By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
My name is Michael, and I am a party columnist—hello, party columnist—and the crazy thing is, there's apparently some kind of economic slowdown going on out there and hardly anyone's throwing parties right now.
My role has become akin to being an Edsel chauffeur or a typewriter repairman. Even if they are throwing parties, they're tiny, tasteful, and so mindful of budget restraints that a paper plate is considered an extravagance, especially since there's no freakin' food to put on it.
A publicity get-together to meet the cast of a Broadway show will not even have a bagel for miles, the feeling suddenly being that starch would interfere with the creative process. Four-time Tony winners are standing there greeting the press with distended tummies from lack of sustenance, which perfectly match their swollen eyes desperate for applause. Me, too! Last year around this time, I could count on at least three pre-Oscar meals a week, all in the name of buzzmaking. Now, not even a cup for Milk!
So what do I do? Spring for a nice restaurant? No, I can probably turn my two-year-old gift-bag Altoids into some kind of a meal, as long as I don't have to share them with anyone. Develop some character? Nah, that'll never happen, not in my lifetime. Instead, I am reduced to filling the page with homebound items, like how, after your morning shower, you should make sure to end with 20 seconds of cold water to close your pores back up, then smear lemon extract on your face to keep them closed. If you can afford it!
Things are so bad that Obama is closing Guantánamo, and now I can't even go there for the health insurance. Oy! Running that hilarious gag is even lower than going with the pores tip. Am I the only ant at the picnic? Is Aretha's hat alone supposed to get us through the great depression? Are kamikaze birds now conspiring to bring down the airline industry, too?
But wait! Someone actually threw a party, and there were hors d'oeuvres and even napkins to hold them on! It was a bash at Elaine's for celebrity photographer Patrick McMullan's 20th anniversary at Interview magazine, where everyone angled for their close-up while schmoozing, perusing, and making an edible jigsaw puzzle out of the little ham-and-cheese sandwiches that were gloriously floating out of the kitchen on gossamer wings.
There were 20 hosts (get it?)—everyone from Tommy Hilfiger's daughter to Paris Hilton's mother—and though Judy's daughter, Liza Minnelli, didn't show because she had supposedly hurt herself (literally, this time—not in the overall sense), Bowie's wife, Iman, made it, gushing, "Only Patrick could get all these people to 88th and Second!" As my nose spewed buckets of blood all over my stack of sandwiches, I knew just what she meant.
Anne Slater was there—she's the one who's already uptown—so I told the sunglassed socialite I'd seen her on a Dominick Dunne crime special on truTV. "No, I never did that," Slater swore, smiling. "But I see it all the time. It reruns every day," I insisted, being the world's foremost expert on cable forensics. "No, I honestly didn't film that," Slater shot back with certainty. "Nick Dunne," her walker whispered to her. "Oh, Nick Dunne," she chirped. "Yes, I'm in that!"
A more cogent conversation had me asking Scissor Sisters' cute Jake Shears when he will lose his Dorian Gray–like boyish looks already. "You should see me when I wake up in the morning," Shears said, "when I'm wearing tangerine glasses and look like my older sister. I don't know why my boyfriend stays with me and gives me kisses!" Honey, tangerine glasses are the biggest aphrodisiac since cherry chapstick—which I eat for breakfast, by the way.
Just then, sepia-toned Kimora Lee Simmons finally barreled in with her entourage and brought all new life to the Upper East Side. She gave interviews and carried on and was loud and knocked something over. Everyone followed her as if she were a flashlight in a tunnel, but after a few minutes, someone told me, "She's in the other room, surrounded by eight bodyguards, and no one's there!" A true star.
For one more rise, Patrick had us sing "Happy Birthday" to restaurateur Elaine Kaufman. "Fuck, no!" shrieked Elaine. Fuck, yes, woman. You throw a party, you get celebrated.
A whole other 20-year anniversary was toasted—yay!—when the Hudson Street hangout Cowgirl Hall of Fame reached that milestone last week, just as owner Sherry Delamarter planned to open a South Street Seaport branch called Cowgirl Sea Horse. This night, the entertainment came in zany spurts, climaxing with Ken Bullock's drag character Ragu Mountain Woman, a hillbilly harridan with pinkeye who uses pig fat as "country collagen" and was supposedly hand-picked by Janice Dickinson to work the collections as a supermodel in Paris.
But what kind of collagen has Cowgirl used to stay alive so long? "Love," insisted Delamarter. "We have a friendly atmosphere. It's a scary time, and people need that kind of reassurance. You can go around the corner and come home to mama." And seeing as mama's holding out some chicken-fried steak and a big smile with a full set of teeth, the townfolk keep a-comin'.
But hold your horse tranquilizers! That was it for the parties—forever—so I had to crawl home to my Altoids buffet and look inside the country cupboard of my soul. But even from this internal panic room, I can serve up some pungent tidbits—those dot-dot-dot items that distract us from pressing issues while so marvelously illuminating our culture. Here goes:
Christine Ebersole—the two-time Tony winner who's in Blithe Spirit—was spotted by my spies, wearing a mink coat and shades (probably tangerine ones) and sprawled out on a bench in Central Park, yapping on her phone. She has become Edie Beale.
Speaking of that revival, director Michael Blakemore recently told me how Angela Lansbury was convinced to come back to Broadway: "I don't think it required any persuasion for her to do the role of a lifetime." . . . Hair choreographer Karole Armitage remembers working on the video of a lifetime, "Vogue," with Madonna. Says Armitage: "She told me, 'Why are you still in dance? You don't get famous! You don't get any money!' " God, you'd think she was the Material Girl or something.
Over at the art house, it might not be any kind of blockbuster, but the best film in ages about suburban angst is Must Read After My Death, a riveting doc about the dissolution of a family, which graciously recorded every internal crisis for our eventual viewing pleasure. Revolutionary Road palls next to this one. See it while you're alive.
Meanwhile, Mickey Rourke came back from the dead this year, and A.J. Benza, the gossip columnist who became an E! star, just wants to give him a hug. Benza sent a Facebook message to Wass Stevens, the Marquee doorman who acts in The Wrestler, saying, "I wrote you earlier in the month, wondering if you have a contact number for Mickey. You might not know he and I were friends back in the mid-'90s, and I'd love to give him a pat on the back is all. If you could help me out, pal."
How poignant, yet sincere. Wass, give him the freakin' number already! Are you reading me? Hello? Nick Dunne! Anyway, back to the Cup-a-Soup.