Warning: put on your earplugs, because the loud noises you are about to hear is me unsubtly dropping names: BAM BOOM BAM BAM. I went to one of those truly “only in New York” shindigs last night, the Huffington Post’s Game Changers event. A New York event — like this one — has a certain level of buzz and gravitas and grit and glamor that other cities aspire to but can never quite match.
It was fun to run into tons of pals of mine who are in the media-industrial-entertainment-news complex. And then I had actual, real conversations with lots of people, politicians, policy-makers, entrepreneurs and personalities I admire (or at least am intrigued by), like Geoffrey Canada, the Harlem education reformer who was featured in “Waiting for Superman.” And Cory Booker, the Newark Mayor who convinced Mark Zuckerberg to spend $100 million on badly needed school reform (that is, until Gov-turned John-turned TV pundit Eliot Spitzer interrupted us). And Mayor Bloomberg. (Of course, I plugged my favorite education non-profit, MOUSE, with all three — and they’re already MOUSE fans).
My entry point for chatting up the squadron of folks from Bravo’s “Top Chef” (I am obsessed…OBSESSED) was dropping the name of a Bravo exec friend, which launched (separate) chats about random subjects (world series, iPads, Food Trucks in Brooklyn) with Tom Colicchio, Gale Simmons, Marcus Samuelsson and Andy Cohen. While my wing-girl (and rock star entrepreneur/StyleTrek Founder/CEO Cecilia Pagkalinawan) chatted up Paulina Porizkova, I talked to her hubby, Cars frontman Ric Ocasek (expect a new Cars album soon!) about some of the new bands he is producing.
One headscratcher: why was Bravo-lebrity Bethany Frankel a HuffPo honoree? Nothing against Bethany, but how does drumming up drama on reality TV and hawking “skinny girl” products make you a Game Changer? I guess getting a big chunk of happy hour-ing women to drink their margaritas with less sugar is a pretty big deal, but she didn’t exactly save starving children’s lives in third world countries.
What I love about New York events is that even in a star-studded room like this one (Sean Penn! Ariana Huffington! Andersen Cooper! Jann Wenner! Norah Ephron!), people generally behave themselves, maintain a cool posture and keep any star-worship impulses in check. The actors want to meet the pols and the journalists. The musicians want to meet the authors, etc. The food’s usually pretty good. People drink. Lots (and sometimes that drinking creates an annoying/embarrassingly loud din in the back of the room when seriously cool, amazing people are speaking). The politicians and journalists and fashionistas and flacks and sports stars there generally know how to work the room so there’s a flow of partiers deftly exiting one conversation to get to another. There’s generally NOT a stanchoned-off celebrity petting zoo VIP area.
It struck me that different cities — different power centers, really — have a unique look and feel to their celebrations. True, habitants of one power center often infiltrate another, (e.g. White House Correspondents Dinner, Oscars) but it’s rare that out of town guests truly change the DNA of a room that much. You could blindfold me, knocked me out with choloform so I had no idea where I was, then drop from the sky into a particular party, and without seeing the skyline, I’d know whether I was at a ‘do in NY, LA, WDC or SF.
Here’s a video clip from HuffPo last night.