info 04.10.06

Thanks for Playing, Buh-Bye

Why all the surprise about Jared Paul Stern and his alleged shakedown scheme, involving businessman Ron Burkle and Page Six coverage? As reported by New York magazine in July, 2004, former Page Six reporter Ian Spiegelman essentially spelled it out during a Learning Annex lecture (later broadcast on NPR):

"We have this kind of attitude — and also, more importantly, reputation — where if you screw with us, we can make things bad for you. We're going to make things bad for you. 'Page Six' is the main kind of attack arm of the New York Post …The different people who write the page have different people they deal with and have to, like, protect, and also their different wars that they have to prosecute. It's a lot like being a Mafia family."

That could be considered a tell, no?

We don't know Mr. Stern, don't think we've ever been in the same room at the same time, have never been and are unlikely ever to be mentioned by Page Six. We having nothing against gossip writers — we read plenty of gossip columns, including Page Six, on a regular basis. Yet we have to confess that we have invariably recoiled seeing this twittily-dressed guy (complete with fedora) in photos and curled our lip at his frequently invoked nickname for his wife ('Snoodles'). From all reports, a net minus for the city — someone unlikely to spend a chunk of his time working for, say, Literacy Partners.

Walter Winchell, who also sported a trademark fedora, was a power broker in his time, a formidable columnist who did a fair amount of damage. When he threw his hat in with Joseph McCarthy, he managed to alienate a sizable portion of his audience here and across the country and ended up, some would say fittingly, a lonely piece of wreckage. Winchell received a long front-page obit in the NY Times that ends by quoting him from his last years: "I have stopped seeing everyone. There is nothing I want to discuss about my career."

Winchell was convicted only in the court of public opinion; Stern may also never be convicted in any court of law. But when you've lived in this city long enough, his current travails fit the pattern of a never-ending ritual that happens decade after decade, in which one jackass after another who believes in his own power, tries to game the system once too often, and ends up hoisted by his own petty petard. The city watches with utter satisfaction.

New York, of course, is a magnet for renegades, for outrageous, unconventional, barely legal behavior. That's part of the city's lore and, for us, part of its appeal. Not all laws are meant to be followed to the letter (every new city driver learns immediately that yellow means accelerate and red means one more car).

But, ultimately, on a small, crowded, elbows-out island, there are lines you can't cross and everyone from Moses (Robert) on down learns that the city will indulge you until hubris tempts you across those lines. It is a classic New York folly not to recognize that the rules apply, even to you. You might say that the recurring maple smell in the air over the past year in Manhattan has been pleasant, but nothing smells as sweet as another one biting the dust.

Mr. Stern will have his day in court and perhaps he will be found to have been unfairly maligned — which you can only look at as a what-goes-around-comes-around corrective to the Post's "attack arm," a division that doesn't place a premium on fair play. The good news for all concerned is that with the passing of just a few seasons, it's highly doubtful you'll remember much of anything about Jared Paul Stern. Next.
We raved about Gael Greene's book Insatiable last month. You can catch Ms. Greene tomorrow night, 7pm, at the Bway/82nd Barnes & Noble in a conversation with Arthur Schwartz, followed by a book signing.

Up to 65% off retail of shoes by Pancaldi, 140 W. 57th [6th/7th]. Many samples in 7B, other styles up to 11B. Today through Wednesday, 10-6, cash only.

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