Tag Archives: graydon carter

When I Was At Morton’s

For nearly 30 years (but especially during the 1980s), Hollywood’s big, big money — its new, blockbuster money — converged, with era-defining consistency, on the corner of Robertson and Melrose at Morton’s, which Peter Morton opened in 1979 as a grown-up alternative to his Hard Rock Cafes. Come 7 p.m., nowhere else saw as much action: Power was spread out in Manhattan, but in Hollywood in those days, it resided in only one place. With all the deals discussed over those (only) 19 tables — including Eddie Murphy’s historic $15 million deal with Paramount in 1987 — it’s a wonder Morton didn’t hire a security guard and call his place an agency.

From being one of only three CAA-approved expense-account restaurants to the place where even the maitre d’ was a star (Rick Cicetti was cast by Larry Gordon and Joel Silver as a security guard in Die Hard), Morton’s pulled in an entire universe of movers and shakers — including Barry Diller, Ron Meyer, Alan Horn, Scott Rudin, former Columbia Pictures head Dawn Steel, former Time Warner CEO Steve Ross and former 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis — as well as celebrities (even Jack Nicholson felt comfortable eating at the bar alone). Unassuming on the outside, it had the industry juice to be the signoff to Spy’s biting Hollywood columns by the pseudonymous Celia Brady (“See you Monday night at Morton’s”), a central location for Julia Phillips’ roman-a-bile You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again (the writer was banned after it came out) and the subject of New Hollywood lore:  It is said that when a man suffered a heart attack and was carried out on a gurney, nobody noticed amid all the dealmaking.

In 1994, when it moved across the street to the intersection’s southeast corner, Morton’s transformed from commissary to the epicenter of glamour, becoming known as the site of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter’s Oscar party (see sidebar.) While the old guard bemoaned the less clubby feel, the music biz also moved in, rounding out the restaurant’s twilight years. Jennifer Lopez threw her engagement party (to Cris Judd) there in 2001, and in 2002, Sony held its post-Grammys bash at Morton’s, with Celine Dion, Tony Bennett and Destiny’s Child attending. By the time Morton’s closed in 2007, says actor-writer Ben Stein, “It had passed its time by five or six years at least.”

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The Dawn of the Modern PR Campaign

I was walking down the streets of New York, mulling over the release strategy for my new book, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman, when I was mugged.

I didn’t see him and I don’t know how it happened. All I know is I was on the ground. “Hey man, are you okay?”

Are you okay? To someone who’s been contemplating the book business, this is an imposing question. “I don’t know,” I thought to respond, “am I? Are any of us?” Instead I chose to ignore him, and laid there fretting about my impending photo shoot. I had hoped to appear dapper and slightly licentious, like young Truman Capote on the back of Other Voices, Other Rooms, but now I was certain to look more like Eric Stoltz from Mask – but with Jewish hair.

Moments later, a cop was squinting at my nose. He was a short man, with the face of Jon Polito and the body of Miriam Margolyes. “It looks like you’re pretty roughed up, buddy,” he observed, “and you’re gonna hurt for a while but don’t you wurryboutit. The ladies are gonna love it.”

But I didn’t want ladies. I want sales.

“Kid, what do you for a living? What’s your job?”

I mumbled.

“You’re a blogger?”

I mumbled emphatically.

“Oh, a writer!”

I smiled. Blood spurt.

“Well, now you’re gonna be in the papers.”

What? The papers. Wait a second. “Yofinkdanoyowkpah – ”

“Don’t try to talk – ”

The papers. “Yoo fink da Noo York Potht cud wun an item bout – ”

“Listen, kid. Keep your mouth closed.”

But I wanted to sing. I wanted to run to the top of the Conde-Nast building and cry out in wild joy. “Yoo fink Janet Mathlin readths the Potht?” I wasn’t thinking now, I was exploding. “Offither, yoo fink it wud bebedder if the other thide of my fathe wath…” There was literally no end to the possibilities. If I could get mugged again, wouldn’t that make for a better story? And if I did it in another part of town, I could reach a new audience. Of course the backdrop was going to be key here. What about the Bronx? There really was something in my book for the Puerto Rican community. Or Chelsea? No, I had the gays – but the hipsters? If I could just change into a flannel shirt before the next mugging, Nylon might even go for it. Or even Interview. Whoa, whoa. Easy there, keep it cool, keep it viral. Art Forum? Because this is bigger than mugging, this is performance art. Yes, MoMA! Move over Marina Abramovic! “Sam Wasson’s latest series, ‘Mug Shots,’ is the artist’s most explicitly political sequence yet. In the wake of health care reform, Wasson, author of Fifth Avenue, 5.A.M: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman, sets about to demonstrate the inefficiency of the national…”

The paramedics were upon me now, dabbing at my wounds. I tried my best to keep the fuckers off, but my arms were too sore.

“It’s okay, you’re going to be fine. Really.” They were cleaning me up.

No.

“Just hold still.”

Now Graydon would never notice.

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