President's Day Weekend
Playing in the dirt in Central Park which only last Monday was replete with over 29 inches of snow. Photo: JH.

One week after the so-called (by me) Blizzard of ’06, the temperatures dropped from the spring-like 60s to the winter-like 20s and low 30s. Occasionally. But mainly the spring-like temperatures were still hovering and so ... one week after the great snows that briefly beautified our fair city, there was nothing. Back to the ole winter NYC brown and grey and brown ... and grey (except, thankfully, for the sunshine and the blue skies). Not a flake left in sight except for the rare and miniature pile of snow detritus.

Yesterday was a brisk and sunny day in New York. JH and I had a meeting on the Upper East Side and afterwards I tagged along with him while he hit the Park with his Digital looking to see if there was any snow left.

While he was photographing the ducks and geese who were paddling about in the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, I happened into a conversation with two men who were standing by the beautiful new reservoir fence observing the amphibians. Both Chinese born, a lawyer named Lang and an architect named Jon. As is my wont, as an enthusiastic New Yorker, I asked them how they liked life in this city. Although Land was the more loquacious, they shared similar enthusiasms. They found the people friendly and helpful. They found the life very stimulating in so many ways, so full of opportunity for pursuing interests, a place where all kinds of people come to live.

As we were standing on the running path, there were joggers occasionally passing by. One not-young man in a hurry slammed JH’s backpack so that it fell from his shoulder. He realized that this “hit” was intended as there are those joggers who seem to feel no one has a right to be standing on the jogging paths (although there was more than enough room for them to pass us by, and they are intended for all – walkers, joggers or standers).

This kind of in-your-face/outta-my-way hostility is also characteristic of life in the city in these times and it highlighted an observation Lang had also made about life here – the part that is often hard to take – the stress and the rush.

Because both men had only lived here for a few years (two or three), I explained that while the rush and the stress were always here in New York, the “aggressiveness” and body-blow lack of consideration for others – such as that encountered on the pathways (be it the avenues or the trails in the Park) was something rather new. It is symptomatic of an arrogance which many who practice it pride themselves in. The jogger who slammed into JH’s backpack, for example – a slender grey-haired man probably in his prime-ish late forties – is no doubt just another one of those naïve boys (I didn’t say “men”), of which there are legions at any given time of financial prosperity, now in the throes of late adolescence, and having spent too many hours inhaling the distracting bouquets of narcissus while getting too much exercise (crunching his numbers) anxiously in pursuit of eternal life on earth. In other words, a fool.

Anyway, conversation with Lang and Jon moved on to their native land and the excitement of booming Shanghai and Beijing (Lang’s hometown). Americans coming back from China all speak of and with the same excitement. This new phenomenon was/is giving both men pause for thought of what life would be like for them now in those burgeoning metropolises, having tasted the mega-forces of New York.

Last remnants of the blizzard of '06 from the Central Park Bridle Path
Looking east across the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir towards Fifth Avenue from 89th Street
A Mallard duck sunbathing in the reservoir

From the reservoir we moved on to the Met which looks spanking new with its façade having undergone a major cleaning. Both JH and I agreed that living the frenetic pace in New York one can easily forget the gift of the Met.

New Yorkers outside the Met
With that thought, we went in to visit the Rauschenberg exhibition called Robert Rauschenberg: Combines. This exhibit is a comprehensive survey of the artst’s highly inventive boy mixed-media work where he reinvented the collage. Wall-hung works and free-standing objects, they draw on materials from everyday life (including socks, shoes and ties) and the history of art. The installation is in the Gerald B. and Iris Cantor Gallery on the second floor of the museum and besides the fascination it holds for the viewer, the rooms surrounding which include the Cantors’ rich collection of Rodin and the Annenberg Collection of pictures are awesome.
From the steps of the Met looking up Fifth Avenue
Descending the steps

Sunday night Jill Krementz and Kurt Vonnegut had a reception marking her 66th birthday (which was Sunday) at her studio in the East 40s. Jill, who started out her professional career working for the refreshingly revamped (and regrettably now defunct) New York Herald-Tribune in the 1960s (along with other fresh faces such as Jimmy Breslin, Tom Wolfe, Dick Schaap), has published more than 30 books of mainly photography, along with several children’s books: How It Feels to Live with a Physical Disability (1992), How It Feels When a Parent Dies (1988), and How It Feels When Parents Divorce (1988) and How It Feels To Be Adopted (1988). She also spent a year in Vietnam during the war there photographing. Two years ago there was a major exhibition of her work at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford.

