Christian Louboutin to YSL: Step away from the red-soled shoes

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Revered French shoemaker Christian Louboutin and a passel of fans wearing his red-soled sky-high shoes turned up in a lower Manhattan courtroom Tuesday to hear arguments that only Louboutin's label should be allowed to use the shade “Chinese red” to color the bottoms of shoes.

This summer, Manhattan Federal Judge Victor Marrero had overruled Louboutin’s preliminary injunction barring Yves St. Laurent — another iconic French brand — from selling a high-heel with both a red top and bottom. In his opinion, Marrero wrote, if Louboutin got his way, it would cast "a red cloud over the whole industry cramping what other designers could do while allowing Louboutin to paint with a full palette."

Louboutin trademarked that shade of red 20 years ago and has insisted it hasn't hurt competition in the shoe industry.

In front of a three-judge panel, lawyers for Louboutin and YSL made their arguments Tuesday.

Louboutin lawyer Harley Lewin said Louboutin needs to protect the color to keep “other copyists” from stealing his business, according to the New York Post. But YSL's lawyer David Bernstein said that in order to compete "we need red. We don't want to find out that we can make green, purple shoes ... but we are enjoined from making red."

Note to those following the case in the media and the courtroom: Brace yourselves for the use of a lot of puns and other hokey language.

A columnist for Thomson Reuters noted, for example, that a YSL red pump artfully placed on the courtroom table in front of Bernstein was intended “to add kick” to YSL’s argument that Louboutin shouldn’t be able to bar the sale of the red shoe.

Even Louboutin’s lawyer -- please forgive -- waltzed into the act when he was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying, “Louboutin turned a pedestrian item into a thing of beauty.”

More?

Then there was Fordham Law professor Susan Scafidi, who wore a pair of $745 black patent-leather Louboutin stilettos to court and told the Post, “I think Judge Marrero colored outside the lines.”

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York

Photo: Christian Louboutin, the famous French shoe designer, wants to own the exclusive right to painting the bottoms of shoes "China red." This shoe was photographed on a woman who attended his star-studded 20th anniversary party in Beverly Hills in November. Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times


'Headless body in topless bar' killer wants out of prison

Charles Dingle committed one of New York’s most horrific crimes — a crime that inspired one of the city's most famous tabloid newspaper headlines: "Headless Body in Topless Bar."

And now, three decades later, Dingle is continuing a mostly futile battle to be released from prison.

In 1983, Dingle, then 23, went on a murderous rampage in a Queens topless bar — first killing the bartender, Herbert Cummings, 51.

After gunning down Cummings, Dingle took four hostages. He raped one of them, a topless dancer, and robbed the others. While going through the pocketbook of one of his female hostages, he noticed that she was a mortician. He forced her to dig the bullet out of Cummings' skull so his gun couldn't be linked to the shooting.

Apparently high on cocaine and alcohol, Dingle then made her saw off the head with a steak knife.

After several hours he stole a gypsy cab and, with two of the hostages in tow, drove around the city with Cummings' head in a box. He eventually parked the cab in Upper Manhattan and passed out behind the wheel.

The next morning the New York Post ran the famous headline that has become part of the lore of tabloid newspapers in this city.

(Although the Post, under the ownership of magnate Rupert Murdoch, has been accused of sensationalism and bias, it has over the years received attention for its clever and eye-catching headlines. Just last week, the Post referred to the captain of the sunk Italian cruiser who didn't help passengers as "Chicken of the Sea.")

Dingle was convicted of murder, rape and robbery and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

On Monday, the Post reported that Dingle, now 53, was asking a parole panel this week to free him from a prison near Buffalo.

Dingle has already been denied parole in 2008 and 2010.

Although he has earned an associate degree with honors and a certificate in legal studies, Dingle does not appear to be the ideal inmate.

A source told the Post that more than once he has assaulted prison staff and tried to conceal deadly weapons, including a shank.

In a prison interview with the Post in 2010, Dingle denied that he'd killed Cummings and said the media had made it difficult for him to get a fair trial.

"Don't think I don't have hope," he said. "The board might let me go one day, but until then, I'm gonna fight. That's all I can do."

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York


New York mayor bets a cheesecake on a Giants victory

Eli manning
As wagers go, a cheesecake for cheese curds seems, well, kinda cheesy.

