Intelligencer: Nov. 29, 2004 - Dec. 6, 2004

Illustration by Vault 49

It Happens This Week
•Tom Brokaw says good night to NBC Nightly News.
•Mike Nichols’s Closer (Natalie Portman as stripper) opens.
•Upstate chainlet Dinosaur Bar-B-Que comes to Harlem.
•A wide assortment of NYC musicians all release albums: Nas, Simon & Garfunkel (live), and Wynton Marsalis.

Photo: Globe Photos

My MoMA, He Moaned
Is Taniguchi unhappy with his creation?
Yoshio Taniguchi’s new MoMA has earned extravagant praise from many quarters—but some say the architect himself has been one of the new building’s severest critics. “Things are done very differently in Japan, and this was his first project out of that little obsessive island,” notes one prominent city architect. “What seems to have happened was that from an early stage they were nickel-and-diming him on materials,” says a person who’d spoken to Taniguchi. As a consequence, says another insider, “he behaved in a very passive-aggressive way, delaying things. That’s how he got his aggression out.” He is said to have threatened to quit the project on several occasions, though a MoMA insider insisted it never got that far. Architecture anal-retentives can easily pick out flaws that might rile Taniguchi’s Zen calm. “Go over there and put a level on the Sheetrock,” says one. Further, the grid of stone panels inside the lobby doesn’t quite match up with the grid outside—and a few of the garden flagstones are already broken. MoMA declined to comment.
—Carl Swanson

Dunleavy on Wagon
Can Langan’s bar survive his dry spell?
“I haven’t had a drink in three weeks,” says Post columnist Steve Dunleavy, who’s such a good customer that Langan’s, the paper’s local tavern, had a picture of him etched in a glass divider by its bar. “Do I miss drinking? To plagiarize Jimmy Breslin, it was my freakin’ sport.” So think of his bleeding ulcer as a sports injury. He hasn’t been able to drink since he was diagnosed last month. He says it wasn’t from overdoing it. (Nor did Rupert Murdoch order him to sober up.) He got the ulcer reporting in Florida during the hurricanes. “Six weeks ago or whenever it was,” he says, “I was in a dingy hotel in Stuart. There were these families with us, not homeless, but fleeing from their mansions. The kids were hungry. We got a whole bunch of food and brought it back to the kids. My first two beers in three days.” It’s not clear what the meaning of this story is, beyond setting the semi-heroic scene followed by the rewards of a cold one, but around the same time he ate a three-day-old barbecued-pork sandwich he’d bought “for some reason from an Arab store,” a convenient scapegoat which gets us back to the ulcer. “As soon as I ate it, I knew that it was a mistake,” he says. A few weeks later, he got sick. Now that he’s (at least temporarily) a teetotaler, “I physically feel better, amazingly so. I’m even putting on weight. I went for a bike ride. I’m even lifting little weights,” he says. “But that is little consolation.”
—Carl Swanson

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Right Man (or Woman) Is Hard to Find
The search for a replacement for William Safire.
Almost as soon as William Safire announced he was retiring after 31 years as the right-wing uncle at the Times’ op-ed dinner table, conservatives began plotting to retain his perch. “I’ve gotten much advice from people who aren’t columnists about who would be good,” says editorial-page editor Gail Collins. Emboldened by the postelection morals mandate, conservatives seem to be hoping that they can push the page deep into this territory, too: Family-values columnist Cal Thomas, who’s publicly disparaged the Times, said, “It would be a wonderful thing if Sulzberger reached out and said, ‘We get it.’ ” But don’t count on it. “They hold conservatives to a higher standard,” says a righty writer who didn’t want to speak on the record and ruin his chances of getting tapped. “They have to be more sophisticated than the average sloganeer,” he says. “You can’t just represent a party,” admits David Brooks, the op-ed page’s other conservative. Right-wing names bandied about include David Frum, Charles Krauthammer, Christopher Caldwell, Richard Brookhiser, Fred Barnes, and Robert Kagan. But the most-often-fingered candidate is the openly semi-conservative Timesman John Tierney, who, Times sources say, was once considered for the op-ed page and moved to Washington for seasoning, but seemed to stall. “They’ve already got their claws in him,” says a columnist who wants Safire’s job. And conservative or not, columnists best have good manners. “We generally come to them,” Collins says.
—Kate Pickert

Forever Fabulous at Indochine
You can’t teach an old trendy restaurant new tricks.
“I hate to say ‘bringing back the eighties,’ ” said Indochine owner Jean Marc Houmard at the restaurant’s twentieth-anniversary party, “because that’s what we were panned for by Frank Bruni” in a scabrous Times review. But the party on Friday, November 19, was pretty eighties all the same: mirror-covered drag queens, wait staff humping each other (“kind of an Indochine tradition,” says Houmard), Tama Janowitz, Valentino, Tatum O’Neal, etc. Sally Hershberger, the $600-a-scalp hairstylist, was also in attendance. She said that she’d recently styled George and Laura Bush’s hair for Vogue. “I didn’t vote for them,” she said, “but they’re cool. And not vain, unlike some other people in the White House.” Laura has “beautiful hair,” which Hershberger “ran her hands through” (she did the same to the president). The person whose hair she’d most like to cut? Madeleine Albright. “I’d layer it. But not shag it.”
—Matt Dobkin

Photo: Tim Sloan/Getty Images

The Left’s Bush Bounce
What liberals lost in the voting booth, they’re winning on the newstand.
Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, has been fond of making the joke that Bush has been “bad for the nation, but good for The Nation,” since the magazine’s circulation has jumped from 100,000 to 170,000 during the past four years. Postelection, she worried that lefty despondence would put a damper on things. Apparently, she said, “grieving took about an hour.” On November 3, The Nation sold 500 subscriptions through its Website, seven times a typical day’s haul; it sold 2,600 by the end of the week. The mag expects its circ will break 180,000 by the end of the year. Aggressively liberal pubs like The American Prospect,, Utne, and Mother Jones report increases as well, and the moderate New Republic has also gotten an influx of new subscribers. Except that, according to publisher Stephanie Sandberg, most responded to an ad campaign on hyperlefty Air America.
—Ben Mathis-Lilley


Intelligencer: Nov. 29, 2004 - Dec. 6, 2004