"Are there any thespians in the house?" asked Simon Doonan at City Winery for the second annual House of SpeakEasy gala on Wednesday night, looking for sympathy. The writer and window dresser long associated with Barney's (he's now the store's creative ambassador at large), had launched into his story about having been tapped for the part of Nigel in the movie of The Devil Wears Prada, a good choice in everyone's estimation, but he had reservations. "It's the role of the helpful homosexual," he quipped, "and I'm not that helpful." Concluding they were merely picking his brain, "Nigel" did in fact go to a thespian, Stanley Tucci, and yes, there were at least three thespians present in a roomful of writers and other book lovers: Uma Thurman, Jim Dale and Dan Stevens.
Riffing on the theme of Runnin' Wild, Doonan was one of three featured performers for the event celebrating an organization dedicated to supporting writers, building new literary audiences, and connecting the two in entertaining ways. Another speaker was Susan Fales-Hill, a memoirist and writer for television who began her career as an apprentice on The Cosby Show. A mixed salad of genetic material, she revealed that though she is married for 18 years to the same man, and therefore not wild in the least, she secretly yearns for Downton Abbey's Mr. Bates. Only Dan Stevens from that cast, a heartthrob to many as the ill-fated Matthew Crawley, attended with his wife Susie Hariet. A sometime writer, known to tweet, he's editor-at-large of a literary magazine, The Junket.
Humorist P. J. O'Rourke went wild on the subject of baby boomers' absorption in the self. This entertainment was leavened by Jim Dale's skillful recitation of familiar quotes from Shakespeare, two of John Dewar and Son's Last Great Malts, Aberfeldy and Craigellachie single malt whiskies, and a literary quiz masterminded by the evening's M. C. Amanda Foreman. A mother of five who goes by the name of Bill, Foreman's latest credit is with BBC2. She will present a show called The World Made by Women, based on a book of the same title that will be published by Random House in 2016.
Thank goodness! The word is alive and well!
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.