I saw the New Year in at Miami Beach, along with what seemed to be everybody else in westside LA. We dropped in at a party at the Versace mansion where I talked with a music producer named R. dressed head to toe in black with long brown hair. “Who was the best to work with, who was the worst?” I asked him. He considered a moment, then said, “The best was Celine Dion. Very professional. Very easy to work with her. The worst…” He mulled this over. “J. Lo,” he said. “She works really hard, would keep getting frustrated. You really had to pull it out of her.” I liked him, because I got the sense that he was part of the tribe of geeks — book geeks, tech geeks, art geeks — who hit their twenties and thirties and start passing as (relative) hipsters, although they themselves always know and take pride in their innate, obsessive geekness.
We got to the festivities held at the Delano just as Lindsay Lohan (not a geek) was onstage and counting down (it turned out her timing was off by about a minute) to the New Year. Our Notorious Neighbor and several other celebs were onstage with her, and NN found us later in the night, two fresh-faced petite young things grabbing his arms and twisting him around and saying, “We have to go! We have to go now!”
“Can I please talk to my friends?”
“No! We have to go!” They were hauling him down the walkway when he managed to bust loose and run back to us, enough time to call out — “Come to my place later! Be there! If you’re not there I’ll be annoyed!” — before the women were on him again and taking him off.
He had a penthouse suite at the Setai, and getting in to the place felt like breaking into Fort Knox. The hotel had set up velvet ropes at both entrances to keep away the crowds of partiers still choking up the sidewalks at 3 am and required a member of NN’s entourage to come down and fetch us personally. Young attractive LA types sat around the living room and smoked and drank and argued over what music to play. There was also a slender, dapper, middle-aged man who looked distinctly European sitting among the twentysomethings not talking to any of them and possibly wondering just what the hell he was doing there. Then a door banged open down the hall and NN yelled, “Justine! C’mere!” Which is pretty much how it goes with NN: lots of people, energy, shifting degrees of craziness, and he’s disappearing and reappearing somewhere else and hollaring at you to come join him. The fresh-faced young things turned out to be the self-confident daughters of a female director who currently has a movie in the theatres — upon meeting someone new they would immediately say, “Have you seen [this movie] yet? What? Why not? You should go see it!”
NN slung his shoulder around one of them and said, “Isn’t she adorable? I haven’t had sex with her yet.”
“‘Yet!’ It’s not going to happen! I’m a feminist,” she squealed, ducking away from him and slipping over to stand beside me.
“Oh really? Name your favorite feminist writer.”
She had to think for a minute. “Gloria Steinem.”
I told her — NN and I had already had discussions about this, and about his attitude towards women in general — “He likes Camille Paglia.”
“I do,” he agreed. And then abruptly switching topics: “Do you know who –” He named a high-end fashion designer who works with cashmere and furs.
The women in the room recognized the name and berated NN for his ignorance. NN shrugged, not caring, and said, “He’s in the other room. He was telling me he does this stuff but I had no idea who he was.”
I have exactly one piece by this man — a sweater I spent way too much money on four or five years ago and is still one of my favorite things — so I felt compelled to go back to the living area and investigate. The dapper European man was still there — “Do you know who he is?” a woman asked me as he introduced himself to me and I said yes and mentioned my sweater. He brightened as if I was describing one of his children. “Do you have it here, by any chance?” Uh, no. He left not long after, and came up to say goodbye to me and invite me to his upcoming fashion show in New York. “Do you ever get to New York?”
Then I got into conversation with an independent film producer — who, like me, didn’t want to join the group out on the balcony because it was “just too high up out there” — about global warming and nuclear weapons and the general end of civilization as we know it.