Did he or didn't he? The folks at Razor
magazine have been making a big deal about their "exclusive" Howard
Stern interview purportedly conducted by former Daily News gossip A.J.
Benza. But Stern insists the alleged interview never happened.
It's part of Razor's June cover story on the blue-tongued radio jock's
troubles with the Federal Communications Commission.
I'm told that Razor's editors got very anxious the other day when Stern
went on the air to deny that he ever gave Benza or anyone else an interview.
According to MarksFriggin.com, a fan site that summarizes Stern's shows,
"Howard refused [Razor's interview request] and it never happened. ...
He thinks it's kind of funny that the magazine is putting out a press
release saying that they have an exclusive with him when they don't."
I hear that the Razor editors' anxiety level increased when E-mails
to Benza, who has written for the mag on and off since 2001, were bounced
back with the message that the address was invalid.
"I have a hard time believing that A.J. Benza would make up quotes
about somebody as prolific and newsworthy as Howard Stern," Razor publisher
Richard Botto told me. "I think it would be career suicide, and I think
A.J. knows that."
But while Benza told me he didn't make up any quotes for the article,
"I never interviewed Howard. I made some calls to him personally as
a friend," he explained. "We spent about 30 seconds talking about the
FCC, but it wasn't under the guise of an interview. But then the magazine
put out a press release about an 'exclusive interview.' It's just stupid.
AJ Benza writes: "Luke.... Please, my man, make sure you stay current
with the Lloyd Grove/Razor Magazine nonsense. If you heard Stern this
morning and yesterday morning you'd know he told his listeners that I
never claimed my speaking to him was an exclusive. It was, as Howard said,
Razor Magazine trying to drum up publicity for the issue. Other than that...I
always enjoy reading your stuff."
From 10/12/99 Luke Ford Wire Services Ltd:
Concurrent with Content magazines observation
in the October 99 issue that Benzas Mysteries &
Scandals offered a seedier view of Hollywood, the
Village Voice, dated 9-28-99 , reported that A.J. Benza was finishing
up his cautionary tale memoir.
The following items offer a cautionary glimpse into
the mysteries and scandals of A.J. Benzas momentous life and times:
Right now, were the shit, observed
Benza in New York magazine, dated 8-1-94.
An accompanying photo of the clog-footed, jewelry-wearing,
dude-about-town--his thinning coif moussed and ponytailed, his
extremities wound with at least four weighty metal bracelets plus rings
and earlobe accessories-- bore distinct clinical signs of phase-three
Saturday Night Fever. Not visible were Benzas three tattoos: The
word Pope on his right shoulder; a wolfs-paw print
on his right forearm, and a Gypsy flag on his left shoulder.
Ive met more beautiful women in the last
two years than I met when I was married and lived on long island....Every
girlfiend Ive had in the last two years has been a person in that
scene, yknow? When you go out in that scene, you end up dating
bartenders, hostesses, models,actresses, publicists. I would never go
back to dating a girl who works in a bank in Levittown, not with this
kind of lifestyle....The problem is you do tend to meet the girls you
dated last month and they see you with someone else, and so you gotta
be really cool. There are worse things in this world! My friends who
are married with two kids and a white picket fence all call me to hear
about the stories, yknow?
..More recently, Benza got into a fight with
one of the clubs [defunct Times Square nitery USA] doormen...Vindictive
items about the clubs owner, Peter Gatien, started appearing [in
the Benza co-written Daily News column]....
[New York, 3-18-96; accompanying the profile are
photos of Benza, attired in head-to-toe leather, grasping his crotch
and grimacing suggestively for the camera:] .....Hot Copy
isnt neccessarily considered the best column in the city, but
A.J. and Michael [Lewittes, a former publicist and Dr. Ruth Westheimer
assistant]--the Fonz and Richie, as one colleague described
them--have made it a contender... The Hot Copy office is
strewn with Playboy and Penthouse magazines,
and as any viewer of [E! Channels] The Gossip Show [canceled for
low ratings] can tell you, the wall behind A.Js desk is littered
with photos of women with large breasts.......You got the publicists
wholl sell out their clients, and youre set, chuckles
A.J.. Its all a trade-off: I run some bullshit thing, then
they give me something hot....
