Part 7: The Art of Living
Whether it was chutzpah, delusion, or a combination of the two, Craig Raywood betrayed no outward signs of being chastened by all that had gone on during his first 18 months in Los Angeles. Within weeks of being evicted from his West Hollywood bungalow on Rosewood Avenue, he’d installed himself in the nearby Isola Bella Apartments, a luxurious faux-Mediterranean complex. The truth, however, was that as the summer of 2006 began, Raywood was struggling. He’d gotten into the Isola Bella only because a friendly merchant had co-signed the lease, and while a few small jobs were in the offing—redecorating an apartment in Hollywood, reupholstering a chair for a friend in Beverly Hills—for the most part the designer had been reduced to filing insurance claims and peddling. He had collected $29,200 from Chubb insurance for two wristwatches (a Bulgari and a Cartier) he’d reported missing. He was also selling timepieces online. “Here are 2 attached pics .18 K Breguet,” he wrote in an e-mail to two prospective buyers. It was all depressing, and Raywood, who was in therapy, on some level realized as much. He enrolled in an online dating service, declaring in his profile, “I am a very loyal person. Once you are my friend I will protect you always.” He joined Debtors Anonymous but attended only a few sessions, saying, “I got out of it what I thought I needed to.” His psychiatrist had him on 40 milligrams a day of the antidepressant Lexapro and doses of the antianxiety drug Klonopin.
It was at this moment that Raywood thought of how to get back on top: He would become a television personality, dispensing design and entertainment advice. This, after all, was Los Angeles. Not only were many home improvement shows in development in Hollywood, but the designer’s public persona—so cultivated, so assertive—was made for TV. For all its glamour, interior design is a difficult business. Impossible clients. The knowledge that you’ll never be as rich as the people you work for. To be paid to talk about the craft as opposed to practicing it is something even the best would leap at. For someone in Raywood’s position, such a gig would have been a godsend. “He was looking to see if I could help him cross over and become on-air talent,” says Tom Marquardt, an ICM agent who took a meeting with the designer. “He wanted to be a star. He was definitely charismatic.”
Throughout the first weeks of July, publicists and advisers called on Raywood at the Isola Bella. “What Craig wanted to do was create a brand out of himself,” says Boden Stephenson, a business consultant who agreed to be his manager. “My job was to get him press, work on a book deal, and ultimately get him on TV.” The goal was to land Raywood a spot on either HGTV or Bravo’s interior decorating competition series, Top Design. Stephenson came up with a plan for what amounted to a high-profile audition, booking Raywood into an auditorium at the Pacific Design Center to give a demonstration of floral arrangements and table settings. He engaged a film crew, set August 2 as the date, and billed the event, which was open to the public, “The Art of Living with Craig Raywood.”
A week before the big day, Raywood and his whippet, Giselle, walked into Privé, a salon that occupies the old Spanish Kitchen restaurant space on Beverly Boulevard and counts Christina Ricci and Uma Thurman among its patrons. The designer occasionally had his hair cut there, but this time he also received an eyebrow waxing and eyelash tinting. As Giselle roamed, Daniel McFadden, who runs the in-house makeup concession, taught Raywood how to use a $350 apparatus for spraying on foundation. Many TV personalities swear by the device, and since Raywood was about to join their ranks he decided he had to have one. The tab for the visit came to $771, which the designer waved off, telling a receptionist as he made for the door that his manager would take care of it.
That same week producer Kenny Solms eased into a booth at Jan’s Restaurant Coffee Shop, just east of the Beverly Center. Solms, the first Angeleno to raise doubts about Raywood, was there to confer with Greig Donaldson, a process server who had been recommended by one of the many plaintiffs the producer had met outside small claims court in Beverly Hills. Merchants and clients, laborers and professionals, those suing the designer had begun to form friendships built around their frustration at the difficulty of bringing him to justice. “We can’t get him served,” Solms told Donaldson, “so we can’t get him into court. But I know where he’s going to be next week.” Solms then pushed a list of names and phone numbers across the table. By August 2, Donaldson had 12 clients, among them realtor Joe Babajian, dentist Phillip Gorin, and Jeff Gross, owner of Mickey Fine Pharmacy.
“The Art of Living with Craig Raywood” attracted an audience of 75, mostly women from the Westside, who watched for an hour as the designer put together beautiful centerpieces and unveiled elaborate place settings, all the while keeping up an informed patter. The verdict on Raywood’s performance was mixed. One person in attendance found him “extremely polished,” but Peter Fitzgerald, who has directed documentaries on Alfred Hitchcock and Joan Crawford for Turner Classic Movies and who was supervising the crew shooting the event, found him “condescending.” Afterward, a receiving line formed. When the last person reached Raywood, he asked Fitzgerald to turn the camera away.
“Oh no, this can’t be good,” said Raywood.
“You’re served,” said Greig Donaldson, handing the designer a thick envelope.
Fitzgerald at first felt bad for Raywood. The feeling didn’t last. “He’d asked me to front my crew’s expenses,” says the director. “I never do that. But he touted himself as a bigwig, and because a friend of mine was the go-between, I said OK. I did a favor that ended up being a $1,300 kick in the pants.” Fitzgerald sued Raywood in small claims court, and he wasn’t the only new plaintiff. “Craig’s manager never showed up at Privé to pay us,” says Daniel McFadden. “I confronted Craig, and he told me, ‘Oh, I had no idea.’ He acted like he was stunned. He gave me a credit card number over the phone. I put it right through, and it was declined. I tried it again, and it was declined. But it finally went through. In a couple of days we got a call from the credit card company saying he was disputing the charges and wasn’t going to pay. The guy is a little Mozart of deception.”
