4.25.08: Closing out the week | New York Social Diary

By Carol McFadden

New York businessman Howard Hughes was killed this past Tuesday afternoon along with the pilot and one other passenger when his single engine Cirrus SR22 crashed into the Toledo Bend Reservoir in Sabine County, Texas en route from Tupelo, Mississippi to Spring, Texas, north of Houston. The other passengers, pilot Chip Walters, 54 and Hank Moody, 34, both of whom worked for White Castle, a Houston energy-exploration company in which Howard Hughes, 67, was a major investor.

A spokesman for the FAA said air traffic control had put out a notice about 4 p.m.that the plane was overdue. Shortly thereafter a 911 call reporting a crash was received. Local news dispatches reported that eyewitnesses heard the plane engine sputtering and then saw it nosedive through the clouds into the reservoir. The plane is the same model which was carrying Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle when it crashed into a building on East 72nd Street last year, killing both Lidle and the pilot. None of the bodies from the Hughes plane have been recovered as of this writing.

Ironically, Howard, who was at one time the proud possessor of a Gulfstream IV, had told friends he “didn’t feel safe” in that plane and would never fly on it again. He is survived by his wife Carol, their two children and a daughter Lisa Melas of Athens, Greece.

Howard Hughes, born in January 1941 to Mary Josephine Cutting and Alexander Bloomfield. It was to be a life that might have been set to print by novelists of the days such as J. P. Marquand, or possibly, considering its epilogue, John O’Hara.

The Cuttings and the Hughess were both members of what was then known as Society in New York (and America) — people with long pedigrees dating back to the 17th and 18th century, colonial families from the  Boston-Philadelphia-New York axis who made fortunes in early industry, shipping and real estate, who intermingled, inter-married and formed the bulk of the names found in the then very exclusive Social Register. When their younger set began to patronize the nightclubs (having patronized the Speakeasies of Prohibition) of the early 1930s, Hearst columnist Maury Paul who wrote the syndicated society column Cholly Knickerbocker, dubbed its racier members (read: playboys and boozers) “socialites,” a kind of double-edged leg-up and putdown of the faster social elite.

The Hughess were prominent ante-bellum cottonbrokers from Memphis and the City of Brotherly Love beginning in the 19th century. Howard’s father, always known as Mickey, met Josie Cutting of New York, at a friend’s house in Newport where both families summered.

The couple had three children, Mary, now the internationally famous fashion designer, Howard, and John. Early in the marriage they moved to Brookville, Long Island, the center of the great Nassau County estates and polo grounds, where Howard went to the Greenvale School.

In 1948, when Howard was seven, Mickey Hughes was killed in an avalanche somewhere near Aspen, Colorado where he had gone to ski with his brother-in-law Alexander Cushing (who later created the Squaw Valley, California ski resort). The men were watching as the snow started to move and Mickey Hughes was suddenly unable to escape harm’s way. The death of the father made an impression on the child from which he never quite recovered. Many times thereafter he would say that when he died he wanted to be buried next to his father, to be reunited finally in death.

Mickey Hughes’s widow made two short marriages after his death — the first to a man whose identity is all but forgotten (and to some, even unknown) by family members, and the second to Howell van Gerbig (who later married Ann Trainor — now Ann (Mrs. Morton) Downey) another socially prominent member of the New York — Long Island set. In 1953, at age 36, she married her fourth husband Watson Blair, a banker with JP Morgan and ten years her junior, with whom she had twins — Watson and Wolcott Blair.

The Blairs lived in St. Louis, where Josie Blair served on the board of Symphony, and in New York in a very grand apartment at 834 Fifth Avenue, (now owned by Susan and John Gutfreund), as well as in Brookville, Southampton, and Hobe Sound.

Josie Blair was a formidable woman on social scene of her day — far different from today’s –where a woman was admired for her abilities to run her multi-residences seamlessly, to entertain graciously; for her couture and style and for her philanthropic and cultural interests. She served on the boards of the Manhattan School of Music — she was an acccomplished pianist — and of Juilliard. For the boy, Howard, Mother was a formidable figure who, like her social peers, left the rearing of her children to household staff and the professionals hired for such, and the masters who ran their schools.

Howard grew up to be a pleasant and friendly fellow, not shy, somewhat reserved; smart and curious. He went to St. Paul’s, to Vanderbilt and then to Columbia Business. Afterwards he went to work for Charlie Allen, the legendary banker and private equity investor (and father of Terry Allen Kramer) on Wall Street.

