Most magazine editors spend their days discussing story ideas with writers and editors, reviewing copy, and deciding what pieces will appear in upcoming issues. Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter? He does that, too, but the part-time restaurateur also carves out a chunk of time every day to tend to the "daily process of populating the dining room" at Monkey Bar, a "choreography" he performs in conjunction with an associate editor at the magazine. (So, yes, while Condé Nast is currently laying off staffers, it's also pays one to manage the seating chart for Carter's little side project.) So how does Carter go about performing this pleasureless ("I'm like the guy with the sandbags") and clearly unhealthy task, one that's especially challenging since so many people want a reservation, the restaurant has been reduced to only accepting table requests by email?
A sunken area in the center of the dining room that you see when entering is known as "the pit." It is important to have "young, attractive people" at the first of two round tables in the pit, Mr. Carter said. "It gives a certain energy."
Pointing to the two tables on an elevated area to the right side of the room, he said these were for people looking for a quiet meal.
On the opposite side of the room are four nice booths. "This is fashion and literary and young," he said. That night, Cynthia McFadden of ABC news; Liz Smith, the gossip columnist; and Marjorie Gubelmann, a socialite, were in those booths.
Elevated over the pit opposite the entrance are a line of banquettes, which that night included a group of 20 or so guests of the socialite Jennifer Creel who were celebrating her debut as a designer of sunglasses sold at Bergdorf Goodman.
And behind them was the most-prime real estate, a line of booths on the back wall overlooking the whole scene. "This is young and media moguls," Mr. Carter said, pointing to the booths, "and sort of single-name people." On that night, Calvin Klein, Rupert Everett, Prince Andrew, Ron Perelman and Louise Grunwald were in those booths. When Madonna comes in, she gets a back booth.
Maybe we didn't read the article closely enough, because we failed to spot any of these "young" people that Carter keeps alluding to. Of course, it's all relative. Compared to Liz Smith, who is actually older than the landmark Hotel Elysée itself, we're all youngsters, aren't we?