Rosie Strikes Back | Alicia Keys Rod Stewart  | Robert Altman | Joyce Wadler

Rosie Strikes Back: Says Publisher Lied About Numbers

Rosie O'Donnell is countersuing over her closed magazine. And she's not doing it lightly.

In court papers filed Thursday in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, O'Donnell claims publisher Gruner + Jahr purposely manipulated the books on her defunct magazine, Rosie, so that O'Donnell would wind up waiving her right to exit without a fight.

O'Donnell says G+J had a loophole in their contract that stipulated that if on June 30, 2002, earnings from the magazine had fallen below a certain level, Rosie would be able to walk away from the project without a court battle. If the numbers stayed above that level, O'Donnell would have to stay.

Rosie now claims, through her attorney Mary Jo White, that G+J knew about the loophole and made the magazine seem as if it was doing better than it was, starting in May. She says the publisher did it "with the express approval of its corporate parent, Gruner + Jahr" of Germany.

According to sources, White —  a former U.S. attorney in New York —  will produce a "smoking gun" in the form of an e-mail from the G+J America execs to their superiors in Germany asking for permission to lie about the numbers. By doing so, the publisher reasoned O'Donnell would be stuck with the magazine unless she wanted to pay her way out.

This would seem to be a hard case to prove. But G+J was caught doing the same thing with another one of their magazines, YM. According to stories in Women's Wear Daily and Advertising Age, the company inflated YM's circulation by 200,000 when they reported figures for their audit for the second half of 2001.

YM's publisher later acknowledged what happened. "The figures were inaccurate and we take ownership and responsibility for that," Laura McEwen, YM's publisher, told Ad Age.

Alicia, In the Keys of Success

The occasion was superstar singer Alicia Keys' 22nd birthday. The place was Capitale, the converted grand marble bank on the Bowery which is now one of the hot, hot hotspots in Manhattan.

To celebrate Keys' day, J Records founder and RCA/J Records overall guru extraordinaire Clive Davis threw his biggest star a little soiree on Wednesday night. There were the usual things birthday girls get: cake, Champagne, and a plaque marking the sale of 10 million copies of her debut album worldwide.

Doesn't every girl get that?

I am happy to report that Alicia has not changed since I first met her two years ago. She still seems largely unaffected by fame and is natural and friendly as ever. Her mom, who now works for her and travels with her, was by her side. (She's a terrific lady with a good sense of humor.)

Keys told me that she is halfway through recording her new album, so don't worry about sophomore jinx. It's not going to happen with this one, folks. She is the one of the most self-assured and well spoken young ladies you could hope to meet.

So what's the album called?

"I can't tell you that!" she cried.

How about one song title then?

"Dragon Days," she whispered in my ear. I mean, I'm assuming it's not "Draggin' Daze," but you never know.

Will there be more classical piano woven through the R&B?

"There's going to be everything!" she said. "I've been through so much and had so many influences while I was touring. You'll see."

The album is due before next September 30th, the Grammy deadline.

Alicia was sporting a mink jacket, but don't worry. It's on loan from her mother's friend, it's an antique, and she has not purchased a new one with her recently gained riches.

What has she bought?

"A big house on Long Island," her mom reported. Sounds good to me.

Rod Stewart Knows a Good Thing

Some more news from the house of J Records, which sent out unbelievably sumptuous invitations yesterday for Clive Davis's annual Grammy party.

(This year, the invite was a black box tied together by a man's silk formal bow tie. You could wear this tie with your tux it's so nice! When you unhook the tie, the box's sides slide back and the black and gold invitation is under a piece of Lucite. Under the Lucite, a black-and-white photograph of New York, facing north and west over the Empire State Building. ¡Muy elegante! )

So the news: Rod Stewart, whose career was, shall we say, stalled before he released his latest album at J, has just signed for a sequel. That's right, his Great American Songbook looks like it will sell five million worldwide when all is said and done.

So Davis has signed Rod to do a Part 2. They've picked 14 new songs, and Richard Perry and Phil Ramone will repeat their roles as producers. The album will be out in time for Christmas, if not earlier.

Altman Revs Up His Dance Shoes

Legendary director Robert Altman blew into Elaine's last night accompanied by his beautiful wife Katherine, actress Emily Watson, writer Arnold Weinstein, and producer David Levy.

The occasion? They'd just screened Altman's new film, The Company, which should have a fall release. Neve Campbell stars in this ensemble piece about a ballet company in Chicago.

So how did the screening go?

"Very, very well," the group reported.

Oscar nominee Watson, who is not in the film, is starring at the Brooklyn Academy of Music through March in Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya, so she did not see the film. But you may recall she had a little part in Altman's glorious Gosford Park last year.

Elsewhere in Elaine's swinging boîte this week: Shirley Maclaine stopped by and commiserated about her love life, of all things. And the place was bouncing with the usual insiders: the producer and set designer of Broadway's La Bohème, Fox 5's John Roland and Rosanna Scotto, and Susan Orlean, the real-life writer whom Meryl Streep "plays" in Adaptation.

One topic of conversation: the news that Wallis Simpson cheated on the Duke of Windsor before their marriage. A huge secret, covered up pretty well. I have to say, a lot of people are looking at their friends with a little more scrutiny now.

Joy(ce) to the World

Gossip columnists, or whatever we are, rarely get to praise each other. But I wanted to point out that The New York Times 's strange little "Boldface Names" column has undergone a transition. James Barron, who did a heroic job assembling items, has moved on to the feature section of the paper.

In his place comes my old friend Joyce Wadler , who has immediately changed the column and taken command of it. Joyce has one of the most distinctive voices in journalism, and she already turned Boldface Names into a destination.

She is just about the best stylist around,and knows her audience as well as she "gets" her subjects. As a friend of mine likes to say, you don't even hear the sound of the knife going in until it's too late.

I'm just enjoying her pieces every day. I only hope the Times doesn't pull its usual fast one and send Joyce off to the gardening section and replace her with a 12-year-old. What a delight! Bravo!