Last night at a party for The Atlantic Monthly‘s 150th anniversary, held on the stage of the NYU student center auditorium, the aging cable-access porn star Robin Byrd was looking around the room. She saw Robert DeNiro, and locked in.
"Hello!" she said, touching his right arm.
"Hi" he replied.
"Hi," she said, curling a smile.
"Hi, hi," he replied, holding his look for an extra second and turned away.
"I guess he recognized me and doesn’t wanna talk," Ms. Byrd concluded. "Look at him! He’s got a clavicle problem, you know. A clavicle problem."
Mr. DeNiro’s left arm and shoulder were in a sling.
"Because his arm is not in a cast, just a sling! He has a clavicle problem, poor guy."
"I don’t really know what The Atlantic is," she continued. "Is it something political?"
A few feet away, the socialite and Republican fund-raiser Georgette Mosbacher was complaining to Christopher Buckley that her Fifth Avenue co-op board rejected her plans for a holiday party. If she had it her way, half the party would be held on the fifth floor for Christmas, the other half for Hanukkah on the eighth floor. The board said no—too many people would attend. So she told them at a meeting that "they should go get a god-damn, fucking life." Mr. Buckley laughed and asked if she needed a drink. She didn’t reply, and he walked away.
After that, she told New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly that he’d be the perfect man for mayor. He smiled very uncomfortably, and nodded his head. "Look at him! A good politican, he says ‘No Comment’!" He said he was in the presence of two New York Post reporters, and pointed to two young women. Ms. Mosbacher excused herself because the speeches were about to begin.
Standing next to her was Boykin Curry, the socialite whose dream for a Dominican Republic resort and golf course for artists and writers was reportedly crushed by the unwanted arrival on the scene of prostitutes. "We didn’t rent it out to them. We weren’t involved in any way," he said. "They just showed up and used the course that day. I don’t know, a drug dealer could show up and play the golf course, and how would we know? Whoever comes comes."
He pointed to ex-Massachusetts governor William Weld, and said that he was an investor in the project. Mr. Weld soon excused himself, saying he had to go to a green room to find out what he was supposed to be talking about.
A few minutes later, Mr. Weld was joined on stage by an eclectic cast that included Atlantic editor in chief James Bennet, reporter Mark Bowden (of Black Hawk Down fame), humor writer P.J. O’Rourke, Arianna Huffington, and Moby, among others. They spoke ponderously about "the American idea" while a crowd of several hundred people, sitting in the auditorium’s seats, took in the speeches and watched the real guests like Andrew Sullivan, Tom Wolfe, Nick Denton, Michael Hirschorn — and Media Mob — attend a cocktail party on a stage that members of the audience were given no access to.
Even those who were in the VIP area didn’t seem to enjoy it. One man in a rumpled suit said, "This is the worst fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life." Patti Smith, waiting to perform, sat in a corner and said, "I’m trying to ignore all of this."
Those consigned to watch were even more ticked off.
"This is so offensive! Why is there a visible VIP area where people are gorging themselves on drinks and shrimp?" said Steve Ruddy, a 35-year-old actor who lives in the West Village.*
"This is the strangest event I’ve ever been to," said Linda Lakritz of the Upper West Side. She said she was expecting a gift bag, and got a copy of The Atlantic instead.
"It made me really sad," said Jennifer Vanasco, another member of the audience. "I expect something more from The Atlantic. I mean, I can get this from New York magazine."
* A correction has been made from a version posted earlier.