NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
At a time when soundtracks spawn stars and focus groups pick singles, Arista president Clive Davis is still a record man’s record man – the kind of executive who listens to demos with his eyes closed and knows a hit when he hears one. And at an age when most of his peers are boring subordinates with war stories about their good old days – rock, punk, grunge, whatever – Davis just steered Arista to its most successful fiscal year ever on the strength of hip-hop and modern R&B. Davis won his reputation for “having ears” in the late sixties and early seventies, when he transformed Columbia Records from a Broadway-based monolith into a rock-and-roll powerhouse by signing artists like Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana, and Billy Joel. That was only Act One: In 1974, Davis founded Arista Records, where he signed Patti Smith in the seventies, Whitney Houston in the eighties, and lucrative joint ventures with LaFace Records and Sean “Puffy” Combs’s Bad Boy in the nineties. More recently, he signed Santana again, paired him with young stars like Everlast, Lauryn Hill, and Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, and steered him to his first No. 1 album since the early seventies – the last time he worked with Clive Davis. Rarely shy about taking credit when it’s due, Davis might well be the last of the larger-than-life label chiefs, and when Arista’s corporate parent, BMG Entertainment, announced last month that it planned to replace him, artists from Carly Simon to Whitney Houston publicly expressed their support. “Clive stands up for me – even against his better judgment – and lets me do my work the way I want,” says Patti Smith. “He’ll tell me exactly how he feels, and I can think about what we’ve talked about and make my own choices.” Indeed, now that most major labels operate as units of multinational corporations, what sets Davis apart is his refusal to let himself or his artists make those decisions by committee. “You’ve got to do it on the basis of instinct,” he says. “It’s the key to the music business.”
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: FASHION
Rebirth of a Classic
The reign of fashion’s European bad boys may well be over. Consider this year’s star, Michael Kors: Born on Long Island, he has eighteen years as a designer under his tasteful, understated belt. “There’s something to be said for not zigging and zagging – I stayed my course for a very long time,” says Kors. “This year, everyone came around to my way of thinking.” In February, he showed a fall-1999 collection for his own line that offered up a delicious serving of casual, low-key luxe that was ecstatically received. A month later, he was in Paris, continuing to shake up the French house of Céline (to which he was appointed in 1997 by luxury conglomerate LVMH). Pre-Kors, it was a haven for Eurotrash pastel power dressing. Post-Kors, Céline carries all the hallmarks of a top luxury-goods house: desirable clothes, must-have accessories, heavily subscribed waiting lists. And then, to crown his achievements, May saw him scoop up the CFDA Award for Womenswear Designer of the Year, presented to him by Rene Russo, whom he dressed in this summer’s hit remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. He has turned on a whole new generation of women to his American brand of luxury – slick, sexy, and stripped of any stuffiness. “When you walk down the street in Paris and you see women who are really well groomed running out to dinner in a pair of flannel pants and a cashmere sweater, you know American style has become global style.” And after years of dues-paying, Kors has become a global designer.
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: PERFORMANCE
“This has been a good year for me,” says Margaret Cho. “I finally learned how to use my voice, forgive my parents, ride a mountain bike, become bi-coastal, make tofu pesto, write a book, and appreciate age for making all these things possible.” To say nothing of the 31-year-old comedian’s hit stand-up act, I’m the One That I Want, which ran for a full four months at the Westbeth Theatre this summer before Cho took it on a yearlong tour of cities from Honolulu to Minneapolis. Cho, who first performed as a 16-year-old in a tiny space above her parents’ bookstore in San Francisco, had her initial encounter with fame four years ago, when she taped sixteen episodes of the first sitcom ever to star a Korean-American woman, All American Girl. But ABC abruptly canceled the show shortly after its debut, and Cho descended into a much-publicized bout of depression, weight gain, and alcoholism. It was, in one sense, the luckiest thing that ever happened to her; her struggles with her demons are the raw material from which she made I’m the One That I Want. As she roams the stage, playing out vignettes and offering up raunchy personal sex-and-showbiz anecdotes, the audience knows she isn’t holding anything back. Cho will take a stab at making next year stellar as well, with a book and movie based on her stand-up act forthcoming. Fortunately for us, the Cho must go on.Vanessa Grigoriadis
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: MUSIC
As the Dow rocketed past 11,000, the biggest music star in America was rapping his own Horatio Alger story about how he picked himself up out of a “Hard Knock Life” in Brooklyn’s Marcy housing project. Born Shawn Carter, the six-foot-four 29-year-old Jay-Z led hip-hop’s takeover of the pop charts by proving that a rapper could sell 5 million albums, sample a song from Annie, and still retain enough street cred to make the cover of The Source. With a musician’s ear for flow and a reporter’s eye for lyrical detail, Jay-Z proved that big business – of any kind – was just a hustle not so different from the one he learned growing up on the streets of Brooklyn. His Hard Knock Life, Volume 2 won a Grammy for best rap album, and the self-described “eight-figure nigga” even got into the spirit of the moment by renting one of the splashiest houses in the Hamptons and throwing the summer’s most celebrated Fourth of July party. “Meeting new people is important to me,” he said over the summer. “Maybe I can help you in my field; maybe you can help me in your field.” Not that hip-hop isn’t tougher than other businesses; Jay-Z now faces assault charges for allegedly slashing Untertainment executive Lance “Un” Rivera during a brawl at the Kit Kat Club on December 2; the gossip is that Jay-Z believed Rivera bootlegged his forthcoming fourth album. It’s due out in time for the millennium – as if Jay-Z didn’t have enough zeroes after his name.
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: MUSIC
Hip-Hop’s Queen Bee
So stylistically forward that Alexander McQueen bowed to her at the VH1 Fashion Awards but so delightfully down-to-earth that she presented him with the “avant-garday” prize, Kim has redefined women’s roles in rap and all but established a presence for hip-hop in haute couture. Just a few years back, she was a homeless teenager on the streets of Brooklyn, when the man she called “my brother, my mentor” – the late Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G. – told her that if he made it as a rapper, he’d come back for her. He kept his word. First as a member of the Junior M.A.F.I.A. crew and then as a solo artist on her album Hard Core, Lil’ Kim pushed the limits of frank feminist expression at a time when there didn’t seem to be any limits to push anymore. “It’s a big-mama thing,” the petite rapper explains. Meanwhile, Lil’ Kim has become the indisputable siren of New York nightlife, as likely to be surrounded by Donna Karan and Donald Trump as by fellow hip-hop stars like Busta Rhymes and Sean “Puffy” Combs (on whose tour she arrived onstage in a red-velvet-covered bed). Always the most visible person in the room, despite her four-foot-eleven stature – even Diana Ross couldn’t restrain herself from tweaking her pastie-clad breast at this year’s MTV Music Video Awards. The “Queen Bee,” as Lil’ Kim has dubbed herself, was said to be shocked, although that seems doubtful, considering her healthy self-esteem. “You wanna be the swing bee, but you can’t be – that’s why you’re mad at me,” she cackles.
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: CIVICS
First for the First
It was going to be just another year at Cahill Gordon & Reindel for lawyer Floyd Abrams – which is to say, a typically very good year, his thirty-sixth spent fighting the unending battle of the First Amendment. Then a certain mayor, unfavorably disposed toward a certain piece of art, threatened a certain museum with a funding cut that could have forced said museum to close or move. Suddenly Abrams was – yet again – at the center of the most controversial First Amendment case of its time. Even if the Brooklyn Museum’s “Sensation” exhibit may have lacked some of the drama of the Pentagon Papers (on which Abrams served as the Times’s co-counsel), in a city that lives on its culture there was more at stake than the right to fling elephant dung. “I was delighted to take the case on,” Abrams says. “I was astonished when I read that the mayor was threatening to close the museum down. The thing about it was, it was all so unnecessary.” Abrams beat the city in court, and though the mayor is appealing, he may think twice about his next venture into art criticism.
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: COMEDY
Rock of Our Age
It’s all well and good to get discovered at 18 by your hero (Eddie Murphy), move on to Saturday Night Live and Politically Incorrect, star in $100 million-grossing films, write best-sellers, record CDs, and host everything, but let’s face it, having an Emmy-winning show with your name in the title is really where it’s at. “I can pretty much do whatever I want,” says Rock happily. “I don’t know if it’s exciting; it’s more that it’s gratifying. Exciting almost has to be a new experience, so that would be like when I started having sex. That was exciting. Now it’s either good or bad.” While he’s over the initial thrills of being both sexually active and in showbiz, there’s still something in his wide-eyed, many-toothed happy face that suggests he’s sometimes thinking, Can you believe I’m so damn famous? We can, because Rock takes something like hosting the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards (“that was like a performance-art piece,” he says) that you expect will be predictable at best and uses it as a forum to bash about half the A-list before they can get off the stage. He isn’t afraid to make you laugh at anything – least of all race – because he knows that the only jokes that are really in bad taste are the ones that aren’t funny.
