Somewhere uptown, a mother is standing in a pediatrician’s office. She is looking at a milestone chart, and she is worried. At 6 months, the chart says, her baby should have learned to follow sounds and to turn his head. At a year, he should jabber and have taken a few steps. Any child not obeying this timetable, the poster implies, is not quite right.
Last Thursday, on the night of his 30th birthday, the nightclub owner, marketer and entrepreneur Noah Tepperberg took a stand against that sort of oppressive normativeness. By midnight, he had left his roaring 20’s behind—not for sophistication or maturity, but for a state of suspended merrymaking agelessness.
“Awww,” cooed a young model as she approached the gargantuan Tao on 58th Street, the three-story pan-Asian restaurant where Mr. Tepperberg was holding the dinner for his birthday extravaganza. She was looking at an enormous bus parked outside. A banner hung beneath its window that wished the birthday boy a happy 30th. “That’s so cute,” said the model, her stilettos ticking as she crossed the street.
After dinner, the bus would serve as a rolling party as it transported Mr. Tepperberg and his inner circle to Marquee—the sometimes-exclusive, sometimes-not Chelsea nightclub that he co-owns.
If it wasn’t the high-school prom, it was close.
Outside Tao, a beefy group of bouncers shared the door with three young women in short, pinstriped skirts and tight little shirts to match. They were dressed as “Venetian girls,” they said, to celebrate the restaurant’s Sept. 24 expansion into Las Vegas—an expansion that would occur with Mr. Tepperberg and his partner, Jason Strauss, in a fuzzily defined commercial enterprise with Tao’s owner, Marc Packer.
The girls actually looked like candy canes. “We’re just working the door, looking cute,” one said. Another smoked a cigarette and yanked at her top.
Models lined up outside, some of them invited and others merely curious about the party going on inside. “I’d like to know what the event is about, at least,” one girl said to her friend as she turned away from the door. “All right—we’re going to the Four Seasons.”
The waiting-room-cum-bar inside Tao was just about packed by 9:30 p.m. Publicists from Syndicate, one of Mr. Tepperberg’s vague associates in the nightlife scene, hung together around a couch. “Tinsley Mortimer will be here,” said Sam Ong to a colleague. “Tinsley, from Virginia. Socialite. Gorgeous. Stunning.” Actress Ali Larter, someone’s client, lounged on a barstool.
When Mr. Tepperberg himself walked into the restaurant at around 10 p.m., he was wearing a casual button-down shirt and a pair of white sneakers. He moved like an easy target through the sea of designer dresses and sleek black suits. The only real competition for most casually underdressed was from Page Six scribe Chris Wilson, who defiantly arrived in a T-shirt. He hunkered down on the sidelines with Stuff editor Cory Jones.
Soon, the procession of models became a parade. Red Hot Chili Peppers front man Anthony Kiedis, whose band surely provided the soundtrack to Mr. Tepperberg’s high-school days, had taken his seat at a dinner table inside. He was an appropriate blast from the past for an evening in which time was no object.
Mr. Tepperberg was celebrating more than just a birthday tonight; he was celebrating—and also exhibiting—his ascension to the top of a certain circle of New York society. And while he didn’t exactly come from nothing—he did attend Stuyvesant High School—he is certainly an unlikely candidate for the head of this kingdom. He is said to love chess more than clubbing, and he is, well, charmingly schlubby.
According to friends, it was his relentless networking and raw talent for throwing parties that put him here. He was in college, the University of Miami, when he began hosting in earnest. He hasn’t stopped since then—although, with Strategic Group, his firm with Jason Strauss, the partying has become a professional hustle. Advertisers have gotten onboard with Strategic Group, as it claims access to all of their most-wanted demographics.
Just as Mr. Tepperberg threw his first party at Stuyvesant, Mr. Strauss himself got his start as a promoter as a 17-year-old at Riverdale Country School. He had wanted to have a party for his friends, so he convinced a club owner that he was a 21-year-old Columbia student. He rented the place out and packed the room with 400 high-school seniors.
