Life As Reality TV

Looking into Riverside Park from Riverside Drive. Sunday at 4:45 PM. Photo: JH.
August 3, 2009. Heavy rains followed by sun, more rains, more sun following all weekend. New York was beautiful and quiet.

Life As Reality TV. The big news over the web this weekend was: Sarah Palin and her husband were splitting, that they both had “someone else,” etc. A day later Ms. Palin said it wasn’t true. The former governor of Alaska, albeit too briefly, could have a great reality TV show. The possibilities are endless. She could work it all the way to the White House. Or at least some people would think that.

Today is the birthday of -- among many others of course -- Betsy Bloomingdale and Peter O’Toole. Now how do I know such a thing? Because I have an odd sense of recall; that’s how. I often use birthdays as memory markers. I happened to be at a dinner party in Beverly Hills in the early 80s when both Mrs. Bloomingdale and Mr. O’Toole were there and we were talking about birthdays and it came out they shared one. Neither being baby chicks anymore, I’m not sure who is the senior, although it can be safely said that Mrs. B wins the eternal beauty contest.

The Media is the message. Today’s Times has a nostalgic piece by David Carr about this being the 10th anniversary of the launch of Talk magazine, created by Tina Brown, the Superwoman of American media at the time. Carr doesn’t say this, but Talk crashed because it wasn’t very good. It was too clever by half, with a bare midriff of snark, the current kudzu of American media.

The fate of Talk seemed ironic because Tina Brown made Vanity Fair and then The New Yorker the two most interesting and influential reads in the magazine business. She set the tone. For a long while it was overlooked that Ms. Brown had had a brilliant partnership with a man called Si Newhouse.

What is most significant about that failure, however, is that Ms. Brown just got up and went to work on something else, trying to set some new track. Media, like many others things in our world, is going through a sea of change, a shift. It’s impossible to predict its outcome but the internet is already alluding to the changes.

Last week on these pages, we ran Carol Joynt’s affecting account of her professional relationship with Walter Cronkite. Part of the power of that piece was how it provoked memory of a man, a manner and a sensibility about work, life, and people that is in short supply in today’s world. Recently, for example, I heard one of the three top anchors tell some friends, half-jesting, to “just turn it on, you don’t even have to listen” to help with the nightly ratings. It’s all about the ratings, and anchors are now stars, celebrities first and professionals secondly.

Peter Cary Peterson at home with Jack.
Saturday night I had dinner at Swifty’s with Paige Peterson whose son Peter Cary (or PC) has been a featured player on a new reality TV show called NYC Prep.

I remember when the show was in the talking stages, mother was not in love with the idea of the kid going on TV. It may sound glamorous or financially fabulous, but Paige who started out in adult life as an actress knows things get complicated when the spotlight is on you.

I don’t know Peter Cary, except having met him a number of times at one of his mother’s parties. He seems like a pleasant, possibly shy, well-mannered and polite young man who was known to be a very bright student and who maybe wanted to be an actor (although he was going to college).

Now he’s an item on Page Six and Gawker and the image it’s projecting of the young man is anything but pleasant or shy. His grandfather, Pete Peterson is a billionaire financier, and so it is assumed in the press that the young man is heir to a fortune. This may play on “Reality” TV but not in real life. Paige, who is divorced from Peter Cary’s father, lives comfortably but modestly in an apartment on Central Park West where she brought up her son and her daughter Alexandra. Grandfather and his money has never been a considered influence in their lives.

For the mother, who would have objected to her son going on the show if she had the legal right to stop him, the son’s sudden fame/celebrity/notoriety will be whatever it will be. She’s smart enough to be philosophical about it, knowing that her ability to “protect” the boy will have very little effect on the life of the young man. She’s watching her boy go out into the world on his own for the first while the rest of the world is watching too.
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Meanwhile back at Reality. Without the TV. Social life in New York on these hot and/or rainy days in August comprises almost solely of going to the movies. Not just any “movies,” but the screening. Private screenings are one of the most popular ways of entertaining the boldfacers (and their celebrity and actor friends). It’s a win-win situation. The guests get to see a picture, FREE, first run, in a very comfortable seat, sitting amidst the actors and directors and producers who made the movie (all so intime).

And then they are usually wined and dined along with the aforementioned stars, etc., in some top restaurant where the champagne flows like water and the fare is sumptuous and excessive (if that be your taste).

