Inside the Real Culture War

Pot at a party? Only in L.A. Dinner in New York? Better be at 8:30. How the unspoken business etiquette on both coasts breaks down.

Los Anglees: It's New York with palm trees, as they say. Or the opposite: New York is L.A. with subways. And lousy weather. and cigarettes. The comparisons between America's polar-opposite biggest cities have shrunk over the years because of similarities in professions, constant work travel, the Internet and people relocating between the two -- or giving up and going bi (coastal). The old (Big) apples and oranges (citrus country, get it?) adages don't apply much anymore, least of all in the entertainment/media business, where lifestyles are built around work, work and more work. Yes, it's no secret that people in New York exercise, practice yoga, get Botox and have moments of superficiality. And people in L.A. are always on the move and in a bad mood, with their therapists on speed dial. They even get drunk sometimes -- if the calorie count is low enough. Still, there are a few palpable differences between the industry types. (We've noticed New Yorkers are less likely to include cell phone numbers in their e-mail signatures; Angelenos, always in their cars, do so more often.) THR decided they were worth nitpicking about with a handful of insiders who meet, play, eat, drink and exercise away their stress on the Left and Right coasts.


NA: No, Too Hung Over.

"I try to get a hotel with a gym when I'm there, then I stay out late, get hungover and skip the gym," says Mark Duplass, writer-director of Jeff, wholives at home and producer-star of Your Sister's Sister. Adds an anonymous New Yorker, "It depends on your age. If you're trying to get laid, you'll pay the price and be too tired to work out." Verdict: Even hardcore New Yorkers aren't hardcore about their workouts.

LA: Yes, Go Every Day

"I like short 20-to-30-minute workouts, especially swimming in February, because you can't do that in New York," offers Duplass. As for The Muppets and The Fighter producer Todd Lieberman, "I go to the gym four days a week and mostly wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get there." Verdict: This is one routine Angelenos will rarely forsake. It helps the workday starts earlier than in NYC.


NA: 10 a.m.

"I'm shocked at how late people get to work," says Moneyball producer Rachael Horovitz. "There are certain people who confuse morning with lunchtime." But some executives find it's more productive to get in before the West Coast wakes up. Says UTA's co-head of television Nancy Gates, a former Angeleno who opened the agency's N.Y. office: "It's nice to have that three-hour time difference." Verdict: Later than L.A., but New Yorkers often work later, too. Then, they drink. Even later.

LA: 9 A.M. 

After that morning workout, says Lieberman, "The workday, depending on the season, tends
to start about 9 or 9:30. I've always been an early riser." Some producers, agents and directors are known for reading scripts on the stairmaster at 6 a.m. -- then continuing to work until they hit the hay. Verdict: Even if they're at their desks by 9 a.m., the day begins at least two hours earlier -- when BlackBerrys start buzzing with urgent missives from Manhattan.


NY: First Meal is a Must

"We have a lot of breakfasts in New York, and it's kind of strangely brunchlike," says Horovitz. "That's one of the perks of being here. Everyone is at Cafe Cluny in the West Village." Says UTA's Gates: "You can actually get a lot done before L.A. wakes up. On the other hand, some New Yorkers believe nothing with an 'a.m.' is acceptable." Verdict: There's power in power breakfasts.

LA: Sorry, Bro, No Time

"I only have breakfast meetings in New York," says stylist/TV personality Brad Goreski. "In L.A., everyone's hiking or working then." Duplass often plans his 9 a.m. meetings after hikes: In L.A., "you can show up sweaty to your meeting, and it's cool as long as you order a shake with kale in it." Verdict: Don't do it.


NY: Diet Coke

"Like most New Yorkers, I default to Diet Coke," says Gates. Agrees Project Runway producer Desiree Gruber, "You can't survive in New York without copious amounts of caffeine, in any form." Verdict: Mainline the caffeine, via Diet Coke or coffee. Skinny lattes or fat lattes will work, too, on a bad day. Diet Coke in morning meetings is not an uncommon sight.

LA: H20, Iced Tea

"I'm always water, but I see a lot of iced teas at lunch, or iced tea with lemonade that some people refer to as -- and always seem embarrassed to say -- Arnold Palmers," says Lieberman. Veteran producer David Permut has noticed a trend toward "room-temperature bottled water, no ice cubes. Unless it's Jeffrey Katzenberg, then it's several Diet Cokes." Verdict: Hydration first, followed by iced tea, lemonade or Arnold Palmers (but not if you're Katzenberg).


