by Evan Mulvihill
"What's disgusting? Union busting!" screamed the protesting Teamsters outside ofSotheby'sYorkville digs this past Monday. While they recently lured youngerOccupy Wall Streetersto their cause in a robust protest outside of Broadway's "The Mountaintop," the Teamsters' numbers tonight were thin, although the 10 union members present were certainly leveraging their whistles, megaphones, and loud voices to create quite a ruckus.
"This is our normal night crew," Teamsters Local 814 PresidentJason Idetold me. "During the daytime we have about 30 to 40 guys." They've been organizing against Sotheby's refusal to grant union members benefits and raises, all while the company posts record profits, bumps its CEO pay, and hosts star-studded events like Monday's "Take Home a Nude" auction, which raised $800,000 to benefit scholarship funds at theNew York Academy of Art.
"We've been locked out for 2 and a half months," said Ide, whose boyish looks made the 30-year-old seem even younger than his mostly older fellow Teamsters. "We'd like to come back and do our jobs and work as art handlers. I actually worked as an art handler for 6 years before I was president of the union. But the company won't let us unless we take big concessions."
The various socialites, art-world heiresses, and bona-fide celebrities assembled on the seventh floor of Sotheby's for the benefit auction didn't seem to pay much mind to the Teamsters. "One sympathizes," said NYAA board chairEileen Guggenheimwhen asked if they were putting a damper on the evening. "Although one doesn't seem to be related to us. We don't really know what their issues are. But I think everybody's mood is high."
It was hard not to be cheerful in such a lavish environment. Where the Teamsters outside had an aesthetically unappealing giant blow-up balloon-a fat cat dressed in a business suit, holding a helpless worker in its paw-we had quail egg hors d'oeuvres on polenta cake with caviar, world-class artwork selling for up to $45,000, and the likes ofPadma Lakshmi,Marcus Samuelsson,Angela Bassett,Nicole Bassett,Andre Balasz, andSean MacPherson.
Not all attendees were as accommodating of the protesters as Guggenheim.Richard Blumenthal, vice chair of the board of trustees for the NYAA, said a Teamster spat on him because he refused to take a handbill. When asked if he sympathized with them, he said, "No, I don't sympathize with them! They're one of the most crooked unions out there, and they have been from the very beginning."
Expected till the day of,Blake Livelyfailed to show, perhaps because she is off in Boston continuing her ragtag romance ofRyan Reynolds. HopefullyKarl Lagerfeldwon't be too peeved at her for skipping out on the event, though apparently Chanel employees arealready upset that she's the face of Karl's handbag line. An unexpected visit fromMary-Kate Olsencertainly upped the celebrity factor of the room. The young billionaire-probably the wealthiest person in the room-failed to bid on anything at the auction, and refused to let me snapa pic of her with leather-daddy/architectPeter Marino.
I then asked if she'd talk a bit-another "no." Not even about her sister's movie-a softball topic if there ever was one. "It's so hot in here," she said, changing the subject ever so subtly while she fanned herself with the night's playbill. After fanning herself for 5 minutes, she finally took off the huge fur vest that was likely the cause of her heat issues.
Other interview turner-downers includedAngela Bassett, who grabbed me by the arm and fabulously said to me, "Not right now, honey. I need to shop!" before jetting off to the live auction. I'm assuming she came post-performance of "The Mountaintop," in which she's co-starring withSamuel L. Jackson, who plays Martin Luther King Jr. in it (and whom I spoke to two weeks ago).
Coincidentally and ironically enough, the play's already been the target of the Teamsters' ire because it's part-financed by Sotheby's evil overlord/chairman of the boardMichael I. Sovern. (I did search for him on behalf of the Teamsters, to try and stick him with some hard questions, but after asking two old men if they were Michael Sovern and getting blank stares, I gave up my quest.)
