Nina Lawrence and Elie Tahari

<STRONG>THE NAPKIN THIEF</STRONG>: Conde Nast is apparently trying to save the world, one napkin at a time. <BR><BR>Last week, several cafeteria-goers at 4 Times Square noticed something unusual at the condiment counter. Instead of the high-quality,...

THE NAPKIN THIEF: Conde Nast is apparently trying to save the world, one napkin at a time.

Last week, several cafeteria-goers at 4 Times Square noticed something unusual at the condiment counter. Instead of the high-quality, heavy paper dinner napkins usually stacked neatly near the registers, there were black metal dispensers, filled with what appeared to be cheap paper napkins “one might find at a deli.”

The development was of particular interest since, from time to time, a sign had appeared next to the expensive napkins, directing patrons to please “only take two.” This sign, and others, had fueled speculation within the building about a possible rash of napkin hoarding. Then in January, the intrigue heightened as one employee, apparently unable to keep his secret any longer, posted a message on the suggestions board located just outside of the cafeteria entrance. “I confess! I am the napkin thief!” he wrote, signing only his first name.

When the new dispensers were unveiled, some Condé Nast employees naturally assumed the napkin thief had finally ruined things for everyone. So imagine their surprise when they found the old, fancy napkins had miraculously returned this week.

“Just like that, they were back,” said one cafeteria regular in hushed tones. “You almost wondered, ‘Who said something?’”

Apparently no one. Someone from Restaurant Associates, which operates the cafeteria, revealed that the napkin switch was only temporary. “For Earth Day [April 22], we used recycled napkins,” she said. “We had some left over the next day, so we used them again. A lot of businesses were trying to have Earth Day celebrations around Times Square. And in other locations [for Restaurant Associates], I’ve always done something for Earth Day.” (Condé Nast and WWD are both owned by Advance Publications Inc.)

As for the elusive “napkin thief,” a Condé Nast spokeswoman said, “To the best of my knowledge, there is no quote unquote napkin thief…. We do try different products and ways of distribution from time to time. But for the moment, we are continuing with the [napkins] we have been using all along.”
— Sara James

WOMAN ON THE GO: Among the job requirements for a fashion magazine publisher is a willingness to travel — and that doesn’t just mean sales calls. For Nina Lawrence, being named vice president and publisher of W and W Jewelry meant moving offices for the second time in four months, with another move scheduled for later this year, when W relocates to 750 Third Avenue. “I just keep moving and unloading paper as I go,” Lawrence, previously publisher of the Fairchild Bridal Group, said the other night during a party at the Four Seasons to celebrate her appointment. “I’m going to be a lean, mean, non-pack-rat machine.” Guests at the party included Elie Tahari, Dennis Basso, Hermes president Robert Chavez and Valentino president Graziano di Boni. W, like WWD, is part of Fairchild Publications.
— Jeff Bercovici

This story first appeared in the April 29, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

MANY A SLIP TWIXT CUP AND LIP: There’s probably not a tremendous degree of overlap between people who read Seventeen and fans of the New York Post’s gossip column, Page Six, but anyone who does read both might have noticed something odd recently. In her May editor’s letter, Seventeen editor in chief Atoosa Rubenstein recounts the story of her first brush with binge drinking, concluding, “Today, I don’t touch alcohol. Why?… I realized my future was too important for me to give up the controls.”

Flash back to February, when Page Six reported that Rubenstein, attending the launch party for Armani’s Blackcode fragrance, hollered loudly during a friend’s speech and stumbled around “after apparently having a few drinks at the bar.” Strange behavior for someone who doesn’t touch alcohol, no?

Asked about the discrepancy, Rubenstein stood by her claim, saying she gave up drinking altogether after being diagnosed with a liver condition three months ago. “That letter was written pretty much when I found out from my doctor that I can’t even touch it,” she said. Even before that, she said, she was never much of a drinker, preferring Shirley Temples to booze. She acknowledged, however, that she may have downed a glass of wine or two at the Armani party. Or not. “I don’t want to tell you, ‘Oh my God, I absolutely didn’t have a drink.’ I don’t even think I was drinking. I just don’t want to say I wasn’t.”

In either case, she continued, her behavior was the product of individuality, not intoxication. “I don’t need to be drunk to hoot and holler for a friend at a party,” she said. “Anybody who knows me knows I’m sort of wacky that way.” As for the Post’s claim that Rubenstein “teetered into her seat,” she had an answer for that one, too. “What they neglected to mention was that the seat was a cushion on the ground and I wear 5-inch heels.”
— J.B.

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