A Private-ish Party for the 100th Edition of Famous People

Kaitlyn and Lizzie host the most exclusive newsletter event of the season.

Collage: women at a restaurant holding a Famous People 100 poster, man with a microphone, woman in a Mets hat, martini glass
The Atlantic

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Lizzie: The stakes have never been higher than they are right now. This—what you’re reading right now—is the 100th issue, edition, whatever you want to call it, of Famous People. Together, Kaitlyn and I have sent out 100 emails to an audience of varying size and interest levels about things we’ve done over the course of the last five years. It’s kind of amazing that we haven’t stopped yet, since, before we started writing this for The Atlantic, we had received very little encouragement to continue from whomever we were writing it for. I guess that’s because we were mostly writing it for ourselves.

Obviously 100 Famous Peoples is a good reason to celebrate—and we do need reasons to celebrate, so that we can keep writing this newsletter. So last weekend, we threw a party. Some attendees did point out that, at the time of the party, we had only published 99 newsletters, so maybe the party was premature. But maybe it was perfectly on theme, so that we could write our 100th newsletter about our 100th event.

Kaitlyn: I explained to many at the party: This party both is Famous People 100, and it will be Famous People 100. At breakfast the following morning with Katie and Stephanie and Tamar: It was Famous People 100, and now, as Lizzie and I write about it, it is Famous People 100. Get it?

Admittedly, 10 issues of Famous People were random belated recaps of the first season of Summer House, due to a pandemic. But the rest of them have been about me and Lizzie and those who are “famous” to us. I’m not going to push you too far down memory lane. I know you don’t care about us or about our friends, and that’s the point. We’re trying to entertain you without your emotional investment and without dropping names and without doing anything particularly aspirational or novel. How are we doing? Just kidding; we don’t read feedback!

I had been looking forward to Famous People 100 since August 20, which is—according to my records—the day that Lizzie and I first discussed it and the day that I went on the Saks Fifth Avenue website and ordered a long-sleeve satin midi-dress in a “floral rutabaga” pattern specifically for the event.

Lizzie: I had been looking forward to it since at least the night before, when it finally felt like the party was definitely happening. Because it didn’t always feel so certain; it took a lot of prep to get here. First, there was the task of finding a venue, which Kaitlyn took on. We settled on KGB Bar in the East Village, because all they asked was that we spend a certain amount of money and yield the tiny stage to the live jazz band when they arrived at 9:30. Second, we needed snacks, which we decided would be two cakes and the pink party cookies that were a big hit at Ashley’s latke party last year. And lastly, we needed an activity, because without one, we’d just be standing in a bar drinking, as one might do on any other night, not the night in which you’re celebrating writing 100 newsletters. We decided our activity should be Famous People–themed trivia, but multiple choice, since even devoted readers would probably not remember the particulars of what we’ve done over the years.

Matt made us a beautiful poster, and we sent it out by way of an invite to everyone whose email addresses we had. Our first invite went to a lot of people’s spam folders, so we tried again. Second time’s the charm!

Kaitlyn: A few people responded and said something like, “Oh, lol, yeah I didn’t get the first one,” but didn’t say whether they wanted to come to the party. I think that’s a weird thing to do, but I’m focused on the positive. Many others replied, “Congratulations!” even though we were kind of joking about Famous People 100 representing a real accomplishment and had just thought it would be a funny theme for a party. The more I read “Congratulations!,” the more I felt like we deserved it.

Finding the venue was tough. I sent dozens of inquiries. After a promising conversation, one manager suddenly informed me that Lizzie and I would have to pay the cost of hiring security guards for the event. (Here I do wonder if the name Famous People hurt us...) Well, having the event at KGB Bar was meant to be. It has decades of literary history, and it has a cake knife you can borrow. So we saved the date and got serious about telling people not to come unless they were going to drink enough to help us hit our minimum—i.e., no domestic beers.

What else? I got bubble-letter 100s painted onto my nails in a tiny office above a fish market in Sunset Park. I spent the afternoon before the party at Lizzie’s apartment, sticking raspberries and candy eyeballs into the side of a cake and talking about Barbarian. (Specifically, about a wildly dumb essay everyone was sharing on Twitter, which argued that it was sexist and ageist to be afraid of the monster-lady in Barbarian.) After we established that Lizzie was somehow covered head-to-toe in frosting and would need some serious time to get ready for the night, I went home to do my own “gussying up,” as my grandma would put it, and to sit around in pained anticipation, like a child trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. Nathan made scallops for dinner, but I could barely eat a bite.

