Young writers nostalgic for the days when New York’s lit scene was a hotbed of vice are finding an unlikely savior: George Whipple. The bushy-browed NY1 reporter has been hosting regular Friday-night bacchanals in his Theater District penthouse, where regulars can listen to readings in the living room or sample less-licit entertainments in the boudoir and bathroom. The louche atmosphere at these liquor-soaked gatherings, say attendees, is carefully cultivated to encourage all forms of naughtiness.
The invitation to a recent salon was heavy with innuendo and crazy talk: “Craft yourself a pseudonym and a back-story with alternative age, origin, sexuality or non-cyber existence … Speak in puzzles, harrumphs, and Lolita-like phrases to draw thousands of viewers, because our threshold of belief may no longer fluster over a Welles-style invasion (or likely real one), but our imaginations go wild over the casual encounters of Craigslist.”
The Nabokov reference seems more than incidental; Whipple, who is frequently photographed with young lovelies on his arms, is well above the median age of his guests. “I think he gets off on having young people around,” says writer and frequent salon-goer Neeraja Viswanathan. While she admits to finding the Lolita theme “a little forced,” Viswanathan notes that Whipple is “a very good host”—not least for his willingness to share the contents of his medicine cabinet as well as his bar.