A seedy scandal from the Big Apple
You may remember Steve Bartelstein, who was the sports director at KGW (8) during the mid-1990s. He got into a little trouble for wearing free Nike gear on camera, but other than that seemed an intelligent man with a bright future. He was considered a hunk by most women I know and in that business, good looks don't hurt you at all.
I liked him on camera and whenever I ran into him at games or news conferences. I thought he worked hard and did a nice job. He didn't last long here, though. He moved on to the big time CNN, then to New York, where he switched from sports to news, and is anchoring newscasts at 5 a.m., 6 a.m. and noon on WABC-TV.
Even though the early newscasts are winning the ratings battle in New York, things aren't going well for him right now. He's the central figure in a pretty juicy scandal.
'It's been crazy,' Bartelstein said in a telephone interview from his newsroom Thursday. 'Unbelievable.'
The New York Post reported this week that Bartelstein is being sued by two men, in separate cases, who accuse him of sexual harassment and stalking.
Actor Dan Levine claims that Bartelstein followed him to Boston and Denver, forcing him to switch hotels under an assumed name. According to the Post, 'Levine's case, filed Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court, alleges that Bartelstein 'knowingly transmitted various communicable diseases to Levine,' despite telling Levine that he was 'disease free.' '
Levine also alleges that Bartelstein used crystal meth and crack 'every day' up to $2,000 worth of drugs per week, often between broadcasts.'
In June, the Post reported that Bartelstein was being sued by Roderick McCullom, a writer and producer at WABC-TV, who contends that Bartelstein created a hostile work environment by repeatedly propositioning him and then stalking him.
Bartelstein's attorney, Ronald Fischetti, told the New York Daily News that he would file a countersuit against the producer, McCullom, for defamation. Bartelstein said countersuits will be filed against both men.
'This has been a real learning experience for me,' Bartelstein said. 'But I've been lucky because I have great lawyers, and my bosses have been great. They have never taken me off the air.'
Bartelstein's attorney has been very direct in his assessment of McCullom.
'He picked a high-profile guy who he learned is gay,' Fischetti said. Fischetti described Levine's lawsuit as part of 'an attempt at legal extortion.'
After the first suit was filed, the Post wrote about Bartelstein in a Page 6 column, calling him 'a notorious nightcrawler' and a 'not-quite-out newshound (with a) taste for edgy after-dark venues É he's definitely looking for love in all the wrong places.'
The column said Bartelstein was 'known to run downstairs where 'Live with Regis and Kelly' is taped to have his photo snapped with celeb guests like Barry Manilow, annoying the show's handlers and guests alike. The guests he struck a pose with were mostly male.
' 'He's not running down there for Christina Aguilera, that's for sure,' said a publicist familiar with the greenroom.'
Let's face it, if you're going to get involved in a scandal, New York may not be the best place for it. The tabloids are not known to be gentle.
Bartelstein said, 'The Post has been particularly tough. The Daily News has been fair and The Times, of course, hasn't written a word.'
The 40-year-old Bartelstein believes that the worst is over. He said Thursday that the first lawsuit 'is going to be dismissed today. They have gone from asking for a lot of money, to asking for some money, to asking for an apology.'
He doesn't expect the second one to be around very long, either.
'It really has been crazy,' he said. 'Really, I've been railroaded. We are going to countersue, but that doesn't make up for what's happened. I mean, I'd like to get these guys on the phone with my mom when she's crying her eyes out over this.
'People are always going to say things about you. I understand that. But this stuff was just absurd.'