Thursday, November 30, 2006
“He looks like the kind of guy that could sit on a toilet for hours,” she whispered.
“What?” I moved my gaze from her face to that of Jay McInerney’s. Up there, seated on the dais with Candace Bushnell, poised to read erotic passages from his novels, he looked more wizened and worn than his crisp prose and youthful witticisms betray. He sipped his vodka drink and leafed through his books and those of Bret Easton Ellis, never letting a wry smile leave his face. That’s it—he looked naughty. Jay loves the stage and, to my eyes, looked far more comfortable there than he would on any toilet.
“Can’t you just see him with the ‘Times’ splayed out, a sports magazine or two by his feet occupying a bathroom for at least 90 minutes?”
Hmmm, Jay in a night shirt with his boxers down around his ankles… not so sure. But, we all know that he can do no wrong in my eyes. I’ll always think of him as the enfant terrible of the “Odeon” and its surrounding territory. All he needs is a good farm girl to make an honest man out of him. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
“And then his wet fingers parted her… plunging inside, he… she fell off him…” Jay spoke into the microphone with obvious pleasure, hoping to offend someone, anyone. But, of course, the New York literati, socialite crowd found it all to be fabulous. Everyone gulped their drinks and laughed.
Finally, at the witching hour—the time when Fabian Basabe decides to sniff out a new venue—Jay walked toward me. I thrust my hand in his direction and took full advantage of the fact that I blocked the one major exit way.
“Mr. McInerney, I’m a huge fan. I carry “Bright Lights” and the “Last of the Savages” with me at all times. And I…”
So I got a little carried away. But he was kind and listened and talked books and, unlike so many of the men I’ve met in the city, asked about me. Sure, his vowels were a bit curious-sounding but every icon has his hiccup.
“You are the kind of guy who always hopes for a miracle at the last minute,” McInerney wrote in “Bright Lights, Big City.” And I’m the kind of gal that believes miracles happen all the time. Here’s to Tuesday night, vodka cocktails and conversation with Jay.
Oh, and I didn’t see him leave the room once to use the bathroom.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
"i would like a correction on y'all's part but i'm sure that's too much to ask."Nope, Brooke, not too much at all! See, what happened was that Brooke's sister, Sloane Stephens Cox, usually writes the cover stories for the magazine, and her name automatically comes up when a feature goes online. Whew. We sure are glad that's been resolved.
For those of you who missed what we just said: No, Brooke's sister didn't actually write the piece about her; she just writes the cover stories for the magazine that profiled her. But what's a little conflict of interest when it's all in the family?
We also heard from Ms. Cox herself:
Your post yesterday claims that I, Sloane Stephens Cox, wrote an article about my sister Brooke Parkhurst. Check your facts before hitting the keyboard. The author is Kimberly Blair. Feel free to verify it at http://www.bellamagazine.com/story_hostestdiva.shtml. By the way, you don't have permission to run one of the News Journal's photos. I'm going to report it to our executive editor.We'll set aside the fact that the online byline did read "Sloane Stephens Cox," and just say, happy Thanksgiving, Parkhurst-Cox-whatevers! The good cheer must run in the family.
Monday, November 20, 2006
|Pensacola native Brooke Parkhurst|
PHOTO BY BEN TWINGLEY
At age 3, when her toddler peers were munching macaroni and cheese, she was savoring succulent lobster that she ordered herself from the menu at the Pensacola Country Club.
“She couldn’t pronounce some letters, so she said, ‘Wobstah, please,’ ” said Suzanne Parkhurst, Brooke’s mom and food muse.
“When she was four or five, we’d go to the Dainty Del (restaurant) after church, and she’d order fish,’’ said Suzanne, a Pensacola native who now lives in Blowing Rock, N.C. “She very politely asked the waitress, ‘Pardon me, ma’am. Is the fish fresh? Is it filleted?’”
So it is no surprise to Suzanne or to anyone else who knows Brooke that she is grabbing headlines as a New York dinner diva. Nor is it unexpected that she has found fame with a popular blog and is wrapping up a debut novel about her exploits in the Big Apple, while penning an entertainment and cooking guide with boyfriend James Briscione — a Pensacola-native-turned-gourmet-chef.
“Brooke has a natural flair for cooking beautiful meals and presenting them at the table,’’ said Suzanne, who admits that covering the food beat during her 20 years as writer for the Pensacola News Journal helped nurture that natural talent. “It looks very artistic, and I didn’t teach her that.’’
During an interview from her SoHo apartment in New York City, Brooke said she believes her new cooking and entertaining guide, “Fresh Affairs,’’ will help transform 20-to-30-somethings into naturals at throwing big-city soirées even if they initially lack the savvy and creativity to pull it off.
