Dan Rattiner's Stories

Men in Trouble: Jenner, Williams and a Magnesium Mansion?

Getting in trouble happens to everybody at one time or another. But it seems to be everybody’s business when it happens to someone rich or famous, because a lot of people, dazzled by such people, often perceive them as members of the family. Although I am not immune to such perceptions, I usually don’t write about them in these pages, but in just one week a lot of them have piled up. So here goes.

Brian Williams’ Night Terrors
So Brian Williams was a passenger in one of several helicopters flying over an Iraqi war zone in 2003 and upon landing found out that one of the other helicopters had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. It terrified him. It would terrify anybody. And so, having survived, he added something to this story—that the army, in the belief it was his helicopter that got hit, was now out trying to rescue him, Saving Private Ryan fashion. He’s an important fellow. And this soon got enlarged into a story where he watched the helicopter in front of him get hit, and then the story that two helicopters were hit and he was in one of them. He told this story on air any number of times, including a version to Alec Baldwin on his WNYC radio show, Here’s the Thing. He said he thought he was going to die when this grenade hit his helicopter. But he handled it bravely. “I guess I do say to myself and to others—‘I’ve got this’—and I don’t know where this unbridled confidence comes from.”

These sorts of lies come from the active imagination of a man scared out of his wits, who has come to believe that others won’t think what he’s been through would be bad enough for him to be scared out of his wits. So he pumps up the danger so the triumph seems worth it.

One time, years ago, going on vacation, my wife and I flew into Guatemala not knowing that the country was in the midst of a revolution. Leaving the airport, we went to a pension where, that night, a bomb went off at 3 a.m., destroying part of the building next door and scaring the hell out of us. Since then, I have enlarged on this to pump it up to include something that never happened during our arrival at the Guatemala City airport earlier that day. From inside the terminal, I said, I could hear rebel gunfire. The rebels had surrounded the airport. There was now only one safe road still held open by government soldiers that a cab could take us down to get us out to the city. So we took it. You betcha.

It’s a great story. It makes what happened worthy of the fear I felt at the time. It’s okay that I did this. But with Brian Williams, it is not. It’s beneath him, not credible, and a whopper told by a man who is only supposed to speak the truth.

So now he’s suspended without pay for six months. Turns out, he thinks he should be an entertainer. When NBC was looking for a replacement for Jay Leno recently, Brian Williams said he’d like to be considered. He was told that was ridiculous. Well, he’s an entertainer. Or was. And he’s probably not coming back.

A Mansion Built on Magnesium?
Ira Rennert, the billionaire who built his 110,000-square-foot home “Fairfield” in Sagaponack—sometimes cited as the largest single-family residence in America—is being sued by creditors of a company he bought years ago who say Rennert (through his holding company Renco Group) bought their company, the Magnesium Corporation of America, raised money to help the company out of a hole, but then used portions of the money to build Fairfield. Magnesium Corporation of America later filed for bankruptcy. Now bankruptcy trustees say creditors were fleeced and they want $100 million—some of which he allegedly used to build his mansion—returned to them.

Bruce Jenner
Bruce Jenner, Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Thinkstock

Mr. Jenner
Bruce Jenner won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics—an accomplishment that crowned him the best athlete in the world. And at the time he was married to his first wife, Chrystie Scott. They divorced in 1981 and the next year he married Linda, a happy time that lasted five years until they separated. After that, in 1991, he married Kris, a woman born Kris Houghton who had previously been married to Robert Kardashian. He had four children by the earlier marriages, and some with Kris.

The Kardashians, who spent last summer in the Hamptons and may return again this year, and who have become famous on TV and in social media without exhibiting any special talents or accomplishments except to be good at getting famous, now declare Bruce Jenner the patriarch of their clan (even though he is now in the process of getting a divorce with Kris). So his story is another Hamptons story.

Last week, on February 7, Jenner was in the news as one of the drivers in a multi-car accident in Malibu, California. Several people were injured and one killed, after Bruce rear-ended two cars with his Cadillac Escalade, causing a chain reaction and pushing a Lexus into oncoming traffic, according to an Associated Press report and video. He had tried to steer around cars in front of him that were slowing for a traffic light when the crash occurred. Jenner is all right and passed all sobriety tests, but the crash is under investigation by The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and it will consider whether to give Jenner a citation that could lead to criminal charges.

Also in the news is that Jenner is edging closer and closer to becoming a woman. You can see he looks more and more like one. The family doesn’t deny he wants to become one. But he has not yet “announced,” and has not yet had the surgery.

Former Local Legislator’s Parole Denied
A former Suffolk County Legislator from this district, George Guldi, is currently serving a 4- to 12-year prison term in the medium-security Marcy Correctional Facility upstate.

He was convicted of insurance fraud and grand larceny (related to pocketing an insurance payout that was intended for rebuilding his Westhampton Beach home following a fire), and on 17 felony charges in an $82 million mortgage scheme that also involved a Manhattan dominatrix.

Guldi came up for parole last October. But it was denied. The panel said Guldi showed no remorse for his crimes and gave no explanation of why he committed them, and his attitude therefore put him at risk to re-offend.

The news this week is that a judge has finally given permission to the Village of Westhampton Beach to tear down the house.

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When people ask you what’s new in the Hamptons, now you can tell them.

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