Though ostensibly a dozen years out of high school now, they still have that teenage nose for the cool kids—although it’s true that even back then, they were old before their time.
Yet, Mr. Tepperberg’s mother—just one of the 400 guests at the massive dinner party—didn’t look the least bit worried at her son’s development. He had hired a man in leather pants to stand onstage during dinner and play a fiddle over the pounding techno. “This would be good,” he probably said. “This would probably go well with the enormous Buddha on stage, and the weird ‘Made in U.S.A.’ sign that is also there for some reason.”
As the last of the sushi swam in from the kitchen, the man of the hour, all smiles and sneakers, leapt from table to table, starting conversations and shaking hands. These were his people—his models, his traders and his demi-celebrities.
“This party is everything that Noah Tepperberg stands for,” a fashion designer said. “He stands for lots of models and music.”
By midnight, people stood to dance at their tables. Nicky Hilton (Are you enjoying the party, Ms. Hilton? “Yes”) made cute with Entourage boyfriend Kevin Connolly (Are you going to the after-party? “I’m tired, I want to go home”), hugging in the center of the enormous dining room. Lydia Hearst verbed about, and Anthony Kiedis had left his seat to the young, spiky-haired Ryan Cabrera.
Mr. Cabrera once dated Jessica Simpson’s sister. The chandeliers, hanging 35 feet above, changed color to the beat.
Outside, where limousines and taxicabs had already started carting guests to the after-dinner hoedown at Marquee, a man in a rickshaw pulled up alongside the doorman.
“How’s the classiest joint in town?” he asked.
“Good, thank you, my man,” the doorman said. “You remind me of Seinfeld—you remember that one?”
At Marquee, time itself disappeared. About 1,200 were packed into the two-story nightclub, the darkness overwhelming and the pushing oppressive. Bottles of Grey Goose graced every table, and two dancers dressed in see-through gold lace writhed in uncomfortable slow motion atop a box.
Hardly anybody in the club had a job.
“I play the flute,” said one girl. “I live in Paris.” Her name was Anna, and she was in town auditioning for Juilliard. “I do this at night, then I get up and I practice for six hours. And then I do this again. At least I’m not one of those who sits at home, with the cat and the mom and everything.”
Another girl had recently graduated from Brooklyn Law. “I refuse to have a job that I don’t want. Maybe that makes me an ass,” she said. “I’ve done too much and gone through too much school for that.”
“I used to make clothes. Now I’m part of what they call the Wonder Class,” said Matt Damhave, formerly of the über-hip Imitation of Christ clothing company. He swayed by the bar with a drink in his hand. “Am I having fun? Yeah. When there’s no reason to wake up in the morning, I have fun.”
That one could go either way, obviously.
“It’s very frontal here,” said a sweet Vietnamese woman who had just moved to New York from London to work as a publicist. “It’s always ‘Let’s go here’ and ‘Let’s do this.’ London is much more subtle.”
“I love my BlackBerry,” said a nearby photographer. “I don’t understand people who say they don’t want to be connected. I love what I do. Whenever this thing rings, I hear the cash register ring.”
At around 2:30 a.m., in one of Marquee’s shadowed side rooms, a man in a suit sat on a couch with his elbows on his knees and a cigarette in his hand.
What’s 35 like? The Transom asked.
“It goes fast,” he answered slowly. “Thirty to 35 went in a blink. They go by like months now. If someone told me when I was 22 that I’d still be coming here now, I wouldn’t believe it.” Nearby, a young man strummed a blond girl like a guitar.
On the bright Monday afternoon that followed, Mr. Tepperberg reflected in his office. “Ten years ago, I started my marketing career,” he said. “If you had asked me then if I would still be going out to nightclubs and restaurants, I would have said yes, I’m sure.”
He considered his age. “You know, it doesn’t feel a whole lot different,” he said.
On a Saturday afternoon, The Transom set off for the chic Lower East Side retail district. That ’hood’s not just for the post-teen trust-fund set anymore—nowadays, even the well-heeled ladies of uptown head on down for a leisurely shop and a nosh.
