On the subway platform at 116th and Broadway, five well-dressed young women in matching heels tried to apply makeup to each other. Some 95 blocks downtown the doors had just opened at the Chelsea club and restaurant Duvet for “Sexxx in the City,” a monstrous gathering of NYC’s newest undergrads that began, somewhat notoriously, as an all-invited bash in the cramped Carman double of one Stephan Vincenzo (CC 12), which the Facebook savvy folks at Columbia ResLife managed to break up weeks before a single freshmen arrived on campus. The aborted kickback then developed, with help from some New York natives, into what promised to be “the hottest party of the year.” That promise notwithstanding, Stephan warned all invitees in a mass e-mail that the bar would be alcohol free, “but,” he hastened to add, “can you say Pre-Game lol.” And judging from their success with the makeup, these ladies clearly could.
At Duvet, the freshmen were herded, abattoir-style, through a line that rounded itself up and down the 21st St sidewalk, giving partygoers a taste of the shove-and-be-shoved intimacy of the goings-on inside. Bouncers who knew full well that this was an event for college freshmen called out: “Twenty-one? Anyone over here twenty-one?” Inexplicably, a gaggle of girls shot their hands up and rushed to the front of the line. One could not remember her address; another, in a flustered attempt to produce the birthday printed on her plastic, claimed to have been born in the year 2000; yet another offered to pay to get the confiscated I.D. back (it was a legit driver’s license, apparently it just wasn’t hers). Meanwhile, a young man in a button-down pink shirt, the collar popped, sneered: “Why is the place called Duvet? Isn’t that, like, French for ‘ass-shower’?”
Inside, patrons were stripped of cigarette packs, purses were raided, dubious bottles of Coke and Vitamin Water hastily consumed (apparently a lot of 2012ers can say “Pre-Game lol”). By the time the party had started, over 1100 attendees had, per instructions on the event’s Facebook page, RSVPd to get their names on a guest list that promised reduced admission. Cashiers, however, extracted 20 bucks from everyone at the door, responding to the odd protest with a curt: “Yeah, yeah, everyone’s on some list. That’ll be twenty.”
The Duvet’s bar—dubbed the “ice bar” for its translucent white tabletops and counters—served up a small menu of grenadine-soda-and-fruit-juice specials that nobody seemed to go for. On the dance floor, one DJ hollered, “Columbia? NYU? Fordham? Where you at?” eliciting whoops of enthusiastic collegiate pride from the sweaty-faced, hip-grinding crowd. Those not on the dance floor relocated in packs to the large white canopy beds, looming over the crowd and lavishly dressed in white curtains. Some stood up and danced on the beds and tabletops to the encouraging white flashes of a camera. Others departed in droves as early as 11, hustling to the exits in conga lines that weaved their way through the dance floor like violent veins. Still others stuck around and withdrew into their iPhones, Blackberries, and Sidekicks, hurriedly texting away in the corners of vacant booths, leaning on empty barstools, idling near the bathroom door, and looking up every now and again to see if anyone had recognized them yet.
Of course, no single party or event could possibly unite an entire class. And, indeed, as many people seemed to fit in with the crowd as people seemed overwhelmed by it. But it was noble and encouraging that the folks at 11th Floor Entertainment—the group of students that organized the event—went and put something together, something that, in a single night, seemed to capture all the chaos, confusion, exhilarating ups and dispiriting downs of those first tastes of college life. It seems inevitable for Sexxx in the City to go down in the collective history of the Class of 2012 as the first major “one of those nights.” May it not be the last.