For more than four decades, Page Six has ruled the world of gossip about the fa­mous and pow­er­ful. In an era when celebri­ties con­trol the nar­ra­tive and “power” is a dirty word, can it sur­vive?

Esquire (USA) - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Kate Storey

For four decades, Page Six has ruled the world of gossip, but in an era when celebri­ties con­trol the nar­ra­tive and power is a dirty word, can it sur­vive?

on­ald Trump and his wife, Me­la­nia, were sta­tioned at the top of the grand stair­case in the Four Sea­sons Grill Room, a long­time gather­ing place for Man­hat­tan’s power bro­kers in busi­ness and the me­dia. The event had just started, and Trump, then host of The Ap­pren­tice, still had his long black coat on over his navy suit. Me­la­nia was draped in an airy egg­plant-hued cock­tail dress.

The party was for vet­eran Page Six editor Richard John­son, who had just moved to Los An­ge­les to work for Ru­pert Mur­doch’s new iPad news­pa­per, The Daily, and New York’s elite were there to toast him. Katie Couric, Martha Ste­wart, and Jay McIn­er­ney min­gled with Page Six re­porters as well as pub­li­cists like Ken Sun­shine, con­ver­sa­tion din­ning over the funky seven­ties mixes.

Page Six, the gossip col­umn in the New York Post, is an in­sti­tu­tion built on tip­sters, anony­mous sources, and old-fash­ioned re­port­ing. Ap­pear­ing in it means you aren’t just a suc­cess in your line of busi­ness; you are a true bold­faced name. You mat­ter. Items about movie stars ap­pear along­side sto­ries about so­cialites and power play­ers—as long as you make for good copy, the play­ing field is level. The fear Page Six strikes in its sub­jects has made it an in­dis­pens­able tool for Man­hat­tan’s rich and pow­er­ful.

For Page Six, Trump had long been the tri­fecta: bold­faced name, tip­ster, and anony­mous source. Re­porters could call his per­sonal as­sis­tant, Norma Fo­erderer, and within min­utes he would call back per­son­ally. When con­trib­u­tor Jared Paul Stern called him about a story he was work­ing on con­cern­ing Trump’s Jan­uary 2000 breakup with Me­la­nia, he told Stern on the record, “It’s bull­shit. It’s not correct.” But the item was pep­pered with sup­port­ing quotes from “one friend” of Trump’s and a “source close to Trump.” Stern says those quotes all came from Trump him­self—a prac­tice other former gossip colum­nists have con­firmed Trump em­ployed. Trump, dis­guised as a friend, said about him­self, “He doesn’t care. It’s not like he’s mar­ried . . . . [Me­la­nia] is a great girl, but Don­ald has to be free for a while. He didn’t want to get hooked. He de­cided to cool it.”

(A White House of­fi­cial says, “That NY Post story you are re­fer­ring to is false,” but wouldn’t com­ment on Trump sup­ply­ing the anony­mous quotes.)

Trump and John­son were close—the editor at­tended two of Trump’s wed­dings and served as a judge for the Miss Uni­verse pageant when Trump owned the fran­chise. But the col­umn was about to change. The dapper John­son, who had been there for a quar­ter of a cen­tury, was be­ing re­placed by Emily Smith, a five­foot blond Brit. She had be­come John­son’s deputy a year ear­lier af­ter a stint as the U. S. cor­re­spon­dent for The Sun.

At John­son’s send-off, in Novem­ber 2010, Smith, in a sim­ple black sheath dress, made her way around the room as guests con­grat­u­lated her. When she got to the top of the grand stair­case, she was in­tro­duced to the Trumps.

“Oh, you’re tak­ing over for Richard John­son,” Trump said. “Big shoes to fill.”

“I know—and I’m from Eng­land, too, so I don’t know how I’m go­ing to do it,” Smith said.

Trump re­sponded, “At least you’re good-look­ing.”

That in­ter­ac­tion, that party, that col­lec­tion of bold­faced names gath­ered to honor a news­pa­per­man who traded in gossip seem like a gauzy dream. A mo­ment be­fore the col­lapse of the me­dia busi­ness in which Page Six op­er­ated. In­sti­tu­tions crum­bled. So­cial-me­dia com­pa­nies took shape, giv­ing rise to a new breed of celebrity and, worse, in­flu­encer, who saw lit­tle value in gossip col­umns. Even­tu­ally, the schmoozy, seem­ingly harm­less gossip at the top of the stairs be­came the pres­i­dent of the United States—im­peached, em­bat­tled, spoil­ing for a fight.

