When Lizzie Mattered


When the history books are written, the summer of 2001 will be little more than a footnote to the main event of September 11, but back then it didnÂ’t feel that way. It was the Summer of Lizzie, and everyone was getting very grandiose about how the incident at Conscience Point prefigured the end of the world as we knew it—at least that Hamptons world of shoe-store launch parties, supermodel volleyball tournaments, and B-list-celebrity polo games. After all, Lizzie had taken such a public, literary fall: Fast-talking publicist rams her Mercedes SUV into the crowd outside a nightclub named, of all things, Conscience Point. Nor was Lizzie disappointing as a protagonist—with her raspy voice, dyed blonde hair, and Dickensian last name, she was the epitome of that quintessentially Manhattan brand of nouveau riche, no matter how the Times claimed her surname was pronounced. You knew this girl: She was the one buying bagels in front of you who insisted on breaking a hundred. She was the one with the clipboard at the hot new club who wouldn’t let you in. She was the one kicked out of Horace Mann and Lenox who never finished college, yet, with a little help from her powerful father, the music-business lawyer, she’d managed to open a successful PR firm with celebrity clients like Jay-Z and Britney Spears. She deserved to fall.

As the scene-maker herself was revealed as a fraud without the courage or compassion to remain at the site of the destruction she had wreaked, she came to stand for the entire generation of egoistic twentysomethings who thought that $30 was a reasonable price for an entrée, the stock market only went up, and a stylish tech job at a hundred grand a year was only fair, because they went to Brown. The townies might have hated the crowd at Conscience Point for taking over the Hamptons, and Lizzie’s “white trash” comment certainly stoked this fire, but Bonackers versus city folks is an old story; this was about Manhattan cannibalizing its young.

In the end, Lizzie did her 40 days of jail time and then went on running her publicity firm as though nothing had happened, even talking about opening a bakery on the Upper East Side (she looooves to bake). And we were still left to wonder: Was the whole thing an accident, or did she rev her engine on purpose, hoping to spew some gravel and win her point? Had she been drinking? Taking drugs? All these questions, in which we were so utterly immersed for a few humid months, now seem irrelevant, almost embarrassing to recall. Little did we know that by September 11, the world as we knew it really would be gone.

Related Stories
Reversal of Fortune: Lizzie Grubman was a girl who had everything: burgeoning career, glittering social life, powerful father. And when a girl like that gets into trouble like Lizzie’s Conscience Point catastrophe, the war really begins. (35th anniversary issue of New York Magazine)

Welcome to the Dollhouse: Perky, pretty, and remarkably plugged-in, a pack of young publicists have become the darlings of New York’s demimonde. But be careful – they bite. (December 07, 1998)

When Lizzie Mattered