A cake with "100" written on it, surrounded by cake-decorating supplies.
100 cake. (Courtesy of Kaitlyn Tiffany)

Lizzie: I didn’t have time to eat anything, due to the aforementioned frosting situation and the fact that a bunch of Philadelphians (Michele, Jorye, Kate) showed up at my apartment, ready to drink some sugar-free Monsters and start partying. The plan was to meet Kaitlyn at the bar at 6:30 to set up, and we decided to take a car due to the amount of desserts we had to carry. This turned out to be the wrong decision, since what was supposed to be a 30-minute ride ended up taking more than an hour. At one point during the ride, Lyft sent me a notification asking me if I needed to report a safety issue or get emergency help—apparently, the fact that I had not yet arrived at my destination raised some red flags.

Kaitlyn: The night got off to a rocky start all around. For starters, Nathan and I ran into Brian on the C platform. I yelled, “Brian! Are you on your way to Famous People 100?” He looked nervous. He said “Yeahhh,” and told us that in fact, he was on his way to Famous People 100… he just had to go to the Patagonia store first. Then he paused. “Who else is going?” Brian!!!

Nathan and I arrived at KGB Bar before it was technically open, carrying nothing but a metal bin labeled “Famous People Trivia Winner First Place,” which contained a Mets hat, two boxes of Swedish Fish, a Bud Light Lime, a single weed gummy, and a bunch of those paper shreds you put in Easter baskets. The party was on the third floor, in a mirror-lined space that is called the Red Room. While we waited for Lizzie, we admired the curtains and the fixtures and the crème de menthe–forward cocktail menu. The Red Room has a tin ceiling and a grand piano, and there’s a bathtub in the corner behind the bar. They keep five-gallon buckets of ice next to the bathtub but not in it. The bartender, Ben, showed us how to use the microphone, which was kind of embarrassing given that the party was still just me and Nathan and our prize bin. I worried Ben might think I was silly and that the room would never fill up and that I was wearing a long and ridiculous dress because I’m delusional. So, I watched Lizzie’s bubble on Find My Friends and narrated its movements loudly. “THERE ARE FIVE OF THEM IN THE CAR AND THEY HAVE THE CAKES.” “THEY JUST CROSSED THE MANHATTAN BRIDGE.”

And I had a vodka martini!

Lizzie: We eventually got there without having to notify Lyft’s emergency-support team, and found Nathan, Kaitlyn, and Stephanie sitting in the empty room, trying to talk over some really aggressively volumed Ozzy Osbourne tracks. I hadn’t made a playlist for the night, but I asked Ben if I could put something on, since I was worried that a night of Ozzy would set the wrong tone. Of course, I then worried about the songs that might surface as I hit play on a playlist I had made a year ago called “frank party” (from a party for Frank), like “Life Is a Highway” (inside joke), or “Drive Back” (the first single from Real Housewives of Potomac cast member Candiace). Luckily, so many people showed up that eventually you couldn’t even hear which song was playing.

We had received a few day-of cancellations, which didn’t feel like a good sign. But it wasn’t a sign at all. There were so many people that at one point the bar ran out of normal-sized martini glasses and started giving anyone who ordered a Midnight Manhattan or a classic martini two mini glasses of their chosen beverage. (This news came courtesy of Julia and Rebecca, who were each double-fisting mini martinis when I talked to them). It seemed cumbersome, but resourceful. We also drank all the Peroni(s), or at least all the Peroni(s) the bartender would give us.

Kaitlyn and I were running around the entire time, greeting everyone and thanking them for coming. I didn’t get to talk to her much at all (again!) except when we managed some brief side-chats about the logistics of the party. We had to determine the perfect time to begin trivia. It had to be late enough so that most of the guests had already arrived, but not so late that people were beginning to eyeball the exit.

A crowded bar with a white tin ceiling.
Lizzie and Kaitlyn deciding when to do trivia. (Courtesy of Lizzie Plaugic)

Kaitlyn: Really, so many of our favorite famous people came! Julia R., Julia G., Amelia and her camera. Ashley was there with a new set of black nails and little red pom-poms attached to a couple of them. (The pom-poms were on tiny magnets. She could take them off to shower or eat ribs or whatever.) Ellen was there, and when I saw her, I said, “You’re crazy!” She had given birth 16 days before. (I had learned that she was in labor via her BeReal.) But I shouldn’t have been surprised she came, since she always says she loves to party. Katie came straight from Grand Central (chic), and I told her to hide her suitcase behind a red velvet curtain, forgetting that Brian had already put a bag of Patagonia purchases back there. I bet you didn’t think he was going to show up!

