Welcome to the Club
“I felt so welcome when I arrived here in New York. And now, receiving this award makes me feel like I’m part of the club,” Alain Ducasse told the crowd at the James Beard Awards at the Marriott Marquis after receiving the award for Best New Restaurant on April 30. And though it’s hard to believe that Mr. Ducasse felt welcome during his first few months in New York, he certainly looked like he’d been indoctrinated during the three days of Beard-related hoopla. On April 28, Mr. Ducasse cooked a seven-course meal, including a crayfish gratin and double veal medallion “piccata style” at a benefit dinner for the foundation that featured rare wines–including a 1993 Côte de Nuits Grand Cru Musigny Comte de Vogüé that recently brought $10,000 a case at auction–donated by the foundation’s trustees.
Then, following the awards, Mr. Ducasse and his girlfriend, Gwenaelle Gueguen, joined Le Bernardin owner Maguy Le Coze–tanned after a sojourn to Mustique–at her annual post-awards dinner at Balthazar. The congregation included Mr. Ducasse’s good friend, chef Jean-Louis Palladin, as well as Mr. Palladin’s son Olivier, his daughter Verveine and his girlfriend, Tanya Bogdanovic; chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten; Le Bernardin’s executive chef, Eric Ripert, and his wife Sandra; the restaurant’s pastry chef, Florian Bellanger, and his wife Anna; and Food & Wine columnist Nina Griscom.
Mr. Ducasse sat at Ms. Le Coze’s end of the oblong table, while Mr. Ripert and Mr. Vongerichten sat near Mr. Palladin, who was enjoying a last bit of sensual indulgence before he undergoes surgery on May 3 for the removal of a cancerous tumor from his lung.
Mr. Palladin seemed to be in good spirits, and after dinner the chefs crowded together so the occasion could be photographed. As the men squeezed themselves into the frame, Mr. Palladin reached and tried to grab a handful of Mr. Ducasse’s slight paunch. Then he called to Ms. Gueguen and said in French: “He has a nice foie gras.” There was a small explosion of laughter among those who understood. Mr. Ducasse returned fire, in French. Translation: “I’ve got enough stress.” But for once, Mr. Ducasse was smiling.
Gabba Gabba Goodbye
On Aug. 16, 1977–the day Elvis Presley died–Joey Ramone and a couple of his friends were moping around the Lower East Side, devastated. Still, nobody could think of a fitting homage to their idol. “Then somebody got the idea that we should buy some fresh brains,” said Joey’s friend, DeerFrances, who was there that day. She was speaking at a Ramones tribute on April 30 at CBGB, the seminal New York punk band’s home club on the Bowery, to mourn the passing of Mr. Ramone, who died of cancer on April 15. “We went to CBGB’s and we put the brains all over the place!” she recalled. “People played anyway.”
But the spindly singer’s death was not marked by any grisly tributes. In fact, his memorial service was almost strangely PG-13–further proof that while the days of guys in tight black jeans, Converse high tops and motorcycle jackets may almost be a memory, punk will always play with pissed-off kids. Outside the club were piles of cheap bouquets and notes to Joey signed by fans like “Kerry, age 11.” Waiting in line to get in, a 13-year-old with dyed-black hair said, “The Ramones are, like, cool. It sucks that that guy Joey’s dead. I was smoking up the other day with this guy I know named Vader, and he was like, ‘Dude, we totally need to get sedated for Joey.’ So we took this stuff–um, I don’t think I should be telling you about this.”
And then there was Charlotte Lesher, Joey’s mother and a picture of grace, who was schmoozing with her sixtysomething friends and Forest Hills neighbors at a table in the back. “Jeffrey was a good kid,” said one (Ms. Lesher and her friends still use her son’s real name). “Jeff was never a shnorrer , he never kvetched –what more could you ask?” said an elderly man who didn’t want his name used. “So what if he was a little bizarre?”
