The New York Observer, May 28, 2001

By James Verini

There was a time when bankers hung out at Elaine’s as much as reporters, former police commissioners and Woody Allen. Or so one could conclude after listening to all the anecdotes about Felix Rohatyn that floated from the dais at the Pierre on the night of Thursday, May 17.

Three hundred or so Jewish talk-show hosts, mayors and billionaires (and a few physicians and lawyers) had gathered to gnaw on chilly chicken and watch Mr. Rohatyn, the financier, receive the American Jewish Historical Society’s Emma Lazarus Award.

Most of the tales told were from the mid-1970’s, the era when Mr. Rohatyn was the best-known banker in the city, given his historic ride-to-the-rescue during the city’s fiscal crisis. The Lazard Freres partner, who went on to become U.S. ambassador to France under Bill Clinton, single-handledly resuscitated the star status of bankers, placing them in the same constellation as politicians, filmmakers and TV personalities.

And some of those types came out to honor Mr. Rohatyn, reminiscing one by one about the good old bad days — most of which, it seems, Mr. Rohatyn spent at Elaine Kaufman’s court.

A video-projected former Governor Hugh Carey recalled trying to track down Mr. Rohatyn, then the head of the Municipal Assistance Corporation, and former Mayor Ed Koch one night in 1977, as the city was about to default on hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds — again. “And I found them enjoying a very quiet reserved dinner at Elaine’s,” Mr. Carey said. “The two guys were running the city from a bar,” came Mr. Carey’s punch line.

Then Mr. Koch went up to the podium with the help of the evening’s host, Charlie Rose, and recalled that earlier era. “Felix was very lucky that he had me as Mayor, because I was not interested in public attention …, ” Mr. Koch noted. “Had he had Giuliani — well, he would have been told he couldn’t go to Elaine’s.”

Mr. Koch then engaged in a little extemporaneous analogizing: “Felix was like, was like … a great fish in the sea, who sprung up into the sun to have it shine on his golden scales. Every day.” This elicited a big guffaw from Mort Zuckerman, but not from his tablemate Henry Kravis, who remained his typical stone-faced self through the entirety of Mr. Koch’s high jinks. (The real-estate magnate and media mogul and the king of leveraged buyouts did not say a word to each other, The Observer noted, although — or maybe because — they were separated only by the latter’s wife.) Marty Lipton, senior partner at Wachtel, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, seated between two women at another table, laughed a little.

Following Mr. Koch was the always-earnest Mr. Rose, who told a slightly fallacious-sounding story about an elevator operator in the Pierre he’d just met who happened to be a big fan of Mr. Rohatyn’s, and then Barbara Walters, who read from what seemed to be a special on Mr. Rohatyn’s life ghostwritten by Charles Dickens … It was the worst of times when the Nazis invaded France, but it was the best of times when Mr. Rohatyn saved New York from ruin.

Finally, Mr. Rohatyn himself got up and ended the fete with one last scene from Elaine’s. It was 1977, and once again he was there with a collection of impossibly important people. Who should be sitting nearby but Mr. Elaine’s himself, Woody Allen? Mr. Allen came over to say hello and, according to Mr. Rohatyn, to congratulate and thank him. But Mr. Rohatyn, ever modest, cut him short. He didn’t want to talk about his accomplishments. Instead, they talked about Sleeper.

— James Verini

Memo to Frank Rich: Check This One Out!

How many times have you logged onto Yahoo Finance or and said to yourself, “I enjoy real-time stock quotes, but I wish they were a little … sexier”? Well, Josh Berman knows exactly what you mean. That’s why Mr. Berman recently left Wall Street — he worked at a series of firms he refused to name, other than to call them “major” — to found, a site that claims to be “the Web’s only financial info-tainment portal that delivers live financial market prices from around the world” and “saucy commentary delivered by Wall Street’s most gorgeous gals.”

Now under-scintillated investors everywhere can check their portfolios or execute trades while looking at, say, Dolly, a 28-year-old blond bond-trader whose investor profile says that she goes “for singles and doubles — especially doubles,” and whose favorite brokerage is Schwab because “My broker does it on the phone, or in person.” And for more “sophisticated investors above the age of 21,” there are the “XXX High Yield” and “Naked Options” sections.

