Friday, August 17, 2007

San Francisco Social Diary

Book Party on top of Nob Hill
by Jeanne Lawrence


Eunice David, one of the authors of High Rise Low Down, and her husband, lyricist Hal David, were celebrated in San Francisco by Barbara George and her husband, California Chief Justice Ronald M. George along with entrepreneur/philanthropist couple Carole and Bob McNeil.

Barbara and Eunice became friends while serving on the California Arts Council, an agency which supports arts organization throughout the state. So throwing a book signing party seemed the natural thing to do, and what better place than the McNeil’s pied-à-terre, one of the most grand beaux-arts apartments on Nob Hill!

The book was co-authored by three women: Eunice David, who also sits on the on board of the Los Angeles County Music and Performing Arts Commission, and New Yorkers Denise LeFrak Calicchio (of the prominent NY real estate family and herself a specialist at Sotheby’s International Realty) and writer, editor, and film consultant, Kathryn Livingston.

Summer Reading - High Rise Low Down
As you have no doubt already read a review of the book on this website, I won’t say too much about it, except to reiterate that it is one fascinating read. The social history and details of these white-gloved, blue-chip buildings - 834, 960, 820, and 1040 Fifth Avenue, the Time Warner Center, River House, The Dakota, The San Remo, 740, 720, 770, 778, and 820 Park Avenue, The Beresford, One Beekman Place – is essential knowledge for anyone enamored with classic New York.

The book gives us a glimpse into some of the top buildings in Manhattan, and is the self-proclaimed “ultimate insider’s tour of New York City’s most sought-after addresses – the exclusive, closely guarded residences of the most famous and powerful people in the world.” So the McNeil’s apartment on Nob Hill was the perfect venue, as it has as much history, stories and gossip as those grand apartments in New York.

For example, it was here that Catherine and Randolph Hearst (managing editor of the San Francisco Examiner) moved during the 1975 trial of their daughter, Patty Hearst. The media heiress was accused of aiding in numerous bank robberies with the Symbionese Liberation Army after they had kidnapped and brainwashed her. The fairy tale ending: Patty fell in love with and later married the bodyguard who protected her while she was under house arrest on Nob Hill.

Another tidbit: at one time, the ground floor housed Alexis, the restaurant with the famous swinging disco that was frequented by everyone who was anyone. For decades, it was the fanciest club in San Francisco. Though it is gone, it remains unparalleled.
Denise Reyff with mother Carole McNeil and husband Paul Reyff
Dirk and Rissa Ivory with Kendall Friedman
Of course, Eunice’s husband, Academy Award-winning lyricist Hal David was there by her side (the duo lives in Los Angeles and New York City). A long-time collaborator with composer Burt Bacharach, David is the brains behind such hits as Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, Close to You, To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, What the World Needs Now is Love, and close to 700 other ditties that have now become pop standards.

Carole’s children also came out for the event. Her beautiful daughter, Denise Reyff and movie-star handsome son, Dirk Ivory arrived with their respective spouses, Paul Reyff and Rissa Ivory.

Guests included: Sharon and Dr. John Owsley; Lucy Buchanan, wife of Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco Director, John Buchanan; Saks Fifth Avenue goddess of glam, Therese Post; Bob and Adrianna Pope Sullivan; art dealers Tatiana and Serge Sorokko; Nob Hill Gazette publisher Lois Lehrman; writer Ann Seymour; Dana Dirickson; cultural supporters Connie Goodrich Baron and Dr. Barry Baron; Sally Debenham; interior designer Diane Chapman; Arlene Schnitzer; and Kendall Friedman.

In between bites of the tasty and creative hors d’oeuvres prepared by the O’Neil’s personal chef, the chatter about the book was enthusiastic. Everyone was asking, “How did you find all this detailed and intriguing information?” All I can say is, New York is a big city that seems like a small town in that there really aren’t any secrets – well, thanks to Page Six, no secrets that you can keep, anyway.
Hal David, Carole McNeil, Eunice David, Barbara George, and Robert McNeil
Rissa and Dirk Ivory with Eunice and Hal David
California Cuisine
Tasty treats by the McNeil's personal chef
Delectable desserts
Chief Justice Ronald George and Paul Reyff
Carole McNeil and Dana Dirickson
Tatiana Sorokko and Chief Justice Ronald George
Chief Justice Ronald George, Sally Debenham, and Robert McNeil
Barbara George and Eunice David at book signing
Diane Chapman Kelly
Lois Lehrman, Connie Goodrich Baron, and Dr. Barry Baron
Barbara George and Dirk Ivory
Lucy Buchanan, Serge Sorokko, and Arlene Schnitzer
Bob Sullivan and Adrianna Pope Sullivan with Denise and Paul Reyff
Carole McNeil, Lois Lehrman, Ann Seymour, and Dana Dirickson
Rissa Ivory and Kendall Friedman
A cozy evening

Who could pass up an invitation to listen to a talk given by the former Mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown? Especially when he’s addressing the Monday Group luncheon at the popular Big 4 restaurant in the distinguished Huntington Hotel on Nob Hill!