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: FICTION
In the latest incarnation of multicultural Manhattan, nothing may seem more familiar than a Jewish writer. But Allegra Goodman has brought a fresh perspective to the novel set in a Jewish milieu. Born in Brooklyn, she left New York at age 2 to settle with her family in Hawaii. But Goodman spent her summers visiting a upstate community populated by Orthodox Jews, similar to the one she brilliantly creates in Kaaterskill Falls. The novel, her first after two much-praised short-story collections, traces the story of the emotional awakenings of several members of an Orthodox congregation who have traveled up from Washington Heights for their summer retreats in the Catskills. “I’m extremely interested in writing about Jewish Americans,” says the 32-year-old mother of three. “But on a broader level, I’m interested in writing about what tradition means in the modern world.” Kaaterskill Falls raised her from the level of promising writer to accomplished peer. Last year, she gained a National Book Award nomination; this year, she was a judge. But assuming such august roles won’t prevent her from exploring new ones. “I’m like an actor,” she says. “I play the parts in my books.”
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: TELEVISION
Justice, no peace.
Her mother, legend has it, wanted her to marry well and took the family on holidays in the Borscht Belt so she could meet someone nice. But Judith Sheindlin has never been one to settle. Judge Judy, as we know from her daily appearances presiding over real-life legal disputes on her television show, is a case study in the art of the second act. Now in her second marriage (to Judge Jerry Sheindlin, who recently replaced Ed Koch as the centerpiece of The People’s Court), she is a long way from her previous jobs settling cases for a cosmetics concern and prosecuting juvenile delinquents in Bronx Family Court. Wearing a lace collar and the demeanor of someone who perhaps drinks lemon juice by the glass, Judge Judy handles her litigants with skepticism and impatience. “My sense is,” she warns a man whose wife had previously been involved with his brother, “that your wife is still flaky.” She’s the cold and rational mother we never had. And that is what lifts Judge Judy miles above the rest of daytime television’s bottom-scrapers: Where Messrs. Jerry and Montel permit their guests the verbal space to make fools of themselves, Judge Judy cuts them off and spares them (and us) the embarrassment. So it’s no surprise that Judge Judy, currently in its fourth season, is the highest-rated show in daytime syndication. (Them’s the breaks, Oprah.) Only Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! can boast of higher day or night syndication ratings – but if they did, Judge Judy would just tell them to shut up.
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: BUSINESS
The Brazilian press calls it “The Espuelas Effect.” As Latin-language Internet portals proliferate across the Americas, they are all – whether they admit it or not – copying the astoundingly successful business model of StarMedia and its 33-year-old CEO and founder, Fernando Espuelas. “We sold StarMedia to shareholders by selling Latin America,” explains Espuelas, whose company IPO’d at more than $2.5 billion in May and now reaches more than 600 million Latins worldwide. Espuelas believes that “to the extent that the Internet represents a 100 percent improvement in communications for the U.S., it represents a 300 percent, or 400 or 500 percent, improvement for Latins, who historically haven’t had a forum for their voices.” And he’s setting about making sure those voices get heard. In November 9, the Uruguay-born entrepreneur launched www.latinvote.org, an ambitious site that will provide extensive profiles of the next election’s political candidates and issues in Spanish. With sites like Yupi, Yahoo! en Espanol, and QuePasa spreading like kudzu, Espuelas jokes, “I think my mother is going to launch a competitive site next.”
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: THEATER
Everything Susan Stroman does all but screams Break the rules! – the battle cry of the great American choreographer, from Agnes DeMille to Michael Kidd, Gower Champion and Bob Fosse to Michael Bennett and Tommy Tune. Like Tune, Stroman is a genius of the quotidian gesture, setting dances in ordinary places (a barn in the career-making Crazy for You, a mall in Big) and having her hoofers spin lust and humor and wonderment out of ordinary situations (as when she set giant fruits and pies and holiday gifts high-stepping across the stage of the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in the unexpectedly touching A Christmas Carol). But nothing quite prepared us for this season’s Contact, a groundbreaking tryptich in which Stroman not only declares her dance-maker’s manifesto (movement equals foreplay) but invents a new subgenre – call it the sort-of-musical – in which the spirits of Fosse and Bennett (innuendo and sex) fool around with literary convention. The result may be a hybrid, but it’s original and completely exhilarating. And while collecting the season’s best reviews on this side of the Atlantic for Contact, she set London abuzz with an equally sensational production of Oklahoma! – the show, not coincidentally, that had been the career-maker for DeMille, the very model of a modern choreographer. Stroman had come full circle.
NEW YORK AWARD WINNER: SPORTS
At this time last year, Marcus Camby was a former college star from the University of Massachusetts who had turned into an NBA disappointment with the dreary Toronto Raptors. His trade to the Knicks didn’t seem auspicious: Fans were angry that the Knicks gave up the beloved Charles Oakley to get the bony 25-year-old. Oak was Oak; he couldn’t be pushed around, whereas Camby, despite his undergraduate greatness and gaudy shot-blocking numbers, was thought to be a beanstalk with a bad attitude. Coach Jeff Van Gundy seemed to buy into the thinking, too, gluing Camby to the bench. But the mellow Camby wisely never complained. Gradually, Camby’s gifts – startling quickness for a man six feet eleven, as well as a slithery, Dennis Rodman-like knack for getting to the ball – transformed the team and helped save a season that looked lost when Patrick Ewing ripped his Achilles tendon. In May, Camby leaped once and for all into the hearts of Knicks fans with a gravity-busting dunk over Dikembe Mutombo. Camby didn’t just drive the Knicks to the verge of an NBA championship; he pumped youthful electricity into the Knicks and the city, and inspired a thousand bad-pun headlines playing off his last name. Along with Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston, he’s the soul of the new Knicks. Charles who?
Well, we didn’t see it coming. If someone had told us a few years ago that the hottest name in television at the turn of the millennium would be Regis Philbin and that America would be hooked on a game show, we’d have asked, “Is that your final answer?” But here’s Reege, grinning away at the eager contestants who’ve come to the Big Apple to win big bucks on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The hit show – soon to be broadcast three times a week, becoming actually impossible to miss – has already dished out the main prize once, gifting lucky duck and momentary celebrity John Carpenter the largest single game-show sum in U.S. television history. The other big winner, of course, is ABC, which is pretty much guaranteed a sweeps victory for the first time in years. And then there’s Regis, popping out of Kathie Lee’s shadow, projecting the kind of sympathy and enthusiasm that nothing but a thousand mornings listening to Cody’s exploits could have prepared him for. He has truly found his place at last. After all, this is a guy who was already so over-the-top in 1972 that Woody Allen cast him as himself on a mock game show in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex … Philbin doesn’t apologize for who he is – charismatic! avuncular! loud! – but just keeps putting it out there. And for the millions of Americans glued to their screens, that Philbin mystique is nearly as enthralling as a million dollars.
He doesn’t hit home runs, the Yankees argued when trying to squash the shortstop’s salary last winter. Oh, yeah? Derek Jeter answered 24 times this summer, a career high. But he went deep without damaging his batting average (second in the American League) or his squeaky-clean reputation (opening the Turn 2 Foundation to fight teen substance abuse). This October, the 25-year-old sealed his image as a money player, in the best sense of the phrase, by tying a record for hits in consecutive postseason games as he collected his third world-championship ring in his first four seasons. Stats, though, don’t express the growing grace in Jeter’s game. This season, as other Yankees shed tears and sweat all around him, Jeter was the calm center, leaving the impression that we’ve seen only the beginnings of his talents. During the playoffs, standing in a Fenway Park dugout on a night too frigid for baseball, Jeter widened his green eyes as he took in the pregame scene. Then he popped up the steps and shouted “Wooooo! It’s cold!” But the sound in his voice was pure joy. Off the field, Michael Jordan picked Jeter as among his Nike heirs. The next trend Jeter will set? He will soon become baseball’s first $100 million man. “I don’t think you can become complacent,” Jeter says. “This is New York, man. If you don’t do the job, they’ll go get someone else.” It’s part of his charm that he actually believes that. It also lets us be the ones to say that there is no other Derek Jeter.
