After-Party Placebo Effect

There were pills on the tables. Small ovals, pale yellow and encased in miniature plastic ziplock bags, were strewn everywhere—on

There were pills on the tables. Small ovals, pale yellow and encased in miniature plastic ziplock bags, were strewn everywhere—on the bars, the banquettes, the orbiting trays. Some had been kicked to the floor. Discarded baggies, reaped of their goods, lay useless by the dozen. This was not an uncommon sight. It was late at Buddakan, in the meatpacking district, that tony war zone where zonked club kids bring the Jersey spirit to the West Side.

Yet such openness was new even to this indulgent part of town. Odder still was the occasion: the after-party for the premiere of Limitless, the big-budget thriller about a pill that lets you access 100 percent of your mind. What audacious devotion to theme! Plentiful drugs at a drug movie party!

Alas, the high procured from these pills was nothing you couldn’t get from a lollipop. (The contraband turned out to be gumdrops.) The crowd would have to make due with a lesser intoxicant: fancy tequila drinks, which would probably be the last thing to render your mind power limitless.

The Observer’s substance intake began with one glass of white wine and one tumbler of Johnnie Walker Black. Nothing illicit there. But his interest had been piqued. He wanted the industry secrets. Which uppers, downers and other fun stuff do the stars use to enhance their brains?

The Observer edged into a back corner and spotted the movie’s pusher himself. Hey, Bradley Cooper! Have you ever tried any drugs that have let you use 100 percent of your mind? Like, Adderall? Or speed?

“Sorry, I can’t talk right now,” he said, pointing to a woman to his left. “Here, this is my mom.”

It seemed best not to interrogate Mr. Cooper in front of his dear mother. Luckily, in a nearby booth was another luminary: James Lipton. He was seated behind the Coopers’ table, a half-eaten plate of Buddakan specialties pushed aside in front of him. He was all Lipton—the goatee, the eyeglasses, the eyebrows.

James, The Observer asked. The drugs. Does he do them?

“I’ve never taken anything stronger than aspirin,” he laughed. “How’s that for square?”

Had he seen Limitless?

He had. And, having seen this film, he knew that, in the film, there is a drug that allows you to use one hundred percent of your mind. Would he ever try such a drug?

“I’d think twice about it,” Mr. Lipton said. “I like to think that I’m usually using 50 percent of my mind.”

On the other side of the room stood cast member T.V. Carpio, who declined to talk about drugs, fictional or otherwise. She preferred to talk about sex.

“The writer told me that, to avoid the R rating, we’ll take out all the sex scenes,” Ms. Carpio explained. “But the director said, ‘They will see you fucking like in real life!’”

Good to know! (At that point, The Observer had added a glass—two glasses?—of Champagne to his total substance intake).

Next up was Patricia Clarkson, in red, sitting legs crossed by the ballroom-bar precipice. If it were available, would she care to sample some 100 percent mind-enhancing movie drug?

“I want the drug, bwa-ha-ha-ha!” she told The Observer.

Is there anything she’s tried that’s come close?

“I’ve never done drugs, of any kind,” she said. “Except I guess alcohol. But a drug that would make me as brilliant as all of my brilliant writer friends? Yes.”

Well, Ms. Clarkson, Adderall comes close, and speed works for some people …

“No, if I did speed or whatever my heart would leap,” she sighed. “I have the highest metabolism. Oh, no, no, no.”

She thanked The Observer—“It’s so cute that you know who I am!”—and he returned to wandering around. Reader, go ahead and add one of those dumb tequila cocktails to the drink count.

The Observer craved more anecdotes of depravity. Surely, there must be someone who’s gone on a pill bender or two. Oh, right. The DJ.

“I took Adderall all of college, it was nuts,” said Cassie Coane. “Wait—Adderall lets you use 100 percent of your mind?”

Well, no.

“But yeah, I love Adderall,” she said. “Adderall’s the best.”

The most memorable interaction of the night, however, was the first. Jason Bateman stood on the stairs when The Observer approached him to ask about his drug use.

“Dude,” he said, his face a bit contorted. “Dude. I don’t know. I—”

At this point, the first of his public-relations assistants approached The Observer, and escorted him away. 

“That’s totally disrespectful and inappropriate.”

Baffling. A second public-relations assistant approached The Observer.

“Did you see the screening?” he asked.

No, The Observer had not.

“Well, if you had, you would know that nine people in the movie died from the drug.”

nfreeman [at] | @nfreeman1234

After-Party Placebo Effect