Intelligencer: March 28-April 4

It Happens This Week
• Spring brings the reemergence of favored American pastimes: burgers (Shake Shack opens in Madison Square Park), baseball (Yankees take on Boston in the Bronx), and graphically violent entertainment (Sin City opens on Friday).
• Parades—from Tartan Day to Hindu New Year—abound.
• Clocks spring forward.
• And the MTA could announce the winning bid for its much-contested West Side property by Thursday.

Photo: Firstview

Silent Screamof the Lambs
The birth of a “new fur” controversy.
The prevalence of Astrakhan, the velvety, somewhat curly, very expensive lambskin also known as “new fur” or Persian lamb, on the runways at the most recent Paris and Milan shows is obviously part of a more general move away from fur-shame in fashion. But this trend comes with an even higher ickiness factor than others: The reason Astrakhan is so soft is that it’s aborted Karakul-lambskin. The process of getting the fur requires killing the pregnant ewe, removing her lamb, and then killing it for its pelt. “It’s been around for years,” says PETA’s Dan Mathews. “It’s making a huge comeback.” Three years ago, Stella McCartney publicly chastised Madonna for wearing an Astrakhan coat. Madonna has never been spotted wearing the coat again, and designers had been shying away from using it. Now PETA’s targeting the users of Astrakhan (including Dolce & Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Prada). The group will display photos of live baby lambs juxtaposed with photos of baby-lamb pelts—which are only a foot long. “Astrakhan and how it’s made has remained under the radar because it’s so horrific and people don’t want to think about it,” says Mathews. “We live in an escapist society.”
—Amy Zalneraitis

Photo: Richard C. Murry/London Features

What Will$200 Buy You at Masa, Anyway?
For his 50th birthday, Daniel Boulud called in some favors. At the $1,500-a-head party at Daniel—which doubled as a fund-raiser for the food world’s favorite charity, Citymeals-on-Wheels—the city’s top chefs cooked (braised Berkshire pig, etc.) and donated meals for an Emeril Lagasse–helmed auction. But some were more generous than others. Tom Keller supplied dinner for two at Per Se and six at the French Laundry, and full-scale meals at Ducasse, Bouley, Le Bernardin, and Vong were also on the menu. When it came to Masa Takayama, however, the man behind the $350 sushi dinner put up a $200 gift certificate—to Bar Masa. “That wouldn’t pay for my tip at Masa,” said one guest. Reached later, Takayama was contrite: “Daniel asked us to donate something. I had no idea that any other restaurant was doing dinner for two. But $200 should be plenty at Bar Masa. I am sorry.”
—Beth Landman

Gramercy Park Demolition Derby!
Repeat car crashes outside Ian Schrager’s front door.
Cars keep crashing through the wrought-iron fence surrounding Gramercy Park— three in one week earlier this month. Residents theorize that the accidents could be partly due to the construction activity outside the Gramercy Park Hotel, which is being renovated by Ian Schrager. On March 12, a tow-truck operator was hooking up a car that had crashed around 4 A.M. when a second driver ran into the disabled vehicle (which rolled over the operator’s hand and knee). Block association president Arlene Harrison discovered the third automotive intrusion on March 19, when she noticed a license plate embedded in a planter. To slow down drivers on Lexington, the park’s trustees are seeking to desynchronize the light at 22nd Street and install a giant lighted arrow in front of the fence. Trustees will have to fork over up to $10,000 to fix the hole in the fence, now covered by thin wire mesh and orange tape, before the weather improves and trespassers invade the park.
—Kate Pickert

Hotchkiss ’n’ TellPost-‘Prep’
Is publishing Waspy again?
After the success of Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel, Prep, publishing has sensed a new trend: the boardingroman written by people with ambisexual (Curtis is female) “family” names. “There are a lot of dark things that occur at boarding school,” says Taylor Materne, 24 and male, the youngest of three Hotchkiss alums who’ve quit their day jobs to write a four-book series about a fictional school. The stories might be fake—“This won’t be an exposé” vows Hobson Brown (’93, also male)—but the pain of not being understood by non-boarding-school America is for them very real. “We thought the media had never accurately portrayed boarding school,” Brown says. “We could just write about the crazy stuff—elitism, drugs, racism,” says Materne, “but we’re not going to.” The first is out from HarperCollins in 2006. “It’s such a secretive subculture,” says Jardine Libaire (’91, female), “but statistically, boarding schools produce many decision-makers. The story of boarding school is the story of our country.”
—Emma Rosenblum

Lotus Spinoff NabsStar Mixologist
Celeb-dissing partner offers to resign in shame.
When the owners of Lotus open their new boîte on 14th Street later this spring, expect the cocktail standards to be as high as the prices: They hired Sasha Petraske, the co-owner of the Lower East Side’s Milk & Honey, to create the drink menu and train the staff. “A pineapple-ginger-and-rum drink will come with one big chunk of ice so the ice doesn’t melt and dilute the drink,” says co-owner David Rabin, speaking for the professionally shy Petraske, who had the right to duck the press written into his contract. One thing that won’t change is that Jeffrey Jah—the unprofessionally unshy Lotus partner who mouthed off to a Brazilian magazine about how Sean Combs doesn’t like to pay his bill and about the drinking habits of Paris Hilton (and this was before Petraske trained the bartenders!)—is still around. “He offered to resign,” says Rabin. “But we came to feel he was too important a part of our team, and he apologized with great sincerity to all.”
—Deborah Schoeneman


Intelligencer: March 28-April 4