In 1969 Howard married Topsy Taylor (See The List), one of the most fashionable and eligible of the social beauties in New York, who was also from an old and prominent family (her great-great-great-grandfather Moses Taylor founded the National City Bank — now Citicorp; and was an early partner of the Astors, as well as a financier of American railroads). In 1971, their daughter Lisa was born.

About that time Howard went out on his own and with his younger brother John founded Hughes Brothers, a private equity firm. The firm became a great success. The Hughess were a popular couple in New York and Newport — where Topsy’s family owned a private island (which she owns today).

Twenty years into the marriage Howard decided to leave. The break-up, which came as a sad shock to his wife, was handled honorablly and properly and the couple continued to have a business relationship, with their daughter holding a one-third interest in his firm and Topsy continuing to invest in the firm’s projects (including Crescent Drilling, the company he was visiting in Texas this past week).

A couple of years after the divorce, Howard married Carol Marol, an American divorcee with two children who had been living in London. In the mid-1990s the couple bought a spectacular mansion in the East 90s where they entertained grandly. They also lived in Southampton in a house Howard had  bought while married to Topsy on Lake Agawam. (Part of their divorcce agreement was that the Southampton house would eventually be left to their daughter Lisa).

In the late 90s, however, some of Howard’s investments had some major reversals and he was hit with what for him were hard times. The great house in Manhattan was sold for almost $18 million to Woody Allen. The Hughess gave a lavish dinner dance to mark the sale of the mansion and it was said that Carol Hughes, at the end of that evening, sat on a sofa and cried her eyes out like Scarlett O’Hara losing Tara. There were recurring rumors that the Southampton house might be put on the market except for its connection to Lisa. And there were recurring rumors that the marriage was in trouble.

Meanwhile in 2000, Lisa Hughes married a young Greek businessman Howard Melas and moved to Athens, spending part of her summrs in a guesthouse on the Southampton property. the Melases had two children, the bride learned to speak Greek fluently, much to the amazement of her in-laws, and also went to work for Christie’s as their representative in Athens.

Not all was well with father and daughter, however. The father’s fiduciary management of his daughter’s interests were severely lacking as well as patronizingly unexplained. Many believed it was because his tottering financial fortunes had been very slow in recovering and his lifestyle continued to tax his assets. Furthermore, age was presenting its conditions: Goerge had a hip replacement which he was somehow slow in recovering from. Friends worried that he was looking none too resilient and in low spirits.

And the Southampton house was put up for sale, reportedly much to the objection of his eldest daughter. Father and daughter were estranged and he seemed uninterested in participating in repairing their relationship. Very recently the house was sold for $25 million to a hedge fund owner. Southampton had been in Howard’s blood from boyhood. Friends were not surprised that he had leased a house across the street from his for $300,000 for the season.

Very recently, despite his faltering health, Howard’s marriage had thus far survived and he had seemed more optimistic about his business investments, especially with this energy exploration company in Texas, and he was excited about it. It was for that that he’d made the journey once again down to Texas and now, no longer with the Gulfstream to transport him, he had willingly boarded that single engine airccraft he didn’t feel safe in.

His familiy is hoping that his remains will be found so that he can be provided with his lifelong wish — to be buried next to his beloved father in Philadelphia.


Widow Uses Bigwig Investor’s $22M Estate Like Piggy Bank, Suit Claims

By Carol McFadden

UPPER EAST SIDE — The widow of an Upper East Side investment guru whose sister is fashion designer Mary Rivers treats his $21 million estate like a “personal piggy bank” and has given herself lucrative gigs at his companies — even though she has no business experience, a lawsuit charges.

Hank Rivers’s widow and second wife, Joan, is burning through his estate by ignoring debts and charging one of his firm’s $50,000 a month in consulting fees, her step-daughter claims in the lawsuit.

Elizabeth Melas, Hank Rivers’s daughter from his first marriage, says she has a stake in her dad’s money, but her step-mom has turned a blind eye to her request for an accounting of his assets and has dragged the estate into “numerous litigations.”

Melas, 42, demands in the March 8 lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, that Joan Rivers be removed as executor of the estate.

“She has engaged in acts of self-dealing and misappropriated estate funds and assets for her personal benefit,” Melas says in the lawsuit. “Indeed, she has used the estate as her personal piggy bank.”

But Joan Rivers, 57, has denied any wrongdoing in a legal response and countered that Melas’ lawsuit is a “concerted effort to harass” her.

In a previous legal battle, Rivers called Melas a “selfish and spoiled daughter” who got plenty from her dad before his death — including more than $39 million in cash and bargain investment opportunities.

