Tribeca 2010: Notes From Under the Red Carpet

06/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Erica Abeel Erica Abeel, author Wild Girls, coming October 2016

The start of the 2010 Tribeca International Film Festival was christened with fitting pizazz Tuesday night by a Vanity Fair party at Manhattan's State Supreme Courthouse on Centre Street. On the street below the courthouse steps, dotted with silver balls, I hung out with the press covering red carpet arrivals, or bold-face names. I later planned to move on -- and literally up -- to the party on the courthouse veranda.

That none of my fellow journos had been granted this privilege engendered some bad will around me, but never mind, here was Martha Stewart arriving in an SUV the size of a Hummer tank. As the thing stopped for a light she merrily took pix of the photographers. Watching them shoot Martha while she snapped away at them was a kind of Mobius loop moment in which images become fodder for an infinite succession of images

"I twitpix," Martha said, snapping away as she moved along the red carpet. Huh? "Do you have a private chef?" someone asked. M: "In which house?" She added, "I love private chefs and I think we
should all have one." I made a note to look into that. I have to say, Martha is quite irresistible, a poster girl for being comfortable in your own skin. I wanted to ask her where she does hers, which is peachy and smooth as a toddler's bottom.

But another journo was trotting out his theme question for the evening: Should Lebron James come to New York? Affirmative from Martha. And from restauranteur Drew Nieporent, who added, "I was just courtside at the Celtics. If you want to be the best at what you do you have to perform in New York."

I wanted to ask Jane Rosenthal -- founder of the Tribeca fest along with Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff -- if there had been many no-shows among filmmakers due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull. But she was taken up by reporters a few feet down the line. A "spotter" next to me pointed out Patrick McMullan, photographer of socialites, Chazz Palminteri, and a model named Veronica Webb. The spotter and I shared a laugh about Andy Borowitz's column on Lloyd Blankfein as the next Secretary of the Treasury. The guy told me he'd photographed the world class art collection at Goldman Sachs -- which can be viewed only by employees of the firm.

By the time we concluded that Goldman's lawyers keep the firm's dealings in a shadow zone of the barely "legal," I noticed I was seriously cold. In a misguided effort at chic I'd worn my new Capri tights and was dearly wishing I owned something like Jane Rosenthal's totally cool leggings to the heel. It was time to make my move to the party upstairs.

I stepped out of the pen. Where did I think I was going, said a guard, blocking me with a move worthy of Jet Li.

I've been cleared to join the party, I explained, and I'm bleepin' cold. He body-blocked me in case I had any smart ideas. He wore a sinister little pin in his lapel like the rosette of the Legion d'Honneur, perhaps a GPS designed to spot commoners. The guy was clearly overqualified for the work and needed something more challenging, like body guard for Lloyd Blankfein.

I needed to be escorted up, he said, and I must stay put until an escort appeared. I waved frantically at Fran Lebowitz, bundled in jacket and wool scarf, hoping she'd take up my cause. I explained to the guard that with a deviated septum I was prone to sinus infections that might crimp my coverage of the festival -- No dice. I was confronting the terror that a commoner, a mere Times New Roman shlepper who rejoices when the 2/3 train arrives as she's descending the stairs -- might crash the precincts of the bold-facers and le tout New York.

First thing up on the veranda, I hit the bar. Chardonnay in hand, I wove among all the folks up there clamoring for my presence. Wendy Murdoch, the mayor, Brian Williams, Jeffrey Katzenberg (whose "Shrek Forever After" opens the fest), De Niro twinkling with mischief, the ever-flirtatious Andy Stein. Brian Williams's wife smelled good. Carnal Flowers, she told me, basement of Barney's. I approached a polymath I admire, to receive rather a frosty greeting -- until he recognized my name.

With few exceptions everyone was thin, I noticed as I scarfed pigs-in-the-blanket. In fighting trim, you could say. Used to be, super achievers, like Balzac, had habits that killed them, but up here folks looked primed for longevity. Mehmet Oz, that human energy farm, would have been pleased.

The thing about parties, you pick up buzz. I had thought to give the documentary about Joan Rivers a pass. No, it's fantastic! said the charming David Hyde Pierce of Frazier fame and soon to star in La Bete with Mark Rylance. I got to chatting with a producer of the new doc on Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer has become a force for the good, I don't give a damn about his sex life, I value his insights into financial chicanery, and we should be grateful that capable people are willing to become public servants, I told the producer.

Then you're gonna like this film, she said.

It's now high on my list of must-sees.

Note to Patrick McMullan: could you please post to my Flickr account your shot of me and Damian Woetzel?