Lloyd Grove holds up a glass of white wine at Deborah Norville’s book party at Michael’s in New York.
“This is one thing I don’t miss,” he says, as I ask him what it’s like now that he no longer writes a gossip column.
While at the Daily News and previously the Washington Post, Grove would receive up to 10 invitations a day to attend the most glistering celebrity parties. Now the invitations are down to a trickle, but he claims he doesn’t mind.
“I’m so pleased not to go to so many parties any more,” he says. “I did it for almost eight years, and it did start to wear on me and age me a bit. It’s just nice to have a little sanity back in one’s life.”
If so, Grove hasn’t lost his insider touch. At Norville’s party for her book "Thank You Power," he introduces my wife Pam and me to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and CNN President Jonathan Klein. Across the room at Michael’s, known for its top media clientele, he points out billionaires Stephen Schwarzman and William Koch. As he spots Dan Rather and heads toward him, we opt instead for the grilled shrimp.
After being a feature writer for almost two decades at the Washington Post, Grove wrote the paper’s Reliable Source column for four years beginning in May 1999. Then Mortimer Zuckerman lured him to the Daily News, where he wrote Lowdown for another three years beginning in September 2003.
A few days after the book party, I asked Grove, a former Washington Post colleague from years ago, for his take on the two cities.
“In New York, more than in Washington, there are people who always want to give you things. Give you a handmade suit, or jewelry, or liquor, or whatever. And it was my practice really to shy away from that. But the culture of swag is very highly developed in New York in a way that it’s not in Washington.”
Washington is a company town, Grove says.
“Pretty much everything is focused through the prism of government and politics,” he says. “New York has 20, 30 major industries that are headquartered here, everything from the arts to sports to media to finance to real estate. And as a journalist covering both towns, I mean Washington is a lot easier to get your arms around. I pretty much got to know all the players. And in New York, it’s much more complicated, and I’m still on the learning curve.”
Events in New York are often organized to promote a movie or a product like Donald Trump’s vodka.
“The party at Trump Tower had the stickiest floor of any party I’d ever been to, from all the vodka that was spilled,” Grove says. “A lot of parties in New York are held to highlight some fragrance, movie, clothing line, hard liquor. And a lot of parties in Washington are held to highlight some kind of politician.”
In Washington, you see the same people.
“Meg Greenfield [the late editor of the Washington Post editorial page] famously compared Washington to high school,” Grove notes. “And there’s a bit of that in New York, because you have these different groups of people in various lines of work, but there’s so many of them, and they seldom intersect.”
As a journalistic butterfly, Grove would go from one group to the other.
“Depending on what party, whose group’s party you were at, it would often be many of the same people,” he says. “For instance, at least once a week, I would see Harvey Weinstein, the head of now the Weinstein Co. studio and before that Miramax. I’d see Barbara Walters everywhere. She would be at the opening of the opera, and at a book party. And you see the Clintons around too, particularly Bill.”
Asked if Bill behaves himself, Grove says, “He was very well behaved. Every party I saw him at, he behaved almost as much of a gentleman as you are.”
Donald Trump was omnipresent.
“Donald is a staple of the columns, and I developed a very good working relationship with Donald,” Grove says. “You also see these models everywhere—Petra Nemcova, Paulina Porizkova.”
In both cities, Grove was besieged by people wanting publicity.
“You’re constantly hearing from people who want something from you, and it’s understandable,” he says. “As in Washington, there are people who understand what you do, and you can have working relationships with them, and they know how to pitch a gossip column. And there are people who really are kind of clueless, and it’s just sort of stuff for the circular file.”
When it comes to food, the party scene is overrated.
“I’ve had a lot of cheap wine in my job,” he says. “I’ve rarely had beluga caviar. Typically, when I was doing a daily gossip column and would go to all kinds of multiple events in one evening, I’d have my dinner standing up, in hors d’oeuvre increments, which as you know is very unhealthy. So since I left my job, I’m pleased to say that I’ve stopped doing that and live a relatively healthy life. I’ve actually shed about 20 pounds.”
Grove’s last Daily News column appeared on Oct. 9, 2006. He knew going in that the odds were not good that Zuckerman would ask him to stay on beyond his contract.
“God bless him for giving me the opportunity, but he sort of likes to change editors, columnists, and girlfriends on a regular basis,” Grove says.
Grove now writes for Portfolio.com and New York magazine. For Portfolio, he recently interviewed Barry Diller, the internet mogul, and Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, who married the head of the London banking empire in 2000.
Grove, who is single, is known to have dated women like Amy Holmes, a GOP strategist and television talking head named by People as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People. He lives on the West Side, where he frequents Gennaro, an Italian eatery on Amsterdam Avenue at 92nd Street.
“You know, I’m happy with a bologna sandwich,” he says.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of NewsMax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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