It’s the most wondrous time of the year … again!
And what else truly heralds the start of the holiday season more than the highly anticipated office party? Where else can workplace terrors and ambition be seen so nakedly on display, tongues loosened by liquor and the sex that fizzles under the politically correct surface of the American workday allowed a measure of release-the girl who wore that dress; the married segment producer who propositioned the sexually ambiguous P.A.; the assistant who did a dead-on, hilarious impression of his boss? And can anyone forget the thrill of recognition when Elaine danced at an office party on Seinfeld?
But there’s something else that happens as well. It’s the Santafreude quotient that happens here and nowhere else: Who’s sitting where at the Condé Nast party lunch? Who’s headed into the Times Magazine party, the City Hall party, the Vogue magazine party? Which Goldman Sachs party were you invited to? Did you get the party favor Bill O’Reilly is giving out? Does yours run on two “D” batteries?
Who’s going to be there? And why weren’t we invited?
And that kind of question leads to jitters and bad behavior. It leads to four drinks too many. It leads to unburdening yourself to the object of desire toward whom you’ve been suppressing your aggression and your instincts all year. It leads to trundling off to the after-party when a little voice inside of you is chirping: “Go home … go home … go home!” It means crashing somebody’s corporate family so you can tell your most brutal competitor the most brutal truth you can think of-a message made much more necessary by five Absoluts, four Pinot Noirs, three Bushmill shots, two Bloody Marys and an Amarretto in a giant glass.
It leads to telling your worst adversary-whom you suddenly feel close to thanks to all the booze-every chink in your own flawed character. It means unburdening yourself to people who will remember everything you have to say. It means unleashing lots of feelings-feelings that are hopped-up and tense, few of which have to do with Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men.
But you know what? The hell with it! They’ll be loaded too. They won’t remember either. Christmas parties mean letting the maniac you can’t stand stagger in the door. The media mistletoe is being hoisted again this year, as the old-fashioned office party begins to make a comeback, from Condé Nast throwing down some bucks for editors to Jann Wenner finally bringing all three of his titles together after several years.
Crashing most of the below parties won’t be a problem. Most tweedy magazines have at least a few mothballed contributors no one’s ever laid eyes on; wear a rumpled cardigan and taped-together eyeglasses. For the glossy magazines, suit up like a hooker, cackle loudly and keep repeating, “That is so Sex and the City!” And if we’re lucky, Jann Wenner will grab the mike, swivel his hips and sing with his band, Rack of Lamb. And Bruce Wasserstein and Rupert Murdoch and Si Newhouse will all be there, shaking their old carcasses like the mechanical Santas you see in the mall. Come on in! The bars are open to all! Ho-ho-ho!
Excuse me, how do you spell your name? Are you sure you’re on this list? We’re checking it twice. Security!
Vogue: 176 Perry Street
Leave it to Vogue to have their holiday party in a place so exclusive that it hasn’t even opened yet. A lot of huge, bony feet in very high heels will be tottering west to Jean-George Vongerichten’s new restaurant, Perry Street, located at the base of the monstrous towers blocking the skyline in the West Village. Past partygoers describe a predictably high attendance of the stylish, ridiculously thin fashion editors having trouble recognizing any of the contributing writers, and a no-fly zone around Anna Wintour.
MTV Networks: Dec. 9, Hammerstein Ballroom, 311 West 34th Street
Remember when MTV was synonymous with cool? Now 1515 Broadway’s halls are filled with 22-year-old girls dressed like the tramps from The Real World (Las Vegas) and emo-friendly boys with lip piercings and trust funds. In days of yore, the former music channel threw quite the bash. “It used to be craziness,” said a longtime staffer wistfully, who repeated the urban legend that head honcho Tom Freston used to fire up the festivities himself. And then there was the time the party planners hired live penguins, to general befuddlement. “PETA must have been having their holiday party the same night, otherwise someone would have spoken up,” said a VH1 old-timer. “These poor birds were in a half-conscious stupor, surrounded by drunken ad-sales guys all angling in for a boozy grope.” But those days are long gone. “Now it’s just the interns and mailroom folk who go overboard with drinking and lewd conduct,” a producer complained. Nothing a few penguins couldn’t fix.
