In High Idle

Fabian Basabe,style
It's a dog's life: Living off his father's largesse and his own likability, social lion Fabian Basabe escorts his pup to a Humane Society benefit. (Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)
By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 7, 2005


Fabian Basabe wears a watch, but don't ask him for the time because he has no idea. He never does.

"It says it's 4 o'clock on the 14th," he says, grinning at his silver Rolex, which at the moment is off by 13 days and 1 hour. "If I take it off for too long it stops and I don't have the patience to keep resetting it. But after a while you get used to wearing one."

Though useless as a timekeeper, Basabe's watch functions amazingly well as a metaphor for its owner, a thoroughly polished 27-year-old known in gossip columns and New York's upper-tier social scrum as Manhattan's "It" boy. Like everything else in Basabe's world, the Rolex costs a bundle and was a gift from his father, a businessman from Ecuador who bankrolls his son's enchanted life. And like Basabe, the watch doesn't work -- although it certainly is in working condition. Basabe has tried his hand at a job or two, but he's over the idea that he needs to punch a clock in some office to feel fulfilled.

"For a while I was intimidated by these people who said they worked for some investment bank," he says, sipping a cappuccino at his favorite Upper East Side restaurant, Mediterraneo. "It sounds great and really prestigious, but those jobs work you to death and they aren't very glamorous."

Full time and low glamour is not Basabe's style. For the past five years he's been a smiling and faddishly coiffed perennial on Manhattan's good-life circuit, popping up at one charity event after another, high-fiving doormen in the city's exclusive nightspots, hanging out with a pack of young trust-funders and Wall Street millionaires. At some point during all this revelry -- through some combination of charisma, ubiquity and, on one memorable evening with young Barbara Bush, uproar -- Basabe graduated to It-dom.

"He's popular for being popular," says Sam Doerfler, his agent at the Ford modeling agency, which is starting to shop Basabe to fashion companies for something called "spokesmodel" gigs. "He walks into a room and he gets the energy level up. When people go to a club or a show they want to have a good time, and when he shows up, they start having a good time."

Think Paris Hilton, but the male version and with his clothes on. Basabe is trying to parlay our fascination with the rich and the idle into nationwide fame and, like Ms. Hilton, a paycheck. It's unclear if getting photographed on red carpets is enough to launch a career, but Basabe is going to give it a shot, trying to turn himself into a one-man brand using nothing more than his looks, status and likability. He's just returned from Los Angeles, where he and his new West Coast agent met with television executives for a round of meet-and-greets. The subject: possible reality TV projects, or maybe a correspondent job on one of those "Access Hollywood"-type shows.

That's the dream, anyway. For now, he's just the highest-profile young socialite in the city, and snicker all you like, plenty of people in Manhattan depend on Basabe and other members of his Platinum Card tribe. Putting Basabe's name on an invitation to a charity event or a club opening is a splendid way to create buzz.

"He makes people feel that they're in the right place," says Johanna Piazza, a reporter for the Daily News gossip column Rush & Malloy. "Which is important for business. You get a steady flow of socialites like Fabian in the bar during the week, and by the weekend, the goombahs are lining up around the block."

Living Without Issue

You might be inclined to dislike Fabian Basabe from afar because he's rich and pampered and good-looking and because he's kind of a layabout and doesn't care what you think about that. Or you might envy his recent marriage to the gorgeous Martina Borgomanero, the Italian heiress to the La Perla line of high-priced lingerie. Across a room, arm in arm with his bride, Basabe looks a little too fabulous for his own good.

Up close, though, it's different. Basabe is disarmingly candid and in a way that isn't calculating. Instead of arrogance, there's a soft-spoken gentility and almost goofy enthusiasm, like a kid on the way to the circus. Dressed a bit preppy in a casual dark sweater, he's the picture of Upper East Side suave, but -- there's no other way to put this -- he's a sweetheart.

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