Celebrating New York
Byron Janis playing a Steinway at his birthday celebration last Thursday night. 8:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Update on the mysterious murder of the mysterious Edouard Stern. As we reported on these pages three weeks ago, the 50-year-old former Lazard Freres investment banker was shot twice in the head and once in the back in his fifth Geneva penthouse apartment on the night of March 2. His body was discovered by business associates. At the time of his death, it was first reported that he was wearing a latex rubber body suit, and it was believed that he had been involved in some kind of sado-masochistic sexual activity. Early speculation believed that Mr. Stern’s murderer may have been an assassin hired by a “long list of powerful enemies in his personal and professional life.”

Edouard Stern (Photo: Delluc/XPN-Rea)
That last line said it all. Last week in the (London) Spectator, the incomparable chronicler of international society, Taki, writing from his aerie in Gstaad quickly dispelled most of the mystery and filled in the blanks.

Taki, who is not one to pull any punches, characterized the late Mr. Stern as “not only ruthless and a terrible bully,” but “as close to being a monster as anyone can be and still be free to walk around in polite society.” Adding: “Mind you, no longer.”

At the time he was found, Mr. Stern was wearing a latex suit, bound by a harness and wearing a dildo (and not as a hat). A fourth bullet wound was also reported, although its location in the body was not.

Stern’s murderer was soon discovered (there were video cameras in his building to assist) to be a 36-year-old French woman, first described as a “model” and then later described as a “kinky prostitute” named Cecile Brossard who once worked for an English madam named Margaret Macdonald (who is now doing four years in jail for matters unrelated to the death of Mr. Stern). It turned out that she had a key to Mr. Stern’s apartment.

Still mysterious is the fact that right after Mr. Stern’s death, the woman fled to Australia, and then returned a few days later. The police, having film of her from the security cameras, elicited a confession after two days of interrogation.

Mme. Brossard used the name “Alice” when she played her role as a dominatrix. Taki, according in his last week’s column High Life, in Spectator, said that although the woman was “not a friend,” he knew her. He described her as “a 36-year-old blonde, not bad looking if one likes that sort of looks,” adding that “she specialized in rough sex.” He also reported that she was “an art lover” who “painted and sculpted in between rough sex sessions, which made her quite unique – at least in my book.”

The official report said that Brossard had been involved with Stern for a long time and that she was a girlfriend whom he had given a million Swiss francs, and later blocked the funds so that she couldn’t get them. The “gift” was thought to be some kind of “pay-off” for the years they’d been together (doing god knows what).

Although Mme. Brossard admitted the crime, Taki still expressed his skepticism that she wasn’t “covering up for someone.” He reported that “Stern had many girlfriends, but he was also homosexual. It was widely known that he was a rough-trade connoisseur, plus he had kept an undercover boyfriend for years.”

Taki’s theory at the time of writing his column was that the woman who killed Stern “was a very tortured soul, quite mad, but not all bad.” She had, he said, “served Stern’s sexual whims for years, and he gave her a gift ... She had been doing his bidding for a long time, had been discreet, and after she left him and went back to her boyfriend he blocked the funds and went after her the way very rich and powerful men go after that kind of woman.” He concludes with his own verdict: I hope Cecile B. does not get the book thrown at her. She has had a horrible life, and, although I do not subscribe to the victim culture, if anyone was a victim, she’s it.

I repeat Taki’s words: “(Stern) went after her the way very rich and powerful men go after that kind of woman.” I think we can safely assume this “rich and powerful” Mr. Stern was also a tortured soul. How a bright and privileged person, once married, and reported to have been a “good father” to his children, ends up in that get-up, in a harness, with two bullets in his head” and a dildo penetrating him elsewhere is something that only the psychologists, if anybody, can explain.