But The Transom had a specific mission: MTV’s Video Music Awards, that annual commercially hedonistic romp, is in Miami on Aug. 28, and flashy new outfits were in order. And, to be frank, the price had to be right.
At a Ludlow boutique, the wedge-heeled clientele had the sort of smooth, moneyed hair that normal people can only dream of pulling off in 90-degree humidity. There, The Transom found itself draped in a slouchy blue cotton-Lycra concoction that would pass as the perfect dress.
When faced with the exorbitant price tag—coupled with the thought of life-altering, bank-breaking upcoming expenses, such as a round of poolside drinks at the Raleigh—an inquiry was made about the store’s return policy. The salesgirl noted that there wasn’t one, really, and so The Transom hesitantly asked if perhaps—and Gosh, I hate to even suggest this—but surely they might be willing to loan the dress, not that I would ever normally ask such a thing.
“Sure!” replied the store owner—after, of course, the Video Music Awards were mentioned. “I just dressed a bunch of other girls this week. Entertainment lawyers or something—they didn’t want to look too sexy … ,” she giggled while scribbling down her phone number. And just like that, there were three separate outfits in a brown bag. Hello, carry-on!
All over the Northeast, it seems, pretty girls are making astute preparations for Miami. “I was shopping in the Hamptons over the weekend,” sighed Daily News gossip reporter Johanna Piazza, who is also headed to Miami, “and it was a cathouse of girls fighting for the last half-priced Rosa Cha bikini.” The fashion pre-parade to Florida, Ms. Piazza noted, consisted mostly of “P.R. types, event planners and gold-diggers who follow the party.”
“If you know where to find a good dress, let me know!” moaned Lizzie Grubman yesterday. She has yet to finalize her Miami wardrobe. “I’m having the hardest time finding something, and they tell me I can’t wear my lingerie dresses anymore and I just don’t know what to do …. ” She trailed off, her normally aggressive voice fading into an anxious squeak. The challenge, Ms. Grubman said, is finding something casual yet chic. Why not grab a loaner? “I’ve never heard of them giving dresses to non-celebrities,” she said, surprised to learn that fellow females had scored their fripperies at no cost.
Yesterday, Us Weekly reporter Alyssa Shelasky had just come from her Brazilian bikini wax. She was next headed uptown to see an eyebrow specialist at Avon. “I’m searching for some cute, sassy, flashy dresses,” she said. “I could get loaners, but I’m not comfortable with them because I know that by the end of the night, I’ll end up with wine on my dress, or rolling around in the sand or something. But, yeah, borrowing the freebies would be completely possible.”
But what to get loaned? How shall we define the ideal outfit for this particular circus? Ms. Shelasky rattled off a list of designers and then stopped short. “Anything,” she said, “that looks like Paris Hilton.”
The Mayor Is a Pitcher
Mayor Michael Bloomberg—jacket off, sleeves rolled up—bounced a pink Spalding ball in front of his tasseled black loafers and readied the stickball bat on his shoulder. After two feeble swings, one above the ball and one under, he finally connected with a puny pop fly. The Mayor was clearly agitated by his dismal performance, and he dismissively handed the broomstick off to a pinstripe-suited aide.
The jeers came immediately.
“I wouldn’t have choosed up and had the Mayor on my side,” Guardian Angel Curtis Sliwa said, his voice amplified for 100 or so spectators to hear. Besides acting as a star witness in the trial of John (Junior) Gotti, the garrulous vigilante has moonlighted as the city’s acting stickball commissioner since 1993, when then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani installed him to what he calls New York’s “least-wanted” post. (“My perk is a $2 ride on the mud mover into and out of games.”)
On a sunny Wednesday morning last week, Commissioner Sliwa joined the city’s police and fire commissioners to help the Mayor kick off the annual “Battle of the Badges” long-ball hitting contest, which pits the city’s oldest rivals, the cops and the firemen, against one another on a narrow stretch of concrete in Brooklyn’s MetroTech corporate complex.
