Postcard from New York

I SIT SOME 87 storeys above New York, sipping my Chardonnay and looking out over Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty, pondering the strange combination of luck, circumstance, raw ambition and folly that placed me here and now - at a benefit lunch at the Rainbow Room.

For me, part of the thrill of Manhattan is the knowledge that, while one's career may have placed one temporarily in the skies, who knows what the future brings - it could plummet, just as it rose, shooting 87 storeys down below into the peculiar perdition of a failed editor-in-chief - broke, broken and practically unemployable.

It's a chilling thought. And one that inevitably runs through the mind as I sit, later in the day, two rows in front of Michael Douglas, and one behind Camille Paglia, at the opening night of Sandra Bernhardt's Broadway show. Miss Bernhardt is hilarious, but she turns her eagle eye - with some sympathy, for sure, but enormous wit - on hubris and its often dire consequences.

I am a nervous soul, so it is not without a certain trepidation that I walk, in the company of my colleague Ethan, into the after-show party. Now Ethan is a walking, talking, six foot three advertisement for WASP America; handsome, smart, and above all else, fearless. This makes him the perfect companion at fancy parties.

True, it's generally a mistake to go anywhere with someone considerably more attractive than yourself. There's nothing more irritating, surely, than the person you're talking to looking over your shoulder to look at the person you're with. But as you grow older, this is the kind of thing you must learn to accept. Somehow.

Of course Ethan would be a disaster - and quite unthinkable - if one's ambitions for the night were romantic. I would simply never score. But the big advantage of going to something like the Sandra Bernhardt party with Ethan is that he spurs me on to do the right thing, as if I had all the might of the Conde Nast editor-as-star-system (not to mention the dress allowance) behind me, because tonight I talk to the right people.

He elbows me sharply to say "hi" to Sandra, to thank her for being our November cover star, and to say "hello" to Camille (and yes, we'd love you to write for the mag). The funny side of all of this side of New York life first becomes apparent when some girl comes up, bums a cigarette and says, quite superfluously - we've already given her one - "It's not for me, it's for Gina Gershon."

Later on at Barney's, at the launch party for Simon Doonan's book, Ethan nudges me again, and hisses with excitement, "There's Yves St Laurent, go talk to him." I do, explaining what a fan I am, how much I admire the work of Hedi Slimane at Rive Gauche. "Yves" turns round and says "Gee, thanks!" in a Brooklyn accent. It's not Yves, it's some other guy with big specs, and I've blundered. In this town, that kind of thing can be fatal.

Believe me.

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