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What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been: Best of 2000, Part 1

 

Looking Back on 2000 | 3.8.00: Phil Spector | 5.4.00: Rudy Giuliani | 5.11.00: Rudy Giuliani

2000: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been 

Here's just a sampling of some things that either happened on their own in 2000, or were helped along by this column. Some themes: the continuing adventures of characters like Herbalife widow Darcy LaPier, the saga of Mayor Rudy Giuliani's deteriorating marriage, the still-unreleased Warren Beatty movie Town and Country, and US Weekly twice killing negative reviews of albums by Jann Wenner's pals — Don Henley and Paul Simon — only to replace them with positive ones. 

One theme I've left out — the sad spin-out of money manager to the stars Dana Giacchetto. Arrested in April, re-arrested a week later on suspicion of trying to leave the country, Giacchetto will be sentenced Jan. 17 in federal court. He's been in prison since April. Giacchetto's secret life is so interesting, this column will offer an exclusive look into how it all worked, in mid-January 2001. 

In the meantime, Happy New Year. Try and catch one of this column's favorite films of 2000 — Crouching Tiger, Almost Famous, Chocolat, Malena or Erin Brockovich — over the holiday weekend. 

3.8.00: Phil Spector Still Has That Winning Feeling 

The specter of Phil Spector hangs heavy over the record business. Known as a genius, a hermit and something of a nut, Spector is responsible for the Wall of Sound — the textured, layered orchestrations that he applied to records like "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "River Deep Mountain High" and "Be My Baby." His sound has been copied for the last 35 years and revered by superstars like Bruce Springsteen

In recent years, Spector has been sued by some his former stars — including ex-wife Ronnie Bennett Spector and Darlene Love — for not giving them their fair share of his millions. 

So what a surprise to meet, at last, this unusual man at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner on Monday night at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. He was there with a couple of friends — former O.J. Simpson lawyer Robert Shapiro and divorce attorney Marvin Mitchelson. And, surprising to most everyone, Spector was friendly, cogent, social and even bubbly. 

With his shaggish haircut and tinted aviators, the producer who launched everyone from Leon Russell to Sonny and Cher to the Righteous Brothers looked more like a Doonesbury character from the late '60s. But he was as modern as ever as he hosted a private dinner after the Rock Hall show across the street at Giambelli's. About 50 people were on hand including the Hall's executive staff, Sire records president Seymour Stein, BMI's Charlie Feldman, Warner Records and Madonna PR maven Liz Rosenberg and a smattering of miscellaneous types who weren't bleary-eyed at 1 a.m. 

Spector worked the room like a pro, chatted, flirted and even ignored a young inebriated couple who had just met and attempted to seal the deal — until stopped by those standing about — with an act that shall go undescribed. (If this young man's high-profile employer had caught this act, I wonder if he'd be fired or promoted. You never know these days.) 

So I get two questions, the number set by me, for this mostly uninterviewed legend. First question: What happened to the tracks he recorded with Celine Dion

"Very simple," he said. "We did them, but her husband was jealous. He didn't like losing control of the decisions. So they have them." We will probably never hear them, which is a shame, since lush orchestration suits Celine's odd voice. 

Isn't this almost what happened 35 years ago when Phil recorded Tina Turner and banned Ike from the control room during the sessions for "River Deep Mountain High"? 

"I talk to Ike all the time," Spector said. "He's always callin' me up. We're friends!" 

Second question: What about The Beatles' "Let It Be," which Spector produced over Paul McCartney's objections back in 1970? 

"Paul apologized to me for all the bad things he said," replied Phil. "He was only against it because John Lennon liked it so much." 

Spector went on to work with Lennon on several projects, including his Rock and Roll album, which featured their re-worked version of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me." 

"You know what? That was a take off on Rimsky-Korsakov," he said, humming out the basic structure. "I thought we were going to get sued!" 

(Probably not, Phil: The Russian composer died in 1908. The songwriter's copyright law was not heavily endorsed by the Nicholas or Alexandra.) 

Will we ever have the pleasure of a new Spector production in this lifetime? I sure hope so. So many contemporary singers could benefit from his artistry. We can only hope... 

