It’s David Margolick week! The prolific author, former NYT legal affairs editor (another lawyer!) and Vanity Fair contributing editor’s latest book, “Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink” is coming out and it’s been a week of parties, articles and interviews. The book is about the racial and geopolitical tensions bound up in the famous 1936 and 1938 matches between the Louis, the African-American underdog and Schmeling, the Aryan poster boy for the Germans. We haven’t read the book but someone spoiled the plot for us. It doesn’t end well for Schmeling.*
But Margolick has done well by it; first there was last week’s boldface-name-studded book party on the windswept roof of Nina & Tim Zagat’s apartment building on Central Park West; then there was Sunday’s NYTBR review by Joyce Carol Oates (no relation to the guy who sings “Private Eyes”), a cover story that weighed in at 2600-plus words and called it “a heavyweight of a book that is likely to be the definitive chronicle of its subject.” Ding! Then there was yesterday’s mediabistro Q&A (wherein you learn what Margolick thought of said review — ooh, the reviewer, reviewed! Spicy!) — followed by what is no doubt the crown jewel of his week: the Fishbowl Party Report.
Fishbowl arrived at our Upper West Side destination as any smart person attending a party at Nina & Tim Zagat’s would arrive: hungry. We stepped out on to the roof and moved exactly one inch, because it was packed. All we could see were people; none of them appeared to be carrying appetizer trays. In fact, there was no room for trays — a waiter stopped by us carrying two bottles, red and white, and whisked some wineglasses out of his pocket to attend to our needs. Now THAT’S New York City efficiency for you.
We were with MB EIC and, as referred to below, Fishbowl homie Elizabeth Spiers and though we assumed we’d know people at the event the only person we could identify by name was Russell Baker, who rode up in the elevator with us. Nina Zagat’s efficient and charming assistant Cybele Kadagian had greeted him effusively as one Russell Baker, and by the time we got to the tenth floor it seemed that he was another Russell Baker entirely (sample dialogue: Cybele: “Oh, I thought you were the Russell Baker who wrote for the New York Times” Russell Baker: “I’ve written for the New York Times.” Cybele: “Oh.” Rest of Elevator: Uncomfortable silence). We’re still not completely sure which Russell Baker it was, but that didn’t stop us from enthusiastically greeting him with a cheery “Hi, Russell Baker!” a few glasses of wine later. Parties are fun.
The party was still very, very packed but we managed to make our way over to Margolick to congratulate him on his success (that’s him pictured at the right, with charming hostess Nina Zagat). Joining us in our pilgrimage of praise was an impressive array of boldfacers: Maury Povich and Connie Chung; legendary First Amendment lawyer and former Judy Miller advocate Floyd Abrams; New Yorker scribe Ken Auletta; The Nation’s Victor Navasky; Newsweek EIC Mark Whitaker; renegade Hillary biographer and non-O’Reilly guest Ed Klein; (current Judy Miller?) editor Alice Mayhew; Channel Thirteen’s Susan Lacy; former Bill Clinton jokewriter Mark Katz (not jokes about Clinton, but for him; he was his humor speechwriter. There’s funny and then there’s presidential funny); WSJ Weekend editor Amy Stevens; Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff; Jameses Atlas and Taranto; plus an impressive delegation from the NYT including (deep breath) Alex Kuczynski, Ira Berkow, Kristine Nicholas, Warrens Hoge and St. John, John Landman, Mike Molyneux and Lally Weymouth. Most important boldface guests: Moe and Gert Margolick, David’s proud parents. It must have been lovely for them.
It was lovely for us for slightly different reasons (not that we weren’t proud! We were!) but the crowd had thinned with the departure of the first wave of guests and suddenly trays were circulating. HOORAY! We enjoyed some scrumptious chicken skewers and shrimp while others who eat smoked salmon enjoyed the little gravad lox appetizers, which is what they call it on the Upper West Side. Now that there were less people, we could literally see across the roof and saw to our joy that there were tables, with trays of cheese and veggies and snacks. The Zagats had totally come through. This was our kind of party. We stopped briefly to chat with NYT Styles writer Warren St. John, who mentioned that he recieved a disproportionate amount of email from Canadian football fans (and even a photo of his book next to a thermometer showing a temperature of -40 degrees Celsius — he was impressed that I instinctively knew it was from Winnipeg). Then we were happy, because we ran into New York Magazine’s hilarious and bubbly Jennifer Senior, who guided us to some extremely tasty guacamole. There was no need to move more than an arm’s length from the guacamole for quite some time.
We spotted MB founder and cyberhostess Laurel Touby in the crowd and, bidding the guacamole farewell, moved in that direction, stopping at another table to pay homage to the sweetest, most delicious yellow grape tomatoes that we had ever tasted. Seriously. Actually we were pretty clever because we kind of talked Laurel over to the tomato table, where we chatted and were introduced to James Taranto (who we learned is part Turkish but has no quibble with the Armenians, and who didn’t laugh at our joke about how we come from a city that sounds like his last name. BTW it’s not Ottawa). I recommended the delicious yellow grape tomatoes to Taranto; I think he was appreciative. Seriously, they were like sweet juicy mouthfuls of goodness. We also recommended the tomatoes to Diane Heifetz, real estate writer from the New York Post. She was in a colorful flowing dress that we fretted wasn’t warm enough, but she seemed just fine.
We then stopped to say hello to Michael Wolff, which I will be honest scared me a bit. Is it me, or does he sometimes seem a little aggressive in print? Plus he was a few feet too many from the tomatoes. Those are hard decisions. Compromising by slipping a few in our pocket, we went over to say hi — and darned if he didn’t turn out to be a delicious yellow tomato of sweetness himself! Seriously, he was very pleasant. Wolff was talking to the infamous Russell Baker; it was at this point that we said our chirpy hello. No need for an introduction, Russell Baker. We know who you are.
By this time the party was winding down and people were complaining loudly that there were no more tomatoes. We bid our adieus to the lovely, windswept roof with the beautiful views, thanked our host and the Zagats for a lovely party, and headed down in the elevator, befriending a charming man named Sidney. Sidney turned out to be Sidney Zion, 42-year veteran of the New York Daily News (and another lawyer!). He had never heard of Fishbowl because he’s not, as they say, down with the new media — he doesn’t use email and he’s still acclimatizing to the fax machine. Sidney was a real character and not only knew his boxing, but had been at the 1962 fight where Emile Griffith killed a man in the ring. He said that people were yelling, “stop, stop, you’re killing him” but he kept on going. We would have been happy to hear more of what Sidney had to say but at this point we were out on the sidewalk and frankly we’d guess a guy like Sidney has places to go (though he was very charming about his elevator ride with the three young ladies from a newfangled website). We wished we’d saved him some tomatoes.
*In the ring, that is. Louis died drug-addicted and destitute at 66; Schmeling died a celebrated millionaire at 99.
**Photo and Russell Baker identification provided by Cybele Kadagian.
***Benny “The Kid” Paret had flung a homophobis slur at him during the weigh-in, and Griffith had to be restrained from pummelling him on the spot; Griffith may have been gay himself and been attempting to “prove” otherwise