Diddy’s a Winna!
“What the fuck is going on!” bellowed Jessica Rosenblum at an underling. They were working the door at Crobar on Monday night. Ms. Rosenblum is a fiery, petite blonde with a voice that carries like foghorn. “How did that get all the way through? He had a bright blue shirt on. That cannot happen!”
Ms. Rosenblum said she has been coordinating events for Sean (Diddy) Combs for 17 years. Tonight was his first-ever Black Party.
“Yes, he is very serious about the dress code,” she said. “As far as Diddy’s concerned, you could be Tom motherfuckin’ Cruise, and if you ain’t wearin’ black, you’re not getting in.”
The twin sisters of R&B group Nina Sky were among the first to walk the black carpet. “I had to sparkle it up a little,” said Nicole Albino, who wore a black slip dress with a gold belt and gold shoes. “You gotta do black and stick to the dress code, but you gotta add your little essence to it. It didn’t kill the dress code entirely. They said, ‘It’s cool.’ And they let me in.”
“You gotta abide by the rules and the regulations of the situation,” said the large-type rap artist Bone Crusher.
“You noticed my shoes—hot pink patent leather!” said Vibe magazine editor in chief Danyel Smith. “That’s my little rebel streak.”
The party was thrown to celebrate Mr. Combs’ sixth appearance on the cover of Vibe as well as the release of his new album. Ms. Smith said she has known Mr. Combs so long that she still sometimes calls him “Puff”—to his face! “One thing about Diddy: He’s strict, but it works. He’s about business. He’s about creativity. And if he calls out a dress code, he’s serious about it.”
When Mary J. Blige and her husband, Martin Kendu Isaacs, walked the black carpet, organizers balked. Ms. Blige wore a leopard-skin mink and a brown dress. Mr. Isaacs had on a white coat and a gray suit. The Transom, looking positively dashing in brown tweed, saw our chance and glommed onto Ms. Blige’s entourage. And zip—in like that!
There were about 20 dancers on various platforms wearing itsy-bitsy amounts of black fabric. One dancer was doing her best to look sexy on a giant swing high above the party. Diddy and Kanye West and Ja Rule and others were in a roped-off section in the middle of the club, passing a microphone. The club was packed and almost all in black, even Ron Burkle.
“All of Diddy’s parties are great,” said Russell Simmons. The music was so loud the ground was trembling.
But Mr. Simmons, The Transom screamed, which is better—the Black Party or the White Party?
“I like them both,” he said, adding that the Black Party was a little easier to dress up for.
Then Ms. Blige was on her way out with husband and bodyguards. Did you have fun, Mary? “Diddy’s a winna!” she said, all gangsta style. She saw a friendly face in the crowd. “What up, bitch!”
Ms. Smith actually had an opinion. “I think the Black Party is much chicer! The White Party’s like summer time in the Hamptons or whatever. It’s fun, but this is chic.”
High on Rebellion
“Is this a funeral for punk rock?” a reporter asked Patti Smith. She was conducting a kind of press-conference-slash-sound-check from the stage of CBGB & OMFUG Sunday night. It was the club’s last night.
“That is too much of a fuckin’ stupid question to even answer,” said Ms. Smith. Punk rock!
When a French reporter stammered, “Do you feel, do you feel, do you feel … ,” she broke in: “Yes! I feel! I feel it in my veins!”
She allowed the foreigner to finish his question: “Do you feel noh-stahl-zhic?”
“No, I don’t feel noh-stahl-zhic,” the 49-year-old rocker said. “I don’t even feel nostalgic.” She wore an oversized pinstripe blazer—sleeves rolled up—an untucked white dress shirt and black pants. Her hair was long and mangy.
“CBGB is a state of mind,” she said.
A crowd of reporters and cameramen gathered around the stage.
A rent dispute between the 73-year-old owner, Hilly Kristal, and his landlords began in 2005, when the Bowery Residents’ Committee assessed him $91,000 in back rent. He was giving interviews from a couch in the gallery next-door to the club. He wore tinted glasses and head-to-toe CBGB garb.
If things go according to plan, he will open a new venue in Las Vegas. Monday night, people were saying, the interior of the bar was going to start being crated for a trip out to Vegas, to be reconstructed piece by piece there.
