Rudy Unzipped


A campaign launched with a defense of the Virgin Mary is now threatened by personal revelations that would embarrass Mary Magdalene.

If the premise of Rudy Giuliani’s Senate run was that he was the designated Catholic candidate in a very Catholic state, as his Brooklyn Museum inquisition suggested, it’s a premise that, after a week of marital tumult, lacks promise. If there was a money-back guarantee with the eight-page “Ten Commandments” mailing he did to Christian Coalition types right around the time he was first taking Judith Nathan to a Gracie Mansion reception, the campaign might wind up as broke as it is wounded. Eliot Spitzer might well be checking out those false-advertising statutes he’s charged with enforcing.

When Rudy Giuliani decided to disclose Donna Hanover’s previously sealed domestic record at a press conference last week, he set off a predictable chain of events. She disclosed his.

As usual, there were only unproven quality-of-life charges on the Hanover record that Rudy revealed. But when Donna was finished unveiling his, most of the city, and maybe most of the nation, knew he was a felonious fraud.

He said she was a “wonderful” mother and a “very, very fine person.”

But it was the other “very, very fine person”—Judith Nathan—who he “relies on” and who “helps me a great deal.” He made it clear that the reliance began before he was hit with prostate cancer. By saying he was “going to need” Nathan “more now than maybe I did before,” he completed the attempt to implicitly indict coldhearted Donna. She was obviously not a comparable consolation in his hour of need.

Three hours later, it was her turn. She said that for “several years,” it was “difficult to participate in Rudy’s public life because of his relationship with one staff member.” Her mouthpiece then identified the staff member, Cristyne Lategano, and specified the nature of the relationship: “intimate.” At first, Lategano and Giuliani tried an identical game, referring reporters to their prior statements about this old allegation. They used to compose press responses together over a shared slice of pizza and they knew that their old answers were more rant than denial.

Then Lategano with New Husband Nick-Nick called the Times back from Yankee Stadium—where Rudy and “Crissy” once helped engineer World titles—and for the first time, she really did deny the hot stuff. Apparently too distracted at the park to see next season’s deposition coming, Lategano declared: “What needs to be clear is that the only relationship I ever had with the mayor was a professional one.” The handful of Yankee fans within earshot of Lategano could be heard in the Times newsroom booing this Rudy defense—another first in this era of mayoral-mandated championships.

When Lategano insisted that “there is nothing to prove other than a very close friendship,” memories of George Brett’s pine-tar home run filled the row. Too much stickum for that shot in the dark to fly. (It was no coincidence that Judi’s first reported visit to the mansion was for a Yankee party.)

The talking heads on television were now the only people left in the metropolitan area who talked about the Lategano liaison as if it might not have happened. A wife who loved the limelight, exulting in her First Ladydom at the start of the first term, sunk behind a stonewall for years and was now saying she did so because the affair happened. Everyone in New York knew the wife would only say it happened because Rudy admitted to her that it had. Unlike Lategano, the ex-prosecutor was certainly not handcuffing himself with explicit denials before he was put under oath.

Giuliani was asked at a press conference if his securing of Lategano’s current post atop the city-subsidized Convention & Visitors Bureau was a “crime” in view of their relationship and he flipped out. “Oh, get out of here,” he told the reporter. “Get lost. Get lost. That’s a sneaky way of trying to invade somebody’s personal life.”

Of course, his friend and onetime associate at the Justice Department, Ken Starr, spent millions investigating Vernon Jordan’s efforts to get Monica Lewinsky a silencing sinecure. Having already paid Lategano’s predecessor a $300,000 severance to make way for her, the tourism bureau refuses to divulge the term of Lategano’s contract, making it impossible to calculate how much of a buyout she’s entitled to collect. With the mayor’s wife accusing the city’s official greeter of delivering more than a welcoming buss, the tourism bureau just might one day wake up to its own embarrassing accommodation and look for a president who actually has experience in the industry.

As damning as Donna’s porn-on-the-payroll charge was, she leveled a second count in her felony indictment. The lady whose four-member, city-financed, personal staff has refused to supply reporters with copies of her résumé, much less answer legitimate questions, announced that she and Rudy had “reestablished some of our personal intimacy through the fall.” Coital positions were promised as part of the next budget release.

This revelation was designed to make her grand finale all the more climactic, as it were. “At that point,” she said, meaning the fall, “he chose another path.” The path, Judi Nathan, registered to vote from her new apartment at 200 East 94th Street on November 2, 1999, having moved there in the months immediately before. Her registration record indicates that as much as Rudy leans on her for advice now—medical, political, and otherwise—she never voted for him, having last bothered to vote at all in 1988, at least in New York. While she did live in California in the early ’90s, she was a city resident during his three mayoral campaigns.

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.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 16, 2000

Archive Highlights