New York sent writer Shawn McCreesh to a glitzy Waverly Inn party thrown by former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter so that the journalist could corner people (by his own admission) into giving him quotes. The party was a celebration of Carter’s long-time assistant Dana Brown, whose new book Dilettante: True Tales of Excess, Triumph, and Disaster details life under the Carter Regime, where Condé staffers got corporate American Expresses, instead of one pencil they all have to share, as Carter suggested they do now.
That whole pencil quote, which I found appropriately critical and quite wry from the mouth of a million-year-old guy in a $10,000 suit, got lips a-flapping, but the real spillage here is what Brown had to say in Dilettante about Carter’s pet Fran Lebowitz.
“Fran would hang around the office,” Brown writes. “If you walked in and saw her, it took every ounce of your energy not to groan. She would balk at every idea and say it was stupid, every writer terrible. Her unhappiness and misery were contagious.”
Well hot damn! As a slow walker and a person who asks follow-up questions in my professional and personal life, I’ve long harbored this resentment about Lebowitz especially as she became a Netflix darling in Pretend It’s a City. I’m not charmed by others' quippy misery, only infected by it – especially when most of her gripes are about “hotel valets” stealing your clothes, wishing Times Square didn’t have tourists in it, and “pimp culture.” I don’t relate. Plus, I have a feeling I’d be very very scared of her in an office context. I like to keep it loose during meetings!
McCreesh continues to quote Brown:
“She’s a perfect example of a persona taking over a person,” says Brown. “The one thing so many people would always say to me, and especially veterans of the business, they’d be like, ‘What the fuck is Graydon doing? She’s such an ass-kisser; she gloms on to whoever is powerful to get a free ride. How come he doesn’t see that?’” Brown says Lebowitz “is friends with people who have private jets purposely because they have private jets” and calls her “the Paul Manafort of the magazines business. She’ll work for the Russians, she’ll work for the Ukrainians — it doesn’t matter.”
I’m looking forward to her dispatches from Kyiv. Hey Putin? I’m walking here!