Wake Up, You Babies! It’s Autumn in 21st-Century N.Y.!

We wanna grow up!

Bid a thankful goodbye to one of the most regressive summers in recent memory, during which fully grown fellows in their 40′s zipped themselves into high-water pants, hopped onto scooters and babbled senselessly into their walkie-talkie cell phones as they sailed like ninnies up Madison Avenue, counting their Monopoly money. Meanwhile, grown-up female New Yorkers were donning girlish togs and shiny toe rings, settling themselves onto kindergarten yoga mats and sucking water from the nipples of plastic squeeze bottles. And when we weren’t being babies, we were cranking them out.

We read Harry Potter , or we read about people reading Harry Potter , and watched a bunch of castaways vote each other out of the cool clique, just like in high school. We dodged shiny cow sculptures– cows ?–and listened to interchangeable midriff-baring teenagers burble love anthems. Men traded their firm briefcases for soft, Velcro-fastened bags. We ate baby-food-like purées, we drank smoothies. We spent sickly hours on eBay as the summer monsoons raged outside. And we didn’t even complain when we were sprayed with toxic bug spray. Condé Nast editors gorged themselves on Rice Krispies treats in their spiffy new cafeteria, and all the new movies seemed to be about cheerleaders. Marauding boy-men pawed women in Central Park, and our mean old Mayor turned vulnerable and fell in love.

Does New York need a good rap on the knuckles? Fall this year has a brisk, wholesome, no-nonsense, almost Midwestern feel to it. The most famous Senate candidate New York has ever had is from Illinois! And her opponent is like nothing so much as a peppy Golden Retriever. The thong backlash is in full swing; Inside.com is still outside; Ducasse simply isn’t working; people are opening nice little neighborhood restaurants. Blondes are back, but they are more corn-fed–think Gwyneth, Karenna and Sarah Jessica–than smoldering. The director of sweet-as-pie Jerry Maguire, the first chick flick that was also a guy flick, has a new movie coming out. NBC will see if New Yorkers will accept goofball Kramer from Seinfeld starring in The Michael Richards Show, without Jerry and George’s dark riffs. The Olympics are in angst-free Australia–pass the Vegemite, mate! Al and Joe and Tipper and Hadassah will bring their New Integrity tour to town, to be serenaded at Radio City by Bette Midler. Fashion week is full of a bunch of designers no one has ever heard of, and the big hemline question is about pants, not skirts. There are more cute dog events than we can count. Sure, the curtain is coming down on the schmaltz epic Cats , but we’re singing along to The Sound of Musi c.

Everybody’s happy now. But is that why we live here?

6) So that was summer? Can we get our money back? But hey, crack open a box of antibacterial towelettes , wipe off that summer grime and tell your shrink that you hope he had a nice August … Tonight, life is LaBute-iful, at the premiere of Nurse Betty , a wholesome romp from naughty director Neil LaBute ( Your Friends & Neighbors ), starring Renée Zellweger (currently sucking down milkshakes to pork up for her miscasting in Bridget Jones’s Diary ). If that ain’t wholesome enough, Colin Powell speaks at Redbook’ s Mothers & Shakers Awards, honoring mommy-activist sex objects such as Susan Sarandon (but no Karenna Gore as of this writing).

7) Where’s my wimple? Meet the man of your dreams, fellas: Tonight is the debut of Sing-a-Long Sound of Music , the latest in loony British fads ( Survivor, Burberry bikinis, Harry Potter, Sykes sisters). Suit up with Katie Couric and some shipped-in sheep ( Baaaa !) … And speaking of loony , MTV is still trying to cart expatriate Madonna in from London to gyrate at the MTV Video Awards tonight . Moving rapidly down the C-list of celebrities, Jane editor Jane Pratt is hosting an after-party in the meat-packing district … If you’re a “serious journalist,” good old Elaine’s, which really stretched its cred last night hosting a party for Yahoo Internet Life , is having a real book party tonight for Michael Stone’s Gangbusters .

