had joined their table. They were: William Ginsburg, the lawyer of Monica Lewinsky, whose frequent and nimble-tongued appearances on virtually every Sunday morning news show have virtually guaranteed him a post-Zippergate talk show; Robert Shapiro, whose representation of O.J. Simpson has made him an international celebrity (and whose advice Mr. Ginsburg has been seeking); and Joel Siegel, whose movie review blurbs for ABC can make any film, emphasis on any, sound like the feel-good flick of the year.
Think of them as the Athos, Porthos and Aramis of media spin-men who were horse-lengths ahead of the stumble-footed media army-all at one table. Was a ticket to this premiere one of the fruits of his newfound celebrity? The Transom asked Mr. Ginsburg. Like a practiced sound-bite generator, the defense attorney repeated the question. “This is not at all one of the fruits of celebrity,” he replied in his slightly skeptical, avuncular voice. No, this was an “enjoyable” reunion of three former “hotties,” as they claimed they once called themselves (“cool kids who were undiscovered,” Mr. Ginsburg explained unsatisfactorily), classmates from Los Angeles’ Louis Pasteur Junior High School and, later, Alexander Hamilton High School, class of 1960.
When The Transom expressed disbelief that all three media musketeers had come from one class, Mr. Ginsburg smiled his weary smile and said: “We had a great class.”
The three men tucked into their dinners as, across the aisle, Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola-with what looked like his entire family, including his daughters Sofia and Gia-stole some glances at the men. Asked what he made of the nearby troika, Mr. Coppola replied: “We took note of that. It’s the 90’s. What the hell.” Mr. Coppola then added a very 90’s thing himself. “I’m an old friend of Robert Shapiro.”
Of course, memoirist Frank McCourt was there-but so was publicity-shunning Underworld author Don DeLillo! Maybe 10 years from now, he will write a novel that features a conversation between Messrs. Ginsburg, Shapiro and Siegel at a weird party like this. So just what did the three talk about? “Old times,” said Mr. Shapiro. Mr. Ginsburg smiled and said something sotto voce. It sounded like “sex.”
Did Mr. Ginsburg say “sex”? The Transom asked him.
“I most certainly did not,” the lawyer replied with a dash of playful indignation. Then he smiled again. “That’s what happens when you get involved in one of these cases. Everything gets misinterpreted.”
Around this time, he was approached by Weekend Today co-anchor Jack Ford. “Things slowin’ down?” he asked, with studied casualness, about the Lewinsky case.
“Pain in the ass,” Mr. Ginsburg could be heard saying as the two men went into a private conference.
Long after Mr. DiCaprio left the second floor, the space around the table where he had sat still remained the most crowded spot in the place. People stood there as if hoping to catch a glimpse of the young actor’s aura.
The energy was beginning to drain from the room … except for the three hotties at their table. Two of the three were in many ways as famous as Mr. DiCaprio and Ms. Stone. Did they have any thoughts on celebrity at the end of the 20th century? Mr. Shapiro, who was dressed in a monochromatic palette of steely blue, seemed slightly annoyed by this question. “You don’t see any cameras around us,” he motioned with his arm.
Finally, he gave in. “There are a lot of upsides,” he said, “but the loss of privacy is irreplaceable.”
“I would agree with that,” said Mr. Ginsburg.
They just wanted to spend a little time together, the three men insisted, catch up on old times. In the discreet setting of a Leonardo DiCaprio movie premiere.
Hell Hath No Fury Like an In-Law Scorned
“I lose all the time,” Alan (Ace) Greenberg said on the phone. The remark seemed almost disingenuous coming from the chairman of Bear Stearns Companies, a man whose well-burnished image-as Wall Street rainmaker, philanthropist and bridge player-is that of a winner. “I lose and I win,” he told The Transom. “It’s like playing bridge.”
Bridge is a lot more friendly (and much less expensive) than the game of public legal hardball that Mr. Greenberg and his former son-in-law, Jonathan Frey, have been playing for the last seven years. At issue is $59,940 in interest that Mr. Greenberg claims Mr. Frey owes him for a loan he made in 1985 when Mr. Frey was still married to his daughter, Lynne. The loan was made so that the couple could buy a $2 million house in Kings Point, L.I. Interestingly, Mr. Greenberg did not attempt to collect his interest until 1991, when his daughter and Mr. Frey split up.
