Jewish World Review April 21, 2004 / 30 Nissan, 5764
Things don't go better with Coke?; swipes from the grave; "Mami" to the rescue; more
NEW YORK Surely Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black, a longtime member of the Coca-Cola Company's board of directors, doesn't condone the murder and torture of labor organizers in Colombia.
But that didn't stop half a dozen members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke from handing out a harsh sendup of Hearst's Cosmopolitan magazine as prominent New Yorkers streamed into the Waldorf-Astoria for Monday's Hearst-sponsored Matrix Awards lunch.
Lunch speaker Vernon Jordan refused to accept a leaflet. "I don't take leaflets, ever," the Lazard Freres financier told me Tuesday.
But former Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown, who at first breezed past the leafleteers, circled back around to pick up a copy.
"It didn't know what it was about," the legendary editor told me. "I thought it had something to do with Cosmopolitan."
Instead, it featured a caricatured Black brandishing a smoking rifle on the cover of "COLASWALLOWIN'" magazine. "WHY IS CATHIE BLACK IN BED WITH KILLER COKE?" asked a cover line. "25 Sexiest Paramilitary Thugs," blared another. "Find your GREED SPOT," teased yet another.
The leaflet claimed that Black, along with fellow Coke board members Barry Diller and Warren Buffett, "has ignored the well-documented ties between Coke, its Colombian 'bottling partners' and bands of paramilitary thugs who seek to destroy the union that represents bottling plant workers. During Ms. Black's tenure, seven Coca-Cola workers have been killed and dozens more tortured, kidnapped or illegally detained."
Black didn't return my calls seeking comment Tuesday, but Brown said: "I thought it was kind of scurrilous and heinous. I'm not saying this because Cathie Black is my boss, but I can't imagine she would do anything to hurt labor leaders. Cathie Black anti-labor? That doesn't sound like her."
A Coke corporate spokeswoman, meanwhile, dismissed the leafleting as "a publicity stunt. The allegations are false, and it's outrageous to believe that The Coca-Cola Company would have anything to do with this type of behavior."
SWIPES FROM THE GRAVE
Even in death, Michael Kelly's contempt for his onetime colleague Sidney Blumenthal lives on.
At a star-studded Monday night reading from "Things Worth Fighting For," a posthumous collection of Kelly's war journalism and other writings, former New Yorker editor Tina Brown regaled the crowd at Barnes & Noble with Kelly-Blumenthal stories.
"Mike took the job (of The New Yorker's Washington bureau chief) on condition that Sid wasn't allowed into the office," Brown recalled. "But he remained, for Mike, a sinister off-stage presence."
There was laughter from an audience that included Dan Rather, Howell Raines, Atlantic Monthly owner David Bradley, Kelly's widow, Max, and their two sons, Tom and Jack.
"Mike's distrust of Sid was rooted in his belief later borne out that Sid's loyalty lay not to The New Yorker but to the Clinton administration he was supposed to be covering as a journalist," Brown went on. "He was convinced Sid was functioning as a Clinton operative inside the magazine, warning the White House of what was in the works or tipping them off about which journalist on our staff they should feel they should or shouldn't cooperate with.
"This offended Mike to his core. He would come on the phone to rant to me about Sid pretty much every week. His DNA was so much about his strong Catholic sense of right and wrong, his belief in the honor code of collegial loyalty was so profound he regarded Sid's alleged treachery as the lowest form of journalistic life."
Kelly was killed, at age 46, while reporting from Iraq for The Atlantic Monthly in April 2003.
On Tuesday, Blumenthal, Washington bureau chief for Salon, declined to comment on Brown's remarks. "I am very sorry about what happened to Mike, and his family has my sympathies," Blumenthal told me. "That's all I have to say."
BILL, A CAD?: Why, according to "Apprentice" winner Bill Rancic, has he stayed single for so long? "I guess I haven't found the right woman yet," he explained on a recent episode. But that was news to Chicago physical therapist Yafa Wiesman, who says she dated Rancic for three and a half years. "It's safe to say something about the show maybe Bill's taste for stardom came between us," Wiesman tells Star magazine. "We weren't officially engaged, but we had talked about marriage. I took care of his house and picked up his mail while he was in New York. He'd call me three times a week, saying, 'I can't wait to watch the show with you.' But when he came home, things changed."
"MAMI" TO THE RESCUE: The warm New York weather has brought everyone out of the woodwork including a rare daytime appearance by night owl Tara Reid. Clad only in her Sunday best denim short-shorts, white sneakers and a teensy T-shirt the hard-partying actress went restaurant hopping from Downtown Cipriani in SoHo to Baraonda to Mr. Chow's on the East Side and ended up, after nightfall, back at Cipriani. By 11 p.m., when she arrived alone, this column witnessed Reid pacing hither and yon in front of the restaurant, talking loudly, gesturing with her cell phone and otherwise looking a tad lost. Grimly determined to reach her destination the new members-only lounge above the dining room the erstwhile ingenue climbed the stairs with the help of a bouncer who gripped her tightly. She kept calling him "Mami."
AN ABJECT APOLOGY: To the fans and loved ones of "Bachelorette" Meredith Phillips and her fiance, Ian McKee. Dozens complained about last week's item concerning harsh words allegedly exchanged by the reality television couple over dinner at a Los Angeles restaurant. "You are really scraping the bottom of the b.s. barrel," wrote a typical supporter, responding to Star Magazine's report reprinted here that the lovebirds seemed headed for a breakup. "Don't destroy beautiful young lives with the crap the rags have to offer." Well, it turns out I was wrong. It was lunch, not dinner. Star's flack told me that a stringer was sitting at the next table, at the Marina del Rey restaurant Maxwell's, when Ian and Meredith started fighting.
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