But some­how, Page Six—a col­umn in a news­pa­per that is printed on pa­per—has man­aged to grow. Yes, it has a web­site and a Twit­ter feed, and there was even a TV show. But mostly, it’s still some­thing you flip to rather than some­thing you click on. #MeToo may have caused it to check its con­science. TMZ may have made it work harder. So­cial me­dia may have given celebri­ties more power to con­trol the news, tak­ing some of the wind out of Page Six’s guess-what-we-just-saw ur­gency. And yet to the peo­ple who run the world, or cer­tain parts of it, Page Six still mat­ters.

How did some­thing built upon a flimsy foun­da­tion of celebrity sight­ings and over­heard chitchat be­come an in­de­struc­tible main­stay of news and en­ter­tain­ment? So strong it can keep win­ning a game in which back­stab­bing, horse-trad­ing, se­crets, lies, ma­nip­u­la­tion, and the oc­ca­sional fist­fight are pretty much part of the rules?

How does Page Six still thrive?

How does Page Six still ex­ist?

hen I moved to New York from Florida in 2007 for a job as an as­so­ciate editor at the New York Post, I’d never heard of Page Six. It quickly be­came my cheat sheet for how to be a real New Yorker. Page Six had its own lan­guage and cast of char­ac­ters that made it feel like the most ex­clu­sive and ex­cit­ing ver­sion of the city. Ev­ery morn­ing, I’d grab the pa­per, turn right to Page Six, and be trans­ported to a world where fi­nance “hon­chos” I’d never heard of were sud­denly in­trigu­ing, celebri­ties I did care about were “canoodling” with one an­other, and those who mat­tered were “spot­ted” at Elaine’s, Le Cirque, or Nello, restau­rants I knew only by name and that in my mind were con­stantly filled with fa­mous peo­ple swap­ping air kisses and dirt.

At the pa­per, the small Page Six team seemed elu­sive. They kept to them­selves, sta­tioned in the back cor­ner of the news­room, buried be­hind stacks of newsprint and books. Al­though the dress code for tabloid re­porters con­sists mostly of jeans and crum­pled dress shirts, I’d see John­son, al­ways in his crisp suits and per­fect flaxen coif, walk­ing silently, re­gally around the of­fice. His deputy, Paula Froelich, some­times napped on a couch in the photo editor’s of­fice, near my desk.

“Dude, I was ex­hausted,” Froelich says. “I used to get in at 9:30, 10:00 in the morn­ing. I would leave around 8:00 or 8:30 and then im­me­di­ately go out, some­times not get­ting back home un­til 3:00, and then six hours later do it again.”

Tara Palmeri, who was at Page Six from 2010 to 2012, says, “You stay up all night be­cause ev­ery­one says that every­thing goes down af­ter hours, right? Ev­ery­one says that the end of the night is when you see peo­ple act­ing up, and that’s when the real drama hap­pens.”

They were fill­ing two pages a day with a dozen or more “items,” the small news sto­ries that con­sti­tute Page Six. The col­umn had grown from a sin­gle page be­cause lux­ury ad­ver­tis­ers like Saks Fifth Av­enue wanted to be placed across from it—and it usu­ally ap­peared on page 12 or fur­ther back.

When Mur­doch and then Post editor James Brady launched Page Six on Jan­uary 3, 1977, it was in­deed the sixth page of the pa­per and the first gossip col­umn to op­er­ate as a sec­tion—not at­tached to a sin­gle colum­nist, like those writ­ten by le­gendary gos­sips Walter Winchell and Hedda Hop­per.

The man­date was to cover “the cor­ri­dors of power.” Com­peti­tors came and went, but the 1990s and early 2000s brought a gossip gold rush. One former Page Six staffer says of those days, “When you were at Page Six, the club own­ers would meet you at the door and hand you an eight ball—it was in­sane.”

In ad­di­tion to Page Six, there was Rush & Mol­loy (a hus­band-and-wife duo of former Page Six staffers), which launched at the Daily News in 1995. New York mag­a­zine had In­tel­li­gencer. Esquire (un­til 1997) and The New York Times had gossip col­umns. But in a 1994 New York rank­ing, Page Six topped ev­ery­one: “Page Six rests easy at the top of the gossip pile; in terms of per­for­mance, pres­tige and in­flu­ence, it’s New York’s con­sen­sus No. 1 col­umn. And the bitchi­est.”

Page Six it­self—the ac­tual news­pa­per col­umn—looks al­most ex­actly as it al­ways has. There’s still a story that stretches across the top of the page: “the lede.” There’s still a two-col­umn-wide item at the bot­tom right: “the dou­ble.” The fonts are the same. Ev­ery name is bolded, ex­cept those of the dead. There are re­cur­ring fea­tures like Sight­ings, which are quick hits re­veal­ing where celebri­ties have been spot­ted around town; We Hear, events that celebri­ties are ex­pected to at­tend; and blind items, pieces of gossip with no name at­tached, of­ten for le­gal rea­sons. (In De­cem­ber, a blind item dis­closed that an un­named A-list ac­tor had been send­ing dick pics to cou­ples in hopes of in­ter­est­ing them in a three­some.)

