Ted: Esquire Apartment Works, and More...
It was Truman Capote, right, who blithely observed that the rich are different from you and me? They eat tiny vegetables, wear tuxedoes every night and live in enormous and expensively decorated homes. To remind us of just that, unlikely conspirators Esquire magazine and Donald Trump have joined forces on the Esquire Apartment, a designer advertiser showhouse in the penthouse (90th floor, please) of Trump World Tower.
The complicated business model for this project goes something like this: Trump, trying to move his merch (in this case, an apartment in the "tallest residential building in the world"), leases his crown jewel, presumably on the cheap, to Esquire, who then gets top interior designers like Gracie Mansion designer Jamie Drake and designer of everything David Rockwell to trick out the place. Along the way, Esquire piles as many advertisers in as humanly possible, hopefully with enhanced advertising buys. Then the space is open for six weeks and the magazine holds events/tours there for publicity, advertiser needs, etc.
So you, as a guest, sit on an Armani Casa sofa, sipping a martini procured from the Absolut bar, and staring at the Sony flat-screen (playing American Gigolo—great choice—but because it was a party you weren't allowed to turn up the sound for Blondie's "Call Me"). You get the picture. The closets are filled with Malo sweaters and Bruno Magli shoes. The kitchen is outfitted by GE Monogram, and apparently comes with the joint (the ad in the program invites you to contact Mr. Trump directly if you are interested in plunking down the $17 million...it remains to be seen if this is a deterrent for sales).
There is some great stuff. The pool room has huge cowhide rugs that Jamie Drake says you can buy for a couple of hundred bucks. There's gadgetry everywhere, including mini video monitors playing in the kitchen cabinets. The hallway features a washing station (a party first for me); the caterers got in trouble from some Trump enforcers for putting glasses on it.
It's a huge undertaking. To ask if the project "breaks even," is, I think, to miss the point. (There was a rumor that the project cost the magazine a million dollars, which Esquire denies.) For years Esquire had withered on the vine, and it is good to see a venerable and readable magazine retake its pride and position. By demonstrating real vision and leadership in a moribund economy, the project positions Esquire as the urban and urbane counterpart to GQ's closet case fashion followers. Kudos to project directors Stephen Jacoby and Mark Hartnett for pulling this off.
After a few nights wandering around my apartment and wondering why I didn't have a gaming room/fitness gallery, it was off to the annual Rita Hayworth Alzheimer's Association benefit. This year's had a Mardi Gras theme, and his and hers Rolexes were awarded to the best mask wearers (Rolex USA CEO Walter Fischer made a major multiyear commitment to the event). This seemed like a good incentive, because lots of fancy people were lined up to be judged by a panel that included Cynthia Rowley, Mario Buatta, Cindy Adams and yours truly, among others.
The benefit, chaired by Muffie Potter Aston and Hayworth's daughter, the Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, is one of those giant deals (it grossed over $1.7 million), with a completely packed house at the Waldorf, a performance by Dan Aykroyd in Blues Brothers mode, a live auction that raised $330,000 and, of course, masks. Sometimes more is more, and if your theme is Mardi Gras, it better be.
As if I hadn't had enough reminders that the rich were different from me, I attended the International Arts and Antiques Show benefiting Memorial Sloan-Kettering at the Seventh Regiment Armory.
If you haven't been to one of these before, you are missing out. You walk around all this priceless furniture and artwork trying not to spill your drink (and this year the apple martinis were really good). The show is open to the public during the day, and like the Esquire Apartment, has a roster of events for almost every evening. While the formula pretty much stays the same (although this year they had Eleni's Cookies on hand, thanks to co-chair Jamee Gregory), it is the smoothness and professionalism that stands out. It's actually quite complex—there are different call times for different level tickets, and because of the merchandise, they have to keep the crowds flowing. But it always seems to work.
Wealth was also on display during the benefit auction for Compassion in Dying at Studio 450. I support and believe in doctor-assisted suicide, but I wasn't so sure how the cause would go over at a party. But the event was elevated by major artwork donated by Ross Bleckner, Jenny Holzer, Ellsworth Kelly, Christo, Roy Lichtenstein (his wife, Dorothy, was a chair along with Florent Morellet of Florent restaurant). The top floor atrium was a gallery, and it reminded me of what a truly unique event site this location is.
On paper, Studio 450 is A.W.—all wrong. At 450 West 31st street, it is beyond Hell's Kitchen. It has only one guest elevator, so you need to use the service elevator (I, for one, love a service elevator) and the space itself is an odd-shaped two-story collection of rooms. But it has 360-degree views, a water tower, a glass rooftop atrium, a smoking deck (there are still people who smoke, F.Y.I.) and spanking-clean epoxy floors all around.
Once you are practically in the river, you might as well stay there, so on the same night I went to the launch of Virgin's new line of MP3 players at Powder, which is also on the West Side. Catered by Tinker Boe of Mood Food, the party had been carrying on for quite awhile when I got there. But V.I.P.'s were still flowing through, and the waiters were still passing (Charlie Rose came in after me, and it is always a relief when you're late if someone important comes after you—the party will keep going). To me it is a sign of professionalism when the kitchen and bar have been hit hard and they are still functioning. I got a nice hot lamb on polenta cake, followed by a not-too-coconutty shrimp, both served from underlit trays. One need not be rich to eat well—only know which events have the best caterers.
Columnist Ted Kruckel is an experienced and opinionated former event and PR pro who ran events for 20 years for high-profile clients like Vanity Fair, Elle Decor, Christian Dior and Carolina Herrera. He shuttered his firm, Ted Inc., earlier this year.
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