Peggy Siegal started this kind of thing quite a long time ago now. She carried it out like a mad scientist but the crowd kept madding, if you catch my drift.

Now she is the Den Mother, the Haute Couturier of the private screening industry, rubbing elbows with the glitterrati and the Eurotrash and even a Rothschild here and there. Andrew Saffir who started the Cinema Society screenings several years ago riffed on the formula. Like Peggy, Andrew has his “list”of guests. It is always select of course, and is heavy on Hollywood names especially a lot of the young stars. Very hip.

The business of social screenings hasn’t ended with those two, however. It has only just begun. Last Wednesday for example, Gilt Groupe and Quintessentially, two contemporary businesses, hosted a premiere and after-party for Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock” at Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema and Bowery Hotel. Very cool.
Anna Wintour
Anna Sui
Brian Reyes
Ali Zarin
Benhnaz Serafpour
Ang Lee and Jade Lin
Malcom Kutner, Brian Reyes, and Christian Leone
Andrew Fry and friend
Mamie Gummer, Meryl Streep, and Grace Gummer
Barry Astin, Skyler Astin, and Meryl Astin
Cheyenne Jackson
Demetri Martin
Dan Fogler
Edward Tricomi, Peter Max, and friend
Alexis Maybank and Peter Som
Genevieve Jones
Michael Musto
Erin Fetherston
George Wayne
Nur Khan and Lily Donaldson
Vito Schnabel and Julian Schnabel
Kate Schelter and Christopher Schumacher
Mike Lang and friend
Kate Swain and Pavan Pardasani
Claire Danes
Rachel Zoe
Stacy Bendet
Lauren Remington Platt
Fiona Thomas
Jonathan Goff
Vanessa Carlton
Julie Chang
Marjorie Gubelmann
Julia Moore and Di Petroff
Nanette Lepore
Kylie Case and Gilles Mendel
Ben Walker, Mamie Gummer, Claire Danes, and Hugh Dancy
Cooper Ray, Carter Peabody, and Peter Som
Michael Shannon
Liev Schreiber
Emile Hirsch
Sebastian Stan
Peggy Siegal and Dennis Basso
Mark Birnbaum, Eugene Remm, and Eric Marx
Matthew Settle and Naama Nativ
The following night Columbia Pictures hosted the world premiere of Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep playing Julia Child.
Amy Adams
Drew Nieporent
Barbara Walters
Frances Sternhagen
Andrew Cuomo, Sandra Lee
Gayle King
Arianna Huffington
Jillian Bach
Joan Juliet Buck
Jo Andres, Steve Buscemi
Julie Powell
Michael Badalucco and Brenda Heyob
Martha Stewart
Meryl Streep
Nora Ephron
Sir Howard Stringer
Jazmin Gonzales
Sharlto Copley
Patricia Clarkson
Anthony Boudain
Rachel Roy
Sam Rockwell and Chris Messina
Katie Lee Joel
Tina Brown and Harry Evans
Rachel Ray
Gigi Stone and Alina Cho
Yoko Ono
Stanley Tucci
Tim and Nina Zagat
Tovah Feldshuh
And then on Friday in East Hampton at the Hamptons International Film Festival, they showed one of their Summer Docs screenings of “It Might Get Loud,” a documentary about the electric guitar and three virtuosos from their different generations. With After Party at the Blue Parrot in East Hamptons. And stars in their get-down beachie garb. The docu is a big hit. Very cool.

The pictures tell the stories. A thousand of them.
Alec Baldwin and Elisabeth Shue
Lisa Robinson and Karen Mulligan
Bob Balaban, Nancy Newman, and Stuart Suna
Ben Dollinger and Thea Rodgers
Elizabeth Marks, Robin Leacock, and Patricia Duff
Brinda Khanna and Dennis Connolly
Stacy and Matt Ullian
David Nugent and Violet Gaynor
Jessica Ambrose
Julie Thompson, Nancy Newman, Elizabeth Marks, and Gil Sacher
Gina Glickman and Bradford Rand
Jennifer Ephraim, Daniel Honan, Nancy Garcia, and Keanan Duffty
Pamela Eldridge and David Zazula
Dan Rattiner and Chris Wasserstein
Nancy Garcia
John Nicholas and Andrew Chapman
Ryan Burns, Domonique Wirt, and Jesse Manning
Tom Scott and Davis Guggenheim

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