Who Says There’s No New Society? Jill Kopelman Anointed Next Suzy

On Feb. 26, at 7 p.m., Jill Kopelman stepped out of a

chauffeured Mercedes station wagon at the School of American Ballet at Lincoln

Center, where a black-tie awards dinner was honoring legendary ballerina Maria

Tallchief and Richard S. Braddock, chairmanof Priceline.com. Ms. Kopelman, 26,

and her mother, Coco, were there as longtime S.A.B. supporters, their matching

Chanel bags and diamond Chanel rings flashing as they shook hands with friends

in the receiving line. But tonight, Ms. Kopelman was also there to work. She

was using the dull family outing-enlivened only by the presence of Chelsea

Clinton-as fodder for her new column, “Eye Spy: The Whirlwind Diary of a Social

Scribe,” on Style.com, the joint Web site of Vogue and W that draws 11

million bored Condé Nast assistants, gossipy fashion addicts and Elisabeth

Kieselstein-Cord stalkers to its pages each month.

Ms. Kopelman’s bimonthly column, which was launched in

December and will go weekly this spring, is being billed as the

Hilton-sisters-era answer to “Suzy,” W magazine’s

high-society chronicle that has been written by Aileen Mehle since 1991.While

Ms. Mehle, a society pet who once dated Frank Sinatra, goes out regularly to

detail the social migrations of the rich and thin, Ms. Kopelman, the daughter

of Chanel president Arie Kopelman, writes about how much she’d rather be under

her duvet, inserting the boldfaced names of acquaintances between accounts of

what she just scored from the hors d’oeuvres tray.

In November, when Ms. Kopelman landed her job, editors at W nicknamed her “Little Suzy.” But the

seventysomething original, who has been writing under her pseudonym since 1951,

didn’t find the reference so amusing. So Suzy 2.0 was named after Ms. Mehle’s

“Eye” column in Women’s Wear Daily.

When called for a comment about Ms. Kopelman, Ms. Mehle

said, “I’m not online,” and hung up.

Perhaps Ms. Mehle is miffed that anyone-let alone the

daughter of a couple that appears regularly in her column-is being groomed as

her heir. Then again, these days it’s the offspring of society staples that are

getting the most ink-or online hits-as they misbehave at corporate-sponsored

events. Ms. Mehle endeared herself to her subjects by reporting on a dinner

party’s menu rather than the hosts’ pending divorce. “People felt safe with

her,” said Dominick Dunne, who has known Ms. Mehle for decades. “She’s part of

it, but she’s not part of it at the same time. The ‘not’ part of her is the

writer of it all.”

Ms. Kopelman is a part of society, but she’d rather not be.

The “not” part-plus her knack for social observation, teen-mag-inflected

writing and a personality that’s more Woody Allen than Beth Rudin de

Woody-makes her an unusual yet almost logical choice as Little Suzy.

“No one could ever replace Aileen Mehle,” said Ms. Kopelman,

who added that her column and Suzy’s don’t really overlap. “I’m covering a

different scene; I try to mix in a drag show in the Village with something

that’s happening at the Frick. I don’t feel at all that I’m stepping on her

toes.”

Though she was born with gold interlocking C’s in her mouth,

Ms. Kopelman doesn’t want readers to know it. Her column comes off as being

written by the goofy girl lurking in the corner, amazed by the stupidity she’s

forced to endure. She may have been skimming the society pages of Vogue , Harper’s Bazaar and Women’s

Wear Daily when she was in first grade, attending Spence with Gwyneth

Paltrow (she helped fix Ms. Paltrow up with her godbrother, ketchup heir Chris

Heinz, last summer) and spending spring breaks in the front row of the Chanel

shows in Paris, but she goes to great lengths to differentiate herself. Rather

than join Equinox, she walks from her East 76th Street apartment to Brooklyn to

“touch Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe’s gate” while listening to Howard Stern.

Instead of borrowing a Burberry gown for the recent Tartan Ball at the Frick,

she bought $6 worth of plaid fabric in the Garment District and pinned it to

her cheap black dress. (She also paid $400 for two tickets, even though her

press status would have gotten her in free.) While other socialites attend

Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s benefit parties, Ms. Kopelman visits cancer patients

there every Monday. And she wasn’t allowed to wear Chanel until she turned 21.

(“I didn’t want to spoil her,” said Mr. Kopelman.) She’s still only granted one

Chanel outfit a year, and she can’t borrow samples for events because she’s

proudly “not a sample size.”