Raywood didn’t appear fazed by any of this. In September he recorded a test for a podcast, holding forth on the basics of pulling together a room. He also booked a session with Paul Gregory, a head-shot photographer. Most of Gregory’s clients are actors for whom his $595 fee is a major investment. Raywood, however, seemed different. “He brought props—a chair he said was worth $100,000, flowers, and candles,” says Gregory, who works out of a studio in his Laurel Canyon home. “He also brought a man bag filled three inches thick with $100 bills. I thought, ‘Holy cow! This guy doesn’t need money. Yeah, I could get used to this.’ ” The photographer shot Raywood alone and with Giselle, and the results were exceptional. The designer looked a decade younger than his 57 years. Afterward, the two sat around talking. “You need drapes,” Raywood soon exclaimed. The remark struck Gregory as so full of concern for his unformed design sensibilities that when Raywood asked for his American Express card number, its expiration date, and the security code so he could buy the necessary fabric and supplies, he thought, Why not?
Raywood invited Gregory to dinner at Falcon, the Sunset Boulevard celebrity hangout. “He talked about Marisa Berenson after she did Cabaret, about so-and-so’s yacht, and the Hamptons,” says Gregory. “He was very East Coast and upper-crust. I’m successful, but I’d never met anyone like him. I thought he could be my mentor.” Following several nights out, Raywood offered Gregory work as a consultant. To get him on the payroll, he needed his Social Security number. Soon after, Raywood added himself to Gregory’s credit card account. On September 16, using Gregory’s information, he opened a new American Express account under the name CR Designs. The number: 3715 377353 52025. The photographer says he was unaware of Raywood’s actions until he received a call from American Express alerting him to unusual charges on the recently activated card. There were more than $50,000 in purchases, including clothes from Bergdorf Goodman and a stay at the Montage resort in Laguna Beach. Gregory told the company he knew nothing about the new card and asked to be notified on his home phone to verify any further transactions. At that moment Raywood was trying to use the card. Half an hour later, says Gregory, the designer, accompanied by Giselle, appeared at his house. “He said, ‘Paul, don’t do this.’ I said, ‘It’s too late. I’ve done it.’ While Craig was there, the dog pooped on my lawn. Craig was so mad he picked the poop up and threw it in my garage, then left.”
Soon after, the photographer received an e-mail from Boden Stephenson, Raywood’s manager:
Paul…if you’re going to do business with the big boys, you need to grow some balls and not freak out over 5 digit Amex bills…. You have done something beyond the pale by cutting off [the] cards.… You have done something that has set in motion what will be a series of events that will leave you puking in the toilet from fear….
Eventually, says Gregory, Raywood returned the merchandise, which reduced the charges by half. Still, American Express stripped Gregory of his card.
Stephenson says the American Express incident led him to quit, derailing Raywood’s Hollywood hopes. “Craig’s ethics and sense of morality are off,” he says. So too, he’s convinced, is the designer’s sense of reality. On some days, he says, Raywood sat in front of the makeup device he’d taken from Privé, applying foundation even though no filming was scheduled.
Part 8: To Court Again
By December 2006, Craig Raywood was at an impasse. He had alienated old friends and burned new acquaintances. He was the object of numerous lawsuits. His bad knee, long a source of unbearable pain, was deteriorating. Yet when he checked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for knee surgery, he was as imperious as ever. Right away he redecorated his private room, replacing the institutional sheets with high-thread-count linens, laying down an earth-tone rug, and hanging a couple of minimalist paintings. He imported his own silverware, dishes, and crystal. Breakfasts were catered by Jerry’s Famous Deli and lunches and dinners by Sweet Lady Jane. As for pastries, there was a box from Boule, a patisserie he was devoted to. Best of all, at the request of his psychiatrist, the hospital agreed to let Giselle stay with him. To walk and care for the dog, the designer hired the service Citizen Kanine.
After the operation Raywood developed an infection, and he required eight weeks of in-home care. As had occurred following his plastic surgery in 2005, Raywood didn’t pay his caregivers. “We helped him get dressed, helped him take his medication, helped him learn to walk again, and he conned us out of $15,000,” says Earl Sherman, vice president of finance at AAA T.L.C. Health Care of Encino. “He convinced our people he was affluent, but when the check came, it was no good.” Raywood had his reasons. AAA, he said, had ruined some of his pricey sheets. “I am very unhappy about certain things,” the designer told the firm’s lawyer during the run-up to the inevitable lawsuit. “I am aware of other things that transpired which I do not know whether you are.” There was also another new litigant: Citizen Kanine. “He kept telling me he’d pay,” says Will Bratten, who walked Giselle every day for several weeks. “He was so sincere, I believed him.” Citizen Kanine was out $1,800.
Once he recovered, Raywood focused his energies on the individual he’d come to hold responsible for everything that wasn’t right in his life—Joel Ring, the landlord who had evicted him from the Rosewood bungalow. Several months earlier the designer had sued Ring in Santa Monica Superior Court for $2,875,000. The grounds were various and the allegations devastating. Raywood claimed “unjust enrichment,” asserting that Ring had profited from the thousands of dollars in improvements the designer had made to the Rosewood house. He charged that Ring had extended, then retracted a right of first refusal to purchase the property. He contended that Ring had repeatedly ignored repair requests. As a consequence, leaks had destroyed one-of-a-kind drawings. He also revived the explosive claim of sexual harassment that he had raised in his 2006 eviction hearing. The trial was set for April 25, 2007.
