When Brigid Berlin, Andy Warhol’s BFF, a decided Libertine (“L”) in her day, came into her inheritance, she didn’t race out and get coiffed. But she did wear a beehive of a ring from her mom, Honey Berlin, a tall swirl of diamonds. And when one of the stones fell out, Brigid ran up to the glass-fronted Fred Leighton shop on Madison Avenue to get it reset. She didn’t look like the regular Leighton customer in a loose T-shirt, and they didn’t buzz her in right away, so she started pounding on the glass, and then they really didn’t let her in, just like Oprah at Hermès.
One day Brigid invited me to her apartment to show me her mom’s costume jewelry, along with her own obsessive collection. She threw open a double closet, and every centimeter of every hanger was strung tight with necklaces. Utterly “L.”
The economy took a nosedive in late ’08, though that didn’t stop anyone from partying or unloading family jewels. But it made you think. Leggy Lauren Santo Domingo drove a gas-conscious Mini (non-“L”) down to relevantly named Gold Street, near the Fed, for the opening of the Libertine. Jason Pomeranc, who launched that clubby restaurant in his Gild Hall hotel, defines the word libertine as “a rebel, a rule breaker, the Marquis de Sade, Lord Byron . . . rock stars.” Pushing midnight Gold Street was eerily silent. But inside, in the smoky lounge packed with socials, a leather-clad “L” cigarette gal offered to whack me with her riding crop.
No spanks? But that same night, Charlize Theron gave Stuart Townsend’s rear an “L” thwack when he crossed between her and a camera at the Cinema Society screening of Battle in Seattle. He’s sooo good-looking, but just the way she hit him, with an open hand, you could tell she probably wears the “L” pants. Jeremy Piven, who plays that “L” on HBO’s Entourage, hosted GQ‘s cocktails on the icy roof of Lord & Taylor (“L” & T) on Fifth Avenue for their new in-house line, Black Brown 1826-think toasty cashmere hoodies. There, society PR guru Paul Wilmot recalled drinks at Diana Vreeland’s hot red “L”-living room back in the day. “When we were leaving,” said Paul of Mrs. V, “the maid had ironed the money for her to put into the handbag so that she would have crisp bills in case she had to tip an attendant.”
Over steaks at the nearby Salute restaurant, the new chairman of “L” & T, Richard Baker, mentioned that his father belongs to the Bridge, the “L” golf club in Bridgehampton that costs about a mil to join and where Sotheby’s displayed part of “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever,” the Damien Hirst retrospective, before it was shipped off to “L”-London. Hirst’s works raised an “L” $198 million.
September 16, 2008: AIG was sinking fast, days after Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 and Bank of America gulped up Merrill Lynch. I sat next to a Bianca-beautiful Katie Lee Joel at the New Yorkers for Children gala at Cipriani 42nd Street, a former bank providently converted into a marble party palace. Joel wore Alberta Ferretti and mentioned that in high school, her mom had set her up with a gay male prom date. Thanks, Mom. Interview editor Christopher Bollen sat at the “L” laden Burberry table with Julia Restoin-Roitfeld and Jamie Burke. Chris claimed that he saw Patti LaBelle hurl a mike stand at her piano player-very CL, Courtney Love. I don’t know if it was the economy, but Bart Freundlich, Julianne Moore’s husband, was in an icy mood on September 22 during John Hardy’s screening of her new film Blindness for the Cinema Society. Julie and I went to high school together in Virginia when she was just a sweet-faced, red-haired kid (no “L.”) Her mom took cute pictures of us the night I took her to homecoming in my senior year. She had one Farrah Fawcett wing and broke out in hives. I don’t know if that contributed to her icy command of revenge and emptiness onscreen, which carried the film. I was sitting in front of Bart, and he “kidded” that he’d have trouble seeing the film because of my head, so I slunk down in my seat. He’s a tall, scruffy hunk . . . not jealous, just protective, and Julie’s really raw and exposed in this one, and you see her partially naked. So when she got naked, I slunk down some more. During the Blindness after-fete at the Gramercy Park Hotel Roof Club, Billy Farrell, who shoots for Patrick McMullan, gave me the rundown on his recent trip to Russia. Did I mention that many fine restaurants in Moscow, swimming in petrocash, now have stripper poles? It’s “L City.”
