Life Among the (Fashion) Savages

THE PARTY’S OVER: The New York Times Magazine’s brain drain continues. First Adam Moss left, he then enticed features editor Hugo Lindgren to join him at New York Magazine, and now Style & Entertaining editor William Norwich has been poached by Vogue’s editor in chief Anna Wintour.

Norwich worked for Vogue (which, like WWD, is owned by Advance Magazines) for most of the Nineties before joining the Times and starting the Style & Entertaining supplement in 2000 with late Style editor Amy Spindler. He’ll rejoin Vogue as a contributing editor, writing a first-person “social diary” 10 times a year for the front of the book’s “Talking Fashion” section. He’ll also deliver an entertaining column several times a year and write features as needed. “I’m off to discover the social life of America,” Norwich said on Monday. “It will not be New York-centric. I hope to pay attention to national [and international] affairs.”

— WWD, 3/22/04

A first person “social diary” that’s not the New York Social Diary? Should I go there? Why not.

I started keeping journals back in the late 60s. They were a conscious method to develop my writing skills. I was not a professional writer. That seemed like a dream away. A big big dream far far away. The idea of the journals was to train myself to write as honestly (or maybe a better word is openly) as my own censors would allow. Or maybe even get rid of the personal censors (I’ve got closer but I’m not there yet). So, I would write down what I was feeling (and not revealing to anyone else), including all the those embarrassing nothing little day-to-day experiences and reflections. Including the insipid and stupid. And the absurd.

Because much of it was so personal, in the early days I used to hide it. Even when I lived alone, I hid the journals under my bed. I confided this to a friend of mine one day. He roared with laughter hearing about it. At the end of the conversation he said, “someday you’ll have to take it out from under your bed.”

A couple of years later I did. Stacks and stacks, double spaced typewritten pages. I started re-reading. Sometimes intrigued, often bored beyond tolerance, sometimes impressed, sometimes moved, amused; and most times bewildered. By my dirges, whining, complaining. Oy, as they say.

Nevertheless, it was through that method of exercise that I was able enough to take the dive. And it's a dive, or can be, for a man is in his late thirties.

I took the leap (no swan dive) in 1979. I was thirty-eight. I sold my small prosperous business, packed up my dogs and cats and moved to Los Angeles. Where I anointed myself (albeit quaking and shaking) a writer. This was a deeply exciting step in my life. Journals/now diaries became my center, what some might call spiritual sustenance. They certainly weren’t economic sustenance.

The European cultures, especially the British (at least for me) have Diarists as their witnesses. My first exposure was to Harold Nicholson’s Diaries which were best-sellers in the 1960s. I was fascinated reading about matters and history and sensibilities of which I knew nothing while learning so much about the man, a complete stranger.

Most English papers and magazines have diaries. Spectator has several including my most enduring favorite, the bad boy Taki who could make me laugh while infuriating me to the point of putting him down and swearing never to read another uttering out of his pen. Only to return out of vulgar curiosity. Now, years later, Taki seems now to bear distinct signs of wisdom. Perhaps I never noticed before.
NewYorkSocialDiary.com. 2004.
Quest magazine. 2004.
Avenue magazine. 2000.
I wrote the first “Social Diary” in New York in Quest magazine in September 1994 at the urging of the magazine’s then owner (and founder) Heather Cohane. In fact, at that time, there were NO columns being written in New York that used the term “diary” to describe themselves. There are several today.

The Social Diary appeared in Quest until 1997 when Judy Price of Avenue magazine hired me to write for her and edit the magazine. In September 2000, JH (who had come on board as my assistant at the magazine) and I created this cyber-venue for it, while the column has continued in Quest (where I am also e-i-c) under owner/publisher Chris Meigher. It was when I left Avenue that I added the “New York” because Mrs. Price, as a token of her esteem, had decided to “keep” the name “Social Diary” for herself. And so today, both online and in print, the (now) New York Social Diary is read all over the world by all you wonderful loyal readers. And, as you’ve seen, it even covers events all over the world, besides New York.

All that said, it was interesting that I read the above item from yesterday’s WWD. I know William Norwich, at least well enough to call him Billy. Back in the 80s and early 90s, he was New York Post’s society columnist, young and fresh (and sometimes fresh — he invented the term The Cashamptons). By the early 90s he became noticeably disenchanted with his beat. He took the higher road and wrote his first book. And he went over to Conde Nast before moving to the New York Times. Although he’s still a young man, he’s a kind of eminence gris (although there’s still one eminence who eminences way more) in this tiny profession.

I don’t know his new boss, the one who’s credited or not with these editorial decisions. I’ve been in the same room with her a hundred times but I don’t think we’ve ever been introduced, and so I never got the impression she was even aware of me. Or the Social Diary. Why would she be? She’s possibly the most successful editor in the history of her magazine, Edna Woolman Chase notwithstanding. At least dollar-wise. Some of their issues are so heavy they should come with wheels and a handle. She gets the credit for that. At least a good part of it.

So it was fascinating and flattering to learn of the development of yet another “social diary” in, of all places, Vogue. You can imagine how flattered I was. It must be in the wind. Or maybe it’s the water. You never know these days, we’re moving so fast.

