No one wants the magazine industry to succeed (or at least fade gently) more than me, so I’m thrilled to report that the shindig Condé Nast Traveler threw on April 15 (tax day, yeah!) was exuberantly attended.
A big, unadorned entry tent outside the restaurant Pranna on Madison was hard to miss, and security was anxiously lining people around the block, single-file, within metal barricades. This was a serious party line, with red-badged guards stopping queuers before every door to ensure that neighboring retailers’ egress wasn’t damaged. Did it seem a little silly to go through the routine for a store that was closed and had its safety bars down for the night? Well, yeah, a little. But at least we could pass the time by peeking through the curtains for a glimpse of a balcony all done up in blue light and giant projections on a large wall (surprise!).
The line moved slowly but steadily, but inside, tensions were running a little high. We were press, but in the wrong place, we were told. We needed to exit the entry tent completely, walk around the outside, and go in from the other side. No, we couldn’t just go through this way, even though we had already waited on line. No, we couldn’t have an escort. And could we please back away from the table?
Do you remember the scene where Seinfeld and Elaine are at the bakery and they want marble rye and black-and-white cookies and they have to take another number and start over? That was me. I glanced over at the red carpet gauntlet—I mean, it wasn’t like Sharon Stone was there. I was on my way obediently around the tent when all of a sudden I was overwhelmed with a bad taste in my mouth and had to rush home.
These things happen. I remember once doing an event for Allure magazine with more than 1,600 guests on a closed-down SoHo block in the company of Janet Jackson, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford, all in their heyday. There were dozens of cops and a security detail of 40 GSS guys, as I recall. But somehow we screwed up and didn’t let in legendary hairstylist Kenneth Battelle (the Jackie O bouffant, that was all him) and boy did I hear about it the next day from Linda Wells. And rightly so. I should mention here that Condé Nast Traveler is a former client, and that if we had simply said our names there would have been no problem. Plus, two different people called the next day. I feel fine now.
[Readers, know that this kind of thing happens to guests all too often, and many planners would probably be mortified to hear how badly some guests get treated on the way inside their events. —Ed.]
Luckily, I got more to report on from the International Auto Show at the Jacob K. Javits Center, where I was admitted on Thursday, April 9, not only for cocktails but dinner, too. This was the tenth year the East Side House Settlement was beneficiary of opening night, and its fifth sponsored by Esquire. (Disclosure part II: I was once involved in this one, too.)
If you think the magazines are having it rough, then try working for the marketing side of an American auto manufacturer. And this year they finally have a whole slew of really new stuff: electric cars, smart cars, low-weight cars, mixed-use cars. To be fair, walking through the halls makes you realize that all these people in Detroit are not as idiotic as you might think. More like slow. My favorite was the pretty spokeslady pictured in The New York Times the other day, who admitted she was wearing the same provided outfit as last year. (These things happen.)
The East Side House Settlement president Peter Standish caught me up on this cause that actually gets its hands dirty. Their newest effort is a high school for children of the homeless and disenfranchised that aims to ensure 90 percent of its students are accepted to college. One of these kids spoke, and even though he was not particularly articulate, it was still moving.
Because it’s a car show, it’s all guy stuff on display. “Want a paddle to bid on the red Porsche 911 up for auction?” heckled one event staffer over here. “Wanna sign up for a tour of the new Meadowlands Stadium?” over there. (I do.) “Meet a Giant running back?” You can’t miss him. “Want a copy of Esquire's The Big Black Book?” Well, you had to take a copy of this meaningful-looking style volume then and there, because if you waited until after dinner, like me, they were all gone. (Esquire’s Scott Lehmann promised latecomers he would send more, and has already been in touch, noting that the fall edition has sold more than 120,000 copies at $9.95: Wow, these magazine people have to run quite the tight ship these days, don’t they?)
The dining room was all white tablecloths with red roses. On paper, it sounds dull, I know. But in this case it was quite striking. The roses were good—big and dark—and they sat on risers. When you sat down you noticed all these little cupcake things under the flowers, plus little votive candle containers filled with puddings. This was a new one on me, and honestly I had already wolfed down a number of Abigail Kirsch appetizers, the best of which was an asparagus and cheese tortilla that I remember liking from the Museum of the City of New York just a few weeks back. My point being I wasn’t hungry enough to try a desserty looking thing before dinner. So I waited.
Finally, after a speech or two or three, and a lot of talk about sports, dinner was cleared and I could finally reach out and grab a mini carrot cake. Now, I am not a pudding man, so I assigned one of the guys next to me (anesthesiologist from Connecticut, into biking) the job of tasting all the different puddings. I was told the one with the white chocolate topping was best. By that time I had calculated the number of mini-cakes of each flavor, the number of little cakes each guest could reasonably expect to receive, and I was ready to wheel and deal. I danced with the dame who brought me, sticking with the mini carrot cakes for a total serving of four, which was twice my allotment. There were no doggie bags, so it was time to go. But as I made my way out, the bidding was nearing $20,000 over the sticker price for the donated Porsche and slowing down—a fear that event organizers had privately revealed to me beforehand. Don’t ask for whom the light shines at the end of the tunnel, just keep driving.