Circus-like opening of Le Cirque
The crowd in the bar room at the opening night party of Le Cirque.
Last Thursday night, New York saw the official (and long anticipated) opening of Le Cirque, the new restaurant in the new Beacon Court on 58th and 59th Streets between Lexington and Third Avenues. The evening wasn’t so much an opening as a cocktail reception before the opening (which comes at the end of the month). And it was a mob scene. To put it mildly. If a thousand invitations went out, I would guess 2000 people showed up. So that it was packed inside and out (the Beacon Court courtyard), upstairs and down. Everybody was there. Every boldfaced name, everybody and his brother. And if you didn’t see them, well who could?

And there was the Noo Yawk Kvetch about the mob scene. But what did they expect? Sirio Maccioni, the proprietor of this now immortal eatery, is the dean of New York restaurateurs, around since the legendary days of the Colony (where he started as a busboy) and known to and by all the swells, the rich, the famous, the chic and the shameless. They wouldn’t have missed Sirio’s opening if it were held in Yankee Stadium (which might have been a better venue for the capacity turnout). Their presence was their tribute to the man.

I and JH stood there with our digitals, snapping away, as did Patrick McMullan and Bill Cunningham and dozens of other photographic recorders of these times. Everyone was in a jubilant mood, amazed and astonished by the crowd, thrilled by the new restaurant rooms and ready to move on to make way for more crowds.
All of it was fun with the exception of the moment with Jay McInerney passed by with his girlfriend Anne Hearst. As I raised my camera to take their pictures, he said in my face: “no photo ops for you after the mean, nasty, bitchy things you said about me and my book party.”

Since Jay McInerney has never addressed one word to me, and never had reason to, in all the years I’ve seen him around, and since his girlfriend Anne Hearst is someone I’ve known and liked for a long time, I thought he was joking. But he wasn’t.

“What are you talking about?” I asked, recalling that I’d covered his book party at “21” three and a half months ago, and although I couldn’t recall what I’d written, I knew it wasn’t mean, nasty or bitchy. Or at least, not intended to be.

“Oh, look at him, now he’s pretending he doesn’t know ...” McInerney snarled.

I asked Anne Hearst what he was talking about. He jumped in: “it was so mean she didn’t even want me to see it.” Anne, who is not the snarling type, quietly concurred.

I was shocked although by then put off by his aggressive rant. When I write about authors in these columns it is always with the intention of helping them sell books. In fact, Mr. McInerney’s book did make some sales directly from the connection NYSD gave the the book to Amazon. I have great admiration and respect for those of us who achieve the writing of a book, and especially for those who can do it with some frequency.

Mr. McInerney remained irrate, however, insulted and of course, insulting. Later on that night when I got home, I looked up the words that so outraged him just to see what he might have been talking about.

These were the words I wrote about his book party last February 1.

Last night upstairs at “21,” Anne Hearst hosted a book party for her friend Jay McInerney and the publication of his seventh novel The Good Life.

More than 20 years ago, the gods gave Mr. McInerney a flight to the moon with his first novel, Bright Lights, Big City, bringing him fame and fortune and a throbbing media image akin to a space age Scott Fitzgerald. As it often is with fame and the famous as well, fate or the gods (and in the case of writers -- the book reviewers) then began slapping the man around. Although he was sustained by the columnists of the boldfaced world and his natural need to keep on writing, the following novels came, often with great fanfare followed by authoritative disappointments.

Yesterday’s New York Times (written by Michiko Kakutani) took a swipe at his latest literary venture and this week’s New Yorker (written by the brilliant Louis Menand) praised him with certain reservations. Reviewers are a power unto themselves. The last time I read a review that panned a book, I picked it up because I liked the author’s previous book. In fact, I loved the author’s previous book. I loved the author’s new one too.

On reflection, I suppose I could have said nothing about Mr. McInerney’s very interesting literary past. Or even better, got the man’s approval before printing anything about him. From my point of view, his literary past is more than respectable and worthy of a reporter’s interest.

