Recently, I told you what I most dislike about parties in all their festive and irresistible contrivance. That didn’t stop anyone from going out, so I’ll have to step things up and reveal which types of parties are the most abhorrent—the ones it’s social suicide to even receive an invitation to. I’ll put them in descending order of appeal, starting with the least unpleasing.
1. Hotel openings and tastings. These are actually quite attendable because if someone has enough money to open a hotel in the first place, they’re not going to put out a bucket of coleslaw and some Yoo-Hoo. Hotel bashes tend to be recklessly elaborate and the wait staff is so willing to please they’ll practically follow you home to help you digest. (By the second night, though, they’re already copping diva attitudes and saying stuff like “In the future, if you want the salad first, you should say so.”) Cases in point were the Hudson Hotel’s previews, which were so lavish and friendly that one even succumbed to the communal seating, the open kitchen, and the description of seared foie gras layered on macaroni gratin as “comfort food.” Actually, I was comforted by the free-ness of it all.
2. Club/restaurant anniversary parties. These get-togethers cut through the artifice of publicity ops by bringing out some real feeling—a quality so shocking at a party that you find yourself falling to your knees and licking spilled Cosmopolitans off the floor. The usual crashers and bores will be there, but also some people who really care, and if you’re not one of them, you can always push through the cheap sentiment to get to the expensive champagne.
3. Theatrical opening nights. These are risky because if the reviews suck, the party promptly turns from fiesta to funeral. What’s worse, you have to pretend you don’t agree with the pans. The buffet usually gets raves, though.
4. Book parties. Sorry, but someone lecturing to me about the resurgence of free verse in Outer Mongolia does not make me want to dance wildly on a tabletop. And it’s not worth lugging home the free 800-page novel about inarticulateness in hopes of later schlepping it to the Strand for a 50-cent rebate. Alas, reading it is out of the question too.
5. Restaurant openings. These are not at all to be confused with hotel openings. In fact, you’re invariably groveling for a bread crumb along with a slew of lowlifes and beggars—oh, no, wait, that’s a mirror. Hold out for the anniversary bash.
6. Listening parties. You go through three check-in points to finally become privy to the absentee star’s overproduced new CD, your own stomach growling, and the shameless networking of secretarial types who only get to meet each other. Go to Borders instead.
7. Models’ birthday parties. Models’ anything parties are sad, but it’s especially tragic to watch them get another year older and more ready for the fashion junk heap. Moreover, they don’t even seem to realize that they’re celebrating their own built-in obsolescence. At least you’ll have no competition for the food.
8. Store openings. These are even worse than restaurant openings, and though you do get a gift bag, how many T-shirts, mango-kiwi body scrubs, and copies of In Style‘s special makeover edition do you really need? (Tied for eighth place: gallery parties. The only thing worse than bad art is bad art surrounded by celery sticks and failed bohemians handing out business cards.)
9. Nightclub openings. You don’t want to see the place with the victimy crowd, especially since you already out-victimed them and went to previews. Better yet would be to hold out until a few weeks into the run, which is when I went to the revived Studio 54 and found it a kicky ’70s club filled with people dancing to ’80s music in ’90s costumes. It’s an intergenerational delight—and after five drinks, you’ll swear you saw Bianca Jagger riding in on a horse!
10. Web site parties. There are about a dozen of these a night and usually the dotcom becomes bankrupt halfway through the party, at which point they start sending the Pringles to the IRS. The misguided event—for people who stay home for a living—should be held online, especially since you don’t even get a free body scrub!
And finally: 11. After-parties. These have become impossibly trite, even more predictable than the parties themselves. Now they’re for dingbats who skipped the main event—the type who’d raise their afterbirth instead of their child. Stay home with the door bolted shut.
I didn’t list movie premieres, generally because they’re so erratic you never know if they’ll be transcendent revelations or complete spirit-breakers. Men of Honor‘s premiere may not have brimmed with culinary generosity—olives and salsa and figs, oh my—but it was held at that magnificent Hudson Hotel, where somehow the agreeable staff hadn’t cracked yet. What’s more, with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert De Niro starring, I was afraid the movie would be a two-hour tug between “Show me the money!” and “You talkin’ to me?” but it wasn’t. It had amputee Cuba walking 12 steps in a diving suit to prove he’s a hero, the most heart-tugging 12-step program since Robert Downey Jr.‘s!
In step with cabaret history, the Duplex’s 50th anniversary was an extremely worthy get-together (see number 2) celebrating the Village spot that’s launched as many superstars as it has drunks singing “Memory.” To commemorate the event, talent booker Leah Sutton put together a fabulous variety show-benefit filled with people who’ve worked at and/or drunk at the Duplex. The tall and caustic Judy Gold was a riot, talking about her “Hadassah arm” (the flabby area no trainer can help) and saying, “I performed for President Clinton—and I did stand-up comedy for him too.” And our MC—the campy, rubber-faced comic Mario Cantone—was manic, hilarious, and unstoppable, whether impersonating various famous women doing The Vagina Monologues (“My vagina is an oven,” he said as Julia Child) or explaining that he turned down the meerkat role in The Lion King “when I realized there’d be a puppet pinned to my fucking scrotum.” He even did Liza Minnelli jokes—this on the very day she was announced as having encephalitis—and made them work through sheer nervy sparkle.
The same principle lifts The Full Monty—a/k/a Broadway Bares—out of its middlebrow aspirations and makes Buffalo rock more than it seemed possible. Despite the ugly sets and uneven music and the fact that no lighting’s pinned to the guys’ scrotums when they’re finally revealed, the show is extremely pleasing—a real winner—and it’s especially hard to resist touches like veteran actress Kathleen Freeman demanding to see the black guy’s dick. (I could certainly relate.)
If you want to get really fucked, try Game Show, which is an extremely authentic taping experience, right down to the utter torturousness. The faux program, replete with pseudo-backstage antics, is that rare satire that doesn’t satirize anything! But hey, maybe the opening-night party was fun.