There were two Beverly Hills book bashes Tuesday night. Just three blocks from each other, the literary events were an entire universe apart.
One was a low-key elegant affair at the Ralph Lauren store on Rodeo Drive for photographer Steven Sebring‘s "Bygone Days." The coffee table book is a collection of Americana photos taken by Sebring’s 90-year-old uncle, John Penor, that Sebring lovingly recreated using old negatives found in trunks.
Sebring’s entire family was there, along with his pal, punk rock pioneer and poet Patti Smith, who wrote the book’s forward.
Photo: Punk poet Patti Smith plays at Steven Sebring’s "Bygone Days" book bash
(Eric Neitzel / WireImage)
The second event was a paparazzi-blitzed, champagne-fizzy bash at Judith Ripka’s jewelry boutique on Via Rodeo for Nicole Richie‘s new book, "The Truth About Diamonds." The famously fragile author arrived looking glam in a royal blue gown and stayed just long enough to accept a five-grand diamond bracelet, pose for photos and scram without signing a single book or speaking to guests or press.
By contrast Smith stuck around down the street. She strummed an acoustic guitar, sang several songs and read poems, some from her new book, "Auguries of Innocence." And she happily signed Sebring’s book for guests, adding, "If you think you’re bothering me by asking me to autograph a book, you aren’t. That’s what I’m here for and I’m happy to do it."
Smith and Sebring are collaborating on a documentary about her that will be presented at Sundance next year, released theatrically and then aired on PBS. "When we started, it was just home movies," noted the singer, who turns 59 this month. "We’ve been working quietly on it, using our own money, kind of ragtag, but we’ve piled up quite a few cans of film and we’re ready to finish it."
Sebring met Smith 10 years ago on a Spin magazine shoot and since then has shot Smith’s life, travels, home, friends and family for the doc that she will narrate. "It’s a very moody film, with no talking heads and will be about one-and-a-half hours long. But the DVD will have a lot of special extra footage," explains the photog who financed the film by shooting lucrative ads/films for Donna Karan and Coach and is now a celeb shooter for Vanity Fair.
The book contains photos (1907-1957) taken by Sebring’s cowboy uncle. "He’s amazing and he’s still alive, although unable to travel, and living in the home he was born in, in Bison, South Dakota, on about 2,000 acres, with 50 wild horses and plenty of bison."
Several members of Sebring’s family, including his mom and dad, sat on Lauren’s sofas, listening to Smith play guitar and sing. "I’m not a real guitar player, I just play one for book tours, " joked Smith, who hopes to see Ang Lee‘s Golden Globe-nominated "Brokeback Mountain" when she has time off in January. She was also jazzed about seeing productions of "Parsifal" and "Tosca" at the Los Angeles Opera this week.
Meanwhile at the Ripka boutique, two dozen guests waited outside the small store, sipping champagne and frying their brain pans under the heat lamps until Richie and her entourage arrived in the Maybach Mercedes-Benz had arranged to transport the scrawny starlet.
As one publicist whispered, "We’ve been told that she won’t speak to press tonight but we’re really hoping that she might want to show everyone how great she’s doing after the breakup (she and DJ AM are no longer engaged!) and talk about all her new projects."
No such luck. After saying "Thank you so much" to Judith’s son, Brian Ripka, for the diamond bracelet he carefully fastened on her wrist, just above her kabala red string, Richie raced out, her publicist fending off anyone who dared speak to the star.
But Ripka seemed pleased with Richie’s brief command performance. "We have a long relationship with Nicole. She’s wearing one of our classic rings on the cover of her book and we just renamed the ring for her, calling it the ‘Nicole.’ Her book is about Hollywood A-listers and going behind the velvet ropes so for her to choose to wear Judith Ripka is just great."
By the way, the party buzz was that Richie didn’t really write her novel about a young girl adopted at age 7 by a famous singer and his wife, who grows up among Hollywood’s elite, drinking and partying with her famous and fickle friends at awards shows and celeb-strewn parties.
No! Say it isn’t so.
Photo: Nicole Richie poses with her brand new bling at the book party for "The Truth About Diamonds"
(Jeff Vespa / WireImage)