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Wriston Lecture
1988


Fact and Fiction in the New York of the Eighties
(unedited transcript)

Tom Wolfe

… Dickens and the social order, published in 1985 and still in print. Be sure to buy your copy. And of course, somebody who has written on Dickens is eminently well qualified to introduce Mr. Tom Wolfe, our guest of honor this evening, but I give you now Myron Magnet.

<Applause>

Thank you Peter. What kind of an artist is Tom Wolfe? Can a writer this funny  can a writer this funny be an artist? I don't know about you, but I grew up thinking of an artist as somebody like Jackson Pollack, throwing paint around in what I took to be a divine frenzy. The muse looking over his shoulder guided the drops to the right place, that was what an artistic gift was all about.

Or an artist was someone like Norman Mailer who looked into his heart, or who knows where he looked, and let life's primal energies come surging out through his pen.

Or maybe a real artist was like the somewhat stoned poet in Kolderage's Kubla Kahn, you know, beware, beware, his flashing eyes, his floating hair, for he on honeydew hath fed and drunk the milk of paradise. If you don't find an artist in agony, then you're sure to find him in ecstasy, that's the way they are.

With such a view of the artist, it's hard to know what to make of the urbane elegant figure in the vanilla suit, in the magpie shoes. It's puzzling. But in fact, Tom Wolfe belongs to an older artistic tradition than this romantic one of Koldrerage. He's a descendent of Swift's Gulliver's Travels, of Alexander Pope and of their Roman predecessors Horace and Juvenile. He's the modern representative of the tradition of satire.

The old satirists certainly meant to poke fun and get laughs, but they had a serious purpose too. They saw their job as riding herd on morals and manners, which were a department of morals. They knew that beside a love of money or power, people are also driven by a hunger to be thought well of. So, to stop people from trampling values that ought to be cherished, why waste time preaching at them? Just ridicule them. Publicly. Memorably. And personally. Sometimes even naming names.

Pope once wrote to a friend that in times of widespread corruption it's useless to complain about corruption in general. Who cares? If everyone's doing it, no one feels personally responsible. He wrote "’tis only by hunting one or two from the herd that any examples can be made." Writing against bandits as a class, or lawyers as a class does no good Pope says. But to pillary one or two recognizable individuals works wonders. The others will take notice.

Only those who've made themselves conspicuous for folly or vice are fair game. After all, it is satire’s urbane thought that culture and values aren't made or marred by anonymous forces, but by identifiable individual movers and shakers.

Pope zeroed in on the top dogs of his 18th century world. On the famous essayist Abbeson for example who could damn with faint praise, ascent with civil leer, and without sneering, teach the rest to sneer. Or on the fashionably decorous Countess of Suffolk who, while her lover pants upon her breast, can mark the figures on an Indian chest. And when she sees her friend in deep despair observes how much a chin succeeds mohair.

Tom Wolfe, our satirist, doesn't trifle with the obscure either. Remember his 1970 article Radical Chic? That's the one that deliciously pilaried Leonard Bernstein for forming so emptyheadedly on the Black Panther. When you walk into this house, Bernstein happily gushed to one of his panther guests, you must feel infuriated. Don't you feel bitter?

With all its irresistible hilarity, that article is a scalpel sharp putdown of notably foolish political and social attitudes that were rampant not so long ago.

Or, in another essay, there is a well known Levi's clad writer working out his annual budget in his Riverside Drive study. Ummm. Carrying charges on 7 room co-op. Tuition for one kid at Dalton and the other at Collegiate. Garaging for the BMW. A cocktail party including $210 for flowers. Rent for the summer house at the vineyard, where at a party with a bunch of Boston bluebloods he daydreamed about an American aristocracy made up of old money like them and new talent like him. My God, what a sum! And all these are necessities. Well, better buckle down to a new book and earn all that money. The Atlantic or Playboy will print excerpts. Or Hustler, but that's too gross. So he types out the working title. Recession and Repression: Police State America and the Spirit of ‘76. You can't ask for a better refutation of that particular humbug of the left.

Caricature is satire's younger cousin. And Tom Wolfe, especially in his brilliant Bonfire of the Vanities now 54 weeks on the bestseller list, is a caricaturist as well as a satirist.

For over a century, people have been saying that Dickens, the greatest novelist of them all, is a caricaturist. They mean it as a criticism. They mean to say that Dickens distorts and oversimplifies, and if that's okay, barely okay with the lower middle class characters Dickens often depicts, it's really over the line when he does it to the rich and great. These people, the critics say, are very very serious. Hah! says caricature, flinging down such pretensions and dancing upon them. The rich and great can also be carbuncled, gluttonous, lecherous, boorish, dimwitted, predatory, vulgar, you name it. Caricature emphasizes faults and failings to show that its targets are just as human and imperfect and laughable as the rest of us, if not more so. In its coldeyed unawed exaggeration, it strips away the veneer and gets down to the <?> essentials.

Here's just one example from Dickens, a description of the silverware at rich and proper Mr. Pugsnaps dinner party and our mutual friend.

Mr. Pugsnap could tolerate taste in someone who stood in need of that sort of thing, but was far above it himself. Hideous solidity was the characteristic of the Pugsnap plate. Everything was made to look as heavy as it could and to take up as much room as possible. Everything said, boastfully, here you have as much of me and my ugliness as if I were only lead, but I am so many ounces of precious metal worth so much an ounce. Wouldn't you like to melt me down? All the big silver spoons and forks widened the mouths of the company, expressly for the purpose of thrusting this sentiment down their throats with every morsel they ate.

Tom Wolfe, especially in the Bonfire, is master of this same manner. Here's one example out of many. Lunching at La Boudel John, The Mud of Silver, an unlikable old tycoon has the misfortune of sliding to the floor with a heart attack that proves fatal. The faces at the tables all around stared at the appalling spectacle, but they did nothing. A large old man was lying on the floor in very bad condition. Perhaps he was dying. Certainly any of them who managed to get a look at his face could tell that much. At first they had been curious, is he going to die right in front of us? At first there had been the titillation of someone else's disaster. But, now the drama was dragging on too long. The conversational roller had died down. The old man looked repulsive. He had become a problem of protocol.

If an old man was dying on the carpet a few feet from your table, what was the proper thing to do? Offer your services? Well, but there was already a traffic jam there in the aisles between the rows of tables. Clear the area and give him air and come back later to complete the meal? Oh, but how would empty tables help the man? Stop eating until the drama had played itself out and the old man was out of sight? But the orders were in and the food had begun to arrive, and there was no sign of any <?>, and this meal was costing about $150 per person once you added in the cost of the wine. And it was no mean trick getting a seat in a restaurant like this in the first place. Avert your eyes? Well, perhaps that was the only solution.

