At the Tribeca Film Festival Party, Every Name Is Bold

May 5th, 2013

Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times

Robert De Niro and Whoopi Goldberg. More Photos »

It wasn’t clear which stood taller: the Corinthian columns of the New York State Supreme Court or the towering figures of New York society who mingled beneath them at the kickoff to the 12th annual Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday night.

On a temperate spring evening, a crowd of 300 ascended the courthouse steps, plucked from the city’s various power circles: business (Ronald Perelman), journalism (Gay Talese), literature (Salman Rushdie), fashion (Donna Karan), government (Raymond W. Kelly) and, of course, film (Christopher Walken).

“It’s the pillars of New York, literally and figuratively,” said Amy Fine Collins, the Vanity Fair writer.

Much credit for compiling just the right blend of somebodies goes to her boss, Graydon Carter, the Vanity Fair editor and co-host, whose particular brand of aspiration seemed to infuse the event.

The courthouse steps, which enjoyed star turns in movies like “The Godfather,” were blanketed by a field of illuminated plastic tulips, and in the portico guests nibbled on beef Wellington and cornets of salmon courtesy of the chef Thomas Keller. In addition to Champagne and assorted cocktails, the bar offered fresh packs of American Spirit cigarettes.

In the distance, the almost-complete 1 World Trade Center loomed overhead, a majestic reminder of the film festival’s original mission, to revive culture downtown.

Fran Lebowitz, the ever-present party fixture, said she was eager to see the restored print of Martin Scorsese’s 1983 comic thriller, “The King of Comedy,” about a delusional nobody (played by Robert De Niro) chasing television fame, which is scheduled to close out the festival. “It was very prescient,” she said. “It seems like 100 percent of the U.S. population is dedicated to becoming either a billionaire or a star.”

As she spoke, smoke from her cigarette wafted toward Mr. Carter, who looked regal in a foppish dark-royal-blue jacket that, he happily observed, was a different shade of blue from Ms. Lebowitz’s distinctly similar jacket. “Sometimes we have to call each other to make sure we’re not wearing the same thing,” he said. “We have the same tailor.”

It was just one of countless disarmingly charming party quips from Mr. Carter, acting as a ringmaster of the evening. A host’s host, he seemed utterly in his element, fielding a steady stream of power brokers seeking an audience.

At one point in the evening, it seemed as if everyone was somebody. The crush of famous faces included Whoopi Goldberg, Sienna Miller, Tory Burch, Christine Baranski, Gayle King, Wendi Murdoch, Jimmy Buffett and Muffie Potter Aston.

Not quite as approachable was Mr. Carter’s co-host, Mr. De Niro, a festival founder, who is famously irascible with journalists.

“Ahhhhhh,” Mr. De Niro said, waving his arms and recoiling in mock horror as a reporter approached him. “I have nothing to say, everything is good,” he added, before punctuating the comment with a long, guttural “uhhhhhh,” to express his exasperation at being bothered.

“Put the growl in there,” he added with a wink.

“He’s a gentle lamb,” Mr. Carter explained later. “He’s just shy.”

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