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WinterNight 2004 Gala Benefit for Lighthouse International
Mark Russell
Belting out the tunes
Barbara Silverstone and Flemming Ornskov
Honorees Dr. Flemming Ornskov, Melissa Cohn, and Gary Shapiro
Four hundred guests gathered on Thursday, March 11th at 6:30 PM for a reception, followed by dinner and dancing, at Cipriani 42nd Street to honor Flemming Ornskov, MD, President of Novartis Ophthalmics, on behalf of the entire Novartis team, for its work to make Visudyne® (verteporfin for injection, 15mg), a drug for treating the severest form of macular degeneration, the great breakthrough success that it is.

Also honored were Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Electronics Association, and Melissa Cohn, Chairman and CEO, Manhattan Mortgage Company. The evening featured a special performance by political satirist Mark Russell.
The table settings at Cipriani 42nd Street
Lighthouse International is a leading resource worldwide on vision impairment and vision rehabilitation. Through its pioneering work in vision rehabilitation services, education, research, prevention and advocacy, Lighthouse International enables people of all ages who are blind or partially sighted to lead independent and productive lives.

Founded in 1905 and headquartered in New York, Lighthouse International is a not-for-profit organization, and depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations and corporations.
Willam B. and Patricia Follett
Jane Petrycki and Ken Witler
Harry Elias and honoree Gary Shapiro
Lauren Albano, Emily Mack, and Lorelie Wall
Pat Cavelle with Mindy and Lawrence Richenstein
Kathy Kobe, Perry Sternberg, and Teresa Gaines
Sylvia Cohn, Melissa Cohn, and Albert Cohn
Perry Sternberg, Flemming Ornskov, and Ken and Lorraine Kaplan
Susan Patricoff and Craig Hatkoff
Chairman of the Board Willam B. Follett and William Duncan
Inez Weinstein and Gala Chair Barbara Saltzman
David Kirsch and Steve Saide


Asia Society held a launch party at Celine for the 2004 International Asian Art Fair Benefit Preview
Fanfan Li
Margo Streeter and Hue Burnaby-Atkins
Adelina Wong Ettelson, Dennis Paul, and Susan Shin
Marie Douglas-David and Carola Hendrichs
Celine brought the celebration of the year of France in China to New York last week with a cocktail party benefitting the Asia Society.  The Young Patrons came out to launch the Asian Art Fair and Celine's Boogie Art School, a limited editon bag painted by students in China under the direction of master artist Fanfan Li, who flew in from Paris for the night.  Four of her paintings were on display having been loaned from the Elizabeth Wang Gallery for the occasion.


Inaugural Sidney Sheldon Writing Scholarship
Awarded to UCLA Screenwriting Student Marcelo Mitnik
Sidney Sheldon, Marcelo Mitnik, Dean Rosen, and WGA President Dan Petrie Jr.
Mary Ann Mobley and Warren Cowan
Last Thursday legendary screenwriter and best-selling author Sidney Sheldon presented the inaugural Sidney Sheldon Scholarship Award for Screenwriting to Marcelo Mitnik, a graduate student at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television at the headquarters of the Writers Guild of America/west under the auspices of the Writers Guild Foundation.

Robert Rosen, dean of the School, and Daniel Petrie, Jr., vice president of the Writers Guild and the Writers Guild Foundation, joined Sheldon in making the presentation.

Sidney Sheldon and Jane Wooster Scott
"Marcelo Mitnik is a very talented writer and it is a pleasure for me to be helping the next generation of creative artists," said Sheldon.

Growing up in Argentina, Mitnik realized at an early age that making movies in America would be a dream come true. As a child, he and his family idolized Sheldon and his many works.

“I’m truly honored that my screenplay “The Dam” was selected by a writer whose work I respect and admire so much,” said Mitnik.

Facing many obstacles, Mitnik moved to the U.S. in 1999, struggling financially but keeping the hope of breaking into the entertainment industry and finding a way to write and direct his own films. In 2001, he was accepted in to the prestigious UCLA graduate screenwriting program.

Intended to encourage young writers, the recently established Sidney Sheldon Scholarship Award for Screenwriting and Playwriting will alternate each year honoring a screenwriter or playwright.

" We are very proud to be associated with Sidney Sheldon, his success in the worlds of theater, film and television parallels our unique program integrating those three artistic disciplines," said Robert Rosen, dean of the School. “We are deeply grateful for his generous gift establishing this award.”

As a screenwriter, Sheldon won an Oscar for The Bachelor & The Bobby-Soxer. He also wrote the screenplays for Easter Parade and Annie Get Your Gun. He won a Tony for the musical Redhead and created the television series The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie and Hart to Hart. Sheldon has sold over 300 million books and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as "the most translated author in the world."

Consistently ranked among the leading institutions in the nation, the School of Theater, Film and Television is unique in the world in that it brings together the arts of theater, film and television in one academic institution. UCLA's reputation as an outstanding training ground for the theater, film and television professions, and for critical scholarship is based on its long tradition of fostering creative growth, encouraging experimentation and ensuring artistic freedom. Many of the most respected names in the entertainment and communication arts, and the world of scholarship, are UCLA alumni.
L. to r.: Lorna Berle; Gary Collins, Sidney Sheldon and Mary Ann Mobley; Mel Shavelson.



March 24, 2004, Volume IV, Number 47
Photographs by Rob Rich (Lighthouse); Donald Bowers/PMc (Celine)

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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com