O.J., Brick by Brick
Rockingham Avenue has been closed to Sunset Boulevard, but the tourists still find a way to come. They tromp through the once quiet neighborhood–home to Mayor Richard Riordan of Los Angeles, Universal Studios chairman Frank Biondi and Disney studio chief Joe Roth–for one purpose. To see, and sometimes take home, a piece of the property where O.J. Simpson lived. The new owners of Mr. Simpson’s former 6,400-square-foot home may be about to change all that.
Sources familiar with the situation told The Transom that Ken Abdalla and Kay Stoneburner, who purchased the home for a reported $3.95 million in late 1997, have looked into the possibility of dismantling the contemporary brick home and donating it piecemeal to a charity. The idea being that the charity could then sell or auction off the bricks or window frames to whoever in this world could not live without a souvenir of this fin de siècle media event. Tourists would no longer be able to say, “That’s me in front of O.J.’s house!” and Mr. Abdalla and Ms. Stoneburner could potentially take a hefty tax deduction for their donation.
Reached by phone, Ms. Stoneburner told The Transom: “We looked into that.” Actually, she said it was her husband, Mr. Abdalla, who did most of the looking, and she said she wasn’t sure but she didn’t think he’d had much luck. She then referred us to him, but not before saying that “We’ve looked into a lot of different things” regarding the fate of the house, and “We’re not sure to what extent we’re going to change it.” She also said that the house is “just not our taste.” Although she did not elaborate, our sources say that the couple, who are said to be from New York, have had the house’ address changed to make the house more difficult to locate and have flown in an architect and decorator from the East Coast to consult with them. In February, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that the couple had called in a feng shui expert, Kartar Diamond, because they wanted “ways to improve their luck through possible structural changes.” Mr. Diamond’s assessment: “This house was a good friend to [Simpson], and he got away with murder.”
Reached at his office, Mr. Abdalla was even more reluctant to talk to us. He would not confirm any information about himself; he is reportedly an investment banker. “I’m trying to make this a home for my family,” said Mr. Abdalla. “I really don’t have any interest in making this a media event.”
Uncle Miltie’s Big Shtick
Milton Berle was holding an enormous cigar in his pale veined hand when we broached the subject. “Can we ask you a forward question?” we said to the 90-year-old comic as he sat at a table with a colleague, Joey Adams, and his wife, New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams, at a birthday party in his honor at the home of songwriter Denise Rich.
“Sure,” replied Mr. Berle, elegant in a black suit, red-striped shirt, red tie and pocket square.
“How long is it?” we asked.
Mr. Berle smiled. It was not a surprised smile, but a slightly bored one. He’d been down this road before.
“You won’t print it,” he said.
The Transom reluctantly agreed.
“When I get an erection, I black out,” said Mr. Berle, with a smile.
Encouraged by the laugh, Mr. Berle offered up one more. “At a stag one day, they were talking about my, my private,” said the comic. “They said it’s the only one with its own heart and lungs.” Mr. Berle smiled. This was a proud smile.
The Transom begged him to let us print it. Mr. Berle finally relented on one condition. “You must write first that you asked me,” he said.
Mr. Berle turned to the next person in line to meet him in this room that looked like it was peopled with extras from David Lynch’s Lost Highway . There was an organ grinder with a monkey, Jocelyne Wildenstein, artist Julian Schnabel with his son Vito, publicist Bobby Zarem and lots of men with oily mahogany tans. So was diet-pill queen Nikki Haskell, who seemed to be in the thrall of Mr. Berle’s manhood. “He’s got the biggest dick in the world, not just Hollywood,” she crowed to one young man. “When he gets it up, it starts snowing at the top.” Ms. Haskell said that she had known Uncle Miltie since she was 6 years old.
Mr. Berle, 90-year-old Milton Berle, was working for his limelight. First, by insisting that the photographers who had lined up to take his picture with Ms. Rich and Natalie Cole, shoot off their flashes in a left-to-right sequence. He would brook no disorder, withholding a smile or scolding an offender. The shutterbugs listened to him like trained seals; so did Ms. Rich as Mr. Berle toggled her chin for an optimal shot.
