We have rarely come across a press event as epically bad (and badly run) as last night’s opening of Justin Timberlake’s gratuitous addition to the city’s barbecue scene, Southern Hospitality. Press and fans waited for over three hours for the man of the hour to arrive. (The publicists explained that he was always scheduled to arrive late, but insisted that the explosion at Grand Central was to blame for tardy red carpet. Um, we work in midtown and we made it to 76th Street and Second Avenue — JT’s new restaurant is across the street from frat-boy-heaven Brother Jimmy’s, naturally — in less than 30 minutes.) A weird mishmash of boldfacers were in attendance: Seth Green, Lance Bass, the Reverend Al Sharpton, local club owners, a dude from Making the Band 4 — few of whom would give print reporters more than one-word responses. (“A fire,” “three,” and “no,” if you must know.) Once Timberlake finally arrived, the publicists, in another brilliant move, placed security guards in front of the press line, rather than in front of the crowd that was surging toward the former boy-bander. Timberlake beelined for the television cameras, looking like a member of the world’s coolest barber-shop quartet in a vest and flat-brimmed hat.
Then finally JT stood before the print press. He’d deign to answer two questions if we’d all gather round. The burly security guard waved the guy from People to the front and politely stepped to the side for the guy from the Daily News. But when we walked up, he stopped us. Where is your I.D., young lady? In our bag, way over there. We were standing in the press area, we pointed out, and we had our recorder in hand, which we showed him. He gave us a slow, leering, full-body ogle and made up his mind. “Honey, I don’t think so. Step back.” Seconds later, JT was gone. And we were left walking off our anger in Central Park, wondering how having breasts had disqualified us from doing our job. —Jada Yuan