The story of Richard Gluckman bears a certain similarity to the story of SoHo: What worked for artists can be repurposed (at higher price points, of course) for the retail world – as well as for a New York populace with an upwardly mobile taste level and a bank account to match. “My architecture comes directly out of my experiences with artists in the seventies and eighties,” he explains; associated early with Donald Judd and Dan Flavin, Gluckman got his big break when the Dia Art Foundation asked him to renovate a former factory on then-desolate West 22nd Street into a permanent home for their work. “We lit the walls, floor to ceiling, edge to edge,” he says. “It made the space interact with the artwork” – and his white-walled, brightly lit, clean-lined look was born. Gluckman’s interiors are now virtually Manhattan’s signature style. In SoHo, it’s hard to keep track of which spaces are his and which aren’t; Helmut Lang’s striking store was joined this year by Katayone Adeli’s spare Bond Street flagship and Yves Saint Laurent’s men’s boutique. But despite muddying his hands with commerce, Gluckman’s still passionate about art – proof is on the corner of 24th Street and Eleventh Avenue, where the new Gagosian Gallery rises from a nondescript industrial building. “We’re taking advantage of the 100-foot trusses, jacking them up and making a clerestory of plastic,” he says of the translucent skylight, which glows at night like a beacon. “It’s not often that you get to raise the roof.”
The Italian Renaissance
You could trace their success to conventional origins: impeccable culinary training, authentic Italian bloodlines, dynastic connections to the food business. But with Joseph Bastianich and Mario Batali – the master of the room and master of the kitchen, respectively, behind Babbo – you’d be missing the key element: perfectionism. “We like to think about the details,” Batali says, explaining their chemistry. As friends, they shared meals imagining the ideal restaurant. Since both were established in the business – Bastianich comes from the family that owns Felidia and Batali has both Pó and his television show, Molto Mario – “neither of us needed to make money,” Bastianich explains. “So we just focused on the perfect incarnation of an Italian restaurant; everything else took care of itself.” Their three-star culinary success in winning Americans over to exotic seafood and organ meats as well as their financial robustness (Bastianich says: “We probably make more money in restaurants than most people do”) have led to Lupa Osteria Romana, a more casual venue that they share with a third partner, and Italian Wine Merchants, a wine store they recently opened off Union Square. A seafood restaurant is coming next year in the theater district. After that? “There is no four-star Italian restaurant in New York,” Batali points out. “How would you do that?” Bastianich ponders, clearly already thinking through the answer.
To the extent that the WWF is scripted “sports entertainment” spectacle, the wildly crude, wildly popular circus of the nineties, chairman of the board Vince McMahon is nothing less than a postmodern P. T. Barnum. But to the extent that it’s a series of story lines filled with larger-than-life heroes and nefarious villains, he’s also a television-age Cecil B. DeMille. “Our detractors would say that the secret to our success is the sexuality and aggression,” says McMahon, “but we do a mini-movie every Monday and Thursday night. It’s a combination of action-adventure, athleticism, comedy, talk show, and soap opera set to music.” Of course, in the sense that the WWF went public in October with a $963.9 million IPO, McMahon is also a lowbrow Walt Disney – a visionary who built a multimedia, multi-merchandised, multi-million-dollar business on an ensemble of unforgettable cartoon characters like Sable and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. And despite head butts, body slams, and half-naked women, the WWF is decidedly a family affair: His son, Shane; his wife, Linda; and his daughter Stephanie are all in on the action. “My background was a little volatile when I was young,” says McMahon. “One of my biggest accomplishments has been a stable family environment. It’s been a tremendous sense of pride that they want to be a part of this.”
When you buy or rent a Manhattan apartment or send a maintenance check to your co-op, chances are you will be doing business with a company run by Andrew Farkas. When you show up at your company’s new office, he is there too. And soon he hopes to help you find a mortgage, lug your crates, gut your kitchen, and redecorate your den. Farkas – of the Alexander’s department-store dynasty – is the 39-year-old chairman of the real-estate-services company Insignia. This summer, Insignia bought Douglas Elliman, becoming Manhattan’s largest broker of office buildings as well as co-ops, condos, and even rentals. “The CEOs and CFOs of Insignia’s clients are the same people Douglas Elliman moved into homes,” Farkas says. “So why not close both deals?” His penchant for real-life Monopoly is making him the Bill Gates of New York real estate. Insignia plans to provide Internet access to clients and tenants in its buildings, via a Website that will sell related services like mortgages, interior design, and contracting. With such Trump-like ubiquity, can Farkas Tower be far behind?
William Ivey Long
Suited and bespectacled, costume designer William Ivey Long displays no outward sign of his magnificent obsession. “There’s a lot of lingerie in my life,” Ivey Long confesses happily. His impossibly sexy designs include, most notably, the scanty black mesh of Chicago, the gritty teddies of Cabaret, and the now-mythic diaphanous yellow dress draped like spun sugar around Deborah Yates’s equally mythic frame in Contact. The 52-year-old North Carolinian landed in New York City in 1975, trailing Yale Drama School classmates Sigourney Weaver, Meryl Streep, Christopher Durang, and Wendy Wasserstein. By 1982, his eye-popping designs for Nine – particularly a lacy black number for Anita Morris that made her an instant sex symbol – had won him a Tony. He came early to sartorial storytelling: In kindergarten, little William cajoled his Chapel Hill Sunday-school class into posing for tableaux of the Nativity and the Crucifixion clad only in towels and blankets. (He got expelled.) His daring sense of style now wins him praise, including another Tony (for Crazy for You) and an Obie. Next spring, the lucky ladies in Susan Stroman’s The Music Man will benefit from his unerring gift for making actresses look (and feel) ravishing, and sometime soon, boudoirs throughout the city will be blessed with his sexy sense of humor – he’s working on a new line of women’s lingerie with business partner … Wendy Wasserstein.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Our Girl Sunday
It’s hard to remember Sarah Jessica Parker before she had C-A-R-R-I-E spelled out in gold letters across her clavicle, but then, it’s becoming increasingly hard to remember women on television before they were giving hand jobs, having threesomes, and discussing their fuck buddies over yoga in New York’s favorite show, Sex and the City. Parker is not a bit single herself after two years of marriage to actor Matthew Broderick, but she’s utterly convincing (she’s been an actress for twenty years, after all) as a bohemian bombshell in millennial New York. “There is a great chasm between the life I lead on television and the one I live at home,” says Parker. “I can’t describe the security that comes with a good marriage – I’m very lucky – but I don’t in any way pity Carrie. Her life is exciting and romantic, and there are so many possibilities for her that I don’t have anymore.” We too delight in that life: her fabulous outfits, her snappy chatter with Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. Most of all, we’re happy to learn that just because we drink a lot of Cosmos and sometimes put out on the first date, it doesn’t mean we’re bad people. For this lesson, many single New Yorkers are grateful.
Make It Nude
When he started showing his paintings at Andrea Rosen Gallery in 1992, John Currin seemed to be contemporary art’s answer to R. Crumb – his images of large-breasted stripper types, along with a parody of a female collector and a laughing crippled granny, were taken as misogynistic rants. But the 37-year-old painter seems to have lost his appetite for shock – he’s grown up, become more of a painter. The change in Currin’s work is the big shock now: His latest women are innocently nymphlike, recalling Botticelli’s Venus or Cranach’s nudes (one, modeled after his wife, the artist Rachel Feinstein, and covered with tiny butterflies, is positively sweet). But in addition to his sly old-master references – and using the female nude as the vehicle for them makes perfect sense – Currin’s handling of paint has become more technically impressive, making his weirdly beautiful narratives an occasion to muse on painting itself.
As VH1’s head of programming and thus the main guy behind Behind the Music, Jeff Gaspin is (directly or indirectly) responsible for finally giving America what it really, really wants. “We serviced a need for all those people who grew up on MTV but grew out of it,” explains Gaspin. “You don’t want to listen to MC Hammer’s music anymore, but hearing his story – that solves your problem! You’re getting information to talk about, you’re being entertained, you’re relaxing, but you’re not doing something you’re not interested in, which is listening to the music.” Gaspin has proven to have a knack for tapping into America’s guiltiest pleasures. In 1991, he created NBC’s controversial I Witness Videos, the forerunner of countless Fox specials with names like World’s Scariest Snakebites! In fact, after he left NBC in 1993, Gaspin produced a couple of them himself: When Good Times Go Bad and Close Calls: Cheating Death. “Well,” he muses, “some things you can be proud of, and others …” This time around, Gaspin should be bursting with pride; among other things, BTM has spawned countless imitators on other networks, jump-started record sales for crusty old rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Poison, and given Gaspin some programming ideas as well. In the works for the coming year on VH1 are For the Record (about musical events and issues instead of artists), VH1 Rock Collectors (the bastard child of eBay and the PBS hit Antiques Roadshow), and VH1 Confidential – an episode of which will be devoted to solving the disappearance of Iron Butterfly’s bassist. It’s fine by us, as long as we don’t have to listen to the music.
