The Hour Is Nye: Wenner’s Beau Celebrates First Fashion Show

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An Ultra Brite smile broke through the dark mass of Rolling Stone owner Jann Wenner’s perfect facial stubble. “It’s really low-key,” Mr. Wenner said to the performer Bette Midler as he stood on what was about to become the runway of his 33-year-old beau Matt Nye’s first fashion show, held in a Chelsea loft on Friday evening, Feb. 19.

Mr. Wenner, who was wearing a velvety dark blue corduroy suit and a sky blue tie, invited Ms. Midler and her husband, artist Martin von Haselberg, to leave their front-row seats and visit the designer backstage.

As the trio visited Mr. Nye, a hip-hoppy remix of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” (replete with hip-hop scratches and breaks) played on the sound system and the empty seats began to fill. Just a few seats away from Ms. Midler’s empty chair sat Yoko Ono and her austere companion, Sam Havadtoy. Behind him was the artist Cindy Sherman, sitting next to a seat marked with the name of Mr. Wenner’s son, Theo. Across the runway were the actor Griffin Dunne; designer Carolina Herrera, for whom Mr. Nye once worked; her husband Reinaldo Herrera; television personality Claudia Cohen; and Atlantic Records co-chairman Ahmet Ertegun, who had hobbled in on a cane with his blond sometime escort Dara Sowell, resplendent in red satin and dark fur collar. (“Just friends,” according to Mr. Ertegun’s assistant.) Somewhere in the crowd, too, was Peter Brown, the old director of the Beatles’ Apple Corporation who is now the publicist for Prince Charles.

An old Cheap Trick tune began playing and the lyrics seemed appropriate to the group. “Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself awaaaay,” the lead vocalist sang. If this group of front-row fabulistas had one thing in common, it was that they had achieved, along with Mr. Wenner, a kind of tantric celebrity in this town. Rather than come and go in 15 minutes of fame, these people had controlled their public images to prolong their sensual experience in the limelight. (If only Mick Jagger and Barry Diller had been there, it would have been perfect.) Sitting there, they represented the last four decades of the 20th century, waiting for the lights to go down and generating a low-frequency celebrity hum, the Manhattan equivalent of the yogi’s om . Their presence said that, whether or not he succeeded as a designer, Mr. Nye would be the future beneficiary of their collective wisdom.

Mr. Wenner was making sure of it. As he returned Ms. Midler to her seat, he asked Ms. Ono, “You want to go backstage and see Matt?”

As Ms. Midler resituated herself, someone asked her who had designed the shiny black leather coat she was wearing. “It’s a Matt Nye,” she said. “It’s the hippest thing I own.” Meanwhile, Mr. Havadtoy was saying that this was the first fashion show that he and Ms. Ono had attended. “We are virgins,” he said in his Eastern bloc voice.

After Mr. Ertegun lurched across the runway to say hello to Ms. Midler, and after Theo Wenner, boyishly handsome in a leather jacket and white T-shirt, showed up, Wenner père , his backstage ringmaster role finished, sat down between Ms. Ono and Ms. Midler, beaming proudly. The runway’s protective cover was removed and the show began. The Plastic Ono Band’s “Cold Turkey” began playing over the loudspeakers, bringing a knowing laugh from the front-row seats. Friends of Mr. Nye said he has become quite close to Ms. Ono, since he and Mr. Wenner began their relationship in 1995, and Mr. Nye seemed to honor her presence with the song and, later, the Beatles’ “Revolution.” Mr. Nye, who chose the music himself, seemed to be sending other messages through his choice of fashion-show soundtrack, too. At one point, he used the Smashing Pumpkins “Perfect,” an interesting choice given Mr. Wenner’s performance in a stinker of a movie with the same name. And then there was a newfangled version of “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” Meanwhile, model Esther Canadas was following her pout onto the catwalk in a suit made of extremely wrinkled fabric. Mr. Herrera got a big smile on his ruddy face and shouted across the runway to Mr. Wenner, “That’s for you!” as if the two men were at a disco. Mr. Wenner laughed and replied he had one in every color.

Mr. Wenner seemed to revel in the moment. He watched each outfit (No. 29, “sheared mink varsity jacket”) as it came down the runway, even though he’d probably seen them all a hundred times. When the machine-gun guitar opening of “Revolution” blared over the speakers, he affectionately planted a gentle kiss on Ms. Ono’s cheek. When the lights came up, Mr. Nye stumbled shyly out to the applauding crowd. He was wearing a white T-shirt and black jeans, and had a dark sweater slung over his shoulders. A lint remover and a large pair of scissors protruded from his back pockets. Then he scooted backstage.

When fashion shows end, the custom is for the crowd of well-wishers to work their way backstage to greet the designer and blow a lot of smoke up his or her ass. But in this case, Mr. Nye re-emerged and the crowd quickly surrounded him. Ms. Herrera gave him a thumbs up. From a few feet back, In Style managing editor Martha Nelson said, “He looks like the most relieved man on earth.”

