Periscope; Nonexistent Phone Calls (And Other False Tales)

Was Chandra Levy frantically trying to reach Rep. Gary Condit in the days before she disappeared? A flurry of last-minute calls has been widely reported--but it didn't happen. Last week sources with access to Levy's cell-phone records reviewed them for NEWSWEEK. The records show after Levy and Condit began their "friendship" last December, the intern frequently called a special phone line used by Condit to retrieve messages. (Investigators have dubbed this "the foo-foo line" because the callers heard a message tape that played, instead of Condit's voice, melodious background music.) Then within an hour or so of making the call, Levy would start calling her home message machine, sometimes up to six times in a row, apparently to see if Condit had returned the call.

But the calls to the foo-foo line tail off in mid-April. Levy called the line on April 13 when she was with her parents in Hershey, Pa. As for the crucial last week in April, the cell-phone records show no calls at all to Condit's foo-foo line, or to any other number used by the congressman, the sources say. (The last call Levy made from the cell phone, in the early afternoon of April 29, was to a friend at the Bureau of Prisons, who was out of town and didn't return to D.C. until late on the afternoon of May 2, after Levy is believed to have disappeared.) Law-enforcement sources say that Levy's home-phone records also show no phone calls to Condit during this period. "I don't know where people are getting this stuff," said one law-enforcement official.

Ironically, the phone records are slightly at variance with Condit's own account of their last few conversations. He told police that after seeing Levy in his apartment on April 24, he returned a call from her on April 29. Assuming Condit's account of a conversation that day is accurate, police say, it is possible she first called him from a pay phone or that he actually initiated the call. Either way, the available evidence points to no emotional crisis between Condit and Levy before she disappeared. Other widely circulated accounts are also inaccurate. The police have found no evidence that Levy was pregnant. Media speculation that a substance found in Condit's apartment might have been Levy's blood turns out to be entirely false, according to the FBI crime lab.

None of this means that Condit is off the hook. The Feds are still investigating whether Condit tried to dissuade two women friends from talking to the cops. But the relevance to the case is far from clear because neither knew Levy. As for what happened to her, police say that after three solid months of searching, they still haven't a clue.

Michael Isikoff ISRAEL The Strangest of Bedfellows In Israel, the improbable five-month partnership between Likud's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Labor's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has produced a remarkably stable government. Now sources close to Sharon and Peres say it could lead to a long-term alliance--or even a joint party. Both men have their reasons. Sharon's policy of restraint with the Palestinians has won over a broad section of Israelis but hurt him in his own right-wing party. Peres, whose Oslo peace legacy has disintegrated, is no longer dominant in Labor. The merger idea got a boost last week from a Gallup poll showing a joint Sharon-Peres ticket grabbing 60 percent of Parliament's 120 seats in the next election, set for 2003. (Labor, the largest party, now controls less than half that number.) With peace talks a remote prospect, Sharon and Peres are heaping praise on each other. But analysts warn that the honeymoon may last only as long as the fighting persists in the West Bank and Gaza. ((((((THE BUZZ))))))Lines and Wrinkles and Crow's Feet, Oh My! Newsflash! Women apparently age as they get older. Three national mags dissect this saggy reality in cover stories claiming you can be hot "at any age." (Good news for 5-year-olds!). All you need is money, inner peace and perfect bone structure:

The Kryptonite Thirties
Thirty is 'the end of her invincibility.' So desperate to stay fit, women start 'bringing home great numbers of grapefruits.' And younger men. (Esquire)

Garden Fresh
Martha Stewart turns 60, stars in seminude Kmart ads and 'still manages to plant peonies and whip up creme brulee.' Who can compete? (People)

In Her Drawers
'A woman's closet is like a memoir,' writes a Vogue editor. Sure, a rather cluttered 'memoir' with pretty clothes and not much else. Kind of like Vogue.