5.4.00: Rudy and Judy: Giuliani's New Dinner Companion 

Wednesday, The New York Post ran pictures of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a female friend named Judith Nathan. They were exiting a restaurant together after a private meal at a place called Hanratty's. According to the caption, the pair are seen frequently there. 

Last Friday night, this reporter spotted the couple dining in an out-of-the-way restaurant/bar called Cronies on the Upper East Side. The mayor's limo idled out front alongside a green SUV. Inside, city-paid security people hung out along the bar while the mayor and Ms. Nathan ate dinner in a secluded, romantically lit dining alcove. 

It was 11:30 p.m. on the night after Mayor Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Earlier in the evening he had spoken to a group of supporters in upstate Saratoga Springs. He was scheduled to speak in Rochester the next day, Saturday, but managed to fly home and make this dinner appointment. 

Wednesday, the mayor told the City Hall press corps that Ms. Nathan was a friend, simple as that. 

But the New York Daily News discovered that the mayor and Ms. Nathan again dined at Cronies this past Sunday — even though they knew they'd been spotted on Friday not only by me but by many others who saw the limo as they made their way into a neighboring restaurant. 

Meantime, the mayor's wife, Donna Hanover, recently skipped a Gracie Mansion event, she said, to spend time with the couple's children. The News reported that she and Andrew and Caroline ate dinner at a local diner, then went home. 

My question: Is anyone actually eating in Gracie Mansion? They must be saving on utility bills like crazy. 

P.S.: The official Rudy-for-senator Web site, RudyYes.com, offers a bio of the mayor with no mention anywhere of wife or kids. 

5.13.00: Giuliani: Years of Denial Are Over 

 

When I spotted New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani dining with Judith Nathan late at night on April 28, I had an idea the end was near for his marriage to Donna Hanover. This very public display seemed not exactly planned but nevertheless blatant and baiting. And so it was. For more than five years, the Giulianis have played this game of "separate" lives. 

As far back as 1996, I wrote in Manhattan File magazine that Donna Hanover was spending almost no time at home. Even then she had so many full-time jobs outside Gracie Mansion it would have been impossible to be first lady of New York. This was not too long after New York magazine's Craig Horowitz broke the story about the mayor's unusually close relationship with his public relations director Chrystine Lategano in autumn 1995. 

So now we can read Hanover's statement about her marriage, issued yesterday: "Today's turn of events bring me great sadness. I had hoped to keep this marriage together. For several years it was difficult to participate in Rudy's public life because of his relationship with one staffer. Beginning last May, I made a major effort to bring us back together. Rudy and I re-established some of our personal intimacy through the fall. At that point he chose another path. Rudy and I will now discuss the possibility of a legal separation." 

Do you know that back in 1996, the mayor was so angry about my Manhattan File item that the city suddenly canceled all their advertising in its sister publication, The New York Law Journal? There were recriminations as well for Horowitz, who was banned from City Hall, and for Vanity Fair's Jennet Conant, who also reported the rumors of an affair with Lategano, in August 1997. (Giuliani called that article "scurrilous.") 

But back to last Monday, May 1: Repeated calls from this column to the mayor's campaign director, Bruce Teitelbaum, went unanswered. Teitelbaum did not even bother supplying an answer to the question, "Who was the woman I saw with the mayor in Cronies at 11:30 p.m. on Friday night?" 

And it's not like the mayor has been alone in this game. Hanover seemingly has done just about everything she can think of to embarrass her husband publicly rather than concede that the marriage was over. She appeared as an actress in The People vs. Larry Flynt, a movie about the porno industry, while refusing to show up at any city events. She signed on for The Vagina Monologues, simply to watch Rudy squirm at reporters' questions. It was almost as if she'd gone through the paper and looked for the most awful show in town and said, "I'll do that one." 

It was vindictiveness worthy of a soap opera — and Donna appeared in those as well. The last one she was in was called One Life to Live. Hopefully both of these smart, talented people will realize now how true that title is — and bring this sad episode to an end. 

Endnote 

We're winding down to the Fox411 holiday break. Will you miss us? This column will appear intermittently — like, when something really interesting happens — between Friday, Dec. 22, and Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2001.