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1/24/00

Following in the footsteps of lukeford.com, the Scottish Daily Record's Iain Bruce exposes TV producer Darren Star.

Read a JPG of the article here. 334K

Headline: "Celebrity Cover-up: How the American showbiz establishment closed ranks after the body of a pretty 19-year old was found in a New York hotel room."

IT is a mystery that has hung over New York for five years, another unresolved tragedy in the city of a million heartbreaks.
The naked body of pretty Leigh Zurmuhlen, an aspiring 19-year-old actress, was found dead of an apparent drugs overdose in room 1610 of New York's Mayflower Hotel on October 27, 1995.
She had checked into the room in the early hours of the 25th with a mysterious Hollywood television producer - signed in as Dean Sche- - who slipped away from the hotel two days before her corpse was discovered by security guards arriving to tell the couple that their lease had expired.
Showbusiness insiders racked their brains as to who this mystery man might be, and newspapers across the city had no luck in locating him.
Despite enquiries across the California TV industry, no trace of anyone called Dean Sche- could be found.
But there is new evidence the phantom producer was the hotshot Darren Star, creator of Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and Sex In The City, which starred Sarah Jessica Parker.
Star was in New York at the time of the death working on another TV series -- Central Park West -- which was being filmed only a few blocks from the hotel.
Now investigative writer Mark Kramer has alleged that Sche- is, in fact, Star's original name, and he was the man who sneaked out of the Mayflower.
That fateful night, Leigh had gone to the trendy celebrity hangout, the Bowery Bar, where Darren Star had hosted his 33rd birthday party a few months earlier.
She called her mother at 4 a.m. to say she would be staying with a friend, then travelled to the hotel room where she would die.
Now Kramer has alleged that a group of glittering stars blackened the memory of a dead teenager to save one of their own.
"A dead blonde used to mean something in this town, but the Leigh Zurmuhlen overdose made clear that New York's gossip junta exhibited a contempt for their readership that would have been comprehension were it not so transparent," he says.
Changing your name for the sake of fame is not unusual in Hollywood, particularly if having the name Sche- identified you as the son of disgraced funeral director Dean Sche- Sr, who had mistakenly removed a living woman from a nursing home instead of her deceased roommate in 1988.
Star has been profiled in top magazine Vogue by Sex in the City co-writer Candace Bushnell. But now it is believed that most of it is fictitious.
When Star fled the scene for his Los Angeles home, his lawyer acted as intermediary with the New York Police Department.
Star -- described by the police, who referred to him as Mr. Sheu, as a "friendly witness" -- was interviewed by telephone shortly before he sped off to Hawaii on holiday.
The producer had told the police that Leigh had been asleep when he left the room, and that he had gone because she had been "acting irrationally." They decided that no action against the Hollywood power player was required.
But Leigh's mother Kathleen said: "If she was acting irrationally, why didn't he dial 9-1-1? He didn't call an ambulance, he didn't offer her a cab home, he didn't try to call her mother -- he only thought of himself."
But Star was worried about the impact the death would have on his career.
Although reports appeared on newswires and in the Zurmuhlen's local newspaper, mentions of Star were scarce in the city newspapers. A wall of silence was thrown up around the incident.
But Baird Jones, an assistant on the New York Daily News gossip desk at the time, claimed his bosses -- celebrity columnists George Rush and Joanna Molloy -- covered up for Star.
He said: "I remember the week the Star thing went down. George and Joanna were going crazy on the story -- not trying to report it, but trying to bury it."
Molloy did finally report the story, but not until over a fortnight later, when, unaccountably, she removed all mention of Star's name.
On the New York Post, it was a similar story.
Columnist Richard Johnson, who writes about the "handsome Darren Star" and "sexy scribe Candance Bushnell" is married to publicist Nadine Johnson who was Press consultant for Star's favorite haunt, the Bowery Bar.
"There is no doubt in my mind that these people conspired to completely remove any reference to Darren Star by any name from the story of Leigh's death," said Kramer.
"They knew exactly who that man in the hotel room was, but chose to ignore this because, as a constant source of celebrity gossip, he was worth more to them than a dead teenager."
Leigh's parents then had to live with the shame of having their daughter's name blacked in the Press.
An article in the New York Press by Jared Paul Stern alleged: "Leigh Zurmuhlen was a celebrity hunter whose stalking ground was the Bowery Bar's maining dining room."
He printed claims from the publicist of Star's friend and novelist Brett Easton Ellis that Leigh was "an extremely obsessive fan."
He said Leigh had harassed him at a book signing weeks before her death, begging that he took her telephone number so that they could meet. Leigh's family was outraged. Her uncle, Kurt Zurmuhlen, said: "Eight months before she died, Leigh was just another decent, bright young girl living in Saratoga Falls. Nobody who knew her believes that her character could have changed that drastically."
Her father, Edward, was horrified. But having lost another child -- Leigh's elder sister -- in a traffic accident shortly before, he was too distressed to take action.
Edward Zermuhlen died within a year of his daughter, but not before presenting what he saw as the truth to local newspaper, the Saratogian.
This was a very different picture, one of an active intelligent young woman who excelled in her school swimming team and shone academically.
He said: "Leigh was a very confident young woman. She had a good social life, lots of friends, and made the school honour roll every year."
Kramer agrees: "Leigh Zurmuhlen was a Nineties American Pie, and the day they found her corpse at the Mayflower Hotel was the day the music died, dead of Darren Star-related causes.
Daily News gossip columnist Molloy refuses to talk about her involvement in the cover-up.
Jeane MacIntosh, a former report on the daily Post, said suggestions of a cover-up are "hysterical." She said Stern was acting in good faith when he failed to link Star to the death.
"I don't think Jared knew it was Star, because I asked him and he was genuinely clueless," she said.
Star's brother Marc, a California pornography journalist, physically attacked publisher Luke Ford when he refused to remove details of the case until the producer had proved his innocence.
Neither Darren Star nor his agent Nancy Josephson would comment, staff saying that the pair were "unreachable."
But lawyers for Star have since said that all allegations against him are "completely false."
Star's career and social life have carried on regardless. He was seen at Brett Easton Ellis's annual festive party together with Jared Stern.
And as Sex in the City basked in the publicity generated by its loose moral stance, Star celebrated by hosting a party in which himself, Sarah Jessica Parker and Easton Ellis were spanked by a dominatrix hired for a joke.
But Leigh's relatives are not going to forget what became of their daughter.
They still want to know why the last man to see her alive was allowed to escape virtually unquestioned.
A few days after Leigh's funeral, a letter arrived at her mother's house from the State University of New York -- where she had applied to study acting and writing.
"It was a letter of acceptance," Mrs. Zermuhlen said emotionally. "It just came too late for her to read it."