A century ago, Nob Hill was adorned with the mansions of the great railroad barons of the Central Pacific Line, affectionately known as The Big Four. They were Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and C.P. Huntington. Though the mansions themselves were lost in the epic earthquake of 1906, their august memory lives on in photographs adorning the walls of the Big 4 restaurant.

The Huntington Hotel atop Nob Hill
Discreetly San Francisco
The four founders of this Big 4 Monday Group luncheons are Grace Prien, former San Francisco Chronicle society editor; interior designer DianaDalton;Gretchen Leach,who won over the French as wife of the former US Ambassador to France, Howard Leach;and Chris Boskin, magazine executive and newly appointed board member to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

The Monday Group lunches were started 12 years ago by four friends who simply wanted to enjoy good company and good food; they then invited speakers to the luncheons to spice things up. It has since grown into an invitation-only event that keeps dozens of guests well informed – and well fed!

Recent speakers have included Vanity Fair’s Christopher Hitchens and Maureen Orth (who is married to NBC newsman Tim Russert); author Erica Jong; lifestyle guru Carolyne Roehm; SF Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas; SF Opera Director David Gockley; SF Museum of Modern Art Director Neal Benezra; and economist Paul Erdman.

But back to the lunch. When I mentioned to one of his former constituents that I was going to hear Willie Brown speak, the fellow replied, “But will he tell the truth?” Without missing a beat, he added, “I kind of miss him.”

I kind if miss him, too. The sparkling charisma. The flamboyant dress. On this particular Monday, the dapper raconteur arrived to speak about the future of politics dressed in a Brioni blazer – surely purchased from his best friend Wilkes Bashford’s eponymous luxury boutique near Union Square.

Even with San Francisco Chronicle press at the table (including columnists, at the time,  Leah Garchik and Catherine Bigelow),he didn’t mince words - and they did quote him.

 A Democrat, Brown is witty, amusing, frank, direct, and outspoken. He has strong opinions and is known for his political acumen. He’s a real showman, unlike many of his fellow politicians, and anything but bland. He’s not afraid to say things that might be used against him.

He announced that his forthcoming memoir, a collaboration with journalist P.J. Corkery,entitled Basic Brown, will be published next year by Simon and Schuster.

I wonder if it’s going to be a tell-all book. I mean, here’s a man who hails from a small Texas town and attended a segregated school, yet rose to become one of the most powerful political leaders in California. Speaker of the Assembly for 14 years and later Mayor of San Francisco for two terms? Now that’s a fascinating story!

Brown remains unrepentant. “I had a grand time being Mayor of San Francisco.”
Former SF Mayor Willie Brown
Diane Chapman, Lewis Sykes, and Sally Debenham
Other guests invited to hobnob with the former Mayor: Millicent Dunham; Rhea Friend; Jane Gammill (who lived in NYC for many years and still trots back and forth); Bob Gunderson; Allan Hitchcock; Meriwether McGettigan (who recently launched Meriwether, her own jewelry boutique on Sacramento Street); Stephene McKeen (who decamps to her home in the wine country whenever she can)  Gail and Carmen Policy (former President of the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns who now owns a vineyard called Cinque Vigne in honor of his five children);party designer Lewis Sykes; Rosemarie Wagner (twin sister of New Yorker OliveGreeff); Kay Walker and Owen Woodruff; Harry and Margot de Wildt; Sally Debenham; Dr. Elisa Stephens (President of the Academy of Art College); Kathleen Sullivan Alioto (widow of the late San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto and Executive Director of the Foundation of San Francisco City College); Bob Gunderson, and Jerome Dougherty; former partner at Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro.

Echoing popular opinion on her role as gracious Ambassador’s wife, Brown thanked co-host Gretchen Leach for “treating us [San Franciscans] like visiting dignitaries whenever we passed through Paris.”

He concluded by remembering a terrific mayoral tenure with no committees around to cramp his style, noting that early on in his career he had decided that it was better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.
Gretchen Leach, Diana Dalton, Chris Boskin, and Grace Prien
Journalist P.J. Corkery
Kathleen Alioto, widow of Mayor Joe Alioto
'Policy' talk with Willie Brown
Ann Seymour and Jeanne Lawrence
Brenda Jewett and Meriwether McGettigan
Jane Gammill and Wilkes Bashford
Stephene McKeen
Journalist Margot de Wildt and Leah Garchik
Gail and Carmen Policy
Jerry Dougherty and Rosemarie Wagner
Ann Seymour and her daughter, Jennifer Biederbeck
Raconteur Harry de Wildt
The Big 4, the '21' of San Francisco
The Crocker mansion, pre-1906 earthquake
The old Huntington mansion atop Nob Hill
The former Hopkins and Stanford mansions on Nob Hill

Bay Area natives Ann and Bob Seymour honored visiting New Yorkers (Mr. and Mrs.) Patricia Burke and Fergus Sloan with a dinnerat the swanky, art moderne supper club, BIX.

