Sorry if already posted
Happy birthday (Trademark)
When tennis star Maria Sharapova turned 18, she celebrated like a famous athlete should: by promoting her sponsor
The women look hungry, the men are plucked and people everywhere seem to be wearing smiles that scream, "Come in. I'm U.S. Open."
The horny hubbub that's assembled this fine spring night in mid-decade Manhattan? What brings them here? These spaghetti-strapped socialites, these H&M tribes-folk, these kids who know Sofia but haven't a clue that she's got this dad, Francis, who, like, once, long ago, made some pretty good films too? And, wait just a minute there, isn't that Lindsay Lohan in the freckly flesh, looking oh-so oompa-loompa?
They're here for the launch -- Oops! 18th birthday party! we keep forgetting! -- for Maria Sharapova. The Siberan tennis ace, that is, the one who tickled the world's imagination and nearly every red-blooded male's loins when she out-Williamsed the sisters and won Wimbledon last year. The girl-woman that's got legs that go on longer than Celine Dion's high notes, the blondeness that always beguiles, and the rags-to-riches tale that so often does the media trick.
"Pretty cool for an 18th birthday party," a regular on the New York party scene notes last Saturday, as we look around the space that is Hiro, the rec-room-style Japanese restaurant set in Chelsea's trendy Maritime Hotel. Very Iron Chef meets American Pie. Or maybe, you might say, very Memoirs of a Keg.
Entirely sponsored as it is by Motorola, one can't help but note that this whole Sharapova coming-of-age is branded. Chinese lanterns hang provocatively from the ceilings with big, black M's stamped on every last one of them. The plastic bottles of water, too, arrive with the inky M staring out from them like a pair of kitty-cat's eyes. The invites to the party itself -- three pink tennis balls -- were served, if you will, with the not-so-little Motorola reminder.
Linked indelibly with the wireless technology firm, Sharapova's big night isn't just your typical birthday night out. It's birthday party as canny marketing opportunity -- a ploy that's been used before and will, no doubt, be used again.
It isn't quite Malcolm Forbes's infamous 70th birthday shindig in Tangiers, a still-talked-about Hollywood-meets-business zeitgeist moment when the tycoon flitted in with Elizabeth Taylor on his arm. It isn't even Marilyn Monroe coming out to torch-sing at President Kennedy's History Channel-worthy bash at Madison Square. But it's got a similar agenda. It's a stunt. It's buzz. Except this one's for the Ryan Seacrest crowd.
Indeed, even earlier in the day, when I had a chance to go singles with Sharapova -- an interview, not tennis -- she didn't miss an opportunity to do good by the people paying for her cake. "What do you want for you your birthday?" I asked the tennis star (who's hot, but not Kournikova hot. More girl-next-door-hot, if you live in Beverly Hills).
"I already got it," Sharapova told me, taking out her very sleek black pebble phone to show me. She flashed me a smile that had a not-so-subliminal message. Motorola rocks, her pearly whites distinctly seemed to be saying.
The Russkie hottie, who the entire tennis world has near-unanimously latched on to as a kind of Jessica Simpson with a racquet, makes some more easy chit-chat with me. Talking horoscopes, she tells me she's an "absolute Aries ... very ambitious." She tells me that she'd like to get a dog but that she travels too much to have one. She says she's working on her Spanish. She mentions that she's working on her very own fragrance. And that, in terms of any birthday resolutions, tennis remains her "number one priority."
But this weekend, it would appear that partying is right up there on the priority list. Back at the party, the hip-kid-friendly and Grammy-loved Maroon 5 eventually take the stage. They're no Marilyn Monroe, but many of the ladies here seem to have a real thing for bands fronted by cute skinny Jewish guys who manage to exude soul. Sharapova, I note, bobs energetically and sings along to almost every song. She doesn't though, make those noises like Meg Ryan in a Harry Met Sally diner, which she's known to make on the courts. Thank goodness.
The celebrities are out, and while there's not a Cruise, Hanks or even Kutcher to be seen, there are plenty of people who qualify to get on The Surreal Life and/or get their birthdays noted by Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart. The alliterative Lindsay, as we've already noted, is there, but only seems to stay long enough to do the cheese-cheese thing. Scottish rascal Alan Cumming is about, hanging on so tightly to his boyfriend's hand he looks like a kid with his dad at Coney Island.
There are not one, but two, cuties wearing head-scarves that make them look like escapees from a Costa Rican fruit stand: Samaire Armstrong, famous for having an asymmetrical haircut on The O.C., and the non-toe-sucking Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas. I talk briefly to Survivors Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca, who've managed to make their reality show romance survive in real life, although I do giggle just a tad when they later have trouble getting into the VIP room.
Also, in the room, a pair of happy exes: Bruce Willis ex-girl, the truly hot Brooke Burns, and P.Diddy's ex-umbrella holder, the dippy, dapper Farnsworth Bentley. It was just that kind of party.
"Is my hair OK? Is my hair OK?" I see Sharapova at one point ask the gaggle of giddy girls around her. The bridesmaids' equivalent to fabulous birthday girls, no doubt. "It's fine!" the girls yell out. "It's fine!"
And so is she. And a lot more famous today than she was just yesterday.