Flapping our wings
Pigeons feeding. 6:20 PM. Photo: JH.
Today is the birthday of Peter Duchin, who was born on this planet quite a few years ago and has remained ever since to make wonderful music to sing and dance to for the rich, the chic and shameless along with a lot of other interesting characters, many of whom he knows or knew well. He shares this anniversary with, among others, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whom he also knew for most of their lives, and quite well. They also share this day with the great film and stage producer David Brown (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” currently running on Broadway as well as the greatest summertime movie hit of all time – Jaws ), among others. A fascinating variety of talent was also born on this day: Marcel Duchamp, Senator Bill Bradley, Rudy Vallee, Vida Blue, Georgia Engel, Marilyn Quayle, Sally Struthers, Riccardo Muti, Robert Hughes, Jacques d’Amboise, Vivian Vance, Joe E. Brown, Alice Duer Miller, Beatrix Potter, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Berkley and Lori Loughlin.

Tuesday, the 26th was my birthday.
I was born on this day 64 years ago here in New York City. I wondered if it were as hot then as it was this past Tuesday, because my mother, I was told, walked ten blocks to the hospital to deliver me. My mother’s brute strength and pluckiness, it turns out in retrospect, was her saving grace, and ours, in the years following.

DPC, Steve Millington, and Barbara Carroll
DPC's birthday fraissier
I share this birthdate with a number of distinguished (and not so distinguished) personages several of whom were writers, such as George Bernard Shaw, Andre Maurois, Robert Graves, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung, Serge Koussevitzky, Pearl Buck, George Grosz, Paul Gallico, Gracie Allen, Salvador Allende, Jason Robards Jr., Blake Edwards, Louis Belson, Stanley Kubrick, Mick Jagger, Vitas Gerulaitis, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock, Dorothy Hamil, Susan George and Kate Beckinsale.

For my birthday, I went to lunch at Michael’s, creature of habit that I am, with my friend Barbara Carroll, the jazz piano virtuoso who celebrated her last birthday at a big bash they gave for her at Lincoln Center. The only music at my birthday was the music of the chatter and clatter that fill the room at Michael’s. At the end of the luncheon, the restaurant’s general manager Steve Millington surprised me (and it was a surprise) with a small cake that was actually a fraissier, which I think might be the French version of the strawberry shortcake. Served cold. Yum. It was so good, we took a picture. Then on Tuesday evening, I went with JH and his brother Jason Hirsch (I was their guest) to Scalini Fedeli, a very posh Italian restaurant in Tribeca, on Duane Street in the location where the famous first David Boulay restaurant used to be. And we all ate too much.

Yesterday I went back to Michael’s for a post-birthday lunch with two young New York women, Liz Finkle and Nina Richter who filled my ears with all kinds of wild and woolly stories (later; some other time) of goings-ons here in New York and Southampton, although the highlight for them turned out to be meeting the fabulous former governor of Texas Ann Richards who was lunching with the music world’s distinguished tycoon, Charles Koppelman. Michael’s was packed with refugees from the boiling temperatures outside, including the Daily NewsGeorge Rush who was interviewing a buxom blonde from the bunny ranch who possibly had wilder and woollier stories than anything I heard at my table. Also in the room: Ralph Destino with Faye Wattleton; editor Alice Mayhew, Stan Shuman, Peter Brown, Gil Schwartz, Denise LeFrak, Steven Greenberg, Ashley Schiff, Joan Parker, Dayle Haddon, and hundreds more along those lines.

Last night JH and I went over to Guastavino’s on 59th Street between Sutton Place and First Avenue for the Municipal Art Society’s presentation of the Evangeline Blashfield Award to Susan K. Freedman.

First, Evangeline Blashfield, one of those names which is now unknown to the New York of fame and celebrity and yet which made a profound impact on the cultural life to New York right up to this moment. Mrs. Blashfield was a civic-minded woman who in 1893 at age 36 rallied a group of influential architects, sculptors and artists to establish the Municipal Arts Society and to define it as a civic organization dedicated to this ideal.

