New York Confidential: Sorry, but Britannia is not so cool in New York

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The Independent Culture
ON SEPTEMBER 8, Tony Blair is to attend a party in New York to celebrate the "British Invasion Part II". According to the invitation, "The party will celebrate Cool Britannia and the major influence London is having on the worlds of fashion, art and music." Among other highlights, the party will include "a re-creation of the famous Met Bar".

Has Blair completely lost his mind? His attempts to associate himself with Cool Britannia have already made him look like an eager young vicar getting down to the local disco. The prospect of his dancing the night away in an imitation of the Met Bar in New York will surely have William Hague rubbing his hands with glee.

More important, doesn't Blair realise that the whole Cool Britannia phenomenon is now completely passe? I helped Vanity Fair put together a special issue on Cool Britannia in November 1996. By the time that issue came out in March 1997, people were already tiring of the subject. These days it brings most people out in hives. What's Blair going to be celebrating next - rave culture?

The party is being organised by Liz Tilberis, the editor of Harper's Bazaar, and Trudie Styler, whose claim to fame, apart from being Sting's wife, is that she often makes the "worst dressed" list. The guest list includes the usual suspects - Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Philip Treacy and a bunch of liggers wearing Union Jack T-shirts.


ONE WAY in which American couples celebrate their wedding anniversaries is to hold ceremonies at which they renew their marriage vows. A New York couple has come up with an interesting variation on this theme. To celebrate their 15th anniversary, Alfred Shuman, the managing director of Bear Stearns & Company, and his wife Stephanie, organised a ceremonial burning of their pre-nuptial agreement. According to The New York Observer, they invited 140 friends to gather round a fire in the garden of their East Hampton country house and then threw the legal document into the flames.

Typically, several of the lawyers present pointed out that a pre-nuptial agreement is still binding, even if it has been lost or destroyed. The Shumans' gesture may have been touching but, in the event of their marriage hitting the rocks, it will turn out to have been meaningless.


I'VE BEEN spending the past week crashing and burning with a succession of beautiful girls in New York's hottest singles bars. For the purposes of researching an article for a new American men's magazine called Gear, I've been trying out various chat-up lines from a book called How To Pick Up Girls, by Eric Weber. The book was written in 1970 and was out of date even then.

For instance, one of the recommended lines is, "You're the second prettiest girl in the world." "Naturally," writes Weber, "she'll want to know who the prettiest is." I tried this out on a girl in a bar called Clementine on Fifth Avenue and she said, "Thank you," and almost ran to the other side of the room. So far, I've struck out on every single occasion.

The point of my article is to try to discover whether having hair makes any difference to a man's ability to pick up women. As you can see from my photo, I'm a William Hague lookalike.

Over the next few days I'm going back to the same bars, where I'll be using the same lines on some more girls, only this time I'll be wearing a wig. It's a huge great mop of blond hair, making me look like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. But I don't suppose I'll have any moreluck, because the lines I'm using are so awful.


EVEN THOUGH it's August, a number of magazines are holding parties at various New York clubs. The other day, Manhattan File magazine held a relaunch party at a bar called Lot 61, and I was lucky enough to be invited. One of the big shots there was James Truman, a former Face journalist, now the editorial director of Conde Nast. In the New York media, how this seemingly nice man has survived in the company known as Condescending and Nasty is a topic of perennial interest.

At one point I approached a fellow hack at the bar and struck up a conversation about Truman. Instead of responding, he glanced nervously over my shoulder. Apparently, the hack had had his fingers burnt once before when gossiping about the late socialite Jerry Zipkin. About five years ago he was in a booth at a fashionable restaurant talking about the famous homosexual walker, who was seated nearby, when his companion warned him that Zipkin was a notorious lip-reader.

My colleague was worried that Truman, too, might have mastered this black art.