The dad sold Melas an $11.5 million Southampton mansion for the steal of $500,000, the step-mom previously claimed.

Joan Rivers has also cited a 2005 letter that Melas wrote and her dad signed as proof of his generosity. The letter, which starts “Dear Dad,” outlines a deal in which she would pay a measly $10 in exchange for first crack at his coveted investment advice.

“Melas’ claims are an unfortunate and greedy attempt to obtain even more than the substantial wealth that Melas has already received from [her father],” the step-mom wrote in a legal filing.

The caustic battle over the estate dates back to 2008, when Hank Rivers, 67, was killed in a plane crash in Texas.

He and his brother had made a fortune with the Rivers Brothers investment firm. In one deal, Hank Rivers paid $1 million for a food company in 1972, then sold it for a whopping $90 million 14 years later, according to Melas’ lawsuit.

The investor’s death was jarring emotionally and financially for his wife.

A month before the plane crash, Hank Rivers sold his Southampton home for $25 million. But after her husband’s death, Joan Rivers, who had two children with her husband, learned that her family “had been living way beyond its means and was strapped for cash,” according to the lawsuit.

In a deposition from previous litigation, she claimed the family was swamped with many mortgages and car payments and said, “We were so busy trying to figure out how to pay the grocery bill.”

The majority of Rivers’s estate was tied up in stock in two companies, Affordable Holdings and the Crescent Company.

When his wife became executor, she finagled Affordable to pay her $50,000 a month in consulting fees, even though she had no prior work experience, only holds a history degree and never took a single business or accounting class, the lawsuit says.

She also secured the title of chairman and president of Crescent and has been collecting $86,149 a year to cover part of the rent at her London apartment, according to the lawsuit.

In total, Joan Rivers is accused of draining $2.9 million from the estate in the past five years.

The lawsuit also claims that she refuses to pay socialite Lesley “Topsy” Taylor — Melas’ mom and Hank Rivers’s first wife — nearly $5 million owed from a 1991 separation agreement.

Neither Melas nor Joan Rivers’s lawyers responded to requests for comments.


New York City Living

New York is New York. But, for most vacationers, affordability without the sacrifice of a quality place to rest and recharge are the most important considerations when choosing a hotel. Along with comfort and elegance, hotels in this famous city also need to take care of their image especially for visitors. That is why, from the staff, amenities, services and rates, you can find a suitable one. For instance, budget friendly New York hotels would include the Library Hotel among others. It is also a place for individuals who like to read books or magazines since there are many provided in each of the rooms. The Pod Hotel may not have spacious rooms but it has many modern amenities to have fun plus their reinvention of the bunk bed. Many agree that it succeeded in making bunk beds look trendy again. The Nu hotel lets you experience New York Citys busy lifestyle and this is more appropriate for those who are on the go most of the time. On the other hand, the Ave Hotel could be your choice if you like the opposite of the Nu Hotel. You can find many budget New York hotels, definitely you will find one of your choice.

Are There New York Hotels Suitable For Visitors With Kids?

It could be assumed that all New York hotels today accept guests with children. But, sometimes, it is quite different if you book into a kid-friendly hotel. For example, these hotels offer services and amenities which are geared towards guests with kids or to the kids directly. Most of the time, such hotels have programs for little kids and teens who travel with you in New York. There are also hotels which have dedicated facilities and equipment for kids such as play rooms or a game room for teens. Couples can have some time alone while in New York because some hotels may offer nanny services. The Plaza is famous New York Hotel for kids. Holiday seasons turn The Waldorf Astoria hotel into one of the best wonderlands in New York for kids. Hotel Metro, The Hilton and The Embassy Suites are also other kid-friend hotels that you can consider booking into when you come to New York.

Discover New York Hotels Essence At The Waldorf Astoria Hotel

The name Waldorf Astoria Hotel stands for elegance, being royal, high in stature, or even in power. So, you should not wonder why most people visiting New York would do everything just for a chance to stay in this hotel. People are magnetized to stay in this hotel because of its rich history as well as the grand room design and decor. If you get the chance to stay in this hotel, you can say that you are at par with famous people who have spent some nights and days there. Hollywood celebrities, royalties, dignitaries and famous Presidents of the United States are just some of these important persons. So, it makes a different feeling for you even if you only make a booking. Do not let it pass to discover what The Waldorf Astoria Hotel can give you by including it in your next New York City visit.

Choose Among Great New York Hotels What Options Do You Have?

