Only In New York: So who turned up the heat in the Big Apple?

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The Independent Culture
IF IT'S Wednesday in New York, it's time to peruse the weeklies. And there is no shortage of choice. Of course, there is the Village Voice, the pioneer of alternative newspapers that has been free for the past two years. If you are tiring of the Voice's predictable left-wing dialectics and tone of intellectual subversion, there is always its more right-wing - and more entertaining - rival, the New York Press. For an easy and agenda- free guide to what's on, we now have Time Out New York, or Tony, the younger sibling of the London mag. And finally, there is the pink paper. That is not the FT, but rather the New York Observer. A two-section broadsheet, the Observer is a catty chronicler of Gotham high society with frequent scoops from the waterfront - the Upper East Side waterfront that is.

Now comes news that the privately held Observer may be about to fall into the hands of Conrad Black, the not-yet Peer of the Realm and publisher, through his Hollinger Inc group, of the Daily Telegraph in London and, in Canada, of the nine-month-old National Post. Both Hollinger and the Observer's owner, Arthur Carter, have admitted to holding talks. How close they are to a deal no one can tell. But apparently, Black is looking at turning Carter's baby into a five-day-a-week newspaper. Thus, he would realise his dream of owning a daily in the already cut-throat New York City market. And Black would again find himself battling Rupert Murdoch, whose Times continues to duke it out with the Telegraph in London. Here he is the owner of the New York Post.

It is hard to imagine the Observer maintaining its high-gossip, who's- misbehaving-in-the-Hamptons sheen on a gruelling five-day schedule. There is only so much you can write about Donald Trump. (That said, it seems "The Trump" is toying with a run for the White House in 2000. He fancies himself, we are told, as the nominee for Ross Perot's Reform Party. The mind boggles. Even the most cursory investigation into his private life makes Bill Clinton look like a monk.) And what daily could sustain columns like the one Candace Bushnell used to write for the Observer about her healthy Manhattan-Hamptons sex life that spawned Sex and the City, now seen on Channel 4?

"MR BIG", Ms Bushnell's on-again-off-again Italian-stallion was back in the frame on Sunday night in the latest episode of the new series of Sex and the City on the HBO network. (Sex and the City has been an unexpected hit for HBO, eclipsed only by its other new blockbuster, The Sopranos, which makes its debut on Channel 4 this week.) A bit of a cad, Mr Big is apparently based on a real life gentleman named Ron Galotti. Galotti, however, has a new woman in his life, though the relationship is strictly professional. She is none other than Tina Brown, editor of the much-anticipated, about-to-debut Talk magazine. Galotti appears on the masthead as publisher. (He was once publisher of Vanity Fair.)

Brown and Galotti recently received some free publicity courtesy of Rudy Giuliani, New York's acerbic mayor and runner against Hillary Rodham Clinton in next year's New York Senate stakes. You may recall him throwing a fit on discovering that Clinton was to grace the cover of the magazine's first issue and retaliating by torpedoing plans for a Talk launch party to be held at the Brooklyn Navy Yards.

So the party was off. Now it is afloat again, almost literally. Brown and Galotti will be hosts, with Harvey Weinstein of Miramax, which is partially bankrolling the monthly, on the island occupied by the Statue of Liberty. About 800 guests will be shuttled out to the rock on 2 August. Among those will be Giuliani. (Naturally, no grudges are held.) Giuliani is unmoved by the prospect. "Who cares if a party is in the sky, on the earth, here, someplace or other except lots of Hollywood celebrities and New York celebrities?" he said on hearing of the latest venue

GIULIANI, MEANWHILE, is making political hay from last week's heatwave which triggered a 19-hour electricity blackout that affected 300,000 residents in the Washington Height section. ConEd, the electricity supplier, is being hit with lawsuits for "defrauding" its customers, including one from Giuliani. Now conspiracy rumours have started as folks question ConEd's explanation - that feeder cables were frazzled by a surge of demand. (Too many air conditioners.) Is it in fact that the company selected Washington Heights, an area of mostly poor Hispanic and African Americans, to conserve power for the "more important" sections of Manhattan? The notion that ConEd perpetrated an act of racial discrimination seems to appeal to the Mayor. "Those are the questions that have to be pursued and those are valid questions," he declared.