Sex and the City

Darren Star's Death and the City

Krash writes 6/22/99 about Darren Star, the gay producer of the HBO TV show Sex and the City, who left behind a dead 19 year old blonde in his hotel room.

When questioned by New York detectives about the dead blonde Star left behind when he checked out of the Mayflower Hotel, Darren Star gave his name as “XXX”--a ruse that enabled the producer of HBO’s “Sex and the City”--in complicity with Star-struck reporters from the Daily News, NY Post and weekly NY Observer-- to embargo the truth about 19-year-old Leigh Zerhmuhlen’s overdose.

And when the Medical Examiner’s report on Zermuhlen was issued approximately two months after her death, it was ignored by the aforementioned periodicals. Only The Staten Island Advance, in an item dated 12-7-95, took note that “texicology tests found a lethal combination of opiates, cocaine and alcohol” in the doomed Staten Island blonde Star met at the nightspot Bowery Bar.

Later that same night, accompanied by Zermuhlen, Star rented the Mayflower Hotel room where hotel workers found Zermuhlen dead of an apparent overdose three days later. When New York City cops reached Darren Star by phone at his home in California, the producer claimed Zermuhlen was only asleep when he left the room at six a.m. on Oct.25 to catch a California-bound flight . Shortly after speaking with the NYPD, Star traveled to Hawaii for a vacation.

Possibly because the 19-year-old decedent’s apparent overdose bore no evidence of violent homicide, there followed a merely perfunctory NYPD investigation in which no charges were filed against Star--enabling Jay Stowe, Joanna Molloy, Richard Johnson and other memebers of Gotham's gossip junta to conceal from their readers and editors the producer’s role in the fatality.

This conspiracy to spin the story into nothingness is evident in clips from the Post and Daily News. [both dated 11- 14-95] as well as Jay Stowe’s Observer piece. Note how Star’s name is omitted from all three items; note especially Star’s omission altogether from the Observer --where, given Star’s HBO executive-producership of vogueish Observer writer Candace Bushnell’s “Sex and the City” column, the conflict-of-interest is most tangled...almost as tangled, as that embodied by the fact that the New York Post's Page Six gossip columnist Richard Johnson's wife Nadine was the paid Bowery Bar publicist who coordinated the entire cover-up.

And what America really wants to know is: Who scored the hot-shot that killed Leigh Zermuhlen? And what was Star, widely believed to be gay, doing with her?

The May 1999 issue of Brill's Content devoted its cover story to gossip columnist Richard Johnson. I quote a couple of excerpts: "Another source of criticism derives from Johnson's marriage to Nadine Johnson, a publicist who promotes events for restaurants, magazines, and others. "In a city that runs on questionable relationships," one competing publicist says, "this probably is the most conspicuous."

"An unspoken rule prohibits competing columnists from writing negative items about each other."

A source describe Leigh: "She was a bubbly, very attractive 19-year-old blond, obviously not visibly underage because she was something of a regular at Bowery Bar. According to Joanna Molloy's evasive report, which attempted to stigmatize the victim while ignoring the victimizer [16 years Zerhmuhlen's senior], the gal was something of a wannabee star-f---er....always bragging about the celebs she saw at Bowery Bar."

From the 5/31/99 New York Daily News: "Spanking, anyone? To celebrate the opening of the fetish-themed restaurant La Nouvelle Justine in the East Village, the owners invited "Sex in the City" columnist Candace Bushnell and some of her friends for dinner last week. During the night, a dominatrix made the rounds and spanked Bushnell, Sarah Jessica Parker, Chris Noth, Darren Star, Bret Easton Ellis, Sandy Hill Pittman and Nicole Miller."

Krash says: According to Joanna Molloy's elliptically written Daily News item, her [Leigh Zermuhlen] mother's name was Kathleen Ryan--and supposedly is an actress. At one of the numbers I spoke to a relative, and at the other, I got some panicked female who said, "I don't know who you are"--and hung up. I'm thinking some sort of quick and quiet financial arrangement was made.

Now when I stumbled into this, I was not looking for Darren Star--in fact, did not know who he was. Rather, I was troubled by the idea of a story in which a nameless "small-time producer" was able to skip out on this thing...all the way to Hawaii. And suddenly the story vanished...only to reappear in the New York Observer in a puff piece on Joanna Molloy--who in fact had deliberately muddied the trail--a suckjob tribute to Molloy's reportorial skills in "getting the goods" on party-girl Zermuhlen.

