Rap Star Nelly Sells Almost a Million

Nelly | Diana Brooks | Martha Stewart 

Rap Star Nelly Sells Almost a Million

The folks at Universal Records are crossing their fingers and toes and waiting for the final word from SoundScan this afternoon. Seems rapper Nelly has sold nearly a million copies of his album Nellyville this week. It will debut at No. 1.

The sales for Nellyville are so strong they've dragged the rapper's previous effort, Country Grammar, back onto the charts.

This some big news for Universal, which is part of the Universal Music Group with Island Def Jam, Interscope, DreamWorks, A&M, Motown, and a few other labels. UMG will account for six of the top ten albums this week.

"Not bad," commented one insider, "considering just a few years ago Warner Music kicked out Doug Morris — now the head of UMG — because they didn't get what he was doing."

Also not bad considering the dire situation in the record industry. If only Nelly or Eminem, last week's big thing, were worthy of their sales or were actual musicians. But you can't have everything.

Meanwhile, the absolutely biggest phenom since Alicia Keys is 17-year-old Avril Lavigne. The Canadian-born singer/songwriter's debut album is No. 3 this week after 3 weeks.

Lavigne is equal parts Alanis Morissette, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, and Dido — with a splash of 12 other performers. But her single "Complicated" is a total smash hit and will establish her for the time being. Arista Records should be proud of the job they've done after banging their heads against the wall for two years.

Sotheby's Art Chief 'Thief' Lives on Latte

You might think that being found guilty of price fixing would mean no more lattes or Frappuccinos, at least until your prison term is up.

Not so for Diana Brooks, aka Dede, the former head of Sotheby's auction house. A judge found her and her partner in crime, Alfred Taubman, guilty of fixing prices for artwork and auctions back on April 30. The judge even called Brooks a "thief" during the sentencing hearing. But Brooks got a relatively light term: three years probation and six months of house arrest.

Of course, for Brooks, "house arrest" means something a little different than it might to you. Her house is on Park Avenue at East 79th Street. This is like sending a kid to his room in which he's got PlayStation 2, Xbox and a stack of Playboys under his bed.

So we were a little surprised, but not shocked, to find Brooks checking out the coffee mugs and other doo-dads at Starbucks on Lexington and 79th Street on Friday afternoon. She was dressed down, in a polo shirt and khakis, but still this was the woman who ruled the art world until a few months ago.

A friend of hers told us, "She must have been coming home from her job." Job? Turns out the judge's ruling in the case permits Brooks the chance to work, to have dental and religious appointments, and unspecified other appointments. Why, there's barely time to do the house arrest her schedule is so busy.

"Even prisoners are allowed in the yard," the friend countered. But then again, prison yards do not feature the great shops and galleries of Madison Avenue. Or, for that matter, in that neighborhood, of Lexington Avenue.

Brooks does have to wear her ankle bracelet — just like Robin Tunney in the movie Cherish — and must be back in her apartment at certain times to answer security calls. "She hasn't had any extra privileges," says her friend, "they've been very tough on her, extra tough."

For the record, she skipped the latte on Friday.

Martha Stewart's ImClone Cyclone

Could there be an article as out of it or insanely stupid as the current cover story in New York magazine? That's the one about Martha Stewart and her ongoing insider trading scandal.

New York approached the piece as if the story had just broken, which is quaint, but sad since the news started hitting as far back as June 7 in a major way and February in dribs and drabs.

For one thing, New York went way out of its way not to mention ImClone founder Sam Waksal's girlfriend since last year, Patricia Duff (Medavoy Perelman, etc.). New York also managed to skirt Waksal's friendship with Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman, instead naming a bunch of people (Clive Davis, Harvey Weinstein) whom Waksal knows tangentially at best.

The article concentrated almost entirely on Peter Bacanovic, the stock broker who made Martha's trades and is now being investigated by the SEC.

Poor Bacanovic.

I'd never heard of him before this but I do feel sorry for him now. He's being served up by all the people writing stories about ImClone because he's the least powerful and most expendable of all the characters in the story.

New York had about three weeks to do some real reporting, which is what they might have done in the days of Marie Brenner. But no, those days are long gone.

If they had, they would have written about ibeauty.com, the failed Internet cosmetics distributor in which Martha partnered with Waksal and Planet Hollywood founder Keith Barish.

Barish, a nice guy, is absent entirely from the New York story, as are many other society types who were Waksal's best buds until recently. I have my ideas about why these names are omitted, but you'll have to ask New York magazine yourselves. You won't get any answers.

Waksal's ImClone adventures are so interesting because they form a spider's web. The web stretches into a lot of living rooms, but most of these people have scrambled to keep their names out of the papers and magazines.

It's pretty easy to do since a lot of the reporters covering this story have been Waksal's guest or Barish's guest at one time or another. Hopefully, the SEC agents and investigators are immune to free plane rides and dinners. In the end, we'll have to count on them to unravel the mysteries that New York decided to ignore.

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