Transits and Embarkations
Scaling new heights this week: Siddhartha Mahanta, Evan Hill, Arielle Angel, Elizabeth Bryant, Sophie Kleeman, Bob Bryan, Maggy Donaldson, Graham Starr, Josef Reyes, Susie Armitage, Bradley Hope, Tom Wright, Ellen Wong, a pair of Homeland Security agents “ready to party,” Loïc Gouzer, Josh Dean, Eric Kohn, Jasper Wang, Lucy Woods, and many more…
Whether it was snow or bright sunshine, the crowds at media parties this past week were remarkably consistent. The stuff of life traced along the 5 train from a birthday party in Crown Heights to a subterranean NoHo venue that’s fast becoming a podcaster favorite.
OUT AND ABOUT
On Saturday, February 25, the editor formerly known as “too-many-affiliations to list Siddhartha Mahanta” (see the Whirligig, below, for an update on his affiliation) celebrated his birthday with a glitter-filled party at Two Saints in Crown Heights. Though the party was slated to start around 8:45 p.m., the man of the hour rolled in a bit after nine. “I’m late to my own party,” Mahanta acknowledged. “I felt a little bad, but I figure it’s the one day where I can do it.” How old was he turning? “25,” he claimed. “You know, you look like a young 25,” observed Washington Post investigative reporter Evan Hill. “I do know that, but I like hearing it,” said Mahanta before clarifying that he was turning 39. “I’ll be 38 in May,” said Hill. “What’s the big difference between your mid-30s and your later 30s?” After a moment’s thought, Mahanta said, “It’s very cliche to say, but it’s harder to come by the energy and the enthusiasm to do your stuff.”
Even so, Mahanta mustered the energy to pack the bar with friends and former co-workers, including Jewish Currents editor-in-chief Arielle Angel and newsletter editor David Klion; Harper’s senior editor Elizabeth Bryant and contributor Sam Sussman; from Insider, tech features editor Tekendra Parmar, senior investigations editor, Nancy Pelosi diet replicator Sophie Kleeman, and commentary editor and fellow stunt eater Bob Bryan; AFP writer Maggy Donaldson; Bloomberg global business editor Graham Starr and Bloomberg Markets design director Josef Reyes; former BuzzFeed global managing editor Susie Armitage (who brought enough glitter face paint to go around); Mother Jones associate editor Jacob Rosenberg and staff reporters Noah Lanard and Ali Breland; Vox senior foreign policy writer Jonathan Guyer; ubiquitous media type Mark Allen; Atlantic senior associate editor Saahil Desai; and MSNBC political columnist and editor Zeeshan Aleem.
Mahanta texted his birthday resolutions the next day: “To be kinder to myself and use my time as a human and a journalist to inspire people to do their best work. And have fun.”
On Wednesday, Project Brazen hosted a party to celebrate its new podcast Dynamite Doug, which covers the looting of Cambodia’s cultural heritage, at Jeans in NoHo. Bradley Hope, one of the company’s co-founders and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, explained that, like Leon Neyfakh, who hosted a party for the latest season of his podcast Fiasco in the space last year before it had a name or lightbulbs in the bathrooms, they’d booked the venue because its owner was an old friend. Hope had flown out from London on Monday but compared to his co-founder Tom Wright, his jet lag was pretty minimal. “Tom is a disaster. He flew from Singapore 28 hours to get here,” Hope said. “Not only that, but I recently had knee surgery, and I flew coach,” Wright told The Fine Print. Had the jet lag abated at all? “No, I’m really flagging. I think I’m going to need to either get really drunk or go and have a lie-down,” he said with a longing glance at the couches around the room.
Though a team of journalists conducted the research for Dynamite Doug, the podcast is hosted by Scott Pilgrim and Glow actor Ellen Wong, who told The Fine Print, “I thought I wanted to be a reporter — I started off in journalism, but I knew right away that I wanted to be an actor.” It was her acting prowess and her Cambodian family background that led Project Brazen to bring her in on the project. “She brought a lot to it,” Hope said. “A lot of journalists think they’re good hosts, but they’re terrible. I myself don’t even do it. I don’t want to be the guy reading, ‘Hey guys, join me on the adventure.’ I’m a print person.”
