Those living in Lower Manhattan may not know which way true north is, but they will very likely be able to point you in the direction of the Odeon. Since the autumn of 1980, this restaurant on the corner of West Broadway and Thomas Street, in Tribeca, has served as a watering hole for artists (Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol), actors (Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese), writers (Tom Wolfe, Bret Easton Ellis and his literary-brat-pack pals), and the entire cast of Saturday Night Live.
This past Tuesday night, guests gathered at the Odeon for AIR MAIL’s celebration, hosted by Graydon Carter and sponsored by Celine, of “the Downtown Set”—the 50 young New Yorkers who are remaking the area below 14th Street in their own image.
An Art Deco ticket machine that pre-dates the Odeon, usually relegated to a dusty corner of the restaurant, was brought out for the occasion, greeting guests at the door with a noisy “ding” and custom yellow tickets—guests’ re-entry passports should they choose to go outside for a smoke.
Inside, servers passed burger sliders, the restaurant’s signature French fries, and cosmopolitans (the restaurant’s light-pink version was invented by a former bartender, Toby Cecchini, in 1988). Marlboro Reds filled the sugar bowls scattered throughout the restaurant. Jason Stewart, who co-hosts the podcast How Long Gone, did the playlist.
Jay McInerney, whose 1984 book Bright Lights, Big City featured the Odeon on the cover and chronicled many cocaine-laced nights there, came early, reminisced, had a cocktail spilled on him along with Graydon Carter, and left. The Grammy-winning opera singer J’Nai Bridges sipped champagne with the artist Iké Udé, who has photographed Michelle Obama and Beyoncé.
The veteran downtown writer and AIR MAIL contributor Legs McNeil showed up with two young brunettes and smoked more than his fair share of the AIR MAIL–provided cigarettes. The photographer Janette Beckman and the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (escorted by Shawn McCreesh) mingled under a red-spangled disco ball that is usually saved for the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve parties.
David Zaslav, president and C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery, chatted away with the Downtown Set, whose members in attendance included the writer Joshua Cohen, who spent most of the night smoking with the novelist Emma Cline and the critic Christian Lorentzen; the artists Aria Dean and Ebecho Muslimova; the designers Mike Eckhaus and Emily Adams Bode; the reporters Allison P. Davis and Alex Vadukul; A24 creative director Zoe Beyer; and the skater and photographer Adam Zhu. Zac Bahaj, of Lucien, brought his mom.
When the lights finally came on, the Odeon waiters ushered the remaining cadre of partyers out onto the curb—though not before the guests helped themselves to the custom ashtrays and matchbooks. Standing under the eaves in the rain, they smoked and carried on until the neighbors started to complain and it was time to stumble on to the next party.
Elena Clavarino is the Senior Editor for AIR MAIL