The Rolling Stone magazine party of 1976 has gone down in current folklore as the mob event where Warren Beatty, Hunter Thompson, Bella Abzug, etc., etc., couldn't get in. Lauren Bacall fumed on the sidewalk.
The Rolling Stone magazine party of 1980 will probably be remembered -- if at all -- as just some Friday night cocktails.
"Maybe no party is as good as the one you can't get into," said Clay Felker, the magazine and newspaper editor who was left standing in the street in 1976. He might have been there all night if somebody hadn't come up with the idea of fleeing to Regine's. There, they let him in.
The host of both events was Jann Wenner, the young and plump editor and publisher of the magazine. In 1976, he threw the party for Jimmy Carter's staff, but this year he switched to Kennedy's campaign workers. When this discrepancy was pointed out, Wenner replied: "It was nothing I did. Carter did it." He continued chewing hungrily on his straw.
Over by the railing on the 28th floor terrace of the Fifth Avenue building that looked out over a twinkling Manhattan, Art Garfunkel noted, "The only good party is the one where you call your friends at the last minute and say, 'Hey, come on over.'"
But to many, the party was really the kind where you'd call your friends and say just that. Glasses tinkled softly in the cool, dimly lit magazine offices and elegant little cheeses and flowers were strewn here and there. Almost everybody looked like they were somebody, and if they weren't, they were at least attractive and expensively dressed. Talk was less about the upcoming rules fight and more about "Have you been in the Hamptons this week" or in one case, the surf at Malibu. Standing outside on the terrace, a warm wind blowing your hair, the lights of the Plaza Hotel and the stretch of Central Park below, there was a heady sense of having reached the room at the top -- if only for a night or a moment.
Garfunkel, who wore a loosened tie, khaki-colored jacket and but for his well-known face could have melted into the Kennedyites, acknowledged that he normally hangs out with actors and not young political types. "What if they realize how dumb I really am?" he said he thought to himself before the party. "I can admit my ignorance," he said.
At this point, a young woman in white came up to Garfunkel, threw her arms around him, kissed him firmly on the lips several times, and announced: "I found my mate." This, alas, was not directed towards Garfunkel but instead towards some other young man. She moved away, with a "Give me a call," over her shoulder. Garfunkel shrugged.
A little later, Wenner acknowledged that Rolling Stone may have matured some in four years. "I thing we're growing up," he said, standing among vases of gladiolas, glassfuls of delicate fruit and the suntanned faces of half a dozen Kennedy kids.
But one guest put Wenner's thought this way: "Four years ago Rolling Stone was at its height," said Walter Isaacson, a Time magazine correspondent. "They'd hit politics and gonzo journalism with Hunter Thompson, and people were waiting in the streets to get into the party.
"But now, how much can you write about New Wave and punk, and whether or not the Bee Gees are going to be the new Beatles? It's hard to be serious about rock music. What Rolling Stone could do four years ago they can't do today."
The ballast of the party was composed of young staffers of the Kennedy campaign and young reporters who covered it. A lot of them stood around reminiscing about the old days on the trail and already talking about the campaign in the past tense.
"It was great on the private jet," said one reporter, "with the Waring blender that was making banana daiquiris."
Bobby Kennedy Jr., for one, refused to concede. "We're encouraged about the last two weeks," he said. "It looks better now than it has in a long time."
"If Teddy hadn't run this time," he continued, "I think he would have lost a lot of credibility. "I'm glad Teddy ran -- I think everyone in our family is."
Other Kennedy staffers took a less Pollyanna approach. "Kennedy is just not a viable candidate," said one organizer who worked for him in New York. "There was a moment a week ago when he could have thrown his support to Scoop Jackson but he didn't and now the Democrats have lost."
Other guests at the party included Victor Navasky, editor of The Nation; author Laly Weymouth, political columnist Mary McGrory; Rolling Stone writer Alex Cockburn; Jeff Ruhe, who married Courtney Kennedy; Elaine of Elaine's; Carl Bernstein; who sat outside on the hood of a car in 1976; and Melody Miller, a longtime Kennedy staffer who said the candidate had decided to skip the party and stay home.