Mistress of Her Domain
In addition to having her places in Connecticut and the Hamptons, and her magazine, and her Leonardo-like domestic virtuosity, Martha Stewart has two of the fin de siècle’s ultimate status symbols: an earthshaking IPO and a ninth-floor office with a parking area out front. The industrial elevator of the Starrett-Lehigh Building – where she’s moving her Internet operations and photo studio – can easily accommodate her shiny new pickup, giving Martha the option of a literally door-to-door drive from her home base in Westport, Connecticut. Now that she’s colonized West Chelsea, cheek-by-jowl with start-ups and meatpackers, Martha, of course, is back to contemplating aesthetics, like the exact tonal quality of the light shining on her half-block-long walls: “I love the double-height ceilings with the skylights and the wonderful light that we get in there. I’m trying to remember the name of the painter … Vermeer. It’s Vermeer light.” This year, Martha has found two new frontiers to domesticate. The wild West Side should be a pushover. As for the Internet, there’s little doubt she’ll make e-commerce smoother, swifter, and infinitely easier on the eye. After all, who else but Martha could turn cyberspace into a place in which we’d actually like to live?
Yes, Spree has his flaws. He has, as we’ve learned, something of a temper, as well as an occasionally imperfect understanding of his shooting range. But in the open court, zigzag cornrows flip, flop, and flying, he’s dead serious. Spree’s what makes the O go. Bladelike and baleful-eyed, toting all that baggage, he transcends his own badass. So what if he decides to skip training camp because he doesn’t trust FedEx to move his stereo and he likes to drive along the interstate in his custom Jag just contemplating and staying in motels? Dave Checketts fined the player $130,000 for the incident. But when the Garden president was asked if it wasn’t “kind of impressive” that a major corporate asset like Spree would be far enough removed from rat-race compulsion that it didn’t even occur to him to call in for more than a week, Cablevision company man Checketts had no choice but to wistfully shake his head and say, “Yeah, it is.” Spree’s so free. He thinks nothing of handing out quotes expressing his still palpable “hatred” and “bitterness” toward P. J. Carlesimo and the Golden State organization, saying “I’m going to go in there and crush them.” Gets your attention, the noncontrition, all that never saying you’re sorry. Sprewell’s a badass all right. But he’s our badass.
Head of the Table
“In an age when so many groups are rolling out restaurants faster than your local baker makes donuts, my goal is that each restaurant feels hand-crafted,” says Danny Meyer. “That they have their own soul.” His restaurants do. The soul shows in the antique rugs of Gramercy Tavern and the bright interiors of Union Square Cafe, as well as the six-time James Beard Award recipient’s latest venues: Tabla, his Indian-inspired hit, and the airy Eleven Madison Park. These last two have become instant institutions in an area where few serious restaurateurs had ventured for 100 years: Madison Square. “At the turn of the last century, it was really the premier venue for dining out,” he says, referring to Delmonico’s, the long-defunct boîte where late-nineteenth-century New York’s elite lingered for a night out. And he’s put a considerable amount of his money where his mouth is, spearheading the $11 million campaign to restore the park to its Gilded Age splendor. This nostalgia for a slower-paced gentility may have succeeded too well. “That’s the problem,” he says jokingly. “We can’t make our financials work out, because no one wants to leave.”
These days, when even Christie’s puts cocktail shakers on the block, it’s hard to imagine a time, back in the dark ages of 1994, when displaying a stainless-steel wastebasket in a SoHo shop window was considered cheeky. “It’s a double-edged sword,” admits Murray Moss, whose eponymous store inserted haute industrial design between the art-world stalwarts PaceWildenstein Gallery and Metro Pictures five years ago. “I wanted people who knew how to look at an object and assume there was something more to look at than a wastebasket,” he says. “Today, people expect that there’s something more.” This year, Moss expanded his vision, quintupling his store’s space with an annex called, appropriately enough, More. It carries some of the same designers Moss treasures – Gaetano Pesce, Enzo Mari, Philippe Starck, Droog – just bigger stuff, like sofas and storage units, to accompany the glasses and pots, dish racks and silverware he’s always sold. “You can’t just say anymore, ‘We’re opening an Italian restaurant’ or ‘We’re opening a coffee shop,’ ” Moss says. “You have to have cappuccino. You have to open a restaurant specializing in the food of Puglia. Five years ago, no one knew there was a region called Puglia.” Industrial design, as much as fashion, has become a means of self-definition. You now know if you’re more Ikea or Anthropologie, Totem or Wyeth. And in New York now, Moss keeps growing and growing.
Wealth and Wit
Initial public offerings have always seemed to prove the axiom that it takes money to make money. Apart from institutional investors, only a select few – the richest, most preferred clients of the richest, most preferred investment houses – ever got a piece. Upstart online investment bank Wit Capital changed that in 1997 by offering allocations to anyone with a fast modem. Now, in theory, the Internet could make wired investors as rich as wired auctioneers. Main Street loved the idea; Wall Street remained unconvinced. Then, in 1998, Robert Lessin, former vice-chairman of Salomon Smith Barney, came on board. Early this year, Lessin – himself a New England-raised Harvard MBA – supplemented Wit’s management with a team of pedigreed financial vets like himself. Then he persuaded Goldman Sachs to invest in the firm, and its real-world visibility skyrocketed. “There is almost no such thing as a pure stand-alone Internet company,” Lessin says. “And if you’re going to affiliate with any financial service firm in the world, it should be Goldman Sachs.” Wit usually gets only a small cut of Internet IPOs – like those of EarthWeb.com – and with individual investors, the company relies on volume. In June, Wit had its own IPO. The stock price is holding steady at $20, well above the offering price of $9. Wit probably won’t turn a profit for another two years, but on the Internet, making money takes a backseat. “Right now, it’s all about building a brand, not building capital,” Lessin points out. “And the thing we’ve done most right is create a brand. Twelve months ago, no one knew what Wit was. Now everyone does.”
Five years ago, Kava Kava and Saint-John’s-wort sounded like something you’d get from an old lady with a broom, and “mind-body” therapies were the province of small wooded communities in Northern California. Now they’re big business. At the forefront of the alternative-medicine revolution is Dr. Woodson Merrell, who has spent the past year creating the Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Hospital. Next May, the $10 million center will bring a blend of conventional medicine and complementary modalities – homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal remedies, biofeedback – to an expected 36,000 patients. “It was unfathomable five years ago that we’d be anywhere close to where we are right now,” says Merrell. “When I hung up my shingle back in 1979, it became clear to me that I didn’t have the tools to treat 70 percent of my patients. There are a lot of conditions, particularly chronic diseases, where Western medicine needs help.” So he spent the past twenty years researching, teaching, and practicing a kind of medicine that can pick up where conventional treatment fails, an endeavor that took him to Shanghai, Tanzania, and Trinidad, as well as to the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the FTC, where he argued on behalf of these new remedies. Already, 50 percent of Americans have used alternative medical therapies, on which they spend nearly $30 billion a year – almost as much as they pay out of pocket for physician services. “It’s nearly unique in the history of medicine that such a large-scale shift would occur as a result of consumer demand,” says Merrell. “There’s no question. This is the medicine of the future.”
As director of the Sotheby’s fashion department, Tiffany Dubin built both business and buzz with decidedly un-Sotheby’s-like offerings – Pucci dresses rather than Picasso paintings. Perhaps more importantly, she has an unerring sense for exactly what part of the past the American public is ready to recycle. “When Playboy sponsored my last sale, ‘Cocktails,’ people thought I was crazy,” she notes. “And now Harper’s Bazaar has a whole article on how hip Playboy is.” As of January 1, Dubin (who is also the stepdaughter of Sotheby’s chairman, A. Alfred Taubman) will be making news in the auction world once again when she joins the Auction Channel, a new cable station that will bring high-profile bidding into viewers’ living rooms by fall 2000. Plans call for an interactive take on the Antiques Roadshow – but Dubin wants something a little sexier. “I want to make it like The Price Is Right,” she says. Eventually, she even plans to be on air herself. “I want to be the Vanna White of the Auction Channel.” Which isn’t to say she plans to leave her past entirely behind. “The first thing I want to do,” she says, “is sign up Sotheby’s as a partner.”