And meanwhile back in reality:
Byron Janis plays for his guests at his 73rd birthday celebration
Last Thursday night over at the Steinway Hall on West 57th Street across the street from Carnegie Hall, Byron Janis, the internationally renowned concert pianist, was feted with a birthday party (he was 73) and the unveiling of his official Steinway commissioned portrait by Igor Babailov. About a hundred people filled the two story entrance gallery of the hall, including Mr. Janis’ beautiful wife Maria Cooper Janis, as well as Chuck Scarborough, Maurice Sonnenberg, actress Patricia Neal and a man who is the great-great-grandnephew of Frederic Chopin. There were cocktails, and then the unveiling of the portrait.

Portrait of Byron Janis by Igor Babailov
The portraitist, Mr. Babailov, who was born in Russia in 1965, painted his first portrait at four and began his formal art education at nine. He’s a very young looking forty, and standing up on the platform next to the shrouded picture, he looked more like our idea of a security man protecting the art than its creator. You can learn more about his work by visiting his web site: www.babailov.com.

Maestro Janis, who is regarded as one of the greatest living interpreters of Chopin, made his professional debut at age 20 at Carnegie Hall, and has been a significant artistic presence in the world ever since. In a social situation, he appears to be very retiring man, almost painfully quiet, very soft-spoken, and while not ill-at-ease, quite diffident in bearing.

Nevertheless, there were lots of speeches praising him and his work. Meanwhile Maria, who is the only child of the late screen actor Gary Cooper, was carrying around a vid-cam, recording the evening. There were several photographers, besides JH and the Digital, recording the event.

Steinway Hall
After the unveiling, Mr. Janis sat down, amidst the standing crowd, at the Steinway grand placed in the middle of the room, and played two Chopin pieces for us. Moments like that, are for me, the essence of why New York life is beyond compare. It was, basically, a birthday party for a man – in this case one of the virtuoso classical pianists living in the world today – and we got to listen to him play for a roomful of friends.

After his impromptu concert, they brought on a big square chocolate birthday cake. Someone else sat down at the Steinway and played Happy Birthday and we all sang. After that, they cut the cake and served it up while the photographers went back to their photographing.
Maria Cooper and Byron Janis
The great-great-grandnephew of Frederic Chopin and wife
Mr. Janis being presented with his birthday cake
Igor Babailov and family
Byron Janis and Dr. James Watson

The Carnegie Tavern was in the Carnegie Hall building on 56th Street. We'd often go there after a performance or after a movie at the Carnegie Cinema.

— Schulenberg

Right: Carnegie Tavern.
Carnegie Tavern. 2-1-61.
Last Wednesday, a blizzardly blustery spring night in New York, the East Side House Settlement held their Gala Preview of the 2005 New York International Auto Show over at the Jacob Javits Center on 10th Avenue and 34th Street. This was a private preview benefiting the East Side House Settlement with cocktail tickets going for $150 and dinner tickets for $1000.

Gruppo Ferrari Maserati sponsored the evening, with Esquire Magazine as the media sponsor. Joan Young, Phil Yang and Michael Moreno were Event Chairs, while Jon Ylvisaker and Eleanor Lembo were Benefit Committee Co-chairs. There were additional sponsorships by Valentino and certain members of the committees including Ms. Lembo, Mr. Ylvisaker, Melissa Berkelhammer and DJ Sky Nellor were wearing Mr. Valentino’s designs. Ms. Lembo and Victoria Lam were also wearing Verdura, another sponsor of the evening, and guests had the chance to win a Verdura Maltese Cross bracelet valued at $21,500.

Marco Mattiacci
JH and I made it over to the Javits Center during the cocktail hour, and about an hour and a half before the big ticket benefit crowd began to show.

This was my first visit to an Auto Show and frankly I had no real interest in it other than to check out the crowd and the attendance. Until I got there and saw the hundreds of enthusiastic men and women — lots of young professionals — taking in the show and often obviously totally besotted with the displays. Then, as if transported on the wings of nostalgia, I too was dazzled, and reminded of my childhood romance with the great automotive age.