At the same time Raywood was seeking satisfaction from Ring, the dozen merchants, antiques dealers, and former clients who’d filed suits in small claims court were losing patience. They had viewed Greig Donaldson’s encounter with Raywood at the Pacific Design Center as a victory. But the designer, in the aftermath of his knee operation, now had a legitimate reason to seek a delay. “…Have developed a bacterial infection which will take 30 days of treatment,” he wrote to the Beverly Hills court on December 5, 2006, “then another knee surgery—need a minimum of 60 days.” On February 2, 2007, a group of plaintiffs petitioned the court:
It is with utter outrage that we who are the plaintiffs, who have been owed the monies, can’t ever get our day in court. And when we do…the [defendant] isn’t there…. In some cases this stalling tactic and rubber-stamped extensions have been going on for years. When will this charade end?
In response to the petition, which appeared over the names of old hands like Solms, Babajian, and Gorin and new complainants like Privé’s McFadden, the court resummoned Raywood. A hearing was set for April 25, 2007.
Faced with being on the docket in two courtrooms on the same day, Raywood chose Santa Monica. After all, if he prevailed against Ring, he might become a millionaire. As for the proceedings in Beverly Hills, the designer believed he could provide sufficient rationale for his absence. “Craig Raywood has been under my care for the past year for management of chronic pain with intermittent exacerbations,” Dr. Howard Rosner wrote on the designer’s behalf. “His current medical status is guarded; he is unable at the present time to engage in any jury, court dates, or depositions.…” Another doctor, Andrew S. Wachtel, wrote that Raywood’s use of painkillers prevented him from acting in his best interest: “It is…my opinion that…dilaudin…renders a person incompetent to testify on their own behalf.”
When Judge Richard A. Stone, who had now presided over several cases involving the designer, noted that Raywood seemed to have genuine medical concerns, the plaintiffs who’d assembled in the Beverly Hills courthouse groaned. It was a frustrated and angry crowd. It was also a crowd wise to Raywood’s ways. “Kenny Solms stood up and told Stone that Raywood was not only well enough to be in court,” says Gorin, “but that he was in court in Santa Monica at that precise moment suing his landlord.” At this, Stone issued a $10,000 warrant, phoned the court in Santa Monica, and said loudly enough for everyone to hear, “Pick him up.” The judge presiding in Santa Monica, though, released the designer on his own recognizance.
Craig Raywood v. Joel Ring began with David Denis, the designer’s lawyer, summoning witnesses to attest to the work his client had done at Rosewood. Denis then called Raywood. The designer was on the stand for nearly three days and told a story in which he cast himself as put-upon and misunderstood. Ring, he said, had rented him a house so unready for occupancy that he’d been forced to check into L’Ermitage. But once he moved in, he had created a masterpiece. “I purchased sinks, toilets, towel bars, toilet paper holders, I believe shelves…shower hose,” he testified. He got his fixtures from such smart suppliers as Altmans and Davis & Warshaw and his limestone tile from Walker Zanger. Painters glazed the dining room walls and lacquered those in the bathroom. Despite all his efforts, things were never right. The toilet overflowed in the guest quarters. The roof leaked. The landlord didn’t care. Worst were the unwanted attentions. They began with Ring trailing him “like a puppy.” Then, Raywood said, the landlord became more aggressive:
He would come by on his wheelchair to the French doors.… I had to go to work. And I said…‘I have to go take a shower.’ He said, ‘Can I come and watch you,’ and my response was, ‘You know what Joel, I don’t even watch myself take a shower, so I don’t think you’re going to be allowed that.’
The harassment persisted. “I would get up,” Raywood testified, “have coffee…have a towel wrapped around my waist, and you know, he would be there.… And then I started locking the gates.” Over dinner one night at the Little Door on 3rd Street, Raywood said, Ring went too far. He kissed him. When the designer resisted further advances, the recriminations began: testy dealings, ignored repair requests, a rent increase, and finally eviction.
Tim Lane, Ring’s lawyer, went at Raywood hard. He paid special attention to the dinner at the Little Door, eliciting the admission that the designer had sent Ring mixed signals, driving the landlord to the restaurant and picking up the tab for a bottle of splendid burgundy (“It was Gevrey-Chambertin, to be exact”). The two men, Raywood conceded, had enjoyed a lovely meal during which they’d sat next to each other and had exchanged intense feelings. “I wear my heart on my sleeve,” the designer said.
With his client watching from the defense table, Lane then took Raywood in a different direction.
“How tall are you, sir?”
“Six feet tall.”
“And how big is Mr. Ring?”
“I never measured him, but he’s shorter than I.”
“Like around five-five?”
“If you say so.”
“You notice that Mr. Ring has a disability, right?”
“Yes, of course I do.”
“You observed that Mr. Ring has trouble maneuvering with his muscles, right?”
“Is he very fast?”
“How did Mr. Ring get at you to kiss you at the Little Door?”
“He just leaned over.”
“What did you say after Mr. Ring kissed you?”
“I kind of made light of it.”
Lane’s point was unavoidable. True, Ring was infatuated, but Raywood had not only led him on, he’d done little to dissuade him. The lawyer then secured the concession that in return for the initial improvements the designer had made to the Rosewood house, Ring had waived the rent for a month and a half. Moreover, the lease stipulated that any additional work had to be approved in writing. Raywood acknowledged that the landlord had never given such approval. Lane also established that Raywood had been accorded a ten-day period during which he could have purchased the home. The lawyer concluded by taking the designer through the circumstances of his eviction, winning the admission that he had not paid his rent and that the matter had already been adjudicated.
