For those of you blissed-out under your rocks, last Friday news broke that Jared Paul Stern was being investigated by the FBI for allegedly extorting billionaire Ron Burkle. The resulting media tizzy since has suggested that Page Six is corrupt, Stern is a slimeball, and Burkle is a creepy control freak. All of which could be delightfully true.
While we don't have Burkle's contact info, we do have Stern's — and so we sent him 10 annoying questions* and asked him to play along. As the lure of speaking out is irresistable, he gladly obliged:
1. We all know your side of the story, that you were set up. Blah, blah. But you've also conceded an error in judgment and, on Friday, your then-lawyer said on your behalf that you made a mistake. What was the mistake? Asking for too little?
Ha ha. My error in judgment was combining discussions about an investment in my clothing company with one about advising him on media coverage, especially in such a way that it could be twisted out of all proportion by the slimeball, billionaire lapdogs at the Daily News.
2. What's this all mean for the way Page Six seems to do business? Will the Joe Francis-type deals continue or will, God forbid, some fairness be restored to the system?
It is fair in its way, you just have to know how the game is played and know the playing field isn't 110% level. It's a gossip column, for chrissakes. The best one in the whole fucking world, breaking important stories that reverberate everywhere and often drive the so-called "legitimate" news coverage. If you want to find out what no-one wants you to know, you have to use every legal method at your disposal. Burkle is the ultimate hypocrite. Just look at his divorce — his methods of gathering information and enforcing his will are far more evil than the worst thing a gossip columnist has ever done.
3. You've gotten a shitload of press, but quotes are only so much fun — we want longform bitching. Burkle wrote a lengthy op-ed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Where's yours?
Yes, I guess he's turning his greasy hand to freelance journalism now. There may be an opening at Page Six... He is not one to be pointing the finger. The full scope of his diabolical plot is still being uncovered. He will have a lot of explaining to do. And he will have to go the hell back to L.A. and crawl back down his diamond-paved hole.
4. You regularly send out mass emails linking to everything written about you. Are you just sitting at your computer all day, waiting for Google Alerts for your name?
I don't send out mass emails of everything about me. Just the stories that get at some semblance of truth. I'm not gloating over the coverage, just letting my friends know that some people care about what really happened.
5. Your clothing line, Skull & Bones — you know the skull trend has hit critical mass, right? It's going to be over by September, just a heads-up. But seriously: Will there be Skull & Bones prison line?
If this smear campaign can be shown to have damaged my clothing business I will sue all the responsible parties. Your question will hereafter be known as "Exhibit A." But according to this, it'll only help.
6. As editor of the Post's Sunday books section, you hired many a bloggy type (us included) to write reviews for you. What do you have to say to all those otherwise unemployable web dorks who will no longer get to work for the Post because of you?
I don't expect the Post's books coverage to be altered in any way. All the reviews I assigned will still run. Good bloggers will always be in demand.
7. Which has a better chance of ever seeing the light of day in 2007: issue 2 of the Page Six magazine or Radar 3.0?
Maybe you could do a Tale of the Tape. Burkle threatened to crush the Page 6 mag by cutting off its chances of distribution (he owns one of the largest magazine distributors in the country). But Radar will have some serious issues to overcome if this guy is pulling the strings. At the end of the day, Page Six is the much bigger brand.
8. Do you have a speech impediment that forces you to call your wife "Snoodles?" Do you have a scalp disease underneath that fedora?
Yes, and I have a monkey butler in a scarlet coat who serves me Manhattans on a silver platter and polishes my monocle with his tail.
9. Why in God's name is your lawyer letting you talk so much? Wouldn't any decent attorney tell you to shut up?
If I've I learned anything in this, it's that if you've been falsely accused the best thing to do is speak up and defend yourself. And if you're a lowly freelance writer squaring off against a powerful, politically-connected billionaire, no-one else is going to tell your side of the story.
10. Are you ever going to be able to set foot in this town again? When, tough guy?
I'm probably coming in later this week to do Good Morning America, the Today Show and that kind of crap. You can buy me a drink at Caf Loup if you promise not to wear that hideous sweater.
Related: Gawker's Coverage of Payola Six
*In the interest of fairness, we are happy to send Ron Burkle 10 equally obnoxious questions provided that he agrees to answer. Ron, drop us a line.