Saturday, November 06, 2010

Second Annual Norman Mailer Gala at Cipriani's in New York

A week or so ago, I attended the Second Annual Norman Mailer Gala at Cipriani's in New York City with John Gilmore. Last year, John won the Norman Mailer College Award, which in addition to $10,000, earned him a fellowship spot in Provincetown, Cape Cod with eight other very talented writers. This year, we arrived so John could speak about how the fellowship has furthered his writing, and present the award this year's winners.

The event was a thrilling whirlwind of authors, publishers, agents, and brilliant minds whose work I've admired for a long time. I wanted to post a few pictures for friends and family and describe everything, but the narrative of that night was too exciting for a simple blog post.

Everything from having a conversation with the very friendly Tom Wolfe, to sitting down with Gay Talese while he was being interviewed by an ambitious reporter. (I imagined the reporter wasn't so different than the young Talese, who once hunted down an interview with a reluctant Joe DiMaggio at a California golf course.) We met Jann Wenner (the founder of Rolling Stone) soon after he won a Lifetime Achievement Award in Magazine Publishing and thought he was an especially delightful person.

Of course, Larry Schiller was a lot of fun, telling me stories about photos he took of Marilyn Monroe--while we stood in front of the flashing bulbs of the paparazzi--like we were on a walk in the park, like they simply didn't exist. That's how down-to-earth Schiller is. Later, he told me to 'keep John level' and encouraged him not to marry five times as to keep up with the literary greats.

We had fascinating conversations at our table with a very memorable editor from Viking who gave us greatly appreciated publishing advice, and a well-known author who has written about 10 or more books about everything from the diamond cartel to Hollywood. But all the talented people and amazing food and literary wonderment aside, the best part was when I took our little digital camera, trying to zoom in on John when he spoke for about three minutes, making all 500 guests laugh several times. For those three minutes, he could have been somebody or nobody and I'd still be the nervous girlfriend trying to capture him getting the chance to convey the specialness of the fellowship--the confidence and mentorship--the Norman Mailer Colony and Fellowship gave him as a young writer.

P.S. John's essay, "Final Cascade" is published in the Fall 2010 issue of Creative Nonfiction. The issue pays tribute to Norman Mailer and Gay Talese.

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