Here's where it gets interesting: I asked Baird Jones, who was a desk assistant for the "Rush and Molloy" column, who the "small time producer" was. And Baird said, "Darren Star". And I said, "Who's Darren Star?" Quoth Baird: "He's some HBO producer." Baird gave up this info because he was pissed at married couple George Rush and Joanna Molloy for firing him. The Daily News offered Baird a $12,000 hush-hush buyout--and Baird refused it...presumably so he'd be at liberty to leak stories like this one. "I remember the week the Star thing went down. George and Joanna [New York Daily News gossip columnists] were going crazy on the story--not trying to report it, but trying to bury it." And they did...until lukeford.com.

Jay Stowe writes in the 12/18/95 New York Observer:

Our story begins with [New York Daily News gossip columnist] Ms. Molloy hard at work, trying to get the goods on Leigh Zermuhlen, an aspiring teenage actress who was found naked and dead in the Mayflower Hotel after a wild night that included a stop at the Bowery Bar.

Her body was discovered on Oct.27, but the city’s tabloid reporters had missed the story--until Ms. Molloy got wind of it. Ms. Molloy had one little problem with her scoop. To fully report the story, she would have to call the Bowery Bar for comment. And that meant having to talk with Ms. Johnson, who does PR for the bar. Ms. Molloy must have feared that Ms. Johnson might put the duties of love above those of her profession, and spill the story to her husband over at the Post [Richard Johnson, "Page Six].

So Ms. Molloy waited as long as she could. Then she called Ms. Johnson and got a comment about the underage Ms. Zermuhlen allegedly being served at the Bowery Bar. According to sources, before she hung up, she asked Ms. Johnson to refrain from leaking the story to Mr. Johnson as a professional courtesty, so that she could keep her story exclusive. Ms. Johnson apparently agreed to keep mum.

Ms. Molloy’s story hit the stands Nov. 14. And guess what was in the Post that same day? The story of the naked and dead Bowery Bar girl. In the Post, it ran on page 8 and was reported by Phillip Messing and Larry Celona.

Ms. Molloy got mad. Now, there was the chance that the Post metro staff had stumbled on the story of a woman who had died two weeks earlier--but it seems plausible that Ms. Johnson had used her husband as a conduit.

According to a Daily News source who sits within earshot of the gossip desk, Ms. Molloy was heard to shout , “Nadine, the story’s in the Post today. How did that happen?”

And then: “I don’t want to talk to no assistant. I wanna talk to you! How’d this get in the POST” After a good pause, Ms. Molloy was heard to utter: “you’re full of it, Nadine! gottta go.” SLAM!

Now here are excerpts from Joanna Malloy's piece in the New York Daily News. Notice how she ignores the Darren Star angle, seeking to shift the focus to the dead 19-year old girl.

“Mystery of dead student”

[byline: Joanna Molloy] 11-14-95

Police are investigating the death of a 19-year-old college student whose body was found in an Upper West Side hotel, after she partied at the trendy Bowery Bar. Leigh Zermuhlen had checked into the Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West.

Police say she was accompanied by a television producer [Darren Star].

According to Zerhmuhlen’s family, the two had met at the exclusive East Villge restaurant and bar. Zermuhlen was an acting student at the New School for Social Research and the granddaughter of city Public Arts Commissioner Frederick Zermuhlen who along with Robert Moses engineered the city’s 20-year postwar building boom.

The television producer [Darren Star] has not been charged with a crime and could not be reached for comment. He told cops he had left the room at 6 a.m.on October 25 thinking Zermuhlen was asleep, a police source said.

Hotel security personnel entered the room when the Do Not Disturb Sign remained on the doorknob two days later. They found Zermuhlen’s unclothed body on the bed, the hotel manager said. Police have questioned the producer by phone and requested that he return from California to New York for further questioning. The chief medical examiner is awaiting toxicology reports.

The woman’s mother, Kathleen Ryan, said she became concerned this summer when her daughter began frequenting the Bowery Bar, a virtual clubhouse for trendy scene-makers. She was caught up with seeing the celebrities. She’d say, ‘Mom, I met Leonardo DiCaprio” or “I met Laurence Fishbourne.”

Days before her daughter’s death, Ryan accompanied her to the Bowery Bar. “I wanted to see what was going on,” said Ryan. “I couldn’t believe it--the bartender served her a drink. I asked her not to go there anymore....”

Bowery Bar Babble-On

A User’s Manual by Krash

No doubt many of you out there in lukeland are wondering why all the hooplah regarding a dead blond in Darren Star’s hotel room. What, after all, has any of this got to do with porn? After all, only the most erotically challenged shut-in could possibly regard Darren Star’s HBO series Sex and the City as anything other than the most formulaic excuse to show Type-A Jewish women in designer fetish-wear since Yentl.

However, what might otherwise have been a snarky vehicle for second-tier Hebraic screen personality Sara Jessica Parker approaches--via the fatally narcotized shiksa in Darren Star’s hotel room--the perversity of de Sade. Thus when we conflate the winks and giggles of Sex and The City with the presence of Leigh Zerhmuhlen, 19, dead of a speedball behind a “Do Not Disturb” card in the Central Park West hotel room of Sex and The City’s creator, Darren Star--also known for another high-concept TV series aptly entitled “Central Park West”--we enter much the same drug-fueled, sexually exploitative terrain familiar to you, the lukeford.com reader.

And as we reveal, in the days and weeks to come, the facts about how some of Gotham’s best known newspaper writers buried this story beneath a manure heap of lies and prevarications--you, too, will agree that the tale of Leigh Zermuhlen’s overdose is as pornographic as a dwarf-bukkake spuzz-a-thon.

