Doree and Nikola headed to the Puck Building last night for a Paris Review fundraiser. Their account, and photos, follow.
There are certain ways that one announces one's place in the social pecking order. Dalton or Spence. Summers in Nantucket, winters in Palm Beach. Really all out is the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For those truly interested in becoming a part of the literary establishment, there is the Paris Review and its annual gala. Most parties for the quarterly literary journal take place at its offices in Tribeca and are generally attended by the expected assortment of nattily attired lower-level publishing types and a couple of famous writers enticed by the free drinks or the comely assistants who drink too many of them. But the Revel, as the annual benefit is called, is an entirely different animal. Tickets started at $500 and one was welcome to purchase a table for $50,000, which is the annual salary of two assistants.
At the Puck Building last night, then, the crowd was comprised of a rather jaw-dropping list of names—the writers and their patrons both—as well as the anonymous rich, the women identifiable only by their Chanel suits and the men by their horn-rimmed glasses. One tended to overhear conversations that began: "When [so-and-so] was on the board of the New York Public Library..."
At a table in the corner, Mayor Michael Bloomberg chatted with Norman Mailer. Salman Rushdie put on a brave, Padma Lakshmi-less face. Paris Review editor and New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch mingled, as did his wife, New Yorker writer Larissa MacFarquhar. A frail-looking Joan Didion was surrounded protectively by a shifting coterie of women, as if she might break in two or melt away. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld looked none the worse for wear after his embarrassing aborted attempt at running for the governorship of New York. A jeans-clad Dana Vachon spoke to men twice, perhaps three times, his age, presumably about the follies and foibles of The Street. Nathaniel Rich (son of Frank, brother of Simon) is an editor at the magazine, which has a very small masthead. "You've met practically one-third of us," he remarked, in conversation with this reporter and one of the Review's interns. Another reporter was covering the party for the Harvard alumni magazine 02138, on account of so many of the magazine's editors and affiliates having gone to that institution. The Review's late, great founder, George Plimpton, was of course a Harvard man himself, though one can only assume that he, like so many of his fellow Crimson, modestly told people he went to school "in Boston."
Midway through the cocktail hour, Mr. Gourevitch (Cornell, 1986) took the podium to try to quiet down the crowd so the Mayor could say a few words about Norman Mailer, the evening's honoree. "We have a lot in common," the Mayor said, referring to himself and Mr. Mailer. "We're both from middle-class Jewish families. We both attended Harvard—he went to the College, I went to the Business School—and we're both distinsguished authors." Laughter. "And we've both run mayoral campaigns." The Mayor said that Mr. Mailer had had two buttons when he campaigned. One said "I would sleep better if Norman Mailer were mayor." The other said "No more bullshit." Then the Mayor said he had used his senior citizens' Metrocard to get to the affair, and as such, it had only cost him $1. "I suggest that everyone become a senior citizen," he remarked. Much of the crowd, it appeared, already had. A long line of Town Cars idled outside however.
We were not invited to stay for dinner, so on our way out we peeked into one of the gift bags arrayed neatly on a table by the entrance. In a Paris Review tote bag were the Spring issue of the magazine (perhaps partygoers had not yet gotten around to reading it?); a copy one of Mr. Mailer's novels, Harlot's Ghost, which is about the CIA; a Paris Review T-shirt (American Apparel, size large); and various other promotional items (a nip of whiskey, a calendar, etc.). The tote would be perfect to bring along to Nantucket this summer.