Susan K. Freedman
She is credited with creating the Society’s first motto: “To make us love our city, we must make our city lovely.” Twenty-five years after the founding of the Municipal Arts Society (which was just one year before women were given the right to vote), Mrs. Blashfield was elected to the Society’s board of directors – its first woman director. She came a long way baby, but it took the boys long enough, as we can now see. Those days, however, are gone forever (take note you recidivists).

It was in 1919 that Mrs. Blashfield conceived of and funded the creation of the mosaic fountain that stands today in front of the Queensboro Bridge Market. The mosaic, which depicts the allegorical figure “Abundance,” was designed by another MAS founder, her husband, Edwin Blashfield. In fact, she was the model for the figure.

The fountain over which the mosaic is set originally stood on the southeast side of the bridge. It was relocated to the east end of the plaza during the 1999 renovation of the present-day Bridgemarket by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates.

The mosaic had previously languished and was forgotten for many many years in a storage space under the bridge before it was rescued in 1990 by Patti Harris who was then executive director of the New York City Art commission. It was restored in 2002-3 by the Society’s Adopt-A-Mural program and rechristened the Evangeline Blashfield Fountain in 2003.
Susan (or Susie as she calls herself) Freedman was honored last night for her outstanding contributions to New York City’s urban landscape.

She’s served as president of the Public Art Fund since 1986. Under her, the city has seen ambitious and engaging public art brought to public spaces such as streets, squares and public places. Monumental installations in Rockefeller Center by artists such as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Jonathan Borofsky to works by emerging artists such as the sculptures of Alejandro Diaz that are enlivening the Bronx’s Grand Concourse this summer.
Inside Guastavino's
Ms. Freedman is the daughter of the late Doris Chanin Freedman, a great proponent and supporter of culture in the city who came to an untimely death early in her life. A friend last night who knew Mrs. Channin commented that she would have been very proud of her daughter’s accomplishments and achievements. Ms. Freedman is known as a fearless public art crusader. She graduated from Brown in 1982 and began her public service as Director of Special Projects and Events for the Art Commission under Mayor Koch in 1983, serving until 1986.

Currently she serves on the board of the MAS, the Eldridge Street Project and WNYC Radio and is Secretary of the Board for the City Parks Foundation. In addition she is also Mayor Bloomberg’s rep on the Board of Trustees at MoMA.

The second floor of the restaurant was filled with friends, supporters and well-wishers of MAS and Ms. Freedman last night. These are the people who keep the foundations of this great metropolis fortified and in shape through thousands of concealed hours of work. Their work determines much of the personality and the character of the city as it is seen not only by its citizens but the millions who visit (and dream of visiting) every year. They are unsung heroes, truly.
Looking east from 59th between 1st and York with the mosaic of Evangeline Blashfield
Detail of the mosaic
Fred Papert and Kitty Hawks
Adrian Benepe and Joyce Menschel
Joan Davidson
Kent Barwick and Philip Howard
Diane Coffey and Jean Tatge
Paul Beirne
Agnes Gund and Frank Sanchis
Johnny Moore, Lori Greenberg, and Brendan Sexton

Patti Harris, Eleanor Gross, and Jessie Zweifach
Peter Pennoyer, Duane Hampton, and friend
Kent Barwick and Billie Tsien
Laura Walker and Barbara Bantivoglio
Ellen Liman
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Later in the evening I had dinner at Swifty’s with old friends from Paris, Rod Coupe and Jimmy Douglas, two Americans who have lived in Paris all of their adult lives. We talked about the autobiography of Alexis, the baron de Rede (see The List), and many other figures of that golden post-World War II time a half century ago. Jimmy who was a very close friend of Barbara Hutton until he ended their relationship in 1960, talked about the very end of her life when she was said to have died (in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel) with only $3000 to her name, after spending a near-billion dollar fortune on a trunkloads of husbands, houses and jewels. Jimmy said last night, “she had a $15 million dollar ring on her finger when she died and owned the greatest set of emeralds in the world – hardly broke.”

Fascinating information passed across the table to this always interested reporter. More on that later.



July 28, 2005, Volume V, Number 131
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch/NYSD.com

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