“A lot more attention is placed on me and not in a good way,” publicist Ali Wise told the Transom when we asked what it’s like to go out since her arrest back in July on charges of computer tampering and eavesdropping. “I still have all my close friends and nothing is different in that respect. But I’m dealing with it seriously and I’m taking it day by day.”
Ms. Wise was at her friend Stacey Bendet’s alice + olivia pop-up store opening at Scoop on the Upper East Side on Friday, Nov. 20. Ms. Bendet, who has been acting like a sort of May Welland to Ms. Wise’s Ellen Olenska since her legal troubles and subsequent social lashing, asked her friend to be her co-host for the evening and outfitted Ms. Wise in one of her sequined minidresses.
The former Dolce & Gabbana publicist allegedly hacked into the voice mails of at least four people—including interior designer Nina Freudenberger who dated Ms. Wise’s ex, Downtown Records founder Josh Deutsch—using software called SpoofCard, more than 1,000 times between April 2006 and June 2009.
Ms. Bendet, along with Nylon style director Dani Stahl, and designers Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss and Charlotte Ronson have been rallying around their friend since the scandal broke. After the arrest, Ms. Bendet remarked on her Facebook page (she has 810 friends): “isnt it strange that nina freudenut started this whole case against ali wise the same week she opened a store? hellooooo press whore.”
The petite Ms. Bendet was wearing metallic red, high-waisted short shorts, argyle tights and a black tank exposing a mesh undergarment. “I’m a cross between a stripper and a disco ball!” she exclaimed.
“All of her friends have stood by her and supported her, but I was maybe just a little more vocal about it because I felt like the press was treating her really unfairly,” Ms. Bendet, who has known Ms. Wise since college, told the Transom, “Ali is a really awesome person and all this has really been blown out of proportion. She’s like an amazing person. Anyone who meets Ali loves her. So it’s just kind of like ugh. It’s silly.”
Power publicist Matthew Hiltzik, who has done crisis management for Jane Friedman, Katie Couric, Don Imus and, just recently, Annie Leibovitz, is also working for Ms. Wise.
And why does a publicist need a publicist? “When someone in the public eye is facing a sensitive legal situation and is unable to speak freely to the press, they need someone to handle media requests,” Mr. Hiltzik said, “Ali can manage her image quite well on her own.”
In some ways, Ms. Wise’s tale is reminiscent of another disgraced blond New York publicist. “I like Ali a lot. She has been a friend of mine for a long time and I really feel for her,” Lizzie Grubman, who hired Dan Klores Communications to assist with her legal case back in 2001, said by phone last week. “It is important to stay strong and have a thick skin as time heals all wounds. But I told Ali, ‘It never really goes away. I’ll always be the girl who got into a car accident.’”
But Ms. Grubman still has her own company—and who knows, so might Ms. Wise when this is all over. “She’s done an incredible job helping us restructure our whole PR department,” Ms. Bendet said. “I’d love her to be working for us full time, but I think she’s starting her own company”—Mr. Hiltzik said this was not true—“and … she seems to have a real opportunity with other companies.” Ms. Wise faces a prison sentence of up to four years, as she is charged with Class E felonies and misdemeanors that include four counts each of computer trespassing, eavesdropping, computer tampering in the fourth degree and aggravated harassment in the second degree, and one count of stalking in the fourth degree. Her next court date is in January.
Back at the party, Ms. Wise, muzzled from discussing the case, was chatting with socialites Dylan Lauren, Dalia Oberlander and Dabney Mercer. Ms. Stahl, who was nearby, explained why she too felt it was important to speak out on behalf of her friend.
“What would I shy away from?” she said. “My friend got this stupid card online and whatever the story is, I think the whole thing is funny and exaggerated. Ali is the same fun, amazing person. I don’t know what the big scandal is. Everyone should think about all the things that they’re doing and stop worrying about Ali. She’s going to just fully use this after the storm and become bigger and greater than ever.”