So much for the idea that no man is an island. That every man's death diminishes all of us. In this novel, about the absolute isolation of man from man, of class from class. What kind of an artist is Tom Wolfe? All this is to say that with his luminous intelligence and technicolor prose, he is a real artist, an artist in whom literature is irrepressibly, brilliantly alive. Thank you.

 

<Applause>

Well, to coin a phrase there is more to come. However it will not come until some more food has been served, so I'm instructed to exhort you to eat your peas and such and keep eating and somebody else will be up here in a moment. Thank you.

<General audience conversations>

If I could have your attention. It is time for the next course in our feast this evening. If I could have the attention of the assembled crowd I would like to present to you the next introducer. My name is Charles Murray. I am also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and want to welcome you here this evening. The next speaker is one of those people who people in my own position, admire for all sorts of reasons. But one of the most important is that as the years go on and fashions, intellectual fashions rise and fall, there are a few voices in academia who continue to speak with a reasonable, thoughtful and well informed understanding of what's going on around them. And Nathan Glazer of Harvard University has been one of those people throughout years in which it has been no small feat to preserve that kind of equanimity and that kind of insight. It is with great pleasure that I introduce

Professor Nathan Glazer.

<Applause>

Thank you Charles. I suppose it's appropriate that Myron Magnet who was asked to speak about Tom Wolfe's literary accomplishments was elegant, and that I I think I was asked to speak as a sociologist, will be appropriately stodgy.

I know I think Bill Hammet asked me to introduce Tom Wolfe, say a few words, because I once wrote a book on New York City 25 years ago, and I'm now writing another. And when people ask me what the book on New York will be, and I have to say something, don't want to give everything away, what I've been saying recently is it will be the footnotes to the Bonfire of the Vanities. To my mind, Tom Wolfe with this book became the premier sociologist in New York City. I know most people, when you say a novelist is a sociologist, think you are not paying much respect to the novelist. After all, sociology is not in very high repute these days. And by the way, there are some sociologists I know, stodgy as they are, who when they say they  if you were to say they were novelists they would be very insulted too. But I believe sociology at its best and novel writing at its best, are both efforts to tell truths, get to something important, and everyone who lives in and works in and contemplates New York City senses that Bonfire of the Vanities is telling us deep and important truths indeed about New York City and about urban life in America generally.

And they used to say about sociologists, you got $100,000 grant to find all the cathouses in one section of town, and so they did research, but there was certainly research that went into Bonfire of the Vanities. One is deeply impressed when one hears how much people make, or how they live, or what they feel and sense is that's absolutely right, and it's not gotten from knowledge of Manhattan below 96th Street or from places like this.

Again and again, readers of this book have told me they have been amazed to find in the daily newspaper an account of something which it seems Tom Wolfe must have known about before it happened. Just a few days ago someone came to my office who works on Manpower Training Projects in The Bronx. A kind of semiacademic, he does evaluation of programs. And he came to see me for various reasons and he said he had been dropping in on the Larry Davis trial and the Bronx County Courthouse.

I don't know how many of you have followed the Larry Davis trial. And he said it is amazing. It is just like Bonfire of the Vanities. He had interviewed William Cuntsler, and he is just like, or at least close enough to, the lawyer in Bonfire of the Vanities. And now that the trial or the second trial of Larry Davis has come to an end, if you follow the Times and you read it yesterday, or the Times today, and know what happened. Larry Davis was accused of shooting a half dozen policemen or more who had come to arrest him for some previous homicides, and he was guilty of  innocent of the previous ones in a trial and now he's been found innocent of shooting the policemen by a Bronx jury, to the outrage of Commissioner Ward. Today's Times. And of course anyone has to say it's just like the Bonfire of the Vanities. Bronx juries Tom Wolfe wrote a year ago, I suppose more like 3 years ago, but it was published a year or so ago, were drawn from the ranks of those who know that in fact the police are capable of lying. Bronx juries entertained a lot of doubts, both reasonable and unreasonable. And Black and Puerto Rican defendants who are stone guilty, guilty as sin, did walk out of the fortress free as birds.

It's a very balanced statement. It's right. You know Larry Davis must he guilty, but they've had experiences and Cuntsler can convince them that he's been framed.

Now of course from the beginning Tom Wolfe was not only a journalist, but a social critic. People were amused and diverted by the wonderful gloss of detail. Everyone learned something they had never known. Maybe it'd been made up. On the other hand, one felt it was right, it had been studied, the prices, the shoes, and whatever it was, even though we didn't know about it. But some people stopped at the details, and it was enough to amuse them, but we also knew there was something more. There was the point of view of a social critic, not a journalist, someone who wanted to respond to elements of society, indeed of a moralist, but whom it was not easy to define or label. Even if some of us in this room might be tempted to claim him for one point of view or another, this came home to me with special force when I heard Tom Wolfe speak at Harvard last spring.

He had been invited by the senior class. The senior class elects senior class marshals and then they ask somebody to come and talk. And oh, very often it's been humorous actually. Others too. But I think that's what they're looking for, it's a big outdoor event. And Tom Wolfe was a class day speaker.

That alone was somewhat surprising to me. Harvard is not very different from other Ivy League universities, and being, to use a label, liberal. Obviously. After all, 75% of our students in the regular crimson prepresidential straw vote voted for Michael Dukakis, and that's where they are. And as such, Harvard seniors might have been expected to look askance at Tom Wolfe. Not only not to invite him, but if he were by chance to be invited to do something. They didn't do anything. They just came and listened, they and their parents and an occasional faculty wandered in and so on. And I found that for Harvard and for students today a quite remarkable occasion.

Now here I have had a problem. I would like to tell you some of the things he said, which I remember very well. And I feel if I tell it to you he might want to  no, he owns it. It hasn't been published and he might want to say the same thing. So I will just suggest something. And I don't know, he may have another speech entirely. But it was remarkable because very subtly, and with no labels, Tom Wolfe made them think and question and reflect on things that they took for granted and assumed were perfectly ordinary.

