T’is definitely the season
Riverside Drive and 83rd Street. 3:45 PM. Photo: JH.
Mother Nature bestowed on us a light and beautiful blanket of snow in the very early Sunday morning hours, which came as a magical surprise to those of us who hadn’t tuned into the weather report the night before. A couple of hours later, while having my coffee, streaming KUSC-FM from Los Angeles, the picture was completed with an operatic baritone singing Irving Berlin’s classic “(I’m Dreaming Of A) White Christmas.”

All kinds of holiday happenings all over town too.
They closed off Madison Avenue from the 60s to 86th for the 19th annual Miracle on Madison Avenue benefit, a shopping charity event that benefits The Children’s Aid Society. More than 125 leading luxury retailers, restaurants and galleries in support of New York’s neediest children donated 20% of the day’s sales to the Society’s health care programs. Shoppers were treated to specialty tents lining the avenue from noon to 5.

Then, last night over at the Grand Ballroom
of the Waldorf, the Museum of the Moving Image, they saluted Ron Howard. The former child/teenage star and now distinguished film director who makes his home with his family here on the East Coast is one of the nicest and most accomplished men in the film business, so there was much love in the room.

Meanwhile just a couple of blocks up the avenue,
from 6 to 10 pm at The Four Seasons restaurant, Volunteers of America hosted its 10th annual “A New York Christmas” gala featuring culinary sampling from some of the city’s best restaurants. Co-chaired this year by Michael Clinton of Hearst Magazines, Ronald Frasch of Saks, Scott Conant, chef of L’Impero and Alto was chair of the Chefs’ Committee. The Volunteers benefits its Hope & Hearth Food Voucher program for the working poor, homebound elderly and families affected by AIDS or domestic violence.

And then two miles farther up Park Avenue
at 6:30 pm at 91st Street, the supporters of the Fund for Park Avenue Memorial Tree Lighting Celebration congregated for their 60th annual benefit cocktail reception (with music provided by Alex Donner’s orchestra) for the lighting of the trees along the avenue.
Looking south from Park Avenue at 92nd Street. 8:45 PM.
This tradition was begun in 1945 by Mrs. Stephen C. Clark in honor of her son and all of those who lost their lives in World War II. Since then, on the first Sunday in December, many New Yorkers come to see the dedication and the lighting of sixty blocks of the Memorial Trees. Afterwards there was a reception for Contributors at the Italian Consulate at 69th and Park. You can always contribute, any amount you can give will help. Make your check payable to The Fund For Park Avenue Charity, and mail it to 110 East 42nd Street, Room 1300, New York 10017.

Last Thursday night at the Seventh Regiment Armory
(between 66th and 67th on Park) the Municipal Art Society held its annual dinner. Each year they honor a New Yorker for his or her distinguished contributions to the betterment of the city with the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award. This year it went for the first time to an organization – Thirteen/WNET.

Kinshasha Holman Conwill and Kitty Hawks
Honorary Chairs were Walter Cronkite and Bill and Judith Moyers. Dinner Chairs were Lewis Cullman and Marian S. Heiskell. Dinner co-Chairs were Elihu Rose and Wade F. B. Thompson and the Master of Ceremonies was that inimitable Texas girl-turned-Toastmaster General of little ole New York, Liz Smith. Vice Chairs for the evening were Kitty Hawks and Larry Lederman, Tony Kiser, Abby and George O’Neill, Diane and Fred Papert, Janet and Arthur Ross, Katherine Sailor and Kenneth B. Lerer, and Helen Sonnenberg Tucker. Speakers included Kent Barwick, President of the Society, Philip K. Howard Esq., Chairman; Bill Moyers, Jane Pauley, Governor Pataki, and Steven Rattner who accepted the award for Thirteen/WNET.

The Municipal Art Society is a private nonprofit which has been in existence for more than century. Its founder, the great architect of the Gilded Age, Richard Morris Hunt himself is memorialized in a statue on the edge of Central Park on Fifth Avenue across from The Frick Collection.

The Society’s charter is to protect the best of New York’s existing landscape from landmarks. It fostered the creation of the New York City Art Commission and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and served as incubator for the Public Art Fund, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, P.S. 1 and the Historic Districts Council. It was the MAS that in 2002 led the creation of the temporary 9/11 memorial, Tribute in Light. They have now secured the equipment and funding to ensure that the two beams of light shine annually through 2008.

