How to Keep Your Circle Vicious (2008)

Algonquin Round Table

SUBJECT — Algonquin Round Table
LOCATION — Manhattan

These days it seems that glowing productivity is not a prerequisite for public notoriety. Hell, I still see Courtney Love in the papers all the time, and besides wailing on a couple of mediocre albums, all she ever does is date rock stars and allegedly overdose on drugs. It might seem that this is a new phenomenon, but in New York City the infamous have been around just as long as the profitable famous. The sometime-writer and perennial wit Dorothy Parker was the "it" girl of Manhattan and its environs in the 1920s. Pithy Parker said of her undeserved notoriety, "My name will never be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don't do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails, but I don't even do that anymore."

The Vicious Circle, a revolving group of writers, critics, actors, and artists, ate lunch at the ALGONQUIN HOTEL (59 West 44th Street, 212-840-6800) almost every day between 1920 and 1930. Dorothy Parker and her fellow Algonquin Round Tablers—at times including F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, F.P. Adams, Ring Lardner, Edna Ferber, and Robert Benchley—defined hip intelligentsia for the jazz age.

With her side-swept bangs and the tattoo of a star on her inner arm, even today Parker would meld seamlessly into the throng of girls haunting the sidewalks of the West Village. Parker started out as a spoiled JAP who spent her summers on the Jersey Shore, just like you! All you need are a few bases of fraternization and an overdeveloped sense of drama.

First you'll want a hotel with a highly visible restaurant so you and your coven of cynical bourgie friends can attract attention with your loud voices and raucous laughter. Dorothy Parker began as a mere patron of the Algonquin's restaurant and bar, the OAK ROOM, but by the mid '20s, she was living in a hotel suite. You, too, will need a place to crash after you become so drunk on straight whiskey that you forget your name.

For debauched consumption, I suggest the HUDSON HOTEL (356 West 58th Street, 212-554-6000). With its neon-green escalators, the trendy Philippe Starck–designed building provides a winning backdrop for cutting remarks about Elizabeth Wurtzel's substance-abuse issues. Communal tables and benches in the Hudson's acclaimed CAFETERIA restaurant (212-554-6500) provide enough room for all your sycophantic hangers-on. On the second floor is the LIBRARY BAR, which, also faithful to its name, boasts a range of tomes to pique literary debate about the phallocentrism of D.H. Lawrence and other topics you discuss in your terribly clever essays for The New York Review of Books. Best of all, the Hudson is right around the corner from ST. LUKE'S ROOSEVELT HOSPITAL (212-523-4000), so when you get crabs from your tight-knit, exclusive friends (like Robert Benchley did, twice) or when you try to commit suicide as a dramatic cry for help (as Parker did, more than twice), you can be quickly cured and back on the literati circuit.

Other excellent sites for your nouveau Round Table are the WASHINGTON SQUARE HOTEL (103 Waverly Place, 212-777-9515), with its bistro, NORTH SQUARE, which offers a great brunch; or the TRIBECA GRAND (2 Sixth Avenue, 212-519-6600) and its hipster bar, CHURCH LOUNGE, which will fulfill all your sousing needs. Now all you need is a good publicist, because without frequent mentions in Page Six or La Dolce Musto, no one will care where you eat or who you're screwing. Like Dotty P. said, "I don't care what is written about me, so long as it isn't true."


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