The day they found Leigh Zermuhlen dead in Darren Star’s Mayflower Hotel room was the day the music died--and the dawning of a syntho-truth as pornocentrically offensive as ten-gallon breast implants. Star-smitten drama student Leigh Zermuhlen’s lifeline sputtered out in a tangle of urine-stained Pratesi sheets at the posh Mayflower Hotel--a junked-out, coked-up, whiskey-drenched American Pie. And it is this unappetizing mise-en-scene that we will revisit tomorrow...in another slice of “Bowery Bar Babble-On” ....exclusively at lukeford.com.

The “Rush and Molloy” column was recently caught out for lying and fabricating its “scoops” in Brill’s Content Online earlier this year [2-99] In an item aptly entitled “Sucker Punch”, Michael Kadish writes: “Tabloid readers rely on the reporting of gossip columnists like George Rush of the New York Daily News's “Rush & Molloy “ to give them the dish on exclusive celebrity events - events that readers might assume these insider columnists actually attend. On Tuesday, January 19, Rush ... described the wild celebrity antics in Las Vegas following Mike Tyson's January 16 victory over François Botha - a victory that neither Rush nor Molloy nor their associates were on hand to celebrate. Instead, it seems Rush lifted nearly everything from Sharon Waxman's piece published the day before in The Washington Post... Both columns also featured identical quotes and similar descriptions... ...

"Rush acknowledges that he may have slipped up when it came to the party's guest list. In Waxman's column, there's an anecdote about Showtime producer Jay Larkin describing to dancer Gregory Hines how he had seen Mikhail Baryshnikov eating dinner with Tyson. But when Rush inserted the ballet dancer into his column, he transformed him from a subject of conversation at the party into an actual party guest. However, Baryshnikov was not at the party or the fight....”

NEW YORK POST:

Tuesday, 11-14-1995:

“Cops quiz Hollywood producer in death of ‘star struck’ S.I. teen”

[byline Phillip Messing and Larry Celona]

Police probing the mysterious death of a “star-struck” teenage blonde from Staten Island at a posh Midtown hotel are questioning a Hollywood producer who briefly stayed with her there.

The medical examiner said yesterday a cause of death has not been determined for Leigh Zermulen [sic], 19, whose nude body was found at the Mayflower Hotel on October 27.

The police investigators say they believe the teen --whose mother acknowledges she was taking anti-depressants and suffered from eating disorders--died of a drug overdose.

Police have not charged the “small-time” producer in the death. Butt they have talked with him by phone from his home in California and expect to question him further when he returns from a vacation in Hawaii [!].

Zermulen [sic]’s mother, Kathleen Ryan, said her daughter was taking acting and writing classes at the New School for Social Research. She said Zermulen [sic] met the 35-year-old producer at the trendy Bowery Bar in lower Manhattan after leaving home on Oct. 24.

“She was Star struck,” she said. “She used to go there on Thursday night after her acting class,” she said.

Ryan said the producer rented a room that night at the Mayflower at 15 Central Park West [Darren Star at the time was producing a series called “Central Park West]--where an employee found Leigh’s nude body inside Room 1610 three days later. The producer moved out before her death, Ryan said.

She claimed police officials told her the film producer left because Zermulen [sic] was ‘acting irrationally.’”

“If he’s telling the police that she’s acting irrational, I would like to know why he didn’t call 911 for an ambulance or ask for her mother’s number,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, he was just unfeeling, uncaring and callous. He was just looking out for himself.”

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE, 12-7-95

"AUTOPSY: OVERDOSE KILLED ASPIRING ACTRESS”

[byline: Associated Press] An aspiring Staten Island actress whose body turned up in the Manhattan hotel room of a Hollywood producer died from an accidental drug overdose, authorities said yesterday.

Toxicology tests found a lethal combination of opiates, cocaine and alcohol in the blood of Leigh Zurmuhlen, 19, of Tomkinsville, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office. A security guard found the young woman’s body in a 16th-floor room of the Mayflower Hotel on Oct. 27, more than two days after she and an older man first arrived together.

The man had left earlier without checking out. Detectives later contacted the 35-year-old californian--described by police as a “struggling Hollywood producer”--through his lawyer. The producer was never considered a criminal suspect. But the dead teenager’s mother, Kathleen Ryan, had accused him of “just looking out for himself” by leaving her daughter alone in the room.

Inspired by River Phoenix--the young actor who died of an overdose in 1993 outside a Los Angeles nightclub--Ms. Zermuhlen took night acting and writing classes at a Manhattan college, her mother said. The young woman also was a regular on the Manhattan club circuit, Ryan said.

On the night of Oct. 24, she met the producer at the Bower Bar, a celebrity hangout in the East Village. At 3 a.m. Ms. Zurmuhlen called her mother to say she was spending the night in Manhattan. At 4 a.m., she and the producer checked into the hotel on Central Park West, police said. Her body was discovered Saturday afternoon, behind a door with a “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on the knob.”

STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE, 10-31-95:

“POLICE INVESTIGATING DEATH OF ISLANDER”

[byline: Craig Schneider]

Police are investigating the mysterious death of a 19-year-old Tompkinsville woman whose body was found in a Manhattan hotel Friday.

Police say there were no indications of foul play in the death of Leigh Zurmuhlen, of the 70 block of Tomkins Circle, who was found on a bed in the Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West at 2 p.m.

“There were no bruises on the hbody and no sign of a struggle,” said Police Department spokeswoman Noreen Murray. Investigators are awaiting results of an autopsy and toxicology tests, expected in a few weks.

