Oh to be a Brit in New York City! Just as as long as NYC would like you around

Another of our big media figures is off to the Big Apple. But will he find that its love affair with us is over?
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The Independent Online

Michael Jackson, the chief executive of Channel 4, is about to start a new life in New York. It's farewell to Horseferry Road and a paltry £536,000 pay package, and hello to Manhattan and a million pounds a year as head of USA Entertainment.

But Mr Jackson will soon discover that the New York that greets him is not, right now, the most comfortable place for a Brit in the limelight. The hot gossip in medialand is not about the wonderful charm and acuity of New York's British contingent, but the opposite. New York parties are awash with Schadenfreude at the fall from grace of the tsar and tsarina of the social scene – Harold Evans and Tina Brown.

The backlash has been sparked by the publication this month of a book by Judy Bachrach entitled Tina and Harry Come to America. It follows the couple's rise to the pinnacle of New York society, with emphasis less on Tina's successful editorship of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and more on her talent for luring movers and shakers into her social circle.

Even Tina's friends acknowledge that something has gone spectacularly wrong for her. Some say it is because she is a celebrator of celebrity and, as one puts it, "that feels like a Nineties thing, so associated with Clinton. The days are over when we thought Alec Baldwin and Barbra Streisand were political philosophers".

Glenda Bailey, the new British editor of Harper's Bazaar, is hot, and Anna Wintour at American Vogue is a class act. But an Englishwoman no longer presides over Manhattan society, and there is something old-fashioned now about the concept.

Mr Jackson will also find that the other Brit-in-New York caricature – that of the barfly – is going through a bad patch. This is Peter Fallow from Bonfire of the Vanities – a drunken clubber whose main purpose in life is to "insinuate himself at the table of an American who could be counted on to pick up the bill without pouting over it".

The writer Anthony Haden- Guest was said to be the model for Peter Fallow. Whether or not he had any of Fallow's repellent qualities, Mr Haden-Guest had, in the late Seventies, an established reputation as a good-time boy. Two years ago he produced a history of the legendary New York nightclub Studio 54. Now there is another Brit who is a major figure on the social scene – Andrew Sasson, the owner of the Jet East night-club in the Hamptons.

Mr Sasson is a former boyfriend of Lizzie Grubman, a publicist who has been in the New York tabloids almost constantly since she jumped in her car at the Conscience Point nightclub and, at speed, backed into a wall injuring 16 people. Her first reaction was to call Mr Sasson on her cell-phone, putting him at the heart of a story that is pure Tom Wolfe.

But in the eyes of Michael Elliott, the British editor-at-large at Time magazine, such characters are a sideshow. The real McCoy Brits in New York are the vast majority who get on with living an American life there, breaking occasionally to watch football or meet British friends.

Howard Stringer, the boss of Sony in America, is one such figure. Carl Johnson, who runs the TBWA advertising agency in New York, is another, as is Bill Hillary, who left the BBC in 1999 to become a key player at cool cable TV channel Comedy Central, the home of South Park. Mr Hillary has since signed up Channel 4's Trigger Happy TV and Spaced.

Then there is Jonathan Burnham, president of Talk-Miramax books, where he has signed up Martin Amis and Simon Schama. Mr Burnham made it on to New York magazine's "Gay Power List".

As Amanda Foreman notes, Brits in New York would do well not to try to compete with locals. Mr Jackson is more workaholic than party animal, and keeping his head down should come more easily to him than it did for Tina Brown. His compatriots around town might be grateful.

Other Brits working in the Big Apple:

Xana Antunes

Was editor of the Murdoch-owned 'New York Post' until April, when she was ousted in favour of Aussie Col Allan (nickname Col Pot). Now 36, she moved to Manhattan in 1995.

Glenda Bailey

The inspiration for the cor blimey editor in 'AbFab', 41-year-old Bailey has edited US 'Marie Claire' since 1997 but last month shocked fashionistas by defecting to 'Harper's Bazaar'.

