The English Roses
The Range Rover Sport was the official car of this year’s Hampton Classic Horse Show, held in the wake of Tropical Storm Ernesto on Labor Day weekend. WASP-y Hamptonites think it the car of the English landed gentry. Really, it’s the car of choice for tawdry footballers’ wives in London suburbs. And Third World dictators.
Although the Met Costume Institute exhibition AngloMania just closed, the fever still rules in the Hamptons. On eastern Long Island, British is best, from housewares to country wear. “People try to escape the city life by transforming into people they are not,” said Hamptons devotee Christina Bohigian, a designer with Dunhill.
The products of Barbour, makers of the quintessentially English waxed jacket and other country attire, were everywhere. Two distinguished-looking English ladies ran the booth in the boutique garden; Barbour is franchised by the Peter Elliot stores of the Upper East Side. The rain added a delicious in-the-countryside-with-Madonna vibe.
Maggie Archambault, manager of Barbour by Peter Elliot in Manhattan, is from Hampshire. “Barbour just lends itself so well to a horse show, to the people and the vacationers in the Hamptons—it’s the perfect clothing for that crowd,” she said.
“It’s that that old-money thing. Here’s Barbour: It’s tradition, it’s classical, it’s very WASP-y—it’s that old-money look, and it’s been around for a hundred years,” she said. “It makes people look like they belong.”
On the arena big screen, the Barbour ad ran: snapshots of the English countryside accompanied by Celtic music. “I tell people it’s what I wear in Scotland,” said one employee.
“I think we’ll fit right in,” said a man who’d just purchased his-and-hers jackets for an Ireland trip. Kelsey Grammer’s wife bought a pair of wellies.
One fellow came out of the V.I.P. tent to buy four jackets and four pairs of Wellington boots—total cost, about $1,400. “Actually, our whole family already has Barbours, which we bought at Harrods in London, which is where you really should buy them. But right now, we’re just wet,” he said.
In the V.I.P. tent, at the $25,000 tables, Kathy Hilton was wearing matching Burberry-print rain boots and a visor. “No one watches the show, but it’s fun. You never see so many people at a horse show who don’t really give a shit about horse-riding,” said Teddy Holzer, son of Warholian muse Baby Jane Holzer.
“The whole riding thing is about having English roots. People like that kinda thing,” he said. Halfway through the final event, a roller, pulled by a Range Rover, was pulled out to flatten the divots. “As far as I’m concerned, they don’t have Range Rover tractors in England,” said Mr. Holzer.
Tuesday was the first day of classes for Columbia and N.Y.U. students. But the buzz on both campuses wasn’t school-related—because the social anchor of all college students’ lives, Facebook, had added a surprising new feature creepy enough to tweak everybody’s minds from their syllabi.
With all the rousing and modish flair of an A.P. wire, the new feature, called “News Feeds,” exhumes all the skeletons from one’s Facebook closet. Want to know if Soo Kim just added “Flava” of Love—at 4:32 p.m.—to her list of favorite TV shows?
Back in the day, when you logged onto the old thefacebook.com, your first piece of news was who “poked” you. Now it’s an onslaught of dish on your friends—orchestrated by the Facebook admin itself.
A sampling—with only the names changed to protect the guilty:
Jennifer Weinstein and Heather McVey are now friends. 8:13am
Mr Cupid Jr is upset that the Crocodile Hunter died! BANANAS! 7:33am
Paul Brown is going to bed … registration tomorrow. (At least that what the rumor is..??). 4:23am
Ryan Sacks added “christina aguilera” to his favorite music. 5:26pm
Andrew Beres, a Columbia junior who just finished a full class day of Proust and cultural diversity in contemporary France, said the Facebook news sent waves of shock through Morningside Heights. “It’s just like: What the fuck is this?” he said. “It’s crazy as hell and creepy. It’s all extraneous information that I don’t want to know about, and information that I don’t want people to know about me.”
