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The Most Powerful Person in the Media Wasn’t at the Media Power Party. But His Mother Was There.

Elon Musk’s mother, the model Maye Musk. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter

It used to be easy to find Manhattan’s media machers in the middle of the day. They gathered at the Four Seasons restaurant, the one that was designed by Philip Johnson — well before opinions were revised against him — and divvied up the known world of print and cable TV. There they would hire and fire and strike deals, and Keith Kelly would write it all up for the next day’s paper. (The maître d’ Julian Niccolini — since disgraced — seemed to know all.) This place is where the term power lunch is said to have originated; it’s what Jackie O. called “the cathedral.”

So it made sense that, a decade ago, the Hollywood Reporter would choose the space to throw its annual party for its “New York” issue, in which it would name the biggest big shots in New York media. People like Donald Trump and Jeff Zucker would attend. But by then, the Four Seasons was arguably in decline, and the Establishment media had its lunch eaten by the Internet. Seeking to spruce it up, its landlord, Aby Rosen, hired a new team to run it in 2016 and renamed it the Pool and the Grill (the Four Seasons took its name and relocated but didn’t last too long).

Now the party is back, celebrating “the most powerful people in media.” Whatever that means these days. Piled high atop high-top tables were copies of the magazine, which names the 35 most powerful people. It’s mostly a lineup of cable-news personalities and a few newspaper editors. The guest list cast a wider net to include Cindy Adams, Geraldo Rivera, and other power emeriti. The party was swell, but let’s be real — there are teenagers on TikTok who command more loyal eyeballs than anybody here. The only person on TV with any real power is Tucker Carlson, and he wasn’t on the list or at the party.

There was Gayle King (on the list) and Savannah Guthrie (on the list) and Hoda Kotb (on) and Don Lemon (on). And the Semafor Smiths. (On, on.) Also Charlamagne tha God (on). He refused to talk to me, and his publicist swooped in, which didn’t seem very powerful, much less godlike. “We can send you a quote later,” she promised. (Weak!) Stephanie Ruhle (not on the list) of MSNBC was there. What’s the most powerful thing she did today? “Walked my daughter to school,” she said.

Hey, look, it’s Tina Brown! She was not on the list, but she knew this place when media power meant something, and being a print warlord meant bottomless AmExes and subsidized housing. This is where Princess Diana wore her jade green Chanel suit to have lunch with Brown and Anna Wintour (on the list, not at the party) in the booth next to the one that belonged to Henry Kissinger. And isn’t this where, over fish, Brown tried to convince David Remnick (on the list) to leave the Washington Post and come write for The New Yorker? “This was where I wooed many a person to come join The New Yorker, as a matter of fact,” she recalled while standing beside the book agent David Kuhn, who used to be one of her editors at the magazine. Who does she think is the actual most powerful person in media? “Elon Musk.” (Not on the list.)

Blowing into the room just beyond Brown was a blonde hurricane in the form of Candace Bushnell (not on the list) and Ann Coulter (not on the list), arriving separately but at the same time. Primary voters were hitting the polls in Pennsylvania, and so I asked Coulter: Isn’t it so funny how all these people who sold their soul for Trump — Dina Powell, Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway, Mike Pompeo — are working to elect David McCormick, and yet Trump disses them all by stumping for McCormick’s opponent instead? She chuckled and said, “He just keeps running in front of the parade and pretends to be leading it. What Kathy Barnette said is 100 percent true, and every Republican should get it tattooed on his forearm, and that is, ‘We didn’t get MAGA from you, you got it from us.’” She had just flown in from Palm Beach, and she’s all about Ron DeSantis. But it’s hard to get elected president if you don’t seem fun to have a beer with — see: Gore, Hillary, Romney — and DeSantis seems like a miserable prick, I said. “We don’t think so in Florida,” said Coulter, who actually has had a beer with him. “It’s the free state! He said go to the beach, go biking, no mask requirements. That’s kind of a fun thing while you people were having to pull out vaccine cards, and you still have to walk through airports with masks on in this insane state.”

Who did Coulter think was the most powerful person in the room? “The woman who gave birth to the most important man in the universe,” she said, pointing toward Maye Musk, mother of Elon.

She was rocking Dior shoes and a Dior bag and was listening intently as Joanna Coles (not on the list; but she runs her own media power lunch, okay?) told her how much she loves owning a Tesla. This week, Maye became the oldest person to appear on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue’s cover. (She’s 74; a decade ago, she was on the cover of New York Magazine, fake pregnant.) How has the reaction been? “Funny enough, everybody is excited and loves it,” she said with a laugh. “I was looking to see if anybody would say ‘old hag,’ but nobody has.”

Is there anyone here who is more powerful than her son? “He’s not in media,” she deflected. What’s going to happen with his Twitter takeover? She shrugged. Isn’t it interesting, though, how the media — the people in this room — hate on her son constantly in their coverage? “People love him,” she said, “and the media, yes, if the fossil-fuel industry advertises, you have to hate him. Ooh, there’s a drink for me!” Someone handed her a margarita.

Maye Musk meets Ann Coulter. Photo: Shawn McCreesh

Fellow models Brooke Shields and Carol Alt prowled the room, while restaurateurs Drew Nieporent and Sean MacPherson stood by the bar (none were on the list). Also there was Michael, the nice maître’d from Michaels, also not listed. Just beside Samantha Barry, editor of Glamour (not on the list), was the writer Jay McInerney (not on the list). He sipped a Negroni and said he thinks Elon “is fucking batshit” and that he’s “lost his fucking mind if he thinks unedited discourse is the way to go.” But, he added, “I like his mom a lot.”

The Most Powerful Person in Media Missed the Power Party