Re­port­ing meth­ods are mostly the same, too. Page Six has an ex­ten­sive net­work of tip­sters, sources, ver­i­fiers, and helpers. “We rely on our sources more than re­porters from other ar­eas of the pa­per. Of­ten it’s the source that gives rise to the story rather than the event it­self,” says John­son.

In a me­dia en­vi­ron­ment that pri­or­i­tizes gam­ing al­go­rithms to bloat web­site vis­its, Page Six re­porters still do things the old-fash­ioned way, spend­ing most nights at events, par­ties, and din­ners cul­ti­vat­ing sources, and days work­ing the phones to ver­ify tips. About 24 mil­lion peo­ple per month read, while 170,000 peo­ple read the Post in print and about 200,000 read the Post daily on the app.

Henry Sch­leiff, group pres­i­dent at the me­dia com­pany Discovery, reads his Post

on the tread­mill while he watches CNN. “I sa­vor Page Six as my dessert,” he says, mar­veling at the qual­ity of re­port­ing in the col­umn. “One could ar­gue they’re Wood­ward and Bern­stein on speed.”

For pub­li­cists, get­ting a client in bold can change their tra­jec­tory—shine a light on an up-and-comer or help shape the nar­ra­tive about a celebrity. In the pre-In­ter­net days, each morn­ing, ed­i­tors at glossy magazines would get a pho­to­copied packet of the day’s gossip, culled by editorial as­sis­tants from the New York tabloids and trades and de­liv­ered to their desks—fod­der that could turn into a big­ger story. To­day, a Page Six ex­clu­sive is of­ten rewrit­ten by dozens of other sites—you’ll find Page Six ci­ta­tions ev­ery­where from Cos­mopoli­tan to The Source to The New Yorker.

“I re­cently had a con­ver­sa­tion with the editor at a mag­a­zine, and he was telling me they wait for us to do the story first be­cause they’re scared to do it or they won’t do it,” Page Six ex­ec­u­tive editor Ian Mohr says. “Then they jump on it as a fea­ture. I see that all the time.”

Page Six re­porters have shown an un­canny abil­ity to iden­tify in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters, then cover them ob­ses­sively un­til they be­come first “Page Six fa­mous” and then ac­tual celebri­ties. New York so­cialites Paris Hil­ton and Tins­ley Mor­timer were Page Six sta­ples—ev­ery ta­ble dance and club al­ter­ca­tion was cov­ered—be­fore they be­came re­al­ity-TV stars. Other times it’s serendip­i­tous. Page Six cov­ered Ti­mothée Cha­la­met in 2013, when he was a teenager dat­ing Madonna’s daugh­ter Lour­des Leon at Man­hat­tan’s LaGuardia High School who’d had a bit part on Home­land.

And yet get­ting a call from Page Six will send a chill down a pub­li­cist’s spine. “It’s usu­ally a no-num­ber—so it’s a pri­vate num­ber—and I panic,” says pub­li­cist Kelly

Brady, who rep­re­sents clients in­clud­ing Mor­timer and Patti Stanger. “I’m al­ways like, Fuck, it’s Page Six. My heart jumps out of my skin, al­ways. I’m like, Oh my God, what did my client do?”

hen some­thing sala­cious hap­pens in the city, odds are some­one from the Page Six ecosys­tem saw it or heard about it—and is itch­ing to be the one to get the sat­is­fy­ing thrill of shar­ing it.

“Okay, you can out me as a gossip! I’m a Page Six helper,” says R. Couri Hay, an owner of a pub­lic-re­la­tions firm who has been work­ing with the col­umn since its in­cep­tion. He says he was the one who gave Page Six one of its most fa­mous blind items ever, about Woody Allen dat­ing Soon-Yi Previn in the early 1990s, af­ter hear­ing it from Mia Far­row’s mother, Mau­reen O’Sul­li­van. (Former Page Six editor Joanna Mol­loy has told a dif­fer­ent story.) “The re­al­ity is, I love to gossip. I was born to gossip! I hear a lot. I have in­for­ma­tion ev­ery sin­gle day. Call me an adren­a­line seeker—I guess some peo­ple feel like this when they sky­dive.”