8) Where’th Gwyneth? Spoiled Spence girls stretch and yawn , unfurl their bony bodies from Pilates positions, zip them into gray jumpers and go back to school today. ( Brearley women , who always have to be first in everything, went back on Wednesday; Collegiate boys –the city’s cutest–returned yesterday with the Daltonistas, Chapiners, and public-schoolers .) As for famouthest Spence alum Ms. Paltrow, well, you asked , so we think she has a couple of movies coming out soon: directed by her father in Duets , seems to be a karaoke flick, on the 15th, and the weepie Bounce , with semi boyfriend, the surly Ben Affleck , soon after–and hey, by the way, is anyone else starting to feel that Karenna Gore is now the Gwyneth Paltrow of politics? Golden-haired, ditzy, faux-nice, incredibly rich girl that New York women love to hate?

9) Hamptons stragglers roll their sport utility vehicles into Ted Field’s Goose Creek estate in Wainscott one more time , taking care not to run over the “hired ladies,” for a screening of Almost Famous , Cameron Crowe’s first movie since Jerry Maguire , which made us sob and our Precious gulp, and boy, this one looks great too: It’s about a 15-year-old on assignment for Rolling Stone ; the fabulous Frances McDormand plays the kid’s mother. Hey, he had us at hello! If you’re in Manhattan, things are a bit bleaker: Tonight is (supposedly) the last performance of Cats . Send the relatives!

10) Bouley- vous coucher avec moi ce soir ? If you’re one of those “food” types –you know, spent all summer driving to paella demonstrations in the Hudson Valley, obsessed with The New York Times ‘ Amanda Hesser , fantasize about becoming an artisanal goat-cheese maker–don a shawl for the Greenmarket’s Heirloom Vegetable Ball , where 400 bucks gets you dinner by Danube’s David Bouley (make sure you clean your work space, Mr. Bouley!), March’s Wayne Nish, Union Square Cafe’s Michael Romano –and it benefits regional farms! Meanwhile, in the Hamptons– What? You’re still there? Don’t you know when to give up ?– the Maidstone Arms holds its annual end-of-summer Texas barbecue: beer-can chicken and beef brisket. Bring horse-faced Gisele “Mmmm-Meat, I Love Meat” Bundchen and her little dog Vida, too.

11) Flaxen action? It will soon dawn on you that blond people are basically making some kind of frantic, collective bid for attention this month –Gore girls just the tip of the iceberg, here–and as if the Upper East Side didn’t have enough women tittering and flipping around their peroxided locks , tonight there’s a cocktail party at Orsay to launch the vaguely fascist-sounding Vogue Book of Blondes. Elsewhere, towhead Tina Brown, still bravely at the helm of the lurching Talk, throws a party for Ralph Fiennes and honorary blond Whit Stillman reads from his novelization of The Last Days of Disco to fawning members of the Harvard Club …

12) Hillary wants you to stay in bed and snooze all day , so you don’t realize she actually faces a Democratic primary today against Manhattan doctor Mark McMahon … More fur flies as two animal charities go paw-to-paw in a blur of socialites and small dogs. On Lexington Avenue, there’s a pooch fashion show benefiting Bide-a-Wee. Meanwhile, over on Madison Avenue, Links of London throws a party for the Animal Medical Center, where Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer, Matt Lauer–recently self-confessed “boob man”–and Christy Turlington will stand around and sniff. Umm, people, these dog events were cute at first, but it’s got to stop … If you’re one of those old-school socialites, bust out your beaded jacket for opening night at the New York City Opera .

13) You remember Sofia Coppola, one-time actress , director of ethereal-blond tribute The Virgin Suicides , and tonight she’ll probably uncork for a party for the sparkling, very blond wine Sofia Blanc de Blancs , which her dad, Francis Ford Coppola, named for her. “Francis is not a huge champagne drinker,” said winery rep Kathleen Talbert. “He always feels like it’s a little too carbonated”– burp –”so this has a lighter sparkle to it, and it’s lower in alcohol as well. Francis is a big family guy, and he wanted to name something beautiful and sparkling for the daughter he adores.” What’s he going to concoct for his son-in-law, Spike (Jonze)?

