Another grey day
Washington Mews. 4:30 PM. Photo: JH.
I can’t remember the last time we had sunshine and blue skies.

Lunch at Michael’s. Michael McCarty, the owner, who commutes between here and Malibu (the original and still extant Michael’s is in Santa Monica) told me the rains out there got to the scary point. They closed Pacific Coast Highway from all traffic. And a lot of the canyons including Coldwater and Benedict because of the slides and rocks. So the McCartys couldn’t go home (they live in the hills above Malibu) for a couple of days. Sixteen inches of rain in less than two weeks. Versus three inches for all of last year. Right after that, once the sun comes out, however, there’s a moment when it’s crystal clear, smog-free, and driving along the boulevards or freeways, heading east, you can see the magnificent San Gabriels, snow covered and majestic. Which makes me think: ahhh….LA!

DPC and Jill Krementz at Michael's. Photo: Steve Millington/NYSD.
Meanwhile, Michael’s was jumpin’, back to its old self after the holiday lull when so many head for the mountains of Colorado or the beaches of Florida and the Caribbean. Among the many: Sally Sussman of Estee Lauder, Mark Patricof, Jack Romanos, President of Simon & Schuster, Larry Kirschbaum, President of Warner Publishing Group, Eugenia Ulasewicz, president of Burberry, Cathy Black of Hearst; 48 Hours producer Susan Zirinsky, Jonathan Wald, Today Show producer, Alice Mayhew, editor from S&S, Jerry Byrne and Sara Nelson, new editor of Publisher’s Weekly, Dr. Gerry Imber, one of New York’s top plastic surgeons, Jerry della Femina, Michael Fuchs with Michael Wolff, Jerry Inzerillo of Atlantis and the Ocean Club; Chris Meigher of Quest, Pamela Fiori of Town & Country, Binky Urban, Barry Diller; father and son public relations titans, Steve and Howard Rubinstein, David Carr of the New York Times, John Sykes of VH 1; Michael Barker of Sony Classic Pictures, Helen O’Hagan with Alex Hitz and Peter Rogers. You get the picture, and that was only the half of it; you shudda been a fly on those walls.

Meanwhile, I was lunching with Jill Krementz, the distinguished photographer whose works have graced these Internet pages from time to time. Jill has published 31 books of her work including A Very Young Gymnast, A Very Young Dancer, How It Feels To Be Adopted, How It Feels When Parents Divorce, Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers, etc.

For the past eight years, she’s done a calendar book for Barnes & Nobles (now on sale half-price), which I use to keep track. It’s called The Writer’s Faith and contains several portraits of authors – Alice McDermott is on the cover and John Updike is on the backcover. The author’s page also has some of each writer’s words. James Baldwin’s has the following: “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time to get rid of him.”

The Writer's Faith
Kurt Vonnegut in The Writer's Faith
I include Jill’s portrait of her husband Kurt Vonnegut sitting in a rocker on the porch at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, and his quote:

“I am not the writer Twain was but I am what I believe he would call a Humanist. Nowadays it means persons like my parents and both sets of grandparents, who try to behave ethically without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. They serve as best they can the only abstraction of which they have any real familiarity, which is their community. What about Jesus? I say what one of my great grandfathers wrote, as follows: ‘If so much of what Jesus said is ethically brilliant, and especially the Beatitudes, and Forgive us our Trespasses as we forgive those who Trespass against Us, what can it matter if he was God or not?’”

Jill also has an exhibition of 100 her photographs at the Mark Twain House running through January 31.

I was first aware of her in the New York Herald-Tribune in its last great days before the newspaper strikes killed it in the 1960s, when it was owned by Jock Whitney and had some of the freshest journalistic talent in America. It was regarded as the official Republican paper in New York, versus the then liberal “good, grey” Times. The (afternoon Post) was the Lefty rag. And Jock Whitney’s brand of Republican was about as far to left as most Democrats go these days, which tells you a little something about how the times, they are a-changin’.

But the talent was the test: Clay Felker, for example, was the editor of the Sunday Magazine, which was called New York and later became ... New York (with the same Milton Glaser logo). Tom Wolfe made his name and fame writing for it. His piece on Baby Jane Holzer, a then unknown-to-most-of-us society girl who’d joined the Andy Warhol Factory gang, made her, the Warhol Factory gang, the author himself and the magazine famous, all in one fell swoop on a Sunday morning. Jimmy Breslin had funny and powerful columns about the antics of the political/underworld side of the city three times a week. Dick Schaap wrote on sports, Eugenia Sheppardon fashion and society. And Jill Krementz was the credit you saw on a lot of the photos.

