The line to get into Hudson Terrace wound halfway around the block last Tuesday. Singles, philandering philanthropists and semisocialites gathered for a party to benefit the Special Olympics. An overly fastidious bouncer was letting in guests at a painful trickle as the sun began to sink over the nearby Intrepid.
Finally, making it past the vigilant sentry, The Observer walked up the three flights of stairs to the roof deck. An unlikely crowd had gathered, sipping beer and lounging on deck furniture. “What do you think about the cause?” we asked a group. “What cause? We’re here for the beer,” one young lady informed us. Slightly taken aback, we inquired with a couple, only to receive the same confused refrain. Perplexed by the cavalier attitude, we approached a waitress, only to learn that the Special Olympics party was in fact one floor below.
Downstairs, a decidedly dressier (if perhaps not much more refined) group had gathered to support the Junior Committee of the Special Olympics. Throngs of Ivy Leaguers rubbed against one another in a rush to get a drink. “Can I get a gin and tonic? Fuck!” muttered one disgruntled young lady in an lovely evening gown. Meanwhile, a fresh-faced lad on the other side of the bar handed the overwhelmed barman a $50 bill, placed his order and was served. (Lesson learned.)
Those in the crowd—so similar in aspect to one another as to give the impression of a Dalton class reunion—could barely hear themselves speak over the blaring speakers. Never the need, it turned out. They were all talking about the same things, anyway: the previous weekend in the Hamptons, the market and college sports. Only a few, however, had anything to say on the subject of the Special Olympics.
We approached an athletic looking group of young men and asked why they had decided to attend the event. “I love the Special Olympics. I also like to donate,” said a recent Trinity College graduate. “We like to give back to the community,” his friend added. We asked if they had placed bids on any of the auction items. “No. I donated way too much money when I came in,” the first said, flatly.
Another guest offered even less explanation. “This is the Special Olympics event, right?I heard this was a good event, so I had to come. I got the last vodka drink,” he said with a coy smile.
“Actually my dad was a volunteer at the Special Olympics for the ski races,” one reveler told The Observer. “So he was like, ‘Absolutely go and bid on whatever … ’ in his name,” the young man added.
Some, however, did have a personal connection to the cause. “A buddy of ours, who we went to college with, his younger brother has Down syndrome,” said Pierce, a former college lacrosse player now living in New York. “We played at Cornell, and his younger brother was by our side on the field every day,” he said.
The outdoor space was filled with guests who schmoozed, smoked and yelled over one another. “And I woke up with, like, a $600 bar tab!” one well-dressed man yelled merrily “And what do you think about one-night stands?” another shouted. A passing banker asked if we were Jewish before telling us that we gave off a warm energy. We thanked him.
One guest, a friend of a Junior Committee member, double fisted beers and bragged about his nearby pal. “This guy, he’s like big time now. He lives out in Greenwich, he’s big time. He’s a member of a country club and everything,” the man said of his blushing acquaintance.
Inside, guests diligently placed bids on auction items, until Junior Committee members swooped in and collected the clipboards. Cruises, signed sports paraphernalia, Upper West Side spa packages and VIP Fashion Week tickets all disappeared from the auction block, finding happy homes with the charitable guests.
People sat around the red-leather couches, catching up with private-school friends (they really did all seem to know one another), availing themselves of liquid refreshment. A midlevel panic broke out as guests learned that the vodka had run dry. “They’re out of vodka!” one guest yelled, drunkenly overcompensating for the loud music. We recommended he try the bar outside. He scurried off, only to return two minutes later. “They’re out of vodka there too!” he said, distressed.
As the evening concluded, the deejay catered to the older among the guests, playing hits from the ’90s. The touch-of-gray crowd hit the dance floor, letting loose as the emcee announced that the party was soon ending. Finance types fist pumped to the music, drinks in hand, undaunted.
The clock struck 11, the lights went up and the music was cut. Punch-drunk guests continued to talk loudly, apparently unaware that the D.J. had finished his set. We walked down the steep staircase, hoping to beat the rowdy crowd to the cabs below.