It was the MAS that led the crusade to landmark the priceless Broadway theaters and protect the historic bright lights that energize Times Square. Currently they are fighting to save Civil War-era buldings and a historic dry dock in Red Hook, as well as urging the preservation of historic structure along both sides of the East River. The MAS is also responsible for the current plans to transform the old James A. Farley Post Office into a transportation gateway – (Daniel Patrick) Moynihan Station.

The late Brendan Gill was an important leader in the organization. Many New Yorkers unfamiliar with its activity nevertheless remember Jacqueline Onassis participating in the successful protests to prevent Grand Central Terminal from vanishing under a skyscraper. The current influence of the Municipal Arts Society is one of her legacies.

With that kind of responsibility, the Municipal Art Society has a natural appeal to the civic minded, including the powerful with a strong sense of the history and the value of the community. These people are frequently engaged in often unseen but profoundly influential activities that maintain the city’s stature and its livability. It brings out the best, high-minded motivations.

They held it in the century old Armory not only because it could accommodate the large crowd of several hundred (with tables of eight and ten going for $50,000, $25,000 and $12,000), but because it is supporting the Seventh Regiment Armory Conservancy which was created eight years ago to restore this deteriorating National Historic Landmark and make it into a center for world-class visual and performing arts. Covering more than an acre, the Armory has rooms designed by Stanford White, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Herter Brothers and many others. The cost of the restoration is estimated at $150 million. Thursday night, Governor Pataki, attending the dinner, announced that the State of New York will contribute $30 million toward the project, adding to the $20 million that has already been raised by the members of the Society.
Cocktails in the Armory
Digit summoning the guests to dinner
Dinner in the Armory
Bill Moyers and Philip Howard
Judith Moyers and Jean-Marie Baker
Jill Kargman with mom Coco Kopelman
Giovanni LoFaro, Bill Rondina, and Liz Smith
Kitty Hawks and Iris Love
Betsy Bartlett and Jones Yorke with Ellen Marcus
Duane Hampton and Arie Kopelman
Duane Hampton
Lewis Cullman, Bruce Levingston, and Justin Rockefeller
Frances Resheske, Robert Tierney, and Diane Coffey
Jane Gullong, Paul Gunther, and Gloria Troy
Ronay Menschel and Mark di Suvero
Anita Contini and Gordon Davis
Edwina Sandys and Richard Kaplan
Ashton Hawkins and John J. Iselin
Wade Thompson and Charles Gargano
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Tinsley Mortimer is the new Paris Hilton. Oh no, not really, you say? Oh yes, really. A girl with a high profile social name in New York (acquired, in this case, through marriage), who has come into celebrity via the party picture/celebrity photograph. It is only a question of time before the celebrity becomes international – just like her predecessor – and maybe even hits television or the movies. Really? That is exactly how Ms. Hilton (and her sister Nicky) began, unwittingly paving the way for other pretty young blondes who love the camera and vice versa.

When Tatiana Boncompagni from the New York Times called me a couple of weeks ago about young social women in New York who are lent clothes by fashion designers, she had a number of women in mind. But when the piece came out in yesterday’s Styles section, it was all (or practically) Tinsley. Why, do you wonder? Simple: because she’s got the tinsel (pardon the pun, but it couldn’t be more perfect).

We’ve been photographing Mrs. Mortimer
for the past couple of years because: 1. she’s there (in front of the camera); and 2. because she’s good to look at. All-American blue-eyed blonde with a feminine aura right out of Scott Fitzgerald, or Ernest Hemingway, or John O’Hara — there’s a story there, whether there is or not. Maybe even a movie. Or a book and a movie. I’m not saying that’s her story per se; merely that the photo image supplies the thought. Same with Paris; different story of course, but nevertheless.

Oh there are differences. Mrs. Mortimer tends not to show as much flesh as Ms. Hilton. And although she looks more like a rich girl, the lifestyle is not as luxuriously flamboyant (i.e., Mrs. Mortimer Yellow Cabs it while Paris travels by Bentley or her parents’ SUV). And Mrs. Mortimer comes without the mystique of being an actual “heiress” (quotes intended). Although on the social scale in New York, with the name Mortimer, she’s up there. And on some social scales, way up there, far above her predecessor who, after all, is a California girl.

Fashion designers have picked up on this (just as retailers had done with Paris Hilton), and one of them jumped at the chance to cash in on it. Recently she became the face, the image, the spokesmodel for a new line of furs by designer Douglas Hannant, also replacing another frequently photographed blonde socialite Debbie Bancroft as his “muse.” And it all began here ...

December 5, 2005, Volume V, Number 201
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch & Patrick McMullan


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