Celebrating Bronson Van Wyck's birthday on Saturday night at Element on East Houston Street. 10:30 PM. Photo: DPC.
Yesterday in New York was exactly what the weatherman said it would be: a rainy Sunday with temperatures hovering in the low 40s. A perfect day to be inside curled up with the papers or in front of the vid screen (for the internet) or the TV. Or maybe doing your laundry (presuming you do your own laundry).
It was also the first day of the Chinese New Year. The Year of the Dog. In the Chinese calendar, which greatly precedes in use the Gregorian calendar (that we use in the West) each year is designated by one of the 12 Animals. 2003, for example, was the Year of Ram, 2004 the Year of Monkey; 2005 the Year of Rooster. 2007 will be Year of Pig.
This system is extremely practical. A child does not have to learn a new answer to the question, "How old are you?" with each new year. Old people who often lose track of their age, because they are rarely asked, need only remember that they were born in the Year of the Dog (or whatever). Since this is the Year of Dog, any one who was born in the Year of Dog is now either 0 or 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84 or 96 years old. These are the years of the Dog: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006
According to my source (The Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco), people born in the Year of the Dog possess the best traits of human nature. They have a deep sense of loyalty, are honest, and inspire other people’s confidence because they know how to keep secrets.
But: Dog People are also somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn, and eccentric. They care little for wealth, yet somehow always seem to have money. They can be cold emotionally and sometimes distant at parties. They can find fault with many things and are noted for their sharp tongues.
If you are a Dog person and these characteristics put you off, fear not for every year has characteristics that can put you off. Just like us; just like life. However: Dog people make good leaders. When they do. They are compatible with those born in the Years of the Horse, Tiger, and Rabbit. I was born in the year of the Snake. JH was born in the year of the Rabbit.
Aside from the the curiosity factor, I have another reason for mentioning this: Friday night at a private club called PM at 50 Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, Richard Turley, PM's owners Unik, Kyky, and Dimitri hosted a Chinese New Year’s party in honor of his friend Yue-Sai Kan.
You’ve read about Yue-Sai here before. Even last week. She is a remarkable woman; one of those people whom I’ve had the privilege of knowing because of my business. She’s an American citizen, but born in Hong Kong. She came to this country as a very young woman in pursuit of a musical (piano) career. The first night she was in New York, someone invited her to a concert being conducted by Leonard Bernstein at Lincoln Center. After the concert she had privilege of meeting the great and gregarious conductor/composer. That first encounter defined her path in her new country – a path of opportunity.
Yue-Sai in 2002
As a young girl in New York, thrilled to be in this great city, she had to earn a living and took whatever she could find. She got a job working as a receptionist in an advertising agency. Over time, one thing led to another (and of course, as it is in the Big Town, she met lots of people). Several years later, by chance and happenstance, she was offered the opportunity to make some video documentaries about life in New York for the then just budding Chinese television. She was a practical choice for the assignment because she spoke Chinese (and is Chinese).
The series was very successful in China for it was the first time many Chinese had the opportunity to see New York and to learn about what it was like to live here. And, as television does, it made Yue-Sai a very popular figure with her audience – especially women who took to fashioning their hair in the same style as hers. Over time, through this series, she also demonstrated how she could be an asset to her native country in opening up to the West. Once a friend’s daughter asked her if she would bring her back a doll from China. It was then she discovered that the only dolls that could be purchased in China were American Barbies, that there were no dolls made with Asian images. The result: she created the Yue-Sai doll. Then, because of her enormous impact on Chinese women’s hairstyle, she got the idea of bringing cosmetics (for the first time) to China. Again, another major success.
Today Yue-Sai has her own television show in China (and now spends the majority of the year there, especially in Shanghai where she has an apartment). The show has a potential audience of 800 million. She became so famous there that the government issued a stamp with her image on it. Recently they issued a second stamp. Friday night at the party, Richard Turley asked her why a second stamp? “Because I changed my hair-style,” Yue-Sai replied with laughter in her smile.
