Want the Scoop on Team Trump? Pay Attention to Cindy Adams

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Want the Scoop on Team Trump? Pay Attention to Cindy Adams

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“There are no names here,” the longtime New York Post columnist Cindy Adams complained.

Mrs. Adams, 86, was standing outside the Music Box Theater on West 45th Street to cover the Broadway opening night of “Dear Evan Hansen” on a blustery Sunday night this month, wearing a long red leather trench coat and a massive black furry purse slung over one shoulder. Her hair was upswept, her heels were high, her eyelashes were coated in mascara and she was holding a black “Made in NY” notebook, with two pens clipped to it.

She was not finding much material in Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, the composers of the musical and also the lyricists of the film “La La Land.”

On the carpet outside the theater, she peppered them with questions: How’d they spend Opening Night day? Were they nervous? What helped them get through the day?

“We texted each other a lot,” Mr. Pasek said.

“I kissed my 8-month-old daughter,” Mr. Paul said.

“For Chrissakes, I hope you write better than you talk!” Mrs. Adams said.

In her column a few days later, Mrs. Adams made nice-ish, writing that the composers “look like accountants” and that “since Angelina spit out Pitt, they’re the industry’s most wanted pair.”

Presumably, she will find more to interest her in the forthcoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump, whom Mrs. Adams, the last newspaper gossip columnist of the old school in New York, has fiercely championed as an exemplar of her beloved city’s elbows-out values. “If he can’t jump over the top, he’ll creep under the bottom,” she wrote in a column extolling their long history just after he was elected. “But he’ll accomplish.”

Mrs. Adams, who had appeared on CNN before the election to support the candidate, said she was also a fan of Hillary Clinton. “It was difficult,” she said. “I loved them both. I thought they were both super-special people.”

But it was her 40-year connection to Mr. Trump that prevailed. He called Mrs. Adams the day after her televised appearance to thank her.

“This isn’t just a little relationship,” she said, sitting in her Park Avenue penthouse, with its patio offering views of Midtown Manhattan, on another night this month. “I knew him before he was anyone. Before I was anyone.”

“Since the Stone Age,” she joked.

Mr. Trump, in a statement emailed by a spokeswoman, said: “Cindy has always had the beat of New York and its people. She’s understood the inner workings of the city better and longer than anybody.”

Introduced to Mrs. Adams by their mutual friend, the lawyer Roy Cohn, Mr. Trump has been the source of several of her classic Post front-page scoops, like “Trump Suing Ivana!” and “Donald Breaks a Date: He Disinvites Marla from Taj Mahal Soiree!”

And now she will probably be toward the front of the line, if not first, for dish from the White House (or its proxy within Trump Tower). Will she attend the inauguration? “Sure,” Mrs. Adams said.

Though she has not spoken to Mr. Trump since election night, she was with him then, in his Trump Tower office. There were about 50 people in the room, standing quietly, watching results on a half-dozen screens. “Next to him was Mike Pence, right in front of him was Ben Carson and Chunky Christie,’” Mrs. Adams said, referring with her trademark irreverence to the governor of New Jersey. She said the mood in the room was calm and the candidate was confident. “He knew he was making it,” she said. “He knew at 5:30 that night.”

Her column is already filled with Trump tidbits. In a recent one, under the headline “Please try to pay attention,” she reported: “The White House lacks big party space. Gala galas scatter through separate rooms. Watch for a quickly built Trump White House ballroom.”

Mrs. Adams generally writes her column on a computer from an office in this large, lavish apartment, which was once owned by Doris Duke. But she can make do in other situations.

“I’ve done it on the back of a donkey in Borneo,” she said.

One wall of the office is covered by a mirror and a square border of round light bulbs, like a Broadway star’s dressing room. The rest of the walls, and the ceiling, are papered in 500 Post covers featuring her stories. Among them, “Dino Son in Jet Crash,” “Di’s Driver Was Drunk” and “The Hunk Finally Does it: J.F.K. Jr. Passes N.Y. Bar Exam on 3rd Attempt.”

Her den, meanwhile, is lined in red chinoiserie. When Mrs. Adams, who was wearing black pants, a black beaded sweater and black high heels, noticed that a chair was a smidgen askew, she crouched down and began to push it herself. You would never know she is 86, and maybe she isn’t. “You can just say I knew Lincoln,” she said.

A born-and-bred New Yorker and a winner of 57 beauty pageant titles, Mrs. Adams attributes the start of her writing career to the people she met through her marriage in 1952 to Joey Adams, the borscht belt comedian who was well connected to politicians and celebrities. (They met on a radio show.) As a young man, Mr. Adams knew and campaigned for Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. Mr. Adams’s first wife was the sister of Walter Winchell’s wife, setting up an enduring friendship with the powerful gossip columnist.

