Mary Tyler Moore: No Russian Mobsters

Mary Tyler Moore | Jacko's Miramax Connection | 'Apprentice' Apathy

Mary Tyler Moore: No Russian Mobsters

Mary Tyler Moore, still America's sweetheart, was pretty beat up in the New York press yesterday.

She was accused of all sorts of things, including trying to sell her posh Fifth Avenue aerie to a "questionable" Russian citizen.

Hey, folks: This is Mary Tyler Moore we're talking about. Champion for juvenile-diabetes research. Friend of furry creatures. Star of two classic, beloved sitcoms. What the heck is going on?

Mary once famously defended the life of a lobster. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that she's taken on the protection of a hawk's nest on her Manhattan apartment building as a cause.

She's spoken up not only for Pale Male, a now internationally famous bird, but also for a protester who was bringing attention to Pale Male's plight.

Mary has not been treated nicely or with much respect. That's got to stop.

But ah, it's not all about the birds and the shareholders at 927 Fifth Ave., where Mary has a spacious and lovely home that includes an oblong dinner table that seats 20.

Mary and husband Robert Levine told me just a couple of weeks ago that they were ready to give up city life for their upper Westchester country spread. It seems that the root of Mary's besmirching yesterday has more to do with her efforts to sell their apartment and get out of the very posh, exclusive marble edifice.

Some reports yesterday claimed that Mary had tried to sell her apartment for $18-$20 million to a "Russian citizen" who was accompanied by bodyguards.

I can tell you that this mysterious, "disreputable" person was none other than Russian-born Leonard Blavatnik, an American citizen since 1978.

Blavatnik is listed on the Forbes 400 at No. 87, is worth $2.5 billion and already has a mansion valued at $75 million in London near Kensington Park. But he wasn't good enough to pass the co-op board at 927 Fifth Ave.

Contrary to the press reports, Blavatnik, say his very American staffers, doesn't travel with bodyguards. (Frankly, it wouldn't be a shock if he had one, or at least a stocky driver.)

He owns a New York-based corporation called Access Industries, which in turn owns TNK-BP, a joint venture with British Petroleum and the third biggest oil company in Russia.

Blavatnik is an international oil and energy magnate who has a stranglehold on the Russian economy, not that there's anything wrong with that.

He has, however, been formally accused of racketeering, among other things, in a civil lawsuit brought by a competitor. That lawsuit has been dismissed.

Manhattan's realtor to the stars, Kathy Sloane, brought Blavatnik to the Levine/Moore home because she and realtor-of-realtors Alice Mason shared an exclusive on the building and the apartment.

Since the Blavatnik blowout, Sloane, according to sources, has resigned from dealing with the building.

The firm for which she works, Brown Harris Stevens, manages the building. But the whole company is said to have become disgusted with 927's co-op board and their response not only to Pale Male but to Blavatnik. Sloane and Mason did not return calls.

Insiders laughed yesterday at the notion that Brown Harris or Sloane and Mason would be sending over unacceptable applicants for Mary's abode.

"After all," one said, "they're the company that represents the building."

Much of the enmity concerning Pale Male and the bad publicity aimed at Moore seems to be focused on co-op board chairman Richard Cohen, husband of CNN anchor Paula Zahn.

Cohen, according to those I spoke to, has done himself no favors in his comportment on these issues.

As for Mary, I had to laugh when I read anonymous quotes that she was selling the apartment because "she needed the money."

Folks, Mary, her ex-husband Grant Tinker and partner Arthur Price divided the profits from the sale of their TV production company, MTM, when it was sold many years ago.

Mary walked away with over $100 million. You do the math. Her indulgences include a couple of dogs.

I also thought it was funny when the same unknown person mocked her career.

At 67 years old, Mary Tyler Moore has an Oscar nomination for "Ordinary People," a Tony for "Whose Life is It Anyway?," six Emmys for her own show and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," three Golden Globes and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

She also wrote a best-selling memoir and still has an incredible pair of legs. We should all be so lucky or talented.

Jacko's Miramax Connection

You wouldn't think I could find a way to link Michael Jackson with Miramax, two of my favorite subjects in this column.

But here it is anyway: Last night at the Museum of Modern Art, during an hour long Q&A session with Harvey Weinstein and brother/partner Bob Weinstein conducted by Quentin Tarantino, the Mogul of Moguls made a startling revelation.

He chose the name of Wes Craven's hit film, "Scream," from the Michael and Janet Jackson duet of the same name.

Weinstein told the audience at MoMA, there to celebrate Miramax's 25th anniversary with a showing of Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," that he was watching MTV and suddenly got the idea.

Originally, he said, "Scream" was going to be called "Scary Movie," but that got tabled when he saw the Jacksons hollering at each other in the dissonant video.

Weinstein also declared, when Tarantino asked, that his stable of actors and directors, including the "Pulp Fiction" director, Craven, Anthony Minghella, Martin Scorsese, Lasse Hallström, Robert Rodriguez, John Madden and others, was ready to go with him and his brother to their next venture if Disney decides to extinguish Miramax soon, as many predict.

He conceded that the bad blood between Miramax and its parent company stemmed from the release of "Fahrenheit 9/11."

"You make choices in your life," Weinstein said. "When you stand up for what you believe in, you pay a price." (I'm sure Mary Tyler Moore would agree.)

Weinstein acknowledged that several big investors — already reported in this column — have offered to underwrite the brothers in a new venture.

"I've never known what it's like to be the pretty girl in the room," he laughed.

In the audience were Dave Hirshey and Jane Becker Friedman of HarperCollins, who will publish Weinstein's autobiography in the near future.

"I hope there are some stories left," Hirshey told Weinstein afterward. Weinstein reassured them there were.

The hour-long discussion and 7-minute clip reel barely covered the many films made and released by Miramax, mainly since 1989, including "The Aviator" and "Finding Neverland" from this year, plus "The Piano," "Il Postino," "Cinema Paradiso," "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," "Shakespeare in Love," "The Cider House Rules," "Emma," "In the Bedroom," "Kolya," "Malena," "Life Is Beautiful," "Frida," "Bridget Jones's Diary," "Good Will Hunting," "Chicago," "Sliding Doors," "Gangs of New York," "Cold Mountain," "The Others," "From Dusk Till Dawn," the "Scream" trilogy, "The English Patient," "Spy Kids," "The Crow," "Mrs. Brown," "Iris," "Little Voice," "Chocolat," "Jackie Brown," "Kill Bill" parts 1 and 2, "Chasing Amy" and "The Crying Game."

'Apprentice' Apathy; 'Focker' Fuss

Last night's party at Roseland following the three-hour "Apprentice" finale was, well, peculiar.

The only person I saw who really was a celebrity was boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.

Otherwise, the guest list by midnight consisted largely of the show's contestants for two seasons, Donald Trump, his poised daughter Ivanka Trump and about 700 strangers.

The gang dined on Sabrett's hot dogs from carts, deli sandwiches, black-and-white cookies, sushi and those two disgusting gelato flavors thought up by the game's participants.

Let me tell you, that Red Velvet is inedible.

Also ... I finally saw "Meet the Fockers."

The sequel to "Meet the Parents" is not entirely unwatchable, but that's thanks to Dustin Hoffman, who shines as Bernie Focker.

Strange cinema moment: Barbra Streisand, decked out in her "A Star Is Born" afro and muumuu, giving a shirtless Robert De Niro a massage. Not one for the time capsule, I can assure you.

And what kind of movie doesn't at least showcase Streisand singing something, anything, if not for fun? Let this be the end of this series, with no third part, please.