Ms. Zurmuhlen had checked into the hotel the day before with a friend, XXX of California, and, when the two people had not checked out on time, security staff entered the room and found Ms. Zurmuhlen, police said. XXX was not on the scene and police are seeking him for questioning, Ms. Murray said...

NEW YORK POST:

Tuesday, 11-14-1995:

“Cops quiz Hollywood producer in death of ‘star struck’ S.I. teen”

[byline Phillip Messing and Larry Celona]

Police probing the mysterious death of a “star-struck” teenage blonde from Staten Island at a posh Midtown hotel are questioning a Hollywood producer who briefly stayed with her there.

The medical examiner said yesterday a cause of death has not been determined for Leigh Zermulen [sic], 19, whose nude body was found at the Mayflower Hotel on October 27.

The police investigators say they believe the teen --whose mother acknowledges she was taking anti-depressants and suffered from eating disorders--died of a drug overdose. Police have not charged the “small-time” producer in the death. But they have talked with him by phone from his home in California and expect to question him further when he returns from a vacation in Hawaii [!].

Zermulen [sic]’s mother, Kathleen Ryan, said her daughter was taking acting and writing classes at the New School for Social Research. She said Zermulen [sic] met the 35-year-old producer at the trendy Bowery Bar in lower Manhattan after leaving home on Oct. 24.

“She was Star struck,” she said. “She used to go there on Thursday night after her acting class,” she said. Ryan said the producer rented a room that night at the Mayflower at 15 Central Park West [Darren Star at the time was producing a series called “Central Park West]--where an employee found Leigh’s nude body inside Room 1610 three days later. The producer moved out before her death, Ryan said.

She claimed police officials told her the film producer left because Zermulen [sic] was ‘acting irrationally.’”

“If he’s telling the police that she’s acting irrational, I would like to know why he didn’t call 911 for an ambulance or ask for her mother’s number,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, he was just unfeeling, uncaring and callous. He was just looking out for himself.”

<Accompanying photo of blond stunner was the caption: “SO YOUNG: The nude body of acting student Leigh Zermulen [sic], 19, was found in a Midtown hotel room.>

7/6/99

Bowery Bar Babble-On

User’s Manual 2.0 by Krash

Luke has requested that I keep this narrative porn-related. Here goes: Darren Star’s Hollywood Hills home is next door to a house once owned by Fatty Arbuckle, the corpulent silent screen star. Cinema buffs will remember that on Sept. 5, 1921, following a night of drunken revels, Arbuckle allegedly thrust a bottle--either Coke or Champagne bottle, no one knows for sure--into the tender vulva of a starlet named Virgina Rappe, resulting in the massive injuries that killed the 25-year-old Rappe days later.

Although ultimately aquitted of Rappe’s murder, Arbuckle tumbled into shameful oblivion and he died at age 46, broke and broken. For more on this, see http://www.silentmovies.com/Arbucklemania/Scandal.html

This item of trivia is especially apt in light of the dead blond, sans culottes, who turned up in a Darren Star’s hotel room, at Central Park West and 61st Street--only blocks from the Central Park West and 67th Street set [a $2.5 million apartment]--of Star’s much-mocked CBS series “Central Park West.”

Pornography takes many forms--and naked blond teenagers are one of them, dead or alive.

Of course, one of the prime distinctions between Darren Star--who may well turn out to be the Fatty Arbuckle of his generation--and the late Mr.Arbuckle himself, is that, in the latter case, Hollywood ‘s tabloid press descended on the fat pervert with crushing scorn and opprobium for the young Ms. Rappe’s murder. Whereas, regarding Mr. Star’s responsibility in faciliating the coke-and-dope fatality that killed another would-be starlet, Leigh Zermuhlen, 19, the Gotham media corps could, as we’ve pointed out, not have been more eager to cover the matter up.

To perspectivize the gaping informational chasm into which Leigh Zermuhlen’s naked corpse would nearly vanish, it should be pointed out that “Central Park West”--now so utterly forgotten--was one of the most media-hyped TV premieres in recent memory. What wags would later dismiss as “Central Park Waste” was being touted from Gotham’s soaring rooftops as “Melrose-Place-on-the-Hudson”.

Based on the successes of the Star-created “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place”, CBS gave the hot, if narcotics-prone, mogul a highly generous 13-show committment and a highly unusual agreement to air Central Park West without a pilot.” Thus the man who, according to Vanity Fair, “was largely credited with bringing Rupert Murdoch’s fledgling [Fox] network into the major leagues of broadcasting” , was at the top of his game, as Fatty Arbuckle had been, when his bedmate stopped breathing.

Ironically, Star--in the weeks preceding Zermuhlen’s overdose--told writer Jesse Kornbluth [who is now a top content exec at AOL] in a worshipful cover story for the suckjob “society” monthly “Manhattan File”: “...the large question we’ll be exploring [in “Central Park West”] is the moral character of these people and what they’re doing to succeed.”

Of course, these words might equally apply to Manhattan’s gossip writers, who--in covering up Darren Star’s culpability in the Mayflower Hotel overdose matter-- exhibited a contempt for their readerships that would be beyond comprehension were it not so transparent.

When Bowery Bar Babble-On continues, we will explore the Star-dusted, perc-filled newsbeats inhabited by such noted gossipists as the Daily News’ Joanna Molloy and her husband George Rush, The Post’s Richard Johnson, and The Observer’s Jay Stowe--henceforth to be collectively known here as “The Gang That Couldn’t Write Straight”.

It is a tale of the very purest impurity--awash in a bestiary of payola, quid pro quo and ditzy, coked-out femme fatales that will make the most jaded lukeford.com reader feel right at home.

