Word is spreading around the office that layoffs are coming any moment. What should you wear for the big day? Ben Widdicombe, who found out in January that his "contract with a national magazine" (otherwise known as Star) was not being renewed, explains: "The perfect termination outfit should feature professionalism and employability as the top note, but with accents of confidence and an aftertaste that leaving the premises means moving on up. A sober suit with a bright shirt is perfect." One other bit of advice: "It is also important, when anticipating bad news, not to wear a favorite piece of clothing, which will forever be associated with an unpleasant memory." [NYT/The Moment]
The New York Daily News has trailed the Post's Page Six in the New York gossip wars for a long time. Now the paper is blowing up its gossip columns and starting over. Two major changes went down today. First, husband and wife gossip team Rush & Molloy announced this morning that they'll be moving from a daily column to a Sunday-only schedule, after more than 13 years. Second—and more dramatic—we hear that Jo Piazza, who wrote the paper's Full Disclosure column, has resigned.
Among Julia Allison's many achievements, one stands out: the dating columnist landed a gig as editor-at-large of Star magazine, which consisted of reading the gossip blogs and then opining on television as if she knew the celebrities at the center of the week's scandal-and as if she had a job at Star. Her lucky successor-Allison's contract having expired after her sponsor Bonnie Fuller lost power at the celebrity gossip magazine-is charming Aussie Ben Widdicombe (left, with Horacio Silva of the Times.)
Departing gossip columnist Ben Widdicombe's innuendo-laden items for the Gatecrasher column in the Daily News were always designed for two audiences: the tabloid's middlebrow readers, who weren't intended to get the joke; and the Australian gossip's counterparts, who could be expected to pick up on the camp subtext.
No, The New York Daily News' Aussie gossip maven Ben Widdicombe isn't dead. But the celebrity-party-booze beat is dead to him. After a recent vacation in his native land of 'roos and convicts, Widdicombe has decided to start enjoying life again. His farewell Gatecrasher column will run tomorrow, but he was good enough to share his feelings with us in advance.
The story of former Page Six scribe Jared Paul Stern and creepy supermarket billionaire/attempted modelizer Ron Burkle is being ripped from the headlines of two years ago for an upcoming episode of Law & Order. Daily News gossiper Ben Widdicombe reports that The Daily Show's Mo Rocca will play Stern. In real life, Burkle (who secretly owns Radar magazine and is a constant embarrassment to his bestest bud Bill Clinton) never did back up his claim that Stern had extorted him for $100 grand in exchange for powder-puff coverage, ended up the subject of even more bad press, and is now a defendant in a defamation suit brought by Stern that may well add to his humiliations. On TV, Stern will be dispatched with extreme prejudice.
Ben Widdicombe recently had a chat with former Village Person Randy Jones, mainly about the geigh singer's new memoir Macho Man. Jones recounted one story from the book, about Tom Cruise, that was eventually vagued-up after the Queen of Scientology's lawyers got involved. Though Jones had no problem talking about the incident with ol' Dame Widdicombe, saying "Tom and I had the same management company at the time. I met him at a party Andy Warhol threw for Peter Gatien's Limelight [nightclub offshoot] in Atlanta." It was apparently "quite the party." Poor Tommy. All these old stories about his early career keep popping up and there's really nothing he can do about it.
Let's put aside any judgment on the literary qualities of Sloane Crosley's collection of essays, I Was Told There'd Be Cake. One talent is beyond dispute: the author, a book publicist in her day job, is one of publishing's most expert promoters. Crosley has secured interviews and profiles which must make writers with fewer connections insanely jealous; and she handles the suspicion that she's trading on those connections with expertly self-deprecating charm. True to form, her book party, itself a rare event in the penny-pinching publishing industry, drew pretty much the full contingent of New York's gossip columnists. From left to right: Spencer Morgan, slap-happy editor of the Observer's Transom column; some big-headed internet geek pretending to run Gawker.com; Paula Froelich of Page Six; her rival Ben Widdicombe of the New York Daily News; Jessica Coen of New York Magazine; and Radar's online editor, Alex Balk. In the gallery, Chris Wilson, Elizabeth Spiers, Russell Perrault of Anchor Books, Frank Rich's son, Nat, and others. Photos, as always, by Nikola Tamindzic. GALLERY»
Just two blind items for you today, the first from Widdicombe: "Which single-ish A-list actor is back to his old ways since splitting with his wife? He was seen handing off a suspicious-looking vial to a hard-partying TV thesp who is about to hit the big screen." Racy. Are Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward still together? Another burning question after the jump.