BIX restaurant on Gold Street...really an alley
BIX's site - a historic Gold Rush assay office
Owned by Ann’s son-in-law, Doug “Bix” Biederbeck, BIX is housed in an historic Gold Rush-era assay office, tucked appropriately away on Gold Street, one of San Francisco’s delightful hidden alleys. Doug also owns Market Bar at the Ferry Building and Florio in Pacific Heights.

Voted SF’s most popular nightspot by Zagat, locals and visitors alike flock to BIX for its stylish cuisine and smooth jazz. Biederbeck describes it as a modern speakeasy, “in an alley, no windows, dark, and lots of atmosphere.”

The elegant murals were painted by Seattle-based architect, Mindy Cameron, daughter of Lois Lehrman, owner of the must-read Nob Hill Gazette.

Patricia Burke has the enviable position of Vice President of Literary Affairs at Paramount Pictures, and is therefore extraordinarily well read. As Ann Seymour described it, “Tricia calls her job ‘1000 to 1.’ She reads 1000 books, recommends 100, 10 are optioned, and 1 is made into a movie.”

From their modeling days, Burke is also good friends with Sherry Lansing,former CEO of Paramount. Lansing often stays with her friend, Maria Manetti Farrow at her Napa Valley estate. (By the way, wasn’t that some tribute to Lansing on Oscar Night this year?)
Bar mural by Seattle architect Mindy Cameron
It was Burke who discovered the wide film appeal of prolific writer James Patterson. In his 2005 book, 4th of July, Patterson sets the final chapter in BIX, where he deftly describes some of its mouth-watering signature dishes, like Popcorn Shrimp and Steak Tartar.

Among the select invitees at the dinner were: Catherine Hall with Austin Hills of Grgich winery; prominent plastic surgeon, Dr.John Owsley and his wife, Sharon; financier Fergus Sloan; the globe-trotting Dodie Rosekrans (who calls Paris, Venice, and San Francisco home); Dodie’s house guest, John Hohnbeen; Patsy Pope; and Warren Hopkins Clark, a descendant of 19th century railroad baron, Mark Hopkins.

Another guest was Chrissie de Guigne, whose father founded Stouffer Chemical. His brother, Chal de Guigne has been seen around town with Dede Wilsey, whose great-grandfather founded Dow Chemical. “You two must have great chemistry between you,” joked Ann Seymour.
luncheon and dinner party host, Ann Seymour, in front of 'The Butler's in Love' by artist Max Stock
Patsy Pope
Sometime later, Ann hosted a luncheon in my honor at BIX. (There are many advantages to having a son-in-law as a successful restaurateur!) It was a fun, TGIF luncheon, after which everyone headed to their country homes in Sonoma, Napa, and Lake Tahoe for the weekend.

Joining us on that occasion were: O.J. Shansby; Dagmar Dolby; Bobby von Bulow, who lives in San Francisco, Argentina, and Manhattan; designer Shelby de Quesada; Jeanne Jackson; Merces de Quevedo Freemon; and Ellie KillebrewBrown.

Here’s the menu for a “ladies lunch”: California Asparagus Soup with Lemon Crème Fraîche or Hearts of Romaine with Point Reyes Blue Cheese Vinaigrette, followed by Sautéed Artic Char with Cardoons, Spring Garlic, Roasted Potatoes & Pickled Fennel or Chicken Hash à la Bix, and for dessert Vanilla Crème Brulee or Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding. Everything was delicious!

The topic of the day was about the budding romance of actor Jude Law and Kim Hersov, granddaughter of one of San Francisco’s old guard, Diana Knowles. It’s so difficult to keep up with all these romances in the city. But at least we didn’t have to do it on an empty stomach.
Luncheon guests OJ Shansby, hostess Ann Seymour, and Dagmar Dolby
Dinny Chase, Shelby de Quesada, and Jeanne Jackson
Guests of Honor - New Yorkers Fergus Sloan and Patricia Burke
Dodie Rosekrans and Bob Seymour
Luncheon guest Jeanne Lawrence with Doug Biederbeck, owner of BIX
Dr. John Owsley and Catherine Hall
Doug Biederbeck with wife Jennifer Biederbeck, Ann Seymour's daughter, stopped by

Photographs by Sam Moscovitz, Alexandra Lucas, & Jeanne Lawrence
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