Upon hearing about The Atlantic Monthly's plan to hold its 150th anniversary party for a group of V.I.P.s on stage at an NYU auditorium, with regular folks watching in the audience, you may have thought, How can that possibly go well? Now the first reports from last night's party are in, and they're not good—from either side of the stage/audience divide.
On his blog, James Marcus, who bills himself as a “writer, translator, critic, and editor” (he's been published in The Atlantic), called the anniversary “surely one of the most dispiriting parties I've ever attended.” Describing his time in the audience, he wrote, “For about two minutes, this scenario had a certain Pirandellian charm. That quickly evaporated.”
P.J. O'Rourke, who served as the M.C. of a discussion during part of the evening, told the guests who weren't offered any free drinks, “Us having a party up here, while you watch it from down there, is stupid.”
Meanwhile, on stage, a guest told The New York Observer, “This is the worst fucking thing I've ever seen in my life.” And Patti Smith, who performed, said, “I'm trying to ignore all of this.” (Marcus pointed out that her name was misspelled in the program.)
Finally, here's Marcus's take on the evening's finale: "[T]he publisher wrapped up with one last, marvelously tone-deaf touch. 'Let's all drink a toast to The Atlantic!' he exclaimed. The people onstage could raise their glasses, he added in a jovial footnote, while the hoi could wave their complimentary magazines in the air. I did not. There was supposed to be some golden opportunity for the audience to mingle with the Brahmins at the edge of the stage. I did not. As far as I could see, most of the audience bolted straight out of the auditorium, putting this festival of rudeness and snotty exclusivity behind them.”
Gawker posted a video of the proceedings and called the party “the social disaster of the season.” And for a completely different take, New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer bloggers wrote their report as a short play.