2009's National Book Awards went down last night. In delightful twists of irony, they were a) sponsored by Google, b) held on Wall Street, and c) James Franco was there. So were Party Crash Photog Mo Pitz and I. BOOKS!
"Look up, see that?" An editor at Reagan Arthur drunkenly smiled during the boozy, Bat Mitzvah-y after party held on the balcony overlooking the ballroom of the Cipriani Wall Street, and woozily pointed up to a perch some 25-feet above the dance floor. "See where the DJ is?" We stared above us. "Next year, it's not going to be a DJ. It's gonna be a Kindle." Brilliantly wasted drunkspeak that it was, she had a point. And she couldn't have been the only one thinking it.
Just like film, TV, and music, everything's going digital, and some of the people in that room might be scared shitless that their product's going the way of the buffalo. Hence, the hysterical irony of Google sponsoring the party. The guys hoarding — and then giving away for free — the beautiful words that should cost money to buy, those fucking guys who call it "content" and are mainlining it into concentration camps of data, those were the guys holding the party.
Every year, media industries have their traditional back-patting ceremonies where they heap upon their products awards saluting their best and brightest. Cynics see it as a way to drive sales to products that need it (see: The Oscars, The Tonys, etc). The pompous, starfucky nonsense put in plain view at awards for film, TV, and music doesn't stick, here, and it shouldn't since basically everyone in the room more or less knows each other. The dance floor's raging and you get the feeling that people are genuinely humbled by winning. Truly, it's nice. And the general consensus was that it was a fun, fun party. That always helps.
Mo and I showed up to Cipriani's Wall Street ballroom around our invite's stated start time of 10pm, along with all the rest of the media folk there to get fucked up on the cheap. We were turned away immediately: The ceremony's running long, it'll be another half an hour 'til the after-party. We stood outside with a bunch of publishing assistants while I decided whether to put on my tie, which was rolled up in my pocket. "There're people in tuxes in there, goddamnit" Mo warned me. The invite said "festive attire." I decided to put my tie on. "You look like a Young Republican," Mo warned me.
The reason for the delay? The explanation I got was that Gore Vidal gave a "sad, rambling, 20-minute speech." His opening salvo: "'Most Presidents fear assassination. It is my impression I shall vanish from your view because I have been fired,' said Roosevelt." It's bad enough that your industry's fighting for its life. Letting your keynote speaker deliver an unintentionally sad requiem couldn't have been the best move.
We were let in to bum-rush the party just as host Andy Borowitz introduced the final award: the prize for the year's Best Fiction Book. I'd been having a cigarette with a guy who'd introduced himself as a member of James Franco's Columbia MFA class before we walked in. "$20 on McCann," I thought to myself, except, I said it out loud. Whoops. Sure enough, Colum McCann's book Let the Great World Spin, won. Someone knocked over a chair standing up applauding for him. Franco's classmate laughed at me. "What?" I looked at him. "It's the only book anybody's heard of." How could McCann's book not have won?
But maybe that's why my woozy, wobbly-footed editor friend was smiling when she stared up at the DJ and made her draconian prediction of a Kindle telling us how to dance instead of the Jersey DJ bumping Top 40 hits all night. Because there's still some esprit de corps amongst book authors, because they still care, because there's still a reason to get crunk. Books might be fucked, but at least they're worth saving. It's not all bad.
Mo and I got drunk and took pictures. We also got people to sign a magical book for charity, which you'll learn about later. In the mean time: here's who we saw. All of these people are drunk.
This fucking guy. James Franco was surrounded by a gaggle of women all night, and yes, he was awake. He was kind enough when we approached him, he even helped us with out secret project for the evening. But as I turned the corner, he started asking questions of Mo: Who was that? Who're you from? Mo sheepishly told him. And Franco, who Mo has swooned over since Freaks and Geeks, told her to fuckoff. Mo was sad, James Franco.
Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National, will not fuck you over. At least this month. He's Mr. November. And he was also totally shocked when I recognized him. So was I! But also: elated! Someone whose shit I knew comprehensively! Him and his wife Carin Besser, who—the more you know!—among other places has written for the New Yorker, were ridiculously nice. And showed up right before the party started, probably for the booze. But seriously: The National! This picture is awesome.
2009 National Book Award Fiction winner Colum McCann was all smiles. He took the subway to the ceremony. He can now pay for his cab ride back home with the giant piece of gelt around his neck.
And Then We Came To The Bar. Gawker Status Galley author Joshua Ferris was a very nice person. This is how Scott Rudin taught him how to hold champers: two at a time, while you crush the competition into the next dimension with your other hand.