He showed them that there were very peculiar and unsettling characteristics in our current society. That's a moralist, a caricaturist, a satirist. They laughed at it and they were troubled by it. I think they were troubled by it. He got them, I think, to think  to see social issues in a new way for them, for many of them. He talked about some social problems for examples. Again, I won't give anything away, and he said  and he went to the list of terms with which we describe them. You can almost guess it. You know, begin a ways back and get to the present, and just take a social problem, see the words. They laughed. But in laughing they realized something had happened. That things that were once considered matters of right or wrong, and maybe simple mindedly think matters of right, of wrong, had now been covered over with words, sociologists and others, and we're now in a much more confused state.

Now at the end of the talk, the class marshal, a black student thanked Tom Wolfe, and I think in a more than perfunctory way. Now that, you know, <?> Bonfire of the Vanities, you think it through, you wonder about it, and he was impressed. And looking at that scene, hearing the applause, seeing the class marshal thank Tom Wolfe from the heart earnestly, I thought that this was a great credit to Tom Wolfe. Working with those wonderful details with his eye and his ear for the way we act and talk he had made it possible for everyone in that audience to get above their labels and see things. Thank you.

<Applause>

:And now once more an interlude, and then Tom Wolfe. Thank you.

<END OF SIDE #1>

... and all those associates for this lovely, elegant, tasteful, delightful dinner, as well as for the incredible achievements they've made this past year, and it is now my honor and pleasure to introduce our featured speaker, Mr. Tom Wolfe.

<Applause>

Chuck, you're tall. Thank you very very much Chuck and ladies and gentlemen. Now that Myron Magnet, one of our very great Dickensian scholars has compared me not only to Charles Dickens, but to Horace and Juvenal, and now that Nathan Glazer has mentioned me in the same breath with one of the greatest sociologists in the world, namely Nathan Glazer, and now that I have been invited to address an assembly as distinguished as this, I think if I had any sense of proportion at all I would retire right now. There's nothing that I can say tonight, and probably nothing that I can do in the days ahead that will lift me to any greater eminence and I thank the Manhattan Institute profoundly. I also want to thank the Manhattan Institute for one of the great experiences that came out of the writing of the Bonfire of the Vanities, and I write to Manhattan Paper #3, which I hope many of you have read, a roundtable that to my great delight and edification used the Bonfire of the Vanities as a backboard off which to bounce some of the most exciting ideas about life, not only in New York, but in the cities of this country generally.

What I would like to do in the few minutes I have this evening is to reflect upon the ideas that that paper gave to me and upon my own experience in writing the Bonfire of the Vanities and in the experiences I've had since then thanks to people who have come forward to share with me their ideas about this city in one of the most turbulent phases in its history.

When I went out to start working on the Bonfire of the Vanities, I tried to turn off all ideological considerations and all idea of approaching the subject with a hypothesis, and simply to turn on the radar and try to find out what is going on in New York. I decided to go into areas that to me were mainly abstractions. I think specifically of the part of New York I chose at the high end of the social scale for that book, namely Wall Street, and the part that I chose for the low end, namely the South Bronx. And I made what to me where some or other extraordinary, or at least surprising, discoveries.

For example, I discovered first of all that the language on Wall Street and the language on the streets of the South Bronx is pretty nearly the same. I will...

<Laughter>

I will never forget my first foray to Wall Street, getting off on the 42nd floor of one of these glass towers that rises up from out of the gloomy groin of Wall Street itself and finding myself in an elevator vestibule completely paneled in English Walnut with bevels so deep that you could feel the expense in the tips of your fingers, and hearing a very strange keening roar, the sort of roar that you hear if you happen to be out in the parking lot of a football stadium in the fourth quarter of a particularly bloodthirsty game, the kind of roar that makes a rises up from the bone and you say to yourself "What in the name of God is going on inside of that stadium?" That was the sound I heard in this great investment banking house. I followed it. I found myself in a room just about the size of the room we’re in tonight, only it was 7:30 in the morning, the room was filled with I would say 3 to 4 hundred young men. The graduates had turned out of the very greatest universities in America, as rated by US News and World Report, and speaking now of I think Yale's number one now, Yale and Stanford and Harvard and Brown, and you know the list. They had their jackets off, there was under each on a dark halfmoon, which at first I thought was some sort of fraternal insignia but they were perspiring profoundly at 7:30 in the morning, gesturing wildly, and this roar, this strange keening roar that I heard was the sound, and I'll never forget it, of well educated young white men baying for money on the bond market. It was the sound, that once it has gone through your gizzard you will never again forget.

So then I moved in more closely to try to find out what the component sounds were that made up this particular roar, and I found myself next to the desk of a young man, a graduate of Harvard, 1979. He had one telephone cradled between his shoulder and his ear. He was pointing at another one, and he was screaming at the top of his lungs, and I repeat this in the interest of linguistic fidelity "Will somebody please pick up the fucking telephone? I mean really, holy shit."

This legatee of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and James Russel Loel and Samuel Flag Bemis and Norman Holmes Pearson and William Lyons Phelps and the other three named immortals of New England scholarship and philosophy, was speaking actually in an accent that is known as the New York Honk. This is an accent that is acquired only by spending 9 years in a private elementary school in New York City, 4 years at a boarding school in New England, and 4 more years at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, possibly Brown, I'm not sure, after which you find it possible to force every sound that proceeds from your mind through the nostrils achieving what is known as the New York Honk. But you'll readily recognize that the words themselves were the same words that you are likely to find, and indeed I did find on the streets of the South Bronx, and for that matter in the courtrooms of the Bronx and also in Manhattan <?> no great difference there.

Now, conversely, the mental atmosphere that I ran into in this investment banking house, namely the money fever of the 1980s and that after all is what you feel and what you hear in these great trading rooms today. This money fever I soon discovered has penetrated every level of society in New York. You find the money fever directly on the streets of the South Bronx, and for that matter the streets of any part of this city. I'll never forget in my first forays into the Bronx going around at night and discovering groups of boys no more than 12, 13, 14 years old, wearing necklaces from which were hanging silvery rings. And inside of these rings were always upside down "Y"s. And when I saw these I assume that these were peace symbols. And I took this as an extremely encouraging sign, to think of the civic mindedness of these boys in the most deprived area of our city, working about the threat of nuclear destruction and about the future of the planet, except that on closer inspection I discovered that in fact these were Mercedes Benz hood ornaments and that furthermore that is the jewelry of choice, that is the jewelry of choice in the South Bronx among the young, and that furthermore these boys knew precisely how much a Mercedes Benz cost and they also were well aware of the fact that every hotshot in New York who was able to, drove a Mercedes Benz because they had seen the drug dealers driving them.

