Popularity is fickle. We’re often warned that spots at the top are never secure. But how do you account for those who fall, only to rise again?
Only a few years ago Anna Delvey was making headlines as a fake heiress who scammed hundreds of thousands of dollars out of banks, hotels, and former coworkers. Now, her new East Village pad — dubbed “Club House Arrest,” which she is literally under — has become a party hot spot for society figures both uptown and downtown.
In December, Delvey (née Sorokin) threw a holiday bash attended by actual heiress Ivy Getty. But her gatherings didn’t make headlines until her January birthday party, which required guests to submit their SSNs (not that anyone did), and sign NDAs (which stopped absolutely no one from talking to Page Six). But most baffling was the crowd: revelers included socialites like Cynthia Rowley and daughter Kit Keenan, model Teddy Quinlivan, writer Rachel Rabbit White, and even Avenue’s former editor-in-chief, Ben Widdicombe.
The very social circles she lied to were now lining up to get into her home. What sparked this mass acceptance?
“Obviously Anna is controversial. [But] I’m an instinct person,” says writer Cat Marnell, who was also in attendance. “I have instincts about her and I feel like other people might as well, that there’s positive energy around her, and that’s what I came to the party to scope out.”
Marnell was invited through another person in the East Village scene. She went into it with ambivalent feelings towards Delvey, but left a fan. Apparently, Delvey is nothing short of a perfect hostess, charming and polite. “No one likes a person who steals or does things to others,” Marnell clarifies. “I have no idea what kind of trauma she went through in incarceration and with the media stuff…I hope the best for her. But really, I think my message is that I think she is going to be an awesome addition to the downtown community. Everybody deserves a second chance.”
Not that everyone required convincing.
“There were a handful of us that had met her before [she was infamous]. I would say that we were very much the minority,” says Timo Weiland, who first met Delvey when they both interned at Purple magazine. Weiland, who says he was “confused” upon reading the viral New York Magazine story that uncovered the drama, is forthright about being charmed by the con woman. “When I first started to hear about her entertaining and having people over, for me, it was a no-brainer because I always liked her,” he admits.
From what Weiland could tell, no one at the party was focused on where she had been, or what she had done. “Conversations were more optimistic,” he explains. “Just chatting with people that I knew in the room that didn’t know her, and a handful of us that did, the future looks bright. There was a reckoning she didn’t shy away from, or even really deny.”
True crime is a spectrum, and grifts, scams, and cons usually err on the mild side. Add in the fact that they’re often more gossipy than gritty, it makes the perpetrator more palatable — a micro-celebrity for a niche audience. Delvey is unique because she went mainstream. The New York article turned her into something of a folk hero. Inventing Anna, the immensely popular Netflix series which dramatized her story, gave her misdeeds a glamorous sheen. Despite their intentions, both helped the general public identify with her.
In a fake-it-till-you-make-it world, perhaps some need to know that the consequences to being found out are survivable. Perhaps others simply need to know that people can both forgive and forget. Or maybe, this has always been how the city operates.
“Anna is a great New York character and knowing her is one of the pleasures of living here,” says Widdicombe. “If you only want to be around saints, go live in a monastery.”