“It’s about how we live and how we entertain,’’ Brooke said about throwing what her friends say are “unforgettable parties.’’
The guide combines her passion for entertaining, decorating and wine with James’ flare for creating simple, succulent meals.
A Washington High School graduate, James taps into 10 years of combined experience as a chef de cuisine at Birmingham, Ala.’s premier Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill and as a banquet chef at New York’s Daniel — one of the nation’s most prestigious restaurants — to create recipes for the book of “food that focuses on pristine local ingredients, streamlined preparations and bold flavors.’’
“I really like simple, country-style food like you’d see in the countryside of France,’’ the 26-year-old said during a phone interview while taking a quick break at the busy New York restaurant. “They live with what they have, and that breeds seasonality into their food that I really love.’’
Tips in the guide reflect Brooke’s “anti-Martha” philosophy.
“I think that cooking and entertaining should be about having fun and making mistakes, and memorable, yet sometimes messy, food,’’ she said. “I did the prim and proper thing before I knew better. Now, I mix it up. Serve foie gras with grits. Dress up mullet with a reduction sauce. Pass out the week’s saucy newspaper headlines to your mother’s mannerly Sunday brunch friends (that’ll get the conversation going). In that way, I’m a ‘high/low’ cook and entertainer with a saucy sense of fun.’’
Brooke’s childhood friend Lacy Harrell-Phillips agrees.
“We got to be with them last Christmas in Seaside,’’ said Phillips, 27, of Dallas. She grew up with Brooke in Pensacola. “They (Brooke and James) have such chemistry between them in the kitchen. They’re very sophisticated, but fun. They’re lighthearted with cooking, but they pay attention to the ingredients and how they are preparing food.’’
Because entertaining comes so naturally, writing the guide has evolved instinctively, Brooke said.
“It’s much easier than fiction,’’ she said. “With fiction, it’s just you and a blank piece of paper.’’
She should know. Brooke’s first tome, “Belle of New York,” will be published by Scribner Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster, and was inspired by her popular blog, “Belle in the Big the Apple.’’
Similar to the blog, according to the industry newsletter Publisher’s Lunch, the book reveals the “musings of a beautiful Southern debutante who comes to New York and lands a job in the mosh pit newsroom of a highly conservative cable network while reveling in the hedonistic pleasures of the city.’’
You guessed it: Food or at least high-profile dates at some of the ritziest New York eating establishments are central to the theme.
Although it’s fiction, it’s based on Brooke’s real-life experience as a production assistant at Fox News headquarters, an experience that ended in “total disillusionment,’’ and about the news ethics of the company.
“I quit at age 23 and began my life as a temp worker,’’ she said.
All her life, she had planned to follow the journalism paths of her mother and sister, Sloane Stephens Cox; and that of her late grandfather, Braden Ball, 30-year publisher of the News Journal.
“And then suddenly, I’m a temp, and I’d go home after an empty and fruitless day,’’ she said.
That career derailment steered her onto the promising book-writing track.
Brooke sold her first book before it was even written, thanks to her hip blog posts that caught the attention of media such as Gawker, Wonkette, Salon.com, the BBC, Corrierre della Sera and the New York Post.
“Belle’’ is expected to hit book stores in the fall of 2007.
“Her novel sale was indeed quite a unique triumph, because new writers almost always have to show a full manuscript in order to even get editorial consideration in publishing houses,’’ said Brooke’s agent, Bill Contardi, of New York-based Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents.
“What worked in Brooke’s favor were her ongoing blog and the distinctive and entertaining voice of that blog,’’ he said.
Although “Fresh Affairs’’ has not been submitted to Scribner, “It has been discussed by them with enthusiasm, and they are poised to consider it as soon as ‘Belle’ is finished and the proposal is ready,’’ Contardi said.
“Scribner has an excellent track record with cooking and entertaining books, (such as) ‘Joy of Cooking,’ ” so Brooke’s youthful and Southern slant to the cuisine of living and loving will be in stellar company. It really has potential to be the beginning of a Brooke brand — both in fiction and nonfiction.”
Friday, November 17, 2006
I ate lobster before I could pronounce it. I planned the family’s southern road trips around food exits (peaches, pecans, turkey farms). Summers in Europe were more about markets, vineyards and specialty food stores than museums.
And then I met my Chef…
Y’all know I’m an hopeless foodie but I bet you had no idea this mild obsession began at such a young age. Check out Bella magazine’s, “From Southern Belle to Hostess Diva” for embarassing tidbits about my childhood (Mamma does an impersonation of me before I could pronounce my “r’s”–thanks Mom) and an inside peak into my cooking/entertaining guide, “Fresh Affairs.”
