The Manly Arts
Are the young men of today not practicing the group-cooperation skills that have served their gender so well for decades—centuries, even—in captivating and capturing women at bars and at parties?
The Transom has detected a disturbance in the manly arts, and so set out to investigate.
In the bars of Manhattan, there were some who still relied on traditional principles.
“I was at a gigantic house in Fairfield County, you know, like prepsters for the summertime,” said Adam King. He was sporting Nantucket reds, topsiders and a black Lacoste at Le Colonial, on East 57th Street. “The hot girls rock up, and so my friend Tim wanted to go skinny-dipping. So I take off all my clothes and jump into the pool; 15 minutes later, all the chicks were doing it too.”
These are the duties of the wingman: instigation, misdirection, predation.
Justin Burns, a J.-Crewed investment-banking intern with Lehman Bros., was spotted at 230 Fifth, on Fifth Avenue. His pal did him a service recently, by transferring the attentions of a lusty lady. “She grabbed him and pulled him over, and since he has a girlfriend, he introduced her to me,” Mr. Burns said. “He chatted up the fat friend for an hour while I pulled this married woman.”
Mr. Burns calls this “jumping on a grenade.”
These are the old skills at work. “You need a solid bloke with sartorial flair and the constitution of a bull elephant, not some faffing censorious idiot with a penchant for Steven Segal movies. Steven Segal only works solo,” said Mr. King, looking louche as he swirled a Campari and soda. “You need a wingman to be as ballsy and spontaneous as you. You need a certain implicit trust.”
“He’s a professional you don’t have to hire,” said bar-goer Alix Pietrafesa, at Bar and Books on Lexington.
“In the 70’s, while I was still at Choate, my friend Bradley and I were taken to this bar by a professor,” said a fellow named Robert, a businessmen in his late 40’s. He was hanging out in the lobby of the Plaza Athénée. “And at the bar on every table, there was a phone number and a phone.” The idea was to call people up at other tables and ask them to dance instead of going up to them yourself. “Now, Bradley was a percentage man—he asks everyone to sleep with him, and he hits 4 percent of the time,” he said. This Bradley was the sort that helped only inadvertently. “The good-looking women were so offended by his forwardness that they’d say yes to me.”
The other night, Cain, the South-African-ranch-themed den at 27th and 10th, was guest to a civil-rights lawyer who wanted to be known as Roberto. He lay languidly on one of the generous red banquettes, two magnums of Grey Goose vodka—literal honey traps—untouched on the table in front of him. “In the 80’s, we always rolled in a posse,” he said. “It used to be a very effective strategy, but it’s not as cool anymore. Guys can be more brave, and are willing to show up without a posse and see what can develop, to be able to see what’s available.”
He himself had brought along his buddy Van, who was already off on the dance floor, “putting himself out there.”
But for these two, as for so many now, there is no organized system of wrangling.
“He and I have known each other since we were 13,” Roberto said, but their roles have changed. These days, a buddy is “to help assess the field of play, but that’s the way we do it.” Why is a wingman no longer good for meeting women? “That’s not attractive anymore.”
Nearby, Yuriy Kutikov, a suave Russian dancer, went it alone. “I never had that problem. You have to rely on your charm,” he said. “Never in my life!”
Judson Trapnell, a banker with J.P. Morgan, was also at Cain, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. “I don’t go to places alone,” he said. “I mean, I’m not the type that goes by myself. At least a roommate or a group,” he said. “Someone without friends would go by himself.”
“It’s much easier if both of you are looking for something to take home. I have a couple of friends I can rely on, and not to sound cocky, but I’ve never been that desperate,” Mr. Trapnell said. “My success rate is a lot better when I’m at a party—or at a private club, a university club—and I meet a mutual friend.”
Put casually like that, it sounds fine—but dig deeper and a certain stigma surrounds the wingman. Perhaps it shows weakness.
“I’m in my 50’s,” sighed a Continental Airlines pilot, hunched dejectedly over Cain’s bar. “When I have time to go out, I wish I had a wingman to go out until 5 in the morning.” Oddly, he said his co-pilots will not serve.
Even Mr. King, player extraordinaire, noticed something in flux. “If you’re talking to a group of girls, you need them there to talk to whatever horrendous friends this girl decides to bring along—whatever ghoulish cabal of know-nothing buddies she hangs out with.”
It’s important for a fellow to have a fellow. “So they can absorb,” he said, “as much bad chat as possible.” Someday they’ll all cotton on to the ultimate technique: The best wingman is a woman.
—Edmund Glover with Max Abelson
Amy Sacco, the nightlife queen, was at a cosmetics lunch for MAC and Sandra Bernhard the other day, but wished she weren’t. “I used to think I was close friends with Sandra, but then she invited me to this lunch—as if I’d be up!” Ms. Sacco said. “This is my breakfast. I still need my coffee.” Hi-o!
Her mood wasn’t improved by a question about Fabian Basabe, the self-proclaimed “reformed” party boy who recently threatened to sue her, alleging that a bouncer punched him outside of Bungalow 8.
Ms. Sacco sighed. “It’s in his head! It’s a moot point.”
