Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 2003 / 6 Kislev, 5764
Dennis the Menace strikes again; first literary feud of the holiday season; Norma Jean & Hef in heaven?; the fog of McNamara; more
NEW YORK Tyco International robber baron Dennis Kozlowski on trial for allegedly looting hundreds of millions of dollars from the company's stockholders apparently speaks with forked tongue when it comes to his onetime home on Fifth Ave.
Kozlowski's defense team is swearing to jurors that the $18 million, 13-room duplex with those infamous golden shower curtains and that $500,000 hand-painted wallpaper was bought and paid for by Tyco, not Kozlowski, as a corporate asset. Now the apartment is for sale (asking price: $28 million).
But when Kozlowski applied to the seven-unit building to buy the apartment 3 1/2 years ago, I'm told he assured residents that it would be a personal purchase out of his own pocket which co-op regulations require. Kozlowski's name, not Tyco's, was on the contract.
I hear that not only did Kozlowski's application to the co-op board promise that the apartment would be a personal purchase, he distributed to fellow residents a financial statement claiming liquid personal assets of around $400 million. Kozlowski's current position at his fraud trial that the apartment was bought by Tyco for business purposes is at odds with his reported stance last year, when Tyco was hoping to sell it. Then sources close to Kozlowski argued that the apartment belonged to him.
My call to co-op board president Jonathan Tisch was not returned Wednesday.
So did Kozlowski lie his way into the building?
"I have no comment on that," answered his criminal lawyer, Stephen Kaufman, who obviously has bigger worries than a possible breach of contract action by disgruntled co-op owners. "But let me just say this: There was no deception between him and the company. The company was the owner of that apartment."
FIRST LITERARY FEUD OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON
The New York Observer has just tossed something unpleasant into The New Yorker's Thanksgiving punchbowl.
In an editorial Wednesday, the salmon-hued weekly demanded: "Is The New Yorker implicitly endorsing anti-Semitism in its pages?"
The Observer went on to scorch John Updike's description in his Nov. 24 review of Peter Carey's novel "My Life as a Fake" of one character as "a rich Jew."
"To say that the expression 'rich Jew' is loaded with historical anti-Semitism is an understatement," the Observer continued.
Updike had no comment Wednesday, but New Yorker Editor in Chief David Remnick was withering in his reply.
"There is genuine vigilance, which is real and necessary, and then there is self-admiring nonsense that pretends to be vigilance," Remnick e-mailed me. "In recent days synagogues were being bombed in Istanbul and defaced in France; many Jews in New York now worship in synagogues ringed with concrete barriers; and, meanwhile, the centuries-old tenets of anti-Semitism are thriving for countless people.
"This is a serious situation requiring the serious attention of serious people. And yet the editorialists of the Observer exercise concern about the phrase 'rich Jew' in a book review. Next week they will surely race to the barriers over a 'poor Catholic' or a 'middle-class African American.'"
Observer Editor in Chief Peter Kaplan responded: "That shows a lot of self-regard by David. But the fact is that he and I and everybody in journalism should be vigilant about the casual use of anti-Semitism."
Kaplan added: "If somebody used that phrase at a dinner party, even if it was said by someone I admire as deeply as John Updike, I would get my back up and Remnick would, too."
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: Back in October, The New Yorker announced with great fanfare that it had recruited New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief James Bennet to become the magazine's new Washington bureau chief. Late Wednesday afternoon six weeks after he accepted the job Bennet told The New Yorker's editors that he has suddenly changed his mind. I hear folks at the magazine are, understandably, annoyed. "The New Yorker and David (Remnick) in particular have been nothing but decent toward me and my family," Bennet e-mailed me from Israel. "I felt, and feel, privileged to have been offered the chance to write for them, as any reporter would, and I deeply regret having let them down."
THE FOG OF MCNAMARA: When Robert S. McNamara was secretary of defense back in the 1960s, he was plagued by grave private doubts about the Vietnam War. Still, he energetically supervised the disaster-in-the-making, often going before the cameras to predict ultimate success, and for decades after he left the job, refused to discuss his misgivings all out of loyalty to President Johnson, he explained. Now that he's the subject of "The Fog of War," a much-buzzed-about documentary coming out next month, the 87-year-old McNamara is being similarly discreet about the U.S. military operation in Iraq. "I'm asked my views by the press all over the world, and I haven't given them," he told me proudly, the morning after I screened the Errol Morris documentary. "I just think it's irresponsible for an ex-secretary of defense to comment on a president's policies. . . . I guess I'm just hard-headed."
NORMA JEAN & HEF IN HEAVEN?: The founder of Playboy, celebrating its 50th anniversary, never got to, uh, know First Playmate Marilyn Monroe. So Hugh Hefner is looking forward to meeting her in the afterlife. "I bought the vault next to Marilyn," he recently told ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr, whose "20/20" report on Hef and his magazine airs Friday night. "When I learned that the vault was available next to Marilyn (at Westwood Village, Calif., Memorial Park) . . . you know, I appreciate those kind of connections." Sherr asked: "You want to catch up with her in the next life?" Hef replied: "Yeah. We have lots to talk about."
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© 2003, Creators Syndicate