Hay goes to two or three par­ties a night, five or six nights a week, and calls his Page Six con­tacts al­most daily. Be­fore he even brushes his teeth, Hay grabs his Post to see if one of his items made the cut. “Just to­day, I woke up and found a cou­ple,” he says. The ul­ti­mate rush comes when he gets “the wood”—tabloid-speak for the front page of the pa­per, where Hay’s items have landed a few times (ac­cord­ing to him).

Hay isn’t paid for his tips—Page Six doesn’t pay sources. How­ever, his gossip prow­ess is use­ful in his PR busi­ness. “Over the years, I’ve been a part­ner with dif­fer­ent night­clubs,” he says. “I re­mem­ber Kim Kar­dashian wouldn’t get out of the car—I guess I can tell this story now; it’s ten, fif­teen years

later—un­less you gave her a pa­per bag with $5,000 in it. The rea­son I did that is I knew it would end up in Page Six or one of the other gossip col­umns.” (A rep for Kim Kar­dashian West says, “Kim ac­tu­ally doesn’t re­mem­ber this at all.”)

An of­ten un­spo­ken tac­tic of gossip re­porters is the trade: The col­umn will men­tion a pub­li­cist’s client—a restau­rant, for ex­am­ple—in ex­change for other, more valu­able gossip.

“It’s like do­ing a deal with the Mafia. They’ll lend you a dol­lar if you pay them back four,” says pub­li­cist Kelly Cutrone. “I made a rule with my­self about gossip, that I didn’t place gossip that I didn’t know to be true or that could ruin some­body’s life and fam­ily.”

In ad­di­tion to the tip­sters, an­other class of valu­able source is the un­bi­ased ver­i­fier.

“My role has been of a ver­i­fier,” says ubiq­ui­tous so­ci­ety pho­tog­ra­pher Pa­trick McMul­lan, who says he never calls in tips him­self but has been a re­li­able ally be­cause he’s so of­ten at par­ties and events with the bold­faced. “Like some­body would say, ‘You were in the room. Was Char­l­ize Theron there?’ I would say, ‘Yes, she was.’ I guess maybe be­cause I didn’t have a horse in the race, I was a very good per­son to get the truth from.”

The host of Bravo’s Watch What Hap­pens Live, Andy Cohen, reads Page Six on the Post app, which can as­suage his ego when he’s the one be­ing writ­ten about. “The great thing [about the app] is when they put some­thing up about me that I don’t like, I know that it’s go­ing to scroll down as the day goes on,” says Cohen.

When the item ap­pears in print, some­how the sting can be worse.

“One time, Kim Cat­trall told me that I should get a re­spectable job, that I should work at Roy­bers. Like, R-O-Y-B-E-R-S,” says Palmeri. “She meant Reuters.”

There was the time Joss Sack­ler texted reporter Oli Cole­man noth­ing but a mid­dlefin­ger emoji af­ter the col­umn’s cov­er­age of her New York Fash­ion Week show.

An­other Page Six reporter says, “Puff Daddy’s pub­li­cist called me in tears be­cause she heard I was do­ing a spread about how he was afraid of clowns and sup­pos­edly suf­fered from this thing called coul­ro­pho­bia. I was like, I can’t not do this. I don’t care if it ru­ins the re­la­tion­ship.” (“We re­mem­ber this to be one of the more laugh­able calls we re­ceived daily from Page Six, who were ob­sessed with Diddy,” says a mem­ber of the artist’s former press team.) n a dreary af­ter­noon this past De­cem­ber, Smith has just come from the Post’s daily 2:30 pitch meet­ing. The editor in chief, Stephen Lynch, lis­tens as an editor from each sec­tion pre­sents the day’s list-lines—sum­maries of sto­ries their re­porters are chas­ing. On this par­tic­u­lar af­ter­noon, Page Six is work­ing on a tasty lede about NFL Net­work cor­re­spon­dent Jane Slater find­ing out an ex had been cheat­ing thanks to his Fit­bit show­ing a bump in his heart rate at 4:00 a.m.

The race-car-red walls of the news­room, on the tenth floor of the News Corp. build­ing in mid­town Man­hat­tan, en­close stark white clus­ters of desks. CNN, CBS, and Fox News play sound­lessly on TVs lin­ing the perime­ter.

Smith usu­ally sits at a small desk among her re­porters, but she leads me to a con­fer­ence room on the cor­ner of the floor. She rarely sits for in­ter­views. “Oh, it’s deeply un­com­fort­able! Be­cause the star is Page Six; it’s not me,” she says, shak­ing her head.

