David Patrick Columbia
Founder, The New York Social Diary
00:49

Philanthropy and New York Society

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The best part about New York society.

David Patrick Columbia

David Patrick Columbia is the founder and editor of New York Social Diary, a website that chronicles the lives of the Big Apple’s elite. Since graduating from Colby College in 1962, Columbia has led numerous lives: he's been a stockbroker, an owner of a head shop in upstate New York, a sportswear designer, a freelancer (he wrote a firsthand account of one of Truman Capote's "lost weekends"), and a scriptwriter for a courtroom television show. In 1988, Columbia finally found his calling when he collaborated with Debbie Reynolds on her autobiography. In 1994, Columbia began writing the New York Social Diary for Quest Magazine (a condensed version of the website is still printed in Quest every month). The New York Social Diary website was launched in September, 2000. Columbia has since become something of social fixture himself: he's been the subject of articles and blog posts in New York Magazine, Gawker, and the New York Observer.
Transcript

Question: How has New York society changed in the last decade?

 

David Patrick Columbia:   Well since I’ve been following, it’s changed only in the sense that when I first started, the people who were then in their 60s, and their 70s, and their 80s who once reigned in society still had a presence and an influence. And that presence and influence is related to an earlier part of the century because they were young, say, in the 1920s, ‘30s, or ‘40s. And the _______ and _______of our society were considerably different than they are today. And so they have gone. They’re not here. And so a lot of the things that were; the phrase “This is just not done,” or “This is just not acceptable”; those phrases no longer are operative because we now live in a society where people in their 50s and 60s like me only have a dim memory of that kind of traditional way of living.

Well in the last decade; So you’re talking about 1996 to 2006 or 2007? I think that New York society really hasn’t changed all that much in the last decade except for one thing. Things have speeded up more. We’re been living in a festival of speculation in many, many ways. And so it’s just gotten faster and it’s become more and more overnight. You have people now, because of the Internet, you have a lot of people who pursue celebrity personally to make themselves celebrity. Paris Hilton is a perfect example of that. She’s kind of the prototype celebrity of the last decade. And actually that celebrity is based on absolutely nothing but exposure.

 

Question: How will this age in New York society be remembered?

 

David Patrick Columbia: I think this age in New York society will probably be remembered in many ways very frivolous, but in many ways very creative; and probably very influential because of the philanthropic aspect that I mentioned earlier, which is; 40 or 50 years ago there was philanthropy of course, and there was a lot of volunteerism; but it wasn’t so much a part of the consciousness of this being a prerequisite to belonging. And it is now. And so that’s going to stay with us for quite some time I think.

 

Question: Are there people in New York society you find inspiring?

 

David Patrick Columbia: That’s a really hard question to answer. Let’s say there are; I can’t say there are individuals in New York society that I’ve found particularly inspiring; but there are people, because of my work, and because of the connections that my work makes for me, there are a number of people that I’ve met or been in the presence of who are inspiring in the sense that they’re very, very smart. And they’re very good thinkers, and I’m very impressed by that.

 

Conducted on: October 29, 2007

 


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