People of the Year — 1. Hillary Clinton


Bet you didn’t see this coming! Since the Chappaqua resident announced her candidacy for President in January, Hillary was dissected like a fifth-grade biology project and analyzed from all angles—from her boisterous laugh, to her fashion sense, to her pacesetting fund-raising, to her poll numbers. Even her choice to wear a cleavage-enhancing V-neck sweater on the Senate floor made news, if only because it reminded us of her subtle, subverted sexuality.

Prediction for 2008: She’s a lock for the Democratic nomination, but the general election will be harder. Most everyone already has his own Rorschach impression of Hillary, but for the small handful of “no opinions� that remain (around six percent of the country), she needs to carefully sculpt her image if she’s going to trade in that big, white Chappaqua manse for her old one in DC.

Adapted from “People of the Year,� Rockland Magazine, December 2007

(Illustration by Ismael Roldon)

People of the Year — 2a. Denzel Washington


Last minute addition here. I can’t explain why the Mount Vernon native didn’t figure into our pre-countdown planning, given that he’s had easily the best year of his career — his Oscar-worthy performance as real-life heroin kingpin Frank Lucas in “American Gangster”; starring in, directing, producing, and filling just about every other production credit in “The Great Debaters” (which I haven’t seen yet, but, given its Golden Globe Best Picture nod, I’m figuring is pretty decent).

Sure, Denzel doesn’t live in Westchester any more, but when you factor in all the times he returned to the area (to film “Gangster,” to stump for mayor candidates in Mount Vernon) — well, the omission would be inexcusable.

Fortunately, I happened to read that today is the man’s 53rd birthday. What better time to right that wrong and celebrate This Year in Denzel?

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Vanessa Williams shills for Ritz’s new 42 restaurant

vanessa-williams1.jpgOK, so technically she wasn’t there for last week’s grand opening of the new Ritz Carlton Westchester, but that didn’t stop intrepid food editor Liz Johnson from getting a quote from the Chappaqua resident about the forthcoming 42 restaurant. Set to open on New Year’s, 42 is the brainchild of Trotters mastermind Anthony Goncalves. And, apparently, Vanessa Williams is a big fan. In addition to telling Liz that Trotters (which was recently converted into the tapas-based Peniche) is one of her favorite restaurants, she said “I love the cuisine … his [Goncalves] creative approach to food. Pairing sweet with savory – blending a lot of Italian cuisine with Portuguese.”

And seeing as how Vanessa’s hair-straightening salon of choice is the White Plains Sears — right near the Ritz at the Galleria mall — the new restaurant location will be every bit as convenient as Trotter once was. Throw in the pimped out spa on the 9th floor of the hotel and, well — Vanessa, if you’re looking to move south of Chappaqua, we hear penthouses in towers I and II go for a bargain $7 million. Come on, you can afford it.

“Ritz Carlton Westchester offers swanky accommodations, great food” [LoHud]

UPDATE: Lest there was any confusion, Phil Reisman clarifies on his blog that Williams was not, we repeat not, at the opening of the Ritz. Williams’s mother (who appeared in the pages of InTown with daughter Vanessa and granddaughter Sasha Fox) wrote in to the columnist to clarify:


“Dear Phil Reisman,I read your account of the Ritz-Carlton opening and the reference of not seeing Vanessa Williams . You didn’t see her because she was not there. She was still on the west coast. How do I know? I am her mom and was waiting for her arrival to celebrate Christmas I enjoy your columns.. most of the time. Helen L.�</div></blockquote>

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

People of the Year — 2. Rosie O’Donnell

No need to roll your eyes. Aside from Britney, Paris, and Lindsay, few tabloid regulars exhausted the public’s patience quite like O’Donnell. From the never-ending feuds—with Trump, Ripa, O’Reilly—to the now-infamous split-screen showdown with View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the South Nyack resident became a better fight-maker than Don King in 2007. Even after she quit the daytime gabfest (three weeks before her contract was up), Rosie continued churning up controversy in her wake, even going so far as to suggest in her new memoir, Celebrity Detox, that Barbara Walters should retire. But putting aside all the bilious rhetoric for a sec, one thing separates the former Queen of Nice from the aforementioned tabloid bimbos: O’Donnell’s public showdowns all stemmed from a passionate defense of her liberal views (on Bush, the Iraq war, gay rights, etc.)—and not from, say, a lack of panties or repeat DUIs. Her tirades might have been over the top, but her political courage does make her a role model of sorts. That said, if she ever takes your parking spot at the Palisades Center, don’t even think of starting a shouting match—she’s way out of your league.

Prediction for 2008: She may have lost The Price is Right hosting gig to Drew Carey, but we predict a return to network TV, as the co-host of the newest British import, Boiling Point.

Adapted from “People of the Year,� Rockland Magazine, December 2007

(Illustration by Ismael Roldon)

Stephen Baldwin and the mysterious case of the Loco Joe swindlers

locojoe2.jpgIt’s unlikely that anyone remembers the Loco Joe cappucino soft drink, much less that Stephen Baldwin was one of its pitchmen. Except, that is, the good ol’ New York Post. The paper broke news on the 23rd that the owner of Charity Beverage USA (which was supposed to use profits from drink sales to fund breast-cancer research and “other charities”) was actually skimming more than $1 million off the top. The perp in question is Bill Richards, who was charged with theft by deception in NJ and sentenced to five years probation.