The crowd quickly dispersed, leaving Mr. Nye, Mr. Wenner and a few stragglers, including some with cameras. The two men stood apart, so as not to be caught in a picture together. But their smiles bridged the gap.

Cipriani–and On and On

The announcement that the Cipriani family was pulling out of involvement in the 55 Wall Street Hotel to concentrate on its newest acquisitions, the Rainbow Room and 110 East 42nd Street, has prompted questions about whether the father-and-son Italian restaurateurs were abandoning their grand plans for Grand Central Terminal.

The Ciprianis had announced that they were going to open two restaurants in the recently renovated and spit-shined space: one, called Cipriani Dolci, on the west balcony of the station; the other, yet to be named, on the landmark’s lower level. But the future of the second Grand Central eatery seemed shaky when it became clear that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was going to be late in delivering the space, and when the Ciprianis announced that they had acquired another space nearby on East 42nd Street, an old Bowery Savings Bank.

Indeed, for a while, word in the real-estate and restaurant communities was that the Grand Central basement space was once again available.

A spokesman for the Ciprianis acknowledged that the space was being shopped around, but, he told The Transom, that the Ciprianis have since decided they will keep it, in order to open the second restaurant. Although two restaurants and a large catering space within blocks of each other might seem like overkill, the spokesman said that the Ciprianis have decided that the “proximity” of the two Grand Central restaurants to the bank space, which is being called Cipriani 42nd Street, “will make an interesting dynamic for them.”

Sources familiar with the situation said that what may end up in the second Grand Central space is a reincarnation of the Fashion Cafe, a restaurant chain in which Giuseppe Cipriani has a small stake. (One source put it at 20 to 30 percent.) The Ciprianis’ spokesman said only that “no determination has been made.”

It is unclear when the Ciprianis will actually extricate themselves from 55 Wall Street, and as for the events that they have booked at the venue, the Ciprianis will handle catering until April and maintain the space’s pricey concert series until June. A release put out by the family’s new public relations firm, Rubenstein Associates Inc., indicated that the move was made to allow the Ciprianis to “refocus” their efforts on the Rainbow Room and Cipriani 42nd Street. It remains to be seen whether that includes dealing with the labor problems they have at the Rainbow Room. Members of Local 6 of the Hotel Trades Council have been picketing the Rainbow Room since Jan. 24, and John Turchiano, a spokesman for the local, said that on Feb. 24, a picket line will be set up outside 55 Wall Street, where Paul Anka is slated to perform. Mr. Turchiano added that the union has also asked other performers scheduled to perform there, including Celine Dion, Tony Bennett and Aretha Franklin, to cancel their concerts. “The Rainbow workers are well aware, as are other members of this union, that this is going to be a long battle and we’re prepared for it,” said Mr. Turchiano.

The Transom Also Hears

…At a party that GQ magazine’s turtleneck-loving editor Art Cooper threw for contributing editor James Ellroy and his new book Crime Wave at Joe’s Pub on Feb. 17, Mr. Ellroy told the crowd that according to a recent survey, “men who read GQ magazine have substantially larger penises than men who read Esquire , Playboy , Forbes and People , Maxim and Details .” Furthermore, Mr. Ellroy said, “It was revealed that men and women who read GQ boost their I.Q. on an average of 14 points per issue.” (In an introduction to the book, Mr. Cooper wrote that for Mr. Ellroy “anatomy is truly destiny” and that his novels “abound” with references to penis size.)

Mr. Ellroy did note one drawback to his work with the magazine, saying that though he was “fortunate to come to GQ magazine … I have no choice but to smell like GQ magazine because they soak the fucking thing in the cheapest possible cologne before they send it to my door once a month and it drives my dog psycho.” Mr. Ellroy then signed off by concluding, “That’s it. I wish you all will boost your penis sizes, your I.Q.’s, your noir seductress levels and enjoy this party.”

Mr. Ellroy did interrupt his autograph signing long enough (“Fear this book!” he wrote to one admirer) to tell The Transom, “It’s nice to be able to pack all your moments of being the center of attention into one big moment, because then you don’t have to grandstand all the small moments and then fuck over people.”

– Julie Lipper

… One lingering image from the Clinton scandal: On the morning of Feb. 12, a trusted eyewitness spotted Monica Lewinsky, clad in jeans, denim jacket and black baseball hat, emerging from the back of the Brooklyn Diner on West 57th Street carrying a copy of The New York Times that featured an interview with Linda Tripp on its front page. “Everyone was trying not to stare, and all I could think was she was sitting back there alone in the dark reading about Linda Tripp,” said the leggy source. “It made me hate Bill Clinton all over again.” … Meanwhile, that was Friend of Hillary, lawyer Susan Thomases, sharing her mashed potatoes with publicist Bobby Zarem at Elaine’s on Feb. 22. Before she left the restaurant, Ms. Thomases told Mr. Zarem, “You can come over to my place any time for some more potatoes.” God save her if he does.

The Hour Is Nye: Wenner’s Beau Celebrates First Fashion Show