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L.A. Fashion Week

PR Diva Seems to Have Hit a Rough Stretch of Road

Bad publicity trails Lizzie Grubman from New York to L.A., where valet rage erupts after a show.

April 17, 2002|BOOTH MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Poor Lizzie Grubman. The driving-challenged blond seems to carry her bad car karma with her. Between court dates, the New York PR diva, whose clientele has included Britney Spears and 'N Sync, escaped to L.A. to produce a fashion show Saturday. But by night's end, the event at Koi, a new sushi bar on La Cienega, hadn't done so much for her or for her designer client as it had spawned a new breed of anger: valet rage.

Grubman is facing criminal and civil charges for allegedly backing into and injuring 16 people outside a nightclub in Southampton, N.Y., last summer after a bouncer told her to move her Mercedes SUV out of the fire lane. In the most recent action on the case earlier this month, a Manhattan judge ordered Grubman, 31, to name the people who were with her that night, giving her 30 days to comply.

There's been a media firestorm over the case, with a recent New York Times story holding Grubman at least partially responsible for the Hamptons, Long Island's bastion of all that's summer cool, being "over." So Grubman, the daughter of a high-profile entertainment lawyer, Allen Grubman, has been keeping a low profile.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 17, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong name--In a story in today's Southern California Living section about publicist Lizzie Grubman, a fashion designer was misidentified. He is Anthony Castro, not Anthony Danenberg.

Except Saturday she did anything but.

Things didn't go well from the beginning. (Public Relations 101: The paparazzi should be more interested in the client than the publicist.) And Grubman didn't help matters by letting in B-level celebs ahead of the press. "Is this a party or is it a fashion show?" one editor snapped. (None of the incensed scribes would allow their names to be used; fashion, after, all is a small business.)

The extra time on the other side of the velvet rope did give fashionistas a chance to size up the publicist. It was said more than once that Grubman looked "scary" with her long, bottle-blond hair and carrot orange tan. (And New Yorkers complain about L.A. style?) Theories are still being swapped around town about how she could have achieved the bizarre skin tone--tanning pills, tanning lamp, self-tanner. All three?

Grubman later escorted the Osbournes (Sharon and Kelly), Lisa Marie, Jay-Z and other A-level VIPs into the restaurant, where New York designer Anthony Danenberg presented his new line, V.

Inside, fabulous-shoe king and felon Steve Madden was yucking it up with friends near a tinkling Buddha fountain. Madden, 45, sporting a Buccaneers cap, was sentenced earlier this month in Manhattan to 41 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to securities fraud and money laundering. "The more trouble I get in, the better business is," he said in his best New York accent. His eponymous company provided the shoes for the show.

With nearly two hours to booze before doors to the adjacent ballroom opened for the show, spirits were soaring when the lights finally went down around 9:15 p.m. And it's debatable whether anyone could actually soak in Danenberg's designs, including several winter white boucle separates (helloooo, this is L.A.).

But the real trouble came afterward, when a glut of guests tried to get their cars out of hock at the same time. A rumor began floating that the valets had misplaced keys.

As the minutes ticked away, tempers on the sidewalk flared. More than one $20 bill was brandished, voices were raised, then, after about an hour, the car-starved combusted. The nine attendants were no match for the feisty crowd, nearly 100 strong. And all at once, it was a key grab.

"This is why L.A. fashion week will never amount to anything," snarled one reporter, after waiting 11/2 hours and ultimately having to be driven to the parking garage to find her car.

Another guest emerged from the bar only to find her Audi had been sitting on La Cienega for 45 minutes, without her even having asked for it. Some theorized that attendants had resorted to driving any car out in hopes that it would be claimed.

But the ultimate insult came from a West Coast editor who had waited an hour inside the restaurant's ballroom for the fashion show to start, only to be shut out after she went to the ladies' room. After having to wait another hour for her car on top of that, she put it as politely as possible: "Someone should tell Lizzie Grubman to go back to New York."

Still, you gotta give the girl credit for trying to get on with her life. On the subject of the valet rage, Grubman said Tuesday from New York, "You hire an outside contractor and you expect them to make the best show. Unfortunately, there was a backup, and I'm sorry everyone had problems."

Asked whether she is concerned that her troubles are overshadowing her clients, she said, "I worry about that in New York, but not in L.A."

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