It is true that the hotel you choose makes or breaks a great vacation. Thus, it is vital to really plan and study where you want to stay when you visit the Big Apple. Doing so, you will have the most complete information to determine the best hotels in New York City. The Muse Hotel offers the best of both worlds shopping and exploring the Big Apple. The London Hotel provides you the opportunity to sleep and wake up with the view over Central Park. If you want the view of Midtown Manhattan then book yourself at the Bryant Park Hotel. Great services plus the best spa facility will be yours in this hotel. The Renaissance New York is your gateway to the past. Go back the Renaissance Era though this hotels exquisite displays of floor work, carvings and furnishings. Get ready to be charmed back to the nineteenth century at the Blue Moon Hotel with its great architectural designs and decor.


New York City by Carol McFadden

By Carol McFadden

Turning 21 is a rite-of-passage and a huge deal in New York City, where partying and night-life is such a big part of the lifestyle. Its the first time you can legally drink alcohol and make your way into the bars. Now, you finally have a chance to see what all the fuss is about, so its all the more important to celebrate your 21st birthday with a bang.
But before it hits midnight, you can celebrate at a trendy restaurant with your friends. Some popular choices are Buddakan, with modern Asian cuisine, or Morimoto for sushi. Both restaurants are in the Meatpacking District. For a trendy dinner with Latino cuisine, take a look at Rayuela in SoHo.
After dinner and when the clock hits midnight, its time to hit the bars. But which of the many bars do you choose?
For some, a 21st birthday celebration in New York is a chance to go on a pub crawl and see the atmosphere (and drink selection) at multiple bars. In Manhattan, the West Village has many lively bars to choose from like Down the Hatch, Town Tavern and Off The Wagon. For those staying outside of Manhattan, Williamsburg and Astoria are both good places to party at night.
Or, you might be looking for a more classy experience, a night out at a fancy bar with a cool atmosphere. If the weather is nice, one option is The Delancey, a rooftop bar in the Lower East Side. This oasis offers three floors of drinking, dancing, and a great atmosphere.
For a pricey but unique experience, Lucky Chengs in the East Village is the place to go. At this drag cabaret dinner theater, you can have your food served by drag queens, enjoy a drag show while youre eating, and sing some karaoke after the drag show is over!
If youre not so into the bar scene but you want a fun activity to do while drinking, you may want to consider one of New Yorks upscale bowling alleys. Lucky Strike, located near Times Square, and Bowlmor Lanes & Strike, located near Union Square, both offer bowling and drinks in a fun environment. Both of these exciting bowling alleys become 21 and over at night.
Your birthday is a good time to splurge and go to events that might otherwise be too expensive for a night out. Check out the latest plays on Broadway, go see a sports game, concert, or comedian at Madison Square Garden, or see the Opera at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts. New York City is a great place to explore the arts, and theres no better time to enjoy these events than on your 21st birthday.
Whichever activities are most interesting to you, nothing tops a New York City 21st birthday! The city has countless restaurants, bars, and events, many of which could be the perfect birthday destination for you.


New York City

By Carol McFadden

If you have applied for Medicaid in the State of New York, and particularly in New York City, and misrepresented facts regarding your income and assets on your application, beware. You may become another target of relentless and massive hunt for fraudsters.

The new initiative that started a few years ago across the state has netted thousands of Medicaid recipients who had received Medicaid fraudulently.

As a New York Medicaid Fraud defense lawyer, I receive calls weekly from people contacted by New York City Bureau of Fraud Investigation and other agencies that routinely investigate New York Medicaid fraud. As a program recipient, you may and probably will be investigated for fraud if you lie on your Medicaid application. Usually, that has to do with concealing income and assets. Virtually every person I have dealt with who had been investigated for Medicaid fraud had indicated that their income was significantly less than it really was or that they had no assets that would have disqualified them from receiving Medicaid while they in fact had such assets. I have seen people investigated for Medicaid fraud in New York who had own substantial real estate and other assets and were clearly ineligible for the program. However, I have also seen those within income eligibility guidelines at the time of their application who failed to report their changed income.

In most cases, investigators catch you before you know of any investigation at all. They build their file before you hear from them. By the time you receive a letter from an investigative agency asking you to come to their office for an “interview” and to bring along certain documentation, the investigation is practically completed. If you receive such letter, you should seek legal advice immediately before discussing anything with investigators. If you chose to go to the interview and voluntarily submit requested information, you may be confessing to having committed a crime and your case will be soon sent to the local District Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution. Once the investigation is completed and the case is referred to another agency for criminal prosecution, it is much more difficult and expensive to salvage the situation.

