The significance of holding last night's party to celebrate the New York Observer and its new website at the Four Seasons restaurant was intentional, obvious, and not at all lost on anyone. Despite its recent Frank Bruni demotion to two New York Times stars, the restaurant remains the symbolic and probably actual center of New York old-guard media power. After so many years of playing gadfly to the media, politics, and real estate elite of this city, the Observer and its boy-owner and his advisers chose to make a very specific sort of statement.
Inside the restaurant, Tom Wolfe had his photo taken with Julia Allison. (That bears repeating: Tom Wolfe had his photo taken with Julia Allison.) Kurt Andersen made a little chit-chat before begging off to the Larry King appreciation party in the next room. (They had better snacks, by far. Also CNN partygoers received a Coach-imitation leather tote with a CNN tag, and a DVD of King's reputedly best work. You could sneak in through the kitchen.) The two parties side-by-side may have been a slight disaster on the part of Steven Rubenstein and his PR folks, but it came off fine, actually. (It was a question of wattage; did we see Hillary Clinton presswoman Jennifer Hanley outside, meaning that Hillary Clinton was inside the CNN party?)
Uniformed waiters were aggressive with the hors d'oeuvres, most of which featured caviar in some form, but the knot of yarmulked men gathered by the bar ignored them. (The duck, the shrimp, the crabcakes!) Also not eating, or drinking, was Jared's rehabilitated felon father, Charles Kushner, who mostly spoke in low tones to men at the end of the bar. Ever-gracious Jared entertained a seemingly endless stream of well-wishers and posed for photographs. The real estate broker-developer Michael Shvo said he'd call him about having lunch. Jared recently purchased the most expensive office building in America.
So how were things at the paper? "We're having a lot of fun," Jared said. Was he dating Ivanka Trump? "We're just friends. But thanks for asking." So that partnership was all business too.
Ms. Trump was in a very nice short black dress, looking tall and blonde; she talked for what seemed like eons with Jared's assistant Kimberly. Steven Rubenstein, who represents the Observer and the Kushner family, made sure everyone was having a good time and that the photographers were getting all the right people; he
talked with did not talk with New York Times reporter Allen Salkin, who wrote such nice things about Jared in the Sunday Styles section.
Cindy Adams talked to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, notebook in hand, hair at attention. Salon editor Joan Walsh, in a pantsuit, stayed close to Salon writer and former NYO staffer Rebecca Traister. Harry Evans was there with his wife, former lots-of-places editor Tina Brown, who spent a lot of time deep in very close conversation with W/WWD boy Jacob Bernstein.
"I love this tabloid!" Mr. Evans said, Britishly. "I seized it with great joy before a long bus ride, and I loved every word!" He is somewhat reminiscent of a brilliant leprechaun. "Joe Conason on politics! John Heilpern! The Obama piece! I thought it was terrific! The tabloid format is far better." Mr. Evans said that the bus had taken him to Southampton.
Ms. Brown has recently finished her book about Princess Diana. "It's like a plum pudding—there are great nuggets everywhere!" she said. "It's as much about celebrity culture as it is about Diana herself." And how did Ms. Brown feel about the Stephen Frears film The Queen? "I loved The Queen," Ms. Brown said. "It was very accurate! Except for the portrayal of Robin Janvrin, the Queen's private secretary. He looks like Kenneth Branagh in real life."
Ms. Brown said that the book had taken her a year and a half; for it, she conducted 250 interviews. "I feel like a giant whale has been lifted from my head."
Maer Roshan, who worked for Ms. Brown at her short-lived magazine Talk, was there with a bundle of his Radar-ites, including his lieutenant Chris Tennant, who was holding court with several ladies in a booth. He was wearing jeans that appeared to have been painted on. That tall woman with the jet-black hair, talking with the older man? So tall! Atoosa Rubenstein! Lots of flashbulbs.
Observer reporters seemed vaguely uncomfortable at such an extravagant gathering ("It's the Observer with money," more than one was overheard whispering), and they swiped multiple Bellinis as they came around on silver trays. Transom reporter Spencer Morgan however did not look uncomfortable.
Jessica Joffe wore eyeglasses. Slate editor Jacob Weisberg and Domino editor Deborah Needleman arrived with New York's Ariel Levy. Jacob is going on a three-month book leave soon. Andrew Balazs, Columbia J-school graduate, was there solo. Lloyd Grove was not in attendance, but Ben Widdicombe, Hud Morgan, and Daily News gossip boy Patrick Huguenin were.
We were promised there'd be no speeches but there was a microphone and so Jared took it and said that 20 years ago, when the New York Observer was founded, he was starting a venture called... kindergarten. His voice still has a little hint of his Livingston, New Jersey upbringing. The new website, he said, was to launch on Monday, but as a preview, they had a page up on the screen. (The Four Seasons, it turns out, does not have Internet access.) Jared said he was very fortunate to work with Peter Kaplan, the editor of the newspaper, a sentiment that was greeted with cheers from the crowd. "We get to go to the 21st century with a new newspaper," said Kaplan. He then referred to the paper's former owner and publisher, Arthur Carter, as "my buddy and weekly tormenter."
Of the paper, he said: "The paper is younger, thinner, and better looking, like Jared."
We talked to Peter Kaplan in person. "For anyone under 30, the New York Times is a queen-sized sheet!" he said. "Going smaller was the best thing we could have done. We're still smart. We still have an edge." He said something about possibly becoming the smartest tabloid in America. "It was time to make a change. I love it. It's great!"
Jacob Bernstein left in Peggy Siegal's car. The New Yorker's Nick Paumgarten may have left with William Berlind for stiffer drinks. Patrick McMullan's photographers would prove unable to identify Alex Kuczynski. Ivanka Trump left alone, and on foot, heading east on 52nd Street.