“It’s the time to do something right here and right now,” said the artist Robert Wilson. He was outside the Guggenheim sharing a cigarette with his friend, Winona Ryder, and talking about cracking the art scene wide open, again.
“His name should become an adjective, you know, like: That’s really Wilson,” said Ms. Ryder. Everyone was at the museum last week to help celebrate Robert Wilson’s 65th birthday, as well as the premiere of the documentary Absolute Wilson, about his life. “You know how people say, ‘That’s really Scorsese-esque’? They should say, ‘That’s Wilson-esque!’”
“He shoots bullet holes of honesty and truth, and that’s rare nowadays,” said Ms. Ryder. Mr. Wilson became famous in the 1970’s as an avant-garde artist in the theater and opera world. His productions are renowned for bringing a new definition of space and time to the stage, as exemplified by the seven-day play he put on in Iran. Ms. Ryder added: “There’s a lot of phonies out there.”
Like JT Leroy? Ms. Ryder had been friends with the fictional author, later revealed to be Laura Albert.
“You know, I knew her per se; I knew what was going on for a long time. But it’s hard in those situations, when someone’s playing a joke and you know what’s going on,” she said. Ms. Ryder was looking very Edward Scissorhands, pale and in a black dress. “It was more amusing to me. But that whole thing was very superficial. I never understood why they wanted to do it that way. It seemed like exhausting, if anything, but that was their way to get more of an audience. In hindsight, I feel bad for the people who felt duped by them. So much is made of like the James Frey thing—it’s sad what you have to do to get book sales.”
Ms. Ryder said that there is still an audience for real avant-garde art in today’s “oppressive” world: “It’s just gotta be good.”
Rufus Wainwright, clad in a snakeskin coat and bandana around his neck, is right there with her. “Sometimes I think that the most open periods in society are the worst, because then there’s a lot of mediocrity,” said the singer. “Whereas now, this kind of treachery that surrounds us—it gives me a challenge, and it makes you have to be that much more brilliant to really make an impact.”
He looked up with a twinkle in his eye. “So I kind of look at low periods as a tremendous opportunity to really smash the ceiling,” he said with a big smile.
Mr. Wilson’s old collaborator, Philip Glass, was on his way out. “There’s maybe less money and less opportunity, but the energy of artists is unstoppable, and it’s still there,” he promised.
A Doorman Defects?
Gilbert Stafford, the paterfamilias of New York doormen, is contemplating a move. His current roost is Crobar, the cavernous 28th Street nightclub that was a leading light in West Chelsea’s nocturnal rejuvenation. But he’s thinking about Room Service, a club on 21st, between Park and Broadway—that club had its official opening last Thursday.
“Everybody will be wearing the right clothes, the right outfit, the right look,” he said at the Room Service opening. “This is one of those, uh, what do they call it? A star turn.” He swung his tall frame around the dance floor and flung a backward glance over one shoulder.
Manning a portal to clubland, Mr. Stafford has on countless occasions thought, heard or said, “Get a room!” If he winds up at Room Service, he can save his breath. The place has semi-private rooms (which are actually curtained-off cubicles), rentable at varying sums a night, which come stocked with “necessities.”
“I hear they serve food here,” he said. “I hope the food is not an afterthought.” Why? Because people are more pliant sober? “Darling, I’d be out of business if people stayed sober. I don’t give a damn if they stay sober. I might be working here, so at least I want the food to be good, so I’m not embarrassed to invite my friends!”
Wintour, a Vision
All the ladies put on their best faces and gowns for the Fashion Group International’s 23rd annual Night of Stars party honoring “Visionaries.” But when we asked them to name their personal “visionary,” the gals got all sentimental on us.
“My daughter,” said Anna Wintour, not missing a beat. “She’s beautiful in everything she does.”
The lovely Bee Shaffer was sitting beside her mother. She returned the compliment.
“Oh, of course, my mother is my visionary, because she’s been an amazing mom and has set a great example with her career.”
Actress-model Olivia Wilde is a momma’s girl, too. “Her name is Leslie Cockburn, and she’s an investigative journalist, and she’s very brave and very smart and very beautiful.
Also keeping things in the family was Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay. “My father is, without a doubt, my visionary. He told me I could be whatever I wanted to be; he encouraged me and supported me. He was a man of his word, and he taught me to be a woman of my word. And he taught me that there are no limits. He’s the reason I have every happiness and success that I have today.”
O.K., anyone else?
