Jeffrey Epstein, the mysterious financier, absconded to Israel to escape charges of soliciting prostitutes? That was the rumor circulating at the Plaza last night, during the dinner that followed HBO’s premiere of its fabulous documentary about Roman Polanski. The whispers went that Epstein had followed in the footsteps of Polanski, who decamped to France in 1978 while on trial for having sex with a minor.
Talk that Epstein had moved himself and his assets to Israel reached the ears of such luminaries as Harvey Weinstein, Jeff Bewkes, Alex Gibney, Taylor Hackford, Steve Kroft, Dustin Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, and filmmaker Michael Mailer. “Has anyone told Vicky Ward?” I heard someone behind me say. Ah, fame. Ever since I wrote an article about Epstein, in the March 2003 issue of V.F., I have had the dubious honor of being considered New York’s “expert” on the case.
Well, I’ve never been one to leave a riddle unsolved, so I called Epstein’s office this morning to ask. Around lunchtime he phoned me and, laughing, assured me he’d been in Israel but was now back here in New York. “Would you want to live in Israel?” he said. He’d even thought about going to the Polanski screening—until various friends had emailed him to say, in so many words, “Are you insane?” He was perfectly charming, as he has been to me for years now (even though my article wasn’t exactly flattering), and he was thrilled to hear that he’d been gossiped about.
“Well, I guess you and I have a history by now, Jeffrey,” I told him, thinking of my article. He replied, “You know how many girls say that to me?”