14) Do the Hadassah hustle! Tonight at Radio City Music Hall, it’s the Oscars, the Grammys and the Democratic National Convention all rolled up into one sticky bash , as two chubby fellas– Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein and Rolling Stone ‘s Jann Wenner , neither one of whom has ever done jail time–mint some green for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. Al’s pals include Ben Affleck, Michael Douglas and an odd musical procession: Bette Midler, Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow, Macy Gray, Jimmy Buffett, some Eagles. Watch Karenna Gore and her very, very rich hubby Drew Schiff do the “White Couple’s Overbite” dance … All of which will almost drown out the velvet plunk of Fashion Week landing in town with a show from Ralph Lauren, future outfitter of the Gore girls.

15) Flip-flop, flip-flop … Hope you know your gymnasts, kiddos, because those much-vaunted “Summer” Olympics start today, down in the land of kangaroos and good-humored seven-foot surfer dudes … Back in “grown-up” Gotham, Sara Gay Forden gets on her Vespa ( Zzzzzip !) for a reading of her new Dynasty -esque book, The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed. Bonus excerpt: “F–- you!” “No, f–- you!” “F–- you.” “F–- YOU!”

16) Hamptons holdouts who like to go on and on about the special quality of the light after Labor Day: If you’re a tennis buff and weren’t sated by the slobbering Anna Kournikova fans and drunk, rude Europeans threatening the catering staff at the U.S. Open , you’re in luck! Unfurl your pom-pom socks for the Cartier Grand Slam mixed-doubles charity tennis tournament! What it benefits: the American Cancer Society. Who’ll be thwacking: Peter (“Hey, umpire, that ball was oot!”) Jennings, Jerry (Two Bounces) Della Femina and that blond tigress, 20/20 correspondent Lynn Sherr …

17) Model climbs wall! O.K., Australians , you can keep your silly Olympics, ’cause we’ve got our own athletics at home, and we’re not even counting the mad high-heeled dash from show to show that is Fashion Week ! Remove pom-pom socks, squeeze into sports bra with extra anti-bounce ( ker-snap! ) so you can puff your way through the 10th Annual New York Race for the Cure , which benefits breast-cancer research. Men may pay fee to stand along race course and bark their support … Then scoop up the kids ( you can do it, you’re a New York super-mom, ain’t ya?) and boing over to New Yorkers for Children’s Family Sports Day (benefiting city kids in foster care): batting in cages, kicking soccer balls and climbing walls with designer Oscar De La Renta , ballplayer Keith Hernandez and suspiciously pneumatic Victoria’s Secret model Stephanie Seymour.

18) It’s a basket of Baldwins! Christopher Reeve, Ron Silver and two Baldwin bros (Alec, William) hit the 92nd Street Y for a panel discussion, “The Politics of Hollywood,” about the ways in which Hollywood and Washington intersect. (Bring condoms … ) Nearby, Blaine Trump auctions off Marie-Chantal of Greece and Natasha Richardson –to do what, exactly, we’re not sure–as Kate Betts, her nemesis Anna Wintour, David Bowie, Regis Philbin and Martha Stewart mingle and nosh for God’s Love We Deliver … All in all, the number of shiny people on the Upper East Side tonight is enough to make one crawl under a rug with a copy of Walden .

19) Ding-Duong! Fashion Week’s socialite surge is New York’s own Olympics, with Samantha Kluge doing the luge ; the Hilton sisters going up against the Boardman, Lauder, Ronson and Miller girls in the synchronized-swimming competition; Shoshanna Lonstein shooting arrows ( Thwwwwwop! ) in one of her gingham frocks; Ahn Duong in a fencing bout … Anyway, all these lovely people are heading to Saks tonight for a private shopping night sponsored by Elle ; Christy Turlington will plug her yoga clothing, then an after-party for breast cancer and Memorial Sloan-Kettering … Discordant party fact: John Cleese’s wife Alyce Faye will be there to sign copies of her book, How to Manage Your Mother.

