Sam Waksal, waiting to see how much jail time he'll get in the ImClone scandal, is having a regular visitor. No, it's not indicted entertaining queen Martha Stewart. Associates of the two men say that financier and corporate raider Carl Icahn has been lending Waksal an ear in person at least twice a week.
Now, I don't know Carl Icahn. He's never been portrayed as a sympathetic listener, but his father after all, was a cantor at the Far Rockaway synagogue. Icahn is used to hearing people sing. And Waskal has nothing else to do but sing like a canary.
But what would Icahn want with Waksal? Answer: plenty.
In 1999, Icahn bought a 5.1percent stake in ImClone, helped fund an ImClone spin-off, and once planned to put Waksal on the board of a medical device company he was trying to take over. Last year, when ImClone first fell into a public scandal and Bristol Meyers Squibb was trying to end their mutual deal, Icahn stepped in and tried to buy ImClone -- either by hostile or friendly means.
Now that both Waksal and his brother have been excised from the running of ImClone, Icahn may see that he's got a bargain on his hands. Despite all the personal scandals, it turns that the cancer drug Erbitux may actually work, even partially, and that could signal profits down the line. Icahn may be trying to convince the Waskals that their association with the company can only be negative, and that he can bail them out personally and bring the drug to cancer patients.
A call to Icahn's New York office produced a promise of a return, but it didn't materialize. But keep an eye on Icahn, who is vicious when he wants a company. And he loves the biotech world. He tried to buy Visx, which makes lasers for eye surgery. And he's a substantial financial supporter of the gene research program at Princeton. A successful cancer drug sounds like just his thing.
Meantime, I was surprised yesterday afternoon that the most salient fact from the 41-page Stewart indictment didn't get more attention. According to the government, Martha actually tampered with her computerized phone logs after the fact to throw off investigators. This is mind-blowing.
What could she have been thinking?
Here's how it worked: About a month after Martha allegedly sold her ImClone stock on insider advice, she had her assistant go into the phone log and erase the notation for a conversation with her stock broker from the key day it happened. Investigators, she thought, would now see December 27, 2001 and think she simply spoke to the broker. Gone was the description of him telling her to sell the stock because Waksal was also selling it off.
It's hard to understand how Stewart, who is a bright woman, thought this would never be traced. But it turns out to be the smoking gun in her case. Why would she have made the change if she had nothing to hide? At this point, one would hope that Stewart would change her plea to guilty and pay her fine. Dragging this case out only continues to harm her.
Matrix star Keanu Reeves is a generous guy, but reports of his wild generosity are not true.
Yesterday the British tabloids, in a fit of creative mania, decided that Reeves had given $82 million to the crew who worked on The Matrix films.
"I have enough money to last for centuries," Reeves proclaimed, and it was reprinted everywhere.
Where do they get this stuff from?
Indeed, one of the people cited as receiving a check for $2.8 million was Kym Barrett, the costume designer for The Matrix series. She's the one who made Neo's famous long trench coat. So I called Barrett up and asked her how she felt being a millionaire.
"A what?" she asked. Sadly, she has not gotten a dime in the mail from Reeves.
"I mean, he's very nice. He plays with my kids. We love working with him, but no, no checks," she laughed.
Was there anyone who'd gotten this money as described in breathless reports?
"No one I know of," she said.
Barrett, by the way, wouldn't mind if Warner Bros., or Joel Silver wanted to merchandise those long coats. She's ready to become a fashion designer.
As for Keanu doling out the big bucks, here's the real story: Two years ago he put some of his upfront money back into the production budget to ensure the creative staff -- costumes, special effects etc. -- could continue working on the trilogy. This was back when the first Matrix had not yet hit pay dirt. Since then, believe me, the movies have been such a success that everyone's gotten what they needed.
But Keanu has not written any personal checks to anyone. Sorry.
Finding Nemo is a big, big hit. Good news for Disney, which released it. Bad news for Disney, which didn't actually make it.
Like Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Monsters, Inc., Nemo is a production of Pixar, the computer graphics company started by Apple Computers' Steve Jobs. It has nothing to do with Disney's veteran animation division. In fact, Pixar poses a problem for Disney, which can't seem to find a hit to call its own lately.
Indeed, all the people who worked on Nemo previously worked on Pixar's features. They do not come from the Disney animation department, which has slowly eroded in the years since Jeffrey Katzenberg left to start DreamWorks.
In that time, Disney has been bested by DreamWorks with Shrek and by Pixar with their films. The last real Disney animated feature, Treasure Planet, was an abysmal failure, taking in not even $100 million worldwide. The costs ran around $150 million.
Now the Pixar deal has to be renegotiated, and Disney is in a bind. They can't let Pixar go, but at the same time the notoriously cheap Mouse House doesn't want to fork over the bucks. Yesterday, Michael Eisner gave an interview in which he seemed unsure that he could keep Pixar in the family. That couldn't have made anyone feel secure over there.
Disney is otherwise in a kind of maelstrom around their "adult" movies.
Last week they blew off Lizzie McGuire star Hilary Duff because they said she wanted too much money for a sequel. Yesterday they seemed to come back hat in hand begging for a chance to reconsider. Ouch!
Then, of course, there are two huge budget films coming based on Disney theme rides: The Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted House. Both are big money gambles.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has fallen for Irish dancer Michael Flatley.
Flatley was the guest of honor for the city of St. Petersburg's 300th birthday celebration last week. This was the big to-do that George W. Bush missed, but Tony Blair managed to attend.
Flatley danced his famous trademark Warlords piece from Lord of the Dance, and may have advanced East-West relations in the process. Putin liked the show so much, I am told, he was overheard telling Flatley that he will now journey to Las Vegas to see him again!
Putin also treated Flatley to a special dinner aboard his private yacht, where the tapper got to meet heads from state from several countries.
Not bad for a guy who hadn't danced in public in almost two years.
I was pleased to hear again recently from an old friend, Dennis Elsas, the great radio personality who was part of the legendary team at WNEW FM. These days Dennis, like a lot of former 'NEW stars, graces the airwaves at WFUV in New York, 90.7. FM. He's on every afternoon, and if you're in the New York-New Jersey area, it's worth tuning in to hear his erudite interviews -- as well as a lot of great music. And here's something nice: if you go to their website, you can listen, as I do, via internet at www.wfuv.org.