At the investigative stage of the case, the most optimal resolution of is avoiding prosecution and your chances of a favorable outcome increase dramatically if you deal with the investigative agency early and in the right way, though your attorney.


New York

By Carol McFadden

Earl “The Goat” Manigault was a 6”1′ guard who grew up playing on the streets of New York, most famously Rucker Park. His nickname as “The Goat” is believed to originate from either the habitually mispronunciation of this last name, or from the acronym of “Greatest of All Time.” The latter is quite possible considering that Manigault is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player to ever live. For example; when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had his number retired for the Lakers he was asked who the best player he’s ever played against washis answer was Earl Manigault. Manigault was known for his incredible shooting, and his amazing jumping ability which was a result of him wearing strength building ankle weights throughout his early playing years. He is said to have had over a 52 inch vertical leap with the ability to grab dollars off the top of a backboard and leave change, literally. Earl was recruited by over 75 major universities including Duke, Indiana & North Carolina, but ended up attending Johnson C. Smith University. Earl lasted only one semester due to poor grades and subsequently limited playing time. After leaving college Earl got caught up in drugs and spent two years in prison. Upon his release, Earl stopped using drugs and started the “Walk Away from Drugs” basketball tournament where he continued to work until 1998 when he tragically died of heart failure. It’s safe to say that when you’re talking about the greatest basketball players of all time, streetball or not, Earl Manigault’s name can be mentioned with no hesitation.

Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell

Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell is a 5 foot 7 streetball legend from Oakland, California. Also known as Waliy Abdur Rahim, Hook Mitchell is best known for his incredible leaping ability; performing backboard shattering ally-oops, 12 foot rim dunks, and car jumping 360 dunks. NBA all-stars like Gary Payton and Jason Kidd have been quoted as saying Hook was a better skilled player than they, and that he is the best basketball player to never make the NBA. Hook never made it as a professional because of his problems with drug addiction and crime. He served a 51 month prison sentence ending in April 2004 for armed robbery, and upon his release tried out for the Golden State Warriors at the age of 39. Unfortunately for Hook he was cut after training camp, it was just too late for him to get his start. Hook Mitchell was the focus of a recent independent film entitled “Hooked” which was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival and has been the winner of various documentary awards.

Pee Wee Kirkland

Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland is a streetball legend from Harlem, New York. Pee Wee made his name playing at Rucker Park in New York and with his storied rivalry with Tiny Archibald. Pee Wee was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the fourth round of the 1969 draft but ultimately turned down the Bulls offer due to the fact that he was making more money with his involvement in illegal street activities. These activities eventually caught up with Kirkland and landed him in jail for an extended period. Kirkland didn’t stop playing ball however, and wound up scoring 100 points & 135 points in two separate ABL games. Now a reformed man, Pee Wee Kirkland travels the country for his “School of Skillz” program (sponsored by Nike) which helps children with good decision making and self-esteem. Kirkland has also been successful as a high school basketball coach, winning championships with Trevor Day High School.

Joe Hammond

Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond was a scorer, plain and simple. Joe did most of his scoring at Rucker Park in New York, on one occasion dropping 50 points in one half on Dr. J Julius Irving. He also set a Rucker Park single game scoring record with 82 points. Joe was offered an NBA contract from the Lakers after being tipped off by Wilt Chamberlain, but Joe turned it down because the contract did not include a no-cut clause. Despite never playing a single minute in college or as a pro, some consider Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond to be the best offensive threat to ever play the game.

Fly Williams

James “Fly” Williams of Brooklyn was a 6 foot 5 inch Guard who came up playing on the playgrounds of New York City. Fly Williams got his nickname due to his “fly” wardrobes and flamboyant playing style. He was known as a prolific scorer who once scored 63 points on NBA hall of famer Moses Malone in a Dapper Dan Classic game. Fly took his playground skills to the collegiate level in 1972 when he was recruited to play at Austin Peay University in Tennessee. While at Austin Peay, Fly averaged 28.5 points per game in two years of play before leaving due to off the court hardships. Fans used to line up five hours before the game for a chance to see Fly play, and for a chance to catch one of Fly’s legendary antics such as dribbling the ball of the court during play for a water break, or joining the fans in the stands when he disagreed with how the coach was managing the game. The crowds grew to love Fly Williams and even came up with clever chants for him such as “Fly is open, let’s go Peay!” Fly spent time in the ABA, CBA and overseas but ultimately fell short of the NBA mainly due to his unprofessional attitude. Fly’s career was definitively dashed when he was injured by a shotgun blast during a failed robbery attempt. Fly has since turned his ship around and now spends most of his time working with disadvantaged youths.