It was a veritable museum show at Gagosian Gallery’s Red October Chocolate Factory in Moscow, except for the rubles, with an Aaron Young performance featuring eight motorcycles burning rubber on a surface coated with layers of red paint. Thumbs up for this Volgarian display. If only Jackson Pollock had used his Oldsmobile convertible for good. Barbara Bush the Younger, America’s first “L,” was along for the fun with Derek Blasberg and several SUV gunboats-likely needed. Getting anywhere through Moscow traffic takes hours because all the oligarchs have sirens and blue flashing lights on their cars and the police shut down the roads when they pass. After the private dinner with Dasha Zhukova, the Russian beauty dating billionaire Roman Abromovich (#15 on the Forbes list), Takashi Murakami, Natalia Vodianova, Stavros Niarchos and Eugenia Niarchos, Charlotte Sarkozy (First Sis-in-law of France), Diana Widmaier-Picasso, and DJ Paul Sevigny, who co-owns the Beatrice Inn, partied on until like 6:30 a.m. at an “L” club called . . . ugh . . . Soho Rooms. An erstwhile “L,” Derek must have overdone it in Moskva. At Blindness, he and beau Lyle Maltz were sippin’ Shirley Temples. Speaking of sweet, the next evening, at the premiere of Nights in Rodanthe, Richard Gere made me laugh on the subject of his shirts-off love scene with Diane Lane. “We’ve done this so many times,” he told me at the Ziegfeld, “we’re like old hookers.”
A day later, on my way to cocktails at the Greenwich Hotel for Mikheil Saakashvili, the embattled president of Georgia, I ran into Drena De Niro, Robert’s actress daughter (whose dad owns the place). And she said, “Oh, my God, Jeff, you should see the women at this party!” I was expecting Georgian hookers (or at least South Ossetian) but instead, it was all my society pals, a rarity this far downtown-Debbie Bancroft, Tiffany Dubin, Bettina Zilkha, and Dori Cooperman. But they looked like they belonged. I loved seeing the art of Drena’s gramps, Robert Sr., in the lobby. And the spa downstairs looks a lot like Nobu.
Same night, at Lever House, artist Liza Lou had installed a giant 3-D cross made out of chain-link fencing, every millimeter meticulously covered with diamond like beading. She has a team of 20 in South Africa. It recalled “Stolen Moments,” a recent show at Edelman Arts by photog Yasmine Chatila, a gorgeous “L,” who snaps pictures of people in their apartments through their windows and then disguises their faces and the facades of the buildings to avoid privacy issues. The two women ought to collaborate on beaded security systems. Either hot artist can spy on or tie me to a fence any time.
The American economy teetered wildly again on September 24, the day before JPMorgan Chase snapped up WaMu. During the Lancôme fete for Rachel Getting Married on the 25th, star Anne Hathaway appeared equally unstable on 4.5-inch heels by Marc Jacobs that she affectionately labeled “tranny arts & crafts.” Screenwriter Jenny Lumet claims that Anne Hathaway isn’t actually playing Jenny’s sister Amy in the film. Anita Sarko, however, who DJs all Lumet weddings in real life and who plays the DJ in the “L” wedding scene (with much fab music), says Anne’s character “kind of is Amy.” Whomever! Expect Oscar buzz, which Annie deserves after what she went through last summer with that riffraffish Raffael(“L”)o.
Then on October 1, I sat next to Brigid Berlin and her pug India at the old Warhol clubhouse Serendipity 3 during Interview‘s dinner for her after Bergdorf Goodman’s preview bash for her jewelry auction. Also Serendipitous: Byrdie Bell, Richie Berlin and Chrissy Berlin, and Danny Fields. Brigid downed three slices of (“L”)emon icebox pie and then wanted me to touch her tummy. And she confirmed that she once dropped Tiffany sapphire cuff links from a seaplane into a swimming pool where her then husband was sunning. P(“L”)op. Speaking of fattening: “I hate being on a diet,” said Benicio Del Toro, over steaks and “L” sundaes at the Plaza Athenee after screening Che, his four-hour tour de force. “And I was starving myself,” he said about playing the skin-and-bones revolutionary who helped Castro topple Batista. “My trainer would show up at my house at 6:00 a.m. in January when it was cold, banging the door, saying, ‘get your ass out here.’ ”
October 7, two days before Iceland went belly up, Brigid’s ice collection sold for top dollar at Doyle New York. Straight into the mattress! Now she wants Rupert Murdoch to know that John McWhinnie @ Glenn Horowtiz Bookseller is selling her needlepoint pillows of New York Post covers; Murdoch, who knew her dad, should have one. Best headline: Keith Richards, “I Snorted My Dad.”