20) The fashion fillies flit a few blocks north to the opening of the gigantic Hermès store; will that strange sprite, Kelly-bag owner and unwilling “It girl” Chloë Sevigny , already suffering from whiplash-like backlash (note how the New York Times Styles section loves to call her “not quite pretty”? ) dare to show? Meanwhile, Kiri Te Kanawa obeys Kurt Masur’s sober beatings at the Philharmonic’s opening night, and Andrew “Jet East” Sassoon and Chris “Son of Keith” Barish switch on the lights at Light, a velvet-rope-less club and hot new New York magazine hangout.

21) Grande dames rule! After a long, grueling summer of hanging out with taut-bellied young things in foolish shoes , it should come as a relief to don a sensible, pastel-colored pantsuit and celebrate some women of a bit more stature, such as: 1) the indefatigable Brooke Astor , who’s co-hosting La Caravelle’s 40th-birthday party; 2) the cheerful Liz Smith, who’s fêting her memoir, Natural Blonde (see? see?) at Le Cirque with Barbara Walters; 3) Annie Proulx , who is driving her tractor into Borders to chat with Lenny Lopate; and 4) Aretha Franklin, who’s vrooming onto Rockefeller Center for the annual Louis Vuitton Classic car show. Bring alpha-hydroxy acids.

22) Ah, crispness –well, let’s hope ; after the monsoon-like conditions of the summer, who knows what Mother Nature will have up her sleeve, but for what it’s worth, fall starts today at approximately 1:27 p.m ., just as you’re closing your jaws around that little arugula number from Mangia … It’s also the 24th anniversary of the premiere of Charlie’s Angels , which in today’s hopped-up nostalgia cycle means you can expect to see a Charlie’s Angels movie revival in a few months (but you knew that) and a Charlie’s Angels fashion reviva l in a few minutes … For all you 80′s revivalists, Family Ties also premiered today –sha-la-la-la! Also, it’s Proposal Day (Precious darling ? Are you reading this?), and Sotheby’s is selling Landscape , a 1934 painting by Amrita Sher-Gill that Salman Rushdie wrote about in The Moor’s Last Sigh (for $40,000 to $60,000), which would make a nice fall gift though we’d settle for a sweater.

23) Do you really want to Hirst me? British artist Damien Hirst, often confused with American artist Damian Loeb (he’s the one who squires “fun” Brit party gal Plum Sykes around) has a show at the Gagosian Gallery: a 20-foot-tall bronze anatomical model and a bunch of wunderkammers (glass cabinets of curiosities, says press release)–rather wholesome compared to last year’s chopped-up cows. Meanwhile, at Lincoln Center, Isabella Rossellini and upscale thong company La Perla, whose underthings cost more than our Precious makes in a week, have a New York Film Festival party introducing “Passion and Defiance: Silent Divas of Italian Cinema.” Whom you’ll fight for cannoli with: Marisa Tomei, Susan Lucci, the omnipresent cast of The Sopranos …

24) New York is Book Country? Who are they kidding ? New York is Greedy Internet Media Startup Country! But you can still enjoy the musty smells at the various book fairs today–excellent place to pick up a slightly used autumn boyfriend with a slightly soiled dust jacket –but first inhale some waffles at a brunch at the Waldorf-Astoria, where former New York Times culture editor William H. Honan will try to maintain control over sappy-book-writer Nicholas Sparks , leapin’ Liz Smith, the lovably owlish Cynthia Ozick , jolly Arthur Miller and The Observer ‘s very special friend Candace Bushnell, author of Four Blondes .

25) Me, my Self, and I? Hey, look, New York is still book country! Grove Press publishes English author Will Self’s How the Dead Live today, a novel that is a cross between Ulysses , Susan Minot’s Evening and later Jacqueline Susann … And if you’ve been wondering, “Where the heck has that Tony Kushner guy been, anyway?”– the answer is, scribbling a new one-act, East Coast Ode to Howard Jarvis , for Food for Thought–not another new Amanda Hesser-authored column in the ever-burgeoning Times Dining In, Dining Out section , but a new lunch-hour play-reading series at the Producers Club, food included. Hope they have cornichons!