“You better not edit out my dad, ’cause I’m a cop. Don’t fuck with me,” said Ms. Hargitay, whose father Mickey was a famous bodybuilder. “But if I had to say someone else, I’d have to say Jesus. He’s the Man. He was a good guy.”
The Evening of Greed
The New York Young Republican Club hosted an 80’s-themed party last week. Leaders described it as an attempt to reinvigorate members, declaring that this is a time when it’s “frustrating” to be a Republican in New York.
The Capitalist Ball was held at downtown’s premiere bridge-and-tunnel hotspot, Culture Club, and offered an opportunity—according to the press release—to “harken back to one of the greatest eras in American culture, otherwise known as the ‘Reagan Years’ or the ‘Decade of Greed’ by those who just didn’t get it.”
By 10 p.m., a group of fewer than 20 people—mostly men in their 30’s—had gathered at the back of the club. Madonna and Duran Duran played to an empty dance floor. Hardly a dent had been made in the cheese platter.
“I would have liked to see 50 people here,” said the club’s executive vice president, Ron Lewenberg. Theirs is the oldest Young Republican club in the country, started in 1911, and boasts an estimated membership of 350. “I can’t say that I’m disappointed, in that I know there are two other events going on.”
Mr. Lewenberg added that Governor George Pataki and the Republican Party in New York State had failed to give young Republicans at the grassroots level a reason to go out and fight for them. “A lot of Republicans are in hiding right now,” he said. “We need to get them to come out of hiding.”
“People go out late on Thursdays,” said longtime member Mark Kronenberg, 38, a math tutor by trade. “Things might still pick up.”
“If we’re young and I were in my 20’s and I came to this party, I’d feel a little bit like, ‘What am I doing here?’” said Mary McNeal, a fortysomething paralegal. “But there’s a lot more people in this club than just these people. I’ve been to events at the Republican Club where they have like Dick Morris speaking, and there are some really hip young people at those events.”
She added, “You just missed a really cute girl, who was very thin with blond hair—she was in her 20’s, maybe.”
William M. Horowitz had a more upbeat take on the party. He was already handing out business cards announcing his candidacy for City Council in the 23rd District in 2009. He was 28 and wore a gray suit and a giddy smile. “I’m loving this—I think it’s great. We Republicans throw the best parties.”
But there’s hardly anyone here?
“Well, you know, it was one of those parties where you had to RSVP, and then if you didn’t RSVP in time, you know there’s only so much you can do.” The Transom hadn’t RSVP’d.
The compact Mr. Horowitz continued, “You know, with the arrogance of the liberal media, they make you think: ‘Oh well, it’s a bad year for Republicans; Republicans are not going to win. You might as well stay home.’ That’s not true.”
Two women seated on a couch brought up the party’s female-under-30 contingent.
Lynn Yan, 25, an investment banker, said that she’d only been to two meetings. She wasn’t surprised that the party was a dud. “Oh my God, New York is so Democratic. And the national mood right now kind of puts a damper on things.”
Ms. Yan’s friend, Loraine Cormican, 28, a writer-comedian, agreed. “Nobody’s here and people are dying in Iraq, so it kind of puts a somber mood on things.”
The Transom Also Hears ….
At Allison Sarofim’s Halloween bacchanal on Saturday night, where guests were treated to dancing dwarfs and shirtless bartenders, a particularly ghoulish partygoer—who toils in the publishing industry—had a spooky story to share.
“So here’s a little item for you: My friend David Kuhn, who’s standing over there, has been trying to sell Laura Albert’s memoirs to every major publishing house in town, and nobody’s interested. It’s like this weird thing in the media world—people just aren’t interested in the JT LeRoy and the James Frey stories. Literally, nobody wants to touch it,” said the source.
Meanwhile, across the world …. It appeared that newly single Leonardo DiCaprio rallied up his posse for another ride along Sunset Strip on Monday night. The boys, including Mr. DiCaprio and his old (and equally single) pals, actor Lucas Haas and Entourage star Kevin Connolly, trotted into Hyde around midnight. “They came in the back entrance and tried to play it cool, but they were definitely on the prowl,” said the source, who noted that years back, the threesome used to be among L.A.’s most formidable swordsmen. “Leo was checking out every girl who walked by. Kevin was talking to a whole group of girls; he definitely didn’t seem to be mourning his break-up with Nicky. They were all laughing, having a great time. Looks like the spur posse is back!”