The gathering every sunday afternoon is on a grassy hilltop beside the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park. Admission to the weekly event is every bit as exclusive as at velvet-rope clubs like Serena and Halo – but boldface status and social connections won’t do the trick. It’s not who you are, but who you’re with that counts here.
Welcome to Pug Hill, an elite Kaffeeklatsch for the short-faced dogs of the moment, stars of Burberry and Coach ads, beloved by the likes of Jenna Elfman and Paula Abdul. Started nearly six years ago by attorney John Jeannopoulos, Pug Hill has, despite high-profile attendees like Si Newhouse (who brought his now deceased black pug, Nero) and ex-Warhol Factory mainstay Brigid Berlin (who brings India), developed into a doggie democracy, where editors, advertising executives, and everyday nine-to-fivers chat about such pug-specific issues as loud snoring and scratch-prone bulging eyes, all to a soundtrack of snorts and strained breathing from their stout companions. Pug Hill also provides one of the strangest spectacles in Central Park when, in what can only be described as a kind of pug whirlpooling, dozens of the dogs form a pack to speedily circle their owners.
Pug Hill regulars can be as secretive as nightlife denizens bent on protecting their favorite after-hours haunt from exposure. “Please, please don’t write about us!” begs a legal secretary. “Sunday is our dog’s favorite day of the week. We don’t want to take that away from her.” Jeannopoulos, for his part, is as impassive as any club doorman. “I will answer only general questions about pugs,” he says firmly, “not Pug Hill itself.” New York, Jeannopoulos maintains, has become an “anti-dog, law-enforcement-happy city” in which gatherings where the leash law is occasionally violated in the spirit of the moment are heavily scrutinized by park rangers. More to the point, perhaps, is Jeannopoulos’s admission that he is working on a book proposal about the weekly gathering – and that in order to “protect it from exploitation,” he has trademarked the name Pug Hill.