Much earlier in the current decade I was twice named one of the “30 under 30” business journalists, a list that also included Andrew Ross Sorkin, whose book party I attended last night at the Monkey Bar. There, too, to honor him was a carefully curated crowd of billionaires, billionaire’s wives, billionaire aspirants, and the print and television journalists charged with getting that rarefied crowd to talk to them. “So that’s why you look familiar!” Sorkin said when I asked, by way of soliciting an autograph for my copy of Too Big To Fail, if he remembered me. I handed my book to him.
“Can you write, ‘Work harder! Get smarter!’” I asked, referencing the mantra with which Tim Geithner somewhat pitifully attempts to bully the bankers into hammering out a private bailout of Lehman Brothers on page 326. “Wow, you really did read it!” Sorkin complimented me. He’s good at his job.
In truth, I had wanted to get Jamie Dimon to sign Sorkin’s book. Because some bank failures and some douchebags are bigger than others, and even in a sector of society as loathsome and shallow and removed from the disastrous consequences of its actions as this one, there are a few special people who get that there is more to all this than zeroes and winning, and Jamie Dimon is the last best hope for that, in addition to being insanely, insanely hot.
But Jamie Dimon spent most of the evening chatting with John Mack and Graydon Carter in an impossibly inaccessible section at the center of the Monkey Bar dining room that seems to have been engineered to allow luminaries the luxury of being optimally ogled without the burden of being talked to. Rodge Cohen was there too, as was Jack Welch, and Maria Bartiromo and Becky Quick and former car czar Steve Rattner.
Alas, Jamie Dimon was first to exit, and as I scrambled to chase him down I tripped on the stairs, managing to draw blood from two completely unrelated places on my body in the process. I caught him approximately twelve feet from the door. “Hi, um, hi, well,” I blurted. “We are big fans over at New York Magazine.”I really do have to go, but I’m glad to hear it,” he said (radiantly). “Better to be liked than to be hated!”
Most of these guys deserve something less than adulation as we conclude yet another year of record Wall Street bonuses. But this was a room, and Too Big To Fail is a book, rather thoroughly insulated from anything so vulgar or off-putting as hatred. In spite of the efforts of Matt Taibbi and apocalyptic conspiracy-theorizing bloggers, New York hasn’t really taken to the whole “populist outrage” thing, perhaps because we’re all a little too vain and enterprising and aspirational for that sort of thing, or maybe because as long as we’re unemployed we’re grateful for the free booze.
But a year ago we’d been mad about something — and scared, and surprised. Yes, this business had always been corrupt and cutthroat and ruthless and greedy and not particularly respectful of women, but all that had never seemed so wrong until we were forced to confront the notion that the unchecked pursuit of wealth and power we might have always suspected to be unhealthy could in fact destroy the whole financial system …
And anyway, I was saying something tedious along these lines to someone when I spotted Meredith Whitney.
“Oh my God,” I blabbered, and my companion Bess Levin of DealBreaker was babbling, too.
“You are, like, our idol.”
The celebrity analyst, whose initial inspiration for her series of prescient and bearish reports on the banking sector was, it is worth pointing out, Hurricane Katrina, smiled graciously, though she seemed less than receptive to my invitation to chat about gender on Wall Street. Oh, well.
“I must admit,” Sorkin wrote us this morning, “I was completely bowled over by the turnout. It was quite incredible to reassemble so many characters from the book in one room all together. For a book that shows so many of these characters with their warts and all in the midst of the greatest panic of their lives, I am tremendously grateful that they came out to support me.”
Regarding those “warts,” though: Nearly everyone in attendance was sporting impeccable skin, though few complexions (aside from Jamie Dimon’s) rivaled that of Sorkin himself.