In the cavalcade of celebrity mourners was Joan Jett, who spoke about a tour she did with the Ramones back in the days of three-chord glory: “We played Bellville, Illinois,” she said. “You can just imagine how he said it: ‘HELLO, BELLVILLE!’ For some reason, that sticks in my mind. Joey, I love you and I’m going to miss you.” She later told The Transom that she hadn’t had the chance to give him a proper goodbye. “I just saw him out and about,” she said. “It’s really sad.”
Debbie Harry, looking harried, made an attempt at a roast: “Once a cretin, always a cretin,” she said. Later, Ms. Harry told The Transom that she was too upset to talk. “I just can’t do it,” she said. “We had a hard enough time getting her here,” her assistant confided.
Meanwhile, Ms. Lesher and her friends were growing impatient with M.C. “Furious” George Tabb’s stream of profanity. “Every other word out of his mouth!” Ms. Lesher said of the man who threatened to fight “any pussy” who spoke ill of his favorite band. “It’s terrible,” her friend replied. “There’s a lady in the house!” Ms. Lesher–still the faithful punk mom–was trying to rationalize it: “I guess that’s just his style.” But when one of the show’s organizers told her he was going to get Mr. Tabb off the stage, she looked relieved.
Mr. Tabb was replaced by Dick Manitoba of the Dictators, who introduced Joey’s brother, Mickey Leigh, who played a short set of Ramones songs. “Let’s hear it for George Tabb,” Mr. Leigh said. “He may have gotten my mom a little pissed off, but hey, Ma, it’s CBGB!”
– Ian Blecher
Dead Dot-Com Doc of the Day
If the hair-raising dot-com boom and bust has been good for anything, it’s media projects about the dot-com boom and bust.
On April 26, just two weeks before the release of Startup.com –the documentary by D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim about the rise and fall of GovWorks–another cinéma-vérité examination of the equally ill-fated Internet delivery service Kozmo.com unspooled at the Walter Reade Theater.
The documentary, which has yet to find a distributor, is called E-Dreams . It was directed by Wonsuk Chin, who two years ago convinced Kozmo.com’s 29-year-old co-founder, Joseph Park, to allow the filmmaker to document what was expected to be the story of a company cashing in on the Internet gold rush. But Kozmo never managed to pull off an initial public offering before the tech bubble starting hissing in April 2000, and Mr. Chin’s cameras ended up witnessing Kozmo burn through more than $250 million delivering ice cream, movies and other items ordered over the Internet.
The company shut its doors on April 12, just three weeks before the standing-room-only screening at the Walter Reade, which was attended by Mr. Park, his parents and Kozmo’s co-founder, Yong Kang. (The screening was a co-presentation of the Independent Feature Project and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.)
E-Dreams ultimately becomes a narrative about Mr. Park and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Kang. But the portrait that emerges isn’t a particularly flattering one.
At one point in the film, Mr. Park is shown giving a tour of the office. “This is a new floor,” he says. “I’m not really sure what it’s for.” At another, an employee shows him a new computer system and asks the chief executive if he knows how it works. “No,” Mr. Park responds, grinning at the camera, as he does throughout much of the film. “It looks cool, though.”
What Mr. Park seems to find even cooler are the parties where he’s shown clutching a microphone, yelling “We’re rock stars!” to the gathered flock; the corporate retreat where the higher-ups are seen cooling off with Coronas on a boat; or an event announcing a deal with Starbucks, where the chief executive rides a bike into the auditorium after noting nervously for the camera that the aisle looks a bit steeper than he thought.
Aside from quick cuts of bike messengers darting through city streets, or the occasional interview with someone else in the office, the film spends little time with the other employees riding this roller coaster.
But even though the worker bees are relegated primarily to background shots, a few scenes hint at the footage that didn’t make the final cut. At a warehouse in California, stony-faced employees stare at the camera as Mr. Park, shown from the back, tries to rally the troops when the chips are down. In another scene, a flustered manager explains to two burly bike messengers that the company doesn’t have enough cash to meet its payroll.