...A.J. leans back. Hes wearing silky black
pants and a gray untucked shirt hanging to his knees. My flowing
look, he says of the outfit, delivered to his office via messenger
from Donna Karan at, A.J. smiles, [the following in italics] a greatly
A.J. has confided to his readers a concern
over male-pattern baldness...but its funny,
he says. If I want to know if I think a girls really pretty,
I try to imagine what shed look like bald.
....Then there was the time a few weeks ago when
A.J. threatened Nick Paumgarten, a writer whod made the mistake
of going a ahead with a profile of him for The New York Observer after
A.J had told him hed already pledged his loyalty to a New York
Magazine profile. I said that
if he went that low on that story, he was going to have to look over
his shoulder for the rest of his life. New York Magazine...
A.J. has stories: backyard weenie roasts with
Warren Beatty, party-hopping with Mickey Rourke and Abel Ferrara, naked
swimming in the grotto at Hefs mansion...breakfasts at the Carlyle
with Dan Rather. Dan knows I have a fucking
Daily News 3-25-97: In Hot Copy, A.J. Benza and Michael
Lewittes announce sighting of Robert Downey Jr at the L.A. Mondrian
Hotels Sky Bar back from rehab with a beer in hand.
New York Times, March, 28, 1997: Pete Hamill,
the new editor of The Daily News...accepted the resignation of A.J.
Benza and Michael Lewittes, who have written the Hot Copy
gossip column for four years [plus A.J. Benzas] Sunday column
on the citys youthful night-life scene, Downtown...[Benza
reported said] Mr. Hamill was unhappy with the sometimes smart-alecky
tone of both columns, and in particular with the Sunday columns
narrower, youth-oriented definition of celebrities worthy of mention..
New York Post, 4 - 1-97: ... this week comes
Michael Flemings story in Variety that has actor Robert Downey
Jr. threatening a lawsuit against Benza and the News for the columnists
report that he saw Downey drinking beer in the Sky Bar in the Hotel
Mondrian in L.A. recently. (Benza retracted the story after Downey said
he wasnt even in L.A. he said he was in Savannah, Ga...)...
Had Downey been drinking a beer, hed
have been in vbiolation of parole and wwould face jail. So this was
no small matter...
...the gossip industry has been polluted with
too many people who think they have a hook into every rumor out there,
wrote Benza in his farewell to journalism in the Daily News, dated March
30, 1997. And they dont. And it makes those of us who do--those
of us whove worked hard at making contacts and honing our intuition--seem
like vicious hacks.....
Daily News, 5-16-97 : ...A.J. Benza was charged
with punching and slamming a car door on a cabby in midtown yesterday
after the driver apparently refused to pick him up.... Benza was arrested
after witnesses flagged down a beat cop...
The former Daily News gossip columnist, appears on
the E! network's [now canceled] Gossip Show.
The cabby, Collin Osei Tutu, 45, of the Bronx,
was treated for a bruised face and a leg injury at St. Clare's Hospital,
The dispute flared about 4:30 p.m. after Benza
tried to flag down the cab at 41st St. and Fifth Ave... The cabby told
police that because he was off duty, he kept driving, stopping for a
red light at 40th St. Benza ran after the cab and allegedly punched
the driver in the face through the open car window...
When Tutu got out, Benza slammed the car door on
him... Benza was booked last night on a charge of third-degree assault...
...I had penetrated a group most gossip columnists
cannot, noted Benza in his Daily News swan-song. I got
beyond the velvet ropes... I did the things. I became the item.
According to Los Angeles New Times, dated 8-13-98,
A.J. Benza plays a drug dealer in the next Steven Seagal film,
a psychopath in a new digital indie project called Bug Night and a slimy
Hollywood agent in an upcoming comedy called Chump Change...along with
[the] U.S. Presidents brother, recovering coke addict and ex-con
Benza admits his lifestyle in L.A. is something
of a fish-out-of-water tale, although hes moved on from Vinniess
couch to a $750 -per-month one-bedroom in West Hollywoods Normadny
Because he hasnt paid his cable bill for months, he goes over
to Vinnies to watch baseball...
Fame: Aint it a bitch?