Not surprisingly, the phrase "Heath Ledger" was Google's fastest-rising search term yesterday. The second most buzzy? "Keith Ledger." Who is maybe a video game designer but definitely not a dead leading man. Even HuffPo couldn't get it straight, tagging many of their Ledger posts, including Bonnie Fuller's, with "Keith" instead of "Heath." The blunders weren't limited to the web. On Larry King last night, Daily News gossip columnist and Aussie (Just like Heath! Book him stat!) Ben Widdicombe was identified as "Ben Witticombe," much to his chagrin, we're quite sure. Notice any other bloopers from yesterday's frantic coverage of the actor's death? Let us know.
Was The Daily News brown-nosing just a bit with its wall-to-wall coverage of Hillary Clinton's 60th birthday party today? Not only was last night's Beacon Theater bash on their front page Wednesday, but the paper sent five of its editorial staff to cover last night's fiesta, including a gossip reporter, regular Clinton beat reporter Mike McAuliff, political editors Ian Bishop and William Goldschlag and Heidi Evans, who penned yesterday's space-filling News sidebar on the brush with death Hillary had with deep vein thrombosis. Not only, you know, eww, but it was almost ten years ago! Who cares! Then of course, there was Ben Widdicombe's actual live blogging of the event. Their headlines—"Hil of a milestone" and "Hillary Clinton 60th birthday bash rocks all the way"—are beyond drooly. Is this the only way to compete with Rupert Murdoch for her love?
Tonight's arrival of the new television show Gossip Girl on the CW is at least the most important event of the week. It is a real-life doomsday scenario for us, in which the lives of 10 wealthy Upper East Side teenagers somehow become intangibly yet irrevocably ingrained into our consciousness. Last night I went into the Tora Bora caves of the Gossip Girls premiere party at Tenjune. Someone had unrolled a black carpet and some velvet rope. On one side, a claque of television cameras and desperate reporters clutching iPods with microphone attachments scrummed with each other to get a quote. On the other, these newly-minted slender starfolk fielded sycophantic questions. The mastermind, "The OC" creator Josh Schwartz, showed up shorter and nicer then expected. "Thanks for the piece," he said. "I really liked it." Was he being sarcastic? Is having your show compared to the largest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor a good thing these days?
Yesterday the Daily News's resident Aussie-gossie Ben Widdicombe took a break from doing blind items about closeted actors and offered up this little gem: "Which struggling new glossy is so out of money that staffers are having to pay for photos on personal credit cards?" Hmm! The reader who sent this in suggested it was Portfolio, but we're inclined to disbelieve that; for one thing, there's the famous $100 million figure that's been bandied about ad nauseam, and for another, Condé would probably close down first. To be extra fair, we considered all the suspects.
We're still obsessing over that Ben Widdicombe blind item: "Which very senior Manhattan media executive looks like he might be about to go public with that office affair everyone has been talking about?" You know what we keep forgetting about? Conde Nast CEO Charles Townsend is in divorce proceedings in a Miami-Dade court. The Herald doesn't list a cause for the filing. He used to work with his wife at Family Circle! (Also we forget that he's a commodore of New York Yacht Club! Bwa.) Now that is something even less than circumstantial evidence if we've ever seen it. But don't men always make the same mistake twice? [Miami Herald]
Very slight forward movement on a recent blind item: Remember gossipboy Ben Widdicombe's "Which very senior Manhattan media executive looks like he might be about to go public with that office affair everyone has been talking about?" Well, think Conde Nast. That's as far as we've gotten—but we're not letting this one go.