“The content is pretty high-grade,” explained Mr. Berman, 46, whose modesty forbade his claiming the chief-executive spot: “We’re loose about titles.” He pointed out that “when you compare it with other adult-oriented Web sites, it’s more R-rated. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek, double-entendre kind of positioning,” he said, employing a clever one himself. “It’s intended to be elegant, not pornographic.” (Asked whether the device the young Asian woman is holding to the face of a bare-breasted colleague on her knees in the “XXX High Yield” section is just a dildo or has some sort of second, symbolic Wall Street meaning, Mr. Berman said it was up to the visitor to decide.)

For $24.95 per quarter, subscribers to (whose tagline is “Where there’s never a down day… “) can chat with Dolly or any other “saucy” financial commentator — other choices include Kitten, Jaguar and Britany — and receive a biweekly newsletter, as well as watch those live stock quotes. The first newsletter item from last week announced: “Rates Shrivel … Stocks Surge. U.S. equity traders had their shorts squeezed on Wednesday as both the Dow and NASDAQ stood erect following yesterday’s interest rate slice by the Fed and this morning’s release of CPI data indicating inflation remains handcuffed to the bedpost.”

Mr. Berman claims that as many as 15 percent of the site’s 25,000 subscribers are employed in the securities industry. He says the site was the result of one those classic entrepreneurial brainstorming sessions. “A couple of guys were sitting around saying, ‘Online financial stuff is so big, and sex is so big, why hasn’t anyone figured out [how] to combine them in an elegant way?’” What they came up with, in Mr. Berman’s words, was “Bloomberg meets Playboy” — not to mention a way around most large firms’ information “firewalls” blocking Web sites with sex-related content.

But The Observer had to ask: Are the Wall Street gals on Wallstreetgals really professionals, or just the sort of knowledgeable investors you find pontificating on other personal-finance sites? To this, Mr. Berman laughed loudly and responded, a little vaguely: “Oh yeah, I’d say they know how to close a trade!”

— James Verini

Life Was Good, And Then …

Peter Chung, a young buy-side analyst in the Carlyle Group’s Seoul office, sent the following e-mail message to a group of 11 recipients — including one at UBS Warburg and another at Credit Suisse First Boston — on Tuesday, May 15, via Carlyle’s system. One or more of Mr. Chung’s “friends” loosed it, and it has been circulating around Wall Street since. According to Bloomberg News, Mr. Chung resigned from the firm on Friday. Neither he nor Carlyle returned calls for comment.

Re: Living Like a King.

So I’ve been in Korea for about a week and a half now and what can I say, LIFE IS GOOD … I’ve got a spanking brand new 2000 sq. foot 3 bedroom apt. with a 200 sq. foot terrace running the entire length of my apartment with a view overlooking Korea’s main river and nightline …

Why do I need 3 bedrooms? Good question … the main bedroom is for my queen size bed … where CHUNG is going to fuck every hot chick in Korea over the next 2 years (5 down, 1,000,000,000 left to go) … the second bedroom is for my harem of chickies, and the third bedroom is for all of you fuckers when you come out to visit my ass in Korea.

I go out to Korea’s finest clubs, bars and lounges pretty much every other night on the weekdays and everyday on the weekends to (I think in about 2 months, after I learn a little bit of the buyside business I’ll probably go out every night on the weekdays). I know I was a stud in NYC but I pretty much get about, on average, 5-8 phone numbers a night and at least 3 hot chicks that say that they want to go home with me every night I go out.

I love the buyside … I have bankers calling me everyday with opportunities and they pretty much cater to my every whim – you know (golfing events, lavish dinners, a night out clubbing). The guys I work with are also all chilll – I live in the same apt building as my VP and he drives me around in his Porsche (1 of 3 in all of Korea) to work and when we go out.  What can I say … live is good … CHUNG is KING of his domain here in Seoul …

So … all of you fuckers better keep in touch and start making plans to come out and visit my ass ASAP, I’ll show you guys an unbelievable time … My contact info is below …  Oh, by the way … someone’s gotta start fedexing me boxes of domes … I brought out about 40 but I think I’ll run out of them by Saturday …