It was a little after 7 p.m. on Wednesday night and Christopher Hitchens was having a whiskey on the 6th floor balcony of the Marriot Marquis hotel. He was there for the National Book Awards (see post below), and because he’d been nominated for best non-fiction book of the year, he was wearing a shiny medal around his neck.
The awards ceremony would not start for another half hour, and Mr. Hitchens was talking about how he was thinking of writing a memoir.
“I’m not sure I should be doing one yet, but I realized that I have started thinking about how I would do it,” he said. “I’m just realizing that I’m remembering things I’d forgotten. I’m thinking about the past.”
What had Mr. Hitchens remembered so far?
“Things about friends, things about childhood, things about books I’d read. People I’ve known. Which means my mind has started working.”
Once the awards ceremony got underway, Mr. Hitchens sat at a table in the main banquet hall with his editor Jonathan Karp and Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch. “Look, there I am!” Mr. Hitchens said during intermission, pointing happily to the large screens on stage showing his face and the cover of his book God Is Not Great.
Chuck Shelton, the editor of the publishing trade publication Kirkus, came over to the table to say hello to Mr. Karp. Mr. Shelton greeted Mr. Hitchens, whom he said he knew from cocktail parties. Shortly thereafter, according to Mr. Shelton, he was inexplicably touching Mr. Hitchens’ penis and rubbing his balls.
“He had an empty wineglass and there were only empty wine bottles at his table,” Mr. Shelton said later in an interview. “So he grabbed me and we ran over to Viking’s table where he grabbed a full bottle of red wine and filled his goblet and my sorry excuse for a wine glass.”
Mr. Shelton had read some articles that Mr. Hitchens had written recently for Vanity Fair about waxing his “crack, back, and sack.”
“We started talking and I said ‘Hey, Hitchens! You’re lookin’ really sexy, with your crack, back, and sack!’”
Mr. Hitchens asked Mr. Shelton if he wanted to feel. Mr. Shelton said he did.
“He looks around and says, ‘is anybody looking?’ And I said ‘no, of course not!’ And we’re standing in the middle of the ballroom at the Marriot Marquee.” Mr. Shelton said. “He unzipped his pants and he said ‘feel it, feel it.’ So I stuck my hand in there and all I really felt was a very clean… penis. That’s all I really felt. So I said, ‘Wow! That’s really great! I mean, nice penis!’ Then I pulled it out and he zipped up.”
Mr. Hitchens asked Mr. Shelton if he’d felt how smooth everything was. Mr. Shelton said he had not.
“I said I really didn’t feel, you know, where it would be smooth and all that,” Mr. Shelton said. “He said, ‘Do you want to feel it again?’ And I said, ‘Well, as a matter of fact, yes, I do.’ So he says, ‘Do you want me to guide your hand?’ And I said, ‘yes, as a matter of fact I do.’ He said, ‘Is anybody looking?’ And I said ‘No, of course not.’ He said, ‘Do you want me to guide you?’ and I said, ‘Yes, please guide me.’ So he takes my hand and he guides it into his open fly and he goes on to rub it all over his very smooth pubic area. You cannot believe how smooth it is. And I said, ‘Hitchens! That is really smooth!’ And he said, ‘I know.’”
At that point, Mr. Shelton took back his hand and Mr. Hitchens refastened his trousers. Just then, one of Mr. Shelton’s colleagues from Kirkus came over and said hello. Pretty soon, according to Mr. Shelton, her hand was in Mr. Hitchens’ pants as well.
“Her hand went in there and it went everywhere. She didn’t need any guiding at all,” Mr. Shelton said. “They sort of both looked at the ground.”
Later, back at the press balcony, Media Mob approached Mr. Shelton’s friend and asked her to comment on her experience. Before she could respond, a magazine writer named Boris came over to her and asked her not to say anything.
“Can I just have this? Can I have this?” Boris said, before turning his attention to the Media Mob. “Tomorrow, you’ll get it tomorrow. I’m sorry, I just need something fresh for my blog in the morning.”
“I can’t betray Boris,” the woman said. “He’d be very upset.”
UPDATE: Asked in an e-mail whether Mr. Shelton was telling the truth, Mr. Hitchens responded with an oblique but suggestive message: “The standard of fact-checking for Vanity Fair articles is very high.”