Inquiring minds want to know

July 09, 2002|By SUSAN REIMER

WALL STREET IS a-twitter about Martha Stewart's improbable role in an insider stock trading scandal, wondering who called whom and when did they call and what did they know when they called.

But I can tell you what the rest of America wants to know: What's really going on between Martha and her hunky stockbroker?

I'm sorry to be so banal, but it is hard for those of us who don't summer on the Vineyard or in the Hamptons to care how the rich and famous protect their investments. And those of us who made People magazine the success it is want to know if 40-year-old Peter Bacanovic is Martha's arm candy or Martha's boy toy.

I mean, really. She's 60, OK? And she's put her Omni-millions in the hands of this total youngster, whose resume includes the fact that he is often seen squiring older socialites around the New York charity scene.

Is it me, or is anybody else out there thinking Richard Gere and American Gigolo right now?

According to the New York Daily News, the Merrill Lynch broker, on paid leave until this nasty business gets sorted out, worked aging society matrons the way lesser brokers work the phones.

He attended all the right events and was invited to all the right dinner parties and then sent his hostesses cards and flowers. He skied in Aspen and clubbed in the Hamptons and wore Prada suits. (Stop me, but remember Richard Gere's suit scene?)

Bacanovic showed up in all the right gossip columns and in all the right society photos, including a cozy pose with Martha over a glass of white wine that is making the rounds now.

The result was a client list that was top-shelf and usually in need of an escort. Martha was apparently just one of many. (How that must gall.) Now, apparently, none of them will return his calls.

Who cares about $60 sell-off triggers when you have this kind of material?

I'd like to get into it with you over whether the kind of corporate shenanigans evident in the ImClone stock collapse is undermining the country's confidence in the stock market and stalling an economic recovery.

But frankly, speculating about Martha and her open-shirted, hairy-chested, chiseled-jaw guy pal helps distract me from the fact that, thanks to corporate shenanigans and a stalled recovery, I am broke, and so is everyone I know.

And I have to say that I am buoyed by the thought that Martha, who so recently was reported to have suffered an enormous weight gain and has long been portrayed as a control-freak shrew, can still command a date with a buff boy 20 years her junior. Think what that means for the rest of us.

Finally, I wasn't surprised to hear that Martha canceled her regular appearances on the CBS Early Show until further notice once that newshound Jane Clayson made it clear she was going to ask the tough questions whether Martha was cleaving a head of cabbage or not.

I just know Jane was going to ask Martha if she and Peter were finding comfort in each other during these difficult times, which is the way you ask those kinds of questions on television.

It would have been a great question because that's what we all want to know.

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