Under the Anchor’s antler chandeliers, Oxford-shirt preps mixed with “gangstas” in oversize hats and gold bling. Olivia’s friend Theodora Richards blew smoke rings from atop a couch as her sister, Alexandra, selected records. Chrissie Miller, an owner and host, offered us a couch. Suddenly Olivia turned off the charm, appearing somber, withdrawn. “My tummy hurts,” she said, pouting. The new Mims song came on and the crowd swayed, and still she hardly moved. The carefree girl from earlier in the night was gone. “I rarely drink,” she announced, for the record.
She had learned, quickly, that the glittering house she had once aspired to enter was actually transparent. Anything that went on inside could become instantly, shamefully public. A few days later, while walking through Central Park, Olivia would confide to a friend that she needed a break and had decided to move, for a short time, to L.A. The conversation soon appeared on yet another anonymous rumor mill.
Socialite Rank was gone, but the day it shuttered a new Website assumed its place. “The Crown became ours this morning,” announced Park Avenue Peerage. “We give you this pledge: we will rule (and chronicle) justly.” Former Socialite Rank commenters immediately mobbed the boards. “It will be just like old times,” wrote a commenter who calls herself Countess Olenska. “Welcome me back, girls!” A commenter named Insider observed, “It’s the SR Reunion 2007.”
In the next few days, Park Avenue Peerage would acquire thousands of new readers. And then it would cause its own stir by profiling a girl who normally stays out of the party pages, preferring instead to surf Belle-Île-en-Mer. Jules Kirby, a “champagne-swilling” blonde, nearly blind in one eye, drove PAP commenters to the heights of hysteria. “Ooooh, Jules!” one gushed. “I love the fascination with the most useless people on the planet!”
Again, New York socialites began to speculate about who could be behind the Website. It was clear to all that PAP had to be run by the ultimate insider. An outsider never could have known about Jules. Most placed their bets on Kristian Laliberte, so obviously bruised by Socialite Rank and a member of the junior set often featured on Park Avenue Peerage. “It’s Kristian,” Valentine said. “Yes, it’s Kristian,” said Olga. “We’re 1,000 percent sure.”
But, as is always the case, the one revealing secrets is not an insider at all: He’s an 18-year-old college student who runs the site from his dorm room. “I live in Urbana, near a farm,” he whispers when I call. “Oh, my God! I’m not supposed to reveal anything. I’m like—I’m not even white! Do you know how fucking riotous this would be? I am not the poster child. You would not even believe what I look like.”
His name is James Kurisunkal. He’s a freshman at the University of Illinois whose fascination with society developed when he began surfing the Internet at the age of 9. The son of Indian immigrants, a library clerk and a nurse, Kurisunkal was precocious, but not in the usual way. He spent his adolescence reading The Book of Royal Lists. “I’m schooled in the Fields, the Swifts, the Pullmans, the Masons, the Armours, the Ogdens,” he says. “And then we have the Pritzkers and Crowns—oh, and I love the Boston Brahmins. I’m obsessed with them.” Suddenly, he interrupts himself. “Do I sound psycho? Do I sound like a loser? Like someone who didn’t make it? At the core, I’m a researcher. I’m an investigator.”
But he’s also, in a strange way, a member of society, at least what’s left of it. Because he makes inside information available to all—photos, family trees, skeletons in the closet—the girls have started writing to him, begging for prettier pictures, more-flattering articles, attention. James has never gone to a single charity ball. In fact, he’s never even been to New York. But he gets the e-mailed party invitations—and turns them down. He loves all the girls—Tinsley for being a legend, Fabiola for her personality, Lydia for her youth. It seems like they live in a nice house. But he would rather admire it from afar than walk inside.