But New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who built an information services empire before his election, is so confident that the Giants will beat the Packers this weekend that he's putting a cheesecake where his mouth is. Or something like that.

Bloomberg and Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt have announced a "friendly wager" on Sunday's game in Green Bay. If the Giants win, Schmitt will ship local cheese curds and Titletown's Sno-Cap root beer. If the Packers win, Bloomberg will send Junior's cheesecake and -- in honor of the touchdown dance stylings of Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz -- salsa from the Brooklyn Salsa Co.

 "The Giants are playing best when it matters most, and I know they're going to keep it up on Sunday," Bloomberg said in a statement. "I have a feeling that Victor Cruz will be dancing in the end zone and the Giants will be putting the Packers' Super Bowl dreams to rest just like they did four years ago. And our salsa and cheesecake will be staying right here in Brooklyn."

Schmitt was quoted by Bloomberg's press office as responding, “The Lambeau Leap will always trump a touchdown salsa dance! We have the best team in the NFL and I look forward to another win.”

The Packers, winners of the 2011 Super Bowl, have the best regular-season record in the NFL: 15-1, with their lone loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. But the Giants, 9-7 in the regular season, played them tough in early December, losing by a field goal, 38-35.

Bloomberg announced Thursday that he'd be wearing Giants blue on Friday and encouraged all New Yorkers to do the same for "Big Blue Friday."

But the mayor wasn't always so monochromatic.

When the Giants were playing the Jets in late December, he wore a blue and green tie to a press conference and uttered these neutral -- if not simplistic -- words when asked about the contest between New York's two football teams: “One of the teams will win and the other one will not, and then we’ll see whether, in the crazy NFL East, one of the teams -– or whichever divisions they’re in -– they can still compete.”

Bloomberg, a Massachusetts native, followed basketball and the Celtics. If he was also a Boston Red Sox fan, he was clever enough not to talk about it in New York. If he had, getting elected to three mayoral terms would have been a daunting challenge, even for a billionaire.

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--- Geraldine Baum

Photo:  New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons during their NFC wild card playoff game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.. Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

 

 


Barricades removed from Occupy Wall Street Zuccotti Park

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Barricades surrounding the park in lower Manhattan where the Occupy Wall Street movement was born were removed Tuesday, with considerable less commotion than when they were erected, enabling anti-greed protesters to easily return.

Just a few police officers and security guards were around as nearly 300 protesters filled the small park Tuesday night and settled in with lasagna served on paper plates, according to the Associated Press.

One protester tried to put up a tent but it was immediately removed by security guards.

New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne told the New York Daily News , "We determined [the barricades] were not needed."

On Nov. 15 when the barricades were first erected around the privately owned park, hundreds of police officers were on hand for a middle-of-the-night clearing of what had become a tent-city.

After the November raid on the encampment the owners closely controlled how the park was used banning sleeping bags and tents. Since then, protesters have continued to hold meetings in the park but have staged their activities in various locations in the area.

Mark Bray, a spokesman for the Occupy Wall Street organizers who had filed a lawsuit to resist the use of the barricades, told the A.P. that protesters would not attempt to camp out again at the park.

"The plan is not to create a new Zuccotti Park. The plan is to continue what we've been doing, which is having various events around foreclosures or around unemployment," said Bray.

In other Occupy Wall Street news, prosecutors dropped charges this week against nearly two dozen people detained in the first mass arrest on Sept. 24 when some protesters marched in the street around Union Square without a permit.

Nearly 50 other cases are still headed to trial.

ALSO:

Witnesses describe Occupy Wall Street raid in Zuccotti Park

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---Geraldine Baum

Photo: Security from the owners of Zuccotti Park stand next to barricades that were removed from the park's perimeter. Credit: Louis Lanzano / AP Photo


Katharine Hepburn estate? Being bought by Obamas? Um, no

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Some rumors won't die. But why anyone would believe for a nanosecond that President Obama had $18 million to buy a house that once belonged to Katharine Hepburn, of all famous people, in Connecticut, of all places, in an election year, of all years?

Such a purchase would so put Obama squarely in the camp of 1%-ers -- not a popular move at a time when the 99% are supposed to go to the polls in November to elect a president. Plus, there is no evidence he has that kind of money.

