My big night out with Madonna and Demi

David Usborne joins Tina Brown and 1,400 of her very closest friends at the lavish New York launch of Talk magazine

"THE PARTY of the century". That was what we were going to, at least according to the PR person riding with me on the ferry to Liberty Island at dusk on Monday. I wasn't sure. I didn't make it to Malcolm Forbes's legendary bash in Morocco, or VE Day outside Buckingham Palace. But I was prepared to go with the hyperbole. Leave the cynicism behind on Manhattan, I thought.

As we disembarked, Liberty loomed above as we were ambushed by paparazzi and TV news reporters. It was fun to play famous.

Getting the invites to all the events that make the tabloid gossip columns is what matters in New York. (I was gratified to see Cindy Adams, the reigning monarch of Manhattan gossip, teetering on to the boat with me.) The premieres, the galas, the fund-raisers, the gallery openings: never mind centuries, this was the party of the season - the launch of Talk, the new Tina Brown magazine.

So maybe the evening was not all that exclusive. I had read somewhere that there were 800 on the guest list, but a park ranger informed me later that there were 1,400 packed on the island. And it was a trifle busy. But as lists go, it was unusually heavy with bona fide celebrities. Christopher Walken was my first sighting, slipping into a bar on the Manhattan side for a quick something before sailing. I didn't seem him again all evening, so perhaps he never made it across.

But so numerous were the celebrities, I must have missed scores of them. Christopher Reeve was there, I know, but I never found him. Nor did I glimpse Demi Moore, Hugh Grant or Henry Kissinger. So star-spotting is not my forte. But even I couldn't miss them when I found myself wedged between two tables as I searched for a place to eat dinner. Sitting at one was Robert De Niro, and at the other, looking about 18 years old, was Madonna, just across from Rupert Everett. Yikes.

All this for a magazine, for heaven's sake. And one with such a mundane little name. Talk. What quantities had been spent on renting Liberty Island for a night, chartering the tourist boats to bring us back and forth, the champagne cocktails and sandwiches before dinner, and dinner itself?

Forbes would have approved. Tree boughs were hung with paper globe lights in funky colours. Where there were no tables, huge Moroccan cushions had been arranged on large blankets, each supplied with a giant picnic hamper bursting with provisions. And that wonder-of-the-world view of Manhattan at night, the only thing Tina got for free.

She - or rather the magazine's co-owners, Hearst and Miramax - had paid for the barge that chugged into view with "TALK" blazing in lights on its deck. A monumental fireworks display was launched from it to a narration from George Plimpton. The first few shells came with comically sincere dedications. "This one is for the advertisers, very important people," Plimpton silkily informed us. "A delicious white magnesium tail made by the Guccis." (It seems they design rockets, too.)

Was this something never seen before? The launch of a magazine - just words and pictures to be perused on the loo or chucked away - staged as if it were a Hollywood movie premiere. It is Tina Brown as George Lucas; Talk is her new Star Wars. (The sequel to her other earlier hits, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.) In America, at least, the hype for the magazine has been nearly as intense as it was for the latest Star Wars. I was told that weekend leaks about the first issue's interview with Hillary Clinton, confiding about her husband's serial infidelities, were inadvertent. Some copies found their way on to a stand at Los Angeles airport three days too early, so the story goes. I don't believe it.

Never mind that when you see the magazine, you are likely to consider it patchy. More than 250 pages on glossy, super-thin paper, it does offer much that is riveting. An article by Richard Butler, the ex-chief of UN inspectors in Iraq, lashing out at his former boss, Kofi Annan. Astonishing dominatrix pictures of the usually demure Gwyneth Paltrow. And the Hillary interview. But there is a messiness about the presentation. And bits of it were cringe-making, like the student-humour faux letters page near the end, apparently confected by author Christopher Buckley.

More worryingly, it looks like a magazine that wants to be high culture and low culture all at once. You might wince at the boxing photo- essay, spread through several pages, with beautiful people wearing fashion garb at a fight. "Saladweight Murphy bows out in olive Prada briefs, tank, and way-high heels", one caption tells us. (Carolyn Murphy is the author.) How many readers can there be out there who will care that Ms Murphy's briefs are from Prada? (Aside from big-time advertiser, Prada.)

But I am being ungrateful. Thanks, Tina. For the food, the live concert with R&B artist Macy Gray - an odd choice, I thought - and your gracious speech. (The bit about advertisers being free to copulate under the trees was interesting. You should have seen the look on the park rangers' faces.) And thank you, above all, for inviting me. I have no house in the Hamptons and I wasn't a personal friend of JFK. But I was at the Talk party.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?