Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2003 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
Let them eat pita?; verbal jousting; pretenders to the throne?
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | NEW YORK Palestinian First Lady Suha Arafat whose husband regularly duns governments in the Middle East and Europe to help his poverty-stricken people is living in Paris on $100,000 a month from Palestinian Authority coffers. And Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has amassed a personal fortune estimated at between $1 billion and $3 billion.
CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl offers those and other choice nuggets this Sunday on "60 Minutes." Stahl told me exclusively Wednesday that Suha Arafat's mother, Raymonda Tawil, is also living lavishly apparently off international largesse and the Palestinian taxpayers.
"I have visited Suha's mother and she lives very well," Stahl said. "On our last trip to Paris, we looked for Suha but we didn't find her. I heard that the French took away her bodyguards and that Palestinian bodyguards now protect her."
Rumors of the 40-year-old Suha Arafat's extravagance and her 74-year-old husband's use of public funds to pay her expenses have been circulating for years in the Arab world and beyond.
"The last I heard, she was living in the Bristol Hotel, which is regarded as one of the premier hotels if not THE premier hotel in Paris," a highly placed Arab source tells me. "It is not far from the Elysee Palace and the American Embassy and the fashionable shopping district, Rue St. Honore. I understand that she has a whole floor to herself and her entourage, and that she has been living there for over a year. Must be quite expensive, especially given the financial situation of the Palestinians. . . . And that does not include shopping and dining!"
The switchboard operator at the Bristol, where a suite and 19 rooms go for $16,000 a night, told this column yesterday: "There is no one listed under the last name Arafat at the hotel."
A Paris-based letter-writer, Eli Tabori, told the Jerusalem Post last year that Suha was said to be living with Arafat's 8-year-old daughter Zahwa "in the fashionable Neuilly quarter . . . protected from the ill-doings of her husband." Tabori added: "While Europeans find it hard to make ends meet under the yoke of their respective EU tax systems, she shops for jewelry in the Place Vendome and frequents chic boutiques."
Asked by the French magazine Le Parisien why their daughter was born in Paris, Suha Arafat explained: "Our child was conceived in Gaza, but sanitary conditions there are terrible."
Maybe the long right arm of Sly Stallone has reached out to jab at club fighter Chuck Wepner's attempts to get ink for his promised lawsuit against the star of "Rocky" movies.
Then again, maybe not.
"There is no long right arm of Sly Stallone the guy's not even a fighter," said the 64-year-old Wepner, who wants big bucks from Stallone for allegedly basing the movies on Wepner's life story. "So when people ask, 'Why don't you two just duke it out?' I just want to laugh."
Wepner, who once went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali, talked to me Wednesday after Rocco DiSpirito's overexposed restaurant Rocco's where Wepner had planned a Nov. 13 news conference to announce the formal filing of the long-awaited suit pulled out of the event.
Wepner's attorney, Anthony G. Mango, claimed Rocco's had agreed to host the event, but that DiSpirito's publicist Susan Magrino apparently vetoed the plan, saying the controversy would hurt the restaurant's image.
"I will not be put in the position of being the bad guy," Magrino responded, noting that the restaurant balked for a variety of reasons, including a scheduling conflict.
Mango shot back: "What I've told you is a hundred percent on the money." Magrino, meanwhile, pointed out that she has never even met Stallone, "although I did see him across the room the other day at Michael's."
Wepner said his news conference is now going to be held at Mickey Mantle's.
PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE?: Rumors abound that British designer Alexander McQueen will take over as the top stylist for Gucci and Yves St. Laurent after Tom Ford steps down in April. McQueen, whose name is already a Gucci Group label, is best known for his wild imagination (his last Paris show was a fully choreographed dance) and his over-the-top clothes (like those aptly named bumster pants from a few seasons ago an experiment in "plumber butt" for the very chic). Other names being whispered by fashionistas include odd-ball Dutch designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren. The Gucci folks didn't return this column's calls.
SLOPPY PERFORMANCE: Rock-star bravado? Possibly. But Julian Casablancas, lead singer of the Strokes, looked like his blood-alcohol level was definitely way up there during Tuesday night's concert at the Bowery Ballroom. When Casablancas stumbled on stage, it seemed like he'd really celebrated the successful launch of "Room on Fire," the band's second album. During his first song, the singer tumbled off the stage into the arms of the crowd, and lay there aloft in a prone position still singing until a guard rushed out to retrieve him. Then Casablancas swigged from an assortment of drinks at drummer Fabrizio Moretti's feet. Halfway through the set, he started singing the wrong song, and guitarist Nick Valensi marched offstage in an apparent huff. When Valensi returned, a chastened Casablancas got it sufficiently together to finish off the set though not without a few more drinks. Watching it all was official Strokes Band Aid and Moretti gal pal Drew Barrymore.
A GOOD FIT?: A private consultation with South Beach Diet Guru Arthur Agatston will be among the items auctioned off at Saturday's Promise Ball benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Maybe celebrity auctioneer Rosie O'Donnell, who scotched a cover photo for her defunct magazine because she thought it made her look fat, might want to bid.
11/05/03: Will Harvey Weinstein and Gregg Easterbrook now be pals?; crazed Quentin; more