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Atlantic Magazine Celebrates Its 150th Anniversary
Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
November 8, 2007

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photogrpahed by Rod Nunez

Opposite Photo: Patti Smith




In an age where magazines rise and fall, immolating on the fickle fire of public opinion (and the lack of advertising dollars), The Atlantic Magazine has hit the impressive goal of over one-hundred-and-fifty-years of publication. The now Washington based magazine started in Boston as a simple little brown paper magazine, commencing publication in the days when African Americans were slaves and women could not vote.

It is now one-hundred-and-fifty years later and The Atlantic Magazine held a most unusual party (even for New York) to celebrate. Invited guests (everyone from burlesque artist Angie Pontani to Mayor Bloomberg) entered the auditorium from the loading dock where they checked in and were then freight-elevated up to the auditorium stage for the party which began at 6:30 PM. As each illustrious guest entered the stage, they were greeted by the Publisher of Atlantic Magazine, Justin Smith, the Editor in Chief of Atlantic Magazine, James Bennet, and a bevy of photographers (including New York Cool's exquisitely polite Rod Nunez).

Guest for the evening included: Master of Ceremonies P. J. O'Rourke; former Massachusetts Governor William Weld; writer Christopher Buckley (Thanks for Smoking); Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post); Georgette Mosbacher (the glamour girl of the first Bush administration); author Tom Wolfe (in his signature white suit); singers Patti Smith and Josh Ritter; late-night-cable-shock-queen Robyn Byrd; Angie Pontani of The Pontani Sisters; actor Robert De Niro; Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly; Mayor Michael Bloomberg; musician Moby; performer Murray Hill; man-about-town David Noh in his signature sneaks; and many more.
(Be sure to scroll down and see Rod Nunez's photographs of the party guests.)

It was a highly diverse crowd, but the one thing that all the guests seemed to have in common is a belief that the world can change through political action. From former Massachusetts Governor William Weld who later in the evening proposed that we should elect a President and Vice President from different parties, to an exhausted-looking but fervent Patti Smith to drag-king Murray Hill who by simply standing in the room exemplified the struggle inherent in the politics of gender (he/she also looked cute and fun and might be surprised to hear that he/she exemplied anything other than good taste in pink plaid jackets).

Then 7:30 PM arrived and the rest of the guests arrived and filled the audience. These guests had been invited to the show but not to the cocktail party and thus began the before-mentioned bit of unusualness or controversy (someone really needs to slap a blood pressure cuff on The party invitees continued to stand on the stage, drink cocktails and eat hor doeuvres while the speakers moved to one of the podiums set on opposite sides of the stage to speak to the newly arrived audience. So, the cocktail party guests then became a-la-Nutcracker-party-scene-performers for the ensuing show.

P. J. O'Rourke was the master of ceremonies and he must have thought this arrangement was slightly strange because he began his ramarks with, “We’re having a party up here, while you watch it from down there. It’s stupid.”

I, however, had moved to sit with the audience so I could comfortably take notes and thought the party-on-the-stage idea (even with its nose-against-the-window-pane aspect) was novel and fun.

P. J. O'Rourke then introduced several speakers who had each been asked to give a short talk on a specific aspect of the American Idea.

Arianna Huffington came up with one of the funniest bits. Asked to write a Haiku poem, she actually wrote four, one of which was:

"Founding father George
Famously could not tell lies.
George Bush, not so much.”

Musician Moby had been asked to comment on the idea of intellectual property. After stumbling with the idea a bit (he said he was overworked and had asked for a simpler question), he came up with a quick sound bite, "Don't invest in anything that can be downloaded.

P. J. O'Rourke introduced former Massachusetts Governor Williams Weld as the Joanie Mitchell of politics. Governor Weld speaking about "What's Wrong with Washington" said that since the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, the atmosphere has become poisonous.

The other speakers were: Mark Bowden on "Media of Storytelling"; Azar Nafisi on "Perception and Reality of America"; and the always witty Christopher Buckley on "The Funniest Thing about America."

After the speakers had finished, singer Josh Ritter performed a short (and stirring) set from another podium on the opposite side of the stage. When he finished, Patti Smith took to the stage. Patti told the audience that her first introduction to The Atlantic was when she was a child and her father showed her an article in the magazine that Martin Luther King had written titled, "Letters from Birmingham Jail." Smith performed two songs and then read a poem about freedom; the legendary Smith's performance was the highlight of very interesting and only slightly controversial party.

So here's to The Atlantic! Congratulations on your 150th birthday!

James Bennet (Editor in Chief of The Atlantic), Mayor Michael Bloomberg
& Atlantic Publisher Justin Smith

Robyn Bird, Murry Hill and Angie of the Potani Sisters

Robert DeNiro Speaks with Police Commissioner Kelly

Singer Josh Ritter

Moby (Jonathan Marder of General Strategic Marketing in background)
Tom Wolfe Justin Smith
Georgette Mosbacher David Noh with his Signature Sneaks

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld and Moby

James Bennet, Justin Smith, Elizabeth Keffer (P. J. O'Rourke in Background)

P. J. O'Rourke, Christopher Buckley, Arianna Huffington, Azar Nafisi,
Mark Bowden, Jeffrey Goldberg, (William Weld Behind Moby), Moby

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