“K.J., come when you can,” Speccie editor Dominic Green texted me. I was an hour and a half late for a dinner hosted by The Spectator’s chairman, Andrew Neil. It had been a long day: I’d just become the opinion editor of the New York Post. Would there be any food left to sop up the copious amounts of alcohol traditional on such occasions? I needn’t have worried. Appetizer remnants were strewn over the large table in the restaurant’s private room, and the drink was flowing. My promotion had made Politico’s Playbooks for DC and NYC that day, and Post columnist Karol Markowicz announced it as I walked into the room to applause. “It’s my new editor, @ KJTorrance!” Karol tweeted after midnight, along with a picture in which she looked lovely and I looked less than lively. But I was wide awake at dinner — you have to be when Andrew Neil is holding court.
I was late for another sparkling shindig. Manhattan fêtes are rarely organized by people with newspaper deadlines; the legendary Post columnist Cindy Adams was even more fashionably late than I was. Rudy Giuliani had already left, but the Beach Café on the Upper East Side, popular with New York’s larger-than-you’d-expect right wing, was still swinging with the release party for Laptop from Hell, a juicy but devastating look at Hunter Biden’s abandoned computer by the Post’s all-around fabulous Miranda Devine. In a mist of Omicron, television personalities and political operatives squeezed against each other to get to the open bar or catch a glimpse of Roger Stone and his friend Kristin M. Davis, better known as the “Manhattan Madam.”
“You’re the most powerful person in the room,” a publisher friend suddenly said into my ear. I was taken aback. I’m just a girl from Edmonton, Alberta whose parents didn’t graduate high school. He pointed out that everyone wants to get in the Post, and it’s true. I run the op-ed pages for a 220-year-old newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton. It’s the sixth-biggest in the country, with nearly 100 million readers a month online. It didn’t take me long to understand why one friend on Twitter responded to my job news with “Mazal tov! RIP your inbox.” Still, if you’d told me months ago I’d become the Post’s opinion editor and receive an invitation to a dinner in honor of Shirley MacLaine at a restaurant New York magazine describes as an “intimate uptown refuge” for a “plutocrat clientele”…
“What a great job!” wrote Andrew Stein, a Post contributor who defeated David Dinkins in the Democratic primary to become Manhattan borough president and served as the last City Council president. Andrew invited me to dinner. On Saturday night, I arrived a bit late and had to wait longer still to be ushered to a table at the restaurant’s rear, behind a folding screen. Seated across from Shirley MacLaine were Woody Allen and his wife Soon-Yi Previn. Two more directors arrived later, as did a charming Judy Miller, the journalist who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to reveal a confidential source. Dinner was delightful: the group was smart and sharp and seemed rightly riled by cancel culture. The fair Soon-Yi, more than arm candy, deftly discussed international topics. When the Allens were about to leave, I reminded them we’d spoken before. Apart from conducting a phone interview with Woody in my film-critic days, I’d run into the pair in 2020 near the Metropolitan Museum when it reopened from lockdown. (I put the meeting in my column, of course.) “Were we nice to you?” Soon-Yi asked. “Very,” I said. “He must not have known you worked for the Post,” she laughed. I repeated how much I’d enjoyed Woody’s memoir, which I’d finished shortly before bumping into them — it mentions his dislike of an earlier incarnation of the paper — and ended with a quick rundown of my favorite Allen films. “Why didn’t they seat this girl beside me?” he joked. “I could listen to this all night.”
When everyone else had gone, I stayed behind for another drink with one of the directors, and we moved the discussion outside as the restaurant closed. The Upper East Side streets were deserted — except for the men who stole my purse and phone, which was on and accessible, so they were able to drain my bank account via Venmo and PayPal along with charging my credit cards. My new friend kindly put me in a paid-for cab and handed me some cash. My wallet had already been stolen from my purse a month earlier — something that never happened in my long years in DC.
I do work between the parties. When I go into the office — rarely, with work still remote — a figure, perhaps life-sized, of Alexander Hamilton greets me in the lobby. I started strong, with a column making the front page my first official week in the job: “Don’t let shooting death of my innocent child be in vain, father pleads to NYC,” a moving call for action on crime by Jason Williams, whose son Ethan was murdered on his first trip to the Big Apple. It’ll be hard to top that. But I’m inspired by the thought one of the big bosses might one day bring another bottle of Champagne to the editorial board, as he did so we could toast the resignation of Andrew Cuomo. And then — really! — we got right back to work.
Kelly Jane Torrance is opinion editor of theNew York Post and a Spectator contributing editor. This article was originally published in The Spectator’s February 2022 World edition.