If there's one thing the divorcemeister likes, it's a short wedding.
Wed Aug 8 2007
Illustration: Rob Kelly
New York boasts a bizarre underclass of homegrown celebs. They include chefs, writers, blue-blooded socialites, all making the Page Six scene. Lurking in this mix is Raoul Felder, the feisty Brooklyn-born divorce lawyer who somehow finds time to write politically conservative columns, restaurant guides and even humor books with comedian Jackie Mason. The nattily dressed 70-year-old—a.k.a. Dr. Estranged Love—talked TONY's ear off over tea (even his pristine paper napkins are monogrammed) in his tchotchke-filled Madison Avenue office. As he puts it, "I'm writing my autobiography. I'm already on the seventh chapter and I haven't even been born yet!"
How did divorce become your bread and butter?
My brother was a well-known songwriter [Doc Pomus]. His partner, Mort Shuman, married a fiery brunet Israeli singer. They're getting divorced and Morty says, "I'll give you $10,000 if you represent me." In those days, divorce was to law what proctology is to medicine—no one wanted to do it. The first year was very lucrative. It trapped me.
Since then, what prominent people have you represented?
Mayor Giuliani; Robin Givens, Mike Tyson's wife; Jason Kidd's wife; Elizabeth Taylor's last husband; Carol Channing; Patrick Ewing's wife; Johnny Carson's wife...
Have you handled a gay divorce yet?
Not divorce, but the fighting between gay people, usually over the house. They get in the most god-awful fights.
Is there a celeb case you wish you were doing now?
The only celebrity cases going now are these Hollywood semiwackos I have no interest in. I don't relate. The rappers, we have. But those are paternity cases. We have one against 50 Cent. Do you know who that is?
Yes. Do New Yorkers fight more over real estate or children?
There's more real estate to fight over.
Speaking of fights, you're chairman of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct—
Do you know about this fight I had with the commissioner? Did you see the press that was going on with the governor saying I should resign, and I'm defiant and all of this nonsense?
Yes. I was going to ask you about that. The commission thought your book was racially and ethnically inappropriate.
It was a big thing! I wrote a humor book, Schmucks, with Jackie Mason. We sold many copies. These pygmies of power and privilege, they have their own agenda. They asked me to resign as chairman of commission.
You were appointed by Governor Pataki, right? What do you actually do?
If you have a complaint about a judge, you go there and they have hearings and so forth. They issued a vote of no confidence. They knew what they were getting when they elected me chairman. I kept inviting them to sue me.
I see.... You grew up in Williamsburg. Have you been back lately?
I go all the time. It's not the Williamsburg I grew up in. I lived on 75 Manhattan Avenue. My side of the street became a project. There used to be a sweatshop across the street where we used to watch the girls get undressed.
Do you like weddings?
No. The only wedding I ever stayed until the end of, to my recollection, was my daughter's. Giuliani married her; it was a very short, nice ceremony.
You've never been divorced. Do you have a prenup?
When I got married, nobody had a prenup. Now everyone has to have a prenup. Good fences make good neighbors. People know exactly where they stand at every point of the relationship.
Who is to blame for today's high divorce rate?
Doctors and the system. Doctors allow people to live longer, and they can have multiple marriages and take pills so they can perform forever. Capitalism is a villain because it enables people to make enough money to have serial wives.
Will you ever retire?
No. Why would I?