“Sometimes I want to be Skeletor,” she said, reaching for a

squash-and-mozzarella tidbit at the S.A.B. gala. “But it’s not worth it.” She

insisted that she’s a size eight by choice. Ms. Kopelman’s use of the word

“Skeletor”-the name of the bad guy in the cartoon series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe -is just one of many

Kopelisms, a private dialect of pop-culture vernacular, abbreviations and

dropped pronouns. “I’m like camel,” she said as she took a second glass of

water from a silver tray at Lincoln Center.

In her column, Ms. Kopelman has invented words like

“glamissima” to describe socialite Susan Fales-Hill and called herself a “roe

ho” for loitering by a caviar table “avec toast points.” (Food and body image

factor strongly into her column, ranging from the boastful-“I jammed back one

more of Susan Fales-Hill’s delicious chocolate-chip cookies”-to the self-loathing:

“Hey, can a normal Rubenesque [read: obese] girl get a drink around here?” she

wrote after attending the launch party for Shoshanna Lonstein’s swimwear line.)

Readers over 40 might also trip over such terms as “social peeps,” “cocktail

rager” and “total nugget.” “I find store openings very decaf,” she wrote of a

party filled with “overbred and underfed sprockets.” And it’s hard to imagine

Suzy closing a column with, “All my crappy worries vanished, like hemlines on a

Hilton sister.”

“She was our own private dinner theater,” said Mrs.

Kopelman, beaming as her daughter cracked jokes and dropped phrases like

“Raging with the ex-Prezzie!” after Peter Martins, S.A.B.’s chairman of faculty

and a family friend, said that he and Bill Clinton would be in Denmark at the

same time, hitting the bars. Ms. Kopelman said she got her sense of humor from

her father, who was once a Borscht Belt comedian. “We’re always laughing and

telling dirty jokes like weird wackos,” she said. “I had a really great

childhood. I didn’t have any dark moments. So many writers, you read these

beautiful things and you know they endured tragedies. I’m reading Pat Conroy’s Beach Music and I’m just like, ‘Oh my

God, I have nothing to offer! Who am I to write a novel?’ I never considered

myself a journalist. I write little puff pieces, but I try to make them funny.

I’ve always wanted to do comedy.”

In 1995, after Ms. Kopelman had graduated from Yale in just

three years and moved in with her parents on Park Avenue and 65th Street, she

would entertain them over dinner with stories of her surreal days as an

editorial assistant at Interview ,

where her duties included writing about music and art as well as comforting

editor in chief Ingrid Sischy when Gianni Versace died, and taking care of the

$3,000 worth of roses that Elton John sent after he and Ms. Sischy had a tiff.

When Ms. Kopelman would complain about her job to her father, he would simply

tell her to “remember the Holocaust.”

Ms. Sischy described Ms. Kopelman as smart, funny and “a

real social observer.” She said it was no secret that Ms. Kopelman’s father was

the honcho of Chanel (an Interview

advertiser), but she never let her sense of entitlement show. “She never

wielded a mallet that said, ‘Hey, my father is someone. You need to listen to

me,'” she said. “She has always been discreet about that and acted like an

editorial assistant.”

She might have responded differently had she seen Intern , the movie Ms. Kopelman co-wrote

with her friend Caroline Doyle (whose mother, Kathleen Doyle, owns the auction

house William Doyle Galleries) when they were practically still interns

themselves. An early New York Times

article about the project sent a chill through the magazines about to be

blasted onscreen-by a couple of rich mail-openers, no less-but the movie bombed

after brief openings in New York and Los Angeles last August. Intern takes one scene-in which an

editor demands that the intern update his Rolodex, no matter whether the people

are dead or alive-from Ms. Kopelman’s experience at Interview . Ms. Kopelman also parodied her experiences at Mademoiselle , Harper’s Bazaar and MTV, including a time when a fittings editor at

Mademoiselle publicly vomited a

cappuccino when she found out it was made with two-percent milk instead of

skim.

On a chilly February afternoon at the Regency Hotel on Park

Avenue and 61st Street, Ms. Kopelman-wrapped in a frumpy black hat, scarf and

sweater-described the experience of being on set during the filming of Intern as “horrible.”

“I was disappointed with the product,” she said, sipping her

hot chocolate and reaching for peanut M&M’s. “They sort of pumiced out all

the really true, New York-y, thorny moments.” Ms. Kopelman is particularly

disappointed that she never got paid for Intern ,

which lost between $40,000 and $100,000, depending on whether you ask Ms.