Oh, and there’s one other thing: a major news organization has picked up lukeford.com’s lead and assigned a crime writer to exume the truth about Leigh Zerhulen’s last night on the town. Let’s see who gets there first.

August 3, 1999

Reckless Endangerment 90210

By Krash

From the nose on down--he is Darren Star, creator of Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and 1999’s dual-Emmy nominee “Sex and The City.” From the mouth on up--he is XXX, Jr.

This Frankenstein by-product of cosmetic surgery and journalistic payola was the last human visage that the naked blond teenager named Leigh Zermuhlen would ever see--before dying on Oct. 25, 1995 from the speedball she ingested in Room 1610, Darren Star’s room, at Manhattan’s Mayflower Hotel on Central Park West.

Almost four years later, Darren Star’s brother, Marc Star a/k/a Charles XXX--a former Melrose Place production assistant who now graces the masthead of clitically acclaimed Erotic X Film Guide --assaults journo Luke Ford at the AVN expo, and demands that the tale of his brother’s fatal one-night stand be stricken from lukeford.com.

Shortly thereafter, Marc Star’s terroristic attempt to abrogate Luke Ford’s First Amendment right to report a legitimate story attracts the LAPD’s attention. The rest is history. Case history.

But first, this post-mortem preview in retrospect: XXX, Jr.--a rising star in the MTM Television Distribution department, receives a promotion in summer, 1990...and disappears from the face of the earth.

Almost simultaneously, a brilliant and profilic screenwriter with the unlikely name of Darren Star materializes. He scores with the 1991 potboiler “If Looks Could Kill”. The new, improved Dean Sheu--morphed into Darren Star via surgical chin implant and an equally synthetic bio--goes on to achieve catalysmic successes with crowd-pleasers BH 90210 and Melrose Place.

It is a sweet ride until October, 1995--when XXX reappears in New York City...on a police blotter re. 19-year-old Leigh Zermuhlen’s overdose.

Against this backdrop, the carefully fabricated tale of Darren Star’s Potomac, Maryland youth--the XXX Brothers are in fact from Long Island-- penned in Vogue by “Sex and The City” author Candace Bushnell, reads as transparently as the post-surgical grafts visible on Darren Star’s chin in his Oct. 18, 1995 appearance on The Charlie Rose Show--only a week before cooking up Leigh Zermulen’s fatal hotshot at The Mayflower Hotel.

Bowery Bar Babble-On, when it continues, will reveal how the summer, 1998 firing of Vogue publisher Ron Galotti--”journalist” Candace Bushnell’s then-lover and the inspiration for “Sex and The City” character “Mr. Big”--is indissolubly linked to the dead blond in Darren Star’s bed. As for Rush & Molloy of The Daily News, Richard Johnson of The New York Post, Jay Stowe of The New York Observer and the various other quislings who sold out their readers to Darren Star--lukeford.com has this advice: If the XXX fits....lick it.

August 6, 1999

Leigh Zermuhlen’s overdose in Darren Star’s hotel room was the kind of story that cub reporters dream of. And by not reporting it, entry-level scribe Jared Paul Stern would cement his place is gossipdom.

Today, Stern labors as occasionally bylined assistant at Page Six under Richard Johnson, the former Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous content-provider whose wife, Nadine, was Bowery Bar publicist in precisely the time-frame that a teenager left the celebrity hangout so frequently mentioned on "Page Six" and died naked in Darren Star’s bed on Central Park West. Alcohol was in the 19-year-old’s blood along with cocaine and opiates, toxicology tests later revealed.

Although Leigh Zermuhlen’s post-mortem report never saw the light of newsprint outside her hometown newspaper, The Staten Island Advance, neophyte gossipist Jared Paul Stern colluded with “American Psycho” author’/ A-list sybarite Brett Eastman Ellis--who, like Stern, attended high-ticket Bennington College--and narcophile Darren Star in fabricating a NY Press story in fall, 1995 depicting the nubile overdose victim as a stalker.

Although omitting details such as the exact circumstances by which the doomed blond stalked Darren Star from East Village to a posh Central Park West hotel, then disrobed in his room, cooked up his dope, and died a stalker’s death--Jared Paul Stern’s “scoop” had author Brett Easton Ellis on the record as claiming that Zermuhlen was stalking him, too.

NY Press’ snarky tribute to “American Psycho” by way of Star’s “Central Park West” would earn Stern a coveted invitation to Bennington co-alumnus Ellis’ celeb-studded annual Christmas party--thus propelling Stern to his current omnipresence as someone who gets invited to A-list parties and writes the kind of “news” that gets him more party invites ad infinitum.

Also at Brett Easton Ellis’ swank East 13th wassail, in addition to “Sex and The City” “journalist Candace Bushnell, was none other than Darren Star.

Star’s presence here is eternalized by a party pic in the Star-friendly “Manhattan File”, dated February 96, to which Jared Paul Stern was a contributor.

Although the homosexual Stern had been slagged by The New York Observer as a “piss boy” for his demonstrated gynophobia--showering verbal vitriol on females unlucky enough not to be models or editors, such as the overweight adolescent girl he impugned in a “Detour” mag style column for choking to death on “a pork product”-- his NY Press editor hailed Stern as “a gifted gossip writer.”

The gifted Jared Paul Stern disappeared from NY Press pages shorty after publisher Russ Smith a/k/a “Mugger” learned the exact dimensions of Stern's role in the Leigh Zermuhlen/Darren Star cover-up.

