Meet The Gatsbabies! Preening Prepsters Lure Ladies, Lucre and Limelight in Merry Manhattan

As downturn grinds on, flamboyance makes a comeback

Then Mr. Lee went over to greet Tabber Benedict, a slick-haired attorney whose khaki suit and classic looks gave him the appearance of an attendee at a convention of Patrick Bateman impersonators. If you squinted, he even resembled a clean shaven Clark Gable, or a more avuncular upgrade of reality TV-rake Scott Disick.

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Edward Scott Brady (photo courtesy of Patrick McMullan)

As the two stopped to pose for a Guest of a Guest photographer, people in the crowd discussed the size of Mr. Brady’s loft. “This loft is, like, biggest loft in New York City,” said the impressionable Mr. Astafev.

Still, was one loft—whatever its size—big enough for all three men, for their grandiose personalities? The presence of the trio, all in one place, seemed to signal a small if meaningful shift in the city’s cultural history: After a long, dire post-Lehman cold snap, during which ostentatious displays of wealth, social bravado and dandyish fashion gambits were put into deep hibernation, something was stirring. Wall Street was no longer occupied. The impassioned battle cries of the stringy-haired sleeping-bag brigade, fulminating about the ample chasm separating the 99 and 1 percents, had faded. A socially ambitious lad no longer had to hide his Cartier cufflinks or Stubbs & Wootton slippers under a bushel. Suddenly it was okay again to venture into the limelight, okay to aspire to notoriety and social prominence.

Not everyone was ready to put it all out there, of course, but this was the vanguard. Call them the Gatsbabies: three dandyish gentlemen—but straight, mind you, very, very straight—who seemed to come out of nowhere. In this, they were not unlike the former James Gatz himself, on whom they unconsciously styled themselves, the emperor of West Egg, the subject of a million high school book reports and any minute now, a glistening slice of Oscar bait starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Baz Luhrmann.

“They’re products of the zeitgeist right now, and that zeitgeist is one of social media and ability to be your own kind of publicist,” said Rachelle Hruska, the founder of Guest of a Guest, which has helped cultivate the personas of both Mr. Lee and Mr. Brady.

“I think never before have people been able to kind of be their own publicist,” she added. “You can just get a Facebook page and just put basically anything you want on it about yourself all day long, and I think that’s what these three people excel at, is using social media to pump up their brand.”
Photographer Patrick McMullan agreed. “They want to be known, they want to be out there, they want to use their profiles to get more work and more girls,” he said, “and more fun.”
Mr. Brady stood amid the throng, holding a magnum of Cristal in each hand, his long hair slicked-back and his dark tailored suit hugging his athletic form. He greeted his female guests with a kiss on the cheek, often pausing to give a Guest of a Guest photographer a cocksure smirk as the ladies struck poses with him.

Like Gatsby, he seemed a little too good to be true. The open bar and free canapes for his hundreds of guests? The National Geographic-quality photographs? The crowd of beautiful and seemingly available women? Surely there was more to this guy than met the eye—or less. We turned to Mr. Benedict and asked if the scene was real or illusion.

“Being in the industry that you’re in, you of all people should understand,” he said. “Perception becomes reality.”