But the Kozmo staffers who attended the screening and the rather uncomfortable reception afterward didn’t seem to have a problem with their minor roles in the film. “It was an accurate portrayal of what we all went through and what he was all about,” said one ex-employee who attended the screening but requested anonymity. “He still doesn’t understand what he did wrong.”
Mr. Kang, the co-founder who comes across as a party-pooper on camera, admitted that, for him, seeing the film was “a little sad. I thought the movie would document something else.”
Across the room, the filmmaker seemed to be avoiding such feedback from the people whose failings he had just exposed. “I wonder how Joe feels,” Mr. Chin said to a group of friends. “I’m scared.”
As for Mr. Park, who was wearing a suit that never appeared in the film, his initial reaction was characteristically gushing. “I loved it,” he said. “I thought it was fabulous.” But as he took another fortifying gulp from a Cosmopolitan, he hinted that maybe he did have some sense of what was going on around him. “When I agreed to do this documentary, I said I wanted to do it 100 percent. I knew what I was getting myself into.”
And despite Kozmo’s fate, Mr. Park may yet get something out of his experience. At the reception, he was seen exchanging business cards with a literary agent who wanted to know if Mr. Park was interested in writing a book.
The Straight Skinny
You’ve got to hand it to a man who can sum up the motivation behind his vision in a single sentence. On April 24, the editors of the fashion and art publication Visionaire held a dinner at Indochine in honor of Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino, who collaborated on the collective’s 35th issue, which is appropriately entitled “Man.” Fashionable partygoers included a pregnant Daryl Kerrigan, models Stella Tennant, Lucie de la Falaise and Angela Lindvall, hotelier André Balazs, modeling-agency executive Katie Ford, socialite Plum Sykes and gallery owner Andrea Rosen, who–along with her beau, furniture designer Sim Achenbach–was telling friends that they’re expecting a child at the end of September.
After dinner, Mr. Testino made the rounds to talk about the limited-edition issue, of which only 6,000 copies have been printed. When someone at The Transom’s table told Mr. Testino that they found the issue “very sexy,” the photographer flashed a Technicolor smile and said in his South American accent: “I’m all about a big erection, you know.”
The Transom Also Hears …
On the evening of Friday, April 28, while Sylvester Stallone was making his screen presence felt in Driven, his physical absence was keenly felt in the Brooklyn apartment of Matt Wishnow, 26, and Christian Anthony, 27. The co-founders of the underground-music Web site Insound were hosting the unveiling of their Stallone Wing, a hallway in their two-bedroom co-op that they’d filled with tastefully displayed Sly-abilia.
The big mumbler himself was supposed to stop by. “We’re not really supposed to talk about it for security reasons, but he is aware of the event,” explained Mr. Anthony as he led the tour through the Stallone Wing, pointing out the plastic Rocky and Mr. T punching puppets, a signed headshot and a Danish Rocky poster that compared Mr. Stallone to Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando. Mr. Wishnow and his girlfriend Marisa had tracked down Mr. Stallone at the Hugo Boss store opening the day before. Though they refused to give details about what transpired, they confirmed that Mr. Stallone was aware of the fête. “He knows where and when. He knows how to get here. He knows the phone number.” They also confirmed that the action star “looks really leathery–but not necessarily in a bad way.”
The hosts, who met at Brown University, said that their goal in creating the Stallone Wing was to “maintain and elevate” Mr. Stallone’s reputation. “There are very few artists–I’ll call him an artist–who start their career at such a high peak and then go on to suffer not just prolonged arrested development, but actual artistic decline. Our point is that none of that mitigates the quality of his early work,” said Mr. Wishnow.
By midnight, it was apparent that the Italian Stallion was a no-show. The beer supply was dwindling, and someone had thrown a mini-basketball into the chips; the unveiling was devolving into a regular party.
The next morning at 9 a.m., Mr. Wishnow claimed that he’d wandered out of his room to find Mr. Anthony sniffling as he sat amidst the party wreckage, watching the final “soliloquy” of Rambo . “He said it was a head cold, but I knew that wasn’t it,” Mr. Wishnow reported.
– Rebecca Traister
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