Editor-At-Large: Nice try, Ken. But Mayor Bloomberg's New York is king

Everyone was re-enacting 'Sex and the City', gyrating with the need to be wanted, spotted and desired
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The Independent Online

There was a moment at about 3am on New Year's Eve when I stood on a metal gantry next to a DJ booth above a dance floor packed with revellers and watched a naked woman opposite me bouncing and bouncing and bouncing up and down on a bed. Her legs were far apart and her blond hair cascaded around her shoulders.

She was smiling and laughing at no one in particular. She was encased in a glass box, decorated like a bedsit complete with shag-pile carpet and live-in naked man, who seemed to be doing a bit of dusting.

This was the floor show at the Crobar, the newest and hottest (allegedly) night spot in New York. Funnily enough, I was the only person who seemed at all interested in naked, bouncy woman and her consort with his flapping genitalia. Everyone else was dressed to pull, busily re-enacting an episode of Sex and the City, thrusting and gyrating and pulsating with the single overpowering need to be wanted, spotted and desired.

Earlier that evening, in the Regency Hotel's ballroom on the Upper East Side, I'd watched another kind of floor show - elderly, professional males in dinner jackets dancing sedately with their grateful third wives (probably ex-receptionists) to the legendary jazz singers Anne Hampton Callaway and Michael Feinstein. I got the feeling that the same people come to dance to "Cocktails for Two" and "Every Time We Say Goodbye", year in and year out. My dinner companions were dressed rather differently to the regulars - in black leather and shiny blue Dior jeans - and, although I managed a glittery dress, I was the only female waltzing in biker boots. Then again, my outfit had to span two very different celebrations in four hours.

There's simply nothing like a week in New York to recharge your batteries and celebrate - and for me it was Christmas, my birthday ( at the Soho House), and New Year's Eve. As airline security operates on the highest alert, with armed guards planned for all planes, there is a temptation to cut back on travelling. Then the worrying news that flights are being cancelled because of a fear of attack could add to that urge to stay put. Forget it! With the pound at its strongest against the dollar for many years, now is the best time to take a break from dirty, dingy London and visit one of the world's most exhilarating cities. And you can't imagine how terrific it is to return from a night's festivities to find that you don't smell like an overflowing ashtray. Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg, for having the guts to declare all restaurants, clubs and public spaces smoke-free zones.

A couple of nights earlier I'd been at the B-Bar and Grill in the Bowery, which plays host to a gay event called Beige. All conversation hushed as Jocelyne Wildenstein, she of the world-famous plastic surgery, made her way to a booth. Her eyes, slightly too close for beauty, tipped upwards at a ludicrous angle. Her lips, totally pumped with collagen, seemed like add-on extras to a face that was mask-like in its severity. The hair was a matted mane of honey-blond frizz cascading around her shoulders. The end result was Indonesian drag queen meets transvestite, a perfect bride for Michael Jackson, who appeared on TV's 60 Minutes a couple of days before telling the world that it was perfectly OK for a 40-plus-year-old man to share his bed with a boy he wasn't related to. Michael's ludicrous Ronald McDonald, clown make-up was enhanced by the two 1,000-watt spotlights that he had insisted were positioned to beam white light on him from a distance of three feet. The interviewer was forced to ask his questions from an unlit zone outside Michael's heavenly aura.

Soon after Ms Wildenstein's dramatic appearance, Boy George entered the B-Bar in full stage make-up as Leigh Bowery - bald head, white face and dribbling paint - fresh from that evening's performance of his show, Taboo, on Broadway. But, sadly, not even George could compete with the magnificently manipulated flesh of cat woman, and he slunk away to a quiet corner.

New York is a city that's a mysterious mixture of prudery, in-your-face nudity and a strict caste system that manifests itself via a dress code more rigid than anything in Britain. Take the typical Upper East Side trophy wife or matron, who insists on wearing a floor-length mink, no matter what the weather, simply because it's December. On her feet will be trainers, and at the end of her arm will be a lead attached to a tiny, repellent dog. Her hair will be secured with a velvet headband, and make-up is worn at all times. Her body will resemble that of an eight-year-old child, and discreet plastic surgery will ensure that the only giveaway area will be her neck, swathed in pearls and scarves. She's looked like this for decades and no amount of Sex and the City fashion stories will change her one iota.

New York pulsates with life. The subways are clean, the beggars few and far between and the streets safe. Theatres have Sunday afternoon matinées - a perfect time - and close on Mondays. There was more nudity at Richard Greenberg's hit play about a gay baseball player - Take Me Out - which premiered at London's Donmar in 2002. Brilliantly staged and ruthlessly witty, it has six men stripping off and taking a shower, soaping their bottoms and their balls. None of the mink-clad matrons batted an eyelid.

It was difficult, too, to buy tickets to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular unless you wanted to sit a mile away from the stage. I splashed out on a VIP seat six rows from the front. This meant I entered through a door marked "VIP entrance", but once inside joined the other 2,000 or so ticket-holders. On my seat was a carrier bag marked "VIP", containing a carton of popcorn and a bottle of Diet Coke. Water wasn't available. This was a rather chubby audience, a contrast to the toned Rockettes, high-kicking with ruthless precision, manic grins on their faces. Father Christmas was obviously Dickie Attenborough in disguise, and the show a complete delight. Where in London can you see ice-skating, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker danced by Miss Piggy, and a nativity play complete with Mary, Joseph, four sheep, three camels and a couple of donkeys? And I haven't even mentioned the helpful shop assistants and polite waiters. Sod the war on terror and take a trip to New York.

¿ An eventful Christmas for Princess Anne, whose bull terriers seem to be conducting their own war of terror within Sandringham. Last year Dotty attacked children in Windsor Great Park and earned HRH a criminal record and a £500 fine. Now, Dotty's companion, Florence, has mauled one of the Queen's favourite corgis so badly that the unfortunate creature has been put out of its misery. Then the temperamental hound committed a further crime by biting a maid. Dotty, meanwhile, has undergone retraining and psychiatric assessment - and now the same fate awaits Florence. Perhaps the person most in need of retraining is the Princess Royal herself, who seems besotted by her foul-tempered, aggressive dogs.