A source tells lukeford.com: “I emailed copy on Zermuhlen's death from The Daily News, The Post, The Observer and Staten Island Advance to Russ Smith at “mugg1988@aol.com” and he wrote back in acknowledgement. This occurred on Wednesday, June 17, 1998. I never heard from him again.”

At the time, Russ Smith was in an escalating epistolary war of words with Richard Johnson at The Post. Johnson had vowed in a letter to NY Press that neither Smith nor his freebie weekly would ever appear on “Page Six.” Smith responded in writing that Johnson was “a cunt.”

Shortly after this uplifting exchange--and shortly after Jared Paul Stern had departed NY Press forever--Smith, according to sources, used the Darren Star whitewash, of which Mr. and Mrs. Richard Johnson were so inextricably a part, as a means of leveraging his way onto “Page Six.”

Since then, NY Press and/or Russ Smith have had numerous mentions on “Page Six”--something which Richard Johnson had emphatically vowed, in the late spring and early summer of 1998, would never happen. Meanwhile, Leigh Zermuhlen, dead of Darren Star’s euphoriants at 19, would live on in NY Press’ archives as a stalker.

NY Press, which is not archived in any libraries outside their own at 333 Seventh Avenue, did not, as this report went online, yet provide lukeford.com with the requested copy of Jared Paul Stern's fall, '95 Bowery Bar item.

Coming Soon: Why S.I. Newhouse Gave Ron “Mr. Big” Galotti The Big Boot from “Vogue.”

New York Post Page Six columnist Jeane MacIntosh writes me:

Yeah, Jared has been here for about 4 years. He is a regular, but he never gets a byline. So technically, Krash was wrong. (Can you tell I am very protective of Jared.) I went on your site yesterday, so now i know what it's about....realize the piece is probably all in good fun. But really a stretch -- showed it to richard, who laughed out loud, mainly because to think he and nadine could concoct an elaborate plot like that and land Jared a job is hysterical. Actually, Jared was already working here p/t when that piece came out, and the chick was still alive when jared wrote it. So the coverup thing is sorta farfetched. Also, I don't think even Jared knew it was Star, because yesterday I asked him and he was genuinely clueless. He was going to check the clips here and get the guy's name. Also, when that story came out, it was a major brouhaha with Nadine, because she was freaking that everyone, even Page six, was writing about it. (Oh, and Richard and Mugger called a truce a couple years back, so they started writing about each other, but then they got mad at each other again and I forget where it stands now. I can't keep up) But anyway, who cares, right? At any rate, if you do get any good, fact-checkable stuff, particularly crime/sex/hollywood things, give us a heads up. Thanks for reading! Jeane Mac.

From a November issue of New York Press, the alternative weekly edited by Russ Smith, the Time Out For Jared Paul Stern column:

"My social life is killing me" is a casual remark frequently heard at places like Bowery Bar, but for a Staten Island teenager whose death by suspected overdose was reported in the Post Nov. 14, it turned out to be true. Leigh Zurmuhlen, 19, granddaughter of city Public Works Commissioner Frederick Zurmuhlen (who worked with Robert Moses), was a celebrity hunter whose stalking ground was the verdant, fame-rich field of Bowery Bar's main dining room, where she longed to work as one of the boite's sexy, star-f---ing waitresses.

She was also the most ardent fan in a long line of admirers waiting to exchange greetings and have their books signed by author Bret Easton Ellis follolwing a reading from his latest novel, The Informers, at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble October 5. Zurmuhlen, in art-student garb and bleached blond hair, hung around long after the other audience members had gone, chatting up store employees and Suzie Leness, the publicist from Vintage Books, whom she mistook for Ellis' girlfriend. Zurmuhlen gave Ellis her phone number, begging him to call her so they could meet. "I'm not a stalker or anything like that," she unconvincingly assured me - as I was standing behind Ellis in my dark suit and fedora, she had mistaken me for his bodyguard. An observer commented, "She seemed like an extremely obsessive fan."

Zurmuhlen's nude body was found in a room registered to a "small-time" Hollywood producer at Central Park West's Mayflower Hotel on October 27. Her mother, Kathleen Ryan, told the Post that Zurmuhlen had met the man at the Bowery Bar on October 24. "She used to go there on Thursday nights after her acting class."

August 13, 1999

Darren Star-log date Thursday, July 2, 1998: Intragalactic medianaut Krash--not making the obvious connection between the Staten Island Advance and S.I. Newhouse’s Advance Publications, owner of Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and other fine periodicals--phones the outer-borough daily for info on late Staten Islander Leigh Zermuhlen.

Staten Island Advance newsroom operative Brian Damiano faxes backstory clips identifying Ms. Zermuhlen’s last date as “XXX.” Damiano, shortly after receipt of faxed clips from Daily News, New York Post and New York Observer, agrees that there seems to be a cover-up and, given its Staten Island angle, says that he’ll pitch the story to his editors.

Darren Star-log date Friday, July 3, 1998: Brian Damiano of the Staten Island Advance, contacted by phone, states that his editors have encouraged him to explore the XXX/Darren Star/Leigh Zermuhlen mystery. Later that day, medianautic Krash places a call to XXX of Sea Cliff, NY--leaving a voicemail message requesting that XXX phone Brian Damiano at the Advance with regard to the dead blond at The Mayflower Hotel.

Darren Star-log date Monday, July 6, 1998: Brian Damiano informs Krash--who still hasn’t gotten the Advance Communications link--that his editor, Tom Checchi, has instructed Daminao, suddenly and in no uncertain terms, to spike the XXX story.