Yue-Sai and her new do on Friday night
She has a warm, effervescent personality and a host of friends here in New York. There is a lilt in her voice and her manner in conversation is direct and often punctuated with a smile or laughter. She appears to be a woman with a natural self-confidence, focus and discretion; also a woman who had kind, loving parents. She befriends easily. You are aware of being in the presence of an intelligent, creative and clever woman. And Friday night, it was not a huge party but there was a wide array of New Yorkers attending, all friends of Yue-Sai and/or Richard Turley.
I was introduced to The Reverend Al Sharpton, meeting him for the first time. Also a very friendly and warm personality, and also a young man named Ruben Diaz Jr. who is a New York State Assemblyman representing a part of the Bronx. I had also never met Mr. Diaz before. After I had taken his picture (with club owner Unik Ernest), I asked our host his name. Richard Turley answered by first telling me that he believed this man will be our first Puerto Rican-born senator from New York one day. He’d first met him ten years ago when Diaz (then just 22) ran for State Assembly. He lost that election but ran again the following year and won. He too was born on the Year of the Dog. Now at 32, (he’ll be 33 April 26) he was overwhelmingly re-elected to his fifth term and is now a veteran State Assemblyman from his district in the Bronx.
During dinner I asked Ruben Diaz Jr. how he came to run for public office at such an early age. He has a polite, unassuming (for a politician) manner. He told me that he was motivated to run for office because he’d felt politicians were not addressing the needs and issues of his generation. He said that after losing the first election, it was Richard Turley’s write-up of him in a local Bronx paper that convinced him to run again, which he did the following year, successfully.
Ruben Diaz Jr.
His Assembly District (the 85th) includes the neighborhoods of Bronx River, Harding Park, Clason Point, Hunts Point and Soundview. This is an area often described as rich in culture, history and diversity. Whatever else that means, it is a district of middle-class (often poor), working family families who need representatives to fight for their priorities. Because of environmental issues it also has a very high levels of asthma cases -- especially among very young children -- directly related to the very poor air quality. Needless to say, Assemblyman Diaz is a strong advocate of addressing these problems, fighting against environmental racism and injustice and working to restore the Bronx River which runs through his district.
He is the youngest member of the New York State Assembly. His father Diaz Sr., is also a State Senator, winning his first public office when he was elected to the New York City Council in 2001.
Back to the party. After dinner there came a cry for the dragons – and out they came from both entrances, wending their way around the room to meet the guests until they arrived at the pillars where, according to tradition, they had to crawl up to retrieve the Red Envelope (which presumably contains some cash). By the time the party broke about 11:15, outside the streets were jammed with club-goers and taxis.
James Toback and Monica Crowley
Rufus Albemarle and Heather Cohane
Yanna Avis and Rafaele Castoriano
Anne Slater and Tom McGrath
Paul Morrissey and Amy Fine Collins
John Loeb, Sharon Handler, and Rev. Al Sharpton
Anne Slater and John Cahill
Sharon Handler, Tom McGrath, and Yue-Sai Kan
Somers Farkas and Sam Bolton
Sheriff Ishak with Isabelle and Richard Johnson
The staff at PM
Michael Musto and Sam Bolton
Michael Musto and Sam Bolton
Amy Fine Collins in Koos Vander Aker
Vanessa and Donald Trump Jr.
John Meadow, Holly Oliphant, and Christine Biddle
Brad Collins and Jonathan Farkas
Yue-Sai from the back
Sharon Handler, June Haynes, and Patrick McMullan
Ruben Diaz Jr. and Unik
Yanna Avis and Richard Turley
Yue-Sai yet again
Bara and Roger de Cabrol
Saturday night. The invitation was a big silver (on heavy stock) card. On one side in the middle were the initials BVW. On the other side in 3/4 inch high teal blue letters running across the card: BRONSON VAN WYCK. And underneath: “Requests The Pleasure of the Company of” (then handwritten out in black pental: Mssrs. David Patrick Columbia and Jeffrey Hirsch):
On The Dance Floor at his 30th Birthday Party
Saturday January 28 2006 at A Quarter Past Nine
Element 225 East Houston Street
Dress: Foxy F**king Fabulous Mac Daddy Disco Ho
I first heard the name Bronson Van Wyck one summer’s day a few years ago when I was riding out to Southampton with my friend Ashley Schiff and she got a call on her cell that had her laughing and (party)planning and laughing. “Who was that?!” “Bronson Van Wyck,” she answered, adding: “He’s really great.”
