Can a six-pack of Heineken be your signature drink? How do you spark dinner-party conversation when your end of the table is D.O.A.? And is it possible to tip – “duke” – your way to a better table and other important privileges? Designer Cynthia Rowley and New York Times deputy style editor Ilene Rosenzweig tackle such conundrums with their urbane new primer, Swell: A Girl’s Guide to the Good Life. On a recent frosty weeknight, when Rowley had just flown in from Paris, the duo led a madcap marathon to see just how much – and how long – one can behave like Patty Duke and get away with it.
7 p.m. Rosenzweig ransacks Rowley’s showroom for evening’s costume (Chapter 6, “Prisoner of Seventh Avenue”). Downstairs, Rowley’s two-handed whistle stops far-off cab in tracks (Chapter 4, “Get Around”). First stop, LiebmanMagnan gallery, for “Happier Hour” (Chapter 5, “Have Fun”). “The idea is to shake things up a little,” says Rosenzweig, peering into refrigerated case holding decaying heads made of tofu. “It gives you something to talk about the rest of the night.”
8 p.m. Fastballs at Chelsea Piers and snacks – Crunch ‘n Munch washed down with mini bottles of brown-bagged Frexinet. While Rowley takes swings balancing on wedge heels, Rosenzweig adds red helmet to ensemble and smacks grounder. Batting-cage operator is duked for allowing extra rounds (Chapter 2, “Say Thank You”).
9 p.m. Careening down West Side Highway in red Ford Galaxie convertible chauffeured by Rowley’s husband, Bill Keenan, Rosenzweig offers wisdom – not found in book! – on how to properly perch on guy’s lap. “You’ve got to sit high on your haunches. Down below, you’re trembling like it’s the seventeenth hour of a step class,” she says with a smile. Boyfriend Rick Marin is also smiling. “It takes great strength to be light.”
9:30 p.m. Rolling past Rowley’s Wooster Street boutique, designer recalls sprinting down street in heels to collar criminal, explaining, “This guy took six dresses on the hanger! And they were my favorite dresses.”
9:45 p.m. At Raoul’s on Prince Street, reserved table is occupied by banker boors. Rowley disperses them with small show of celebrity. “You have your own shopping bag,” one whimpers after spotting logo. “You are famous!” “Are you guys famous?” asks Rowley. “No! We’re nobodies!” Bankers slink to bar.
10 p.m. Rosenzweig (in bunny ears) has stash of white truffles in bottomless purse (Chapter 4); visits kitchen to propose special pasta appetizer (Chapter 9, “Indulge”).
11 p.m. Fake birthdays celebrated (Chapter 1, “365 Excuses for a Party”); yet another bottle of champagne sent over by book editor David Hirshey. Feathered tiaras and top hats all around. Rowley pencils eyeliner mustache on husband.
Midnight. Jet lag will put even Swell-est girl to bed (Chapter 7, “Sleep-deprivation Experiment”). Rowley says good night.