The guest list that drew the guests

Featured image
Jeffrey Epstein's Upper East Side residence. Photo: JH.

Monday, July 29, 2019. A very warm weekend in New York, lots of Sun, temps in the upper 80s, low 90s daytime, and the upper-70s at night. 

The town is summer quiet. For the many of us who tend to stay in town, it’s a vacation. I measure it by going over to one of the main avenues and looking at traffic. Weekdays it’s usually, exasperatingly jammed with hundreds of cars, buses and trucks moving along. This past weekend: four or six waiting for the light to change to green on Third and 73rd at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Nobody home.

Park Avenue. 6 PM.

The heat hasn’t been as oppressive as it was two weekends ago, so that was a gift. But it was enough to keep a lot of the Sunday neighbors from the Park by the River where a lot of people take in the Sun on benches. 

The topic of conversation after the weather is Jeffrey Epstein. There are three spheres of public interest in the topic.  The first one being “Who” are the (famous and/or rich/powerful) people who flew on the Lolita Express?  

The second sphere of interest is in the: What, Who, Where, When, Why, and For Whom?  That’s for someone to know and nobody else to find out.

There is all kinds of guessing what the Real Story is on the man and why he’s in jail now. More and more the speculation among the public opinion types is that he’s in mortal danger, which is the nicest way of putting it. 

The third sphere of interest: the People Who Know Him and/or who are listed in his phone book and/or who was invited to dinner parties at his grand mansion. A couple of weeks ago New York magazine published such a list from A to Z. 

New York is a town for meeting people. There’s not another spot on the planet quite like it. If you want to meet someone specific, and if you have a good enough reason, it’s possible to achieve that here in New York. It is the center of the world and because of that people come here in search of those dreams and aspirations. It’s called business.

I’ve never been to Mr. Epstein’s dinners although I know several people who have. I never heard a negative thing about the host or the dinners. What I would hear was: Who was there. The guest list was very a la carte, but only the best of it.

Here are some of the names from the New York magazine article about who grace the phone book — which is where dinner parties like this begin: Princess Diana’s brother Charles Althorp, Woody Allen and Soon-Yi, Prince Andrew, Duke of York; Steve Bannon, Sandy Berger, Nicholas Berggruen, Felicia Taylor, Vanessa von Bismarck, Leon Black, David Blaine, the Sultan of Brunei, Richard Branson, Edgar Bronfman, Joan Juliet Buck, Ron Burkle, Candace Bushnell, Arpad Busson, Naomi Campbell, Giuseppe Cipriani, Gustavo Cisneros, Bill Clinton,  Phil Collins, Katie Couric, Bill Cosby (whose limestone mansion is right across the street from Epstein’s), David Copperfield, Pierre D’Arenberg, Jacques de Crussol, Duke d’Uzes, Janice Dickinson, Minnie Driver, Griffin Dunne, Frederi Fekkai, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York; Ralph Fiennes, Tom Ford, Malcolm Gladwell, Ace Greenberg, Cornelia Guest, George Hamilton, Chelsea Handler, Nikki Haskell, Stephen Hawking, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Hurley, Lauren Hutton, Walter Isaacson, Mick Jagger, Libet Johnson, Richard Johnson (who for years was Page Six); John Kerry, Adnan Khashoggi, Nancy and Henry Kissinger; Simon Le Bon, Courtney Love, Rupert Murdoch, Ron Perelman, Itzhak Perlman, Alberto Pinto (who was his decorator), Tom Pritzker, Charlie Rose, Amy Sacco, Senator Chuck Schumer, Kevin Spacey, Kenneth Starr (of Clinton impeachment fame); George Stephanopoulos, Julie Taymor, Donald and Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Cyrus Vance Jr., Linda Wachner, Elie Wiesel, Nina and Jim Zagat, and on and on and on. 

Those are only some of the names in Mr. Epstein’s phone book. That doesn’t mean they were all dinner guests, or Lolita Express travelers, or bankers or lawyers or Indian chiefs or international art dealers. That also doesn’t mean Mr. Epstein really knew many of them, or vice-versa. The word “friend” is very loosely used among many of his peers. What it does mean is that he had “access” (or could very possibly gain it). 

People who knew him socially were aware of his casserole of celebrities as well as a hefty supply of the rich, the chic and shameless who would be at his table. That was why people would accept his invitation. It’s a harmless brand of vulgar curiosity. They didn’t have to “know” him. They could even have heard whispers  — or knew about the “scandalous.” That wouldn’t necessarily matter. It was the guest list that drew the guests. Maybe with a little salting of the whispers (or friends/clients).

No other city but New York attracts such a diverse group of talent and ambition. Furthermore, celebrities are very impressed with other celebrities. And tycoons don’t mind the recognition, nor do the elite, especially at a table with someone who can match the laurels. It’s human; we’re pack animals.

JE marks the front door.

At any given occasion, there were those present  at Mr. Epstein’s table who knew at least some of what was going on underneath the frenetic existence of being Mr. Big. 

Yet, I don’t doubt that many who crossed the threshold of his limestone mansion at 9 East 71st Street were in awe of the man’s “achievements.” Such gatherings provide the guests with some of that apparent self-confidence. 

Mr. Epstein, coming from where he came from – Coney Island – knew what impresses. It’s a life that has been compared to that of Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” – a man of an age dishonored. The 21st century version.

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