26) Confused Manhattan males, pay attention : The new new new edition of Details goes on sale today, in its, what, tenth incarnation since the 1980′s? We understand that jolly new editor Dan Peres likes to gather his staff for impromptu pizza parties! Wacky! Meanwhile, hope you haven’t sent your Sound of Music wimples to the dry cleaners just yet, because the National Catholic Museum of Art and History, scheduled to open in East Harlem next year, is having a fund-raiser up at Rao’s with Regis Philbin –don’t drip any tomato sauce on his colorful I’m-heterosexual-yet-snappy Lycra-blend shirt! Hey, do the guys at Details know about this?

27) Uh- oh –it’s a day when life on eBay seems better than life in New York … So get perky, all you glassy-eyed eBay fanatics who refuse to admit you have a problem (even though you told your lover the other day to “hurry it up, dammit” so you could go bid on something). In real life, the Doyle Galleries are auctioning off James Cagney’s stuff, including his 1942 Oscar for Yankee Doodle Dandy (estimated to fetch $300,000 to $500,000). Except then you’ll have to go interact with actual people. Oh wait, one can also bid live over the Internet at ibidlive.com. Phew ! Meanwhile, the proud dregs of Fashion Week– Land’s End’s Bill Bass ( not Bill Blass) among them–consider how to “Build An Internet Strategy That Has a Life.” Why does it suddenly feel like August?

28) Moooving right along? You know all those fiberglass cows that were here all summer– except for the one David Lynch did, which was censored –further undergirding our thesis that New York is slowly turning into the Midwest? Today, our newly subdued Mayor –remember him?– rids us of these cows, auctioning them off for the City Parks Foundation, God’s Love We Deliver, Citymeals-on-Wheels and other charities … Of course, this bash is invitation-only (what were they thinking ?), so one suspects the cows might be with us for a bit longer yet …

29) Sagging boomers wake up this morning and think, ” Can it be 13 years ago today that Thirtysomething debuted on ABC? And I still don’t have a life like Michael and Hope’s? And whatever happened to that cutie Ken Olin, anyway?” Amid an ever-encroaching progression of Oktoberfests, craft fairs and antiques shows , the city today accepts one more one-woman show into its arms–Pat Galante’s Some of My Parts –and, finally, bursts . The show is about a party addict’s attempt to escape loneliness . Maybe she should buy a fiberglass cow …

30) It’s Rosh Hashanah, bubbe, so take it easy. We all know autumn doesn’t really start until October …

Please call first. Many events require tickets or are by invitation only.

Sept. 6: Nurse Betty premiere, Loews 19th Street East, 7 p.m., party to follow, Coffee Shop, 29 Union Square West, by invitation only, 966-5000; Third Annual Mothers & Shakers Awards, cocktails, 12:30 p.m., lunch to follow, by invitation only, 649-3336.

Sept. 7: Sing-a-Long Sound of Music premiere, Ziegfeld Theatre, 141 West 54th Street, 6:30 p.m., by invitation only, after-party to follow at top-secret location, 239-6200; MTV Video Music Awards, fall asleep watching them on TV and then head to Rhône for the Jane Pratt after-party, 63 Gansevoort Street, midnight, by invitation only, 917-351-8600; Gangbusters party, Elaine’s, 1703 Second Avenue, 6 p.m., by invitation only, 782-9390.

Sept. 9: Almost Famous screening, Goose Creek, 30 Wainscott Road, 6:30 p.m., by invitation only, 935-2673; Cats , Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway, 7 p.m., 221-7300 ext. 133-134.

Sept. 10: Greenmarket’s Second Annual Heirloom Vegetable Ball, Judson Grill, 152 West 52nd Street, 5 p.m., 477-3220; Maidstone Arms, 207 Main Street, East Hampton, 3 p.m., 631-324-5006.