That is the car of choice among the drug dealers. The second car of choice, this is also interesting in terms of the money fever and its penetration to all levels of society, is the BMW. Now the BMW is a car that, apparently purposely, is made in the most ungainly manner, the most ungainly design imaginable as a kind of inversion, the way the Bentley used to be, of your expectations of ostentation. You have to be well aware of the exquisiteness of the cost of the BMW to appreciate it as an automobile and they did. They immediately appreciated it. And this is an even subtler point, the, third car of choice among the drug dealers is the Jeep Cherokee. And I will return to the Jeep Cherokee in just a moment.

You also will find, this all has to  again, on the subject of the penetration of the money fever to every level of society, you'll discover that there is a motto among the socalled wolf packs of young men from Brooklyn who are somewhat notorious among the police for these chain snatching and handbag snatching escapades outside of rap concerts and t1iings of that sort, they have a motto which is 'Manhattan Make and Brooklyn Takes', which I think is a motto that could have only been generated by the 1980s and the whole spirit of the 1980s in New York. And I hope that Nathan Glazer will support me when I say that it is a truism among American sociologists that violent street crime, when the motive is money, muggings chiefly I'm talking about, always go up in good times. The rate goes down in bad times. And one of the most peaceable times in American cities, and certainly in the City of New York on that score was during the depth of the depression. Again, this is to me the indication of the power of the money fever.

Now, the atmosphere of the money fever is something that penetrates I think far more deeply into all elements of society than you would think by just a discussion of drug dealers and muggers and things of this sort. Since the Bonfire of the Vanities came out, I have been approached by quite a few people, particularly from the Borough of Queens, who have said to me you have got and this is in the form of beseeching  you have got to write a book about the drug problem in our neighborhood, where we live. They are and I was most recently talking to some people from Hollis Queens, that is the neighborhood in which Officer Edward Burns was J16illed as he sat in a car standing watch over the house of a man named Arjune, you may remember that name, a man who had blown the whistle on local drug dealers and whose life had been threatened and whose house had been firebombed.

I was told that today, despite all of the intense publicity about that case, and the tremendous focus on Queens, that there is now in every block a crack house. And the effect is far more than the effect of the drug, and even the effect of the occasional shootout on the streets. What they find is that now there are children, literally children, who are now being paid $500 a week to stand watch, to be lookouts for the trade, and there are other children, no more than 12 or 13 years old, who are being paid $1000 a week to carry the drugs. If they're apprehended, the penalty for carrying drugs at that age is negligible.

They find that now their children go to school wearing beepers, because this is the great status symbol of the drug dealer. They also find that they go to school wearing heavy gold chains or imitation heavy gold chains, because this is another appurtenance of the drug dealer.

At first they didn't worry a great deal about this because aside from these two things, the beeper and the gold chains, they looked perfectly normal, they were wearing basketball the boys would be wearing basketball jackets and jeans and basket shoes. Only now they're beginning to realize that this is precisely the garb of the most successful drug dealers. The favorite costume is the basketball jacket with the colorful panel, sometimes of leather, sometimes of cloth and the voluminous sleeves, the prefaded blue jeans, and the Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes, named for Michael Jordan of the Milwaukee Bucks. It's known as the NBA look among the drug dealers. They and one of the reasons that the Jeep Cherokee has become the car of choice, a third car of choice in any event, is that it is a high riding car, there are 5 ways to get out of it, you can go out through the back and two doors on either side, and you can exit pulling a weapon out of your waste band, whereas it's very difficult to come out of a BMW coupe pulling an Oozi 9mm out of your wasteband.

So what we are looking at is a period where suddenly there is a kind of counterpoint to the investment banking industry at the very bottom levels of society. Now at the very bottom levels of society, and taken very seriously by people who live in any of these neighborhoods where this kind of penetration exists, who is a young tycoon and who fulfills in spades, and to the nth degree Veblin's portrait of the bottom dog aristocrat in just what is it now, 80 years ago just about. Thorston Veblin wrote the theory of the leisure class, said that there is not only the leisure class at the top, the socalled upper classes of America, he said there is also a leisure class at the bottom, has all of the instincts of the aristocratic at the top, all the habits of the aristocrat at the top. He said it lacks only the money. That is no longer true. The aristocrat at the bottom today has the money, and think how similar he is to his counterpart at the top. I'm speaking now of the new Babbet of the 1980s and who will I'm sure exist into the 1990s unless the other shoe that fell on October the 19th, 1987 ever falls.

The old Babbet, George F. Babbet that Sinclair Lewis gave to us was a Cincinnati real estate man about 50 years old. He had a kind of buttery fulsome sleek beaver look, which was highly regarded among welltodo, people at that time. He drove a Pontiac. He looked forward to the day when he might graduate to a Buick. Some day if the real estate game broke just write over the next horizon there might even be a Cadillac.

He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church. He kind of wished he had joined the Episcopal Church but it would look bad if he shifted at age 50, you know so. Anyway, so he was a member of the First Presbyterian Church. He's a member of the Elks, a member of the Rotary.

His wife was very similar to himself. She was  she belonged to the same church of course and she was a member of the bridge club, a member of the Ladies' Auxiliary. She also had this kind of the buttery fulsome look of prosperity that was much in vogue at that time.

Now, the new Babbet of the 1980s you will recognize immediately is completely different. The new Babbet, far from being near 50 is today 27, 28, 29, perhaps as old as 33 or 34. Far from being interested even in the Cadillac. The new Babbet must have what? Either the Mercedes Benz, the BMW, or if he's strapped just making his way up the slippery pole, the Audi 5000. Even if it runs over his children, because it is only a German luxury automobile that creates the proper steely crunch as it rolls over the crushed round white pebbles in the curved driveway of your weekend place.

As a little added note I should mention that for those young tycoons at the type who like to rough it, what is the favorite car? Of course it's the Jeep Cherokee. There we are.

Now, let's see. of course neither the new Babbet nor his wife for a moment wants that buttery full look of the of George F. Babbet of some 60 or 70 years ago. Today, what the both Babbet and his wife must have is what? It's that stringy, gaunt, grim, slightly haunted, lean, athletic look of those who stare daily down the bony gullet of the great god aerobics. But it's again, it's the young, it's the image that seizes us today is of the young tycoon, the young product of the money fever. And I think the fact that there is such an emphasis on youth and money is something specific to our age, and I think it's something that is a greatly destabilizing force at both the top and the bottom of society right now. I don't think there's ever been a period quite like it. Even artists coming to New York today no longer feel that they have that period of 10 to 15 years in which you only worry about experimenting, in which you put off to age 40 the notion that there is a hill in your life somewhere beyond which you must have money, you must be able to meet certain serious responsibilities. There's always that  when I first came to New York, some 26 years ago, there was this feeling that there was at least a decade of experiment that I think young people today no longer have that feeling.