Around 8:30, Lizzie gave a little toast that I can’t remember, but everyone laughed, and then Nathan hosted trivia, which was very competitive. It warmed my heart that people were so game to do an organized activity in a bar, although this did backfire once they started hearing the questions. For example, there was a lot of resentful murmuring and there were maybe even a few boos from the audience when Nathan asked, “What is the make and model of Ashley’s car?” When we scored the answer sheets, it became clear that one team had turned against us completely, as they’d written the incorrect response to the true-false prompt “Lizzie is a better actor than Joaquin Phoenix.”

Lizzie: That question was really a freebie, and I would’ve escorted that team out, if I had any idea who they were! To be fair, I did get some post-trivia feedback that it was sort of hard to hear Nathan in the back of the room, but I think that was an acoustics issue that was out of our hands. Also Brian told me that it wasn’t great optically for us that Ashley won. (Did we mention that Ashley won? She did.) But this was always the danger of trivia. Ashley is probably the most frequent Famous People guest star, so it was inevitable that some of the questions would be about her. I guess we could have banned her from participating, but it’s not like we’re running the Olympics. If anyone feels like they were cheated out of the prize basket, come talk to us once you find legal representation!

Kaitlyn: Second place went to Stephanie, Tamar, Katie, Alex, and Sonia, so. The other competitors should have considered whether being careful readers of Famous People and being our close, personal friends might go hand-in-hand. It would have been quite difficult for us to write questions that could be answered by people who don’t know us intimately and who also don’t study our writing. I guess we could have written normal trivia questions.

Anyway, after trivia, Ashley put one of those wild spinning candles on top of the “100” cake and Mariya sang “Happy Birthday” to me. It was my birthday. I told everyone to ignore it, and encouraged them to head back toward the bar and get some more drinks—preferably with top-shelf liquor in them, as, again, we did have a minimum to hit. I saw Sonia ordering a seltzer, and she explained that she was getting over a cold. I said, “How about a Campari-soda?” Low-alcohol, delicious (and $10). She was like, “Oh, alright, why not?”

Mariya and The Atlantic’s own newsletter editor Nick helped us hand out about 100 pieces of cake, and then our time in the Red Room was at its end. Some made plans to go eat; others made plans to keep drinking. As we were leaving, I tapped Russell and asked if he wanted to follow us to the next bar. He said he would have to pass and gestured at the stage, where the jazz quartet had started playing. “These cats are slammin’!”

Lizzie: Russell loved the jazz quartet! Maybe he was smart to avoid the post-party location change. A difficult task under the best of circumstances. Almost impossible on a Friday night, especially when members of said group can’t agree on what sort of experience they’re looking for. At the start, there were about 15 of us, feeling like a class trip. First we tried Holiday Cocktail Lounge, but it was too loud and too crowded. Then, Sly Fox, but it smelled too strongly of feet and the kitchen was already closed.

Right next to Sly Fox is a Dallas BBQ—open till 1 a.m., and exactly the kind of place you’d assume would be able to accommodate a crowd at 11 p.m. on a Friday night. And they could! But this is where our group cleaved. Six of us (including me) were Team Food, while Kaitlyn led Team Drinking back to the foot-forward Sly Fox.

Chicken tenders, fries, Texas-sized margaritas, a room to ourselves! What more could you want?

Kaitlyn: Sam and Nathan reappeared after buying hot dogs someplace, and they were the ones who wanted to go into Sly Fox. I said okay, because it is my favorite bar in that neighborhood and I don’t really notice smells. At a back table we found Julia G. and her friend Rebecca and Jael’s friends Lucy and Allison (Jael moved to San Francisco). I had two beers and made everyone talk about The Perfect Storm. I was alone in my position that it is better to drown in a few minutes inside of a sinking ship than to tread water in the open ocean, waiting God-knows-how-long to get tired and die. They all said they were more afraid of enclosed spaces than of raw existential terror triggered by the enormity of the sky. Well, that’s stupid, but we were just having fun.

Lizzie: See, maybe it’s better we stick together. I also would rather go down quickly with the ship, like the captain. At D-BBQ, I don’t think we talked about ways to die. We talked about whether or not the Texans at our table felt their state was being accurately represented by the head-sized margaritas and something on the menu called “onion loaf.” I tried to engage on the topic of fantasy football, but when I said to Frank, “I hear you have no wide receivers,” which I assumed was just an objectively true fact, I learned I had apparently breached some kind of unspoken shit-talking boundary. And we talked about how Frank knows Sam and Nathan from his rec soccer league, but he didn’t know that we knew them. Of course we know them! They’ve both been in Famous People! It really is a small, small world.

Kaitlyn: Frank has been in Famous People a few times too, of course. The world is so, so small, somehow, even though the ocean is too big.