Sept. 11: Vogue Book of Blondes, Orsay, 1057 Lexington Avenue, 6:30 p.m., by invitation only, 917-351-8600; Tina Brown party, somewhere on Sutton Place, 6:30 p.m., by invitation only, 830-5860; Whit Stillman, Harvard Club, 27 West 44th Street, 7 p.m., by invitation only, 840-6600; Almost Famous , Chelsea West Duplex Cinema, 333 West 23rd Street, 7 p.m., party to follow, Centro-Fly, 45 West 21st Street, by invitation only, 588-6142.

Sept. 12: Bide-a-Wee benefit, Friendship Hall, All Souls Unitarian Church, 1157 Lexington Avenue, 6:30 p.m., 262-8800; Animal Medical Center party, Links of London, 535 Madison Avenue, 6:30 p.m., by invitation only, 206-7447; City Opera, Lincoln Center, performance, 6:30 p.m., dinner and dancing to follow, Grand Promenade of the New York State Theater, 870-4235; New York Society of Etchers, National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, 6 p.m., by invitation only.

Sept. 13: Sofia Coppola, Doubles, Sherry-Netherland Hotel, 781 Fifth Avenue, 7 p.m., by invitation only, 675-5525 ext. 11.

Sept. 14: Al Gore, Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas, 7 p.m., 597-9114; Ralph Lauren, 99 East 52nd Street, 7 p.m., by invitation only, 221-6239.

Sept. 15: Olympics, check local listings; The House of Gucci, Rizzoli, 31 W. 57th Street, 5:30 p.m., 759-2424.

Sept. 16: Matches, on private courts from Southampton to East Hampton, gala cocktail buffet to follow, the Bridge Gardens Trust, Bridgehampton, 631-287-6277.

Sept. 17: Race for the Cure, Central Park, 9 a.m., 560-9590; New Yorkers for Children Family Sports Day, 4 p.m., 921-9070.

Sept. 18: “The Politics of Hollywood,” 92nd Street Y, Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street , 8 p.m.; God’s Love We Deliver fund-raiser, Orsay, 1075 Lexington Avenue, 6:30 p.m., by invitation only, 206-7447.

Sept. 19: Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue, 7 p.m., by invitation only, 940-4229.

Sept. 20: Hermès, 691 Madison Avenue, 7:30 p.m., by invitation only, 800-441-4488; New York Philharmonic, Avery Fisher Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, concert 8 p.m., dinner-dance to follow, 875-5757; Light, 125 East 54th Street, 625-9121.

Sept. 21: La Caravelle, 33 West 55th Street, 6:30 p.m., by invitation only, 957-3005; Liz Smith book party, Le Cirque 2000, 455 Madison Avenue, 5:30 p.m., by invitation only, 456-0188.

Sept. 22: Sotheby’s, 1334 York Avenue, 10 a.m., 606-7000

Sept. 23: Damien Hirst, Gagosian Gallery, 555 W. 24th Street, 6 p.m., by invitation only, 741-1111; “Silent Divas of Italian Cinema” party, Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, 165 West 65th Street, 10th floor, 6:30 p.m., screening to follow, Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th Street, by invitation only, 935-1033.

Sept. 24: New York Regional “Walk for Hope Against Breast Cancer,” Saddle River Park, New Jersey, 10 a.m., 800-732-7205; New York is Book Country Literary Brunch, Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue, noon, 1-888-NYT-1870.

Sept. 25: Food For Thought, Producers Club, 358 W. 44th Street, 1 p.m., 362-2560.

Sept. 26: National Catholic Museum of Art and History, Rao’s, East 115th Street and Pleasant Avenue, 6 p.m., cocktails, dinner and dancing to follow, 970-1711.

Sept. 27: The Cagney Auction, Doyle New York, 175 East 87th Street, 6 p.m., 427-2730 ext. 207, or ibidlive.com; Fashion Group International, New York Hilton, 11:15 a.m., 593-1715.

Sept. 28: Cow Parade Auction, Cipriani 42nd Street, by invitation only, 7:30 p.m., 843-8000.

Sept. 29: Bronx Academy of Dance, 841 Barretto Street, Bronx, 604-4024.