Vanity Fair: Party to be held in January
Vanity Fair just always has to be a little bit different, so they’ve shoved their holiday party to January rather than compete with the rest of the grimy masses. Watch for editor in chief Graydon Carter to glide through the crowds, smiling beatifically and ostentatiously smoking. One past party attendee recalls that a male contributor, trying to bolster his confidence enough to approach the Grand Vizier, was overheard saying, “‘I’ve always been good with Mommy, but I was never good with Daddy.” A former attendee reports: “Nothing exciting happens at our Christmas parties because everyone is too afraid of embarrassing themselves in front of Graydon, who always sits with Fran Lebowitz. Hitchens gets drunk, which should come as no surprise. Another reporter known for his investigative skills likes to sit next to young female editorial assistants. For two years in a row, the venues we held it in closed soon thereafter, and people started talking about a curse.” Ho-ho-ho!
Alfred A. Knopf: Dec. 15, the Carriage House for Global Issues, 149 East 38th Street
Sonny Mehta in soft Belgian slippers, young female “writers” in gravity-defying camisoles, and real writers who are three years late on their manuscripts and suspect (rightly) that their next book will be published by St. Martin’s Press. Random House’s most erudite imprint had its holiday party in a Chelsea loft last year; this year they get “serious.”
Vibe/ Spin magazines: Dec. 21, Viscaya Lounge, 191 Seventh Avenue
Worlds often collide within the Murray Hill offices of Spin (read by nimrods in Willysburg who consider themselves too cool to read Rolling Stone) and Vibe (read by upwardly mobile urban cool cats) magazines. Every month, the powers-that-be insist on a “mixer” party (wings, pizza, beer, social awkwardness). At the annual December party, the culture clash comes to a header as the Vibe rs take control of D.J. responsibilities (think more Jay-Z than Modest Mouse) and Spin staffers blink nervously behind their thick-framed glasses. If it’s anything like last year’s party, company unity is found in the smokers’ section, where the air is filled with a sweet-smelling aroma. Watch for Vibe’s smoldering editor in chief, Mimi Valdes, to shake it while Spin’s resident “It” boy, Chuck Klosterman, puffs out his chest and holds court on the sidelines.
The Village Voice, Dec. 8, S.O.B.’s, 204 Varick Street
In recent memory, the huddled masses yearning to be free at The Village Voice have had their annual soirée at that dance-crazy Varick Street venue, S.O.B.’s. After a tough year with staff layoffs (including longtime executive editor Richard Goldstein), this year’s gathering will most likely be more sedate. “They are being absolute Nazis about who can come,” griped a protester- err, contributor-who claimed that the invite insists that only the invitee can attend. “What do they think, that people are going to be beating down the door to go hang out with Michael Musto?” Well, he did know Madonna in her early days.
Wenner Media ( Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, Men’s Journal) Dec. 15, Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place
Us Weekly staffers-they’re downtrodden just like us! For the past few years, employees at the addictive, splashy ‘n’ trashy magazine have suffered not only from the hard-charging (and clearly successful) reign of Bonnie Fuller, but have also missed the company holiday party, which always seemed to be (deliberately?) scheduled on their deadline night. But 2004 will bring the Wenner groups together, in what one can hope will be a call back to the bashes they held at the Roxy on the West Side, where the holiday party might find Lenny Kravitz on drums and Michael Stipe and Yoko Ono on the dance floor. (Savor that for a moment, folks …. ) “It’ll be good to have another big ol’ Wenner throwdown; they were all so fun,” said a longtime staffer. Here’s hoping Jann Wenner gets up and warbles some tunes with his band, Rack of Lamb!
ABC: Dec. 9, Cipriani, Vanderbilt Avenue at 44th Street
Word from inside the rat factory is that the House That Mickey Built is trying to save money by smushing their divisions into one blowout at Cipriani’s. But apparently the worker bees at ABC are having none of it-an e-mail was sent around to staffers noting that by the RSVP deadline, precious few had responded. C’mon, folks-if you’re lucky, Peter Jennings will show you how you, too, can dance to Björk.
Allure: Dec. 16, the Slipper Room, 167 Orchard Street
Watch for slow-moving, frequently stopping Condé Nast town cars snaking their way down Orchard Street for the Allure magazine party at the burlesque-inspired Slipper Room. The bar’s Web site claims, “Sceney and pretentious we are not,” which makes us wonder what genius in event planning thought this would be an ideal venue for the staff of lovelies. We’re sure there will be lots of talk of “a smoky eye,” and that managing editor Andrew Wilkes will insinuate that someone needs to lose some weight-for their own good.
