south from 80th and Broadway towards the Ansonia. 3:05 PM.
warm but beautiful night in New York after a
warm summer day which hinted of rain threatening. No go; sunny
blue skies instead. A cabdriver told me this morning that the
city has been very quiet this summer, that the tourists still
have not really returned since 9/11. It has seemed quieter
to me, more peaceful, less hustle-bustle opening up vistas
with more to see.
Tonight I went over to Eleanor Lambert’s apartment
overlooking the Park where more than a few score had congregated
to wish the Doyenne of American Fashion a happy birthday on her 100th. Kenny
Lane, Reinaldo Herrera, Susan Magrino, Pamela Fiori, Anne Slater
and John Cahill, Josie Natori, Jon Marder, Cathy Hardwick, Carmen
Dell'Orefice, Bart Boehlert, Lyn Revson, Jody Donahue, Scott Currie,
Amy Fine Collins, Mario Buatta, John Loring, Camilla Mackeson who’d
just flown in from Argentina, Yanna Avis who’d
just returned from a few days in Lyford Cay; Gene Hovis,
Michael Cannon, and Joan Halpern are just
a few who come to mind.
Over in one
corner, Mrs. Lambert was holding court, looking very chic and cool
in a wine-colored silk pantssuit. In the dining room, a huge buffet
of cold baked ham, curried chicken and a variety of pastas and
cold salads were laid out (and laid into by all in attendance).
Her son Bill Berkson and her grandson Moses
Berkson were hosts along with her assistant Stephen
Moses Berkson, who has been living with his grandmother for the past
few years, and is working on a documentary on her fabled life and
career, quieted the guests halfway through the evening to show a
few clips from his work in progress.
She came to New York as a very young woman from Crawfordville,
Indiana, a place where she described her family life in the first
two decades of the 20th century as “genteel poor” – a
big house with very little to go around. What she remembers most
about the beginning of her life was “wanting to find a way
to get to New York.” New York, she said, attracted people because
it is a city of ideas, a place where if you have an idea, you can
find someone who will listen to it, share it with you, understand
it. “And if they don’t, you can find another idea.” Eleanor
Lambert, as her world well knows, has had lots and lots of ideas,
with many to listen and share and understand.
On her centenary, the birthday girl is still working. Yes,
working!! She pared down her business a little more than a year
ago, closed her office and now works out of her apartment with a
small staff. She’s retained four long time clients including
Tiffany & Co., Windsor, the residential resort in Florida, Holt-Renfrew
stores in Canada; and Mark Birley, entrepreneur
and club owner/restaurateur in London (Mark’s, Anabel’s,
Harry’s Bar, etc.).
After the viewing of the clips, they brought on a birthday cake in
the shape a huge pink straw hat with a field of tall, spiky candles
that lit like sparklers. Everyone sang Happy Birthday while Eleanor
(without waiting) blew out the candles.
Central Park towards the West Side from Eleanor Lambert's apartment
left the party about 8:30 and decided to walk at
least part of the way home. Coincidentally Mrs. Lambert’s
apartment house is on the corner of the street where I had
my first apartment when I came to New York out of college.
I hadn’t passed that early doorway in a long time and
decided to go along for a little reverie. Although it is still
there, the neighborhood had long since changed. The small hotel
across the street was known in those days as a pitstop for
hookers with their johns. Nowadays it’s a very chic boutique
hotel. The ancient NYFD hook and ladder company next door still
has its name above the entrance but is now a private house,
and a few doors down is Doyle’s very fine auction house.
Walking along this entirely razed and resurrected thoroughfare, recalling
those early days, I thought of Eleanor Lambert’s words about
people who come to New York, for I was one of them. I can still recall
quite clearly the early excitement of this then young man, all a-wonder,
looking down the avenues and up at the skyscrapers, all a challenge
to be conquered by a fresh, if naïve, imagination. How different
it all looks today to these eyes, all familiar yet different, yet
still fascinating, some challenges long since met, some dreams and
goals achieved, others dashed and even forgotten, with disappointments
distracted by the city itself, ever changing, ever intriguing.
(“... a place where if you have an idea, you can find someone
who will listen to it, share it with you, understand it. And if they
don’t, you can find another idea.”)
It’s about a fifteen or twenty minute walk, leisurely as I
was taking it, from Eleanor Lambert’s house to mine. I stopped
halfway at the Haagen-Dazs on Third Avenue and 85th Street for an
ice cream cone to cool myself off. Cone in hand, I continued, passing
doorways I knew ages ago as well as doorways now gone, tucked in
memory, transformed, eliminated, refurbished. All ideas, someone’s
dreams, someone’s goals, someone’s challenges, here for
now, or gone forever, replaced by “another idea.” Ah
New York New York; Happy One Hundredth birthday Eleanor Lambert.
the island of Broadway and 80th with Zabars in the background.
H & H
Bagels on 80th and Broadway. 3:03 PM.