“If we go to Las Vegas, it’s because the mayor’s office wants us there,” Mr. Kristal said. “They’re going to make it much easier for us to do things there.”
“It’s all about luxury apartments and making a lot of money around here,” he said. “That’s what it’s about in this city, and our Mayor is for that.”
“There’s just not a strong rock scene anymore,” said the club-owner known only as Trigger, who had come to watch the last show. Trigger recently shuttered his East Village live-music venue, the Continental, after a 15-year run. “The only time people come out now is for a reunion concert or when their favorite music club closes.”
“A lot of things have closed.” Later this month, Trigger will reopen the Continental as a dive bar. “No one can afford it. It’s not just live-music clubs—it’s everything. There are bodegas around here that have closed.”
Aside from ticket holders, a large and varied crowd—one guy had come all the way from Italy!—had gathered on the sidewalk to witness the last night from outside the club doors.
Inside, Ms. Smith wanted to make sure the last show was legit. She had given strict instructions that management clear out all media after the press conference.
“It’s Patti’s orders,” said a manager, fending off reporters’ requests to watch the show. “She wants it to be for the people.”
Michael Wolff was pacing anxiously about the Core Club reception room last week. He had organized a panel to address a question: “Does Wall Street matter anymore?” The star of the show, bad-boy billionaire Carl Icahn, was running late.
“I hope he shows up,” Mr. Wolff said, one eye on the club’s entrance. The time was approaching 7 p.m.; the panel was supposed to begin at 6. In the meantime, well, does Wall Street matter?
“You know, I’m a journalist—I have no fuckin’ idea,” said Mr. Wolff. “Um, it doesn’t matter to me. It never mattered to me. But I don’t know—I actually think that the point here is that the power has moved. And so the age of investment banks is over, thank God. But so now we have to deal with hedge-fund guys, of course.”
What’s the difference?
“I don’t know,” he said.
“I think Wall Street matters, but I think that it matters less than it used to,” said Jonathan Knee, author of the new book The Accidental Investment Banker: Inside the Decade That Transformed Wall Street. Mr. Knee worked at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley through much of the 90’s.
And in terms of society? New York–itude? “I think there are still some fabulous people. But it I think you find them spread around lots of different places than just Wall Street,” said Mr. Knee. “And look, I think Wall Street in its heyday—in its true heyday—actually predates the fabulous characters. That is, flamboyance is associated, I think, with the decline of Wall Street, not with its heyday. In its true heyday, people like Sydney Weinberg and John Whitehead were folks who made it their business to stay out of the papers, not to promote themselves, because the business was about relationships rather than about transactions!”
Jim Kelly, the newly promoted managing editor of Time Inc., was there. So Jim, could the media do a better job covering Wall Street?
“I wouldn’t touch that question with a 10-foot stock option!” said Mr. Kelly.
“It’s all media people here,” said Elizabeth Spiers of Dealbreaker.com. She said it was easy to spot a banker in a roomful of journalists. “They look a little more nervous and tense than the media people do. The media people head straight for the bar and wander around with cocktails, blissfully waiting for something to happen, and the bankers are sitting there thinking, ‘I’m here and I should be working on a deal.’”
“Bankers are all sitting there thinking, ‘Say something that’s gonna make me money.’ And the journalists are all sitting there thinking, ‘Say something that’s scandalous.’”
Mr. Icahn walked in. “I need a vodka,” he said. Mr. Wolff trailed after him to the bar.
The panel discussion was apparently pretty exciting. Mr. Icahn said lots of saucy things. He talks like a cab driver.
“Money makes money.”
“Hedge funds ain’t gonna last long.”
“The only thing more worthless than a C.E.O. is a board member.”
He even let slip a tip to buy Federated, but not quite now: “It might be a little high.”
The panel ended and Mr. Icahn made for the exit. He had a dinner to get to. Where?
“I don’t go to the steaks anymore,” he said. O.K., sometimes he hits Ruth’s Chris. But now? “I go to this Italian place.”
The Gay Engagée
This long year has been studded with engagement parties for Jay McInerney and Anne Hearst. Why so many?