Although the trial took five days, the jury needed only two hours to return a verdict in favor of Ring. The judge ordered Raywood to pay his former landlord’s $125,727 in legal costs. David Denis has no doubts why his client lost: “The court felt sorry for Ring because he’s a handicapped guy.” Tim Lane is just as certain why his client prevailed: “Craig Raywood was my best witness. He was so outrageous and pompous, the jurors could tell he was trying to take advantage of Joel.”
Raywood’s defeat in court was the first in a new series of indignities. For one, he lost a job he had been bragging about: a redesign of the art deco Temple of the Arts on Wilshire Boulevard. “I am renovating and restoring the theater,” he told people, “and I’m also designing a sanctuary that I’m very excited about.” Raywood’s role, in fact, was minor, and even then he failed to deliver. The designer didn’t pay subcontractors he had hired. “It was a bad experience,” says Rabbi David Baron. Around the same time, the painter Gil Garfield, the designer’s old friend, publicly denounced him. When someone had attacked Raywood in the past, Garfield had always defended him. “I’d think they’re exaggerating,” he says. “Craig is so gracious, it couldn’t possibly be true. But then there was such a blanket of accusations from too many people to overlook.” Specifically, Solms, Babajian, and the interior decorators Stephen Tomar and Stuart Lampert sat Garfield down and told him what had been going on. Not long after the conversation, Garfield spotted the designer at the 3rd Street restaurant Orso.
“He was wearing a shawl,” says Garfield, “and when he saw me he tried to hide behind it. I stared right at him like in a silent film, looked at his guests, and said, ‘Do any of you know the kind of man you’re sitting with? If you knew, you wouldn’t be sitting with him. Everybody in this city can tell you what he is really like.’ I vilified him. I was so mad and disgusted. My voice was trembling. It all came from hurt over his fakery.”
Anyone else would have crumbled, but in the wake of the encounter with Garfield, Raywood sent an upbeat e-mail to his new pal, Steven Kay. A Westside realtor, Kay had already loaned Raywood $15,500, and now the designer was asking for more: “I think that things are beginning to turn around for me…. Things are beginning to happen. My head is clear. My focus is on…. I am trying to be out there. I will make it happen. Like the phoenix.” This time Kay said no.
A couple of weeks later Raywood wrecked his car. It turned out he had been driving with a suspended license and had a number of outstanding tickets. On July 19, 2007, five months after the owner filed an unlawful detainer complaint against him, Raywood left the Isola Bella.
Part 9: The Prince
It is impossible to say exactly why Craig Raywood turned out as he did, but there are clues. He grew up in Manhattan, living briefly in Miami Beach. Summers were spent in the Catskills, where his maternal grandparents owned a resort. He and his younger sibling were close. “He was a very caring brother, and that’s the truth,” says Keith Raywood, longtime set designer for Saturday Night Live and now a production designer for 30 Rock. Before Craig turned ten, his parents divorced, and his mother married Shelly Raywood, who was in the garment business. “There was nothing traumatic about it,” says Keith, but others aren’t so sure. “Shelly was psychologically impotent,” says Robert Regni, personal assistant to the heiress Isabel Goldsmith and for years one of Raywood’s closest friends. During his teens, Raywood looked to his godmother, Geraldine Lipshie, for guidance. The grande dame of an Upper East Side family, Lipshie adored Craig. “She treated him like a spoiled child,” says someone who knew them both.
By every account, the person who loomed largest in Craig’s life was Ethel Raywood, his interior designer mother. “She was very pretty, dressed beautifully. She was darling, just a good lady—fun, terrific, what all of us think we are,” says an old friend. Yet as much as Craig idolized her, the relationship was fraught. “Ethel didn’t approve that he was gay,” says Regni. “Ethel was in total denial,” says the old friend. “She kept trying to find him girls.” Conversely, Craig had trouble seeing his mother for who she was. Although he told everyone that Ethel was a brilliant designer, she was a workaday practitioner who turned out corporate offices and a few homes. “She just wasn’t all that talented,” says Regni. “Her personality was cold and hard-edged, and so was her design.” Betty Ann Grund, the longtime senior fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar and for years a friend of Craig’s, recalls visiting Ethel’s home. “Craig told me that his mom was fabulous, with fabulous jewels,” she says. “But she was not fabulous, and the apartment was anything but glamorous.” Misunderstood by his mother, yet intent on exalting her, Craig became adept at maintaining illusions. “He had to keep creating an aura of fabulousness,” says Grund. “He’d do anything to keep that aura real.”
Following graduation from the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan, Raywood flirted with a singing career (he cut a demo tape of cabaret songs). Soon, though, he drifted into fashion. “During the mid-’70s, Craig used to hang around Seventh Avenue buying couture samples, which he’d sell at a fantastic profit to people looking for one-of-a-kind gowns,” says Grund. “He kept an expensive beaded gown by Mollie Parnis under his bed.” The leap from frocks to decor seemed natural.
Early on, Raywood’s decorating business thrived. He claimed an impressive list of clients, among them fashion designer John Anthony, singer Paul Simon, socialite Denise Rich, and most critical, real estate developer Nathan Serota and his wife, Vivian. Raywood’s work on the couple’s Park Avenue duplex received an eight-page spread in House & Garden in 1982, a heady validation of his talent. Although a Picasso hung in the living room and a Renoir in the master suite, the den—a warren of mohair-upholstered walls, burgundy leather banquettes, and a revolving brushed steel column that served as both sculpture and TV cabinet—attracted the attention. Raywood called the look “minimal opulence,” but there was nothing minimal about it. This was the 1980s in all its excess. The Serotas entertained regularly, and after the apartment was finished, they kept Raywood on as a consultant. “He made me feel safe when I was a hostess,” says Vivian. “I used to give big parties, and famous people came—Joe Papp, Raul Julia, Mary Tyler Moore, Debbie Allen. I once needed something spectacular for my foyer. This party was for the cast of Tango Argentino. The guest of honor was Robert Duvall. I didn’t want the usual red-and-black thing. So Craig went to the garment center, bought gold and silver cloth, and created a tent. You came in like you were coming into a tented palace, and photographers snapped your picture.”