In February, Mr. Greenberg lost his latest (and what he told The Transom would be his last) attempt to collect the interest from Mr. Frey, who is an owner and the managing partner of the American Stock Exchange specialist unit J. Streicher & Company, founded by his grandfather, Joseph Streicher. Yet even as Mr. Greenberg said that he was letting go of the matter (“It’s over,” he said), his statement about Mr. Frey suggested he had not relinquished his anger. “I know that Jon has a new wife, a new baby and a new religion,” said Mr. Greenberg. “We wish him the best.”
Mr. Greenberg’s remark about the change in his former son-in-law’s spiritual affiliation is a reference to Mr. Frey’s decision to become a Methodist. Mr. Frey told The Transom that though he was born and raised a Jew, his current wife is Catholic, and they have decided to raise their daughter as a Christian. Mr. Frey said that so as not to confuse his daughter, he converted to a Christian religion as well. The Methodist religion, he said, “was the one I found most compatible with my beliefs.”
Mr. Frey claimed that Mr. Greenberg’s crack about his conversion is because his former father-in-law “is very prejudiced against people who are not Jewish.” Mr. Greenberg laughed at Mr. Frey’s accusation. “That’s why I do so much work for the Boy Scouts and the Covenant House project,” he said. He added that Mr. Frey was “nuts.”
The friction between the two men seems to extend way beyond the subject of religion and race. “He’s used to everybody kissing his ass and jumping because of all the money he has,” Mr. Frey said. “When I married his daughter I didn’t have much, but I refused to do that [i.e., to ass-kiss]. At the end, he couldn’t stand the fact that I wasn’t subservient.”
Mr. Frey’s professed refusal to play the good son-in-law has escalated since the dissolution of his marriage to Lynne Greenberg into a full-scale rebellion. He reportedly attempted to turn Mr. Greenberg into the Internal Revenue Service over the vagaries of the loan. (In 1993, the New York Daily News reported that Mr. Frey told the I.R.S. Mr. Greenberg had made the couple a gift, which he disguised as a loan, so as not to have to pay taxes on the amount.) When Mr. Frey started winning in the legal skirmish that Mr. Greenberg initiated, he on several occasions took opportunities to gloat over his victories in New York newspaper columns … such as The Transom.
It was Mr. Greenberg who sued first and won in Civil Court in Manhattan in January 1996. Mr. Frey appealed the case to the Appellate Term of the State Supreme Court for Manhattan and the Bronx and, in a unanimous decision, won in June 1997. (The decision noted Mr. Greenberg’s “abrupt (and apparently vengeful) decision to demand six years of accumulated interest at the same time as his daughter’s divorce proceedings were commenced.…”) Then Mr. Greenberg was granted the chance to appeal his case to the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court. On Feb. 10, he lost.
Mr. Frey said that this fight over $60,000 in interest has cost him more than $350,000 in legal fees. “It’s just been a matter of ‘I’ll show you,'” he said. Mr. Greenberg, he added, “just can’t stand the fact that he lost.” For the record, Mr. Greenberg said, “I was never mad, ever,” and added that “my legal fees are virtually nothing.”
“Hell hath no fury like a father scorned,” said Mr. Frey’s attorney, Jay Breakstone. “It seems odd for two rather successful and powerful people to be involved in this. But in one sense, it’s heartwarming, because notwithstanding social status or financial position, the basic human problems are just that-basic.”
The Transom Also Hears
… It’s not unusual to see a post-divorce Ronald Perelman and Claudia Cohen out on the town together, but lately the sightings have become frequent enough for some social denizens to wonder if they two are reigniting their pilot light.
On Dec. 13, the couple were seen dancing at the nightclub Life.
Then, on Valentine’s Day, they were spotted dining with socialite Susan Hess at Amici, the Palm Beach restaurant owned by Mr. Perelman’s right-hand man, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc. vice chairman Howard Gittis. On Feb. 22, Mr. Perelman and Ms. Cohen were together at the Irvington Institute benefit at the Four Seasons Restaurant. The billionaire’s publicist, Howard Rubenstein, however, denied that the couple, who have a child, were once again an item. “They remain the best of friends, and they see each other regularly.” End of story, Mr. Rubenstein said.