Van Wyck, like the expressway just off the Grand Centeral Parkway that we’d just exited. Wyck like Mike. The Bronsons and the Van Wycks go way back, even maybe farther back than Mrs. Astor’s Schermerhorns. This latest version, however, is THE latest, version or no version.
JH couldn’t accept the invitation because it so happened his own brother Jason was celebrating his birthday day farther down the (Houston) street at the same hour. But I couldn’t resist because I knew it would be if nothing else a photo op to show you, dear readers, how the young and creative New Yorkers party at the beginning of the 21 century.
A little background. Bronson is now (since I first heard of him) a very well known party-planner here in New York. The name of the firm is Van Wyck & Van Wyck and the other VW is his mother Mary Lynn who is based on the family property Arrowhead Farms in Tuckerman, Arkansas. Bronson also works very closely with his sister Mimi too.
Arrowhead Farms isn’t, from the sound of it, any ordinary farm. It’s from his ma’s side of the family and they grow rice and pecans and soybeans. Big time. His pa, also called Bronson Van Wyck, who grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut and eventually ended up at Harvard Business School, runs the farm. He also runs orange groves in Florida and vineyards in California. In fact, his Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Chardonnay grapes go to the Mondavi family’s wineries.
Young Bronson went to Yale, started out professional life working in the television business in California, later as an aide to Pamela Harriman at the American embassy in Paris and then back in LA working for a movie production company. None of it was connecting and once when complaining about it to his ma, she asked what he’d rather do. “I would have had a party.” And, Bronson’s ma being the ma she is, said something like “why not?” then sat down with son and Van Wyck and Van Wyck was born.
She still operates out of Tuckerman and son operates out of New York with frequent asides (for business) here there and everywhere. Last year they did 60 events, or…more than one a week. In his portfolio are parties for the likes of P. Diddy, the Democratic Party, the Bush Administration, Bill Clinton as well as weddings, of course.
When you meet him, he’s a handsome young man, bright-eyed, with face in a perpetual smile; friendly and completely lacking in attitude about himself (a quality that very often grows rarer as the birds fly higher up the ladder of success).
Bronson Sr. and Amy Porter
Saturday night the “do” was in what looked like an old bank building on East Houston Street. Inside: two floors, with spinning disco balls overhead and a lot of Usual Suspects of a Certain (Younger) Age. With a couple of exceptions like Yours Truly. I looked around and around the mob and couldn’t find Bronson, so I stationed myself leaning back to the bar with my handy Digital and just let the lens do the looking. All those boas everywhere; boys in their boas, girls in their boas.
At the other end of the room was a platform, above which were the blue neon letters: B v W. I was told Bronson had planned a special surprise. Having lens-checked the first floor, I went upstairs where the DJs were working. About ten-thirty, up and out came the announcement:
BRONSON! ON STAGE WITH LIVE DANCERS FROM MADONNA’S ACT. I think that’s what they said. Forgive me if I didn’t get it right; I knew not whence I came.
The male party-planner’s Madonna. Lights dim, then brights up, and at stage center rear with the audience cheering like some kind of little Madison Square Garden -- catcalls, whistles, applauses and antic-ranting -- the Birthday Boy himself in a long white (to the floor) double breasted admiral’s coat and up came the music: Madonna’s “Holiday!” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you do – you’ve heard it no matter where you live or how old you are until you thought you’d kill yourself if you heard it one more time.)
Bronson doing his male Madonna
And: it was great. The number included all kinds of militaristic terpsichorean exercises including the boys (and two girl back-up singers) changing jackets – fatigues, cadets, and then taking them off, stripping down to bare pneumatic breast and the ... skivvies? ... and our-star-for-the-night Bronson finally shedding the greatcoat, revealing this highly-buffed dear (still not really so old) Yalie in white tank and glistening white trousers and more dancing ... Celebrate!