Also declining interviews was Padma Lakshmi, who had two publicists ready to shut down any snoopy reporters who gave it the old college try. Padma yukked it up with buddy Eileen Guggenheim, but didn't bid on anything this year, unlike last year, when she, Eileen, and I had a funny little meet-cute over her winning bid for anEric Fishlpiece. I also had a funny little chat with Robert Verdi last year, but my milquetoast editors at New York Social Diary, who I was covering for, cut out his off-color line. This year it happened again, but I have the liberty of virtually printing all his dirty talk. I leave you with my and Robert's little chat from this year, in its entirety.
Me: You always give me pretty funny stuff.
Robert: Funny shit, I say funny shit.
Did you see the Teamsters outside?
Did you take one of their pamphlets?
I did not. I'm all for tyranny and conspiracy against the Man. I think it's fantastic. I think there should be more conspiracy. I think people are conspiring against me, quite honestly.
Oh really? Who?
I dunno. Everybody. The entire television industry, but whatever.
Why is that?
I don't know! I think I'm totally hateable for some reason.
Do you want your own TV show?
No, no. I watch porn.It's just more entertaining than anything I could ever do. And it involves some very interesting acrobatic moves.
I never can print this stuff.
How come? I always give you porn.
I tried to get something in the New York Social Diary last time, and they cut it out.
They refused? They never did it?
I asked, "Do you come here often?" And you said something about coming often.
I know. I always make gross jokes. I remember.
And then I had that thing about RuPaul, which I sent to theDaily News. You said that Heidi Klum was channeling RuPaul with her Halloween costume last year.
I was right! They didn't run that?
No, they did.
Oh, it slipped.
No, it was there.
No, I mean, it slipped, I didn't mean it. I meant it, but I didn't mean it.
Yeah, we weren't supposed to bring our voice recorders into that party, but the red carpet was so ridiculous, all the reporters just descended and hunted for quotes.
No. At the Heidi Klum party.
I was gonna say, that's ridiculous. These people wanna be recorded. Especially this one... [points to the lady in front of us, Joanne Herring, a Houston socialite who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in "Charlie Wilson's War"]
I thought she [Joanne] was Joan Rivers.
She's right there, with her back to us. [I point] You have to see her face.
Oh, they all look the same, once you've been cut up and put back together. It's like... you can't talk about her behind her back either because her ears are there.
We're literally talking about her behind her back.
But she can hear. She can hear. She's genius.
So no plans for TV?
I always have plans for TV, but TV isn't making plans for me, so I'm going to have to take them by storm.
How about Bravo? What about Andy Cohen? Have you tried him?
Oh, Andy Cohen wouldn't put me on TV. He doesn't want to put anyone else who could be competitive with him on television.
Oh yeah? You think you could take him down?
Oh yeah. Have you seen the gay men he puts on the channel? Care to review that? Think about it for a second.
Have you watched the A-List on Logo at all?
No. I don't really watch television, so it's not specifically against any show. I just don't watch any show. I do try to watch the Real Housewives, the recaps on Hulu. Cause I like people who pull hair and scream and call each other names. It makes me feel comfortable, like I'm at home.
Who's your favorite one?
I don't have any favorites. I can't pick favorites. That's like trying to pick a favorite shoe. I like them all for different reasons.
Are you going to buy any of the art tonight?
I have been collecting art for several years now.I focus my investment capital in the art world and in the art market. So, yeah, maybe.
Is that risky for you?
No. I actually have a really good eye. I mean, what do gay men invest in? We don't have children like we're gonna put through college.
Yeah, but that's just boring. Why would you waste good money on children? Why would you buy a spicy child when you could buy a spicy piece of art?
I don't know. I can't answer that.
No more spicy babies. I mean, I'm going to travel far and wide to buy a spicy baby from a far corner of the universe? To hell with that. I'll buy a spicy nude.
You don't have to go so far to get a baby. There's plenty of ones right here. I don't think you need to go so far.
Art is the only thing that's hung in my apartment, if you know what I mean.
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