Fox Searchlight Pictures: Nov. 30, Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick Street
Oops, you missed it! Getting an early jump on the holiday season (they’re so ahead of the curve that they have their party in November), Fox Searchlight provided what one attendee describes as a lot of sushi and a little bit of star power in the form of Sideways actor Thomas Haden Church, who was overheard asking, “Where are all the women?”
DreamWorks: Dec. 8, DreamWorks’ offices, 650 Madison Ave, 22nd floor
It’s always fun to poke around someone else’s work environment, and since the DreamWorks party is open not only to staffers but to journalists, one has ample opportunity to see what kind of Tom Hanks–inspired schwag they might keep on their desks. “They usually have great food and drinks,” a past attendee recalled. Count on a bright-green-themed drink called “The Shrek 2″ (for the movie that put DreamWorks in a very jolly mood for the holidays).
Dennis Publishing: Dec. 21, place to be decided
It only makes sense that the company that gives us lad-friendly magazines like Blender and Maxim would throw a good holiday party ripe with scandal. We were told about a certain engaged editor who, a few years back, was publicly making out with an intern’s roommate. Another story featured a very high-level executive dancing enthusiastically to the point where he didn’t notice his nosebleed dripping down the front of his shirt.
Time Out New York: Dec. 13, S.O.B.’s, 204 Varick Street
Not only was the TONY staff treated to new office digs last December (escaping their former downtown quarters to take up residence in the same West 10th Street building as Donna Karan), they’re taking their party out of the office and into S.O.B.’s. The current staffers (as well as freelance contributors and former employees) will be treated to a buffet dinner and dessert and were advised to dress festively for the event. The invite notes: “Fruit hats are okay.”
Hachette Filipacchi Media, Dec. 20, China Club, 268 West 47th Street
The gleaming Paramount building pumps out such titles as Premiere, Elle, and Elle Girl, though Christmas still somehow befuddles the French suits. “Every year, the company gives out a gift. Ten years ago, we would get these amazing gifts-the men would get Coach wallets and the women would get watches,” confided a senior Hachette employee. “Last year, our office had a bet as to how cheesy the gift was going to be-little did we know it was going to be actual cheese!”
GQ: Dec. 16, Movida, 1099 First Avenue
We love it when the boys of Gentleman’s Quarterly go out on the town! In fact, right now they’re doing stomach crunches to fit into last winter’s Versace pants! However, since the higher-ups will be coming off their big Los Angeles–based “Men of the Year” award bash, don’t be surprised if it’s a slightly lower-key version this year. Expect: lots of storytelling (something about someone eating a wolf), young female guests playing the “Is he straight or gay?” game, and the always nattily-dressed Jim Nelson and Fred Woodward surrounded by a clump of admirers.
Teen Vogue, Condé Nast hallway, 4 Times Square, ninth floor
The poor little well-dressed dears at Teen Vogue! We hear that editor in chief Amy Astley decided that instead of spending money on a party, she’d give staff gifts instead-everyone will be receiving the Grace Coddington book, Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue. (Hope we’re not ruining the surprise!) The theory behind the decision was that the young ones don’t have the libraries in their apartments to match their pairs of shoes. Not all is lost, however: We hear that the girls will have chips and margaritas in the hallway. ¡Olé! Careful-when you mix tequila with Ritalin, things happen.
Playboy: Dec. 7, Playboy offices, 730 Fifth Avenue
We like it when a company decides to throw its party in the office, but calls it something else entirely so that their staff won’t feel slighted. To wit: Playboy Enterprises’ New York publishing headquarters will have a “Winter Wonderland” cocktail party. The good news is that the party will be catered by Dean and DeLuca and features a special apple-martini “ice luge” and sushi bar. The best news? Early dismissal for the staff, who will surely congregate elsewhere to talk about how the Chicago offices get much better parties.
The New Yorker: Dec. 6, Dos Caminos, 373 Park Avenue South
Don’t let the suede oxfords and elbow patches fool you- New Yorker staffers know how to bring the holiday noise and the funk (a few holiday parties back, a highly prominent editor and writer-who were both married at the time, and not to each other-were seen making out). This year’s affair seems to have been relatively affair-less, though we’re told that Malcolm Gladwell’s hair is getting huge. Next year, someone should slip John McPhee a mickey!
