Neptune would have felt right at home at the Riverkeeper’s Fisherman’s Ball at Chelsea Piers-the bar was decorated with giant metal fish and fishermen’s caps, the tables were bedecked with fish-printed needlepoint tablecloth, the windows overlooked the foggy Hudson. It was reminiscent of a down-market Maine rental cabin. Naturally, they served sushi. (Were we at a ball or an Enchantment Under the Sea dance?) Former night owl Jay McInerney was in his element. “I’m a fisherman,” he said. “The striped bass population has a lot to do with the health of the river.” He must have a fish story! “It’s always the one that gets away.”
The party was in honor of Riverkeeper’s initiative for cleaning up the Hudson River, and despite the fact that Bill Clinton, Sting and Trudie Styler were supposed to be there, they didn’t turn up for the cocktail hour-maybe because the waiters were passing around glasses of fresh, clean water instead of something stronger. Singer Rufus Wainwright dodged The Observer. “I just need some water,” he said, and headed straight for the bar, which had a full liquor selection.
We had a longer chat with Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton, who led The Observer to the bar, where he grabbed an orange-juice-and-sparkling-water concoction and snagged a few peanuts. Mr. Lipton had been in the news lately for his appearance on Charlie Sheen’s speaking tour. The whole thing had been a surprise to Mr. Lipton, who’d just planned to be an audience member at the New York show: “Charlie tried to go on while the crowd was booing, and he whispered in my ear, ‘Ask me just one.’ Neither he nor I had planned it.” The one question had been “What’s your favorite curse word?” “I figured that was appropriate.” How was the after-party, at Southern Hospitality? “We were there until 2:30 a.m. Best soul food I’ve ever had.”
Mr. Lipton, wearing a pinstriped suit and gold patterned tie, is ready to move past Mr. Sheen-he’s looking forward to the change in the season! “Springtime to me means my wife and I go to the Hamptons,” he said. “My study, at my home, faces the gardens, and the magnolias are out, two of our flowering fruit trees, and I think, ‘Honest to goodness, it’s spring!'”
Not everyone is as lucky as Mr. Lipton. Author and former Observer writer Candace Bushnell expressed a wish that there were more hours in the day to enjoy the weather! “I’d like to go bike riding. It’s my fantasy! At least sometimes I take my dog to the dog run,” she said. Looking a bit resigned, her husband, Charles Askegard, ceded his seat next to Ms. Bushnell so that she could fill us in on her spring plans.
How does she balance her book contracts-which she told The Observer include two forthcoming young-adult novels and two books for grown-ups? “I have a lot of ideas! I feel like I have too many ideas,” Ms. Bushnell said, gesticulating wildly and nearly tipping over her glass of Champagne (no water here!) onto the fish needlepoint. “I wish I could write for more hours, but after six or eight hours, you got to get up!” In blue sequined Nicole Miller, Ms. Bushnell finally made her exit. “I have to have my fantasy bike ride!”
We bumped into the very outdoorsy Joan Hornig, co-chair of the event and jeweler to the stars. “We kayak-or rather, we double-kayak,” she said, gesturing to her husband, the financier George Hornig. “He does the paddling, I do the relaxing!” What was she wearing? “What? You mean, like, Spanx?” When informed we were asking after the brand on her back, not her lingerie, she replied, “I don’t know the clothes! They just came out of my closet!” As her husband looked on, she pulled her striking gray hair out of the way and pulled down the back of her dress for The Observer to peer at. Double R … “Oh, Rachel Roy!”
Finally, we arrived at the man with a sense of the party’s purpose. Paul Gallay, the official Riverkeeper, passed on several appealing hors d’oeuvres as we spoke-a clear sign of his seriousness of purpose. His title indicates that he’s the man responsible for keeping the Hudson clean and for reporting any legal breaches. He’s been on the job nine months, “and I’m still wet behind the ears,” he said, making or missing a pun. Did he still bother going fishing, exploring, biking along the river, given that his job was to guard it? “Give me a busman’s holiday any day,” he said. Looking out onto the Hudson as the sun set, we couldn’t disagree.