That said, such a rumor circulated last week.

It first appeared as speculation reported by longtime gossip columnist Liz Smith, who knew and wrote about Hepburn. The rumor then was followed by a report in the Hearst Newspapers — and in no time was rampant on Twitter. Neither Smith nor Hearst and certainly not the tweeters cited sources, according to the Hartford Courant.

The White House made it clear the rumor was baseless: "It's not true," was the adamant denial to reporters.

But the agent representing the Hepburn estate, when asked by the Courant whether the Obamas were buying the house, mysteriously responded only with: "We can't offer a comment on that matter."

Even Smith, who started the rumor, characterized it as "absurd" for political reasons.

Frank J. Sciame, a Manhattan-based developer and his wife, Barbara, initially bought the home for $6 million, completed a massive, multimillion-dollar renovation and put the site on the market last year. The asking price: $28 million for the house and the surrounding 3½ acres on the shore of Long Island Sound — or $18 million for a buyer not interested in the entire property.

The estate, on the Fenwick waterfront near Old Saybrook, had been in Hepburn's family; she retired there before dying in 2003 at age 96.

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 -- Geraldine Baum

Photo: Katharine Hepburn in 1992 in the garden at Fenwick, her country home in the Connecticut town of the same name. Credit: Los Angeles Times


Three Connecticut girls killed in Christmas Day fire are mourned

Connecticut house fire
Next to each small mahogany casket adorned with pink and white lilies was a photograph of one of three young Badger sisters who died Christmas morning in a house fire in Stamford, Conn. In an adjoining room were the bodies of the girls' grandparents in matching cherry wood caskets.

Family, friends and the firefighters who tried to rescue the sleeping family paid respects Wednesday at a private wake at a Manhattan funeral home. A public funeral expected to draw thousands is scheduled for Thursday morning at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan.

Nine-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace died along with their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, trying to escape the blaze. Fireplace embers left in a bucket in the house's mudroom but not doused with water are blamed for the inferno. Officials told the Associated Press this week that the girls wanted the ash out of the fireplace to clear the way for Santa Claus to come through the chimney.

Madonna Badger, who lost her daughters and parents but who survived the fire along with her companion Michael Borcina, was shown in photographs in the local media as she left the wake on the Upper East Side on Wednesday. Leaning on two funeral home workers for support, Badger looked to be bearing a kind of grief that is unimaginable.

Also at the wake were the girls' father, Matthew Badger, Borcina and about 200 friends and family as well as several Stamford firefighters.

Stamford Fire Chief Antonio Conte was overcome with grief when he tried to talk to reporters outside the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, according to the New York Daily News.

"The closure you're looking for when you see those little caskets ... it just doesn't come," said a shaken Conte, the Daily News reported.

A foundation has been established in the girls' honor, called The Other 364 Foundation, "whose mission is to champion compassion every day of the year," according to a blurb on badgerandwinters.com, the website of Madonna Badger's advertising agency.

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York

Photo: The house in Stamford, Conn., where an early-morning fire on Dec. 25 killed two adults and three children, was later torn down. Credit: Bettina Hansen/Hartford Courant/MCT


New York firebomb attacks: Man admits hurling Molotov cocktails

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to media about arson attacks.
New York police say a man confessed Tuesday to throwing a Molotov cocktail at an Islamic center and four other locations over the weekend because of personal grievances with each place.

According to the Associated Press, the man, whose name was not released, is facing arson-related charges, but it was unclear whether additional hate-crime charges would be lodged against him, police said.

All five attacks occurred within about two hours Sunday evening.

After examining a surveillance video of a man hurling a fiery bottle Sunday night at a home used as a Hindu place of worship and then driving away, police were able to track the suspect through the type of car and its Virginia license plate.

Authorities were investigating the possibility that the five attacks were hate crimes because they involved places of prayer, including an Islamic cultural center on the Van Wyck Expressway in Jamaica, Queens.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials gathered Tuesday morning at the Islamic center to quell concerns about a possible tie between the attacks and religious or cultural hate.

“As I said before, we don’t know what the motive was,” Bloomberg told reporters in a statement aired on NY1. “But in New York City, as you know, we have no tolerance for violence, and certainly no tolerance for discrimination.”