The Transom ran into Mr. McInerney on Thursday, at Penfolds winery. Mr. McInerney is a wine columnist for House & Garden, don’t forget!
“A few of our friends have thrown us parties,” Mr. McInerney said. “Who doesn’t like a party in their own honor? It’s been fun. You know, why not, you know? I’m always happy to have a party. But it’s not like they’re not promotional events. You may have read about them. You know, some of our friends are journalists. But we’re not promoting our engagement.”
The Transom has indeed read about them!
Mr. McInerney said they are a planning a small, intimate wedding in the Hamptons. Honeymoon-wise, they are currently looking at the Maltese. As for the wine that will be served on the special day, the raconteur is working on it.
“I’m still working on that. It’s an important question. I’ve got a whole cellar to sift through and see what I’ve got.”
The bridegroom has a new book out late this month. “It’s about how wine saved me from smoking and, eh-heh, snorting and dancing the hoochie-koo,” he said. “Honestly, it’s a collection of my House & Garden columns.”
Mr. McInerney does really credit wine with saving his brain. “Wine is a way of sort of channeling and intellectualizing the hedonistic impulses, perhaps. It’s more conducive to reflection than a highball or an eight-ball.”
So it’s a strict wine-only diet these days?
“I don’t really drink cocktails or do coke anymore. There’s too many good wines and only so many brain cells.”
Le Bonne Soupe
While Mr. McInerney was enjoying his wine, across town that same Thursday night another author, Tom Sykes, was not. He wasn’t having any!
Though he was at a place called Gin Lane.
“My great grandfather was a fellow called Mark Sykes,” he said. “And he went out and redrew the map of the Middle East during the First World War in a secret agreement with the French, called the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which carved up the whole Middle East into regions of French and English control,” recalled Mr. Sykes, who was feasting on some pasta at a table with about 25 of his friends.
“At the time it was this wonderful thing, and my grandfather wrote a letter to one of the people and said, you know, that they all hope that it was going to create a peaceful region. Anyway, it all ended in disaster, as we know. But he made an effort. And the reason this all comes up in the book is ’cause he did all this when he was 30, and by the time I was 30, I like couldn’t pay my rent and was like chronically hung-over every morning. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even tidy my fucking room up. And I remember just sort of thinking, judging against this sort of mythical figure from my family.”
“But the weirdest thing of all—the guy who runs the French restaurant opposite my house, La Bonne Soupe, is called Jean-Paul Picot, and he is Picot’s grandson! I mean, that is weird, right? I have been eating onion soup there for three years, but only just discovered this coincidence the other day when M. Picot read the book. Now that I’m sober, I’m able to find these things out.”
Jake and Lance Adopt!
“Nobody’s wearing any underwear at table 23,” joked Robert Downey Jr. from the lobster-shaped podium at the Americans for the Arts’ National Arts Awards Monday night at Cipriani 42nd Street. He was presenting the Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence to Jake Gyllenhaal, who was sitting along with his friend Lance Armstrong at table 23.
“He’s just the real deal,” Mr. Downey said later of Mr. Gyllenhaal. The two had become close on a recent project. “What I respect about him is his process. The people that I hang out with, the people that I hang with that I’m close with, the people I respect—sometimes it’s an external thing, but largely it’s his character. Are you living by a set of principles that you really adhere to? And I see him doin’ it, and that’s why I got his back forever.”
Ditto for Mr. Gyllenhaal. “I love Robert,” he said, gesturing to the man across the table. “We worked together on a movie and we became really close after that. It’s very rare that you have an experience like that and you keep a real friendship. When you keep that connection and it means something and it’s deep to you, that’s awesome—and that’s what Robert and I have.”
The Brokeback Mountain star was also pleased to have his good buddy Lance Armstrong there for support in the seat next to him. “Our friendship was born out of a mutual appreciation for a lot of things—mostly just staying in shape. But we’ve become good friends, and he’s an awesome guy. He’s the personification of courage for most of the world, and it’s a real honor to be his friend.”
To complete the circle of love, Mr. Downey has also become close with Mr. Armstrong. “He’s an awesome guy. He’s been giving me guff ’cause I still smoke. He’s inspired me to quit—I mean, if he can beat cancer, I think I can beat cigarettes.”