In her early days at Page Six, it wasn’t un­usual for Smith to go from an all-night event she was cov­er­ing straight to the of­fice at 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. “I went to every­thing and I stayed out all night and just made a point to meet ev­ery­one. That was be­fore I be­came a mother,” says Smith, who has a four-year-old. “It re­ally hasn’t changed. I still go out quite a lot. It’s get­ting in ear­lier and not stay­ing out and think­ing, Oh, let’s go on to a night­club and Let’s go to a karaoke bar, or Let’s go back to some­one’s house.”

The room we’re sit­ting in used to be John­son’s of­fice. “I had to clear the whole thing out, and there were old faxes from Don­ald Trump in there,” Smith says. Trump would fa­mously fax an­gry let­ters to any­one he feuded with—Jerry Se­in­feld, Rosie O’Don­nell—and si­mul­ta­ne­ously fax over a copy to Page Six. “I kept some of them, but I wish I’d kept all of them.”

The af­ter­noon I vis­ited the Post of­fices, Mur­doch made his way through the news­room alone with his head down, trans­fixed by his phone. He wore a navy suit with a crisp open-col­lared white dress shirt and bright-blue sneak­ers that ap­peared to be the trendy brand All­birds.

Smith raised a fin­ger his way and said, “Hey, the boss!”

Page Six may not be thought of as a sober jour­nal­is­tic en­ter­prise, but its re­porters have bro­ken sig­nif­i­cant sto­ries over the past forty-three years, and Smith sprin­kles the con­ver­sa­tion with bomb­shells she and her team have un­earthed. Page Six was the first to re­port Joe Bi­den’s son Hunter hav­ing a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship with his brother Beau’s widow. It was there when Trump staffers Hope Hicks and Corey Le­wandowski got into a pub­lic scream­ing match, an early sign of chaos within the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In the early 2000s, the In­ter­net be­came an in­creas­ingly threat­en­ing source of com­pe­ti­tion. In 2004, a blog­ger named Perez Hil­ton launched a site called PageSixSix­—a name he had to change af­ter the Post sued him. Gawker .com started in 2002 with its own snarky style of gossip—pok­ing fun, some­times vi­ciously, at the me­dia es­tab­lish­ment, in­clud­ing Page Six.

The dif­fer­en­tia­tor? Re­port­ing. Page Six had more ex­pe­ri­ence at it.

“Gawker was pretty much noth­ing com­pared to Page Six. Page Six broke news ev­ery day and night and worked their butts off, while Gawker was busy do­ing their hair or some­thing,” says former Gawker editor Choire Sicha, who now runs the New York Times Styles desk. “Page Six knew the an­swer to gossip blind items that we didn’t even know enough to ask. There was some sort of en­e­my­ship and friend­ship re­la­tion­ship be­tween Gawker and Page Six over the years, but Page Six was al­ways the big dog. Some­times the big, bad dog. Of course, Page Six was at times as cor­rupt as any me­dia out­fit could pos­si­bly be. It did very rep­re­hen­si­bly bad things over the years. But it also had an honor and a panache that I’ll al­ways ad­mire.”

In 2006, there was an ex­plo­sive al­le­ga­tion of cor­rup­tion against Page Six. Stern was ac­cused of ex­tor­tion in­volv­ing bil­lion­aire su­per­mar­ket mag­nate Ron Burkle— de­mand­ing money to keep neg­a­tive in­for­ma­tion about him out of the col­umn.

“We know how to de­stroy peo­ple,” Stern re­port­edly told Burkle. “It’s what we do. We do it without cre­at­ing li­a­bil­ity. That’s our spe­cialty.” (Af­ter a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion, no charges were brought.)

When John­son ran Page Six, he had the ben­e­fit of the last word in his many feuds over the years with the likes of Mickey Rourke (he chal­lenged the ac­tor to a fight), Alec Bald­win (who was dubbed the Blovi­a­tor), and Paul New­man ( John­son ac­cused him of ly­ing about his height). To­day, Page Six sub­jects can say their piece on Twit­ter as soon as the pa­per hits the news­stand.

So­cial me­dia is one of the stark­est dif­fer­ences be­tween John­son’s era and Smith’s. Celebri­ties can use so­cial me­dia to try to beat gossip col­umns at their own game, negat­ing scoops by an­nounc­ing their en­gage­ments, di­vorces, and preg­nan­cies on their In­sta­gram pages—on their terms. There are gossip In­sta­gram ac­counts like the wildly pop­u­lar Shade Room, pri­vate gossip Face­book groups, se­cret in­vite-only gossip news­let­ters, and fan Twit­ter ac­counts that fol­low the ev­ery move of stars like Bey­oncé and Tay­lor Swift—all new com­pe­ti­tion for Page Six.

