If the Upper East Side were the wild kingdom, Fred’s at Barneys New York would be its watering hole, where proud yummy mummies gather with their young progeny to sip iced tea on Friday afternoons. All the better for the keen gaze of Jill Kargman, an Upper East Side social herself as the daughter of Coco and Arie Kopelman and the author of “Momzillas,” her latest tome about the social hierarchy among wealthy moms, which hits shelves today. “I literally just heard one woman ask her daughter if she wanted the truffle oil pizza,” says Kargman, whose daughters, Sadie and Ivy, are at home with a sitter. “You can’t make this stuff up.”
“Momzillas,” it turns out, is much more truth than fiction. Before embarking on her book tour, which kicks off Wednesday evening with a party at the Oscar de la Renta boutique in Bal Harbour, Fla., Kargman tucked into a chicken salad (extra dressing) to discern between the two.
WWD: Your characters throw their children lavish birthday parties and dress them in expensive clothing, much to your main character Hannah’s horror. Are you concerned about offending people whom you may run into?
Jill Kargman: No, because there’s nothing that’s really judgy about it. If you can afford a $600 dress for your kid, then I’m jealous. Knock yourself out.
WWD: What about people who will think your characters are based on real women?
J.K.: It’s so not based on anyone that I’m not even nervous that someone could say that it is.
WWD: Your protagonist, the pale and dark-haired Hannah, seems based very much on you.
J.K.: There are definitely parts of her that are me only because I wanted to include so many choice comments I hear from people. I have a blonde child, like the daughter in the book. This one mom who has blonde hair with two brunette sons was like, “It’s so unfair. Here you are with jet black hair and you have this kid, and then look at me. I have blonde hair and then look at my kids.” And then the most Aryan nation mom I know sees me with my baby who is my same coloring, and she goes, “I knew you couldn’t get that lucky twice.” I go, “Oh, I am lucky. I have a healthy child. Bitch.”
This story first appeared in the April 10, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
WWD: Hannah’s mother-in-law, the socially obsessed Lila, sounds like a nightmare. Any relation to your own?
J.K.: No, thank goodness. My mother-in-law is luckily a nice Jewish mother. She has no issues about that stuff, and she loves the kids. That character is sort of a composite of friends’ mothers-in-law and a couple exes’ mothers.
WWD: Although you are on committees and come from a social family, you tend to portray yourself as an outsider. Why?
J.K.: My mom sort of does, too. I think that if you grow up with a mother who’s not wanting to be a social butterfly and air kiss the entire room, I feel like I’m the same way. I’m a little bit antisocial. I have five friends I talk to every day, I don’t have 20 million friends. I feel like some of those people don’t go to Gristedes without Valentino on. I saw a mom at a party and we were leaving to go home. It was 10 o’clock and she’s like, “Come, we’re having dinner at Cipriani Downtown.” I was like, are you on crack? I turn into a pumpkin by the time Jon Stewart’s on.
WWD: So how then do you navigate the “Momzilla” world?
J.K.: I really avoid anything that remotely resembles “Momzilla” behavior. I was approached by two women on the floor of the Winter Antiques Show who said, “We really want to invite you to our playgroup. It’s in different penthouses every week. We hired the top child psychiatrist from Columbia Presbyterian and he comes and plays with the kids and gives us notes and it’ll really help them ace their nursery school interviews, blah blah blah.” Before the second syllable of “penthouse” was out, I just knew this wasn’t for me. I subsequently found out it’s $10,000 to pay this guy, which was the idea for Dr. Poundschlosser.
WWD: Are you going to have any more kids?
J.K.: Harry wants four. I was like, “Listen, I’m never having four. I know four’s the new three, but I will be spread too thin.” He agreed to split the difference, so I’ve signed up for a third. I’ll have that many more years to eavesdrop on some of these crazies.
A Guide to the Species
Heroine: Hannah Allen, a pale faced, pants-wearing West Coast transplant.
Leader of the Pack: Bee Elliott, a beautiful and conniving blonde, a “huge proponent of the Too Posh to Push movement.”
Hubby’s job: Money manager.
Pet charities: New Yorkers Against Childhood Obesity (NACHO), Less Acne More Pride (LAMP) and People In Manhattan Against Pimples (PIMP).
Nursery schools of choice: Carnegie Nursery School (“class lists could be a page torn out of Forbes”), The Fifth Avenue School, The London School, The Temple School and Milford Prescott Music School (“mini Juilliard”).
Parenting guru: Dr. Poundschlosser, who lectures on “Curing the Disease of Affluenza” and refers clients to pacifier consultants.
Summertime uniform: Metallic Jack Rogers sandals, white pants and a Tory Burch beaded tunic.
Biggest faux pas: Hannah takes her daughter, Violet, on the subway (gasp!) to Brooklyn (double gasp!).