Wall Street quakes shake New York social scene

Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:34pm EDT
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By Nicole Maestri

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Yorkers who frequent Gotham's most lavish parties fear the good times are over.

The economic downturn of the past year left many of the city's richest unscathed. But the swift demise of some of Wall Street's most historic firms has erased immense wealth and challenged a sense of security for even the moneyed classes.

"It's the end of an era," said party-goer Melissa Berkelhammer at an event at New York's Plaza Hotel this week. "Everything was going so sky high that everyone had to keep redefining what luxury was."

The reality check may even affect the way the city's top socialites appear in public, regardless of whether their own billions are safe.

"Being an unemployed heiress and going to a party and wearing a pretty dress is not the image people want to see right now," said Remy Stern, founder of Cityfile.com, which profiles people it believes are the city's most influential.

David Patrick Columbia, editor of the New York Social Diary website, which chronicles the city's wealthiest and their satellites, said: "We've entered a hurricane, maybe combined with a monsoon and cyclone."

"We save nothing, so we're not at all prepared," he said.

The turmoil on Wall Street has become the topic du jour among New York City's movers and shakers, Stern said.   Continued...

<p>A tourist takes a sip of a cosmopolitan drink at a bar during a "Sex and the City" themed tour in New York May 23, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>