Monday, May 16, 2011

Washington Social Diary

The Georgetown home of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Sunday, May 15th.
by Carol Joynt

New York may own the Dominique Srauss-Kahn story, but a side note worth mentioning is that his Washington home is in Georgetown. Gossip about him began to bubble up midday Sunday, with so many locals asking each other, “Do you know this man?”

I do not. He’s not crossed my path that I know of. IMF people tend to exist in a mysterious, gray haze in the capital, much like employees of the CIA. Half the time I think they are CIA.
Another view of the Strauss-Kahn home, shot on Sunday afternoon.
One neighbor wrote to me: “He had an affair with a Georgetown woman I knew.” There was also comment about his home: “His place is that huge house that goes from Dumbarton up to the tennis courts.”

Out of curiosity, yesterday afternoon I walked over to the house, to refresh my memory. It was quiet. Shades drawn. The block is short and abuts a park. The only activity was across the street as services let out at the First Baptist Church of Georgetown. One block up is the Roman Catholic Church of the Epiphany, which has a French mass every Sunday.

Without question the news cycle of DSK is only in its infancy.
What's it like to be on Today? The experience happens at warp speed. This is the so-called "Today plaza" between 48th and 49th Streets.

It would be tough to write this week’s column about Washington because I spent the last week in New York, and for a very good cause: the launch of my memoir, Innocent Spouse, which covers twelve years of my life, took two years to write and deserved the kind of send-off, in every way, that only New York can provide.

The whirlwind included network television appearances, interviews, some very good meals, breakfast champagne, down time in Central Park, and one very special “Eloise” worthy party in the Plaza’s iconic Palm Court hosted by DPC, JH and the hotel’s manager, Shane Krige. There were more than 200 people, most of whom I didn’t know, but recognized all of them from the pages of New York Social Diary. That swell group bought every book.

The week is worth recounting. While it was a first in a lifetime experience, I hope it won’t be a once in a lifetime experience. Writing a book is hard work, and at times I wanted to strangle myself, but it is still one of the great creative forms, an honest and proud achievement, and I’m in awe of the writers who produce book after book after book. An interviewer asked how I felt about being called an “author.” I answered sincerely that it was one of the sweetest words in the vocabulary.
Outside the Today show studios. Look closely and you'll see Matt Lauer's head.
Facing the cameras, NBC's Matt Lauer and Natalie Morales, and a throng of fans.
My first night in New York was Tuesday, May 10, what’s known in publishing as my “pub day,” a date that will be treasured. A friend from back home joined me. Sally Hosta. We’ve known each other forever, we’re both widows, and no one should go through a whirlwind week without having a BFF along for the ride.

After a relaxed and delicious dinner at Daniel Boulud’s new Lincoln Center restaurant, Boulud Sud, we walked to the Borders bookstore at the Time Warner Center. I felt some anxiety as we approached the entrance, but there was my book! Prominently displayed, and on the front rack. I took pictures of it, of course, and felt like kissing it, but instead introduced myself to the store’s manager and asked if he wanted me to sign copies. “Yes, please,” and he produced an excellent pen. (I’m finding that authors necessarily become obsessed with pens.) And what a high — signing copies of your book on pub day at one of the biggest bookstores in New York City. I floated back to the hotel.
Self-portrait in the Today "hair and make-up" room.
Everybody asks me, “What was it like to be on the Today show?” That was Wednesday morning. The producers make it relatively easy, which doesn’t calm all the nerves. I may be on television all the time with my own talk show, and comfortable about it, but as one network talk show veteran said, Today is the “holy grail.” High stakes. To my publisher, Crown, it was the money shot. They and millions of other people would be watching.

For such a big show they keep the behind-the-scenes intimate and low key. The process moves fast, too. At 7:30 a.m. Sally and I inched through the crowd massed on the street outside the studio, into the 48th Street entrance, were greeted by an NBC page, and escorted to “hair and make-up” — a long bank of salon chairs, bright lights, a counter cluttered with the tools of the trade, and a team of stylists. Beside it is one of two “green” rooms, meaning nothing that is actually green but an arrangement of sofas and chairs, a buffet of deli fruit and muffins and lots of coffee, and a gaggle of friends/family/publicists of folks scheduled to be on the show.

CJ on the Today show hosted by Matt Lauer. Click to play.
Special thanks to Jean Chatzky, NBC’s personal finance expert, who was scheduled to appear with me. We met in the make-up room and she walked with me back to the upstairs green room, the last stop before the studio, and kept me company and talked to me until the moment it was airtime.

Literally, we kept the conversation going as we got summoned by the page to the studio, got hooked up with wireless microphones, assigned to our studio high chairs and waited for Matt Lauer to join us, which he did with about one minute to go before the cameras’ red lights flicked on. I mentioned a mutual friend, Susan LaSalla, who was Today’s senior producer in Washington. Matt lit up and laughed. “Oh yes, multiple emails and conversations with Susan last night.” (Thank you, Susan).

The stage manager began the count down, “five, four ...” I swallowed my nerves, and at “two, one” decided for whatever reason to cross my leg in the same direction as Jean’s. When Matt says “Good Morning” to us, Jean and I, in unison, reply “Good morning, Matt,” and with our matched postures, seem like a girl group. It’s funny.

