The Wee Hours: Family Night on West 11th

new image 7 The Wee Hours: Family Night on West 11thDespite being divorced from Jacqueline Schnabel for years, Julian Schnabel still dwells at her house on West 11th Street.

“You can’t tell which paintings are mine, and which paintings are not? Do you know anything about art?” Mr. Schnabel, standing in the cabana parlor of the West Village mansion, asked The Observer. “That painting, that painting, all the paintings that are in that room, except for the Dan Colen over there and that Ron Gorchav. How old are you? That painting was made before you were born. That painting was made in nineteen-eighty.”

It was Monday night, and the Schnabel matriarch had cajoled her ex-husband and coop-flown children—Stella, Lola, Vito—to reconvene at the old house for a good cause. Julian was respectful enough to arrive in his pajamas. People asked him about the choice of food.

“Oh, the lamb,” Mr. Schnabel said to a woman holding a small platter with a bone-in appetizer, interrupting the conversation. “A little rare for me.”

He turned back at The Observer.

“You need to look. It’s more important what happens to you than what happens here. You don’t want to miss life while you’re reporting.”

Life, in this case, was a fund-raiser for World Bicycle Relief, a charity that purchases bikes for children in Africa. “Jacqueline is gathering her dearest friends with deep pockets …” the press release began. Life included iPhones that with a swiped credit card could facilitate donations. Life included exotic headdresses, Native American dream catchers, steak tartare and endless red and white wine. Life also included Naomi Campbell.

House,” Ms. Campbell said when we asked her if she liked the apartment. “You mean house. It’s stunning.”

We were standing in the basement, snugly enclosed by a slim corridor that led to the kitchen. The head cook was making workhorses out of four sous-chefs and multiple assistants. There was plentiful lentil and parsley salad.

“I just graduated from culinary school,” said socialite Arden Wohl. The Observer asked if the food here passed muster.

“Are you talking about the chef?” asked designer Madeline Weinrib, who was talking with Ms. Wohl. “He’s amazing!”

Then Ms. Weinrib asked about Ms. Wohl’s boyfriend. He’s feeling under the weather. Stomach flu. It’s going around.

Stella Schnabel walked in with Ms. Wohl and had to make her way upstairs.

“I want to open the door,” Ms. Schnabel said to The Observer in the skintight scrum that was jigsawed together near the entryway. “It’s too hot in here.”

It was her 27th birthday.

In the basement it was perfectly kosher to light cigarettes and so guests did. Butts rested ignobly in discarded oyster shells.

The Observer bummed a light from a couple, Mane and Armand, both in fashion. Their smoke plumed and groped the original Warhol of Elvis Presley on a motorcycle, hanging unnoticed on the wall. They fawned over the wine and fetched The Observer another glass, which he had while smoking another cigarette with Theo Wenner, son of Rolling Stone editor Jann. They spoke of his childhood bonding with the Schnabels. 

“Where we headed?” said Peter Brant Sr., the Interview magazine owner and prolific art collector. He was speaking to Naomi Campbell. “Mr. Chow?”

The supermodel shrugged. A party sheepishly assembled by the back door. The Observer would also soon leave, to catch one of the last and vaunted LCD Soundsystem shows uptown, but before doing so, he spotted that matriarch and welcoming host, Ms. Jacqueline Schnabel. The West 11th abode has been her residence for 18 years. She stood radiant and calm, a mother abreast with her children and their father, none of whom actually claim the house as their home.

“You could adopt me as another son, and I could live upstairs,” The Observer suggested to Jacqueline Schnabel. He was half-kidding. His lease is soon to be up.

Ms. Schnabel smiled.

“Well,” she said, “there’s room now!”

nfreeman [at] observer.com | @nfreeman1234