Having just recovered from all those mind-rotting 10-best lists, it’s time for a four-worst list of the year in parties from a schmooze-or-lose veteran who really knows when he’s being punished by “fun.” For this purpose, I’ve melded examples of the skankiest party elements into composites of the most heinous events you might have gotten invited to if Satan was on your shoulder. And so:
Six different promoters put you on the list, but the “door god”—fresh off death row thanks to a call from the governor—is still screaming, “How do you spell Michael?” You bribe your way in and find a clientele that’s diverse only because, later on, each person gets off at a different exit of the Jersey Turnpike. They’re all freelance toilet scrubbers, but somehow, they’re able to spring for bottle service—i.e., wildly overpriced decanters of medium-shelf booze served by a sultry siren whose exposed butt crack can’t be fully appreciated by old-school gay guys. If CHARLES MANSON showed up and was willing to pay for bottles, he’d be swept right in with his entourage, while MATHILDE KRIM, the DALAI LAMA, and the LORD himself would be asked to wait for hours in the freezing rain. The decor is nouveaux equatorial African as envisioned by someone who has never left the Upper East Side. You shouldn’t have either, especially since the DJ playing tunes from the ’80s, when all music apparently stopped, could just as well be clubbing you over the noggin with his turntable. Worse, none of the doors marked “exit” are really exits, for some reason. They didn’t want you in, and now apparently, they don’t want you to ever leave!
WORST PRIVATE PARTY
It’s a self-published-book bash at the above club, and though you got so many Evites for it that they crashed your computer, that same door god is there giving you a glazed look as his steroids kick in and his dick retracts and peeks out through his butt. You covertly service it to get in, then find that the crux of the party is a glorified photo op taking place in the lobby, which is layered with posters for a Latvian liquor made out of potato skins. The bored photogs start shooting you, since the only “stars” there are reality show losers, warthog understudies from The Lion King‘s tour of the Adirondacks, and, of course, MISCHA BARTON. The flack pushes you out of the photos and onto the host, who graciously hands you a signed copy of her book—to give to someone else.
In the main room, the “bar god” (another ex-con) is only serving the Latvian liquor, which for obvious reasons has a limitless number of bottles to give away. You beg to pay for a real brand, but he won’t even think of something so subversive, and suddenly bottle service doesn’t sound so bad, does it? You throw the book at him—literally—but karma comes when you stand near the kitchen door to get first dibs at the “sumptuous eats” (namely one soggy spring roll per hour), and end up flattened by a speeding waiter on tina. At least some scalding sauce has fallen onto your face and you can try to lick at it to stay alive. As you do, the publicist leans over to say, “Make sure you mention the Latvian liquor.” The next day’s papers say that five minutes after you left, every one of your favorite stars came and partied naked for hours.
A nebbish who cranes his head to find someone better, when you were only talking to him as a charity fuck anyway. The douche who says, “I haven’t seen you in 15 and a half years. What’s new?” Or “Hi. Who am I? Do you remember me? Come on, who am I?” Or “I’m so happy we’re both still alive! Everyone’s dying!” Or the self-promoter who exults, “Hi! I was mentioned in the Times Real Estate section last year! In an ad I took out!” Or the dickweed who says inane, boring things no one could possibly care about, followed by “That was off the record, by the way.” Or who skips all formalities in order to start spewing Z-list name-droppings. (“I was hanging with Nicole the other day. You know, Eggert. She’s Ginger on Gilligan’s Island. Well, The Real Gilligan’s Island. Well, she’s one of the Gingers.”)
There are tons of available tables up front, but they ask you to wait at the bar for “a few minutes,” then an hour later seat you way in the back room where you can’t be seen by anyone important. (Little do they know you’re the arbiter of Gotham chic.) You couldn’t get a waiter’s attention even with a flare gun, especially since your waiter is that scary door god, who finally got fired and is angrier than ever. You start humming “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago and someone across the room snaps, “Shhh!”
Even worse is the opposite—an attention-hungry place where, for lack of anyone better there, you’re the unwitting center of the entire staff’s universe. Before you’ve even gotten a stale roll, people are pouring out of the kitchen to ask, “How’s everything so far? Do you like it?” (“Oh, yes,” you want to gush. “The silverware is just amazing!”) With every nibble comes another plea for approval until even the chef’s daughter’s gym teacher stops by to say, “How’s everything? Are you enjoying yourself?” Gee, I would be if you freakin’ well-wishers would leave me the fuck alone for a second!
Actually you’d still be suicidal. After all, you have to sit in the lotus position as your kimono-wearing server, Seymour, screams the specials over the Ultimate Kylie CD. You thought he said wasabi scrod, but he actually brings walrus scrotum, and on skewers yet! It’s being served dysfunctional-family-style, so you and your party have to battle it out over every bite, torn between friendship and survival. Models love this place—but then again models don’t eat, do they? Ready to run home to the Stouffer’s, you sign the credit card bill and nobly check the box that adds a specified tip. Seymour brings back your receipt, which shows he gave himself a larger percentage. (This actually happened to me at Tavern on the Green.) At least he had a great beverage recommendation—$20 shots of the Latvian liquor, served warm. You jump into a cab and notice your driver is the ex-door god.
Masa’s and Johnson
What irks Page Six pooh-bah RICHARD JOHNSON, eventwise? Well, he abhors overcrowded parties and loathes the Au Bon Pain in his building’s lobby. (“Nineteen of the 20 minimum-wage employees are wandering around pretending to be busy,” Johnson told me, “so only one is available to ring up the eight customers on line.”) It’s an Au Bon Pain in the ass—but Johnson’s really got it in for Masa, the four-star restaurant he calls “the most overpriced sushi joint in town. You are basically in a windowless nook in a shopping mall. The minimalist decor looks more like Ikea.”
His experience there? “They put out a huge bucket of ice to keep our sake cold. The bucket leaked and ice was spilled every time they poured. The signature dish—raw lobster and foie gras dipped quickly into broth—was fine, but then we were urged to drink the broth, which was boiling hot, and no one could figure out how to blow out the Sterno. Our tongues were blistered. Everyone I have talked to who has eaten there has had that same dish, even though Masa’s supposedly changing the menu each night. After the umpteenth serving of raw fish three hours later, we were bored and still kinda hungry. But TONY BOURDAIN loves it, so maybe I’m just a Philistine.” Or maybe Tony Bourdain loves having a blistered tongue and ice water stains.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 28, 2004