Brought up in Morristown, New Jersey, she had a year of university when she decided to come to the Big Town at nineteen to become a photographer. She was a kid in her early twenties, working at Huntington Hartford’s Show magazine, which folded, when her boss Otto Guernsey, who used to review theatre for the Trib, got her the gig free-lancing with the Trib. They used her at first — paying her $15 a picture — for a lot of the night-time stuff because she came cheaper than staff photographers who were union and got overtime. Soon she was turning out so much that she was making more than any of them even on overtime, so they put her on the payroll.

Jill Krementz and Kurt Vonnegut at Literacy Partners' 20th anniversary Gala. Photo: JH/NYSD.

They’d call her for a fire or the opening of the opera and the ballet. She’d go to Paris with Eugenia Sheppard to cover the couture collections. The couture houses were very particular about what she could and could not photograph. Not one piece of the collection was allowed, for example. Joe Eula could sketch, but no pictures. That was because in those days, Saks and Orbach’s (no longer in business), the department store on 34th Street, used to buy certain numbers of the collection – and for a lot of money. They’d then take the garment apart, produce a pattern and make it for the mass market. That way, there were a lot of fashionable young women running around New York wearing beautiful Givenchy couture. A photograph would have made it easy for a lot of people to knock off the design.

After the Trib, Jill spent a year (to the day) in Viet Nam working on a book and doing free-lance work for magazines and newspapers. This was in 1965 before the public opposition to the War had heated up. She stayed at Caravelle, just across the street from the Continental. Some of the biggest media names were first making their reputations there in Saigon, such as David Halberstam, the Sheehans, Morley Safer, Peter Arnett.

I asked her what it was like living in the midst of war. Her answer served to remind me that she has that intrepid aspect to her personality that is found in so many photographers: she was fearless. She added that she was so young it never occurred to her that her parents back home in the States were probably terrified for her. Instead, she befriended, among others, a couple of missionaries who were in the business of delivering medicines to people in the villages. Because of that, she later learned, she was on a list of the Viet Cong of people who were not to be hurt. “All the villagers knew all the Viet Cong, and vice versa.”

Back in the US she began what has been a rich career as photographer and author of books, especially for young people growing up and on the subject of writers. She and Vonnegut have been married for years (I don’t know how long) and are established members of the New York literary scene. Their parties are the kind one imagines authors and photographers might have – all kinds of well-known writers, personalities, actors and artists. With a smattering of us civilians eager to please in order to hear.

Below are some examples of Jill Krementz' Photo Journal, published in New York Social Diary in 2002:

I thought it would be fun, on this Easter Sunday, to present you with a portfolio of Irving Berlin, the composer of “Easter Parade.”
I photographed our country’s greatest songwriter on September 5, 1974. We began our session in his office on the Avenue of the Americas where first he played the piano for me (legend has it that he only played on the black keys when in fact he played in the key of f-sharp which has two white notes) and then he stretched out on his sofa reading a book called Dancing in the Dark by Howard Dietz whom he had known since the early thirties.

We went downstairs and his chauffeur drove us over to his large house on Beekman Place where I took some more pictures of him engaged in his favorite hobby, painting. (He had once tried golf and "hated it.”) He wore a light blue smock and worked on the top floor in a studio containing his easel, a drawing table, and a piano. Mr. Berlin was fond of saying “as a painter I’m a pretty good song writer.” He gave his paintings to his children and to many of his pals including Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
Unfortunately I didn’t have much time with Mr. Berlin because I was working that day on assignment for Life Magazine’s upcoming special issue of “A Day in the Life of America” and I had to rush off to take pictures of Alvin Ailey rehearsing with his dancers. (I photographed fourteen people that day, beginning at 5 AM with Barbara Walters eating breakfast, a chocolate brownie, and coffee, at her kitchen table before she left her apartment to host the "Today Show.")

How, you may ask, did I manage to photograph the reclusive Mr. Berlin? I had been wanting to photograph him for years and finally got this great opportunity through the kindness of his daughter, Mary Ellin Barrett, my former boss at Glamour Magazine who has remained one of my closest friends. I was also able to promise that I would take no more than an hour, which under the circumstances, was an easy promise to keep. Mary Ellin has told me that these were the last formal photographs taken of her father.

Mr. Berlin lived to be a hundred and one. His songs will live forever.