Young artists coming to New York today are so worldly wise, they're so savvy about politics in the art world. They know who all the leading gallery owners are. They know who the leading curators are. They know who the influential critics are, and they've planned their campaigns. It's a different world in that respect.

Now, in places like the middle levels of New York society, I think we can also see we've talked about the top, we've talked about the bottom  the influence of the money fever. Carlyle, the great expert certainly in the English language, on the hero wrote 150 years ago that in an age of the cash nexus, by which he meant an age in which the firmest bond between human beings becomes not home and hearth, kinship and national honor and things of that sort, but cash payment. In an age of the cash nexus, the heroic figure has a very difficult time surfacing and triumphing in modern life. And I now recite Carlyle at length for those who complain that the Bonfire of the Vanities has no heroic figures.

To me in writing that book, one of the most important scenes was a scene in which the young assistant district attorney, Larry Kramer, is heading off to work. Larry Kramer in his early 30s had made a decision when he was in Law School, that he would devote his career to public service, and that he would get into the thick of the life on the streets of the City of New York. He would somehow work among the people and somehow for the people. And he would fight mono au mono at the bar of justice in the very bowels of the law at its most basic form, knowing full well that most of his classmates would head down to Wall Street if they possibly could. And they would spend the next 10, 15, 20, 30 years of their lives inserting the commas and reinforcing the citations and creating the block phrases, and otherwise zipping up and fortifying the greed of perfume franchises and reinsurance discounters. And he felt happy with that arrangement. But now as he's going to work in the morning, he suddenly passes a marvelous cooperative apartment house whose  I actually  I picked number 44 West 77th Street, which is a great building, and out comes one of his old classmates from Columbia. And this classmate, his same age, the same age as himself, working on Wall Street, emerges from this building with the doorman pulling the door open for him. He has on a Chesterfield, a tan Chesterfield coat with a velvet collar, and a car and a driver waiting for him. And far from rushing up and introducing himself to his old friend, he averts his eyes, turns his head toward the building as if he had some grit in his eyes, because the money fever is too much for him. He knows that this, his old classmate is making probably $142,000 a year while he makes $42,000 a year. The very thing that he thought wouldn't matter to him suddenly grips him so painfully that he can't even bear a chance encounter. I mean I think this becomes the influence of the money fever.

At the lower end of the scale, let's return for just one second to Hollis Queens. Who was this man Arjune who went by only one name? Who was this man Arjune and what was he doing in Hollis Queens? It turns out that he was a Guyanan. He, like many of the new residents of that area of Queens, was someone who came to New York with a tremendous sense of ambition. Queens, that area of Queens, far from being a slum, is an area that was much sought after by people from other, often from other countries, who wanted a home of their own, something they never had in their own land, who wanted a detached house with a little yard, who aspired to all of the values of American middle class life that they had ever heard about, who wanted to be Archie Bunker that we, up until a few years ago saw on television on All in the Family. They were and they find themselves being, just as Larry Kramer, my fictional character found himself being pulled unwillingly upward toward a kind of social eminence that he could never really manage, these people arriving in the Borough of Queens find themselves being dragged down by the tycoons at the bottom.

Many of  I finally asked some of these people how could it be that drug dealers could find a house on every block in a situation like this to use as a base of operations? And I was told that after a while the residents give up and some begin to pay their mortgages by using the house in this way, by letting it be used in this way, there seemed to be no way to overcome this kind of scourge, they would finally go with the flow and let their homes be used.

Now, Arjune is a Guyanan, and now I must return the compliment in that, and you were so generous as to say that your forthcoming book would be a footnote to the Bonfire of the Vanities, I now want to add a very tiny footnote to the great book that you wrote with Daniel Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot.  Professor Glazer and now Senator Moynihan, I believe were the first to describe the waves of emigration that had made contemporary New York City. And as of the publication, and I think of the second edition, of beyond the melting pot, these great waves had been three in number, the first was the great wave of Irish and German emigration that began in the 1850s, the second was the great wave of Italian and Jewish emigration that began in the 1880s and went up just about to 1924 with the immigration act of that year. The third was the immigration after the First World War of blacks from the American South and after the Second World War of Blacks and then of Puerto Ricans to New York in large numbers.

I would say that today we are now in the midst of the fourth of these great waves, and the fourth wave is coming from Asia, it's coming from the Caribbean, it's coming from South America, it's coming also from North Africa, such as the Simigalese immigrants to this country. I was in the Bronx recently and came upon an interesting new institution in the Bronx, which is the St. Readis Asian Center. This is a center for Asian immigrants to New York which attempts to make it easier for these immigrants to learn English and become a part of the society. The  so many Guyanans have now arrived in the Bronx that St. Readis Asian Center is also teaching Guyanans in addition to Thais and Cambodians and Vietnamese. And St. Readis was once the very center that parish was the very center of the Irish establishment four waves back, or three waves of immigration back, that played such a vital and dominant part in the early history of in the 19th and 20th century history of The Bronx.

Now, why are these people from all these various parts of the world, <inaudible>, coming to New York City at this time, at a time when so many of us despair of the future of the city and see so many problems ahead. I think for just a second we have to turn around and look at the way they see New York City. To them New York is what Rome was in the 17th century, what Paris was in the 18th and in the 19th. What London was in the 19th century, it is the city of ambition. It is the city, which for people who either want to better themselves in the world, or simply want to be where things are happening, at the center of action in modern life. And if you just get to know any of these people, particularly some of these Asian immigrants, for a moment, you will sense the burning ambition that they have.

Michael Daly, the journalist, was telling me he decided to do a story on the Korean green grocers, and I'm sure you're all familiar with. So he managed to get to know one of the families that had one of these small grocery, stores and he followed he decided to follow for a week one of the young men in the family, a young man 22 years old through his daily rounds.

The first day was a backbreaking day of 16 hours. At the end of the day the young man said now we go to sleep. Going to sleep meant crawling onto a shelf in the cellar of the store, a plain wooden shelf with a slight pad on it. He fell asleep immediately. 3 hours later there was a tap on his shoulder and the young man said now we get up. And on went this week.

