When Condé Nast Editors Could Enjoy Watching Bartenders Set Cocktails on Fire

“This is very good,” Robin breathed as she handed me the thickly embossed invitation. “The only other editors invited to Si’s birthday are AnnaGraydonDavidPaige.” She ran the names of Condé Nast’s most important editors together, seeming to consider my elevation into this exalted group a point of personal pride. “The invitation says no gifts, but what are you doing to wear?”

I couldn’t imagine.

“Anna will be there,” Robin persisted. I thought of the last time I’d shared a room with the supreme fashionista; she’d been dressed in a silky teal dress trimmed with pale puffs of gray fur that looked so soft I wanted to reach out and pet them. On her feet were tall butter-colored suede boots that would surely dissolve with the first drops of rain. I pictured myself the dowdy in a room filled with fabulously gowned women swanning through Si’s legendary art collection, as turbaned waiters proffered extravagant tidbits and bartenders set spectacular cocktails on fire. Even the pre-party—Si celebrated each year by remastering a vintage film for a private screening at the Museum of Modern Art—sounded exotic.

“You have to get a driver,” Robin stood by my desk, hands on hips, face screwed into her fiercest frown. “If you don’t, you’ll be the only editor on the bus.” This, her stance implied, would be deeply humiliating to her.

“The bus?”

“Si hires a bus to take the other guests from the museum to his house. But all the editors take their own drivers. You can’t get on the bus.”

I was not about to be one-upped by AnnaGraydonDavidPaige. On  the night of the party, I let her call for a car.

“Ask for Mustafa  when you get downstairs.”
From Ruth Reichl’s book, Save Me the Plums, about leaving the New York Times to become editor of Gourmet magazine. She edited Gourmet for 10 years until 2009 when Si Newhouse closed it. AnnaGraydonDavidPaige refers to Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, and Paige Rense, editor of Architectural Digest.

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