So she’s not taking it seriously?
“No!” she said. “I’m not taking it seriously. I take a lot of serious things seriously. Not Fabian.”
Anyhoo. “I just got a lip facial while I was in Vegas,” said Ms. Sacco, pointing to her pouty lips, “but they hurt like hell. It feels like sand is in there. Nooo thank you—never again!”
Moving on! Is Sandra Bernhard the new RuPaul? How does she like being the new face of—“Mouthing off? Giving attitude?” Ms. Bernhard interrupted. “It’s great. MAC wants someone who embodies their message, who consumers want to emulate.”
As her publicist nodded vigorously, Ms. Bernhard—who just finished doing her one-woman show, Everything Bad and Beautiful, off Broadway—sagely said, “It’s always great when you can cross-promote yourself.”
Even if at Michael’s, on a sweltering August day. The crowd included designer Zac Posen, Page Six’s Paula Froelich, and Polly Ryerson and Trisha Gregory, who do public relations for Salvatore Ferragamo.
Ira Gurzzardo, a suntanned blond agent from Halstead, was there for the chicken salad. “I do nothing. This is a good lunch break,” she said.
Patrick McDonald, America’s dandy, said he was there because he writes about fashion—and because “I love makeup, I do!” He pointed to his dramatic black eyebrows, which, with the help of some serious black eyeliner, snaked toward his ears. “I’m only in New York in August because Fashion Week is coming up,” he said. “I just returned from Istanbul, where I stayed for 10 days, and Paris, where I bought lots and lots of Galliano! I had to go to Fire Island to relax from Istanbul and Paris.”
Kim-Van Dang, the president of the beauty branding company KVD NYC, Inc., said she was there because “I gotta stay on top of the trends. I think in this day and age, you really have to stand for something. I’m a fan of what MAC is able to do with, you know, shaking things up.”
Ms. Dang noted the company’s ability to “get women really passionate about their causes, whether it’s AIDS or, you know, lip glosses.”
“Jihads, AIDS, starvation,” Ms. Sacco said in her brief remarks to the crowd. “I found the answer, people—let’s all go to Vegas! Nobody there cares—because they’re all drunk!”
“Who needs a therapist when you can have strippers?” Ms. Sacco asked. “They listen! I’m sure the people here know—for the same price, you can even have a couple of them!”
For Hillary Clinton, exiting a party means navigating an obstacle course filled with blinding camera flashes, crushing crowds and much—but much—worse.
Take, for instance, the Wednesday-night birthday bash for Congressman Charles Rangel in the Crystal Room of Tavern on the Green. As soon as Mrs. Clinton stepped off a small stage (where the evening’s M.C., State Senator David Paterson, recognized her as “Madam President”), she encountered a wall of tipsy Democratic well-wishers. She turned left, and they wanted to shake her hand. She turned right, and they wanted to kiss her cheek. In front, they aimed their cameras. Behind, things got downright treacherous.
“Donald Trump, right behind you!” alerted an aide.
The Senator, wearing a charcoal skirt suit and a toothy smile framed in red lipstick, spun around to face Mr. Trump. His lips were puckered. His hair was wispy, rust-colored and hovered off his head. He dipped in for a kiss and a whisper.
“Congratulations on everything—you’re doing great,” he said, failing to introduce the curvy blonde in a red dress standing beside him.
“We’re walking out! We’re walking out!” screamed the aide, trying to clear an escape route. “How are you doing?” said Mrs. Clinton, biding time.
Mr. Trump dipped in for another whisper.
“Get over the course,” he said.
“O.K., Senator—right this way,” said the aide, leading Mrs. Clinton out of immediate danger. In the next room, lined with a white table offering grilled vegetables, cheese, slabs of beef, turkey and cake, Mrs. Clinton successfully ignored a desperate television reporter quizzing her about Senator Joe Lieberman, her Presidential ambitions and the war in Iraq. A man holding a gin and tonic in one hand and a screwdriver in the other came up and hugged her.
“Mmmmah,” Mrs. Clinton said, while kissing him on the cheek.
On the fringes of the cluster, kids in suits handed out copies of Black Noir Magazine and Positive Community Magazine, which displayed Mr. Rangel on the cover. Women dressed elegantly in long floral frocks and ribbon-wrapped bonnets sipped from glasses of rosé. At round tables, men sat in bright white suits, with straw hats perched on their knees, listening to speeches and calling “That’s right!” when they agreed.
After much shoving and pleading, Mrs. Clinton’s aides muscled her out of the party and onto the restaurant’s patio. There, couples danced to Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett standards. After a police officer escorted Mrs. Clinton behind a guardrail, some of the couples applauded her and she waved back at them. At 7:40, she disappeared with her staff through a gap in the hedges.
Back on the stage, in front of a mural of cypress trees and blue skies, former Mayor David Dinkins dabbed his forehead with a white handkerchief. Al Sharpton once again managed to find a spot for himself behind the podium, and Mr. Rangel, wearing a powder blue tie against a powder blue shirt, spoke into the microphone.
“Let’s party!” he said. “Let’s have a good time.”