NY: Got a 646? Don't Tell

Verdict: 212 and 917 are ideal, 718 is undesirable, 646 gets zero respect.

LA: 818 is the Worst

"917's the best in L.A." says Duplass. "It keeps your indie cred going." Verdict: 310 is good, 323 is fair, 917 is better, 424 is less desirable (except when the call comes from CAA) and 818 is the worst.


NY: 8:30 p.m.

Never before 8:30 is the consensus. But it varies. "If I'm trying to work with someone who's doing a play, then dinner is not until 10," says Horovitz. "If I'm in charge, then it's 6 p.m. I'd say 6 p.m. is the new 8 p.m. in both cities. People like to get a move on, especially creative types who work intensely all day." Generally speaking, says Gates, "Dinner in New York is always an hour later than you would meet in L.A." Verdict: Later than you'd like, at least if you're an Angeleno.

LA: 7 p.m.

"Seven, 7:30 latest," says Lieberman. "At 8 p.m., I get nervous I won't make the gym the next morning." Says Goreski: "Anything after 7:30 has to be discussed -- is it worth it? Being out late in L.A. is the kiss of death." Chimes in Duplass: "5 p.m., because I have a kid. I can do 8 p.m. in New York because it's 5 in L.A., and I look cool for staying out late!" For Permut, 7 p.m. is the dividing line. "7:30's an important dinner, 6:30 less so." Verdict: Earlier than you think.


NY: Never, Unless You Want to Make Enemies

Flakes do not cut it in the Big Apple. "I think you mean rude, no?" says Horovitz. "Flaky is definitely
code for rude. Unless you happen to be 22." Verdict: Do not flake on appointments or plans in New York unless you enjoy an empty social calendar and possible unemployment.

LA: Somewhat Acceptable

"People in L.A. tend to cancel more," says Gates. "It's annoying because people get away with it. But if someone cancels twice, I generally don't reschedule." Verdict: It's still OK, to a degree, to flake in L.A., but people do take note. The tolerance factor is waning. (Though some people celebrate being canceled on. It means less driving and makes the workday that much easier.)


NY: Boom Boom Room

This space at the top of the Standard Hotel is the sine qua non for events, according to Andrew Saffir of New York's Cinema Society, who did the Manhattan party for Inglourious Basterds. Saffir also recently held glittering events there for Friends With Kids, The Hunger Games and HBO's Girls. Old-school haunts such as La Grenouille, The Carlyle, The Four Seasons Restaurant and Mr. Chow's are always in, but so are hidden gardens and empty parking lots. Bar Centrale in the Broadway area is the choice for apres-theater parties. Peggy Siegal, who with associates Darin Pfeiffer and Andres Fernandez throws more than 100 events a year, loves a raft of cool, new murky Chinatown haunts (some with no signs): Pulqueria restaurant, Le Baron club, Apotheke cocktail lounge, even the Holiday Inn. "It's the new you-think-you're-gonna-get-mugged-then-you-walk-into-a-room-with-really-cool-people place," says Siegal. "You just don't go there in your good jewelry."

LA: Soho House

According to party planner Jeffrey Best of Best Events: "The Soho House [pictured] and anything gritty and urban in downtown." Of course, there's the classic Chateau Marmont and the now-classic Sunset Tower Hotel, but Bouchon is becoming CAA's default place for dinner soirees. Private houses with great views are always in demand, as are LACMA and Dawnridge, the Tony Duquette estate high up in Beverly Hills.


NY: Woody Allen: The Elusive VIP

No-Brainers: Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, Jay-Z and Beyonce, Harvey Weinstein and
Georgina Chapman, Larry Gagosian. Plus, adds one party planner, "Any studio exec with a new wife originally from New York." Matters only on the East Coast: Ken Auletta and Binky Urban, Olivia Palermo, Tinsley Mortimer, Jonathan Lethem, Malcolm Gladwell. On Siegal's A-list: Woody Allen (who almost never goes out, making his presence all the more desirable), Bruce Springsteen, Blake Lively, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Claire Danes, Elizabeth Olsen, Katie Couric, Meryl Streep, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper

LA: Brangelina Is Always Invited

No-Brainers: George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Ryan Gosling, Robert Downey Jr., Jon Hamm, Emma Stone, Jack Nicholson, Kobe Bryant, Prince, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Bono, Ashton Kutcher, studio heads. Matters Only on the West Coast: Studio presidents of production, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. On Best's A-list: Jennifer Aniston, Bryan Lourd and Madonna's manager Guy Oseary. Says Best, "The criteria of a great L.A. party is a mix of high-profile talent with high-power business."    