To people all over the world New York City is the very apex of what is known as the American century. And for better of for worse this has been the American century. I happen to think it's for the better, but for better or for worse it has been the American century. It's the century in which we have become the mightiest military force in the history of man. We have developed the capacity to blow up the entire planet by turning a pair of cylindrical keys in a missile silo, but even if we blow it to smithereens, we've developed the capacity to escape to the stars on space ships. We've done this. This has all occurred in this country in our  in our lifetimes. We've created an affluence that has reached down to every level  almost every level of the working population on to an extent that would have made the sun king blink. So that you can be sure that tonight, as we convene here in the Pierre, that your electrician or your air conditioning mechanic, or your burglar alarm repairman from Dictragraph, is at this moment in Puerto Viarta or St. Kitz, or Barbados. He's there with his third wife or his new cookie. He's wearing his Harry Belafonte cane cutter shirt, opened down to the sternum, the better to allow the golden chains to twinkle in his chest hairs.

Along about now he's probably having a little designer water, he and his new cookie. After dinner they will go out onto the discotheque floor. She'll be wearing a pair of Everlast boxing trunks. She'll have on a man’s strap style undershirt. She'll have a hairdo that looks as if a Snapper lawn mower has gone over her head. It's a much sought after look known as the war waif coiffeur.

He'll be beaming at her with these red eyes through these walnut shell eyelids. He'll be breathing stertoriously. He'll be desperately trying to do the Robot or the Eel or the SadoMacho until the onset of dawn, saline depletion or myocardial infarction, whichever comes first.

And after all, why shouldn't he? Because what are Mom and the Cutlass Sierra and buddy and sis, up against a love like this? That first night on the disco floor she wore a pair of boxing trunks while leather punks and painted lulus, African queens and sadozulus paid her court, I grow old the 1980s way. Death! but from a MaxQOctophonic beat. Stroked out!, but on my own two feet. Discomacho for you my new cookie.

Now...

<Applause>

This picture of infinite riches, even for what used to be called the working man, a term we can no longer use with a straight face in this country, this is the vision that has to this day continues to bring, in the depths of our pessimism from time to time people from all over the world to New York, as it has for the past 130 years certainly. And what this now has created though, over the years, has been a continual political lag in New York life. For example, when I first arrived in New York City, the man known as the "Boss of the Bronx", who had just succeeded Boss Flynn, was a man named Charlie Buckley, an Irish American politician. But already Charlie Buckley's constituency, namely the Irish and Germans of the Bronx, were long gone. There were just small pockets of the Irish, and practically none of the Germans were left. And already the next  members of the next wave were the dominant political force, certainly in terms of voting numbers in the Borough of The Bronx, and I'm talking now about Italians and Jews. And pretty soon the era of Mario Biaggi, who was the most powerful figure in The Bronx for many years, and of Stanley Freedman and Stanley Simon, had come into being.

By the time I went to the Bronx to start work on the Bonfire of the Vanities, Mario Biaggi and Stanley Freedman were very much in place, very much at the top of the Bronx Democratic Organization, but already the lag had caught up with them. And only due to the fact that they were great magicians had they been able to hold onto the Bronx Democratic Organization in the face of the depletion of their natural constituency and in the face of what was now an 80%, 70% on the official statistic, but probably closer to 80% in actuality, a Black and Latin borough.

If you ever watch the WNYC television school program, which comes on at about 7:00 at night, it's well worth doing, this is a program in which the purpose is to show the good things that public school children in New York are doing. The program is completely run by school administrators, principals, assistant principals and so on. They are the announcers, the anchor people and so on, and in every case you'll see  almost every case you will see an Italian or Jewish faculty member as the anchor person. And the talent, and often it's quite remarkable, is Black, Latin or Asian. And there is the lag on television every night. The school population of New York today is 38% black, public school, 34% latin, 20% white and the remainder, which is what, about 6% I guess, is mainly Asian at present. And this lag, which as I say has been almost a permanent part of New York life, has accounted for what I discovered in the Bronx County Building, which is the political seat of the Bronx, mainly that that building had become a fortress, which I term Gibraltar, in which the eminences of Bronx politics, mainly Italian and Jewish, had lunch everyday in their very elegant chambers, it's a very elegant building, even if a United States Senator, and they do pay their respects at the Bronx County Building, believe me, was coming for lunch.

Lunch would consist of a sandwich ordered in from the deli. And I always associated political eminence, after spending months and months there, with the odor of pickle brine, because every sandwich in New York that is delivered from a deli is delivered with a dill pickle wrapped up in wax paper. The wax paper is open so that people can see what's inside. It is never consumed. And I cannot distinguish the white headed gentlemen, eminences of American politics, their heads going back and forth like this, you have to thrust your head forward when you eat a deli sandwich so that the pieces of it don't fall onto your lap, while the odor of pickle brine rises.

This portrait in the Bonfire of the Vanities was much resented, because I intimated that this was due to physical fear of leaving the building. I did overstress that side of it. It was more a kind of social fear of going out to where you're not particularly wanted, where the looks that you get are not particularly friendly, they're distant, they're somewhat alien, which is another example of the lag. And so it's only today, and really only this month, that we're finally beginning to see the new chapter in The Bronx, with now the ascent to the Borough presidency of an extremely attractive, and I think talented young man, Fernando Ferrer, and of a new District Attorney in the Bronx, Robert Johnson, the first black District Attorney in the history of New York State. But the irony may be that already the new lag is catching up, and that I mean I don't know this for a fact, but if history follows its usual course, the Guyanans and the others at St. Regis Asian Center may be the force already creating the new lag.

So there's been a tremendous shift that is taking place in New York right now, and which will be carried through, I would say for at least the next 10 years, and I think it's going to be a  it is going to be the most tense of the shifts in population that this city has experienced. As I've tried to point out, we've been through this many times, but never has there been one of these big political shifts before in which the shift is not only between different ethnic from one ethnic group to another, but it now involves a shift of color, and that I think is and we're already beginning to see the affects of that  is what is going to make it especially tense. We are shifting from a political dominance of people of white European background, to people of what we can be loosely brought together under the thought of the under the term 'Third World'. And it was that in mind that I began the Bonfire of the Vanities with a soliloquy in which the Mayor of New York, who was just about to be driven from the stage in a school building, suddenly starts yelling within the inferno of his own mind, you know, he says come down from your swell coops you merger and acquisition lawyers and general partners. Take a look down there. I hate people who read from their own work instead of others, but I just want to read you just a little section here. Come down from your swell coops, it's the third world down there, Puerto Ricans, West Indians, Haitians, Dominicans, Cubans, Columbians, Hondurans, Koreans, Chinese, Thais, Vietnamese, Ecuadorians, Panamanians, Philipinos, Albanians, Sinaglese and AfroAmericans. Go visit the frontiers you gutless wonders, Morningside Heights, St. Nicholas Park, Washington Heights, Fort Tryon, Porcay Pargar Mas, The Bronx. The Bronx is finished for you. Riverdale is just a little Freeport up there. Pelham Parkway, keep the corridor open to Westchester. Brooklyn, your Brooklyn is no more. Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, little Hong Kongs, that's all. And Queens, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Hollis, Jamaica, Ozone Park, whose is it, do you know? And where does that leave Ridgewood, Bayside and Forest Hills? Have you ever thought about that? And Staten Island. Do you Saturday-Do-Yourselfers really think you're snug in your little rug? You don't think the future knows how to cross a bridge? And you, you WASP charity ballers, sitting on your mounds of inherited money, up in your coops with the 12 foot ceilings and the two wings, one for you and one for the help, do you really think you're impregnable? And you German Jewish financiers who have finally made it into the same buildings, the better to insulate yourselves for the Schtedtle hordes. Do you really think you're insulated from the third world?

