A riches-to-rags tale: real estate, romance went sour

MAGAZINES

May 15, 1994|By Bruce McCabe | Bruce McCabe,The Boston Globe

There are some interesting people you should get to know in the pages of the magazines this week.

One is Iris Sawyer, the woman scorned in Roger D. Friedman's intriguing piece in the current New York magazine. Ms. Sawyer's classic New York (both the city and the magazine) story has everything. It's not only about that cliche, the Death of the '80s, it's also a cautionary tale about dabbling with wealthy, free-swinging hustlers. It's also about the Nouveau Poor, people like Ms. Sawyer, a woman who was worth $3.5 million five years ago and who is now virtually homeless.

The piece is basically Ms. Sawyer's documented brief against Thomas Kempner, a socially prominent Wall Street financier who, she says, not only ditched her after their eight-year affair -- they were both married to other people -- but then destroyed her in a real estate deal that involved the renovation of a once-elegant East Side townhouse.

The story includes props such as a street-bought fake Cartier watch, a fake Hermes scarf and a fake Chanel bag, and a cast of quotable characters including socialite friends and enemies, a sex therapist, a psychoanalyst, a screenwriter, a private eye, a divorce attorney. There are also allusions to "Fatal Attraction" and two fascinating paragraphs about the globe-trotting itinerary Mr. Kempner's wife -- an itinerary that ruled Ms. Sawyer's own social calendar.

Ms. Sawyer sums up: "If Thomas Kempner had stayed awake for two whole years trying to think of how to torture me, he couldn't have come up with this."

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Then there's Dr. Park Elliott Dietz, the fascinating virtuoso expert witness who performs in Joyce Johnson's "Witness for the Prosecution" in this week's New Yorker.

Dr. Dietz's skill, an increasingly important one in the Age of Insanity, is in the small field of forensic psychiatry. What it consists of is the ability to demolish insanity pleas in homicides (he helped convince a Milwaukee jury that Jeffrey Dahmer was sane).

The piece shows Dr. Dietz at work in the courtroom, recounting in meticulous detail his clinical interviews with defendants to construct an argument for the defendant's rational behavior, no matter how irrational such behavior may seem to the lay person.

Of his testimony about serial killer Joel Rifkin, Ms. Johnson writes, "It's as if the psychiatrist had drained the defendant of his memories and then made them his own."

The centerpiece of the article is Dr. Dietz's construction of "a wall of damning fact, brick by brick," against Massachusetts' Kenneth Seguin, who, in 1993, killed his wife and two children. And the centerpiece of the Seguin sequence is a description of how Dr. Dietz got the murderer to implicate himself.

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And then there is David Bossie, the publicity-shy chief investigative reporter for Clintonwatch. That's the newsletter that has been touting the Whitewater story since last summer. Mr. Bossie appears in "Churning Whitewater," Trudy Lieberman's report in the May/June Columbia Journalism Review on Citizens United, "a conservative Republican operation [that] runs an information factory whose Whitewater production lines turn out a steady stream of tips, tidbits, documents, factoids, suspicions and story ideas for the nation's press and for Republicans on Capitol Hill."

The piece is intriguing reading for those who believe that attacks on President Clinton in the media are being orchestrated by conservative Republican enemies of the president.

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You can read all about "Dan the Fitness Man" in the premiere issue of the Home Fitness Buyers Guide, a glossy feast for fitness buffs that calls itself the only consumer magazine entirely devoted to home fitness equipment.

"Dan," whose full name is Dan Lajeunesse, appears in "Fitness: Lavish in Los Angeles," which describes how Dan makes a good living motivating Hollywood narcissists and advising them on how to furnish their homes with the equipment they need.

"My job is to improve the health of people who find every reason in the world not to work out," Mr. Lajeunesse says. He says some people find exercising more congenial if they can still fulfill their parental responsibilities. "If that means having a crib in the gym, why not?" he asks.

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