Mark Baker

Runs New York's hippest club, Lotus, which has an oasis theme with reflecting pools, limestone walls and amber-coloured lighting. Youthful glitterati attend.

Tina Brown

Now 47, Brown arrived in New York in 1984 and quickly became known as the 'queen of buzz', editing 'Vanity Fair' and then 'The New Yorker'. Currently runs the ailing magazine 'Talk'.

John Cassidy

Staff writer on 'The New Yorker' who has just secured a $300,000 advance for 'Dot-Con', a sceptical history of the dotcom bubble. Formerly business editor of the 'Sunday Times'.

Sophie Dahl

Twenty-four-year-old supermodel. She is now branching out into cinema and will appear in Al Pacino's new film, 'People I Know', as well as a new Woody Allen movie.

Michael Davies

The 35-year-old television whizz kid who transformed the fortunes of the ABC television network by importing 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' Has been in America for a decade.

Michael Elliott

Has worked in New York for around 15 years. A high-flying journalist who became editor of 'Newsweek International', and is now editor-at-large at 'Time'.

Harold Evans

Tina Brown's 72-year-old husband. Former editor of the 'Sunday Times' who in New York edited 'Condé Nast Traveler' and ran Random House. Author of 'The American Century'.

Anthony Haden-Guest

Sixty-two-year-old writer who has been part of the New York scene since his arrival in 1971. Barfly and roué, who is said to be the inspiration for Peter Fallow in Tom Wolfe's 'Bonfire of the Vanities'.

Carl Johnson

Johnson, 42, was a rising star at TBWA, the ad agency that handled Labour's election campaign. Moved to New York in 1999 to run the company's show there.

Salman Rushdie

Novelist, 53, who abandoned London in 1999, blaming its "backbiting and incestuous" literary scene. It's said, however, that he now finds New York beginning to pall.

Howard Stringer

The boss of Sony in America, formerly ran CBS. Has been in New York for ever and is now a naturalised American. A huge but unshowy figure on the New York scene. Fought in Vietnam.

Plum Sykes

Fashion writer for American 'Vogue', and said to be chomping at the heels of Anna Wintour. Party girl with a beach house in the Hamptons.

Anna Wintour

Aged 50, has edited American 'Vogue' for the past 12 years. Steely, bony, driven creature, known as 'Nuclear Wintour'. Ultimate size-zero style queen.

Amanda Foreman: 'They think Europeans are sneering at them. So they sneer back'

Interview by Jonathan Thompson

Amanda Foreman, best-selling author of 'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire', moved 18 months ago from Britain to New York, where she is working on her new book, 'Our American Cousins'

When I turned up here, I found the people quite cold and uncaring. Some were aggressive, as if they were trying to test my mettle.

When people have done well in their own country, they are still made to jump through hoops here. You have to prove yourself all over again. It's partly to do with the spirit of equality in New York ­ which is a good thing ­ but it is also a defence mechanism. They think that Europeans are sneering at them, so they sneer back, automatically. It is such a transient city that people who have lived here for a long time have something of a siege mentality.

Some Brits are portrayed as cold and unfriendly, which could be part of the problem. The one thing Americans hate is being made to feel unaccepted or unwanted.

I have on occasions masked my English accent, but only for translation purposes. The Americans have a far more nakedly judgemental attitude towards strangers, based on money and career success. There is less politeness and consideration towards others, and greater intolerance and ambition. It often takes my breath away.

Americans are weirdly laid-back about certain social niceties. It is quite normal for people whom you've invited round for dinner to just not turn up, or to cancel at the last minute. It's bizarre.

If I were to offer advice to any Britons moving to New York, I would suggest they avoid appearing too haughty. Also, they shouldn't go in for the competitive financial thing. The key is to try not to compete.

If they have money, the first thing to do would be to get involved in charitable work. Get on a board or something. New York is the most philanthropic city in the world. Secondly, they should try to get involved at a cultural level.

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