I loved cars as a kid.
I could identify every car on the road, and unlike today, you could tell the different models and years just by their shapes.
In the 1950s, it was still pretty much an American tradition, believe it or not, that most families had the big Sunday dinner together (sometime after noontime), and later on went out for an afternoon ride. We’d often go to visit relatives in towns nearby. The expedition for me was always about counting and keeping track of the different cars.

These were the days after the Second World War when the country was emerging from hardworking austerity, and flourishing creatively. Besides the Big Three – Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, there were lots of other automobile companies, long since disappeared, that had very memorable and exciting cars on the road — such as American Motors which made Hudson, the Nash, the Rambler; Kaiser-Fraser which made Kaisers and Frasers, plus Studebakers and the Packard which were, in their day, just about the most prestigious car on the road (“Ask The Man Who Owns One” was their slogan).

During the Second World War, most, if not all automobile manufacturing stopped while factories turned out vehicles, airplanes, motors, etc., for the war effort. As a result, all cars, at that time, were valuable, as long as they ran. The fanciest ones, to this small child’s eye, were the convertibles, especially my future brother-in-law’s ’41 black Mercury convertible, and my uncle’s black ‘41 Oldsmobile (which after the War was replaced with a green Olds convertible). All had red leather interiors and a top that rattled when it was up and fastened.
1941 Mercury Convertible
1941 Lincoln's Continental
My favorite car, and one I saw only once on the road, and otherwise only in the magazine ads was Lincoln’s Continental. Not to be confused with the later “Lincoln Continental,” this was a special edition convertible, known simple The Continental, and its door had a button to press, instead of a door handle.

It was two or three years after the War before Detroit was turning out new models that were modern and streamlined. It wasn’t just the kids like me who were excited by the results. When Mr. Marcoullier came home from work one early summer evening driving a dark green 1949 Ford coupe, the whole neighborhood came out after supper to check out the new car in his driveway. I’m sure this scene became a ritual all over post-War America. In memory it was an advertiser’s dream with the gawking and the touching and the wonder of being in its shiny new presence.

1949 Ford coupe
By the 1950s, just about everyone in the neighborhood had a new car – some even had a new one every year – except my father. His were always old – not used, which might have been a two- or three- or four-year-old model – but old. In 1950 he had a black ’34 Dodge coupe – basically a two-seater. Square and ancient in design, it sounded like a light tank. Although while this child was infatuated with the new, I still had the child’s imagination to find the wonder in anything motorized with four wheels. My father’s Dodge, for example, had a rumble seat – an open seat in the back of the car that pulled out from the trunk. So my Sunday rides were always in the backseat – the rumble seat, outside, as it were, free as the breeze, from which, during the colder months, I was protected with a blanket wrapped around me. It was wonderful and easier to keep count of all the other cars on the road.

1954 was a major year for American manufacturers.
The most impressive car was the new Cadillac (or Caddy, as they were called) with its “wrap-around windshield and heightened, angular fins – a design idea that began in 1952 and came into ultra-regal zenith two years later. These were beyond magical to the kid’s eyes. Only four people in town owned one – Mr. Hammond who owned the local gas company (and who got a new Caddy every year); Mr. Beveridge, who owned the local brush and wax manufacturing company called Stanley Home Products, Mrs. Russolillo, the doctor’s wife, and two spinster sisters whose names I never knew, who always rode around together in theirs. Spotting those long fin tailed boats was a consistent thrill. The idea of riding in one was too incredible to even imagine (and I didn’t for some time to come).
The unveiling of the 1956 Lincoln Continental
I compensated for the disappointment in the lack of a new car in our house by taking to drawing them, and of course designing my own versions. Around the time of the debut of the ’54 Cadillac, I drew several versions of “next year’s” General Motors cars (all with fantastic fin tail lights and wrap around windshields) and mailed them off to Harlow Curtice, the President of General Motors. Mr. Curtice was Man of the Year on the cover of Time in 1955, which was no doubt where I got the idea to submit my ideas to him. He actually responded, and what seemed encouragingly to this barely-a-teenager, in an official letter with his signature (or someone’s version of his signature) on it.