On March 14, 2018, Smith broke the news that Don­ald Trump Jr. and his wife, Vanessa, were split­ting up, and the fiery, short-lived White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor An­thony Scara­mucci tweeted that Smith was “a per­son with no morals or jour­nal­is­tic stan­dards. Liv­ing off of oth­ers peo­ple’s pain. Be­ware! She will stop at noth­ing to hurt innocents. Es­pe­cially your chil­dren.”

(Smith was even­tu­ally proved right—the Trumps split, and Don Jr. is dat­ing former Fox News host Kim­berly Guil­foyle.)

At the men­tion of this, Smith seems to sit up a lit­tle taller. “I wel­come the feed­back,” she says. “You get peo­ple who don’t like sto­ries, and they’ll go at you. But that’s part of the fun. That’s part of the game. If we are dish­ing it out in a gossip col­umn, you have to ex­pect to get it back.”

here have been tip­sters, there have been sources, there have been mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ships. And then there was Har­vey We­in­stein.

For more than two decades, two New York power bro­kers—Page Six and We­in­stein him­self—used each other mas­ter­fully. One would oc­ca­sion­ally take the other down, but year in and year out, Page Six sucked in­for­ma­tion from We­in­stein and We­in­stein sucked pos­i­tive cov­er­age from Page Six. And when the sub­ject of this cov­er­age was movie pre­mieres or af­ter-par­ties or even the oc­ca­sional in­stance of bad be­hav­ior, there was no harm done.

But what hap­pens when one of your best sources turns out to be an al­leged rapist and the cat­a­lyst for the en­tire #MeToo move­ment?

We­in­stein has been more ex­ten­sively cov­ered in Page Six than just about any­one else—more than eleven thou­sand times, ac­cord­ing to his lawyers. They tried to use this as an ex­cuse to have his trial moved last year, de­scrib­ing the cov­er­age as “bi­ased and sen­sa­tional.” But a closer look shows that We­in­stein’s ag­gres­sive at­tempts to shape Page Six cov­er­age go back many years.

In 2000, Froelich was cov­er­ing a book party at the trendy down­town ho­tel the Tribeca Grand, hosted by We­in­stein. When Re­becca Trais­ter, a reporter for the elite, brainy Man­hat­tan news­pa­per The New York Ob­server, asked We­in­stein a ques­tion he didn’t like, he called her a cunt, and her col­league An­drew Gold­man stepped in.

We­in­stein grabbed Gold­man, put him into a head­lock, and dragged him out onto the side­walk, scream­ing, “You know what? I’m the fuck­ing sher­iff of this fuck­ing law­less piece-of-shit town.”

“I go in the next day and I’m like, ‘I’m gonna write [about] it,’ ” Froelich says. “Richard didn’t want to run it. And then I said, ‘If you don’t run it, I quit.’ ”

We­in­stein’s pub­li­cists told Froelich that the other re­porters at the event had agreed not to write about the in­ci­dent, she re­calls. Gold­man says Froelich called him that af­ter­noon say­ing she was con­cerned about how We­in­stein’s pub­li­cists were spin­ning the in­ci­dent, so Gold­man de­cided to file a po­lice re­port.

The item that ran in Page Six, which Froelich says was “heav­ily edited,” be­gins, “A cou­ple of pushy re­porters for the New York Ob­server pushed Mi­ra­max chief Har­vey We­in­stein to the break­ing point, caus­ing an ugly scene at what should have been a joy­ous cel­e­bra­tion for former MTV vee­jay Karen Duffy.”

To­day, John­son says We­in­stein’s reps de­nied the at­tack—and quickly points to the New York Times cov­er­age of the night, which, like the Page Six item, cast Gold­man and Trais­ter as the ag­gres­sors and We­in­stein as the in­no­cent vic­tim try­ing to be civil. When read back the be­gin­ning of the Page Six story, John­son pauses for a beat. “Oh,” he says. “Well, that was prob­a­bly Har­vey’s work. It sounds to me like the re­porters were the vic­tims here, not the per­pe­tra­tors.”

When asked if he has any re­grets about how Page Six cov­ered We­in­stein, John­son says, “Look­ing back, I wish I’d at­tacked him as a per­vert from the very be­gin­ning, but, you know, I didn’t re­al­ize it. He was the lead­ing in­de­pen­dent film­maker in New York for many years.”

We­in­stein con­trolled who got ac­cess to his par­ties, pre­mieres, and stars. “He was an­other per­son who just im­plic­itly un­der­stood how if you give, you get,” says Ge­orge Rush, who was at Page Six in the late eight­ies and early nineties. “While stu­dio pub­li­cists would keep a gossip colum­nist as far away as pos­si­ble

from the star at a pre­miere, Har­vey would cor­ral the star and pull her to the gossip colum­nist and say, ‘Ge­orge is a good guy; we trust him. Take care of her. Be nice, Ge­orge.’ And so every­body would win. You’d have your ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Wi­nona Ry­der, Gwyneth Pal­trow, Brad Pitt. These peo­ple were com­ing up—they were ba­bies.”