Long before Mayor Giuliani made us a city of art lovers, true believers were making the trek to Gavin Brown’s Enterprise to check out a panoply of contemporary art’s youngest and most quickly rising stars. From the day he opened his closet-size gallery on West Broome Street in 1994 – on loans totaling a mere $17,000 – Brown, an artist himself, became the tastemaker of the downtown art scene with shows that included Steven Pippin photographs shot from inside a washing machine, performance-style meals prepared on-site by Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Elizabeth Peyton’s paintings of languorous pop stars. He took his gallery – and his considerable following – to the meatpacking district early this year, and in September, he brought a new fragrance to another formerly odorous area: elephant dung. “We had thousands of visitors, which was fantastic,” says Brown of Ofili’s September-October exhibition. Now that he’s cornered the market on some of the most hotly debated artists, he’s also cornering the real estate on West 15th Street. Last April he opened a bar, Passerby, at the front of his gallery, and his wife, the clothing designer Lucy Barnes, opened a shop next door in November. But old renegades die hard – even when they’re the ones doing the gentrifying. “If the area continues to develop,” Brown says, “I’ll probably escape.”
When Karim Rashid’s now-iconic injection-molded-plastic “Oh” chair made its debut at the Chicago Housewares show in January, complete strangers sat in his final creation before he did. “I saw this huge guy, about six feet eight and 300 pounds, just let himself drop on one,” recalls Rashid, who designed the chair on a computer and had only tested a few physical prototypes at the time. “I couldn’t believe it. The whole thing flexed under his weight. He was oozing out of the holes of the chair.” But Rashid’s work held up under pressure. In fact, the 39-year-old’s chairs, home furnishings, lamps, and containers have made their way into the permanent collections of museums like moma and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. “I want people to love objects the way they love clothing,” he says. You can’t look up in New York without seeing store windows full of Rashid’s perfume bottles for Issey Miyake’s Pour Homme and Hilfiger’s Freedom, his Nambé housewares line at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, or his multi-million-selling “Garbo” trash cans on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond. Soon, New Yorkers won’t be able to look down without seeing his work, either: Rashid designed the winning entry in the 1999 New York City Manhole Competition. “It’s just another part of my goal to touch every part of our physical landscape,” he says.
With a furrowed Italian brow and that tough-guy glint in his eyes, Michael Imperioli is tailor-made for Mafia movies – not exactly Hollywood’s healthiest genre. Then came this year’s small-screen comic mob epic The Sopranos. As Christopher Moltisanti, Tony Soprano’s hot-tempered, cold-blooded nephew, Imperioli helped convince the audience of David Chase’s breakaway HBO series that mobsters are a lot like us – except they spend a lot more time in Jersey. Imperioli, though, is much more than a tough guy. The son of a Bronx bus driver, he helped found two theater companies before landing the role of Spider, the two-bit bar boy Joe Pesci maims and then kills, in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas. At that point, Imperioli could have gone to Hollywood. But instead, he entrenched himself deeper into the New York landscape, trying his hand at writing screenplays like Summer of Sam, which he calls a “sweeping New York story.” He has another screenplay, The Crossroads of Monte Carlo, headed for production next winter, and The Sopranos will also soon get the Imperioli touch. “A month ago, we shot the episode I wrote for this season,” he reports with pride from the New Jersey set. “And I’ve got an idea for a series I’m banging around.” Talk about an offer we can’t refuse.
Those who make it their business to know the difference between a kitten heel and a stiletto are all too familiar with the allure of Kari Sigerson and Miranda Morrison’s Mott Street shop. The thirtysomething pair met at F.I.T. back in 1989 and sold their designs wholesale until they set up shop in a NoLIta storefront four years ago – simply because it was a few blocks from Kari’s house. Although their simple, modern sandals lack the adornments of Manolo Blahnik’s and Jimmy Choo’s – no quilting, no beading – fashion magazines and socialites can’t get enough of their flattering designs and flashy colors. “There were so many years you’d see shoes only in black or maybe brown,” says Sigerson, who notes that now it’s the orange, cherry red, green, and lavender versions that they can’t keep in stock – most notably in the form of this year’s “It” shoe, an open-toe stiletto dubbed “the Sholerson” for its tiny Dr. Scholl’s-like buckle. While their sexy mule apparently made quite an impression on Nine West and several French design houses, who littered the city with knockoffs, Sigerson Morrison’s reach doesn’t stop there. “I went to look for an apartment,” recalls Sigerson with a laugh, “and the woman had it in her closet. I’m like, this is unbelievable, the people who live here are wearing my shoes!”
Covering the Waterfront
“I’ve been involved in a lot of development,” says David Walentas, the would-be father of Brooklyn’s dumbo. “But in a hundred years, this is the one that’ll matter.” The 61-year-old Walentas has literally gone gray waiting for his “world-class waterfront” – part sixties SoHo, part nineties Montclair – to materialize out of ten buildings acquired from Harry Helmsley in 1981 for around $6 per square foot. But this year, with dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) zoned residential and Brooklyn poised to become a high-rent retail wonderland, the power brokers finally began to move in. By January, Walentas’s ClockTower, a sixteen-story warehouse-cum-condominium capped with four floor-through lofts and sweeping 360-degree views, was sold out for $70 million. Walentas himself took the fifteenth floor; the top apartment, with four clock-face windows, went for $4 million to a pioneer in digital medical imaging. Walentas’s downstairs neighbor, Bliss spa owner Marcia Kilgore, paid $1.9 million. “That’s $600 a square foot for raw space,” Walentas says with a triumphant laugh. Another of his converted warehouses is 75 percent rented, and as the industrial tenants leave, the rest of his buildings will follow. But Walentas never intended to stop at a few status addresses. He’s got his eye on leasing Fulton Ferry, an undeveloped city-owned “park” on the waterfront. Although the city continued to stall this year over the lease, Walentas commissioned architect Jean Nouvel (the one behind the reworked interior of the new Museum of Advertising in the Louvre) to design an ultramodern hotel-multiplex-mall, the sketches of which have already caught the admiring eye of Times critic Herbert Muschamp. Beside this translucent jewel between the bridges would be more retail shops, ample parking space, and a fully developed waterfront park with – what else? – an antique carousel as its centerpiece. With an indifferent city government and growing neighborhood opposition, there may be a Second Avenue subway before Walentas surveys his sprawling kingdom, but he’s certainly got momentum on his side – to say nothing of his unflagging optimism. “It can’t not happen,” Walentas insists, “because it’s right.”
Daymond John doesn’t dress much differently now from the way he did when he was waiting tables at Red Lobster in Queens seven years ago. The 29-year-old president and co-founder of the fubu (For Us By Us) clothing line has always worn “what he feels” – and recently, that feeling has made him a millionaire. John was a pint-size entrepreneur starting at age 10, “handing out flyers, raking leaves, shoveling snow, cleaning out gutters, whatever.” But when he was 22, he and three friends found a better way to hustle in their Hollis neighborhood: They manufactured a variation on the hip-hop-style tie-top hats with their logo and made $800 on their first day. By 1992, they had branched out into making clothes, and John persuaded neighborhood friend L.L. Cool J to wear fubu for a magazine ad. Suddenly, rappers like Brand Nubian were sporting fubu gear in their videos and concerts. In 1993, John took out a $100,000 mortgage on the house his mother left him, had his friends move in, and set up shop. Last year, fubu made more than $350 million in sales with over 500 garments in more than 5,000 stores worldwide. Its first Manhattan store is slated to open this spring. “You don’t set out to start a trend,” John says with a shrug. “You just do what you do.”