Mr. Bloomberg’s bad outing continued.
After discarding the bat, the Mayor marched over to a crack in the cement that served as the pitcher’s mound. “Chris!” he barked, and the same suited aide scrambled over to feed his boss with a fresh supply of pink Spaldeens.
First up was Commissioner Sliwa, who adjusted his beret before thoroughly smacking the Mayor’s weak pitches. For a second, even stone-faced Chris forgot himself and gleefully stabbed at the balls like a boy in a playground.
Then Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly swaggered to the plate, removing his gray suit jacket—though not the ominous black cell phone clipped to his belt. “The man is totally buffed!” exclaimed Commissioner Sliwa, who had traded his stickball bat back in for his microphone.
Long-simmering tensions rose to the surface as Mr. Bloomberg sized Mr. Kelly up. The southpaw commissioner crouched down and chewed his chiseled cheek in a low Lenny Dykstra pose. The Mayor wound up. His distinctly feminine delivery fooled the grizzled police commissioner for a spell, but soon enough Mr. Kelly got wise. He whacked a line drive within inches of Mr. Bloomberg’s flinching brow and nailed a sharp grounder into the lean calf of a blond photographer. She seemed offended when no one begged her pardon.
Next up was Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, who the Mayor quickly brushed off the pink chalk plate. The velocity of the Mayor’s pitches suspiciously increased, and Mr. Scoppetta whiffed on a couple of high and tight fastballs. (“It’s a whirling dervish!” yelled Commissioner Sliwa.) Then Mr. Scoppetta got hold of what seemed a low, outside fastball and powered the pinky 170 feet deep into the courtyard, where another Guardian Angel, named Dangerous Ground, used his red beret to block out the sun as he fielded fly balls. (“Nice play there, Dangerous Ground!” Commissioner Sliwa yelled to his comrade.)
Besides the play-by-play (“It’s an egg ball!” “That’s some serious English action!” “A foul tippy!”), Commissioner Sliwa’s duties included introducing the five elderly gentlemen who make up the brass section of the Brooklyn Dodger Sym-phony Band, which played languorous versions of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” that lulled at least one spectator into a deep, drool-laden sleep. He also emptied a cardboard box of stickball bats onto a curb and sang the praises of “the only game invented on the streets of New York City at the turn of the last century.”
The commissioner admired the spongy pink Spalding balls and mused about their humble beginnings as flawed tennis balls—“which I despise,” he added, explaining that for him, the green fuzz evoked images of the country-club set “eating their watercress sandwiches and watching the U.S. Open.”
The billionaire Mayor, who was dressed rather formally for a stickball game in navy blue suit pants, tie and an “M.R.B.”-monogrammed white shirt, does happen to swing from that very demographic.
He moved uncomfortably amidst the brawny firefighters, who flipped the stickball bats in their hands like matchsticks and wore fire-engine-red shirts that read “FDNY Stickball, Keep Back Two Sewers.” The Mayor quietly slipped out with the defeated police commissioner as soon as the inning ended.
Mr. Scoppetta stayed to gloat. “The Fire Department is always happy about winning,” he said as he waited for the rival cops to show.
They waited and they waited, and then they waited some more.
Jeff Ray, a barrel-chested firefighter with a tan and a wide Mickey Mantle face (who hit the day’s longest blast, at nearly 300 feet), waxed political about why the cops were late.
“The weakness of the cops is that they already got a contract and so are complacent,” said Mr. Ray. “We don’t. We’re still hungry.”
In the end, the cops never showed. Commissioner Sliwa, saying that he had to get going to testify against Mr. Gotti, declared a forfeit. He suggested, somewhat vaguely, that the absence of New York’s Finest had to do with his more than 70 arrests in the last 25 years.
But Lieutenant Berger, an on-duty police officer commiserating with some other cops over by the yawning members of the Brooklyn Sym-phony, had other ideas.
“We don’t want to embarrass the Fire Department,” he said.