1954 Cadillac Eldorado
1960 Pink Cadillac Convertible
1955 was the big year for Chrysler Corporation which introduced its line of cars with a catch-all design slogan called “The Flight Sweep.” These cars – Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, Imperial, etc. – all had fin-tails, even higher (or so it seemed) than the Cadillac, and with press-button transmissions (a pad to the left of the steering wheel – a gimmick that went out of style a year or two later). However, 1955 was also the year of emergence of that ole Hound Dog himself, Elvis (the Pelvis) Presley. And when he burst on the scene, and signed his first big contract with RCA, the world was told that he used his new found wealth to buy SIX brand-new Cadillacs, including a pink one – an idea beyond fabulous to this would be rock singer/Caddy driver.

The following year, in 1956, Ford took the prize to covetous pubescent imaginations with their revival of the Continental – the sleek and elegant two door luxury car that debuted in 1941 (or was it ’39?) and competed with the Cadillac. It succeeded (at least to these eyes). The following year, Ford brought out a brand new car, much heralded at the future of auto-making – the Edsel – with an elaborate grille that looked like it had just sucked on a lemon.
1953 DeSoto
1954 Cadillac Coupe
The following year I got my chance to sit behind the wheel, and I learned to drive first on my sister’s 1953 DeSoto semi-automatic (you used the clutch to shift from neutral to drive and/or reverse). By that time my interest in cars had less to do with newness or luxury and more to do with access and dates. When I went away to college, I was more than happy to get my hands on a ’51 Dodge sedan with a hole in the floor near the accelerator so that you could see the pavement as you passed over and a heater that didn’t work so that everyone had to dress in their polar outfits. We called it “The Pig” and six could fit comfortably in it, not to mention two or four on Friday or Saturday night “parking” dates (in warm weather).

1960 blue Cadillac Convertible
My sophomore year in college, one of my roommates showed up for the new semester driving a 1960 midnight blue Cadillac Eldorado convertible with a white top and white leather interior. This was, without peer, even with the richest kids in school. In retrospect it was the ultimate tribute to the growing “more is better philosophy” that was taking over our consciousness. But it was beautiful and the only way to ride off-campus or down to Boston for the weekend. Alas, its access was short-lived: my friend flunked out at the end of the year.

I came to New York after I left college and for reasons I’ve never really thought about, I lost the interest or enthusiasm I’d had for cars while growing up. In the early 1960s, I owned a VW Beetle, easily the most economical and practical car on the market. I think the first one cost $1100, brand-new. The Beetle ads were famous for their elegant simplicity and their spot-on message: unlike almost any other car, they didn’t lose their value. By 1972, a new Beetle, not much different from the first one I owned, was still selling for the unbelievable price of $1800, equipped with heat and radio. At the International Auto Show last week, the 2006 Beetle – a beauty; I’ll give them that – has a sticker price of $24,000 plus.

Above: 1949 VW Beetle.

Below: An ad for the VW Beetle which reads: "One of the nice things about owning it is selling it."
It was in the mid-60s that a friend of mine who’d spent some time in Japan predicted one day that Americans would eventually be driving Japanese cars – an unbelievable idea at the time. In fact, the idea that Americans would be driving foreign cars instead of, or as much as American cars was also inconceivable, even, to some, un-American back then — except for the VW and a few fancy sports cars, none of which were Japanese. My friend believed in his concept of our automotive future so passionately that he got involved in importing a Japanese economy car called the Sambar. It bombed on the market and he lost his investment bigtime, but only his timing was wrong.

By the mid-1970s and the first gasoline crunch, the automotive market changed, and it’s been changing ever since. This year’s International Auto Show was sponsored, as you could see, by Maserati, and the Javits was packed, almost stacked with sensational looking foreign-manufactured automobiles, many of which make the Americans look quaint when they’re being practical. I didn’t see my new favorite, however, the car that you now see all over Europe and that I’d predict will own the future, or a good piece of it – the Smart Car. Although if I were still a kid, I think I’d also choose a Maserati, and a Ferrari, and a Beamer, and a Lexus, and the new Chevy and the Porsche and the Cadillac, the Mercedes two-seater, not to mention the Bentley, the Maybach, plus a Ford, a Chrysler, a Range Rover, a Volvo; oh I don’t know, it’s all still a dream.