How did a Princeton English professor trained to lecture students about Victorian literature manage to reinvent herself as a new-media executive who now talks revenue streams with venture capitalists? “I answered an ad in the New York Times for cable television,” says Kirschner. “Which in 1979 was what the Internet was in 1994: totally unknown but new and exciting.” In February, Kirschner took another leap into the unknown when she was hired to head Columbia University’s newly created Internet company with the mandate to exploit the school’s intellectual capital online. “If you look at all of that brainpower the way a programming executive would, you’d say, ‘My God, I’m in the middle of the most interesting network of ideas ever,’ ” she says. “We want to tap into that fantastic content and deliver it to an international audience.” Newness has always been a driving motivation: After working in cable, she got involved in satellite television and online ventures, including a stint as the founding CEO of NFL.com, which became one of the most successful sports sites on the Web – even though she’d never been to a football game and had to have her brother prep her before meeting with the NFL commissioner. “My husband says I’m the only person who’s gone from George Eliot to Jumbo Elliott in the course of one career. And of course, now I’ve sort of gone back to George Eliot again.”Michael Steele
In a year in which advertising reached new heights (or depths) of perversity – from Outpost.com’s gerbil cannon to E-Trade’s bunion-rubbing gigolo – Fallon McElligot executive creative director Jamie Barrett makes an odd spokesman for restraint. “The dot-com advertisers have been taking big chances – but with mixed success,” says Barrett, 38. “There are other ways to turn people’s heads than to shock them.” This from the man who dreamed up MTV’s unforgettably gross “Jukka Brothers” campaign? “Well,” he allows, “if you didn’t shock people with MTV, you’d be missing an opportunity.” Using four rusticated, rump-baring Scandinavian siblings to promote the music-television giant isn’t the only opportunity Barrett has taken of late. Comfortably ensconced for eight years at Portland’s Wieden & Kennedy, Barrett decamped for Fallon’s New York headquarters at the start of this year and promptly helped set in motion a fivefold increase in the agency’s billings – from $50 million to $250 million – and the addition of major new accounts like Mindspring, FAO Schwarz, and govWorks.com. Few of these clients were looking for mind-bending grotesqueries like the Jukkas – Barrett cites as a favorite the Conseco financial services spot with a panhandling Wall Streeter – and that suits the adman fine. The ultimate goal, Barrett says, “is to be intrusive and memorable – in a relevant way.”
Khalid Muhammad probably thought he would come to Harlem last September for his second “Million Youth March” and top the previous year’s mayhem. And Rudy Giuliani and Howard Safir were surely gearing up for just that. Fortunately, there were cooler heads in the middle, not least of which belonged to Harlem assemblyman Keith Wright. “What was getting lost in this whole thing is that Harlem is a neighborhood,” Wright says. “It’s where people live. Where they raise their kids. Where they go to school. Where they go to church.” To Wright, whose father is Bruce Wright, the well-known (now retired) New York judge, the last thing Harlem wanted was a repeat performance of the first march, or the ensuing near riot. And he should know. “I’m a native son of Harlem,” he says. “I actually live in the same apartment I grew up in. I’m raising my two kids here.” And so he and other Harlem leaders stole Muhammad’s thunder and organized a youth conference at the Apollo Theater in October – a sort of anti-Million Youth March event – that drew 800 young people. That’s real grassroots politics.
President Trump? At first it was like a wisecrack waiting to happen: What’s he gonna do, open up the White House to gambling? Give Miss U.S.A. contestants ambassadorships? But then it actually started to seem like the unpredictable Reform Party was seriously considering The Donald for president. And Trump, of course, had no doubts that he was up to the challenge. “The toughest, roughest people you’ll ever meet are real-estate guys in New York,” he said with typical glibness. “If you can compete on that level, believe me, you can compete against Japan and against countries.” Hotels, nuclear warheads – what’s the difference? What was most surprising, however, was that The Donald wasn’t the only one who could see himself in the Oval Office. Suddenly, this amazing prospect was on the cover of The New York Times Magazine and Newsweek. Part of this likely has to do with the sunny, untroubled way The Donald seems to go about his romantic life after four years of secretive, excruciating sordidness. On the Howard Stern show, Trump said of his girlfriend and possible future First Lady, model Melanie Knauss, “I mentally feel her up in public.” “Marriage is a great institution,” he added when asked whether the country was ready for a single president: “Some of us just haven’t gotten it right. The guilt lasts about four or five minutes; then you get over it.” Ken Starr vs. Donald Trump – now there would have been a contest.
When Elektra Records signed Moby in 1993, the label thought it had finally found a marketable poster child for the burgeoning techno scene, a recognizable “rock star” in a genre that keeps big names behind the turntables and out of the spotlight. But Moby marches to the beat of an entirely different drum machine. In 1997, when electronic music was ready for its MTV close-up, Moby released the punk-rock-oriented Animal Rights and soon parted ways with the label. This year, as New York clubs twitched to the repetitive beats of a house-music revival, Moby expanded the emotional range of electronica by building samples from Alan Lomax blues and gospel field recordings into the surprisingly organic Play. Alternately haunting and transcendently joyous, the album is a compelling challenge to both mainstream listeners who consider techno cold and heartless and dance-music purists who like it that way. “The people who are working within narrow genres are making uninteresting music,” says Moby. This time around, the world was ready to listen: Moby was handpicked to D.J. the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards. Which isn’t to say he meant to be anyone’s poster child: “A lot of times,” says Moby, “pop music is successful in spite of itself.”
If you find yourself at a banquet table facing an electric-yellow wall of 8,000 lemons or sitting beneath alienlike spheres of gerbera daisies, you’re probably in the presence of an Avi Adler floral creation. Adler, 44, and his partner, David Stark, 33 – two former painters who met while inspecting tomatoes in the Union Square Greenmarket – treat their arrangements like sculptural installations, and their surprising assemblages have made them the most talked-about florists in the city. The two seem influenced in equal parts by avant-garde artists and walks around Wal-Mart, and they’ve made a specialty of turning prosaic vegetation (wheat grass and cabbage have been two of this year’s favorites) into stunning visual tours de force. For the Whitney Museum’s Bright Whitney Night gala last March, they created giant balls of white carnations – 75,000 stems in total. “We went back to flowers that have a bad reputation and made something really great with them,” says Stark. “It opens up your mind.” For New Year’s Eve at the American Museum of Natural History, they’re planning a chlorophyll-free extravaganza of metallics, glass, and mirrors. “In New York, everyone goes to all these social events,” says Adler. “There are always flowers on the table, but they don’t excite anybody. But once you create some sort of ambience, an element that’s above and beyond what people are used to, they walk into a room and they are instantly in a great mood.”
In his two decades in the music business, Atlantic Records A&R executive Jason Flom has steered the careers of acts from Twisted Sister to Tori Amos, but his greatest achievement may also he be his strangest: turning Kid Rock from an obscure long-haired white rapper from Detroit into a bona fide star behind the triple-platinum Devil Without a Cause. “When I heard Kid Rock’s record, I thought, ‘This album is too good not to be huge,’ ” recalls the 38-year-old Manhattan-born Flom. “So I called everybody I know and some people I didn’t know.” Flom’s hard work paid off. After nearly ten years and four albums, Kid Rock reached MTV his way – complete with long hair and foulmouthed three-foot-tall sidekick Joe C. – and ignited the rap-rock trend that became the music-business success story of last year. Along the way, he found time to help the similarly populist Matchbox 20 pass the 10 million mark for its first album and make sure Sugar Ray didn’t fall prey to one-hit-wonder-dom with its second album, cheekily titled 14:59. “Jason can tell the real thing from trendy, of-the-moment acts,” says Val Azzoli, co-CEO of Atlantic Records. “He’s got a great bullshit-detector.” Not to mention forthcoming potential-hit albums from Kid Rock’s sidekick, band, and D.J.
Grand Central Conductor
Whitney Warren, one of the chief architects of Grand Central Terminal, envisioned back in 1913 that the Beaux-Arts masterpiece could double as a “bazaar” – but it took restoration architect John Belle to pull it off. “You know, they’re New York merchants – that’s the wonderful thing about it,” Belle says of the shops, coffee bars, lunch spots, and gourmet market that have sprouted inside Grand Central. More wonderful still is how Belle’s firm, B.B.B. Architects & Planners, found ways for a nonindigenous players like the David Rockwell-designed Michael Jordan’s steak house to co-exist with classics like the Oyster Bar and resurrections like the hipster-loaded Campbell Apartment bar. Belle labored for more than a decade with retail analyst Williams Jackson Ewing, who planned Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, to ensure that the commercial element wouldn’t upstage the architecture, particularly the vast main concourse. It was a gamble: Retail rents are crucial for repaying $85 million in bonds that financed the final third of the restoration. But Belle can rest easy. Grand Central does more than live and breathe again – it eats, drinks, and is merry. “I love sitting in the Campbell Apartment,” Belle enthuses. “I once had a wonderful single-malt scotch there, a Macallan, that was as smooth as the surroundings.”
Mercer Street Magnate
John McDonald’s SoHo hot spots Merc Bar and Canteen attract pretty young things from Sarah Jessica Parker to Jennifer Lopez, but the 31-year-old restaurateur is more interested in talking modernist floor plans than A-list seating arrangements. “You have to pay attention to every detail,” says McDonald, “from the angle of the place setting to the fabric on the banquette.” In the case of Canteen – London-based futurist designer Marc Newsom’s first American project – that means a sunken dining room, a rec-room-style orange-and-chocolate color scheme, and Day-Glo-orange chairs that are now being sold at a nearby gallery. He recently began putting his high-design aesthetic on the printed page with City NY, a stylish magazine he wants to become an American take on Wallpaper*. And even though he’s busy with a new magazine and restaurant, McDonald still finds time to make sure his seven-year-old Merc Bar doesn’t go out of style. “It still has the same fabulous customers who came when it first opened,” he points out. “The beautiful people still have to eat.”
