The Intelligentsia’s Answer To A Super Bowl Party

Fishbowl sent a spy to The Atlantic Monthly’s dinner party to celebrate (no, that’s not quite the word) the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. And by “spy,” we mean an honored guest who had the baby greens, rack of lamb, almond tuile and petit-fours like everyone else.

Readers may recall that Lloyd Grove was there too, and while he may have touched upon some of the highlights in his recap of events, here’s our spy’s blow-by-blow, after the introduction of dramatis personae:

  • Seen: David Boies; Joe Conason; Richard Cohen (The Washington Post;) Georgette Mosbacher; Ed Rollins; Michael Sheehan (Deputy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism, NYPD); Barbara Walters (who skipped dinner) and Slate’s Jacob Weisberg.
  • Fishbowl’s table: David Patrick Columbia, Campbell Robertson, and James Fallows, the moderator. The Atlantic’s associate publisher, Meredith Kopit was frequently MIA during the meal due to pressing business, while Boykin Curry was busy schmoozing at another table.
  • And at the celebrity table: Linda Fiorentino; an unsmiling Moby; Julia Stiles with boyfriend (who doodled during the address); and Boykin Curry’s lovely wife, interior designer extraordinaire Celerie Kemble.

The full report after the jump.


Bill Weld was at the Republican table, the lone clapper during moments when onscreen, Condi & Co. were leaping to their feet. At one point Stiles’ brow furrowed and she said, “Who’s clapping? Who’s clapping?” (It was Bill Weld.)

There were definite murmurings amonst the crowd when Bush delicately brought up the notion of “surveillance” and why that was “authorized” by “appropriate” members of Congress (even though I don’t recall hearing anything about a “judge” but what do I know, I’m Canadian). Hillary was caught making a face, and our crowd, officially bipartisan but come on, this is New York, laughed and then clapped.

At the line where Bush said he was forging on to “make the tax cuts permanent” Julia’s lovely blonde head flopped backward over her seat in exasperatioin. I’d say she was pretty close to stomping her foot.

Also in my notes: “Am I crazy or is Wilfred Brimley next to Bill Weld?” And: “Whoa. Bush just said ‘OBGYN.’ Ick.”

The Atlantic went totally high-tech and tricked us all out with little voting machines so that we could register our opinions on the speech. Numerous Ohio jokes were made. Moderator James Fallows made some astute observations, noting that Bush was “master of the false choice” ( i.e. we can either proceed into a future of nobility and shinig light or, you know, retreat back into the dark. Your choice, America).

When put on the spot, Bill Weld rose (dude is TALL) and did indeed say “The speech didn’t do too much for me,” saying it was “schmarmy at worst” (yes, he said “schmarmy”). That said, it was interesting how he is already being deferred to, absolutely. Amazing what a 7,300 word New York magazine story can do!

There was a bit of a throwdown about the wiretap issue – counterterrorism commish Michael Sheehan was very vocal despite suffering from some serious laryngitis. His kingdom for a Halls. He was impatient with the whole due process thing, saying that the need was pressing: “the intelligence committee doesn’t have time to respond to people who aren’t important” [to the process] and pointing out that they’re not interested on listening to you call your aunt in Denmark. Kind of a random example, but anyway. David Boies expressed concern about any time a government says “trust us.”

Meanwhile, Campbell Robertson is sporting a hot new look — a beard! He looked very professorial and authoritative. And he, too, would know that Stephen Sondheim didn’t write “A Chorus Line,” although I think we can all agree that he did great work on “Cats.”

(Yes, as you probably already guessed, it was Rachel. God, we wish we knew how to quit her.)