David Usborne: A starry, starry night - or so I'm told

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The Independent Online

Jobs I would not want - or would be especially bad at - range from weapons inspector to celebrity photographer.

Jobs I would not want - or would be especially bad at - range from weapons inspector to celebrity photographer. I mean no offence to either profession. While I know no one who may still be scouring the deserts of Iraq, I do have friends who spend hours of every day wandering about New York, hoping to snap images of the famous and allegedly famous. They are members, I guess, of the paparazzi.

I have no problem with what they do. Stars who moan about them should give it a rest. If you are famous you are going to be photographed and that's it. It's what keeps you famous. The reason I have to disqualify myself from this line of work is more mundane: I suffer from celebrity-blindness.

The isle of Manhattan is quivering with A-list stars. Spotting them comes second only to shopping as the priority activity of friends visiting from England. But I never see anyone - not just on the street like that anyway. Well, very occasionally. I clocked Brooke Shields walking past the New York Public Library once. Years ago, I almost drove over Sigourney Weaver as she crossed a road. I am told Julia Roberts lives a block from me, but I'll believe it when I see her. Knowing me, I probably won't.

Another handicap is that I don't always know who these people are in the first place. Models, especially, are mostly a blank page for me. It seems that no party in town can make the grade as genuinely cool nowadays without a handful of catwalking giraffes in attendance. But how can I be impressed if I have never heard of them before? Frankie Rayder? Who she?

Ms Rayder, I am told, was among the guests at just such a party I attended the other night at a very subterranean-swanky club called Table 50, in the cellar of a new eatery of the same name at Broadway and Bleecker Street. The club, all exposed brick walls and modern art, is the kind of joint that does not advertise itself and is accessible only by a flight of darkened steps.

Anyway, I was a guest, too. This was a private party being thrown by The Strokes to celebrate the birthday of Amanda de Cadenet, girlfriend to one of the band members. Ms de Cadenet, surprised midway through the night by a giant birthday cake of pink cupcakes - and by my inelegant attempts to grab not one but two of them when she had barely extinguished the candles - falls exactly into the category of people I know to be more or less famous without knowing why. Was she once upon a time married to someone in Duran Duran? Or maybe she had a television show once?

But I also knew there were meant to be myriad other genuine stars sharing in the free Long Island Iced Teas, among them, Drew Barrymore, who is romancing another Strokes member. She I recognised. Drew is a multi-tasker - the only person I have witnessed smoking and blowing bubble gum all at the same time.

For the rest, I didn't have a clue, until I chanced upon Billy, hired by the promoters of Table 50 to take pictures of the night. He knew exactly who everyone was. The short blond girl? Claire Danes. The even shorter blond girl with the shoulder bag? The super-hot actress, Scarlett Johansson. As for the serious-looking guy with heavy glasses sitting as far from the dance floor as possible. That was Moby.

Paparazzi Billy, my best pal for the night, and I shared a problem, however. This was precisely a private party. You could tell, because the stars were unusually at ease. Claire danced a lot, almost as much as Drew giggled, especially when her boyfriend cavorted about the place with two balloons stuffed up his shirt. I, the only scribbler there, had been banned from packing a notebook. And Billy was allowed to take pictures only with the utmost discretion. Everyone had to be asked first. Mostly, they obliged. Only Sean Lennon, canoodling on a couch with Lizzie Jagger, demurred. Or perhaps she did.

I had a good time, perhaps because I was expressly off-duty. Meanwhile, with Billy's help, my mental scrap book of Manhattan's firmament of stars has been filled up a little. But the next time Claire or Scarlett passes me in Soho, will I notice them? Almost certainly not. But who cares anyway?

Please spare us this Olympic trial

That was a late late party. I am suffering still. One day earlier, I attended an altogether less glamorous event, held outdoors in Bryant Park just behind the library. It didn't help that it kicked off at 7.45 in the morning, under grey skies, with a damp breeze blowing that made me yearn to be back in bed.

Coffee was served, but mostly it was the suspense that was meant to shake us from our slumber. In minutes, Mayor Michael Bloomberg would step up to the microphone and give us the news from a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne. Which five of the eight cities competing to stage the 2012 games would be chosen to stay in the race? And which three would be dropped?

Did I say suspense? How predictable that Paris, London, Madrid, Moscow and, yes, New York, were the ones allowed to go forward, while Havana, Rio de Janeiro and Leipzig were spurned. Mr Bloomberg cited a poll saying that 68 per cent of New Yorkers want the games in town. Well, no one asked me. Don't we have mayhem enough in the city without adding the chaos of the games to it? "Just what we need," sighed a police officer on duty for the event. She obviously hadn't been polled either.