You’d think James Ortenzio would have enough to do. He operates a food-distribution business and a fashion company that makes “updated vintage classics,” and he sits on the board of an Internet firm. And he’s a pretty significant Republican fund-raiser. Yet he’s also found time to run the Hudson River Park Trust, and in September, the Trust unveiled the first short but quite impressive stretch of the Hudson River Park, near Christopher Street, with the kind of aesthetic touches – plantings along the highway, historic stonework – that we don’t have enough of in New York. “My fugue on the Hudson,” he calls it. “A fugue of polyphony.” An odd metaphor? Ortenzio speaks almost exclusively in metaphor, as often in Italian or German or Latin as in English, but when cornered, he’ll tell you fairly straightforwardly about his pleasure in watching people jog and skate and otherwise use his proto-park, which spent nearly two decades on the drawing board and won’t be finished until 2005. “People take this for granted, as they well should,” he says. “The shoreline is to be used and protected.”
Not so long ago, spas were places you had to get to on a plane. By the time you flew back, there was the chance that – if the weather was bad or the cocktails were good – you might actually look worse than when you left. Marcia Kilgore is largely responsible for bringing the spa experience into the fabric of city life, where it can make a difference. Kilgore started giving facials in her East Village apartment. Since she opened Bliss, her urban oasis on Prince St. three years ago, her entertainingly named services – “the Herbie,” “the Lemon Peel” – have earned her a celebrity following that includes Julia Roberts, Demi Moore, and Jennifer Lopez. In March, they also earned her a reported $30 million payday when she sold a majority share in Bliss to the French luxury conglomerate LVMH. Rich though she is, she still leaves the relaxing to others. Now she’s supervising the opening of new branches on 57th Street and in London, and planning a chain of nail bars. “I’ve spent my whole life building towards this,” she says. And she keeps in touch with what it’s built on: She still gives facials.
This time last year, Henry Blodget was a relative unknown burrowing away at CIBC Oppenheimer. But when an analyst at Merrill Lynch predicted that Amazon.com, then trading at $240, would sink to $50 a share, Blodget begged to differ. In fact, he projected a price target of $400 within a year. That was in December 1998. Amazon topped his figure eleven months ahead of schedule, and by February, Blodget, 33, was the lead Internet analyst at Merrill Lynch, replacing Mr. $50-a-Share. “I was sick of taking my price targets up in $20 increments and having them beaten in two days,” Blodget says. “It probably had a much larger impact on public awareness of Amazon, and I felt my career was doing just fine.” But, he adds coyly, “it certainly raised visibility all around.” His recent successes don’t mean Blodget’s a cheerleader for all things Internet, though. His advice to clients is to keep most of their money invested in quality e-stocks like Yahoo! and AOL – and he predicts a big shakeout in coming years. But he still has deep faith in the transforming powers of the Internet. “Will it be another industrial revolution? I don’t know. But the key is the speed with which it is happening.” Just look at his career path.
“Nobody had thought of it before,” says Ariane Daguin. Fifteen years ago, hardly a restaurant in New York served anything more adventurous than beef, pork, and chicken. Daguin, on the other hand, had come from southwest France, and knew that New York’s chefs were, so to speak, hungry. She opened D’Artagnan, supplying game and foie gras mostly to expats cooking in the high-end kitchens of New York, in 1985. A decade and a half on, we’re living in the Year of the Liver: Foie gras from the Hudson Valley has gone from being highly exotic to verging on hegemony. Pheasants and quail and poussins crowd expense accounts across town, from Aureole to Le Zoo, and Daguin is by far the largest supplier, with better than 90 percent of the restaurant market. Her giant operation in Newark has expanded beyond the pros, too; her wares (along with those of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, which D’Artagnan distributes) are available to home chefs through a toll-free number. Duck confit can land on your doorstep in 24 hours, no more difficult to procure than an L.L. Bean rucksack. D’Artagnan has competition now, of course. But Daguin knows what it takes to remain at the top: “We try to stay ahead of the game.”
Courtney Sloane is to hip-hop what Mario Buatta is to high society. She’s a mix mistress of design who understands the style in which every newly platinum star wants to live – in a word, “maximalism.” Sloane (and her growing firm, Alternative Design) translates the hip-hop aesthetic – sampling, shout-outs, powerful rhythms – into architecture and interior design, pairing industrial metal with twenty-first-century polymers, sleek modernism with a recognition of African-American roots. She’s done striking spaces for Queen Latifah, Puffy, Enyce, and BET, among many others. And she’s sharing the wealth. The AD office fills a floor of an old retail building in downtown Jersey City, a formerly depressed zone Sloane says has “the pulse of something about to happen.” AD’s highest-profile project to date is “Roots, Rhymes, and Rage: The Hip-Hop Story,” a megashow that will travel to the Brooklyn Museum next spring, complete with D.J. software, video, and visuals potentially more arresting than those currently on display. “It should be scandalous,” says Sloane, with a wink. “We’re hoping Giuliani will give us the same kind of love he’s giving ‘Sensation.’ “
Marc Jacobs doesn’t design for everyone – let’s face it, most of us can’t afford his cashmere-and-calfskin take on vintage downtown cool. But when it comes to shaping the attitude we want in our clothes, almost no one has had more impact over the past few fashion seasons than Marc Jacobs. In 1999, he created an enviable number of those must-have pieces that the fashion elite can’t live without and lesser brands make fortunes knocking off: He wowed us with his fall collection’s Love Story-era preppy hippie chic (and sent many of us racing out for long striped scarves and stacked-heel boots), and he made our mouths water for the candy-colored patent-leather monogram accessories he made for Louis Vuitton (where he’s been designing ready-to-wear since 1997). Last spring, Jacobs moved to Paris, but his most recent Vuitton show was pure Americana: a ripped-neck logo T-shirt paired with a baseball cap, a varsity-style leather jacket with capped sleeves, and a monogram bag slung messenger-style across the chest. Marc Jacobs may have taken himself to the Left Bank, but you can’t take New York out of Marc Jacobs.
Leaving Las Vegas
Last year, Food and Wine magazine pronounced Laurent Tourondel, then overseeing a Las Vegas casino restaurant, one of America’s ten best new chefs. Last June, he came to New York to prove it to us. It didn’t take long. Within two months, his Cello had wrested an elusive three-star review from the New York Times, despite the paper’s newfound reputation as a churlishly harsh grader. There were early comparisons to Le Bernardin, but Tourondel has managed, with such inspired creations as warm lobster emulsion in Sauternes gêlée, salmon carpaccio slathered with citrus caviar cream, and a thrillingly tart construction of meringue-banana-and-passion-fruit sorbet, to unassumingly establish a culinary style all his own. It revolves around pure jolts of flavor and breathtaking presentations, plus a free hand with boom-year luxuries like caviar and foie gras. On his own, untethered terms, Tourondel – who turns 33 on Christmas – has finally become the big fish in a very big pond.
A Store Is Born
“You can come in here in track pants, wet hair, no hair – we don’t care. This is all about fun.” So says Jeffrey Kalinsky, the 37-year-old shoe buyer turned retail visionary behind the meatpacking district’s new fashion ground zero: Jeffrey. Fun though the store may be, that caravan of Town Cars snaking its way down from the Upper East Side suggests that a decidedly uncasual crew is pawing the racks of Jil Sander, Helmut Lang, and Gucci. Who can blame them? He might not carry the most items, but Kalinsky has a knack for offering up the best of each collection – it’s like shopping in the perfectly curated closet of a fashionable best friend (with great taste in shoes). Kalinsky’s been making use of his discerning eye since he was a youngster in South Carolina. “It started with my mother’s friends,” he reminisces. “I would always have something to say about their outfits. After a while, they were scared to come over.” Fortunately, Kalinsky has learned diplomacy along with his retail savvy; he isn’t relying on the novelty of his Lower West Side location and first-class service to keep the pretty young things coming. Kalinsky lured couture director Willie Lima from Bergdorf Goodman this fall and is planning to add heavyweight collections by Dior, Galliano, and Versace.