Raywood played the part of successful designer to the hilt. Friends referred to him as “the Prince.” Whether attending the opera or dancing with Marisa Berenson at Studio 54, he expected to be catered to, and he usually was. “We’d go to La Grenouille without reservations,” says Martha Kramer, former head of American operations for the fashion house Emanuel Ungaro and at the time a confidante of the designer’s. “Craig would say, ‘We’re hungry. Can you feed us?’ They’d end up sitting us at a table next to Oscar de la Renta. Craig was very amusing. People treated him like a pet.” Raywood’s five-and-a-half-room East Side apartment reflected his high self-regard. Anchored by a futuristic copper-tube coffee table and a French Directoire armchair and lit by an Italian gilt-wood chandelier, the apartment, reported The New York Times, was “meant to impress, and it does.” As Raywood put it: “It’s very rich-looking here. But it’s neither old money nor new money. I guess it’s my money.”
By the 1990s, Raywood had become involved with Michael Cancellare, and his life increasingly revolved around the village of Muttontown in Oyster Bay, where the lawyer owns a home. “Michael played the WASP, Craig the Jew,” says Robert Regni. The two began purchasing purebred whippets, one of which they entered in competition. They socialized with theatrical producer Marty Richards, who lived nearby, and Janet Brown, whose Port Washington boutique catered to clients who arrived by shuttle from Manhattan’s Regency Hotel. “Craig had excellent taste,” says Brown’s former business partner, Simone Levitt, widow of Bill Levitt, founder of the giant planned Levittown communities. “He knew the best places to buy anything—always the fanciest and most expensive.” The designer also exhibited a penchant for camp. At dinner parties he’d pull up his slacks, don high heels, and strut. “He had the best legs I’ve ever seen,” says Levitt. “The women all envied his legs.” Raywood and Cancellare eventually became such a part of Long Island society that they could spend a New Year’s Eve with former Bergdorf Goodman fashion director Robert Burke, costume jeweler Kenneth Jay Lane, the New York Post’s Suzy, and couture designer Carolina Herrera at the home of their neighbor, style doyenne C.Z. Guest.
Raywood, though, was living beyond his means. For all of his talent, he hadn’t developed the skills necessary to run a business. “Famous designers land big clients,” says Regni, but they need “draftsmen and billing processes. Craig didn’t have the discipline or temperament.” Surrounded by so much wealth, Raywood succumbed to an occupational hazard. “The big thing with designers when they work with wealthy clients is they want to live like their clients, but they can’t,” says a former friend. “It’s an old story.” By the late 1980s, the New York civil courts had assessed thousands of dollars in judgments against Raywood. The plaintiffs included Neiman Marcus and Eastern Air Lines, but many were friends. “He took $15,000 in cash from my parents, plus some furniture,” says Betty Ann Grund. “They’d hired him to re-cover a few pieces. He told them he needed an advance. My father thought, ‘Oh, he’s a friend.’ We never got any of it back.” A couple of years later Grund ran into the designer at a New York bar. “He tried to act like nothing happened,” she says. “He came over to where I was having drinks with some people. I said, ‘Craig, you’re a thief.’ He threw a glass of champagne at us.”
Raywood’s fall was unfortunate, for as a designer he was the real thing. His taste, at first too flashy, had evolved. He’d become enamored of early European modernism, embracing its clean aesthetic. He particularly loved French deco furniture. His floral arrangements, always a strength, had become more subtle and poetic. Talent, however, had never been the issue. Throughout the 1990s, the judgments against him began to add up: Baccarat was awarded $10,859; Reymer Jourdan Antiques, $18,359; the Paul Stamati Gallery, $15,510. He also began to victimize an ever-increasing number of people close to him. “Craig took advantage of me,” says Simone Levitt, who hired Raywood to work on her Fifth Avenue apartment. “He designed things for me that were never delivered and never made but that were paid for in advance. He did unpleasant things. He threatened me. I hate to even remember or talk about it.”
Of all the intimates Raywood betrayed, Beth Rudin DeWoody took it the hardest. The philanthropist daughter of New York real estate magnate Lewis Rudin, DeWoody was among the designer’s best friends. “Beth loved Craig,” says Vivian Serota. The two traveled together to the Caribbean and spent weekends at DeWoody’s vacation home in the Hamptons. Michael Cancellare represented DeWoody when she and her husband, Jim, divorced. According to DeWoody, Raywood repaid the years of friendship by bilking her of $20,000 and then taking her cousin, Eric Rudin, for an even greater sum. With Raywood’s assistance, Rudin bought two highly collectible Andre Arbus chairs from a dealer in Paris. When, after numerous delays, they finally arrived in New York, Rudin realized they were knockoffs. He contacted the dealer, who told him Raywood had never given her a cent. The designer had pocketed Rudin’s payment and sold him fakes. Rudin’s attempts to get the district attorney to prosecute Raywood failed. The event, however, changed the way New Yorkers viewed the designer. “When the Eric Rudin thing happened, we knew Craig was out of control,” says Martha Kramer. “The Eric Rudin story is famous among people with Craig experiences.”
