Ponzi schemer to the stars Ken Starr gets the Vanity Fair treatment this week, along with dozens of A-listers he allegedly scammed. (Sylvester Stallone! Nora Ephron! Walter Cronkite!) But the juiciest stories come from his pole-dancing wife, Diane Passage.
The woman of "Brobdignagian breasts" gave an interview to Vanity Fair's Michael Shnayerson in which she says that, when the feds were after him, Ken ordered her to lie about his whereabouts twice. The second time, she dropped a dime:
After the agents asked her a second time if Starr was home, the largest of them, a giant, leaned over and said in a low, serious voice, "I'm going to ask you one more time." Diane recalled how in the movies people got arrested for lying to the F.B.I. That was when she whispered, "He's in the bedroom closet," and the agents went up to find a telltale pair of shoes protruding from beneath the hanging clothes.
Diane's ludicrous presence has always been the lifeblood of Ken Starr's story. (Though A-list victims including Uma Thurman, Al Pacino, Caroline Kennedy, Matt Lauer, Diane Sawyer, Sam Mendes, Bunny Mellon, Sylvester Stallone, Nora Ephron, Walter Cronkite, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters, Richard Avedon, and poor, broke Annie Leibovitz don't hurt.) Ken met Diane when she was dancing at supersized strip club Scores. He and ex-wife Marisa hired her several times for "dates," until Ken divorced Marisa and put a $32,000 wedding band on Diane's finger, instead. As the criminal case against Ken took shape, Diane became a symbol of Ken Starr's greed. Shnayerson continues:
Like a Greek chorus, his shocked clients pointed as one to the lavishly endowed Diane, for whom, the indictment notes, Starr purchased more than $400,000 of jewelry from bling jeweler to the rap world Jacob Arabo. "When your business manager marries a stripper," says one rueful client, "that's a tell."
Now both Marisa and Diane are bereft and alone. Marisa is stranded in a crumbling mansion: "I have a 15,000-square-foot house with no one helping. I am handicapped. I need a scooter to get around. They are coming to foreclose at any minute." And poor, lonely Diane has been stripped of her husband's ill-gotten riches. Shnayerson's article closes with this scene:
Diane, it appears, stands to lose all she gained in her four-year, fairy-tale romance: the clothes and jewelry, the triplex, her dreams of seeing pole dancing become an Olympic sport. One night not long ago, she found herself walking past Harry Cipriani. Inside the brightly lit restaurant she saw fashionable diners laughing at the front table at which she'd sat six weeks before. None looked out through the sparkling glass to see her standing there, simply dressed, alone, the girl in a New York story that had come to an end.
Alone, nose pressed to the glass window at Cipriani! Has a filthy rich Manhattanite supported by criminal endeavors ever been more tragic? She should team up with Ashley Dupre and start a lonelyhearts club for abandoned dirty money playthings. [VF, P6, images via PumpsMag.com]