“Whether it was senseless violence or a hate crime will be determined down the road. But in either case, we’re just not going to tolerate it in this city,” he said.

In four of the five attacks, glass Starbucks bottles were used to make the weapon, according to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who also spoke to reporters after the meeting Tuesday morning. He noted that, after the first attack on a Queens convenience store, the owner told police that a man was removed from the store last week after trying to steal a container of milk and a bottle of Starbucks Frappuccino.

As workers were pushing the man out of the store, Kelly told reporters, “He said words to the effect of, ‘We’re going to get even. We’re going to get back at you.’ ”

Police said the man was initially taken into custody because his car was seen both at the convenience store and on the video.

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York

Photo: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to the media after meeting with religious leaders at the Al-Khoei Islamic Center in New York on Tuesday. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press

 

 

 

 


New York arson attacks are investigated as hate crimes

New York arson suspectLos Angeles authorities have arrested a suspect in a furious spate of arson fires, but New York police are still searching for a suspect in that city's string of arson attacks.

In a period of about two hours Sunday night, four buildings -- all within a mile of each other in the Jamaica area of Queens -- were attacked with bottle-bombs, according to police. Now a fifth attack in nearby Nassau County is being linked to those firebombings, which are under investigation as possible hate crimes.

The attacks occurred at an Islamic center, a home used for Hindu services, a 24-hour grocery store and two private homes. In three of the five attacks, the Molotov cocktails were made in glass Starbucks bottles, police noted. No one was reported injured, but at least one of the attacks led to significant damage in one of the homes.

The arson outbreak is small compared to the incidents that Los Angeles has experienced in the last week, but New York officials are taking it seriously. New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that he'd be asking the state police to follow up on the attacks; the city's Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg condemned them as an anomaly that "stood in stark contrast to the New York City of today that we've built together."

The mayor also said that police were looking into whether there was any connection to the arson fires that occurred across Los Angeles in recent days.

Bloomberg was scheduled Tuesday morning to visit the Al-Khoe Islamic Center, where two small bottle bombs were hurled while about 100 people were inside worshipping.

"We don't know why," the acting imam Maan Al-Sahlani told the New York Daily News. "This is the first time this has happened at this center. ... We cannot accuse any religion or any party of any people. We do  not know what they believe. Hopefully, they will get them soon."

Police released a sketch of a suspect as well as a video showing a man throwing a flaming bottle at a private home that is used as a Hindu place of worship. (NY1 posted the video.) The bottle hit the front window of the house, then bounced onto the pavement, said Bejai Rai, 77, who was having dinner with his family when the incident occurred.

"It sparked but didn't catch a fire," Rai told the Daily News. "We were lucky."

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York

Photo: The New York Police Department has released a sketch of a suspect wanted in a string of arson attacks. Credit: New York Police Department / Associated Press


Firefighters haunted by Connecticut mother's wail for 'my babies'

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Firefighters who tried to rescue three girls from a Christmas morning inferno told counselors this week that they're haunted by the harrowing cries of the girls' mother as she watched flames engulf her home with her children and parents trapped inside.

"My whole life is in there," advertising executive Madonna Badger reportedly screamed as Stamford, Conn., firefighters fought the flames shooting out of the windows of her three-story home facing Long Island Sound.

"My babies, by babies," she wailed.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Assistant Fire Chief Peter Brown, a 25-year veteran with the department, said its members can't shake the agony of the mother's cries. "The one thing they can't get out of their minds is her screaming. That voice will stay with them for as long as they live."

The Connecticut medical examiner's office ruled Wednesday that smoke inhalation killed Badger's daughters, 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace, as well as Badger's mother, Pauline Johnson.

Lomer Johnson, Pauline’s husband and the girls’ grandfather, died primarily of blunt head and neck trauma. It is believed that Johnson fell through a window attempting to save one of his granddaughters.

Earlier in the week, Stamford fire officials said that embers from the home's fireplace -- which had been left in a trash can -- ignited a blaze that then spread through the house. Badger, 47, and her companion, Michael Borcina, a contractor whose company was overseeing the renovation of the Victorian house, had been wrapping presents in front of the fireplace until 3 a.m., according to media accounts.