If not for two events, Raywood might have continued to run amok in New York. On June 5, 2003, he walked into Lafayette Antiques at the Warehouse and took out $35,340 of furniture on approval. He secured the pieces, which included a French deco walnut table and chairs and a pair of 19th-century urns, by giving the Upper East Side business a check. Several days later, when the check bounced, Lafayette’s owners engaged Marc Bengualid, a lawyer who had an office in their building. A slight 47-year-old who shares a no-frills work space with his father, Bengualid typically practices personal injury and medical malpractice law. Like many who have seen through Raywood, he is indifferent to fashion, inclined to wear off-the-rack suits and birthday-gift ties. He was so offended by the designer’s brazenness that he took a step no one else had: He filed a theft report with the New York police and persuaded a detective to telephone Raywood.
“I was always taught that if you create stress, people crack,” says Bengualid. “Come at people on 20 fronts, they may catch 18, but they’ll miss 2.” The call, which Bengualid says “freaked Raywood out,” was just his first move. The lawyer also secured a copy of the designer’s bank records. “That’s what really got my blood boiling,” says Bengualid. “The records show that Raywood put a stop payment on the check for the furniture from Lafayette before it was picked up from the warehouse. He had a clear intent not to pay. What more do you need?” On July 11 the lawyer sued Raywood on Lafayette’s behalf in New York Supreme Court and served the designer with discovery demands. “He didn’t respond to my discovery,” Bengualid says. “He would have had to swear through his attorney to the truth. I don’t think he could have done that.”
On July 25, 2003, when the New York Supreme Court awarded a $190,632 judgment against Raywood in a civil suit filed by former clients Eric and Simona Brown, the designer’s problems grew worse. The Browns, who had hired Raywood to decorate two residences, alleged that he had defrauded them. “It is my belief,” declared Eric Brown, that Raywood “simply took our money without any intention of providing the goods and services…. As far as I am concerned [his] actions constituted out-and-out theft, which has cost my wife and me a substantial sum of money…. Apparently, this is Raywood’s modus operandi….”
On October 24, 2003, Raywood filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New York federal court. In his petition he said he had between 16 and 49 creditors, among them the Internal Revenue Service and the State of New York. He owed $500,000 in back taxes alone. All told, there were $1,100,000 in unsatisfied liens, warrants, and judgments against him and his various companies. Although the judgment in the Brown case played a part, Bengualid believes he forced the action. “I pushed him on criminal and civil fronts, and I wasn’t going to give up,” says the lawyer. “The only way he had to stop me was to file bankruptcy. My case against him was frozen.”
In early 2004, Raywood was hospitalized for several days following a breakdown. A few months later he called Vivian Serota. “He was crying,” she says. “He told me he’d broken up with Michael. He certainly didn’t tell me anything about other problems. We were in the south of France, and he asked if he could stay in our apartment. I said yes.” When the Serotas returned to New York, Raywood told them he wanted to change his life. They gave him $10,000 to help him get on his feet in his new home—Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, he said, he could be a different person. That, of course, is the myth, but the truth is that the city, far from transforming people, does the opposite—it brings out their deepest selves, revealing not who they wish to be but who they are. “Craig Raywood will always be a con artist,” says Bengualid. “He finds the human flaws in individuals and attacks them.”
Part 10: Justice
On a late December afternoon in 2007, Craig Raywood stood at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills, his face streaked with tears, his chest heaving. Just a few weeks earlier, the designer had fled the Granville Towers, the third Los Angeles residence he’d been forced out of in two years. Many of the homemade “Wanted” posters distributed by antiques dealer Joel Chen before Thanksgiving were still up. It was a rough time. Which is why Raywood had called Bijan Sotudeh, the proprietor of the consignment house Uniquities. The shopkeeper already knew that the ownership of the furniture he’d bought from Raywood the previous month was in dispute, yet he’d agreed to meet because the designer had told him he had nowhere else to turn. “He said he had no money,” says Sotudeh, “and that his boyfriend was sick and dying. He said he had to get to New York. I knew he was bad. But I felt so horrible to see a grown man crying. I gave him money.”
Raywood flew to New York and on Christmas Eve checked into the Soho Grand Hotel, where Sotudeh had booked him a $434 room. “At least I had the presence of mind to authorize payment for only three nights,” says Sotudeh, who thought little more about the matter until mid-January, when he received a call from the hotel’s manager. Raywood had remained at the Soho Grand for eight days, running up a $4,327 tab, which the hotel wanted the store owner to make good on. “I ended up paying around $1,500,” says Sotudeh. The hotel got stuck for the balance. Says Lizette Nieves of the Soho Grand accounting office: “We now have a case pending against Mr. Raywood.”
Raywood spent much of last winter and spring shuttling between Manhattan and Long Island. At a 3,000-mile remove, the designer received only the occasional reminder of the havoc he’d wreaked in Los Angeles. One came in a phone call from his friend Steven Kay. December 28 had been the deadline for Raywood to repay his $15,500 loan, and he had missed it. Kay had discovered that the paintings the designer had left to secure the debt were worth little and that the Franck Muller wristwatch was counterfeit. On January 16 Raywood e-mailed Kay, telling him not to worry. He said he had a painting at auction and that he’d send him a check as soon as it sold. Two days later the designer e-mailed Kay again. This time there was no mention of settling up, just a signature kiss-off: “Steven, I am a good person. You know that. Otherwise you would not have done for me what you have, whatever conflict you had. I miss you. Think of you often. Craig, ’08.”