After the Bonfire of the Vanities came out, there was a certain amount of very generous commentary that I had somehow been prophetic about events that have transpired in the months since then, particularly things like the Brawley case. I wish I could claim powers of prophecy. It is not anything nearly as involved or mysterious as that. It's a I think anyone who goes out and is willing to look even for a month close up at the political situation in almost any part of this city, can see that so much is from  over the next few years is going to be determined by what we will have to call ethnic or racial politics.

Nat Glazer already mentioned one of the items that is very much in the newspapers today, the Larry Davis case in which Larry Davis, after a shootout in which 6 policemen were wounded was found innocent of the charges of attempted murder and whatnot by a jury that was made up of 10 black members, and 2 latin, 2 hispanic members of the policemen, this all has to do with the sense of the lag and the tensions of the lag. Of the 6 policemen who were wounded, 5 were Irish in background. O'Hara, Mulcahey, McCaron, Matthew Ridge, and Burk.

Now, and most live outside of New York City. Part of the Irish out migration. The result has already caused tremendous bitterness within city politics. Statements by not only the mayor but members of the Policemen's Benevolent Association and members of the defense team have turned this into a racial matter, which the enemies of the verdict call Mississippi justice turned upside down and so on. But that is not the only case.

Another item had to do with an interview I believe Bob Bartley in the Wall Street Journal, in which David Dinkins was quoted as saying that if he ran for mayor he would get the same support that Jesse Jackson got. He was immediately attacked by Mayor Koch as trying to draw racial lines in the next election. I think we're just beginning to see the kind of bitterness on this particular score, it'll just increase and increase up until November of 1989.

And yet, and this was something that Walter Riston and Myron Magnet both pointed out in Manhattan Paper #3, despite all of this tremendous tension, and despite the racial and ethnic politics of this city, somehow it never reaches it never has reached...

<END OF SIDE #2>

... ugliest riots, leaving aside the draft riots of the 19th century perhaps, have been intramural riots in which the destruction is wrought within the boundaries of a particular of a particular slum. We have never reached  we have never approached even the Marxist diagram, that Manachian diagram in which it is the third world against the masters, against the establishment. That is the Marxist formulation today as you  certainly Arnold Viceman can tell you, the Marxists have given up on the proletariats. They have now become the ideological benefactors of the third world. And yet this formulation of them against us certainly does not apply in New York City. And why? And I think now we have to return to the sociology of a man who for a good 40 years has been largely forgotten, at least within fashionable academic sociology, Talcott Parsons, the author of sociological theory and modern society.

As you can see by his titles, he was not an exciting he was not an exciting writer, but he was a pioneer in American sociology who is now being looked to again on many fronts and most notably by John Murray Cudahey who I think is certainly one of our fine New York he's one of the fine sociologists in this country in my opinion, because it was Talcott Parsons' theory that you can increase, and this was his phrasing, you can increase integration in a society by promoting conflict. And as long as the conflict was what he called cross cuts. If the conflict was purely parallel, the situation that perhaps you had in the 1850s when the Irish first came to New York in which most catholics in New York were Irish and most Irish were poor, there you have economic class and religious lines all converging. That becomes a desperate situation. But in the United States according to Talcott Parsons, what you more often have had has been cross cuts. As in the current case of the much talked about Reagan democrats. A Reagan democrat is often someone whose national background and whose labor union history has made him a democrat. But emotionally, morally, he finds himself drawn towards issues that revolve around matters such as abortion or communism or the welfare state. And he's pulled in another direction toward the republicans.

This is known as a crosscut or a cross pressure, or is role strain. Or the example often found in New York of the small businessman and let's say marginal area, who by ethnic identification is for radical groups who oppose police brutality and who oppose institutionalized racism, but who on economic grounds, and also on neighborhood family grounds is drawn distinctly toward mainstream organization politics, or the familiar crosscut of interethnic hostility among people that we would lump under the category of third world, such as is taking place in Harlem today, the opposition of local residents to the Korean grocery store owners in that neighborhood. Or the one that's been so common in the city, of the phenomenon of two groups approaching the point of bloodshed, of bloodletting in the streets, suddenly finding that in fact they both hate a newer group much more and forming a bond, and I'm suddenly reminded of a man who is not strictly speaking a sociologist, but who I think is one of the great sociological thinkers that we’ve had, Charles Curtiss, an old Boston lawyer who once said that civilization begins not with selfrestraint, not with compassion, which are not he said human characteristics. He said what passes for selfrestraint is usually indecision, that was his comment. He said civilization begins with the comment to yourself "Well I guess I've got to learn to live with the son of a bitch anyway, don't I?" He said that is the beginning of the inner civilization of to use Paul Valerie's term, that is the beginning of the civilizing of the self. And I would agree with another long forgotten sociologist, E.A. Ross who in 1920 said "Society in the United States is sewn together by its own inner conflicts." And I think that is precisely what has held New York City together all these years, and I think which will hold New York City together over the coming decade. I'm not nearly as pessimistic about what lies ahead as many people are. The only thing that I would mention in terms of possible policy, and after all I think most of us here tonight are interested in that, is that the most effective, and most useful, and the most supportable form of crosscut is that which brings members of other groups into the what might be called the ruling or managerial categories of life, whether we’re talking about private corporations or whether we're talking about government or whether we're talking about foundations and so forth.

