Rudy Unzipped

His Private Matters are Daily Fodder for Consumption

The Nathan story started out in the tabloids as an October romance, but each story has pushed the launch date back, until the Post reported that sightings of the two at her Hamptons condo began in May (that sun-chaser Rudy has never been one to miss the earliest spring ray). May was also the pivotal month in Donna's chronology. "Beginning last May," she said, "I made a major effort to bring us back together." Since intimacy followed, she presumably thought it was working.

Of course, the other May event was the visible demise of Cristyne Lategano. She was being driven out of City Hall by slights and leaks, the same method of forced departure she'd mastered at her mentor's knee. Before she announced her leave in June, she got the gentlest of "time's up" messages, reserved for those with an insider's edge who've overstayed their welcome: an unsolicited job offer from PR king and lobbyist Howard Rubenstein, as permanent as any pillar at City Hall. Donna apparently thought Rudy was dispensing with Lategano for her. So did Judith. That's why Rudy thought all year he could get both the Conservative and Liberal lines.

As soon as Lategano was out the door, albeit she may have thought temporarily, she got the Bratton treatment. A Sunday Times magazine article by James Traub collected blind City Hall quotes gutting Lategano like the glossy was flypaper. Traub's lowest blow was that the jettisoned princess was "considered transparently opportunistic rather than bright." In South Carolina with golf clubs and a new caddie, Lategano must have recognized a sanctioned assassination when she read one. Soon afterwards, she got the carrot, her $150,000-a-year "I Love New York" perch.

Donna's account of the recent calendar, juxtaposed with the news stories about Rudy's summerlong sallies to Southampton, left Rudy looking like any one of the Godfather characters he mimics and invokes: fully entitled to his public goumada on the side. Stir-crazy reporters from the Post and News assigned to weekend duty at City Hall were pressing his office about why there was never anything on his weekend schedule last spring, summer, and early fall. That's when they started using 14-year-old Andrew as the beard, claiming Rudy was back to being papa, taking the kid to the links. Rudy sure knew how to turn a minus into a plus.

Nathan missed her morning photo op and disappeared for 24 hours prior to Rudy's abrupt announcement of his separation on Wednesday morning, suggesting that while Donna didn't know precisely when the other shoe would drop, Judi did. He even explained that what "motivated" him to make the announcement was "the tremendous invasion of privacy that's taken place in everyone's life—my family's, Judith Nathan's family."

Since no reporter has penetrated the cop-engulfed life at the mansion, the precipitating "invasion of privacy" was apparently Tuesday's tour of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, where Judi's great-aunts were interviewed about adultery by the Post. As his recent upstate pandering on milk prices and watershed wetlands demonstrated, Rudy is as compulsively enthralled with the next constituent as he is with the next woman, to the detriment of the discarded in both categories. So he rushed to the ramparts at Bryant Park to salvage the honor of his new lady, indifferent to setting the stage with the ex.

The day after the separation was announced, the Post discovered a ring on Nathan's finger that it speculated was an "unofficial" engagement sparkler. A close-up shot of the hand and ring suggested this was a Post observation, but inside the story, "a source close to Nathan" was cited for pointing it out. In record speed, Judi has become such a part of the New York scene she already has sprouted "close sources," the indispensable companion of all those who seek gossip clout in the Apple. Nathan only had to wait until Friday night for the stroll and the dinner to complement the ring. She has clearly forced much of these contretemps to the surface, putting herself in public play for months and now using her discomfort over some of the public attention to compel him to act.

Rudy's separation announcement was also part of a game of chicken with Donna. It was she who summoned reporters to the sidewalk outside Saint Pat's while on her way to the cardinal's wake five days earlier. Her message, which she certainly did not clear with Rudy, was that "this marriage and this man have been very precious to me" but that there were "decisions that have to be made."

Donna was furious that he would not bring her to the funeral of the priest who'd helped for years to keep their marriage together. Rudy's "close sources" are now saying he's been telling her he wanted a separation for months, but that she was ignoring him. The rancor over the cardinal's funeral, and her statement at the wake, may have pushed him to make a preemptive strike.

Giuliani seemed so stricken the day before the announcement he had to reassure people he wasn't going to collapse. The day after the announcement, he was his feisty old self. In between, he talked to his shoes at a press conference drenched in shame. The oscillations went off the chart by the weekend, when he went on a public date while his family huddled without him in California. With all the doctors he's been seeing lately, it might be time to stop in on Dr. Melfi. As Tony Soprano can attest, she understands the need for a goumada.

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