Raywood would have liked to close the door on everyone else in Los Angeles that easily, but he couldn’t. Joel Chen was adamant that the designer be prosecuted for the theft of $102,800 of antiques from his two stores, and in Kirk Newman, the Culver City police detective assigned to the matter, he had found an ally. A Southern California native with graying blond hair, Newman saw the case as emblematic of L.A.’s obsession with image. “What caught my eye,” he says, “is that in this world of interior design, of surface and facade, this guy was able to put up a bigger facade, walk among them, and pick their pockets. With these people it’s not who they are—but how they are. Here’s a con man adept in his trade. You may not like what he did, but you have to appreciate his methods.”
Chen wanted fast results, but Newman counseled patience. Yes, a surveillance camera at the dealer’s Culver City store, Chen Vault, had caught Raywood reaching into a display case. Yes, a ring that had once belonged to actor Paul Winfield had vanished. Yes, Raywood had hocked the furniture he had taken out on approval, forcing Chen to repurchase his own goods from Uniquities and the high-end pawnshop South Beverly Wilshire Jewelry & Loan. But Newman believed he could nail the designer on more than that. “We can throw a pebble and hit Raywood in the shin,” Newman told Chen, “or a baseball and hit him in the forehead.”
The baseball was the American Express card number Raywood had given Chen’s staff as collateral: 3715 377353 52025. This was the account that Raywood had opened under the name CR Designs but that belonged to Paul Gregory. The head-shot photographer, Newman wrote in his report, “stated that he knew Craig Raywood, but that he did not give him permission to…have an American Express [card] issued in his name.” Gregory agreed to testify against Raywood, and the detective took the case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. On February 29 Judge Robert P. O’Neill issued a $70,000 warrant for Raywood’s arrest on three felony counts: for theft of the Winfield ring, for theft of the $102,800 of antiques, and for identity theft. Raywood was no longer running from judgments handed down in small claims court. He stood accused of violations punishable by prison time.
With Raywood in New York, there was little Newman could do. In late June, however, the designer returned to Los Angeles. He had filed another lawsuit against his nemesis, Joel Ring, this time alleging that the former landlord’s negligence had caused him to fall several times at the Rosewood house and injure his knee; the designer was seeking $3 million in damages. Raywood was also thinking of resuming business in L.A. and was hoping to renew social ties. He attended a cocktail event at Spago for the Luxury Marketing Council, mingling with at least one merchant whom he’d scammed as if nothing was wrong. But something was wrong. Antiques dealers and showroom owners were wary, and friends shunned him. Even party girl Nikki Haskell declined the designer’s dinner invitation, a sure sign that the city’s beau monde had had enough.
On the morning of July 10 Raywood walked into the lobby of 333 South Grand Avenue downtown. He was there for a mediation hearing to resolve his suit against Joel Ring. Waiting for him were Newman and four plainclothes Culver City detectives. As soon as Raywood, dressed in khakis and a blue blazer and carrying an Hermès crocodile bag, approached the check-in desk, he was surrounded and handcuffed.
“You’re under arrest,” declared Newman.
“Oh, I’ve already taken care of that,” Raywood replied.
For the next ten minutes, as Raywood sat on a metal bench in the courtyard of the pink granite high-rise, Newman talked intently into a cell phone. As it turned out, Raywood had gotten into a dispute the previous week with yet another landlord. Los Angeles police officers were summoned. During a background check, they discovered the outstanding Culver City warrants and arrested Raywood. Although the designer celebrated the Fourth of July weekend behind bars, his brother eventually bailed him out. Newman had no choice but to let him go.
After unlocking Raywood’s cuffs, the detectives gave him back his bag.
“Is my passport in there?” the designer asked as he walked off.
“Yes, everything is there,” the detectives answered.
Two and a half months later, on September 29, 2008, Raywood was arraigned. With his lawyer, West Hollywood city council member John Duran, at his side in the LAX division of Los Angeles Superior Court, Raywood pleaded not guilty to the three counts.
When Judge Keith L. Schwartz proposed October 31 as the date for a preliminary hearing, he looked down from the bench and asked, “Do you have any trouble with the hearing taking place on Halloween?”
“Should I be wearing a mask?” Raywood responded.
Part 11: Damage
As of late October, little more than four years after arriving in Los Angeles, Craig Raywood had been involved in some 40 separate cases in the county courts. More than 30 suits had been filed against him. In turn, he had brought suit seven times, three times against Joel Ring. Several cases are still outstanding, but the results are inarguable. Nineteen judgments (including ones for plastic surgeon Randal Digby Haworth and realtor Joe Babajian) resulting in a cumulative $200,000 in damages have gone against Raywood.
The criminal charges Joel Chen is pursuing will undoubtedly come down to a matter of interpretation. Although Raywood’s lawyer would not comment, the designer will likely maintain that he intended to return the pieces taken out on approval, contending that the antiques dealer overreacted. He will assert that Chen was so hostile and aggressive that he denied him the chance to honor their agreement. He will probably argue that the identity theft allegation also grew out of a misunderstanding—that he and Paul Gregory were legitimate business partners and the photographer had jumped the gun.
The lone penalty so far imposed on Raywood arose from his 2007 shoplifting arrest at Whole Foods Market in West Hollywood. The designer pleaded no contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge and was placed on 36 months’ probation and ordered not to venture within 100 yards of the store.