“We’re overworked, stressed out, and have high blood pressure,” boasts Bob LuPone, co-artistic director of MCC Theater. Telsey and LuPone have run this year’s most successful Off-Off Broadway theater, and it’s just their second job: LuPone is an actor (whose best known roles are Zach, the director in the original A Chorus Line, and All My Children’s Zach Grayson). Telsey directs what’s probably the most innovative casting agency in New York, one that’s responsible for the original Rent. “You only have one life,” Telsey points out, “so why not have two careers?” Just as the duo straddles the profit and nonprofit entertainment worlds, so does their tiny theater in its flower-district walk-up. While taking risks with intelligent projects like Wit, a seemingly unmarketable play about a woman dying of cancer, the two have managed to build an institution that’s serving as a role model for small nonprofits seeking for-profit sustainability. Since Wit nabbed a Pulitzer Prize and has moved to the roomier Union Square Theatre, the MCC’s home theater is currently featuring Pulitzer winner Marsha Norman’s Trudy Blue. MCC is hoping to raise the ceiling. “We want to have a bigger sandbox to play in – maybe 199 seats instead of 99,” Telsey says, “and we’d like to develop a new musical.” But LuPone won’t let him have the last word. “A good musical! With at least four people – maybe even two instruments – that has the success of A Chorus Line!”
Rising En Pointe
Seven years ago, Maria Kowroski, daughter of a hygienist and a tool-and-die worker, left Grand Rapids to become the Sugarplum Fairy. It’s the kind of Cinderella story that makes 5-year-olds in pink tights giddy. This year, just shy of her 23rd birthday, Maria became the youngest principal dancer in the New York City Ballet. Backstage at the State Theater, Kowroski and dancer Charles Askergard were talking about auditioning for an upcoming ballet movie. “Peter Martins came over, and he was like, ‘What is she complaining about now?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ ” Maria recalls. “Chuck was joking, ‘Oh, she’s going to Hollywood to be an actress.’ And Peter Martins said, ‘Before you go, I just want to say you’re promoted.’ I was shocked. In the performance that night, I completely blanked out.” Blessed with nearly six feet of elasticity and a tangible passion for movement, Maria has put her natural virtuosity to unforgettable use as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the besotted lead in Susan Stroman’s Blossom Got Kissed, and currently as the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker. But even the realization of such magic girlish dreams hasn’t sated her ambition. “There will always be something to aspire to,” she says. “It’s not just about the steps. It’s an art.”
Once upon a time – little more than a year ago – New York was considered one big convenience store: The 24-hour bodegas, the stream of delivery menus, the city-that-doesn’t-sleep ethos all spoke to the glut of services at hand. Then came a young entrepreneur who showed us just how burdened we’d been all along. Joseph Park’s Kozmo.com began serving up goods and services to New York’s apartment doors in less than an hour with no delivery charge. “I like to call it the Polaroid of e-commerce,” crows Park, now 28, who quit his job at Goldman Sachs after coming up with the idea in 1996. “Push a button, and you’re done – that’s how instant we are. Think of all the errands that people run. We’re the solution.” It’s a solution that’s since expanded to Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and D.C. and received $28 million from investment groups, including New York’s Flatiron Partners. “We really view Kozmo as a lifestyle,” Park adds. “We eliminate the need to go out.”
Swizz Beatz, who was born Kaseem Dean in the Bronx and given his nickname because of his passion for K-Swiss sneakers, is challenging hip-hop’s one-dimensional profile with complex, futuristic, sample-free grooves – and providing a tonic for the noncreative sonics of Generation Puff. “I refuse to sample,” the rail-thin 21-year-old proclaims. “You can never be a leader if you’re biting someone else’s sound.” Swizz’s beats are unmistakably his, from the chiming choruses of Eve’s “Gotta Man” to the majestic strings and stop-start beats of DMX’s “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and the thundering timpani and skittering synths of Jay-Z’s “Money Cash Hoes.” “I just ran my hand across the keyboard to make that sound,” Swizz says. “And Jay-Z ran with it. Isn’t that dope?” Dope indeed, as scores of artists lining up to work with Swizz are finding out. “Rap has boundaries,” Swizz says, “I want to create sounds no one has even thought of yet.”
On the Line
Almost all of this decade’s entrepreneurs have faced their own Goliaths: Jeff Bezos had Barnes & Noble, and Netscape had Bill Gates. David McCourt of RCN has chosen one of the most formidable giants – phone companies. And while they’re playing technological catch-up, upgrading and repurposing existing lines, McCourt is laying hundreds of miles of state-of-the-art fiber-optic cable and raising the money to pay for it – a $1.7 billion investment from Microsoft’s Paul Allen will keep McCourt’s crews busy till 2003. RCN is nothing less than the country’s most sophisticated and capacious broadband network to date, offering combined Internet, cable, and phone service for a combined 30 percent less than prevailing rates (though thus far it serves only about 120,000 New Yorkers, most in upper Manhattan). “I want to build a company from scratch around the Internet,” he says in his unreconstructed Boston accent, “instead of taking a phone company and turning it into a cable company.” Of course, waiting for broadband is about as excruciating as waiting on your 28.8Kbps modem – but when it happens, you may have David McCourt to thank.
Snapshot of the Artist
Photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s distinctive style – moody and film-noirish, with a mysterious quality that comes from being somewhere between reality and fantasy – is inescapable in fashion magazines today. Which is interesting, because he rarely does fashion shoots. “Good work is complex and perverse,” he says. “The world is a lot harder to manipulate and manufacture than the media world lets on.” Many other photographers, however, have followed his lead, mixing models and real people in cinematic situations (and wearing, of course, fabulous clothes). Meanwhile, diCorcia, whose photos can be found at Pace\MacGill Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art struggles with his medium and his muses. “My work,” he says, “is about trial and error and mistakes.”
Baby, You’re a Witch Man
Before this year’s Sundance Film Festival, three-year-old Artisan Entertainment had a shrewd, even enviable, business: Using income from the company’s formidable video library – which includes cash cows like It’s a Wonderful Life, Basic Instinct, and Dirty Dancing – Artisan bought up and distributed art-house fare like Pi and Permanent Midnight. But when Mark Curcio, Bill Block, and Amir Malin – Artisan’s CEO and co-presidents – went to Park City and caught the midnight screening of The Blair Witch Project, things went through the roof. “We began working on the marketing the day after we signed the deal,” says Malin, who oversees the company’s acquisitions and distributions out of its TriBeCa headquarters. The campaign was as crafty as their business model – a carefully created “grassroots” groundswell of Internet-based interest – and by the end of Blair Witch’s eighteen-week theatrical run, it had become the most profitable independent film in history, pulling in over $140 million and landing its creators deals for a sequel and a prequel. With Artisan poised as the next serious challenger to Miramax and New Line, Malin knows all eyes are on him. “Pi was the only successful film to come out of Sundance last year; Blair Witch was the only successful film to come out of it this year – and we were the only ones who bid on either,” says Malin gleefully. “So naturally, everybody’ll be watching and wondering, ‘What’s Artisan gonna do this year?’ We’re gonna play mind-fuck games!”
Best of Class
In this year’s summer giggle-and-sex-fest American Pie, Natasha Lyonne played a high-school senior who got enough of a kick out of her frantic adolescent schoolmates to attend the prom but who’d already figured out that in the end it matters very little whom you lost your virginity to and what you wore to the party. It was a role that perfectly suited this gifted actress – after all, she’s made a name for herself standing out among the popular girls in that ultimate high school, Hollywood. “I don’t know that I’m better,” she says. “I think it’s just that I’m weirder.” A native New Yorker, Lyonne made her auspicious debut as Opal on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse when she was just 6. More recently, she starred in Slums of Beverly Hills, playing Vivian, a young woman with a surplus of intelligence and maturity grappling with the pressure of growing giant breasts. More recently, after deferring her admission to NYU for a fourth time this fall (“I really do plan to go there – I want to study philosophy”), Lyonne finished work on But I’m a Cheerleader. Thank God she’s anything but.
Stock in Trade
Douglas Atkin has nothing personal against the floor brokers of the New York Stock Exchange – he just thinks his company can do exactly what they do, only much cheaper. The boyish-looking 37-year-old is chief executive of Instinet, the oldest and largest electronic-stock-brokerage firm in the U.S. “The rules of engagement in the securities markets have been designed by and for the middlemen,” Atkin says. “My job is to help create a new future for the industry.” The industry seems worried. Over the summer, both the NYSE and nasdaq began, somewhat frantically, exploring plans to go public in order to finance their own electronic exchanges – or possibly make a deal with Instinet. Atkin himself is just watching and waiting, with the confidence of a man who knows he holds the best cards. “We are the largest pool of electronic liquidity by a long shot,” he says, “and if you don’t do a deal with Instinet, you’re opening the possibility that your competition will.”
David D. Kirkpatrick