NY: There Is No Limit

Thanks to taxi and car-and-driver culture, "as much as they can take before falling off the Brooklyn Bridge," says one A-list New York party planner. Offers Gruber: "Last call is 4 a.m. That gives us a lot of hours to fill!" Most agree the sky -- or the bridge -- is the limit for alcohol in NYC. "Ideally under seven drinks, so you don't fall asleep on the subway on the way home or wake up in the Cloisters," says Duplass. Verdict: Drinking's a prerequisite for a well-rounded New York life.

LA: More Than One Raises Eyebrows

"Two is acceptable," says Best. "Drunk is not as amusing in L.A. as in New York." Adds Gates: "I rarely see people have more than one drink at all. The taxi factor gives New York a higher limit." Complains a jaded N.Y. party planner: "No one drinks in L.A. They all go home by 10:30, which is when I assume they start drinking. They have to -- they're so bored and frustrated by having so little to do and not being able to cut loose." Verdict: Drinking in L.A. is a little frowned upon by those who are still able to muster a frown
 -- and is considered a waste of calories.


NY: We're True Food Lovers

"The food is exceptional, so people do eat at New York parties," says publicist and party-giver extraordinaire Nadine Johnson of Nadine Johnson & Associates. Concurs producer Gruber: "New York events always impress with food from some of the city's greatest chefs. Plus, we might not have had time to eat all day." Verdict: New Yorkers have no shame about eating -- in public or not.

LA: Eat? Never After 8 p.m.

"People do eat appetizers at L.A. events," says Best. "But they don't stay long enough to have a full meal." Recalls one agent: "I saw someone have a carrot stick and a piece of sushi at an L.A. party a few years ago. But that was before they went to rehab." Most New Yorkers and Angelenos concur that L.A. folk do not eat much at parties -- or pretty much anywhere, except in small bits and bobs. Verdict: Angelenos graze before 8, then nada, going cold turkey. (And they hope no one sees them graze. Everyone has portion-control issues.)


NY: Too Uptight

"If they ask the host, sure, why not?" says one prominent New York event manager. "But otherwise, it's verboten. Nobody here can afford to seem out of control." Says Gates: "In New York, people might light up at Knicks games, but given the season-ticket price, they're definitely not hippie slackers." Advises one New Yorker: "Some neighborhoods are better for weed; parts of Brooklyn, yes -- Park Slope, not so much." In fact, pot arrests in New York are on the rise and officially high. Verdict: Not cool. New Yorkers are too uptight and paranoid. They probably need to smoke some …

LA: It's All Good, Man

"This seems to be the ultimate no-no in New York but not in L.A.," notes Best. "It is becoming more OK to smoke pot at an L.A. event, and more people seem inclined to light up." Says Duplass: "It's totally fine. It's everywhere, so it's not like you can tell people to stop." Producer Permut breaks it down according to rank: "Prominent actors, writers and directors can light up anytime. Producers and executives only at night, usually at home or late-night parties." Verdict: Hippies R Us


NY: Black, Always

Manhattan black is the cool carpet ride.

LA: Any Color

Traditional red has given way to eco-green, blue, gold -- a rainbow coalition of carpet colors. Says Best: "We like to match the carpet to the logo of the host or the locale."


NY: Keep it Classy

"New York is definitely more buttoned-up and businesslike, but people can still get funky," says UTA's Gates. "In New York, we have a clear idea of what cocktail attire is. We have European sartorial traditions." Women can keep it simple, says Horovitz: "I have 20 black dresses of varying degrees of fanciness. You really don't need more." Adds writer-director Duplass: "New York girls dress roughly the same [as L.A. girls]. But New York guys are much more mod." Verdict: Most New Yorkers have clothes all figured out.

LA: Keep it Casual-Chic

"L.A. is certainly a more casual town, but in the past year or so, I've noticed people dress better, so jeans and a sport coat a couple days a week and suits, no tie, the other days," says producer Lieberman. But, differs one observer of the landscape: "I see lawyers and execs in T-shirts and sneakers. It can be cool to dress broke." Verdict: Angelenos tend to overdress at night or underdress for day; high heels rule for chicks; and the guys have a better handle on it than most of the women. If you see a very well-dressed female, she's a stylist or she used a stylist, and that dress is going back tomorrow.