In 1961, Mr. Adams was selected by President John F. Kennedy to lead a cultural exchange program in Southeast Asia. During the tour, Mrs. Adams met and befriended Imelda Marcos, the Filipino dictator’s wife, and Sukarno, then the president of Indonesia, whose authorized biography Mrs. Adams wrote in 1965.

Mr. Adams also headed the American Guild of Variety Artists, whose members included A-listers like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. “Joey knew all the stars,” Mrs. Adams said. “I grew up with these people.”

Initially, her career was being Mrs. Adams. “I tried to be a singer, I was bad,” she said. “I tried to be an actress, I was worse. I tried to be a model and I wasn’t the No. 1 thing you ever saw.”

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Sometime in the 1970s, she was approached by the man who ran Our Town, a community newspaper that reports on Upper East Side happenings. “You know all these people, why don’t you write for us?” he asked.

“He paid me $5 a week, some weeks,” Mrs. Adams said.

She began to share her observations and tidbits, adding a dash of sarcasm.

It was also during this time that Mrs. Adams met Rupert Murdoch. He had acquired The Long Island Press, for which Mr. Adams contributed a humor column, and the Adamses helped “the Australians,” as she refers to Mr. Murdoch and his associates, get acquainted with New York. Mr. Murdoch bought The Post in 1976, and in 1981, the editors asked her to write a column. It was then that she gave birth to her tagline, now famous, “Only in New York, kids, only in New York.”

Favorable to the house politics, she has endured there longer than her more liberal fellow veteran of hot copy, Liz Smith, 93, who now writes sporadically for an online outlet, New York Social Diary.

“Cindy is a force of nature,” Col Allan, the longtime Post editor who retired this year, wrote in an email, calling her “beautiful,” “charming” and “hard as a manhole cover.”

“I have dined with movie stars and mobsters at her table,” Mr. Allan said, adding that next to Mr. Murdoch and the public relations executive Howard J. Rubenstein, no one has taught him more about New York City power dynamics.

Mrs. Adams arguably found her niche gravitating toward the widely reviled, like Mrs. Marcos and the disgraced hotelier Leona Helmsley. The lawyer Barry Slotnick has known her since the mid-1980s, when he was defending Bernard Goetz, who was acquitted of attempted murder and assault charges after shooting four young men he said he believed were about to mug him on a subway train. “I did very well,” Mr. Slotnick said, “and suddenly, up pops Cindy Adams. She was my new best friend.” They stayed in touch. “She’s family now, but I watch what I say to her because I know anything I do could appear in her column.”

Another member of Mrs. Adams’s “family” is Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees, who met her nearly 30 years ago, having been introduced by her close friend, George Steinbrenner. (In 2000, Mr. Steinbrenner gave Mrs. Adams a diamond-encrusted Yankees World Series championship ring. She wears it daily, on the same finger as her wedding ring.)

“She is very genuine,” Mr. Levine said. “When you look at Cindy Adams, she is who she is.”

At a dinner at Peter Luger Steak House in 2005, he said, she overheard him when he took a quick call on his mobile phone to discuss with someone that the team was about to sign the pitcher Randy Johnson. “She broke the story that night after dinner,” he said. “I had a lot of sportswriters very upset with me after that.”

In an era when many professional gossips conduct their business over Gchat or social media, Mrs. Adams is one of the last making the rounds of parties and dinners, though she tries to restrict her nights out to three per week. “You cannot got out seven nights a week nor would anyone who is sane want to,” she said. “Some would think, ‘How glamorous!’ But it’s work, and if you get caught up in that, you will end up in a world with no friends.”

Her best friend is Judith Sheindlin, otherwise known as Judge Judy. They met shortly after the death of Joey Adams in 1999.

Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Sheindlin were using the same banker, and the banker said: “‘My friend Cindy Adams has a very poorly trained Yorkie. Maybe you can give her some pointers,’” recalled Ms. Sheindlin, who added, “I had a well-behaved Shih Tzu.”

“So, she called me at about 7:30 in the morning. Who calls someone at 7:30 in the morning? If Cindy’s up, everyone’s up.”

In the years since, they have traveled the world together (along with Mrs. Sheindlin’s husband, Jerry). “She’s a complex lady,” Ms. Sheindlin said “She’s more spiritual than one might think. She totally is invested in the United States of America. She is totally invested in New York City. These are her babies, and if you say anything bad about them, she will cut your eyes out.”

Her babies are also her dogs: the first Yorkie, Jazzy, died last year. There is now just Juicy, also a Yorkie, upon whom Mrs. Adams dotes. She takes her for private fittings at Ralph Lauren for cashmere sweaters, feeds her lamb chops for dinner and posed with her for a recent portrait, lavishing kisses upon her as the camera clicked.

At one point, the photographer told Mrs. Adams he wanted to get a close-up of her face. She was skeptical of this idea. “For your sake, I better like the way these pictures turn out,” she said. “I will have the last word, you know I will.”

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