At the 40/40 Club, waiting for Jay-Z to arrive, V.I.P.s celebrate a pair of his shows at Carnegie Hall
It didn't feel cold, but you could see your breath. The red carpet lay there, untrodden, 25th Street cracking beneath it. A group of young women held clipboards, their sentences clipped and their nails sharp, chattering away to themselves while waiting for someone, anyone to show up. They tapped at their cell phones; a burly security guy made fun of them from a foot above their heads.
"Why are you laughing at me?" one of the women asked, laughing, and then he laughed, too. Some photographers walked over, waiting around.
"I'm gonna head over to Hudson Terrace. She's gotta write a blog about the concert, and I didn't realize this would start so late. I'll be back in an hour and a half."
It was 11:30 p.m., and nothing was happening yet at Jay-Z's nightspot the 40/40 Club, where the after party for the musician's second and final night performing at Carnegie Hall was supposed to take place.
Thirty blocks uptown, Jay-Z was finishing up his set, a team-up with United Way and the Shawn Carter Foundation, filmed for an eventual DVD release. It was a repeat of the night before, where he'd become the first rapper to headline the space, and, with it, the first rapper to sell out the place. When you're done collecting all of the hip-hop Pokemon, you have to move into other worlds, break glass ceilings in other houses.
Liza Minnelli was at the first show; Michael Eric Dyson, Josh Groban, and Nick Cannon, the second. Warren Buffet had shown up at the re-opening of Jay-Z's 40/40 Club a few weeks earlier, throwing up a diamond for the cameras, a huge smile stretching his jowls. It was an affirmation. Jay and Beyoncé had been there the night before.
Back at the 40/40, the young women were still waiting. A print-out of celebrities' faces suggested that Nicky Hilton, Russell Simmons, and Peter Sarsgaard might be on their way. One of the women started singing:
"Can I get an en-core / do you want more," with all the grace and patois of someone singing loudly in the car.
"Who sings that?" someone asked.
"Jay-Z! No, wait. Linkin Park and Jay-Z."
Finally, Fern Mallis, the creator of Fashion Week and Bravo TV mainstay, stepped out of a black S.U.V., the first person to step onto the red carpet. No one batted an eye. Unrecognized at first, her presence was announced by her assistant. A couple of flashes came from the cameras; some of the photographers played with their iPhones, unmoving. She walked inside and sat at the bar, drinking Moët straight from a half-bottle and pouring the rest into a glass.
D.J. SNS was playing a bunch of mid-tempo R&B, an hour-long stroll, an unending stream of light voices: Al B. Sure!'s "Night and Day;" Bill Withers' "Lovely Day;" "Liberian Girl" and "Human Nature" and a bunch of other Michael Jackson songs.
There were women in long furs and short dresses, high heels high. Rich dudes in jeans passed through, making fools of the guests who'd abided by the "strict" dress code on the invite. A thirty-something guy in a crimson vest and bow tie opened the doors; he had the body development and outfit of a middle-school choir member, only lacking the cummerbund. But he walked in like a boss, owning the moment. Russell Simmons, surrounded by a pack of pretty people, followed soon after.
More camera flashes by the door. Aziz Ansari walked in, his neck on a swivel. Later on he left with Chris Rock, who shook his head laughing at a woman from Us Weekly who had tried to get a quote from him.
At one table a dropped glass smashed on the floor. Minutes later, nearby, another smash, like Jewish weddings happening in quick succession. A scream went up across the room: a group of women clapping and rubbing Young Guru's head, the perks of being Jay-Z's longtime engineer and/or a good person.
Some models teetered toward the V.I.P. section, smelling of cigarettes and beauty. The only person to enter the club through the private entrance in the back was Nas, sporting his second style of tuxedo in two days. He would leave an hour later, just as "Is That Your Bitch?" (a dis record detailing Jay-Z's time spent messing around in a backseat with Nas' woman) played overhead, a hilarious coincidence.
The party continued on into the night. Some famous people left, while other famous people replaced them. Jay-Z, Karolina Karkova, six newly-crowned hero New York Giants, at least one photographer and others spent their night across town at Hudson Terrace; Nick Cannon was behind the D.J. booth there. (Jay had been at 40/40 the night before, sharing hot wings and champagne with Nas.) Twitter suggested that Beyoncé showed up in the middle of the middle of the night, laughing alongside Yankee behemoth C.C. Sabathia.
Broadway's curbside was lined with cars: BMW, Range, Range; a chauffeur slept in the front seat of an S.U.V. Immediately beside the passenger door, a rough-looking man bared the cold, a huge multi-colored sign claiming "YO, I NEED MoNEY 4 WeED!"