Though the crowd didn’t quite fill the venue to capacity, the party attracted an eclectic bunch, and the conversations reflected the adventuresome tenor of Project Brazen’s shows. “We’re federal agents with Homeland Security,” said John Paul Labbat, introducing himself and his colleague Rob Mancene. When The Fine Print joked that in their loose, dark suits and ties, they looked the part, he took the compliment but didn’t laugh. “We work cultural property investigations, and both of our cases were featured on the podcast,” he explained. Were DHS office parties anything like this? “Not typically.” Well, maybe they could take a cue from this podcast event the next time they launch an investigation? “We’ll look you up and throw a party about it,” Labbat said and started dancing a bit. “I’m ready to party.” In another corner of the room, a member of the venue’s security team told The Fine Print how much better this job was than his previous gig at a morgue. “We had three refrigerators: regular, for fresh bodies, like us; decomposed; and for babies,” he reminisced. How bad were the decomposed ones? “Have you seen a zombie movie? Like that.” But they can’t have smelled too bad in those conditions, right? “Not until they started thawing.”
Also present were Salvator Mundi sale broker Loïc Gouzer, Longform podcast co-host Evan Ratliff, Campside Media co-founder Josh Dean, IndieWire executive editor Eric Kohn (“These guys are tapping into the documentary market at a really exciting time. Also, we’re a few weeks out from a potential writers strike and documentaries are going to have a rise, I’m sure.”), The Mintz Group investigative firm founder Jim Mintz, Atlantic contributing writer Timothy McLaughlin, who helped create Dynamite Doug, a contingent from Defector including vice president of revenue and operations Jasper Wang, culture writer Israel Daramola, and staff writers Sabrina Imbler and Giri Nathan (“I hung out with my nephew last week. I threw him in the pool,” he said. “He seemed like he was down with it, but then he made a fuss afterwards.”), Mortified podcast creator David Nadelberg, host of the fourth season of the Witnessed podcast Larrison Campbell, Project Brazen contributor Susie Armitage (who wowed The Fine Print and Americas Society editorial associate Jon Orbach with the depths of her knowledge about Central Asian rap), host of the Project Brazen podcast The Closer Aimee Keane, standing next to the show’s producer Ben Walsh, Project Brazen associate producer Georgia Gee, the ubiquitous Mahanta (who until recently was a consulting producer at Project Brazen and said he’d been feeling a little creakier since his birthday party, though he’d biked up to Lincoln Center and back to prove to himself that he still had some reserves of youth), and Project Brazen head of research Lucy Woods. “I just went on my honeymoon,” she said. “I got married during the pandemic in 2021. We went to Florida for Disney World and Universal, and then nine days in Oaxaca in Mexico. Disney was great, but I also love Harry Potter, so Universal was good too.” Audiation founder Sandy Smallens asked, “What about J.K. Rowling?” Woods sprinted across the room before returning to explain, “I literally ran away, as every British person would.”
Around 10:30 p.m., as the crowd thinned, a group of die-hards danced in front of the DJ under the disco ball. Hope stood near the coat check, drinking a bottle of Saratoga water and watching the dancers. He was conserving energy for a barrage of meetings set to start at 8 a.m. the following morning. “My wife is always the first one dancing, and I end up getting dragged in,” he mused, “but she’s not here, so I can relax.”
➾ 8:30 p.m. More than 20 readers, including New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman, former New York Times critic Margo Jefferson, novelist Colm Tóibín, New York Times contributor Mona Eltahawy, and n+1 contributor Laura Kolbe, will perform a live reading of the entirety of Nobel winner Annie Ernaux’s novel Happening at the Villa Albertine on the Upper East Side.
➾ 8:30 p.m. El Chapo chronicler and Rolling Stone contributor Noah Hurowitz and his twin brother Mikewill celebrate their birthdays at a bar in Williamsburg. “Bring dollar bills for dice, probably,” the brothers wrote in the invite.
➾ 7 p.m. New York Times Magazine and Outside contributor Erica Berry will discuss her new book Wolfishwith poet and novelist Caroline Hagood at Books are Magic on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights.
➾ 7 p.m. The Drift will host a party celebrating its ninth issue at Ainslie Bowery on the Lower East Side.
➾ 7 p.m. Paper co-founder David Hershkovits and New York magazine veteran Mark Jacobson will host the first event of the Meeting of the Minds Club in the East Village.
➾ 7:30 p.m. As part of the first night of Peter BD Presents: Connection, writers James Yeh, Sarah Jean Alexander, Uzodinma Okehi, and others will stage a reading at Canada Gallery on the Lower East Side.
➾ 7:30 p.m. Elle contributor Stephanie Clifford will discuss her new novel The Farewell Tour with New York Times investigative reporter Jessica Silver-Greenberg at the Greenlight bookstore in Flatbush.
➾ 6:30 p.m. Media reporters from across publications will gather at a bar in downtown Manhattan to gossip about the rest of you.