Then Ms. Rich jumped up and made a speech. The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” and then demanded that Mr. Berle get the microphone. With his wife Lorna’s help, the comedian walked over to his cake and proceeded to kill.
“I thought they’d never call on me. I’m standing here like a mortuary,” he said to his audience, who he noted was here “on the cuff.” As for the evening’s buffet, he said, “I’ll talk to you later.”
Mr. Berle talked a little bit about how much he loved his wife. Then he said he didn’t want to stick around too long because “I took a Viagra about 25 minutes ago.” He’d pushed a hot button here, and some of the audience threw in what they thought were their own funny one-liners. Mr. Berle silenced them though by remarking, “I work alone,” and then making a comment about “the schmucky looks” he was getting.
He went back to riffing on his wife then, saying that on their honeymoon, he’d asked her to show up with something black and sexy. “So she brought Sidney Poitier.” More recently, he said, he and the missus had been at it hot and heavy “when Lorna said to me, Let’s go upstairs and make love.”
Mr. Television waited the perfect amount of time: “I said, Lorna, it’s either one or the other.”
Perelman in the Parking Lot
Billionaire Ronald Perelman walked into Nick & Toni’s on June 13 with the stoked look of a high-school linebacker. True, a lot of people react similarly when they get a table at the East Hampton restaurant. But Mr. Perelman seemed to have other things on his mind. Earlier that day, according to the New York Post , Mr. Perelman took part in a coup to oust “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, the chairman of Sunbeam Corporation. Mr. Perelman became the second-largest shareholder of Sunbeam when he sold the Coleman camping company to them. And now, as Mr. Perelman sat down to dinner with Livent investor Mike Ovitz, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc. vice chairman Howard Gittis and a group of approximately four more men and women, the impression was that there was still some clean-up work to do. At one point, an uncomfortable-looking man holding papers in his hand appeared in the doorway of the restaurant and got Messrs. Perelman’s and Gittis’ attention. Both men jumped up and went out to the parking lot, where they remained for quite some time. Mr. Ovitz and the rest of the table weren’t too lonely. A table that included art dealer Larry Gagosian, actor Ron Silver and his date, socialite Kate de Castelbajac, soon formed next to them. Somewhere in the mix, too, was the former Mrs. Perelman, Claudia Cohen.
Perhaps their parking lot sally had something to do with longtime Perelman ally Gerry Levin. Mr. Levin told The Wall Street Journal that he and his wife were about to go to a movie that same evening when he got a call from Mr. Perelman and other colleagues asking him to take the Sunbeam gig.
Mr. Perelman’s spokesman said that Messrs. Gittis and Perelman “went outside to chat for a while.” He added, however, that “it had absolutely nothing to do with Sunbeam.” A spokeswoman for Mr. Ovitz said that he, too, had nothing to do with Sunbeam.
The Transom Also Hears
Poor Martin Bronstein. Just days after The Observer ran a big spread on the British journalist’s famous radio interview with Bob Dylan and how it was going to be auctioned off at Sotheby’s on June 13, he had a rude awakening. A representative of the auction house called him to say that it had received a letter from Mr. Dylan’s attorney, David Braun, that said: “Sotheby’s use of Mr. Dylan’s name without his consent to promote the Auction is a violation of his right to publicity,” and that “Sotheby’s use of Mr. Dylan’s name in conjunction with the auction is a misappropriation of a valuable property right for which Sotheby’s never sought Mr. Dylan’s approval.” So, before attempting to auction off the Mr. Bronstein’s tape, a Sotheby’s spokesman told The Transom that an announcement was made that it would be sold “without copyright,” meaning no one could use it for commercial purposes. The item didn’t sell, and Mr. Bronstein is not happy. “Sotheby’s legal department crumbled,” he said. “This whole thing is legal saber-rattling. Do you really think Bob Dylan gives a fuck?” Mr. Braun declined to comment, and Mr. Bronstein said he was going to hang onto his tape for now.