Facebook already tells you when you’ve last logged on and whether you’re online—features that are par for the course with MySpace or Friendster. “I’m perfectly satisfied with the updated such-and-such crap.”
But now this? Just when you devised your post-summer plot to poke that boy you really wanted to make into a Facebook friend; now everyone has to know about it?
Some at Columbia have already taken to arms, forming “Change Facebook Back” groups. For others, it may have just been the—pardon the phrase—tipping point.
“I was talking with a couple friends, and we were talking about deleting our accounts and being done with it,” Mr. Beres said.
You’d really do it?
“Well—they were talking about it.”
The Last Seduction
Neil Strauss spent most of his Labor Day weekend at Courtney Love’s place in the Hollywood Hills watching new-age British sketch comedy. “I really think what’s coming out of the U.K. right now is going to be the next big thing,” said Mr. Strauss. He’s writing an article for Rolling Stone about the “new form.” (Think Noel Fielding and Julian Barrat—and Steve Coogan’s Saxondale. We say hello, Tittybangbang!) It was his good fortune, he explained, that Ms. Love is “obsessed” and has an extensive collection of obscure, hard-to-find DVD’s of these British funny folk.
“We pretty much watched this stuff all weekend. It’d be me wanting to go to bed and Courtney being like, ‘No, no, you’ve got to see this other one,’” he said. “She’s sober right now, and when she’s clean, she’s a pleasure to be with and a fountain of intelligent conversation.”
On Sunday, Mr. Strauss took a break to spend some time with his girlfriend of two years, Lisa Leverage, a guitarist who plays with Ms. Love. They have not broken up, no matter what anyone says. He said he met Ms. Leverage while researching his book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, and after meeting her, he had no more use for pickup lines, he said. “Not to plug the book or anything—it did very well.”
“She came over and was like, ‘What’s the adventure of the day?’” he said. “My biggest fear is of her getting bored.” They tossed around a few ideas and settled on a visit to the original Batcave. Mr. Strauss said he had Batman on his mind because his graphic novel, How to Make Money Like a Porn Star, is out later this month, and he’s been looking at the galleys.
And so they made the 15-minute drive to a park off Bronson Avenue, where the manmade hole out of which Adam West and so many other actors once pranced now functions as a tourist attraction. Mr. Strauss said he and his girlfriend spent about 45 minutes in the cave, which he described as a “no man’s land.”
“You can hardly see anything!” What does one do once inside the cave? “Decide whether or not to have sex. I mean, there was no one else down there.”
Not every time is a good time. “Not unlike infidelity, the fantasy was better than the reality.”
The Blue-State Couple
In the cold, hard light of post–Labor Day reality, the smoke of the tiny eruption that was MTV’s Video Music Awards has already dissipated. Man, we just wanted to have some fun! But instead, the VMA’s were one part crappy family wedding—and at least three parts political convention.
Like any wedding and every convention, the VMA’s were all about the star turn of a captivatingly tenuous marriage of professional and political convenience.
No, no—perhaps sensing the lurking ghost of Al Gore, neither Bill nor Hillary made it out to the show or its pre- and post-parties. But yes, yes! The Clintons have been eclipsed in power-coupledom by rapper-mogul Jay-Z and his post-ingenue pop girlfriend, Beyoncé Knowles.
Unfortunately for Ms. Knowles, she finds herself firmly stuck in the Hillary role. The former Destiny’s Child front girl pulled out all the stops during her VMA performance at Radio City—dropping out of the rafters on a rope, twirling around in a stylized trench coat, and generally looking severe and studied and stern.
Like Ms. Clinton’s ongoing battles against the tall legend of her husband, the odds were stacked against Beyoncé’s independent womanhood from the start. MTV opened the night with a swooping shot of the ostensibly retired Mr. Z, 36, standing on top of 30 Rock, fog machines roaring, literally casting a shadow on the city below. “Welcome home,” he said, exuding the nonchalant entitlement of a once and future king.
