Richard Reeves

At Last, Scandal and Gossip for the Beautiful People

SAG HARBOR, N.Y. -- It has been very hard this summer for Hamptons people without the Clintons to talk about. For nine years, the bad and the beautiful could endure the long days -- the nights were OK because you saw the same people you saw back in Manhattan -- by complaining about President Bill and Hillary before they came out to collect money.

It's true that Senator Hillary will be here in a week or so, but she's coming to inspect a contaminated ground-water site or something boring like that. There is the unfolding Congressman Condit and the missing intern story, but truth be told, New Yorkers can't sustain more than a minute or two of conversation about people from Modesto.

Then along came Lizzie. The name is Lizzie Grubman and if you have not heard of her yet, believe me you will. She is a 30-year-old public relations lady, a friend of Madonna, Britney Spears and Monica Lewinsky, or so they say. She got really upset at 2 a.m. Saturday morning when the doormen at a noisy club in Southampton said she could not park her father's $70,000 Mercedes-Benz SUV in the driveway because that is the fire lane.

Not used to being a bouncee, Lizzie, the daughter of a big-time entertainment lawyer, called the bouncers, "F---ing white trash!" Then to emphasize how deeply she felt about people like them, she backed the big black SUV into the crowd of people waiting outside the door. Sixteen of them ended up in the hospital with various broken bones and internal injuries.

She then got out of the weapon, abandoning it at the scene, and was driven home by friends. The Southampton Town police, experienced in the care and feeding of the rich and famous and their stressed-out children, came by her place a couple of hours later, apparently to see if she was OK. They talked to her lawyer, but did not subject his client to demeaning tests for alcohol or drugs. Then, her new "crisis manager," which is what they call flacks these days, said, she was almost in shock and this is all a tragic accident, she didn't realize the SUV was in reverse -- and, by the way, said the crisis manager, her mother is having a cancer operation.

Twenty-eight hours after the incident, accompanied by the lawyer, bodyguards and $25,000 in bail money, she turned herself in to face charges of assault and leaving the scene. She pleaded not guilty -- by reason of money.

So, at last there is something to talk about -- not that anyone thinks Lizzie will be asked to do time in anything more onerous than "community service." The real debate out here is whether the notoriety will be good or bad for her business. The editor of the trade journal PR Week is already on record, saying: "She is already a New York celebrity and I think this story is going to make her a national celebrity. This story takes her to another level of recognition."

One gossip columnist, the Post's Cindy Adams, announced that there would be no cancellation of Hamptons movie premieres, promos and such handled by Lizzie, then added: "Let's give Lizzie the benefit of the doubt."

In Newsday, the dominant newspaper on Long Island, another columnist, Dennis Duggan, took the other side, writing: "By the time the rest of the gossips wrap Grubman in sentimental guaze and the rich memories of her plentiful good works, a Southampton judge may feel he is facing a modern-day Joan of Arc."

I'm assuming he doesn't mean that our Lizzie will be burned at the stake. The judge is likely to say that this young saint, friend of the working class, has suffered enough -- and has given the summer people something to talk about behind the smoked windows of their own SUVs.

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