I think Mamma did me in when she packed pate’ de foie gras for our road trip to Disney World…
Thursday, November 9, 2006
A slow day over at “Gawker…” So slow, in fact, they had the column space to make me an “item” and dig up a 2 year-old snapshot of me from the National Book Critics Circle Award party. I prefer last night’s picture…My forehead is big and beautiful, isn’t it?
Oh, and for those of you that weren’t aware, Ms. Allison and I have been annoited the “Betty & Veronica” of media parties…
I love Ellen Barkin and that brash, soulful, sexy, more-than-a-little-tough thing she does on the big screen. “Sea of Love” convinced me to put away the altar girl robes for a spell and invest in a slinky black number and a passable set of highlights—Mr. Pacino, are you out there? Time for our close-up. But it was this October when she unceremoniously dumped $15 million of wedding baubles— and any lingering sentiments for ex-husband Ronald Perelman—on the Christie’s auction block that I became mildly obsessed with Ms. Barkin and her bravado. The “purging of the [Perelman] union” was one heck of a move. Brassy dame. [End scene.]
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” Off the silver screen and somewhere on Lafayette Street, I fielded the aforementioned line from the ex Mr. Barkin—corporate raider, billionaire and blonde aficionado. Ronnie (this is my site, I’ll call him what I please) smelled vaguely of tea tree oil and menthol; his hat was the orange of a traffic cop’s vest and his line of vision met my décolletage straight on.
“Pardon? Oh, no, I don’t think that we’ve ever met.” Original, I know. Not to worry. I followed that line of vanilla with a request for one of those adorable mini bottles of “Moet.” We were standing at the bar of the “Spy” magazine book launch party, after all. A girl needs something to occupy her nervous fingers. But before I could wrangle my bottle of bubbly, a photographer came over to take our picture—me, Ronnie and my favorite sex columnist, Julia Allison. Such a happy–ridiculously mismatched– trio.
Within the next two minutes and with the aplomb of, well, Ronald Perelman, he informed me of his profession—“CEO and chairman of the board of ‘Revlon’”—and his religion, “I’m Jewish, you?”
My Lord, this was the most straightforward Manhattan bar pick-up transaction that I had ever experienced! Was this how the media elite operated? I had just sipped a drink next to Anna Wintour, spoken with Kurt Andersen, admired the coiffes of Graydon Carter and Harvey Weinstein… Clearly I was way out of my league.
Ronnie and I parted ways and I wondered what it would feel like to wrestle a fifteen carat diamond over the ring finger of my left hand. Pretty uncomfortable, huh?
Friday, November 3, 2006
I’m leaving the city. Just for a spell. I need an undefined number of days (months if I had it my way) to see the last colored leaves cling to their branches, to look out at an ocean that I rarely see (except when I’m flying ‘coach’ class), to breath and not smell ambition and trash.
This year has been hard. New York is hard. You think that if you stay in the city just a little bit longer, you’ll crack the code. So I’ve stayed and I’ve stayed and I haven’t taken trips, like the smart people, to warmer climates, to undiscovered pockets of pristine countries. I haven’t even seen my beautiful niece. She’s turning into a little person, wearing cowboy hats, eating avocadoes—I’ve missed all that. Instead, I’ve sat at my small kitchen table, stared through the burglar bars on my window and tried to write a book. There have been too many dinners out and emotions kept in. I walk the same path to Union Square and back and forget about Carnegie Hill, the Boat Basin and museums where I can lose myself and the minutiae that crowd my everyday thoughts. I’ve forgotten the rest of the world.
The ‘even’ years have always been good to me. Age 22, 24… and then, age 26 came along. My grandfather died. It was the first month of the year. I should have just given up then, crawled into bed and slept for eleven months. Maybe I could have asked my sweet mother to wake me up with a bowl of black-eyed peas (good luck down South) on New Year’s Day, 2007. But, of course, I didn’t do that. My grandfather was dead and I tried to compress my sadness—the black hole, the grief, the despondency—into a week of ceremonies and dinners. I nodded my head and smiled and everyone was really very lovely. I was cured. Twenty-six was going to be wonderful.
Ah, yes, but I had forgotten that the promise of Pappy (my grandfather) carried me through so many of my New York days. He was my fairytale, the guarantee that all was well, the assurance that men—or even just people—like him existed. And then he died and the dream went along with him.
I’ll be back soon, fresh and new and with a little faith restored (let’s hope so, anyway)…