Borcina apparently put the embers in a bag to cool, sparking the blaze, which became too fierce for firefighters to rescue the children and their grandparents, officials said.

Although a modern safety and fire-detecting system was being installed, officials said, there was no evidence that it was in use. The fire trapped the children and their grandparents on the upper floors; Badger and Borcina tried to rescue them before firefighters arrived about 5 a.m., but their efforts proved futile.

Borcina, 52, who was injured while trying to reenter the house, told reporters shortly before his release from Stamford hospital Wednesday: "It was a tragedy. It's really hard."

All but two of the 70 members of the Stamford Fire Department who fought the fire had a six-hour session this week with peer counselors from the New York City Fire Department to help them cope with the trauma. "They vented," said Assistant Chief Brown. "They listened. It was good for them."

One fire captain, who was badly burned, apparently resisted when the fire chief ordered him not to go back into the house. Chief Antonio Conte told The News that the captain insisted: "Please let me go back. I need to find those children." The chief said he refused, telling him "he was done."

Abby Ballin, the girlfriend of the children's father, Matthew Badger, portrayed the family with affection in an email interview Wednesday with the Wall Street Journal. Matthew and Madonna Badger were separated, but they always "put their children first and did everything in their power to give them the best lives conceivable," Ballin said.

"Their home was always filled with music and colorful art could be seen everywhere. Their spirits will live on forever and ever in the hearts of their family and loved ones... there are no words to express how marvelous they are."

Ballin also provided the Journal with a photograph she took Dec. 22 of a smiling Matthew Badger, holding a teddy bear and flanked by this three daughters.

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 -- Geraldine Baum in New York

Photo: Stamford, Conn., firefighter Nick Tamburro pays respects outside the home of Madonna Badger. The home was destroyed by a fire on Christmas morning. Firefighters went into the house twice trying to rescue the victims, but were forced out by the blaze's intensity. Credit: Jessica Hill/Associated Press


Mayor: New Yorkers live longer and healthier lives

Nylife
Life expectancy for New Yorkers is longer than it has ever been, the city's mayor announced Tuesday.

Babies born in New York City in 2009 can expect to live on average 80.6 years, roughly 2-1/2 years more than the most recently reported national rate of 78.2 years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press briefing.

The mayor, who has made public health a centerpiece of his decade running America's biggest city, attributed the good news about New Yorkers' longer and healthier lives to a multitude of initiatives by his administration, including bans on public smoking and the use of trans-fats in restaurants.

He also credited the early detection and treatment of HIV. The rate of death from HIV since 2002 is down by 51.9%.  Infant mortality rates also continued to fall to an all-time low of 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010.

“If you want to live longer and healthier than the average American, then come to New York City,” Bloomberg was quoted as saying. “By investing in healthcare and continuing to encourage more New Yorkers to take charge of their own health, we’ve experienced dramatic improvements in life expectancy. This news really does make it a happy, healthy New Year.”

The mayor announced the results at a briefing at a Bronx maternity ward that delivered 2,574 babies in 2010. The new data were culled by the city's Health Department, specifically its Bureau of Vital Statistics, which analyzed death certificates.

Life expectancy for 40-year-old New Yorkers increased by 2.5 years (79.5 to 82) from 2000 to 2009 compared to the 1.2-year increase in that age group nationally, the research showed. During the same period, 70-year-old New Yorkers gained 1.5 years compared with 0.7 years for the nation. This improvement was faster than any major city for both women and men.

Envious non-New Yorkers can read details of the study and comments by gloating public officials on the city's website.

In addition to the city's own analysis, others gave their views of the improved life span for New Yorkers: A UCLA professor told the Wall Street Journal he wasn't surprised by the results, considering that urbanites here walk more and eat less than in the rest of the country. The iconoclasts at Gothamist.com had a typically, well, iconoclastic take on the new data: "... though there's no official research on this, it's safe to assume that those extra two and a half golden years in NYC are packed with mindblowing sex and prolific novel-writing."

Or, as the great Borscht belt comic said when told that married people live longer: It only seems longer.

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-- Geraldine Baum

Photo: Children participate in a 2008 gymnastics class in New York. Credit: Tina Fineberg / Associated Press


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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