We­in­stein would os­cil­late from charming and com­pli­men­tary to threat­en­ing and bul­ly­ing and back to get his way. But Rush and other former gossip colum­nists say they never heard sto­ries of We­in­stein be­ing sex­u­ally abu­sive—al­le­ga­tions first re­ported in 2017 by Jodi Kan­tor and Megan Twohey in The New York Times and by Ro­nan Far­row in The New Yorker. Froelich, how­ever, says she’d heard ru­mors about We­in­stein and Rose McGowan, who later pub­licly ac­cused We­in­stein of rap­ing her.

“There were of­ten ru­mors about Rose be­cause Rose would talk about it some­times,” Froelich says. “If peo­ple aren’t gonna go on the record, you can’t do it. You know, it’s not like I had some­body leak­ing me the in­side pa­pers from Mi­ra­max or from the We­in­stein Com­pany that show all the doc­u­men­ta­tion of it.”

Mi­ra­max bought the rights to Froelich’s book at auc­tion while she was still at the Post, though she says that never af­fected her re­port­ing on We­in­stein. She says, “He would tell peo­ple, ‘I bought that book!’ And I was like, ‘What­ever, dude, I don’t give a shit.’ ”

In 2015, the Post re­ported on Am­bra Bat­ti­lana Gu­tier­rez’s ha­rass­ment ac­cu­sa­tions against We­in­stein in front-page sto­ries ac­com­pa­nied by im­ages of the model in lin­gerie—and they ran on­line on Sto­ries by news re­porters some­times run un­der the Page Six ban­ner on the web­site, but in those cases it’s Page Six that gets the credit when they’re cited by other publi­ca­tions. One story quoted an anony­mous source call­ing the case ex­tor­tion. The source ac­cused the model of tak­ing Broad­way tick­ets and ask­ing for a film role af­ter the mo­lesta­tion claim.

Bat­ti­lana Gu­tier­rez did take the tick­ets—at­tend­ing the play at the en­cour­age­ment of the po­lice and wear­ing a wire, she said on Far­row’s Catch and Kill pod­cast. It was af­ter that play, out­side We­in­stein’s ho­tel room, with sev­eral cops sta­tioned around the ho­tel, that she recorded We­in­stein ad­mit­ting he’d groped her.

We­in­stein has since been ac­cused by more than eighty women of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault, up to and in­clud­ing rape. (We­in­stein has de­nied all al­le­ga­tions of “non­con­sen­sual sex.”) In 2017, Bat­ti­lana Gu­tier­rez spoke to a Post reporter about how painful the 2015 tabloid cov­er­age had been for her. “A friend texted me a photo of the [Post] cover and asked me what was hap­pen­ing,” she said. “I didn’t have the power to de­fend my­self . . . . It re­ally broke my heart.”

In that story, the Post con­cedes that when it came to the 2015 cov­er­age of Bat­ti­lana Gu­tier­rez, “We­in­stein called the Post with his ac­count” of her ask­ing for a film role—but the sources quoted in that piece were un­named, and it wasn’t made clear that We­in­stein was one of them.

Though Smith has one of four by­lines on the Broad­way-tick­ets story, she says the cov­er­age wasn’t led by Page Six but rather by the news team at the Post, and that she didn’t edit the sto­ries or con­trol the tone in which they were writ­ten.

We­in­stein con­tin­ued to turn to Page Six af­ter the hor­ri­fy­ing al­le­ga­tions were re­vealed in 2017. He did a se­ries of in­ter­views with Smith in which he talked about be­ing “pro­foundly dev­as­tated” about his wife leav­ing him, say­ing he “bears re­spon­si­bil­ity” for his be­hav­ior, while at the same time crit­i­ciz­ing The New York Times for “reck­less re­port­ing.”

This past De­cem­ber, Cole­man wrote a snarky item about We­in­stein’s seem­ingly selec­tive use of a walker, im­ply­ing it may have been used to gar­ner sym­pa­thy be­fore his Jan­uary trial for preda­tory sex­ual as­sault and rape. And once again, We­in­stein went to the Post—this time for a bizarre in­ter­view that ran on Sit­ting in a pri­vate hospi­tal suite, he refused to talk about the al­le­ga­tions against him but “whined” that he should be re­mem­bered more for things like hir­ing fe­male direc­tors than for the “sick­en­ing ac­cu­sa­tions.”

