When Tina Brown used to be faaaaaahbulous, she had legendary party planner Robert Isabell plan her parties for her unsuccessful magazine(s). Isabell died earlier this week, but that didn't stop Brown from eulogizing...the ragers he threw for her.
This is kind of classic Old School Media: getting sentimental with What Used To Be, in pre-9/11 New York, and bombastic titling in a story about someone who'd perfected an obscure, fleeting for-the-rich-by-the-rich "art." All that being said, it's a pretty great piece about, well, What Used To Be. Just imagine: you, getting shitfaced with George Plimpton in the head of the Statue of Liberty, pretending to be in Ghostbusters II. Meet "Farewell to the King of Parties," by Tina Brown. Highlights:
- The opening salvo, regarding the Talk magazine launch, which she does not take lightly! "The last party he pulled off for me was the Talk magazine launch event, co-hosted with the magazine's co-owner Harvey Weinstein, on Liberty Island in 1999, an extravaganza I have come to see as the last social celebration of the pre-9/11 celebrity decade."
- Then, her guest-list, which she trots out while trying to remain as calm and humble as possible. Okay, or, not: "Guests, who included Madonna, George Plimpton, Demi Moore, Tom Brokaw, Kate Moss, Christopher Buckley, Helen Mirren, and Jerry Seinfeld, disgorged one after another from the Liberty Island ferry that Buckley immediately re-christened the "Star Barge." Like an A-list Noah's Ark, it motored slowly toward the tiny island where the Talk staff waited to greet the 800 guests in a warm August dusk." Emphasis mine, because that's exactly what I think when I hear about Christopher Buckley and Kate Moss on a boat: God told Tina to capture all the creatures of the land and save the ones worth saving, or something.
- Brown's semi-aplogetic, but slightly seething dismissal of the scale of the party in the face of the magazine's massive failure: "When the magazine folded two years later in a howl of schadenfreude, that party was considered one of the calumnies of hype I would never live down. (As the movie producer David Brown once said, "Never give an opening night party that's better than the movie.")"
- The previously mentioned George Plimpton throwdown: "A soft shower of purple rain over the Hudson River signified the start of the fireworks display narrated by one of the guests, George Plimpton. "This one is for you, Salman," George boomed over the intercom. "It's banned in Iran."" Comment needed? No.
And that's just the first page. Seriously. There's Salman Rushdie's apparent first meeting with Padma Lakshmi in there, too. And the rest of the article goes on to actually eulogize Isabell The Person, but not before you forget who you've been rhyming with this entire time. First, this priceless picture, included in a gallery with the article:
It's of Brown, Interview editor and Andy Warhol-ite Bob Colacello, Studio 54's Ian Schrager, and the founder of Phoenix House, Dr. Mitch Rosenthall. At one of Isabell's parties. Facinating, but: no Isabell to be found. Then this, the last shot fired:
There was a clear, full moon, and my husband and I stood leaning out over the rail facing the wash at the bow of the boat, along with a last group of stragglers who included Helen Mirren, the New Yorker writer Hendrick Hertzberg, and the movie stars Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson. As the boat sped back toward the lights of Manhattan, a large cold wave washed over the side and soaked us all.
The next decade turned out to be a colder wave than any of us imagined. Two years after that glorious party, the Twin Towers came down, Talk magazine folded, Padma and Salman recently got divorced. The economy collapsed. I last saw the beautiful Natasha Richardson in March lying like a medieval effigy in the open casket at her wake. And Robert himself has left the party forever. Our revels now are ended!
Revels, indeed. Did Natasha Richardson really have to be brought into this? Oh well. Yeah, The Party Planner may have died, and he may have taken The Party with him, but I think, as far as parties go, we're all better off.
All Tina's eulogy/wake-a-sleeping-dog dissection into history does is serve to remind many of the publications and people who used these extravagances of their asinine spending habits of yore that preceded the poor, shitshow shape they're in now (like Vanity Fair, which had to fire so much of it's support staff, or Talk, which is, again, long dead, but was a trendsetter as far as the "magazine launches signify magazine deaths" trend). Or of their jobs, which they used to have.
Is there any question as to why that aforementioned schadenfreude ever existed, though? These parties, though probably fun, cost ridiculous amounts of money, and were only accessible to a microscopic percentage of New York, let alone the rest of America. Much like the things they were meant to celebrate. And, naturally, much like this blog post about them.