PEN Literary Gala: Gore Vidal Loves Tina Brown

Last night was the annual fancy dinner and awards ceremony gala held by the PEN foundation, a literary organization that works to defend free expression and foster international literary fellowship. This event is sort of the Prom of book publishing—everyone gets dolled up and hobnobs and drinks as someone doles out awards to inspiring dissident writers from third world countries and aging literary lions. It's awesome! Since we were only invited to the drinks bit, though, we thought we'd get the inside scoop from a spy who works in publishing. A good thing, too: we would've missed a bunch of Tina Brown-licious action.

"I got there about 7:30 and the front hall of the Natural History Museum was packed. First sighting: Tina Brown talking to Steve Kroft from 60 minutes. They were in a group of 4-5 people, but I didn't recognize any of the others. I couldn't really hear what they were talking about, but when I walked by to get past them Kroft was making a joke about someone needing media training. Tina looked good—she was in older-fancy-lady chic: the pseudo men's white shirt with a stiff pulled up collar, and an ankle length slim black skirt. I saw at least two other ladies wearing a similar outfit (how embarrassing). Jhumpa Lahiri, one of PEN's VP's, was also there and looking lovely in a little black dress. Saw Lloyd Grove (I'm pretty sure it was him) towering over some lady. Fran Leibowitz walked past—she looked really bored. Tim Russert was gabbing away, looking jovial and ruddy-faced (He was the event emcee). David Remnick was also in attendance, wearing a suit, not a tux. Alex Kuczynski had a gorgeous flowy dress. It was black with red details on top, and patterned on the bottom. Her body was bangin' but her face looked cryptkeeperish. I saw her again later when I went down to the dinner. She was rearranging the place cards at her table before the other guests got there." (Bad manners!)

"Tina Brown, as one of the Gala Chairs, started off the event. She made some joke about Scooter Libby which nobody laughed at because they were too busy completely ignoring her. Seriously, people were so rude this year, like even ruder than usual. They talked throughout almost the entire thing. They stopped talking only twice. The first time was to listen to Gore Vidal, who won, from what I could gather, a Lifetime Achievement type award. He looked pretty dapper in his shiny wheelchair, and gave a rambling speech that befits his age and station. He got a laugh when he described the current administration as "leprous." He got a collective muted gasp when he said "The New Yorker was a good magazine when Tina Brown was heading it..." But then went on to say "And now (insert incredibly long pregnant pause) it's even better." It was a real Tina Brown love-fest for Gore, though. He called her "the best editor to hit this little island." And also said, "If I had the money I'd buy her a mag." (He said mag, I'm not just being a lazy typist). Kissing up, huh. Wonder what Gore's last advance was?"

"I will get this part out really quickly cause I know it'll be boring to you soulless fucks, but I was really moved by the story of the Freedom to Write award recipient, Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, who couldn't be in attendance because he was IN JAIL IN CUBA. Seriously. His crime was writing articles criticizing the Cuban government. His mom came instead, and she got a standing ovation. (Her speech was the second instance of the crowd shutting up). It was really cool that PEN was honoring this man, but it would have been even cooler if they had used the thousands of dollars they undoubtedly spent on the "gala" towards maybe getting proper legal help to this guy (or something more useful). They did raise $1 million dollars, though. Wonder if that's before or after party expenses? Also the food was gross (some really nasty cold green creamy soup that tasted minty, with what was essentially two potato chips and a little caviar to start; filet mignon, corn, and some unidentified light yellow mush underneath. It wasn't mashed potatoes. Not sure exactly what it was.) I left before dessert."