Though the short-lived Page Six TV se­ries re­ported in Oc­to­ber 2017 that We­in­stein was call­ing Smith from re­hab nearly nightly, Smith says she’s no longer in con­tact with him.


think­ing about how men like We­in­stein used it as a tool for so many years—how it con­trib­uted to his fame at the ex­pense of the rep­u­ta­tions of women like Bat­ti­lana Gu­tier­rez.

The ways in which Page Six skirts the norms of tra­di­tional jour­nal­ism—blind items, trades, fre­quent anony­mous sources—cul­ti­vate its mys­tery and al­lure. But they also make it dif­fi­cult to dis­cern clear mo­tives and cre­ate a fog be­hind which ne­far­i­ous play­ers can op­er­ate. The ed­i­tors of Page Six help de­cide who is fa­mous and who is in­fa­mous. We, the read­ers, will never know who planted that sala­cious item about a star­let canoodling; we just have to be­lieve that the per­son writ­ing it knows— and cares about—the mo­ti­va­tion.

On the sur­face, Page Six has started to evolve: Gone are the cruel nick­names like “portly pep­per­pot,” “aging pop tart,” and “celebu­tard.” “I try not to be mean any­more,” Smith says. “I wouldn’t call Mon­ica Lewin­sky a portly pep­per­pot any­more. And she’s told me many times how she re­ally didn’t like that.”

Page Six is be­com­ing more global as well, to ap­peal to its dig­i­tal au­di­ence. (The down­side: Read­ing it, par­tic­u­larly on­line, feels less like sneak­ing into an ex­clu­sive party and more like read­ing any num­ber of gossip sites.)

Still, in spite of its his­tory—or, more likely, be­cause of it—Page Six has per­se­vered.

“When I think of a Park Av­enue build­ing, from the guy an­swer­ing the door in the pack­age room to the guy in the pent­house—they’re all avid Page Six read­ers,” says Mohr.

Elaine’s, a late-night restau­rant on Man­hat­tan’s Up­per East Side, was a fa­vorite of all kinds of fas­ci­nat­ing New York char­ac­ters un­til it closed in 2011 af­ter forty-eight years in busi­ness. Writ­ers in­clud­ing Nora Ephron, Tom Wolfe, and Joan Did­ion hung out there. So did movie stars like Judy Gar­land, Jack Nicholson, and, fa­mously, Woody Allen, all of which made it a back­drop to count­less Page Six items. When John­son ran the col­umn, he’d of­ten fin­ish his evenings by stop­ping into Elaine’s and sit­ting at the large cen­ter ta­ble where owner Elaine Kaufman—her­self a fas­ci­nat­ing New York char­ac­ter—held court, to see if she’d seen any­thing in­ter­est­ing that night.

Brian McDon­ald, who worked at Elaine’s from 1986 to 1999 as a bar­tender and man­ager, was a re­li­able Page Six tip­ster. Like the time around thirty years ago when Chinatown pro­ducer and Hol­ly­wood roustabout Robert Evans strolled into the dim, sto­ried din­ing room around mid­night.

“He says the words that put a chill through the heart of ev­ery reg­u­lar cus­tomer: ‘I just had din­ner at Le Cirque. I’m here for cof­fee and dessert,’ ” McDon­ald says, paus­ing for dra­matic ef­fect. “Elaine said, ‘If you had din­ner at Le Cirque, you should have stuck around and had dessert there, too,’ and walked away. So he sat at a ta­ble—he was there with two stun­ning women, blond-haired women—and he or­dered din­ner for every­body, and it sat there, un­eaten, just to make Elaine happy.” McDon­ald smiles.

“I called that item in.”

The Evans tid­bit is, in a way, the per­fect Page Six item. Evans was a big name, a mys­te­ri­ous crea­ture whom most peo­ple had no ac­cess to, never saw. Elaine’s was an in­sti­tu­tion, the kind of place most peo­ple might visit in hopes of catch­ing a glimpse of some­one like Robert Evans but never do. The item cap­tured Kaufman’s gruff charm and Evans’s show­biz ego. What ac­tu­ally hap­pened? Not much. The ex­change was ut­terly mean­ing­less. And that de­li­cious mean­ing­less­ness is one big rea­son so many peo­ple have loved the col­umn so much for so long. It’s about these tit­il­lat­ing and amus­ing and some­times shock­ing things hap­pen­ing around us all the time, late at night or at ex­clu­sive lunch spots or in the lob­bies of lux­ury co-ops—things we would have wit­nessed if we’d hap­pened to be there.

Alas, we weren’t.

But Page Six was. So for a few min­utes as we ride the sub­way or drink our cof­fee or wait for the doc­tor, we get to es­cape our lit­tle lives that no one ever writes about. We get to be there, too.




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