Volume 16 • Issue 41 | March 12 - 18, 2004

TALKING POINT


In search of Martha, paparazzi return to N. Moore

By Wickham Boyle

Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Photographers snapped away as Martha Stewart left federal court March 5 after being convicted of lying to federal prosecutors. They were waiting for her later that day when she visited her daughter in Tribeca.

After she was found guilty on all four Federal charges last Friday, a very stoic Martha Stewart made her way in a silvery SUV to her daughter’s penthouse apartment on North Moore St. Once again this street, three blocks below Canal, found itself invaded by paparazzi, press vans and hoards hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity in crisis.

In a nearly freaky turn of events the press was now camped out directly across from where they set up shop following the tragic crash of John Kennedy Jr.’s small plane. Again the vans clogged the passage of traffic while photographers hung out eating take out, and chatting animatedly, all the while keeping a watchful eye on the front door hoping for a glimpse of their catch du jour.

My son and his friends hastily made tee shirts that read “FREE MARTHA” on both front and back. They were sloppily lettered and the color choice wasn’t stunning, in fact as a crafts project Martha herself probably wouldn’t have warmed to these shirts. But as a newly convicted felon I am sure that the instinct of teenagers to offer solace to someone who they saw as being hounded, even to her own door, would have brought some comfort.

I am confused about the outcome and trajectory of this case. I do believe Martha was targeted because she was an uppity woman who made it big — hell no — she made it huge and wasn’t very nice to people on her way up. Martha Stewart found out that the platitude chanted to many mouthy girls does hold true, be nice to those you meet on the way up because you will meet them on the way down.

Do they say this kind of thing to aggressive, entrepreneurial boys? But the niceness, the kind karma that Martha was missing is not enough to indict someone for charges as major as these. I kept thinking that here is some other message being sent.

The prosecutor said this verdict was for the little people, but in fact Martha’s crime was not a denuding of a pension fund, or cheating on stated income. She made a private deal, whether it was in fact a predetermined sell at 60 or an afterthought, her gain impacted only her. Until now. Now her stock is in free fall and anyone, little or otherwise who still holds it, is losing money quickly. Many of the over 550 employees in her corporation may lose jobs as the company contracts. So what about those little people?

A CNN correspondent camped out on North Moore St. said to me: “ Wow, if they did this to Martha what are they going to do to Bernie Ebbers,” referring to the WorldCom chief who cooked the books and made so many people lose everything. “Perhaps they will execute him.”

It did make me think about parceling out punishment to the Enron folks and the WorldCom criminals. To what level will these punishments ascend? Or is this level of vitriol reserved for mean women who don’t show proper societal deference to others. Well to date most of the men are still out doing the country club scene and living it up. I am worried that Martha Stewart was made an object lesson because it sends a clear message that the government is tough, but also to say women shouldn’t get too high and mighty.

I further worry that our neighborhood might have a small black sinkhole that is vibrating at the eastern end of North Moore St. Perhaps this small street is the epicenter of a culture that is tragically fascinated with others misfortune to the point that even home cannot provide us with a safe haven.


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