In this week’s Observer, I interviewed the singer Carly Simon, who, in a white nightgown, told me about the many of millions of dollars she says she’s lost to the imprisoned money manager Ken Starr. Today, an indictment officially accuses him of a $59 million fraud.
As it happens, I first heard her story when I was writing a profile of Richard Attias earlier this year. She was eating with him at the Four Seasons Hotel, where she told me all about Mr. Starr. At the time, she said what upset her the most was that his story would never become public. It did only a few weeks later, when he was arrested by I.R.S. agents who found him at his multimillion-dollar condo hiding in a closet, his shoes sticking out.
There were lots of good nuggets from my talks with Ms. Simon, and with others, that didn’t make it into the story. Here are some.
Ms. Simon on comparing Mr. Starr to Jay Gatsby: “He is nothing like an F. Scott Fitzgerald story. F. Scott Fitzgerald stories always had class, and where they fucked up, they did so by bathing in the fountain of the Plaza Hotel. They did not steal people’s money.”
On her Martha’s Vineyard estate: “If I sold this house, which is our family compound, if I sold that and lived in a trailer we would have money.”
On Mr. Starr’s promise of 28-percent returns: “I am that naïve and stupid. I thought that that was possible.”
On staying with Mr. Starr after the Joan Stanton allegations: “Why did I hang on for so long? You know what, I remember thinking they wouldn’t dare fool with me, because now they’re under investigation.”
She left a voicemail asking not to be called an heiress: “The Simon family, the sisters and my brother and myself, are not the heirs to the Simon & Schuster fortune, because my father sold the publishing house approximately 6 or 7 years before we died. And so a lot of people get that wrong.”
I also spoke Bert Fields, the enormously powerful L.A. lawyer, who has represented Mr. Starr. He spoke in flawless and extremely long paragraphs about his former client. For example: “He exuded confidence. But he would give you reasons for why he was doing what he was doing. He was not arrogant, I don’t mean to confuse confidence with arrogance. He would explain briefly and with seeming intelligence why he was making the decisions he was making. He was generally an impressive guy. He apparently had superb connections with people in the financial community, and he tended to put his people, his clients, into the various funds that were run by people with whom he was apparently acquainted. And I would say that at the time, I’ve known him now for decades, he was certainly once probably the preeminent American business manager. He had a dazzling list of enthusiastic clients, not all entertainment people.”
Mr. Fields on the government’s accusations: “If he did this, I’m saddened to see this come to that point. One wonders what happens in a man’s life that would create such a radical change. Because I would be very surprised to find out that this is something that was going on for decades.”
The Four Seasons Restaurant’s Julian Niccolini on Mr. Starr, who lunched there monthly: “He was like this, okay: He was not very demanding at all, it didn’t really matter where I sat him, if I sat him upstairs he didn’t complain, if I sat him downstairs he didn’t say a word. He was very calm, very quiet… He wasn’t Dolly Lenz, who wants to be seated by the pool. He used to drink a lot of Diet Coke, that I remember. Diet Coke or iced tea.”
Edward Davis, the 45-year-old musician who had a son with Diane Passage, Ken Starr’s current wife: “I never had any problems with Ken, I thought Ken was quite an exceptional person for actually marrying Diane. I mean, she was a single mom. Most men don’t want to take on a single mom with a child… My son likes him, that’s a good gauge for me… If he’s actually done something to intentionally harm someone, karma will fix it.”
Lastly, this beautiful nugget isn’t from my interview, it’s wonderful Robert Christgau on Carly Simon’s music: “Since affluence is an American condition, I suppose it makes sense not only for the privileged to inflict their sensibilities on us, but for many of us to dig it.”