Kopelman or the film’s producers. She’s miffed because she wrangled many of the

film’s celebrity cameos (many of whom were family friends), including Ms.

Paltrow, Kenneth Cole, Karl Lagerfeld, Frédéric Fekkai, Diane von Furstenberg,

André Leon Talley, Cynthia Rowley and Tommy Hilfiger. “We never got paid, which

is why we’re probably going to litigation,” she said.

The film’s producer, Galt Niederhoffer, 25, a friend of one

of Ms. Kopelman’s Spence classmates, said Ms. Kopelman was not suing her,

though the two did file a complaint on JudgeJudy.com in January. “It is

unfortunate that Jill is disappointed with the poor reception of her film and

has resorted to such unprofessional and tasteless muckraking,” said Ms. Niederhoffer,

who sounded weary of discussing the film. “This movie has neither made money

nor garnered critical praise; would that we all had the luxury of blaming

someone else for its failure.”

Failure or not, Intern

helped Ms. Kopelman land her current job. Last fall, W and Vogue editors

familiar with her writing (and, some might sniff, with Chanel) asked her to

interview for the “Eye Spy” stint. The next day, she dropped off a copy of the Intern script per their request. After

writing four samples, her first column debuted in December.

Robert Haskell, who edits Ms. Mehle’s “Eye” column for W as well as Ms. Kopelman’s column, said

he knew Ms. Kopelman from Yale and thought she’d be perfect to write the young

new society page for Style.com. “She’s not cut from the same cloth, but at the

same time she obviously grew up in a world full of fashion and society, so she

knows what she’s talking about, even though she tries to pretend she’s just an

outsider looking in,” said Mr. Haskell.

“I really don’t go up to strangers and say, ‘Hi, can I

interview you?'” said Ms. Kopelman, who often reports-without notepad or tape

recorder-from her vantage point “in the corner.” She added: “I don’t really

consider myself as this journalist getting the scoops. I really just survey. I

feel sometimes like a loner at these parties,” she said. “I’m not into

air-kissing everybody.” Her Jan. 12 column moaned, “But even in my anti-social,

let-me-stay-at-home-avec-remote-control state, I battled the piercing cold and

hit a lovely soiree ….”

“I’m not a party girl,” she said. “I get exhausted and am in

bed by 11 p.m. to watch Law & Order

every single night.” Her favorite bar is Marie’s Crisis, a piano bar in the

West Village where she sings along to show tunes with her girlfriends. “It’s

like gay Cheers ,” she said.

Ms. Kopelman pokes fun at her world in “Eye Spy,” but for

those familiar with her connections, her choice of parties has raised more than

one eyebrow. One week she mocked the “Muffies” at the opening of the Winter

Antiques Show at the Armory on Park Avenue, though it’s a committee her father

chairs. (A photograph of her at the party also turned up in the March issue of Quest .) The previous column gushed

about a Winter Antiques Show preview dinner, hosted at her friend socialite

Marjorie Gubelmann’s home. In an act of dizzying cross-nepotism, she covered

the December event for S.A.B.’s junior benefit committee-which Ms. Kopelman

co-founded in 1999-at the new Chanel boutique in Soho. This time she added a

disclaimer, stating, “My dad works for Chanel, but I swear I’d rip on it if it

was lame.” And in the May issue of W ,

Ms. Kopelman will appear in an advertising spread for De Beers jewelers

featuring “it girls” (read: celebrity offspring), including Kidada Jones, China

Chow, Zoë Cassavetes and Kate Driver. She wore a Chanel gown for the shoot.

In addition to her column, Ms. Kopelman, who works out of

her apartment, is keeping busy with “10 jobs,” which include writing editorial

content for Polo.com and adapting a children’s story for Nickelodeon. She’s

also writing a novel, tentatively titled Resilient

Little Muscle , after the last line in Ms. Kopelman’s favorite movie, Hannah and Her Sisters . Ms. Kopelman and

Ms. Doyle have also finished three more screenplays, one of which, Delayed Reaction , was recently optioned

by Indyssey, a film company owned by Katrina Pavlos, a socialite who appeared

in one of Ms. Kopelman’s columns.

“I’m happy to do it for

a while,” Ms. Kopelman said of “Eye Spy” via e-mail. “I do totally feel like

it’s great for material. I always love parlaying over-the-top personalities

into characters, because honestly, some people in New York are stranger than

fiction.”