The segment was five and a half minutes — lengthy for a morning show — but it felt like one second. Bottom line: I didn’t hyperventilate or fall off my high chair and when it was done I saw a smile on the face of the Crown publicist, Sarah Breivogel, standing on the sidelines. Phew.

The Plaza, the location for an "Eloise-worthy" book party.
What did I do next? I thanked the good people at NBC and then with Sally walked to a nearby favorite bistro, where we had champagne, cappuccinos and fresh croissants. It was 9 a.m., and one of the best breakfasts ever.

That evening was my book party at the Plaza, which has been well chronicled by DPC. Roger Webster, the ringmaster, did such a great job. It was my two universes, the family of New York Social Diary, and the family of my book, including my agent, Laney Katz Becker, and my editor, Suzanne O’Neill, and all the team from Crown.

I was delighted to finally meet Jill Krementz, the esteemed photographer and my NYSD colleague and email pen pal. Her photos are to publishing what Martha Swope is to theater. To an author her presence is a compliment. Jill took my favorite photo of the evening — me leaving the Plaza with the poster of my book under my arm.

We — Sally, my friend Steve McCarthy, his son, Ryn — wrapped up the evening at Michael’s. I know, dinner where everybody else goes to lunch, but it was serene and I craved a heaping plate of Michael’s fries, and a bourbon for my stressed vocal chords, and got both. The restaurant’s maitre’d, Steve Millington joined us, and we were visited by Kim McCarty, the artist and wife of Michael, and her quiet, tiny pooch. We noticed that DPC’s regular table had been removed — with ottomans in its place — and figured the table is such a shrine it has to be put away at night. Steve and Kim agreed.
The only party photo I shot: Simon van Kempen, Crown editor Suzanne O'Neill and Alex McCord, one of the stars of "Real Housewives of New York."
The next day I had lunch with producers from the ABC News broadcast 20/20. We met at Nick & Toni’s Café off Columbus Avenue. It was a long and interesting lunch and when it was over, because it was a beautiful day, I walked through the park. The strollers, sunbathers, softball games, sunshine, green grass, and great views were a welcomed pause and distraction from my otherwise hectic pace.

Back at the hotel it was a quick nap and then into the town car sent by FoxNews and a rush-hour midtown crawl to the Sixth Avenue studio of the The Willis Report, hosted by Gerri Willis.
Getting primped in the FoxNews make-up room, after asking for a "modified" make up job.
In the Fox "green" room, Sarah Breivogel and Sally Hosta.
My view as I was escorted onto the set of The Willis Report.
Smiling for my camera, Gerri Willis. We did not go leg-to-leg.
Fox is famous for the glossy make-up on its female anchors. I asked the make-up artist for a “modified half” of the usual job and she obliged. At my age a full Fox would look Kabuki. The hair stylist ran a flat iron over my already flat hair. Then she took me out in the hallway and finished the job with a blast of hair spray. I quickly stopped in the green room for a once over by Sarah and Sally, who approved, and just as quickly was escorted on to Gerri’s set, where she sat waiting.

Again, as with the Today show, we were perched on high chairs. Gerri’s got some killer legs. I knew not to go leg-to-leg with her. I’d lose. I wore a dress that went over my knees. As the stage manager counted down, “five, four ...” I looked at Gerri and gestured to my hemline, “I decided not to try to take on your legs.” Thankfully, she smiled. Again, as with the Today show, the five and half minute segment zoomed by at warp speed.
CJ on The Willis Report, hosted by Gerri Willis. Click to play.
Back out on Sixth Avenue it was a maelstrom. Sally, who just had shoulder surgery, used me to block the oncoming pedestrian traffic. I pointed out the Time-Life Building, where I toiled on the 26th floor so many moons ago. It’s still shocking to see that the old location of Hurley’s bar (49th and Sixth) is a Magnolia bakery. Love Magnolia, but Hurley’s felt like it should be on that corner forever, the barstools filled with a multitude of network and publishing ghosts.

We walked the few blocks to Le Bernardin, where my new friend, chef Eric Ripert, treated us to a remarkable dinner celebrating the book’s launch. The serene dining room was the perfect grace note to the week and also quietly kind to my now raspy voice. Friday morning I was on the New Jersey Turnpike, driving home, back to reality, looking forward to a peaceful weekend of recharging in preparation for a whirlwind week in Washington.
The "serene" view at Le Bernardin.
Tomorrow I start my “book tour,” meaning a multi-city radio marathon, done by satellite on the phone from my home. That’s modern publishing. Wednesday night I’ll be on Jim Bohannon’s nationally syndicated radio show, a real luxury, too, at a whole hour. Please tune in. There are newspaper interviews to do — including the U.K. — and local television, and an appearance at the Newseum. It’s daunting, exhilarating, flattering and humbling. If I can just keep my voice.

As I said at the NYSD book party, in Washington we may say it takes a village to raise a child, but it still takes New York to get a book published. Thank you, New York.
One last shameless plug: to order Carol's memoir, Innocent Spouse, click here.