Once inside, Cohen threads his way to the VIP balcony. Not long afterward, though—far before the lights come up—he has vanished: another show, another call, another obligation. A Warner executive downstairs grins: “He poofed on you, huh? That’s what Lyor does—he’s always got someplace else he needs to be, and he vanishes. He goes poof!”
A week later, Cohen is at an Upper East Side benefit for the arts and education charity Boys & Girls Harbor. Men and women, suits and jewelry, hail him from across the room. “Lyor! Lyor! I want you to meet—” and Cohen becomes a handshaking machine. Waiters circulate through the crowd with silver trays crammed with hors d’oeuvres like tiny, unclosable suitcases. He has brought his mother and son. Az has his father’s height and features, his watchfulness. Cohen’s mother is formidable; you understand how rough it might be to have her disapprove of your house. Cohen seems to be running for office—either to be Cohen or to be allowed to stay Cohen. When he looks my way at all, it is with pity: Why aren’t I extracting as much fun, as much interest from life as he is?
Guests file into the Heckscher Theater, and the performances start. An earnest boy and girl sing Pippin’s “Corner of the Sky”; Yo-Yo Ma plays. Then a teenage student steps onstage. A ripple goes through the crowd: The girl, statuesque and beautiful, emits a star quality. Cohen sits up straight, leans over, and whispers, “Don’t let her sing like Mariah Carey and have me sign an act tonight.” The girl takes a breath; Cohen listens closely. She sings, and as the applause begins, he turns and says with a smile: “Not gonna happen. But you never know. You have to show up, right?”