Dave Eggers not only didn't want to pose for a picture, but he didn't want to contribute to the Gawker Charity Book Project! Asshole! [Actually, he was nice about saying no. But still: Asshole!] Probably because it wasn't for his own set of nonprofit kids' reading centers, 826. Gotta admire him for sticking to his guns, though. The man knows a dollah holla, amirite? BUT!
Heh, we did get little brother Toph "I May Have Had Sex With Julia Allison" Eggers, too. Note the flames in the background indicating the convergence of supernatural forces as Toph Eggers signs a piece of Gawker Media, LLC property. Did we tell him where we were from? No. Did we tell him Dave signed the book? Maybe. But is it for a good cause? Hell yeah! (For the record, Jeff Bercovici signed it as Dave). You've got to be kidding me. I've been informed via email that this isn't Dave Eggers' brother. I'm now going to find whoever told me it was and punch them in the face. For the children. Apparently, it's this guy, Alec Friedman. #GonnaGoCryNow.
Left to right: Jonathan Lethem's assistant Fred, who's first name I finally remembered but who's last name I still can't! Center is R.K. Ghansah, and to her right: James Franco's aforementioned MFA classmate, the very affable Mr. Mike Spies. Names! We didn't get 'em. Party reporting is hard work, people, especially when there's drink to be drank. But let me assure you all of these people are very nice despite how badly I totally screwed the pooch on IDing them.
Sloane Crosley was told there would be booze. Instead she got New York's Boris Kachka. Eh? [*Makes scales with hands*.]
The Seymour Hersh of the Styles Section, Allen Salkin, with rum scion Jeffrey Zarnow. Salkin made me promise I wouldn't talk any shit and that we'd have an armistice for this one night, so long as he did me a solid. And he did! Stickin' to my word here, Allen. Allen was very nice and didn't punch me in the face and he was not celebrating any made-up bullshit holidays that evening.
Former Gawker Intern turned Page Six reporter Neel Shah with Vice's executive editor (or however they title their employees over there: "King Kong BigDick of Editorial," etc) Chris Cechin. Where are the drugs, Chris? I asked him. He didn't know. I believed him.
Founding Gawker editor Elizabeth Spiers, with friend.
Neel Shah, New York Magazine's Magical Princess of Online Domination, former Gawker editor Jessica Coen, the pixilated Alex Balk, and former BlackBook EIC and Maxim editor Steve Garbarino. Balk told me he'd "rape (my) kittens" or something if I didn't obstruct his face. I believed him.
College Humor's Ricky Van Veen thinks you should look at some funny shit going down....
....which was New York magazine busybody Chris Wilson and former BlackBook/Maxim editor Steve Garbarino getting kicked out by Cipriani security for smoking inside. Whoops! I was later informed: This is how Chris finds out that the sun is down. By the way, this is my new favorite Party Exit Strategy: just light up in the middle of the room until you're forced to leave, and be like, What? I though that shit was cool here? Y'all are lame. Peace. Brilliant!
Daily Finance media reporter Jeff Bercovici lends his signature to a very special book, with Jamie Peck, who recently wrote about this crazyass fairy convention for VICE. Jamie also writes for the New York Press, The L, Suicidegirls, and a bunch of other badass indie fuck you and The Pope rock places like those. Her writing resume is basically like, if you're a dude and you live in New York and you have a blogger fetish—which is kind of really fucked up, like, really—than Jamie Peck is definitely your "Dream Weaver Moment" girl. And I also feel like an asshole for forgetting her name. But hey, look, Jeff Bercovici, who writes about the media, is signing a book.
Bonnie Jo Campbell, who was nominated with Colum McCann for the Fiction Prize for her book American Salvage, didn't win. But seriously, no joke: does that not look like someone who's legitimately happy to be there?
Gawker Editor-in-Chief Gabriel Snyder, in the default. "You clean up well!" He exclaimed. Jesus, man, thanks for the supreme vote of confidence. These people who manage writers, they think we have an existential crisis every time we try to put pants in the morning. It's unreal. WE KNOW HOW TO PUT ON PANTS.
Blogger/columnist extraordinaire, Katie Bakes, with the New York Observer's Status Galley Gangsta Leon Neyfakh.
The Mark of the Beast isn't 666. It's this guy's signature. He might not be drunk.
James Franco, you dick. You made Mo sad. She's not even part-time. Asswizzard! Mo was going to cry, but not because she was drunk, even though she was.
I try on the future of literature: Facebook! UGHHH. Seriously people, if you let books die out, you'll have to live with the proliferation of writing at this level.