Entertainment Weekly: Dec. 9, O’Flaherty’s Ale House and Restaurant, 334-336 West 46th Street
We hear that Entertainment Weekly, which is apparently still publishing, used to throw some pretty lavish parties, with multi-levels of eating and drink, themed drinks and the requisite editorial assistants groping one another under the disco lights. Because of cutbacks, however, the parties have been getting slightly less … fun. This year, the staff will go to the theater row’s O’Flaherty’s, where we see that glazed Christmas ham is on the holiday menu ( phew). Editorial assistants take note: The bar’s Web site says there are plenty “of cozy nooks and crannies.”
InStyle: Dec. 10, Henry Luce conference room, 1271 Avenue of the Americas
While Time Inc. suffers the no-parties edict handed down by chief executive Ann Moore (company employees are getting gift certificates to the Container Store: “File folders aren’t as fun as a party, but I guess they’ll come in handy,” philosophized one staffer), InStyle managed to fly under the radar with their traditional cookie bake-off party. Yes, cookie bake-off! The staff bakes their cookies, and the best four (in categories such as “most original,” “best all-around,” etc.) are awarded prizes that “people would actually want to win.” One of the judges this year is rumored to be Vera Wang. Champagne flows freely, and one past attendee enthused: “It was really fun! It truly was a party.” Isn’t InStyle just the sweetest?
Glamour: Dec. 16, Parkside Lounge, 317 East Houston
The well-heeled are heading for the F train (just kidding!) to hit the Lower East Side for their holiday party. The gang from Glamour (who must be smarting from neglect as Condé-daddy James Truman focuses on shinier sister Lucky) will be at the Parkside Lounge on East Houston. The theme is karaoke, which pretty much guarantees good times-we’d lay our entire life’s savings on a Grease medley.
News Corp.: Dec. 17, Hilton New York, 1335 Avenue of the Americas
The right-wing organ (New York Post, Fox Broadcasting and TV Guide) that helped propel Paris Hilton and George W. Bush into their respective positions of power is holding its annual herding of workers at the Hilton this evening. The company was good enough to put some sleeping rooms on hold-they claim it’s more for commuters than any interparty romping-at $265 a night. Our source from deep inside the News Corp. belly said: “The parties consist of a megalithic sea of guys in suits who probably work in sales. It’s utterly lame and depressing, you can’t find anyone you know, and I usually split after 10 minutes.” On the upswing, we hear that Bill O’Reilly can’t stay away from these things. And if Anne Coulter collides with a glass of white wine, you’re off to the races.
Cargo: Dec. 9, Lure Fishbar, 142 Mercer Street
Remember when people thought that men would never buy a magazine about shopping à la Lucky? Turns out men are bigger fags than we thought. Ariel Foxman’s glossy little magazine-that-could was just promoted to monthly status, and today the beleaguered staff will head to the new incantation of the formerly all-orange Canteen for a boozy lunch and a rousing game of “name everyone who has quit in the past six months.”
City Hall reporters’ dinner, Dec. 13, Gracie Mansion
Once a year, the reporters who chase the Mayor around and camp out in Room 9 at City Hall are invited to Gracie Mansion for a wet smooch from Mr. Bloomberg. Hizzoner apparently can throw quite a party (he’s rich!). The last couple of years have featured professional magician Benjamin Levy, the author of Remember Every Name Every Time: Corporate America’s Memory Master Reveals His Secrets. (Wait for the Mayor to make his signature “But can you make the Teachers’ Union disappear?” joke.) Less intimate will be the Mayor’s second party at the mansion, on the 20th, this time for the general press.
New York magazine, Dec. 14, Maritime Hotel, 363 West 16th Street
The spankin’ new and spit-shined staff of New York gathers at the Maritime tonight (we’re assuming they’ll be clearing the patio and bar of all bridge-and-tunnel undesirables). Adam Moss, according to one of his freelance writers, “doesn’t get drunk” and “is extremely warm and very sweet.” Bo- ring! We hope that Mr. Moss will bring the New York Times Magazine tradition of having all partygoers wear name tags. It sure makes us wish for the days when well-known names would Xerox their penises during an office party.
