The author needed to meet some very important person from the world of publishing, and his tightly-wound editor let him know it by waving frantically and then physically dragging him over to the corner of the bar. Dana Vachon had been born wealthy and healthy and handsome and he was right to view himself as entirely blessed, especially considering that his first novel, Mergers & Acquisitions had already gone to a second printing that very day. No one wore costumes on the night of his book party at Felix, that Eurotrash magnet on West Broadway, but there was no need for costumes to have a masque ball. Everyone knew their role and played it.
The mixture of financial types, publishing people, drink-cadging bloggers, and assorted hangers-on made for the kind of spectacle that, could they ever have conceived of it, would have made the Pilgrims decide that any kind of torture and oppression was better to endure than sailing to an unknown continent to lay the groundwork for a country that would, on some chilly evening in the early spring of one of the nation's most prosperous decades, put forth a party like this one. You hated loving hating to love being there, and you struggled to conceal yourself, and before you knew it you were being introduced to Jay McInerney and telling him that, yes, you were the one who called him "Douchebag, Jay Douchebag" on your silly little website, an admission he took with the calm demeanor of someone used to having complete strangers let him know that they had referred to him as a douchebag each time he made a new acquaintance. Which is to say he smiled, nodded, and then told a story about himself that, while amusing, did nothing to disprove the earlier judgment. Still, he was perfectly friendly, and was soon posing for pictures with young Vachon, who was outfitted in the standard blazer and underbuttoned shirt that seem to mark so many young men who have come into a great fortune via inheritance, the financial markets, or gigantic book deals. This was his room, this was his time, and everyone around him moved about with the constant awareness that they were in the presence of the season's Next Big Thing. He outshone the combined wattage of the thousand Next Little Things who scurried about the packed event trying to grab the oversized appetizers that were being passed around by harried buspeople.
Looking around you were overwhelmed by the stunning mediocrity of most of it. Did you see Nick Denton in the back, standing close—but not too close—to his former employee (and Mergers dedicatee) Elizabeth Spiers? Was that Radar resurrectionist Maer Roshan leaning back and carrying low in a conversation with a reporter from WWD? Who would win the battle of drunken WASP stereotypes with the surname Morgan, Hudson or Spencer? Could the News' Ben Widdicombe get in enough free wines before Cocktail's Jo Piazza finished the last bottle? Why weren't we informed that no one wears ties anymore? It's a sad day when publishing types are dressed better than the finance types, but it's even sadder when the bloggers are sporting neckwear.
There was a stunned moment of shocked ecstasy when, by the wall where Roshan deputy Chris Tennant was disgruntledly flirting, a full set of breasts came into view, their sparkly flesh somehow offering to extend and make good the promise of sex. Then, just as quickly you realized it was Julia Allison, and tried to think of puppies and babies, anything good and pure. It shouldn't have been a surprise to see her—she's everywhere, like ejaculate on a porn booth floor—but it seemed like as good a time as any to surf the crowd and find someone willing to offer a quote. I passed by Radar whatever Neel Shah, but I didn't need any advice on dating or taxicab etiquette or blogging for Glamour, so I moved on. Spotting literary agent David Kuhn, I introduced myself and told him I worked for Gawker, which was probably not a good idea.
"So David," I asked, "how do you feel about being Out magazine's fiftieth most powerful gay?"
"Is this for print?"
"Then just say I'm happy I wasn't the fifty-first." He then went on to say something extremely funny and extremely off the record about Out's Aaron Hicklin and, perhaps realizing that the last thing you want to do around an inebriated gossip blogger is start being candid, asked "Hey, do you want to meet the real Roger Thorne?"
Thorne is the "id" character of Mergers, an entitled, foul-mouthed, nip-slip-obsessed caricature of every Ivy League WASP who has done well in life due to family connections rather than any semblance of intelligence. How could I not want to meet the model? Kuhn, desperate to get rid of me lest he say something catty about Tina Brown, was happy to make the introductions and disappear.
"Dude, I love Gawker!" said the Thorne inspiration.
"Dude, I loved your character! How does it feel to be the model for Roger Thorne?"
"Dude, it's awesome! I mean, some of that stuff was exaggerated, but you know—" He suddenly grew wistful and displayed the kind of reticence with which the banker in the book was entirely unfamiliar. "I'd prefer that this isn't on Gawker. You know, I just want to have a good time."
I was started to feel that second stage of inebriation, the one where you know you have a good hour, if that, of comprehensibility left, so I nodded and shook his firm American hand and went out into the cool air to clear my head and fill my lungs with smoke. My head hurt from overindulgence in the drinks department and underindulgence on the solid side—we expect too much of alcohol and too little of hors d'
uvre—but as I worked my way toward the door I swore I saw the only two women who work for Radar.
Outside was no better than in, except you could smoke and you were less likely to run into Nick Denton, who will pick random moments at parties to discuss the unnecessary technical changes he's forcing on your website and mutter ominously about post counts and generally just scare the shit out of you that you're going to be fired within the week. Managing Editor Choire Sicha was smoking—Managing Editor Choire Sicha is always smoking—and discussing the merits of Remnick v. Brown with Roshan, a longtime Brown partisan. Somewhere in the background I could hear the Canadian-accented tones of the Huffington Post's Rachel Sklar and her posse of Eat the Pressers. Balthazar habitu
Lockhart Steele was chatting with New York Sun contributor Meghan Keane. Dealbreaker's John Carney hobbled about on one crutch. It occurred to me that these were the same fucking people I saw at work or in bars every day. I checked in with the people from Riverhead, who lamented the absence of Emily Gould since it left them unable to thank her for keeping the book so prominent in the cultural conversation.
Vachon approached once more. He was in excellent spirits, effusive with praise, modest in his own success, proud to point out the fine family members who had come to town for the celebration. Vachon told me how much my support for the novel meant to him, how my assessment of its flaws mirrored his own. He told me all this and my hand grew tighter around my drink. I stared at Dana blankly as I realized that having to write this report as an inconsistent dispatch in the style of his novel was going to be painful and time-consuming for me and anyone who had to read it. Then I felt warm liquid on my hand and looked at my tie and first noticed the thin trail of dark red that trickled down my jacket. I was spilling wine on myself and it became clear to everyone how drunk I was. It wasn't until I put the glass down and saw how the wine had pooled on my jeans and dripped down to my shoes, and how it came now more quickly, through my fingers, that, in the space of a final epiphany, I finally understood it all. I really need to switch to white; it stains less.