Darren Star-log date Wednesday, July 8, 1998: Ron “Mr. Big” Galotti, Vogue publisher and intimate associate of Darren Star collaborator Candace Bushnell, is summarily fired by S.I. Newhouse for crimes against the empire. Not only has Galotti compromised the distinguished Vogue “brand” with a factually suspect Darren Star profile penned by Galloti’s occasional sex partner Candace Busnell, but also he had transgressed the Newhouse corporate structure by leaning, via a corporate proxy, on Tom Checchi to spike Brian Damiano’s investigation into Leigh Zermuhlen’s overdose.

Since the Ron Galotti termination is largely subsumed in Newhouse’s simultaneous firing of New Yorker editrix Tina Brown--which is what gets the headlines--Krash, using the latest cybernetic modalities and mediamorphic wetware, rescues the following narrative from the gaping maws of negative space:

On Friday, July 3, at about five p.m., XXX, Sr., father of XXX Jr.--of whose existence Krash does not yet know--receives a disturbing phone call from a reporter regarding the dead blond in the Mayflower Hotel. XXX phones his son, now known as Darren Star. Darren Star phones Bushnell, who phones Galotti--and together with the XXX family, they spend much of the weekend plotting how to zap the looming Staten Island Advance story. On Monday, Galotti--his reasoning clearly clouded by the innumerable conflicts of interest wrought by his romance with “Sex and The City” writer and Vogue contributor Bushnell --bullies an Advance Publications underling into ordering editor Tom Checchi to kill Brian Damiano’s Darren Star investigation. This intelligence is not slow in reaching the ear of avenging entreprenur S.I. Newhouse.

Darren Starlog date Wednesday, August 4, 1999: Staten Island Advance editor Tom Checchi denies, in a telephonic exchange of analog signals with Krash, that he is responsible for killing the Darren Star story. Moreover, asserts Checchi, he is “not comfortable” with Krash’s invasive phoner. Krash hangs up, allowing Checchi to make himself comfortable, and places a call to Brian Damiano in the Advance newsroom. Damiano reiterates: Tom Checchi is the guy responsible for killing the Darren Star story. Darren Starlog date Friday, August 13, 1999: A telephonic scan of the Staten Island Advance newsroom reveals that Brian Damiano “doesn’t work here anymore”. More heads roll in the next transmission of Reckless Endangerment 90210.

Reporting for lukeford.com: Krash, going boldly where no maniac has gone before.

Woo-OO-oo-oo-oo-OOOOO.... Woo-OO-oo-oo-oo-OOOOO....

August 19, 1999

Krash writes: How many millions does it take to exorcize a dead blond’s restless spirit? Consider the plummeting valuation of The New York Observer--venue for the factually challenged report on the teenage overdose victim found “naked and dead in the Mayflower Hotel after a wild night.”

Consider the sudden about-face of Canadian media magnate Conrad Black, who pulled out of negotiations last month to buy the troubled Manhattan weekly, which was already losing $2 million a year.

Gossip insiders blame Rolling Stone’s recent "Summer Hotlist", which featured both Luke Ford and “Sex and the City” skin siren Kim Cattrall...attracting to lukeford.com untold thousands of Kim Cattrall fans--including the entire editorial staff of Rolling Stone and several members of Conrad Black’s Hollinger International, Inc.

None of this has been lost on Kim Cattrall fan and former New York Observer senior editor Jay Stowe--who vanished inexplicably from the publication’s masthead soon after his role in the Darren Star cover-up was exposed by lukeford.com.

New York Observer editor-in-chief Peter W. Kaplan did not return Luke Ford’s calls regarding Jay Stowe’s termination specifically, and the Darren Star matter generally. Of course, it was Kaplan himself who signed off not only on Candace Bushnell’s “Sex and The City” column, which was soon to be a Darren Star Production, but also on Jay Stowe’s published efforts --in the Observer’s notorious puff piece---to deepen the already egregious conflict-of-interest...by recasting Leigh Zermuhlen’s death as a source of cheap special effects meant to glorify the George Rush/Joanna Molloy gossip franchise. It is therefore with a poignant sense of fare-thee-well that lukeford.com expunges Jay Stowe from “The Gang That Couldn’t Write Straight” Active Files.

Taking the publicly discredited Stowe’s place in this proud pantheon is “Page Six” gossipist Jared Paul Stern, the transparently closeted, fedora-wearing homosexual and Brett Easton Ellis groupie whose fiction-posing-as-journalism account in NY Press of the late Leigh Zermuhlen as a stalker has earned Stern an enduring place in the canon of Darren Star studies. Summarized a June ‘98 Details magazine profile of Jared Paul Stern: “As surely as velvet ropes drop and P.R. girls flutter at his approach, the epithet “asshole” seems to bubble up to people’s lips whenever his name is mentioned.”

Meanwhile, the ghost of Leigh Zermuhlen-- dead at 19 of Darren Star-related causes--continues to haunt the necropolitan purlieus of “Sex and City” in a way that perhaps only Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft fans can appreciate.

"Is it any wonder that the self-absorbed, the promiscuous, the drugged and the drunk ... lead lonely, empty lives?" speculated The Wall Street Journal, hitting almost clairvoyantly close to home, or at least The Mayflower Hotel, in a review of the Emmy-nominated, morbidity-steeped Darren Star/Candace Bushnell creation. Observed Daily Variety, “After the announcement that “Sex” was nominated for the nom, some high-profile critics stated the show was not worthy of the nom.”

And the Washington Post had this to say about vixenish “Sex and The City” star and Emmy nominee Sarah Jessica Parker: "She's in love with the camera. Unfortunately, it's unrequited." Stay tuned for more icy-fingered objectivity from beyond the grave...when Bowery Bar Babble-On continues. Exclusively at lukeford.com