The Daily News: Dec. 2, Copacabana, 50 West 34th Street
“Although it seems impossible, the Daily News parties were actually more morose than the newsroom on an average work day,” says a former reporter. Yikes! So far, reports from this year’s party at the Copa have been more of the same. Quick question: When did the Copacabana get so creepy-looking?
Hearst: Dec. 9, Tavern on the Green, Central Park West at 67th Street
For their last few holiday parties, all 1,400-plus workers from Hearst-the drudges from Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, O, Redbook, Cosmo and (hello!) CosmoGirl, etc.-descend upon Tavern on the Green for a full dinner buffet and open bar. Employees are asked to bring an unwrapped children’s book (sweet) and to leave all spouses and loved ones at home (cheap). To save the evening, Esquire’s A.J. Jacobs gamely wears his tight holiday trousers and does his “beaver” dance.
Citi Habitats: Dec. 2, Crobar, 530 West 28th Street
Citi Habitats, the company responsible for gouging incoming N.Y.U. freshmen on Astor Place studios and an obligatory stop for every other sucker too lazy to deal with Craigslist, threw themselves a big, fat black-tie party at Crobar last Thursday. The almost 1,000 guests dressed in their finest. Aren’t you glad you forked over that two-months-rent broker’s fee?
The Nation: Dec. 16, Telephone Bar and Grill, 149 Second Avenue
The fragrance-strip-free folks at The Nation gather their liberal selves down at the Telephone Bar and Grill, that Anglophile heaven of fireplaces, fish ‘n’ chips and shepherd’s pie. With W. in office for another term, the gents on staff no longer need Viagra to stir themselves a Christmas cocktail.
The Onion: Dec. 11, Northsix, 66 North Sixth Street, Williamsburg
We knew the staffers at The Onion were smart, we just didn’t realize how smart: They made a holiday party cool enough to invite their staff and friends, plus offer some tickets up to the public (northsix.com). The invite, which has a picture of Santa asking “Where’s the f*cking cookies?”, brags of performances by comedy guys Stella, downtown favorites the French Kicks and angry comedian Todd Barry, among others. Of course, the whole thing could be a prank.
Lucky: Dec. 15, Ava Penthouse Lounge, 210 West 55th Street
The gang over at Lucky, Condé Nast’s money-making machine, congratulates themselves at the high-above-the-grime Penthouse Lounge in midtown. Quick question: Do you think any of the editors actually have to shop anymore?
Corcoran Real Estate: Feb. 2, Cipriani, Vanderbilt Avenue at 44th Street
Taking its cue, perhaps, from Vanity Fair, real-estate heavy Corcoran drop-kicks its annual bash clear into February. We wonder what the significance is of Groundhog’s Day, but no matter: Corcoran still holds the $45 million record apartment sale (for a place in the still-scary-to-us Time Warner Center). D.J. Lady Bunny spins. Here’s hoping one of the male brokers doesn’t realize that Bunny has a “tail” until he takes her home-hippity-hop!
CBS: Dec. 9, Studio 19 at Black Rock, 51 West 52nd Street.
You have to love it when a company as staid as CBS can send out a holiday-party invite with the phrase “Same Digs. Same Pigs (in blankets, of course).” Considering that everyone over at Black Rock is waiting for the Thornburgh report to arrive and, after that, their eventual fates to be decided, we’re guessing high spirits all around.
Kate Spade: Dec. 9, Rainbow Room, 30 Rockefeller Plaza
Trust the ridiculously good-looking staff at Kate Spade to come up with a tasteful theme for their holiday party. Held in the Pegasus room at the Rainbow Room, the invite advises “sophisticated retro” (somewhere, at this moment, Marc Jacobs is stomping his foot). The food will be brought in from Cipriani, the music provided by a band called the Mosquitoes. Wake us when it’s over.
Gourmet, Dec. 14, Ruth Reichl’s apartment, location undisclosed
As if the Gourmet staff isn’t well fed enough already-their holiday party is catered by the office’s very own test kitchen and brought into editor in chief Ruth Reichl’s apartment. (Why doesn’t Ms. Wintour do this?)
Showtime: Dec. 13, Strata, 915 Broadway
It can’t be easy to be Showtime. However, this past year they got smart and threw some hot lesbians in the mix ( The L Word) and guaranteed themselves a slew of Us Weekly covers thanks to Kirstie Alley’s enormous hips. Tonight’s cocktail chatter will revolve around how much of a dud Six Feet Under’ s last season was ….