Clout: Nutter-blonde dinner vid has short lifespan

Posted: August 05, 2011

THERE ARE two approaches a politician can take when faced with public innuendo:

One, ignore it and hope the unpleasantness wafts away.

Two, attack it publicly and draw even more attention.

Mayor Nutter used the first tactic last summer when Dan Gross of the Daily News reported that Nutter had been spotted having drinks with a "young blonde" at the Happy Rooster in Center City.

He used the second tactic when philly.com posted a video last Friday about a dinner he had recently with an "an attractive blonde."

"Who is Heather?" philly.com's Marnie Hall asked at the start of "The Gossip" video after learning the first name of the woman Nutter dined with two weeks ago at Rangoon in Chinatown.

Hall mentioned the 2010 Gross column and said the mayor also had been seen having late-night drinks at the Ritz Carlton with an attractive blonde.

Desiree Bell, Nutter's communications director, took to Twitter on Friday to complain, tweeting: "I think Marnie Hall is bored. Has to be. What a shame."

Bell followed up with a tweet that she would share the video with members of the National Association of Black Journalists, which is holding its national convention here this week. "Should make great convo," Bell added.

Then the story took a turn.

Philly.com took down the video shortly after it was posted, without explaining why.

Bell later told us she had contacted Hall about the video.

The Philly Post, a blog for Philadelphia magazine, noticed that the video had been pulled and posted an item Monday. The blog also posted a copy of the video.

With attention growing, J.J. Balaban, Nutter's campaign media consultant, lashed out this week. In a Daily News op-ed piece today (Page 21), he calls the video "unfair, inaccurate, sexist and racist innuendo to titillate readers."

Balaban confirmed what we'd heard, that Heather is Heather Steinmiller, an attorney and 2007 Nutter campaign adviser who was appointed by the mayor to the Pennsylvania Convention Center board.

Balaban plays the race card with more gusto than Bell's tweet, asking if the video would have been posted if Nutter had dined with an African-American female businesswoman.

Mark Block, a spokesman for Philadelphia Media Network, which owns philly.com and the Daily News, declined yesterday to say why the video had been taken down. He also declined comment on Balaban's op-ed.

Balaban said he spoke with Steinmiller - she didn't respond to our request for comment - and found her chagrined by the attention.

But that didn't stifle her sense of humor when, according to Balaban, he asked her if "anything remotely inappropriate" was going on between her and Nutter.

"No, nothing," Balaban writes was her reply. "To be honest, I'm into guys with hair."

Arlen's un-endorsement

They are the two highest-profile political-party switchers in recent city history. But that doesn't mean former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter endorsed Karen Brown, the Democratic committeewoman recruited this year by the Republican City Committee to run for mayor.

Specter, who jumped from the Republicans to the Democrats in 2009 in a failed bid for a sixth term, said he accepted Brown's invitation to her July 14 campaign fundraiser at the Vesper Club.

"I stopped in as a courtesy," said Specter, who was surprised to hear the Public Record reported on its website and in its South Philly edition that he was the guest of honor at the event and endorsed Brown. "I didn't even stay for the speeches."

Brown concurs. "I didn't ask for his support," she said. "I asked him to stop by. And he did."

An endorsement would have been big news because Nutter was one of many high-profile Democrats in the state to rally for Specter in advance of last year's Democratic primary election.

The Public Record yesterday reported that Specter's presence added to Brown's political support, and noted that he has denied making an endorsement.

Funnyman Mariano

We don't know if former City Councilman Rick Mariano's shot at comedy career, based on his 10 years in City Hall and five in federal prison for a bribery conviction, will be a success.

We can't even tell you if Mariano will win a guest spot at the 21st annual Stu Bykofsky Candidate Comedy Night, an Aug. 18 fundraiser for the Variety Club of Philadelphia. Oh the suspense!

Bykofsky, a longtime Daily News columnist known for strong opinions, is being unusually indecisive about letting Mariano crack jokes in a room crowded with politicians. Many of those pols have had jokes bomb at the event. Some don't even try to be funny.

(We're looking at you, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.)

We say give him a try, like John DeBella did this week in his 5th annual Comedy Competition.

Mariano used his high-profile name to rib former Mayor John Street during the broadcast.

"I'm thinking about changing my name so people won't know who I am," he joked. "What do you think of 'John Street'? Think anyone would recognize me?"


Have tips or suggestions? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or email

brennac@phillynews.com.

Check out the Clout blog at:

www.phillyclout.com and follow on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN.


Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4712. Or e-mail phillyclout@phillynews.com.

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