Tuesday night, a dark-haired Lonely Boy leaned against the wall of The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, reading a biography of John Lennon and regarding, through his bangs, an unusual scene. Gangs of teenagers wearing sparkly tank tops and the sort of heels that never tread below 42nd Street spilled forth from taxis and cars and — their hands marked with a dramatic X by the doorman — into the dark bar once frequented by Lady Gaga. The occasion of their being out on a school night and all the way downtown was a performance by their fellow Trevor senior Emma Lasry, an aspiring pop star. A few weeks before, Emma’s first music video, for a single called, “Closet Bitch” went viral — shooting up 20,000 hits overnight — not, to her disappointment, because of the catchiness of the tune. The video, a high-end production that includes a poolside dance sequence and an appearance by a Kardashian sister, was paid for by her father, billionaire Avenue Capital founder Marc Lasry, and the reaction to it on various blogs — including Daily Intel — gave the teenager her first real experience of feeling, as Warren Buffett once put it, “the silver dagger in your back.”
“I love knowing that no matter how much money someone has, they still can’t buy talent!” snarked one commenter on Gawker. “Well, it’s quite obvious that she didn’t use daddy’s money to improve her looks,” said another. Ouch.
“It was supposed to be classy, fun, like you’re with your friends getting ready to go to a party,” sighed Emma, a sweet 17-year-old who says the video was intended as her birthday present this year. (She turns 18 this Sunday.) “Everyone was taking it so seriously.”
Having a billionaire for a father, it seems, can be a hindrance as well as help. When they decided to do the video, Lasry, experienced investor that he is, assessed the risk, and knew there would be a downside. “But this is what she really wants to do, right?” said the hedge-fund manager, who was parked in the front row at The Bitter End, where he remained until the performance ended, whereupon he dashed out to catch a flight to Geneva. “I’m her father. Of course I want to help her.”
(As a father of five, his philosophy on these matters is roughly this: “I say to them: Look, I can help you get to the door. The problem you’re going to have is when you walk in the door, everyone’s going to say, it’s because of your father. But that’s short-term. After that, you’re either good or you’re not good. I’d rather be in your position than not. So, you can look at that and say its not fair, it’s not right, or you can deal with it.”)
“So I said, It’s your call. You’re going to get a lot of press.” Still, he said, “I didn’t realize people could be that vicious.”
Worse than being referred to as “John Belushi in a wig” whose “overproduced track will likely encourage her fellow prep-school brats to come up with similar self-serving, ego-tastic projects” according to Emma, was the criticism of her singing. “Closet Bitch,” “wasn’t meant to be like, one of these songs that showcases your voice,” she says. She’s since taken the video offline, in hopes that people will focus on the videos of her performing live instead. “I just want people to sort of realize you know, that I can actually sing.”
And she can, actually. At around 8:30 p.m., wearing a hot pink bandage skirt and heels, Emma took the stage in front of a backing band composed of her brother’s friends from NYU and belted out covers of bluesy rock songs like “Mercy” as well as a few of her own songs, such as “Closet Bitch,” the lyrics of which — Everybody thinks I’m so sweet/I’m the girl you love to meet/Boys want to take me out to eat/But little do they know/I’m a closet bitch — she wrote herself.
“No one knows that,” she said afterward, as an unofficial receiving line of friends from school, Avenue Capital, and her summer job at Olive and Bette’s formed by the bar. “Everyone assumes I don’t do anything and I just spend my father’s money,” she continued, as Lasry, nearby, handed a stack of bills to his assistant. She shrugged. “My dad does investing for a living, so he’s like, ‘You’re my investment. If you make it big, you’ll be able to pay me back.’ I’m already keeping an IOU tab. So. One day.”