At about 9:30 last night, about 30 of the 550 guests at the Supper Club New York‘s official launch party were standing out in front of the National Arts Club, the eccentric Victorianized complex facing the south side of Gramercy park, smoking and in some cases already hailing cabs.
Inside, the guests mingled on the second floor of the club near the central staircase and in four or five communicating rooms filled with knick-knacks, paintings and countless empty martini glasses and Champagne flutes, some with wrinkled maraschino cherries at the bottom.
America’s Next Top Model‘s noted photographer Nigel Barker was there, and Del Marquis from downtown glam band Scissor Sisters and Richie Rich of Heatherette fame. The rest of the list reads like a roll call for a fashionable junior benefit committee: Richie Rich, Euan Rellie, Leven Rambin, Emma Snowdon-Jones, Kate Schelter, Jackie Astier, Andrew Buckler, Sue Stemp, Eneas Capalbo, Rory and Rebecca Guinness, Eugenia Silva, Kate Lanphear, Susan Shin, Antony Todd and Celeste Villanueva.
Drinks flowed steadily from a couple of bars, one of which was positioned near a table piled high with fancy snacks. Typical party snapshot: older thin white guy with glasses chatting up 20-something African American man with a fauxhawk while his funny female friend, who works at an art gallery, waves across the room to a grungy rocker type with long greasy hair.
Floating among the magazine editors, art dealers, designers, financiers, publicists and "freelance graphic designers" was Tamsin Lonsdale, the little bit of a thing with butter-colored hair who started Supper Club in London in 2005.
The London version is about setting single people up with each other, but that is either too easy or too hard to get done in Manhattan at a supper party so the New York branch, she insists, is just social.
Wearing a white 1940’s Finnish dress that she picked up in a London vintage shop, she endeavored to explain the difference.
"New York is a different market," she said. "New Yorkers are spoiled: they get to go out to four different events a night; they’re always picking and choosing; and they don’t generally pay to come to events. So, New York is more challenging."
"I can’t just do a dinner in any old restaurant; I have to find a restaurant that a New Yorker can’t get into or that a New Yorker hasn’t been to."
On top of its regular docket of cocktail parties, outings and dinners, Supper Club New York plans to host a large-scale gathering each month in an "insane" private residence. Several venues have supposedly already been lined up, but Ms. Lonsdale wouldn’t tell us who was hosting–only that she had already lined up one uptown mansion and one estate 20 minutes outside the city for upcoming dinners. "I’m making it so exclusive that it’s very difficult for anybody to join, so everybody wants a piece of the action," she said in a voice that, because it was matured at posh English boarding school Bedales, almost made the idea sound appealing.
After graduating from the University of Edinburgh–"with a first" in business administration, Ms. Lonsdale worked for a while for British stylist Edward Enninful, and then Italian Vogue.
"It wasn’t enough for me," she said. "I wanted to own my own company. I didn’t want to work for anybody else. I, by default, started organizing dinner parties for all of my friends. And then it kind of got so popular, more people wanted to join. Suddenly, 400 people wanted to join, so I realized I had to start vetting out everybody!"
But then who’d be left?