While Baldwin, who lives in Upper Grandview and was only actively promoting the drink back in 2004, doesn’t appear to be connected to any of the wrongdoing, there is one strange loose end in the case. Richards is still apparently trying to shake down investors. On — “The place to find the best business opportunities, best franchise opportunities, wholesale beverages and available beverage distributors on the internet” — you can still inquire about being a Loco Joe vendor. What’s more, Baldwin is still an (unwitting?) shill for the company, with the following testimonial proudly featured on the site:

Dear Friend,

You do not have to look very far to see that coffee is big…we here at Charity Beverage USA are currently preparing to go nation wide, with a great new tasting drink called loco Joe iced cappuccino, using the new innovative 8.25 oz ready to drink Tetra Prisma packaging.

We hope that you will join us in the exciting chance, to take hold and control a part of the huge ready to drink coffee market. Not only is this a great opportunity for your own success, but its also a great chance to make a difference in lives of so many others.

Stephen Baldwin
Media Promotions</div></blockquote>

While I can’t claim to have ever tasted the “innovative” 8.25 oz drink myself, and thus cannot endorse it or its distributorship opportunities, I do have to hand it to Richards. For a business named Loco Joe, nice choice of spokesperson!


LoHud celebrities go iPhone crazy!

iphone.jpgOver the holidays, I’ve been hemming and hawing like Hamlet over whether to get an iPhone. The dilemma boils down to this: Come MacWorld Expo in mid-January, is Steve Jobs going to unveil a brand new version of the gadget? iPhone 2.0, complete with GPS, faster 3G connectivity, and of course 16GB of storage? Yes, I’m a geek. And yes, I’ve decided to wait it out. But in the meantime, I can’t get enough of these iPhone rumors, and in the process of searching for them, I also happened to stumble upon a bunch of stories about Lower Hudson Valley stars who have joined the cult of multitouch. Here are just a few of the ones I found:

Bill Clinton: A guy named B. Ioffe broke the news the Chappaqua resident got his iPhone directly from Steve Jobs. How exactly did Ioffe learn this? By asking the former prez to sign the back of his iPhone, of course (go to the link above for a pic of the signed phone). The Unofficial Apple Weblog also makes a funny observation: “If ex-Veep Al Gore is on Apple’s Board of Directors, why didn’t he snag his old buddy an iPhone himself?”

Rosie O’Donnell: In an interview with Switched, a blog devoted to gadgets and the digital life, the South Nyacker says that she (and her partner Kelli) go everywhere with two gadgets: a Nextel walkie-talkie phone and the iPhone. If stranded on a desert island, Rosie/Kelli says, “I would bring my iPhone. You can do just about anything — from e-mailing and surfing the ‘Net to listening to music, watching movies, and taking photos — on it. What more do you need? Well, besides someone to share it with on the island!!!!”

Me, I’m not so sure. That is, unless iPhone 2.0 comes with a built-in swiss army knife (sort of like the one from this classic Conan O’Brian skit). Oh, and Stevie J., if you’re listening, a flint wouldn’t hurt either.

(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

People of the Year — 3. Joe Torre


After the Yankees lost in the first round of the playoffs, new top dogs Hank and Hal Steinbrenner (sons of George) made the decision to offer Torre an “incentive-based salary package�—more wins, more bonuses. That’s a nice way of putting it. A 33 percent pay cut is another. Sure, Torre would have still been making a base of $2.5 mil, but as Journal News beat reporter (and author of the wildly popular LoHud Yankees Blog) Pete Abraham pointed out, “In the culture of the clubhouse, having a manager on a one-year contract who just took a cut would be emasculating.� In a press conference at the Hilton Rye Town, near his home in Harrison, Torre put it more bluntly: “I took [it] as an insult.� And so—after 12 seasons, 1,173 wins, and four World Series championships—Torre bolted.

Prediction for 2008: At press time, he had just agreed to manage the Dodgers. Say it ain’t so, Joe! We hope he’ll reconsider. After the Mets spectacular end-of-season collapse, we wouldn’t mind seeing him take over Willie Randolf’s job. What better way for us New Yorkers to keep the best mind in baseball all to ourselves?

Adapted from “People of the Year,� InTown Westchester, December 2007

(Nick Wass / AP Photo) 

Suburbarazzi Week in Review on RNN: Kevin Kline hears ghosts, Chaka Khan phones it in and Howard Stern reflects on Westchester


At the end of the video and after the break is the answer to this week’s quiz: In what year did “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” hit No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts?

A) 1938
B) 1948
C) 1958
D) 1968

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Christmas leftovers with Martha Stewart: a prison-made nativity set, holiday donkeys, and more good things!

martha-reindeer.jpgLet’s just make this clear upfront: I didn’t actually watch the episode of Martha Stewart’s NBC show that aired yesterday. I’m pathetic, but not quite that pathetic. Still, maybe I should have. According to the AP, it included one truly memorable moment, with Martha showing off a creche that she created while serving time in West Virginia. As Stewart explained, “Every inmate was only allowed to do one a month, and I was only there for five months. I begged because I said I was an expert potter – ceramicist actually – and could I please make the entire nativity scene.”