It musta been twenty minutes of all-singing all dancing all swinging, swaying, sashaying, kick-pow-sis-boom-bah; roaring crowd, foot-stompin’ party-goers. When it was over there were more cheers, more ovations, more celebrations.
Then the boy silenced the crowd so that he could say a few words. And that’s when the whole thing came back to the reality – Bronson’s reality.
He first talked about his family – about his sister Mimi whom he is very close to (I think he described her as his soulmate) and who has just got engaged to a man named Ham Morrison who was there last night. He spoke of his father (Bronson Sr. who save for his grey hair doesn’t look much older than his son). “My father taught me that there were many shades of grey in life between black and white,” implying, one could conclude, the grace of tolerance. “My dad said that an individual loses but a team wins.” And then he young Bronson thanked all the people he’d been on a team with and all the teams he’s worked and played with. And his mother: “I came into this world needing a lot of love, and thankfully I got my mother who’s given it to me.” Then he thanked everyone in the room for coming, for being his friend, for brightening his days, for being there. “Grace” is the word to articulate this wild-and-crazily creative young man whose idea of a party is that everyone has fun because it’s catching when he’s around.
After his lovely words, up came the music, up jumped the guests onto the stage and the dancing began, on into the night. Happy Birthday Bronson, and many many more for you to share with many more of your friends and loved ones.
It was about eleven-thirty when I left Element and the Bronson Van Wyck night and hopped a cab farther west on the street to another club/bar called Pegu where Jason Hirsch was celebrating his birthday. My introduction to this particular club came when the man at the door told me I had to wait fifteen minutes because the place was filled to capacity.
Okay. That happens all the time. So I’m standing there for about thirty seconds when a young woman comes along talking on her cell, goes up to the door, says something to the doorman and he lets her in.
“Hey! You said it was filled to capacity!”
“She’s here for the party,” he says.
“What the f**k do you think I’m here for, to watch you let other people in while I stand waiting?”
So after another minute or so of this and me slinging my best New York attitude (and playing the age card – a lot older than this guy). I told him I was a guest of “the family” (which was true) and that if this was the way they were going to conduct their business, I would be happy to tell the family what they were paying for! “Geez,” the guy says and opens the door to let me in. Arggh.
The velvet rope a/k/a the iron curtain is an old trick that goes way back to the end of Prohibition when the speakeasies turned into legit nightclubs. I saw them still up at the end when in the early 1960s the Stork Club was still in business on 3 East 53rd Street (where the Paley Park is located today). Only, when I was there, there was No One waiting to get in and not many inside. Its day had come and gone. As they will come and go for these jomokes who are playing nickel and dime power games just for the helluva it. In the meantime, this stupid undemocratic habit still infuriates and kills a lot of business among a lot of people who would go out if they didn’t have to contend with these idiots.
Meanwhile, inside, upstairs the place was crowded but not to capacity. I found the birthday boy, another gracious one, greeting his guests democratically. The two Hirsch brothers are a little more than a year apart in age, quite different in temperament, and very close. The parents, David and Rochelle were also there (sister/daughter Stefanie was at school – Cornell). It was a rather sedate atmosphere compared to the Bronson van Wyck show down the street, but there were some welcome similarities. It was parents’ night once again – to my mind – the fine offspring, having a good time with each other and their friends and ma and pa. Happy Birthday Jay and many many more to you.
And while we’re on the subject of Many Many More ... Chappy Morris, New York society’s most perennial bachelor (and I’m not exaggerating) is about to surprise his very wide world and announce his engagement to Melissa Stanley, the young lady he’s been squiring around town (and elsewhere) for a few years now. Chappy, who is 56 is from a very old New York family (think Morrisania in the Bronx, think Gouverneur Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence) is the child of a perennial bachelor who married later in life to Chappy's mother Edna who became one of the great doyennes of society. In fact, the same engagement ring that Chappy’s father gave his mother has now engaged Melissa Stanley. What their specific plans are I cannot tell you since I’m not even supposed to know what I’ve told you. But they are a lovely couple and congratulations and best wishes are in order!