Comments: DPC@newyorksocialdiary.com

The opening night preview of the New York International Auto Show at the Javits Center to benefit East Side House Settlement
Audrey Lindvall and Jessica Nagel
Candida Romanelli, Bill Kolb, and Maryann Kolb
Christina Payne and Victoria Lam
L. to r.: Judith and Ward Landrigan; Elizabeth Reid and Carrie Rocco.
Brad Michaelson
Eleanor Lembo and Jon Ylvisaker
Chappy Morris and Melissa Stanley
L. to r.: David Granger, Joan Young, Steven Jacoby, and Kevin O'Malley; Christina Floyd and Eleanor Lembo.
Joan Young with Jeff Ehoodin, Phillip Bennett, and Michael Moreno
L. to r.: Mary and Ian Snow; Maserati Gran Sport Limited.
Sky Nellor
Maurizio Parlato, Todd Morici, and Marco Mattiacci
Tom Hefferman, Amani Toomer, and Chris Miele
Tinsley and Topper Mortimer
L. to r.: Mario Bommarito, Marrisa Marcatto, and Salvano Marcatto; Stephanie Warren and Ashley Wolff; Sarah McLure and Harrison LeFrak.
Jennifer Pinto
Marren Ionita
Sharon Moore and Alyson Jackson
Maria and Phil Yang
Jamie Niven and Gina Dunlap
Fabian Basabe and Martina Borgomanero
L. to r.: Jay Burnstein and Phillip Yang; Hally Chrisman and Melissa Bencosa.
Angel Sand
Arie and Coco Kopelman
Cindy Rosenstein
Coralie Charriol

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Last Wednesday afternoon, Peter Cottontail came Hoppin' Down the Bunny Lane at Doubles and, with Wendy Carduner’s help, hosted a wonderful party for kids of all ages. There were all kinds of colorful bunnies, disco dancing, prizes, coloring books, chicken McDoubles and lots of fun. There was even an Easter egg hunt on “The Doubles Club Quad.”

Guests included: Blair and Harris Hussain; Lucia Hwong-Gordon with twins Sofia and Sabrina Gordon in matching red dresses; Blakely Griggs and her children; Christine Cachot and Allegra Williams; Molly Fitzmaurice Tolaram; Julie Dannenberg and Lucie Regal; Edwina and Katie Annicelli; Pamela Gross and Alexander Finkelstein; Valerie and Jack Mogul; Tatiana and Enrico Boncompagni and Aunt Tatiana Hoover, Marie-Regina, Hercules and Peter Sotos; Jonathan Eliot and Victoria Cummins; Kelly, Edward and Maddie Mallon; Susan Krysiewicz, Aubrienne and Thomas Bell; Paige and Basil Hardy; Susan and Diana Bates; Susan Moore with Sallie and Mary; Andrea and Andres Larrea; Melinda and Lally Dubow; Lizzie and Maggie Rosenthal; Connie and Harold De ropp with Eleanor, Clair and Grace Flatow; Melissa Barrett and Jack Rhodes; Suzannah and Annabel Smith; and Julia Wallace with Fiona, Ana and Emma Walsh.
Easter kiddies
Blakely Griggs and children
Christine Cachot and Allegra Williams
Blair and Harris Husain
Tatiana and Enrico Hoover with Aunt Natasha Boncompagni
Valerie and Jack Mogul
Edwina and Katie Annicelli
Lucia Hwong-Gordon with twins Sofia and Sabrina Gordon
Alexander Finkelstein, Wendy Carduner, and Pamela Gross

March 28, 2005, Volume V, Number 54
Photographs by Jimi Celeste & Joe Schildhorn/PMc (Auto Show); Cutty McGill (Easter)


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