Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Conde Nast Holiday Lunch; Or, Who Sits with Si?


As in Dante's Paradiso where the name of the game is proximity to The Big Guy, similarly, at the Conde Nast holiday luncheon today, the name of the game is to sit at Si Newhouse's powertable. (image via cinemythology)

Ah, joy: It's that time of the year again. The Conde Nast holiday lunch. The Byzantine politics of Conde Nast are laid bare in the stark symbolism of who sits where (The consumer magazines, no doubt, will be relegated to the outer periphery of Si Newhouse's nimbus of obscene power). The farther away one's table is from the benevolent grace of Si, the closer to the Dantean rings of the Inferno -- namely: existence in the absence of Si. The excellent Keith Kelly of the NYPost will, no doubt, be casing the joint with a photographer in tow to give us the goodies.

Forget outmoded questions like: Will Graydon Carter light up indoors? (Averted Gaze) Rather, ask yourselves the meaty, ground-of-being question: Who will be sitting at Si's table? Will Jay Fielden of Men's Vogue get a ticket to the big leagues?

Next question -- more juicy by a whisker -- Who ought to be sitting at Si's table, but isn't? Lance Ford of Cargo ought to be at the Si table, IMHO, the only table that matters -- but will he?

Last year, we speculated:

"Ah, the holidays are here again, and that means missletoe, the ambient dulcet tones of Manheim Steamroller, pine needles on the street, the Charlie Brown special (The Corsair gets a tad fucking misty during that show), and, to be sure, that silly woman who makes a proper ass of herself and invariably gets dragged home through the chilly streets of New York by her patient chums because she drank too much brandied egg nog at the company party ('You guysh ... are the besssst'), and, finally, the Conde Nast Four Seasons editor and publisher bash.

"Imagine for a moment the ambitious, Prada-clad collective egos assembled in that VIP room ever-ready to brown their noses on Si Newhouse's billionaire tushy; all that fucking hot gas and fake bonhommie in a single combustible location. (Averted Gaze) No wonder there is no smoking permitted.

And, from Medialife last year:

"'Medialife: Every year it seems you have devoted some words to the seating order at the tables nearest Si Newhouse and what it all means. Cond� Nast watchers of course gobble up your insights. Yet each year it also seems you quote Maurie Perle, CN's spokesperson, tossing cold water on the whole notion that where people sit means anything at all. Who's right here, you or her?

"Keith Kelly: ...It is not as perfect as the old Cond� Nast annual group picture. They abandoned that some years ago, right around the time Tina Brown dropped out of the scene. I think they should bring it back. It was always Anna to the right of Si, Tina to the left. The seating is not quite as meticulous as the photo, but there is some thought process behind it. I think it is no coincidence that the embattled Graydon [Carter editor of Vanity Fair] got a good seat this year. And when The New Yorker finally went into the black a few years ago, they were sitting pretty as well. And you can be pretty sure that Si and or the CEO are not going to look at someone through a long holiday lunch and then fire him first chance they get in the new year. Given that, there is also a conscious effort to rotate. So in the end, neither one of us are 100 percent right. They are just clues that have to be put together with other clues."

More of The Corsair's take on it:

"... Oh, look (waves fakely; Condenastyish), and there's Lucky Editor in Chief Kim France who, like Christ's neighbor, the crucified robber who repented at the last minute, now sits on Si Newhouse's left hand ('... and ascended into heaven'), at the power table ('.. to judge the living and the dead').

"Metaphors of Paradise abound, ringing -- like Silver bells -- true here as Conde Nast is the Nirvana of glossies, lo ultimo. Just as Dante Aligheri places the true Paradiso in the Empyrean, situated outside the universe, and therefore, my fellow grad-students of the Byzantine rituals of Conde Nast, outside of space and time, those outer tables, those Fairchild consumer magazine tables, far away from the Mystic Rose, that celestial choir that is Si Newhouse, are less appealing, less -- shall we say -- 'holy.'

"And would it be a far stretch of the imagination to envision the editors at Conde Nast dressed in ermine like Castiglione's courtier? Why, Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief Amy Astley is seated so close to Si that she can just ... just dip her head, slightly ... and gently brush her rose lips 'gainst Si's signet ring.

"Not since the Court of the Sun King has anyone assembled such a crowd of nonpareil beauty and excellence commingles with a desire to kiss Si's ass. There -- look -- far out in the distance, out of the consoling heat of Si Newhouse's ambit, Eva Dillon of Cookie. If she cranes her neck just so, she might -- just might -- catch a gander at Si's lordly brow, framed by a fawning Graydon and Anna, as Si tucks meaningfully into his luncheon of oh, let's say: beef cheeks. (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment) A feast, to be sure, for sore, Conde Nastish peepers. "

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