Mr. McInerney’s sensitivity to how he is treated professionally is not something he necessarily shares in his reflections on other writers. For example, he wrote recently on a blog he does for a magazine (his category is “dining out”) about attending the annual Literacy Partners gala at Lincoln Center a couple of weeks ago during which three well known and currently popular authors read from their works (and covered in these pages). Those authors were: Nora Ephron, Michael Cunningham and Augusten Burroughs. Mr. McInerney was less than taken by the entire evening, so much so that he skipped out after the readings and took his girlfriend to dinner at Daniel.

He wrote:

Lincoln Center. It's a great Cause that I won't name because after getting off to a bad start (they didn't have our names at the door), it soon got worse. We filed into the New York State Theatre and were trapped there while each speaker went on longer than the last. Augusten Burroughs was the worst offender, reading an interminable and not very funny piece called "Killing John Updike." We were so exhausted and pissed off that we decided to skip the rubber chicken and head over to Daniel, in part because we would have felt overdressed almost anywhere else.
He got one thing absolutely right. Literacy Partners is a great cause. As far as being trapped by “each speaker (who) went on longer than the last,” and then singling out Mr. Burroughs who at this moment is having HIS great success (along with one of his books just having been made into a movie), there were hundreds of us in the audience who enjoyed the evening, and demonstrated it noticeably with frequent laughter and applause. All of the writers were amusing and Ms. Ephron was as they say in Variety, a “laff riot.” The dinner afterwards, by Sean Driscoll’s Glorious Foods, was delicious. “Interminable” and “not very funny,” sound more like a good description for someone who might at this moment in his life be better off staying home and working on his next novel, far from the madding crowd and its tendencies to exhaust and piss him off.

As a postscript, I should note that Mr. McInerney did make mention of the Le Cirque opening in the latest entry to his blog where he sensitively described one great public figure in his late age as looking “like a Madame Tussaud version of himself,” and in his characteristically generous manner described the evening as a “Scary sight—Upper East Siders behaving like famine victims finally getting a new shipment of grain.”

Fortunately the Le Cirque experience was saved by his short rant to my face, misreporting it only slightly by recounting: “I did have a good moment snubbing a society columnist who'd written something nasty about the book party Anne gave me at '21' earlier this year.” So the evening wasn’t a total loss for the singularly deservedly celebrated author. And of course a great tribute to a legendary restaurateur.

Joy Rosenthal

Regine Diamond
John Barrett


Walter Cronkite and Joanna Simon
Steve Millington

Robby Brown

Paola and Arnie Rosenschein
Mariana and George Kaufman with Jill Gilmour

Dr. Patrick Stubgen an Dana Stubgen

Scott Nelson and Alex Papachristidis
Geoffrey Thomas and Sharon Sondes

Taylor Stein and Bettina Zilkha

Rita and Andre Jammet
Bettina Zilkha and Marjorie Reed Gordon

Anne Keating

Helen O'Hagan (left)
Julia Wallace (right)

Cheri Kaufman

Gaetana Enders
Frances Hayward and Heather Cohane

Denise DeLuca and friends

Wendy Carduner with Dan and Cynthia Lufkin
Bridget and Mary Ann Restivo

Brian and Stephanie Krieger with Regine Diamond

Jim Kaufman and Karen Schenker

Denise Rich, Richard Turley, and Monica Crowley

Jeff Podolsky and Jay Snyder
Georgette Mosbacher
Arlene Dahl, Marc Rosen, Joan Rivers, and Scott Currie
Laura Poretsky, Michael Shvo, and Camille Ruvo
Sam and Judy Peabody with a new friend

Judy Cox and George Farias

Francine LeFrak
Nikki Haskell and Mickey Berke
L. to r.: Gail Karr; Barbara de Portago, Jonathan Farkas, and Arnold Scaasi; Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Sirio and Steve Ross taking it all in
Karl Wellner and Deborah Norville
Lee Mellis and friend

Wendy Weed, Peter Hageman, and Bumi Sirotka

Mark Simone with Michael and Barbara Gross

Steve Elkman and Margo Langenberg

Bill O'Shaunessey and Jeanine Pirro
Parker Ladd

Carroll Petrie

Vartan Gregorian and Toni Goodale
Joanne de Guardiola

Bob Morris and Ira

Serena Bass
Michele Herbert and Nurit Kahane

Leila and Peter Heller

Jim Dunning, Susan Magrino, Sirio Maccioni, and Marco Maccioni

Photographs by Jeff Hirsch & DPC/


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