During yesterday’s rainy afternoon, guests trundled (damp, but stoic) into elevators and up to Robert, the Museum of Arts and Design’s in-house bistro. The restaurant, a pink pop-modernist confection on the ninth floor, was playing host to a luncheon fête for the Sundance Channel’s latest, Push Girls, which premiered last night. The docu-series, which airs Mondays at 10:00 PM, tells the stories of four paralyzed women—with professional glories amongst them ranging from competitive swimming, to professional dancing, to a bit part in The Fast and the Furious—and their lives in Hollywood.
Improbably early arrivals, we grabbed a glass of pinot grigio and staked out a spot by one of Robert’s enormous windows. From across the room we spotted Beth Ostrosky-Stern looking preternaturally summery in a fitted peach Dolce & Gabbana dress and cream Louboutins. Had Mrs. Shock Jock herself seen the pilot of Push Girls yet? “No! I’m a little disappointed, I thought they were going to be screening it today. I guess I’ll have to wait ‘til tonight.” Feeling more than a little as though we might be depriving the far corners of the room of Ms. Ostrosky-Stern’s brand of bronzed, leggy radiance, The Observer thanked her and moved along. In one such corner was goddess of gossip Liz Smith herself, presiding over a view of Columbus Circle that Cynthia McFadden very accurately described as seeming “astride the colossus.”
After a moment of sartorial envy in the face of Ms. Smith’s red-fringed bandana and matching leather jacket, we took the seat she had kindly offered us. Juju Chang and her Nightline executive producer Jeanmarie Condon soon stopped by, bringing the table’s media wattage to a humbling high. “The only model I can think of who ever posed nude that was really shocking was Burt Reynolds when I was the entertainment editor for Cosmopolitan,” Ms. Smith told Ms. Condon laughingly when discussion turned to models. “We had him on the couch, just covering his privates. People were so shocked!”
But all good and racy things must come to an end, and soon we were shepherded to our respective tables for lunch. Guests nibbled at mushroom ravioli with parmesan foam as Sundance’s general manger/executive VP Sarah Barnett introduced Push Girls with a teaser. As second courses were ferried around the room, Alexandra Reeve Givens spoke on behalf of her famed father’s charity, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, and shared an anecdote of the vivid green ‘eject’ button glued to the arm of his wheelchair. “There’s an entire generation of reporters out there who have been emotionally scarred from sitting through an interview with my dad, trying to figure out why he might have an eject button! But the reason that he loved it was because it was a visible reminder that the wheelchair was just a piece of equipment, like anything else. That he was a regular person sitting in it, the same as he always had been.”
The four Push Girls themselves (Angela Rockwood, Auti Angel, Tiphany Adams, and Mia Schaikewitz) made their way to the front of the room for a Q&A session. They fielded questions about the show’s origins, their injuries, and their friendship asked by audience members in between bites of chicken paillard. Ms. Schaikewitz talked about sacrificing some of life’s normalcy in the face of a camera crew: “I’m a really private person, so when the opportunity came up and we were talking about doing a reality show, it was like ‘Oh my gosh, my friends are going to know what’s going on in my life now!’ It felt really daunting, but on the other hand, this work is so important. What we’re doing collectively and how we’re changing society with this show—of course I’m going to trade that for that!”
“Are you prepared for fame?” inquired one woman.
“Were we prepared for paralysis?” Ms. Rockwood quipped.
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