As for Raywood’s grievances, he has prevailed only once. On October 2, at a hearing in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse downtown, the designer settled his negligence suit against Ring. Though he was seeking millions, Raywood agreed to $45,000. “We had a great case,” says David Denis, Raywood’s lawyer. “But Craig wanted to get it over with. He’s tired of all the drama.” Edward Hess, Ring’s lawyer in this matter, sees it differently. “The settlement was motivated purely from economics,” he says. Ring’s insurance company had calculated it would spend at least that amount to hire medical experts for a trial. Notes Hess, “Why you’d pursue a case you said was worth millions and settle for $45,000 answers itself.”
New Yorkers who knew Raywood when he was young fall into two camps about all this. “I’m discreet about people I know,” says Marisa Berenson. “I’d be happy to talk about a different subject.” Keith Raywood will go only a bit further. “My brother and I aren’t that close anymore,” he says. “Nothing about Craig has ever struck me as being criminal. I never thought he’d try to swindle people.” Then, with the slightest edge in his voice, he adds, “If he did, I wish he’d been better at it.”
Others are more overt in their disappointment. “He could have made it big,” says Beth Rudin DeWoody. “He had the eye and the talent. If he’d only been honest, he could have been successful.” Vivian Serota is more blunt. “The Craig Raywood that I knew died,” she says. “There were two Craig Raywoods. The Craig Raywood that I remember was a loving son and a caring person. Now he’s done these terrible things. When I heard what he did to Kenny Solms, I cried. Kenny Solms is my good friend. Why would he rip him off?”
In Los Angeles there is less effort to understand. The owners of several antiques stores and a long list of physicians and merchants refuse to talk about their experiences with Raywood. Either so abashed by what they went through or so relieved to have Raywood out of their lives, they see no benefit in further discussion. As for those who have chosen to speak out, they’re incensed not only at the designer but at the impotence of the justice system. Kenny Solms vented his emotions in an October 17, 2007, letter to Lisa Hart Cole, a judge who’d sat on several of the small claims cases against Raywood in Beverly Hills:
It’s soon going to be over three years since Mr. Raywood took a check of mine in the amount of $5,500.00 for a rug that he never ordered or delivered. I’ve been to small claims court to fight this countless times which I’m sure your files will reflect. (Incidentally, I’m only one of the dozens of people seeking claims against Raywood on other matters.)… Nothing seems to ever seal Raywood’s fate.… The bottom line is, WHAT DO I DO NOW? Is there no way the court can satisfy my grievances?
Cole’s response, dated December 5, 2007, did something that Raywood could not. It left Solms speechless:
[Your] letter clearly expresses the frustration you are experiencing in collecting on the judgment you received against Mr. Craig Raywood in the above referenced case. Unfortunately, you are correct: there is nothing the court can [do] to force Mr. Raywood to pay you the money he owes…. I apologize that I cannot be of any further assistance to you. Best of luck and I wish you well in this holiday season.
Almost everyone who has brushed up against Raywood is struggling with the same questions. They debate whether he is aware of his wrongdoing or acts unconsciously. They wonder whether he needs psychiatric care or should do hard time. Most of all, they ask why. Why did it happen to them? What made them so vulnerable? “Craig Raywood enters your life to teach you a lesson,” says the designer’s former friend Robert Regni. “After him, you will look at the world differently. You’ll never be naive.” The bulk of his victims, though, are less philosophical. “Craig Raywood,” says dentist Phillip Gorin, “is a sharp stick up your ass.” Joel Chen is more measured but no less fierce. “Most of us in life never meet a true adversary,” he says. “That’s who this guy is.” A month before Raywood was arraigned on the charges stemming from the antiques dealer’s allegations, Chen received an e-mail that originated from a server in Oyster Bay:
…You are in the mist of allot of trouble. Mr. Raywood is very connected and there is people who will make your world change very dark. My advice is stay away from him moving forward…I receive 1 phone call and the tornado that will strike will be like no other…. If you think this is a game then lets play the game. Only difference is you are the game, and will be hunted.
Part 12: Dubai
On a summer afternoon as his world closed in on him, Craig Raywood drove across Los Angeles. He was headed to the Chateau Marmont, where he and Giselle had checked in. Speaking by cell phone, he wanted to explain himself. “I know there are people who are upset with me,” he said. “There’s a lot of untruth. A lot of people have it in for me. I don’t know for what reason. I’m a very good guy. People take advantage of me.”
His accusers should be the accused, he claimed. Look at former client Joe Babajian, who’d charged him with double billing. The realtor had been recently indicted on mortgage fraud, and Raywood could not have been more gleeful. “He owes me $39,000, and he’s saying terrible things about me. Is that right?”
Joel Chen is just as awful: “He put up posters in my neighborhood. It was disgraceful. He’s a thief. His people were so happy they were doing business with me, and then they turned on me. I was sick, under medication. I suffered two concussions in a car wreck. I have to have two more surgeries on my leg. I live with pain. I’m in pain every day.”
It was all too much. Raywood had moved to Los Angeles to practice his art, to spread grace and beauty, but the city hadn’t appreciated him. Like so many who’ve failed elsewhere, he had been seeking a second chance. Now he would seek it abroad. “I’m through with L.A.,” he said. “I’m not sure I’ll ever come back. I’ve been offered to do a very big project, to move to Dubai for four or five months. I’m extremely excited about it. I’ll be doing special events. I’ll design the dishes, the flatware, the stemware. I’ve met with the sheikhs.”
Raywood could not recall the sheikhs’ names—the painkillers he was taking had dulled his memory—but he could see the future, and it looked bright. “I’m going pretty soon,” he said. “They’re sending a plane for me. The sheikhs have their own 747.”
This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one.
Illustration by Sean McCabe