After a few glasses of midday white wine in the lounge of the Brook Club, The Observer walked into the third floor dining room and found ourselves seated next to Gay Talese. We had seen him on a few lucky occasions over the past 12 months—the last night of Elaine’s, the Norman Mailer gala, etc.—and this most recent instance, Chuck Pfeifer’s annual Christmas luncheon, was hardly a surprise.
“Look at you,” Mr. Talese said to us as we sat down. “The only guy in the room without a tie, and the best-looking guy in the room!”
(Mr. Talese, of course, was clad in not only a tie, but a great one, and a waistcoat.)
Crab cakes (as ever) arrived and we dispatched with them as James Woods and Jay McInerney gave saucy toasts to Mr. Pfeifer, a New York survivor. Then, at a break, Gay Talese turned to us and asked the thing you ask around this time of year.
“So,” he said. “How was your 2011?”
We took our glass, now tinted red, downed it, caught the eye of a server and flitted a hand.
“It turned out pretty well.”
Did it? we immediately wondered. The memories, or at least the best of them, were barely memories at all—dimmed by drink and swathed in postmidnight darkness, the past year hardly even happened. And all the people, the parties, the pomposity, the pleasure: it was a year our friends say they taste only in reverie, dreamt up during the hours when most of town, even this town, has chosen the bed over the bar. But we clock in late and turn in even later. It was a year of living nocturnally.
Mr. Talese turned toward us.
“And why do you say that, Nate?”
The next glass of wine arrived, and we guided it toward our lips.
“Well, I met so many people …”
“Like who! Tell me, tell me everything.”
Quite the interviewer, this guy. But would Mr. Talese care about, say, Kanye West? We thought about back in February (lo, those many months ago …), when we met him at the George Condo opening. “I don’t talk to the fucking press!” Mr. West insisted, loudly, before apologizing and regaling us with stories from recording Watch the Throne with Jay-Z in the depths of the Mercer Hotel. Would Mr. Talese care? Perhaps not. Running around with Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson at the White House Correspondents Dinner, that’s a good story, right? Or maybe …
“I did meet Mick Jagger,” we blurted out.
He turned to us, intrigued anew.
“Mick Jagger! How did you manage that?”
Truly, how did we? Amid the security barricades that had descended on the Dream Downtown for the Marc Jacobs party, we received word that Mr. Jagger would be stopping by the Electric Room. And then he actually did.
Yes, the Electric Room, that new super-intimate Britannia-gone-Banksy living room—we did find ourselves there at a few too many bleary-eyed nights. After the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the models all ended up there. Same with most of the events during September Fashion Week. We’d find ourselves discussing media gossip with the ever-talkative Courtney Love, or watching Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen cozy up to the same art stars who put on the gallery opening earlier that night, or avoiding Lindsay Lohan and her entourage. All the flashy faces, ruled over by Nur Khan, the man who tends the hot spot’s embers.
And, if propulsion insisted, we would then head to Kenmare to collect a few more punches on the dance card. That place was like a second home, really. But just as the year’s excesses imperiled our health, it imperiled our hearth, too: Kenmare closed last Thursday, hours after we walked out—dance partner in hand—to face the 5 a.m. Lower East Side chill.
“You know, Gay, maybe I stayed out a bit too late sometimes, but those nights are worth it, right?”
A hunk of buffalo meat, rare and bloody, had arrived in front of us.
“Well, it depends on the night,” he said.
What nights would those be? we wondered. There was the Rag & Bone afterparty in February that launched Westway, the sleazetastic strip joint-gone-nightclub. It would be a pretty PG-13 place for the rest of the year, but that night was gleefully X-rated: as “Welcome to the Jungle” blared on the speakers the strippers came out to a roaring and adoring crowd.
But that’s a little too unrefined to tell Gay Talese about, we thought. Same goes for Alexander Wang’s beer-soaked keg party, and same goes for partying until sunrise with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, in a suite at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, after the band’s last-ever concert. Instead, let’s keep it classy—the mind wanders to drinking Italian 75s at the Carlyle to celebrate the Ferragamo show, which was held at the James B. Duke mansion. Or maybe the Brazil Foundation party at Hotel Americano, taking in the view of the Chelsea High Line surrounded by long legs and thick accents.
With these tales on our tongue another friend of Mr. Pfeifer’s, a war buddy, stood to salute the servicemen in the room, including Harvey Keitel. Another long soliloquy followed. And then soon enough we found our heady, day-drunk self being dragged outside for a smoke. We said goodbye to Mr. Talese and, thinking we would not soon cross paths, wished him a happy new year.
But just a few days later, having followed a dazed-looking Malcolm Gladwell into The New Yorker’s holiday party, we ran into a certain natty contributor to that magazine leaning up against the bar. Even among the dapper scribes who had piled into Bunker, a new club in the meatpacking district, Gay Talese was harder than hard. He again had on a three-piece suit, and again we were guilty of forgetting a tie.
“On your way out?” we asked after quickly catching up.
“It looks like it,” he said, putting on his topcoat. “Don’t stay out too late!”