Alas, when I went looking for an image of this fabled scene — which supposedly includes ornate clay forms of the Baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, three camels and others she sculpted at a pottery class — I couldn’t find any evidence of the reveal on No luck on Hulu or YouTube either.

But what I did find, on Martha’s blog (yes, Stewart has a blog), is an image of her two miniature donkeys, all dolled up like Santa’s reindeer, plus plenty of pics from the domestic diva’s holiday party in Katonah. Nothing says “I value my stable manager, foreman, electrician, and carpenter” like a Kirkland Signature Martha Stewart Favorite Holiday Ham, “available at Costco Wholesale warehouses nationwide!”

(Martha Stewart with a real reindeer, not her miniature donkeys: AP Photo/The Martha Stewart Show, Anders Krusberg. To see the donkeys go to Stewart’s blog.)

People of the Year — 4. Donald Trump

itw_people3.jpgYeah, we hear you groaning. But forget about that whole trumped-up bitch fest with Rosie O’Donnell for a sec. That may have made tabloid headlines, but this year the Bedford homeowner (or rather, mansion-owner) also made plenty of legitimate news here in Westchester. In addition to opening the doors to Trump Plaza in New Rochelle, beginning work on Trump Parc in Stamford, and campaigning to get the U.S. Open played at one of his Trump National golf courses (either Briarcliff Manor or Bedminster, New Jersey), he also erected some hard-to-miss road signs announcing Donald J. Trump State Park on the Taconic. Donating 436 acres for a park in Northern Westchester: generous. Congratulating oneself by branding your name all over the county: not exactly, to use his word, “classy.� (What’s next? Trump-onic Parkway? Trumpchester?) Some other unclassy moves: The Apprentice got its worst ratings in six seasons; his eponymous, SkyMall-esque magazine sent its backers into financial meltdown; and The Daily News reported that, to boost anemic book sales, he paid people to buy his new self-help tome, Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life.

Prediction for 2008: Trump currently has four—count ’em, four!—TV shows in production: Fox’s Lady or a Tramp, MTV’s Pageant Place, a syndicated Judge Judy/Dr. Phil-type daytime show (with Trump mediating financial disputes), and The Apprentice: Celebrity Edition for NBC. Just try to top that, Rosie!

Adapted from “People of the Year,� InTown Westchester, December 2007

(Illustration by Ismael Roldon)

DMX’s Xmas list: a recording session, a whole lotta coke, and a trip to ER

Just in time for Christmas, our most notorious (and MIA) “Person of the Year,” rapper DMX, has finally turned up. The Yonkers native, who lives on the Bedford/Mount Kisco line, came out of hiding for a recording session at Sony. And boy, was it a jolly old time.

Not only does X look completely drugged up and erratic in videos from the day, but according to Tribune Media Services, the rapper was rushed to a hospital last week after passing out in the recording studio. Still, I’m glad that at least somebody got a white Christmas this year. Ba dum bum.

Here are the two clips. Anyone who can make out what the heck he’s saying in No. 2 gets a Suburbarazzi t-shirt.

UPDATE: DMX is no longer with Sony. According to Billboard, he was released from his contract earlier this year (maybe “dropped” is more accurate), and recently he signed with the music division of Canadian online gaming company Bodog Entertainment. Billboard also reports that X is planning to put out two albums, “Walk With Me Now” and “You’ll Fly With Me Later,” in 2008 via Bodog. Thus it would appear that the recording session in the clips is Bodog.

FYI, X’s last album with Sony, “Year of the Dog … Again,” sold 329,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

UPDATE 2: The Celebrity Truth reports that the story about DMX being hospitalized (which may have originated in the Daily News’s Rush & Malloy column) is incorrect. Said an unnamed record company rep, it’s “100 percent false.” The anonymous spokesperson also supposedly said, “He’s at home with his wife for Christmas.” The only named source in the story, Scott Mason, Simmons’ entertainment lawyer, added that the video “has got people thinking that he might on something, that’s what kind of made them wanna make up a story like that.”

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People of the Year — 5. Brooke Astor

itw_people31.jpgShe was known as New York’s “First Lady of Philanthropy,� a Gilded Age holdover who donated her inherited millions to every worthy organization she could find: museums, libraries, churches, landmarks, and so on. On August 13, at the age of 105, she died at her weekend estate in Briarcliff Manor. Sadly, though, in her final year of life, Astor made headlines not for charity work, but because of accusations that her son, Anthony Marshall, was neglecting her care and leeching her fortune. The matter was settled out of court, but the story—and the image of the abused centenarian, sleeping on a chilly, urine-soaked couch—still stuck.

Prediction for 2008: Astor once said, “I feel I’ve become a public monument.� And to us she is, in more ways than one.

Adapted from “People of the Year,� InTown Westchester, December 2007

(Photo: Serge JF Levy/AP)