Drinking With Rich People As The Recession Lifts


What recession? As the specter slowly lifts, the rich folk who never knew it happened in the first place have been carrying on like there’s no yesterday. And nosebleed and all, I’ve been perfectly willing to join them, awkwardly clinking my swizzle-sticked Shirley Temple with their double Between the Sheets.

And wines! In came an invite to commingle with “the winemakers of Le Cercle Rive Droite de Grands Vins de Bordeaux for a VIP dinner celebrating the select wines of the Right Bank of Bordeaux, paired with chef Philippe Bertineau‘s exquisite menu.” That was in so many foreign languages for me that I felt like I needed injections and a visa just to attend, but it was at the chichi Benoit bistro, and Countess LuAnn de Lesseps and boyfriend Jacques Azoulay were hosting, so I was extremely there, with extra-nice bags on my surgical shoes. The meal was indeed lovely, from the “organic salmon choisy” (from the Choisy Shore, I guess) to the “filet mignon with potato boulangère and young carrots”—so young they would surely have been arrested if the cops had raided the place.

“You can’t get drunk from red wine,” insisted LuAnn, which is good news because the stuff was going like paper towels at a Republican debate. “This was awesome,” said author Jay McInerney, poignantly lifting an empty bottle of Chateau Barde-Haut that everyone had wantonly finished. No problem: Jacques simply brought over another bottle—and more water for me—never even considering serving something from the wrong bank of the Bordeaux.

Also at my table were LuAnn’s fellow Housewife Kelly Bensimon, editor Bonnie Fuller, and Ann Dexter-Jones, the writer, jewelry maker, and mother of the prodigious Mark, Charlotte, and Samantha Ronson. Ann’s ex-husband, rocker Mick Jones, used to have a vivid taste for the booze, “but the second I said goodbye, he stopped,” Ann told me. “After two days of AA, he said, ‘Can I come back?’ After only two days!” At least wait a week!

But her fabulous kids, it turns out, haven’t gotten drunk on fame for even a second. “It’s not important to me if they pursue fame or money, as long as they have passion,” Ann asserted. “They’re not driven; they’re passionate. Samantha has turned down so many things that would have made her more famous. And Mark turned down movie roles because he wanted to do his music. So he was DJing for $50 in the East Village when there were bullets flying in the window!” Just like Bruno Mars (whom Mark is producing), he’d catch a grenade for you.

The Armory Show at Piers 92 and 94 brought out even more rich people chicly suffering for their art. After all, they paid $30 admission. And as they crowded through the aisles to look at the modern and contemporary artworks—two different things, in case you didn’t get the memo—they had to maintain a calculatedly disheveled yet wildly stylish look, like something out of The Hunger if remade by the Portlandia people. Even their foreign accents were right out of Central Casting via Benoit bistro. I soaked in their presence so avidly all afternoon that I forgot to look at the paintings. That’s OK. I’ll stick with armless clowns on purple velvet.

The crowd was older and more Gotham-fancy at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’ opening of Star Quality: The World of Noël Coward, celebrating the Brit wit whom Garbo called “my little Coward.” A big shot took the mic to profusely thank the sponsors—I guess the recession isn’t totally over—and urged everyone to drink the Firefly cocktails, so named because, “There’s no place better to drink than Firefly Hill, as Noël did happily for so many years.” I should run there with my Shirley Temple.

The next morning, a modern-day Noël Coward–type told me: “The recession affected me hugely! The theater I owned went bankrupt! No one came! When my father died and left some money, I went, ‘Oh, well.'” And again we learn that a little depression can sometimes help a big old recession.

Near the office, a wit like me favors a cozy little wine bar called Bahr Ché, where the charcuteries are cute, and the lobster-and-black-truffle mac and cheese seems perfect for a recovering economy. Although for me, it’s basically a coffee bar.

But the food was obscenely expansive at the St. Patrick’s Day party at the Yotel thrown by celeb photographer Patrick McMullan and promoter Patrick Duffy. There were troughs full of sushi, sliders, and salads, served by male-model types, and washed down with Irish leprechaun drinks made with cucumbers and, naturally, booze. So as the recession lifts, so do faces and utensils? “It affected everyone,” Sharon Bush assured me at the bash. “My daughter and I are working on selling teddy bears to raise money for Plumpy’nut, a supplement that saves kids starving to death.” “Angelina should take some,” I quipped in timelessly terrible taste.

“The recession affected everyone,” agreed philanthropist Jean Shafiroff. “My husband worked at Lehman. Fortunately, he wasn’t involved in any of the subprime-mortgage deals. But the recession reduced the middle class. We have to strengthen it, or we could turn into a Third World country!” Again, someone alert Angelina.

But it’s over, right? “Budgets for parties are getting better,” said McMullan as they brought out 30 more trays of food, “but it’s not over. People still act like they’re nervous.” A guy doing a documentary on McMullan swooped in for a close-up as the photog conceded, “The luxury thing has never gone down—but the mid-level did.” Oh, shit. I’m mid-level. Time to start boozing.