Recommended reading: Irving Berlin: A Daughter’s Memoir by Mary Ellin Barrett (paperback edition still available, published by Limelight Press) and The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin edited by Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet (Alfred A. Knopf).

Heléne Alexopoulos, a Principal dancer for New York City Ballet, retired last week after a 24-year career with the company. Anna Kisselgoff, the chief dance critic for The New York Times, has described her as being” blessed with a natural glamour that fills the stage .... A study in contrasts: at her most subdued, she radiates a compelling sense of mystery ... at her most dramatic, she moves boldly, even brazenly, exuding passion with either humor or sensuality.”

I have known, and admired, Ms. Alexopoulos for several years, so I photographed her final rehearsal as well as her farewell performance in which she danced two works by George Balanchine: “Prodigal Son” and “Vienna Waltzes.”

Her fans showed up in droves to say goodbye which they did with an emotional and prolonged standing ovation. Flowers rained down from above as members of the company, as well as Artistic Director, Peter Martins, conductor Hugo Fiorato, and her 8-year-old twins, Alexandra & Grayson Warrick, joined her on stage and presented her with bouquets and kisses.

Ms. Alexopoulos rehearsing “Prodigal Son” with Principal dancer, Peter Boal. In 1976, when I published my book, “A Very Young Dancer”, Peter was 11 years old and playing the Prince in “The Nutcracker.” He is now the father of three children. He is as nice now as he was then.
Heléne practices with a cape similar to the one used in “Prodigal” in which she dances the role of the Siren. The burgandy velvet cape,” says Heléne, has a mind of its own and takes a lot of practice to manipulate in a way that seems flawless and natural.”

Kittredge & Clay Fisher, 8-year-old twins who are close friends of Ms. Alexopoulos’s twins. All four children were born around the same time at New York Hospital and were roommates in the ICU unit.
Kyra Nichols and Heléne backstage after her final bow. Both dancers appeared that night in “Vienna Waltzes.”

Ms. Alexopoulos, stands on the empty stage at the New York State Theater.

Signing the time sheet for the last time.
Beverly Meyers lends a hand as she has done for the past twelve years.
The ballerina weeps after an emotional evening.

Later that evening, Ms. Alexopoulos was honored at a dinner party for a at the Carlyle Hotel hosted by Mary Sharp Cronson. Seated beside Ms. Sharp is Peter Awn, Dean of General Studies at Columbia University where Heléne once studied.
A family portrait: Heléne embraces her family: her mother, Mary Alexopoulos, her husband Lance Warrick, and her twins, Alexandra & Grayson Warrick.

Recommended Website:

When Warner LeRoy died a year ago he stipulated in his will that he wanted his family to have a celebration of his life at The Tavern on the Green. So on what would have been his 66th birthday, 190 of his closest friends and relatives gathered in Central Park to celebrate their friendship and mourn their loss of the always magnanimous Warner.

A huge photograph of Warner was displayed on an easel as we entered the room where prior to dinner guests were entertained by a stilt walker and a magician doing card tricks. Following cocktails, there was a seated dinner held in the Crystal Room.

The food was fabulous, the toasts by his family members as well as by his beloved colleagues, George Lang, Sirio Maccioni, and Drew Nieporent were touching and humerous, and the flowers, mostly roses, were breathtakingly beautiful. Out on the terrace, beneath the twinkling trees was a huge panorama of red silk roses spelling out WARNER.

Linda LeRoy Janklow, Warner's sister, made the final toast, announcing that at noon that day the City of New York had officially re-named the corner on 66th and Central Park West Warner LeRoy Place and that the street sign had been installed that day at noon. We all stood up and, facing the garden which was ablaze with fireworks, raised our glasses in a birthday toast to a man we all loved dearly.
Left to right: Linda LeRoy Janklow and Jenny LeRoy; Nora Ephron; Evelyn Lauder and Barbara Walters; Jennifer and George Lang.
Kay LeRoy
Mort Janklow and son Lucas
Max LeRoy
Alfred Taubman and Don Hewitt
Amanda Burden and Paul Goldberger
Ron Delsener and Ahmet Ertegun
Michael and Ninah Lynne
Gordon Davis and Carolyn LeRoy
Gayfryd and Saul Steinberg
Ann Jones
Left: Sirio Maccioni, Zarela Martinez, and Drew Nieporent. Above: Tim Zagat.
Above: Bridget LeRoy and Bing Johnson. Right: Elaine May and Stanley Donen.
All photographs are copyrighted by Jill Krementz and may not be reproduced without her written permission.

January 13, 2005, Volume V, Number 8


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