Now there is an instinct in this country to do that. There's been a natural instinct, but it usually comes at the 11th hour, either because of criticism, currently that takes the form of criticism for showing bias. At that point corporations will tend to suddenly expand or make more flexible their hiring policies and so on. Or when facing the inevitable as the Bronx Democratic Organization finally did this year in 19  last year actually, 1987 and in 1988 by giving up the possibilities of finding yet another Italian or Jewish politician to be Borough President or to be District Attorney, and turning to Fernando Ferrer and to Robert Johnson.

Now this smacks, I realize, of what Herbert Marcuza called coaptation. But why did he come up with that term? Marcuza was a Marxist. He couldn't stand the fact that there was an instinct in American life to overcome the Manichean dream of the final battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. He gave it a negative twist, coaptation, but another way of looking at it is bringing everyone into the mainstream of this country, bringing everyone into levels of management and levels of rule within society, for their good and for that of everyone else. One thing that makes this particularly difficult at this moment I think is the intense insulation of that people at the top end of life in New York City currently have felt driven to. I have never in the 26 years that I've lived here seen people go to such lengths to insulate themselves from the life of the city, and I don't exempt myself from this either, but when I was working on the <?> I wanted to do subway scenes, and I always and I went down to Wall Street, I said well I'll have a Wall Street subway scene, because I remember these movies from the 20s and 30s and the 40s in which you'd see the rush hour on Wall Street, and you'd see the droves off people leaving the great towers of Wall Street going down into the subway while a <?> phase Manhattan jazz suite was played in the background, it was very exciting seeing all those people going down into this great underground system.

Well what is the rush hour in Wall Street like today? Well if you haven't seen it you must go down and take a look. Leave any of the great buildings on Broad Street or Wall Street and all the rest. What you see are hundreds, sometimes it seems like thousands of young and middle aged businessmen, backs bent, hunched over squinting, ricocheting off one another's shoulders, going out into these great herds of automobiles, looking for the number in the right rear window of their car service. That, you know, they're looking for Tango 148 or Dialogue 296. That is rush hour on Wall Street today, to get into that sheet metal capsule and get home as fast and expeditiously as you possibly as you possibly can.

Now Parsons and I will just close with this note. Parsons warned that the magic of crosscutting, and of cross pressures, will work only up to a certain intensity of pressure. You can't go on letting  counting on this kind of magical cancelling out system to work forever. Particularly, although this was not his comment, particularly after the experience of the poverty program and what came after. One of the things that's often forgotten about the poverty program is that it was quite intentionally a great <?> assimilating force in American life. The poverty program was a fascinating experiment in many many ways and should not be dismissed lightly. But one of its purposes was to deassimilate people, to make them far from  feeling merged into American society, to pull back and recognize their own ethnic or racial identity. Ethnic pride was one of the great goals of the poverty program, and it succeeded. It was  sometimes it took mysterious forms. In Chinatown in San Francisco you didn't need to tell any Chinese to have pride. I mean they knew, they've always known that they were at the center of the universe with  and that the rest of the world revolved  so in desperation they began  the young Chinese activists would wash their hair in borax to make it stand out like the afro, which was then the style among the truly efficient operators of demonstrations and so on.

That was a period, also, in the late 60s and the early 1970s in New York when in the public schools there were 3 pledges of allegiance and 3 flags and 3 anthems. There was the American flag, the red white and blue, there's the red white and blue of the Puerto Rican flag, and there was the green black and orange of the  what was known as an African flag, and there were different pledges of allegiance and different advents, and it would take upwards of 90 minutes to get school started in the morning.

So that created  that experience created an additional pressure. Nevertheless, I'm highly optimistic. I think that this country has had the instinct to do that. In 1966 when I was in London, the British were going into an orgy or selfcongratulation because they had appointed their first nonwhite policeman. He was a foot patrolman in the town of coventry, he went around mainly checking doorknobs at night. This was seen as one of the great events in the history of British liberalism. At that time there were thousands of nonwhite policemen in the United States and 200 mayors, nonwhite mayors in the United States, including mayors of some of our very largest cities. One think I  as I say I am optimistic about this. I think this is a  particularly if we recognize the nature of ethnic mix and the nature of the pressures that I've been talking about, I don't see any reason why New York and other cities in this country can't come through this particular period very well, unless there is the joker of the possibility of a serious economic downslide, something serious happening if the other shoe should fall after the one that fell in October of 1987. But in the meantime the great dance continues. The money fever continues. I don't think it has stopped for a moment.

We still have this tremendous willingness to sweep aside standards that have been in place for millenia, and not reckon particularly with the consequence. Just 20 years ago if anyone had come up to a public rostrum and suggested that we should have an institution known as the coed dorm in which downy nubile young things and young men in the season of the rising sap should live together, not only in the same buildings but in the same corridors, such an individual would have been looked at as if his eyebrows were being eaten away by weevils.

Today, in the blitheness of the money fever that's just part of the backdrop of American life. It's like 195, it's big, it's out there, it hums occasionally, and no one particularly notices it.

Finally we are right now in the period of the new great American vice. In the 1970s the great new American vice was pornography. It was  not only became legal in the late 60s and the early 1970s, it became omnipresent, as I don't have to remind you. And the definition of pornography, strictly defined, is the graphic depiction of the acts of prostitutes.

We are now in the 1980s and beginning to the 1990s the period  in the period of money fever, in the age of the great new American vice, which is plutography. It is the favorite vice of the new Babbet, who I mentioned at the outset. Plutography is the graphic depiction of the acts of the rich. And you will notice that in my field, journalism, the glossy the great stars of American journalism in the 1970s, mainly the glossy pornographic monthlies such as Playboy and Penthouse, have begun their grim financial slide. They're losing readers, they're losing advertisers. And what has replaced them in the firmament of American journalism? The plutographic magazines. I'm thinking now of magazines such as Architectural Digest, HG, which is shortly to be renamed House & Garden I understand. Town and Country, Art and Antiques, Connoisseur. Now these are magazines that purport to tell us about interior design, about architecture, about the provenance of antiques, about the history of art. But you know, and I know that the rogue stimulation we field as we turn those buttery pages is from the fact that we are being presented graphic depictions of the acts of the rich.

Now you'll notice that these magazines are not only getting thicker and thicker in terms of number of pages, the pages themselves are becoming thicker and creamier and creamier and lusher and lusher and more and more velvety, which enables a photography of the very highest resolution has now reached the point that you can see the thumb prints of the gardeners on the Acuba leaves out in front of mansions on Loma Vista Drive in Beverly Hills. I no longer read those magazines. I eat them. They taste like marzipan. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much. <Applause>

 


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