It was the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute ball, a confused fashion moment featuring ball gowns and blue jeans. An even more confused Henry Kissinger wandered around wondering why Puffy "called himself Fluffy." And, of course, Mark Ronson was the D.J. In years past, power hostess Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer would certainly have gotten Peter Duchin and his band of cummerbunded men doing "S'Wonderful" and "Moon River," but this was a new millennium, a fashionably ripe time for change, and so as the ladies paraded Fluffy -- er, Puffy -- around on waspish arms, Mark Ronson spun Biggie asking "Whaddya do when your bitch is untrue?" and Big Pun rapping "I'm not a playa, I just fuck a lot!"
"The sound system was really bad at that one," said the perpetually mild Ronson, 24. "But at these society events, they usually don't even know what I play. They just want to be able to say, 'We had Mark Ronson.' "
The hot-ticket Met gala was in fact the perfect cap on a year in which the D.J. -- and not just any D.J., but Ronson -- became a New York nightlife fixture as well as a shiny tie pin in the cravat of a new society. In party after party much remarked upon for the double-take effect of a new mixing (Donald Trump and Lil' Cease! Fat Joe, Heavy D, and Harvey and Bob Weinstein!), there was one young man manning the soundtrack -- at about $1,000 an hour -- and he was not some hip-hop legend like Funkmaster Flex or Kid Capri but a tall, white, and handsome B-boy with a private-school pedigree. His Jigginess Jay-Z hired him, and so did Hugo Boss.
"I can play," Ronson says through a shrug, "for any crowd, for the fashion- Donna Karan crowd, for the downtown-hip-hop-D'Angelo crowd, for a thugged-out crowd, and, like, Upper East Side furniture designers." He also did a party for the Gap.
"Everybody loves Mark; he could walk into Attica and they would love him," says the Countess Sharon Sondes, Ronson's self-proclaimed Auntie Mame. "He's been a charmer ever since he was a child, in his little blazer and short gray pants and knee socks."
"I can play for any crowd," Ronson says with a shrug. "For the fashion-Donna Karan crowd, for the downtown-hip-hop-D'Angelo crowd, for a thugged-out crowd, and, like, for Upper East Side furniture designers."
"Nigga is nice," says Jay-Z, referring to the D.J.'s turntable skills.
But watching Ronson spin records that balmy, flashbulb-splashed night at the Met was less like reliving the D.J. epic Juice than like seeing a live-action version of the Kevin Bacon game: There was Tommy Hilfiger, waving up at him, face full of applauding glee.
"He's the quintessential Tommy Boy!" Hilfiger says -- whatever that means -- but he is thinking of giving Ronson his own line of clothing.
In 1997, Ronson took part in a cross-country bus tour for Tommy Jeans with fellow celebrity offspring Kate Hudson, Ethan Browne, and Kidada Jones. (Jones, who is the daughter of Quincy and sister of Rashida, used to be Ronson's roommate on Franklin Street; that was back when she was dating Tobey Maguire, before Kidada dated Tobey's best friend, "Leo" -- who shows up at lots of parties Mark Ronson D.J.'s, often with other Ronson friends like Q-Tip. "He's like my best friend," Ronson says modestly.)
Ethan Browne -- yes, son of Jackson -- was with Ronson on the balcony of the Met that evening, hanging around talking about his hoped-for several-picture deal at a major movie studio. "I am writing a script about New York nightlife," said the dashing young Browne. "There's a part in it for a D.J."
But Ronson didn't hear; he was too busy putting on Sister Sledge's "We Are Family." He admits to having become a bit "blasé."
Breaking away from the clutch of the hostesses, there was also the as-yet-unindicted Puff Daddy, for whom Ronson has D.J.'d many parties, including his notoriously successful 29th-birthday bash of 1998 at which Martha Stewart and Sarah Ferguson shared celebrity status with Lil' Kim. For Puffy, Ronson seems to function as a demigodlike version of all those yo-whassup-in' white boys in the suburbs who make hip-hop go cha-ching!
"Puffy used to come up to me at parties and try and give me $100," Ronson says thoughtfully, "but now if he did that, I guess it would seem almost like an insult."
Slinking about, there was also Liv Tyler, whom Ronson knows from the close-knit New York private-school scene (she went to York Prep, he to Collegiate). She was wearing a rhinestone-studded ROCK ROYALTY tee identical to that of her cohort, the apple-cheeked fashion designer Stella McCartney, whom Ronson also knows, because until the age of 8, he grew up in London three doors away from her and "Paul and Linda."
Oh, and she was also friends with Ronson's friend from the New York part of his childhood, fellow rock-royalty descendant Sean Lennon. "He was probably my best friend," Ronson says mildly, "he and Max LeRoy" -- who is, of course, the son of Warner, owner of Tavern on the Green and the Russian Tea Room. "I ran away to their house once," Ronson adds, "and they had really good food."
And then there was the lady who kept waving repeatedly at the D.J. --
-- the rather groovy-looking lady with the wild streaked hair, in the Stevie Nicks black lace, with a voice as smooth and sultry as Sally Kellerman's on those Woolite commercials; you've seen her at parties, as ubiquitous as a paparazzo --
"I love yooooooo!" she said.
She actually looked as if she might have been a little bit tipsy -- or maybe she was just proud that there he was, perched at the highest point possible in this room full of VIPs (C. Z. Guest . . . Steven Seagal!). He was looking rather groovy himself that night in his tuxedo donated by Tommy Hilfiger -- her dear friend, too, he and his brother Andy . . .
Why, it was Ronson's Mummy, Ann Dexter-Jones, the "socialite," just being led out on the arm of her husband, Mick Jones "of Foreigner," as they say.