After the awards, Team Beyoncé was to decamp for Ms. Knowles’ 25th birthday party, her birth having been timed nicely to coincide with the Sept. 5 release of her sophomore solo LP, B’Day. The event was held at the 40/40 Club on 25th Street, owned by Mr. Z.
With an album on the way, would Ms. Knowles dare be caught entering the party with her charismatic and overshadowing paramour—reduced, as it were, to a chick on his arm?
But before the press holed up on the red carpet would learn that, they had to endure a small cavalcade of minor hip-hop producers and marginal N.B.A. players—the type that caused grizzled Extra and Entertainment Tonight cameramen to bark “Who is that?” at their equally bewildered correspondents.
Around 11 p.m., Marlon Wayans showed up, grabbed someone’s microphone to sing “Happy Birthday” to Ms. Knowles, and assured the bored reporters that though he didn’t attend the award show itself, he watched and TiVo’d it from home. No one had the heart to ask if he had been invited.
Things heated up around 11:35 p.m., when Tina Knowles, the future mother of the bride, arrived. The celebrity press apparently universally refers to her as “Mama Knowles.”
“We commissioned a Creole artist,” Ms. Knowles said, “to paint a portrait that celebrates Beyoncé’s life and work. I can’t wait to see it inside.”
Then the hundreds of fans now gathered across the street were reminded that destiny does not smile as kindly on all its children. From separate limos, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams—Ms. Knowles’s former group mates—disembarked. The ladies put on a brave face, gamely slipping in news about their own low-profile solo projects at the end of on-camera interviews likely never to see the light of E!
“She takes risks,” Ms. Williams said of Beyoncé’s trench-coated “Ring the Alarm” number. “I remember the awards a few years ago, she came out upside down. I was like, ‘Girl, you can take it.’ I love her—she’s just deposited so much into me.”
The image disturbs. Ms. Rowland did better. If she possesses any of what Nietzsche called ressentiment, it expressed itself nicely in a sort of killing-with-kindness will to power.
“B’s so talented,” Ms. Rowland said with a sweet grin. “I think she’s going to be up for an Oscar this year.”
Because it’s unlikely that the Academy would recognize Ms. Knowles’ role as Xania in The Pink Panther, Ms. Rowland was likely referring to the upcoming Dreamgirls, the Bill Condon musical in which Beyoncé plays Deena Jones, the member of a 70’s black girl-trio who wants to abandon her less-photogenic compatriots for mainstream success in the movies.
The melancholia deepened when P. Diddy and his entourage rolled up around midnight. Mr. Diddy is both shorter and fatter than one would expect, and decked out in fedora and striped vest, he added several magnitudes of anomie to an already rather alienating night. He refused to pose for pictures. The press moaned.
“Diddy can do what he wants,” said a reporter. “He’s so rich, he has white slaves!”
U.S. Open dauphin Andy Roddick tried to pull off a similar trick. “Thank you for making tennis even more boring,” a photographer said to him.
And so Beyoncé Knowles arrived alone. That is to say, with a half-dozen handlers, but no man. It soon became clear that she wasn’t a natural performer, because she told everyone so. “Once the performance was over, I had a great night,” she said. “That was all I could think about …. I thought, ‘What is this? I have to do this on my birthday?’”
A strange thing happened around 12:30.
Twenty-fifth Street, which had been blocked off all evening, was unexpectedly opened. Four or five garbage trucks turned in off Broadway, slowly passing 40/40 with their horns honking. The horrified press corps, sweaty and now in the fourth hour of standing about, turned to scream at the garbage men. The garbage men gave as good as they got.
If Ms. Knowles was annoyed or flustered or bemused, nobody knew. A practiced political wife, her face remained frozen in perfect inscrutability, her smile broad, eyes wide, forehead lifted in the permanent expression of a slight startle. The sanitation/paparazzi showdown abated and, after answering and dodging a few more questions, Beyoncé was hustled through the club door. Jay-Z had already sneaked in, and her party was inside.