The Old 'It' Girl
Sigourney Weaver's the actress that time actually helped, say both Vogue and Esquire. At 'fifty-freaking-one,' she's braless (and cold) on the cover of a men's mag. SCIENCETwo Opposable Thumbs Up! Sure, they talk, wear clothes and have a Senate. But other than that, how realistic are the simian stars of "Planet of the Apes"? NYU primatologist Cliff Jolly evaluates:

Thade perfectly apes the species' hunched swagger and hot temper, but his huge leaps are more "Crouching Tiger" than jumping chimp. RISKY BUSINESS Who's Cleo the Psychic? A 'Guy Named Steve.' If Miss Cleo really is psychic, she knew months ago to hire a good lawyer. Spurred by dozens of customer complaints, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon sued the company behind the affable Jamaican clairvoyant last week. The Missouri suits--similar to one launched in Pennsylvania last year--accuse the company of billing for services advertised free of charge and violating the state's law against calling people on a "no call" list. Who's the attorney general focusing on? "From our view," says Nixon, "Miss Cleo is some guy named Steve." Specifically, that's 51-year-old Steve Feder, a Florida businessman with a waterfront mansion and a Mercedes. The CEO of Access Resource Services, Feder runs a network of hundreds of home-based psychics. As for the cheery woman in the ads, Feder insists she's not just an actress and does take some calls. "I'm outraged by the public spectacle they're making over a legitimate business," he told NEWSWEEK. "None of their claims is based in fact." Of course, some would say the same about Miss Cleo's.

HOBBIES Trading Pickup Lines in COBOL Sellam Ismail owns about 1,500 antiquated computers, wears a geek T shirt and ran the first-ever East Coast Vintage Computer Festival in Massachusetts last weekend. Even though he's "not a guy with bad hair who wears glasses taped in the middle," Ismail insists he's a nerd. Are you? Head to the fifth annual West Coast VCF this September, swap stories and circuit boards and take the Nerd Trivia Challenge. Peri put Frogger on pause to sample the quiz:

1. What was the Internet previously called?
2. Which legendary supercomputer was introduced in 1976?
3. Who founded Atari in 1972?
4. What was the original name of MS-DOS?
5. When was Windows first announced?

1. ARPANET (ARPA stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency). 2. Cray-1. 3. Nolan Bushnell. 4. QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System). 5. 1983. On The RoadshowThey Came, They Saw, They Hoped for Pay Dirt When "Antiques Roadshow" arrived in New York City recently, 5,000 people brought would-be treasure. Some appraisers were less optimistic. "You're going to hear the word 'decorative' a lot," sniffed Peter Fairbanks. But the pilgrims were thrilled just to witness the PBS cult hit. "I love you," cried a fan, burying her face in the chest of one of the Keno brothers, the suave twin furniture appraisers. Peri's Susannah Meadows ransacked Newsweek's closet for her haul:

Artifacts: The most valuable item from the Newsweek archive was a contact sheet shot by an unknown staffer in 1963 of a TV monitor broadcasting the aftermath of JFK's assassination. Clutching her chest, Daile Kaplan (bottom right) described it as a piece of history. A contact sheet of photos by Newsweek's Robert McElroy of the Beatles arriving at JFK in 1965 carried similar weighty significance as an artifact.

Collectibles: Appraiser Gary Sohmers had just handled Joey Ramone's old lyric notebook, but of our 1975 Springsteen issue, he said, "This makes my day." It's the most valuable Newsweek for its place in rock history (that week the young phenom landed on both Time and Newsweek) as well as its rarity: people tend to save the bad-news issues, such as John Lennon's death, making them less valuable than the good news. On eBay, others go for more than the $10 (post-1980) back-issue fee.

Vintage Photos: The sight of Jesse Owens broad-jumping gave even the nearby Egyptian-art appraiser goose bumps. The iconic image, by an unknown photographer, was printed in 1936. The touched-up Acme Newsphotos print of Ernest and Mary Hemingway, which ran in Newsweek in 1950, is between art and photography, says Kaplan. A more iconic, macho pose would have made it even more valuable.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM Special Slow News Month Edition CW loves that First Daughter Jenna Bush is interning for Brillstein-Gray, producer of "The Sopraos." Memo to Tony S.: Is it possible to make a rap sheet "disappear"?

C.W. Bush = Even flip-flop on Kosovo is just another page A4 ho-hum. It's August, make some news! L. Bush + While Dubya antagonizes allies, First Lady charms them. She's the class of the outfit. Condit - Paramours keep popping up. Blue Dog Democrat? Try Horn Dog Democrat. Madonna + "Mrs. Ritchie," housewife, mom of two, is still buff, boffo on tour. You can have it all. Armstrong + Three-peats Tour de France, but mention drugs and cycling and watch Lance boil. 'P. of the Apes' = Fans flock to luscious but vapid remake. CW says, can the "Honest Ape" ending.