"It really does feel like we’re living the show sometimes," says Penn, who for the record is pretty much exactly like Dan, all cheekbones and philosophical musings. "The psychology of celebrity is such a weird and new thing," Dan—Penn—says of the cast’s sudden notoriety. "I think the last time people treated anybody else like this was demigods like in the time of ancient Greece."
He gave a twinkly Dan Humphrey grin and shrugged. "That was absurd then, and it’s even more absurd now."
But he doesn’t have it nearly as bad as Chace Crawford, whom Penn (self-deprecatingly, adorably) calls the show’s "designated hot guy." After some haggling involving mentions of well-lit public places, Chace agreed to meet us for a chaste lunch at Chelsea’s Empire Diner. When he walked in, wearing black Levi’s skinny jeans and a Diesel hoodie that hit his slender wrists just so, the restaurant’s flamboyant waiters shrieked and hugged him. They later said it was because he was a regular, but shrieks and hugs are a natural reaction to someone who looks like him. (We should know: By the end of our own conversation, our voices had gone up at least two octaves. Only Mariah Carey’s dogs could hear us.)
"I like to hang out on the Lower East Side," he said. Hence the skinny jeans. "Don’t try to get anywhere too quickly," we joked shrilly, immediately loathing ourselves. The cool kids down on Rivington are nowhere near as sycophantic as us. "Most of them don’t even give a shit," he said.
People who read celebrity magazines certainly gave a shit, especially after Chace started dating Carrie Underwood. "I wasn’t ready for all that craziness," he admitted. "I didn’t realize what that was going to entail." Chace and Carrie recently broke up—gloriously, by text message—but the damage had been done. Paparazzi began following him on errands, someone posted his home address in Chelsea, and every little photo op became a gossip story. Rumors that he was dating singer JC Chasez grew so insistent that the actor has been forced to deny his alleged gaydom. (They share a manager, he explains in exasperation, who occasionally arranges for them to appear at the same events.)
After Chace and Ed Westwick were spotted going to Best Buy to pick up movies together, Ed also had to deny to the Daily News that he was dating Chace. (Well, they did get Little Miss Sunshine.)
It’s true: Ed and Chace aren’t dating. It’s better. They’re roommates.
We like to imagine that they live in one of those ridiculous primary-color apartments from The Real World, with a climbing wall and a koi pond and cameras in the shower. But in reality the apartment is more like any apartment shared by guys in their twenties, with scant furniture and video games and food-encrusted dishes.
Ed, who is from a small town outside London, had some difficulty adjusting at first. "I’ll never forget when Ed, he’d gotten some milk from the store so he could use it for tea or whatever," Chace told us giddily. "He’s got this glass and he’s drinking, and he’s like, ‘This milk is really creamy.’ " It was half-and-half! Chace busted a gut. We died inside—please don’t tell us that stars really are like us. That’s just gross.
Less than a year later, Ed seems to have settled in nicely. He pals around with hedge-fund managers, plays gigs on the Lower East Side with his band the Filthy Youth, and frequents the Rose Bar, subMercer, and the Beatrice Inn. In other words, he’s living the life.
"Did I tell you I met Albert Hammond Jr. the other night?" he asked Leighton one afternoon at the Rose Bar, when she came in to hang out with him and castmate Jessica Szohr, who plays Dan’s former love interest Vanessa. "It was so fucking cool. He knew who I was. Apparently he’s a fan of Gossip Girl. He was like, ‘I love your character, man.’"
"You love him," Leighton said, laughing, as Ed waxed on.
"I do, I fucking love him," Ed said dreamily, putting on Leighton’s sunglasses.
It was Ed’s day off, and he was intoxicated, not only with the idea that a member of the Strokes knew who he was but also with actual booze, having downed approximately four Jack-and-Cokes. Ed, who doesn’t actually turn 21 for another couple of months, knows all the hot bars through Nicole Fiscella, the 28-year-old model who plays Blair’s sidekick, Isabel, and who also happens to have worked as the hostess at Bungalow 8 during its prime. Nicole has supplied the new New Yorkers in the cast with a ready-made circle of friends, including real city gossip fixtures like Arden Wohl and Leven Rambin. She also introduced them to Jacob Willis, a tattooed and friendly real-estate agent from New Zealand with whom Ed has been playing pool all afternoon. Jacob hopes one day to sell one of the Gossip Girl cast members an apartment, which is why drinking with Ed on a Wednesday afternoon basically counts as work.
"Wait until Season 3, when the serious renegotiation takes place and I’m making $10 million a fucking minute," Ed told him happily. "And you can move in with us. You can move in, and we’ll just be one big disgusting family."