On the second-floor balcony of the Waldorf-Astoria last night—while a gilded group of New York power brokers enjoyed the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner of lobster with white gazpacho and petite vegetable timbale down below—a small press corps squinted their eyes to see whether Bill Thompson might acknowledge his mayoral opponent, sitting mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was seated near the center of the dais.
“I can’t believe none of us brought binoculars,” one reporter said.
In fact, there wasn’t much to see. Mr. Thompson shook some hands away from the mayor and disappeared, either to an unseen table or from the venue entirely. He had been a late RSVP, and appeared to arrive a little late, too, so he was spared the uncomfortable referendum that greeted the rest of the distinguished guests as their names were called to be seated. Senator Charles Schumer got a loud cheer; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand got a more polite round of applause.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo received a noticeably warm welcome. “I guess there wasn’t any room at that Bank of America table,” emcee Alfred E. Smith IV later joked. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s greeting was more muted.
There was a predictably raucous reception for the mayor. “I think they like you, Mike,” Mr. Smith. The mayor got a joke too, from the keynote speaker, Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I’m so excited to see the famous district attorney Robert Morgenthau here,” Admiral Mullen deadpanned. “He’s been in his job for 35 years. He must be an insipiration to you, Mayor Bloomberg.”
The mayor’s shoulders shook with laughter—a little longer even than most of the other guests.
There were health care jokes and Twitter jokes. Mr. Smith said, “The only thing with more pages [than the health care bill] is David Letterman’s little black book.”
Surprisingly, there weren’t any David Paterson jokes. The governor was not in attendance, though a spokesman for the dinner said he had been invited. But Obama emissary Patrick Gaspard—who may or may not have requested the governor stand down from next year’s election—was seated at table 27 with former Senator Al D’Amato.
After the program, which was slightly more somber than in some previous years, the electeds meandered passed the weary reporters. Senator Gillibrand waved hello.
Mayor Bloomberg stopped to chat. He seemed surprised when the press reported that they had received food—roast beef sandwiches and chicken wraps. “I’m surprised they didn’t do something about you and Bill,” said one reporter.
At that, the mayor gave a slight shrug, turned and walked away.