Kurt Vonnegut, DPC, and Jill Krementz

Krementz and Vonnegut’s parties are always literary and unique (at least for this writer) in New York social circles. Sunday night’s crowd included Brad Gooch (who’s working on a biography of Flannery O'Connor), Kiran Desai, Deborah Eisenberg (they shared the front page of the New York Times Book Review the Sunday before last), Michael Cunningham (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours), Vietnamese author of The Book of Salt, Monique Truong with her husband Damijan Sardcio; novelist Mary Ellin Barrett who has recently published a beautiful coffee table book (Abrams Publishers) about her father Irving Berlin; probably the only best-selling poet in America, Billy Collins, John Loengard (former picture editor of People and Life) who has a new book of his collected photographs As I See It ...; Andrew Solomon who won the National Book Award for his Noonday Demons book about depression; his partner John Habich, culture editor of Newsday; Deborah Solomon who writes the weekly Q and A for the New York Times Magazine (this past week’s was an interview with Philippe de Montebello of the Met), Solomon’s husband, Dr. Kent Sepkowitz who is head of Infectious Diseases department at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Also Leonard Lopate who broadcasts every weekday on WNYC from noon to two and is compulsive (as in obsessive-compulsive) daily listening for thousands and thousands of New Yorkers; the quietly charismatic Dr. Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat), Sidney Offit, the beautiful chair of the New York City Planning Commission, Amanda Burden; Judge Emily Goodman, Mark Wexler (whose documentary on his father cinematographer Haskell Wexler airs on Father's Day on the Sundance Channel), Jimmy Merrill, Bob Policastro and Carol Rappoport, Avery Andon (bf of Kurt and Jill’s daughter Lily Vonnegut); Susan Zarinsky of CBS’ 48 Hours, producer of CBS Sunday Morning Ramon Parkins, Iva Zorick, senior producer of Charlie Rose; Paul LeClerc, head of the New York Public Library and his wife Dr. Judith Ginsberg, composer Lukas Foss and Cornelia Foss, Lou Miano, author Maggie Paley, Louise Hirschfeld, Herb and Judy Schlosser, Ron and Isobel Konecky, Steve Milarsky, Marian Seldes, Broadway’s hardest (and still-) working legend, Celia and Henry McGee.

Kiran Desai and Leonard Lopate
Judge Emily Goodman and Billy Collins
Mark Wexler
Susan Zarinsky, Iva Zorick, and Ramon Parkins
Dr. Oliver Sacks and and Jill Krementz
Rex Reed and Louise Hirschfeld

A selection of Jill Krementz' photographs as photographed by DPC
William Styron
S.J. Perelman
Andy Warhol and Alfred Hitchcock
Kiran Desai
Deborah Eisenberg
Stephen King
P.G. Wodehouse
Jason Kent
Stanley Kunitz
William Buckley
Amy Tan
Truman Capote
Jean Genet, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg
Kitty Carlisle Hart and Marian Seldes
Kurt and Billy Collins
Brad Gooch and Maggie Paley
Jimmy Merrill, Amanda Burden, John Habich, and Andrew Solomon
Bob Policastro, Avery Andon, and Lily Vonnegut
Jill Krementz with Judy and Herb Schlosser
Iva Zorick, Lukas Foss, and Deborah Solomon
Jimmy Merrill, Amanda Burden, Jill Krementz, John Habich, and Andrew Solomon
Kitty Carlisle Hart and Jill Krementz
Copies of the guests books on display
Top: A portrait of Kurt by Gacci.
Above: A poster of a Vonnegut Silkscreen.
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Square-cut or pear-shaped, those rocks don’t lose their shape. Last week, Graff, that astounding emporium of exquisite and extraordinary diamonds (you can visit their web site by clicking on the banner ad on these pages) held a “Louping” party for a group of lucky (and enthusiastic) New York fashion editors. A loupe, if you did not know, is that little magnifier that jewelers (and photographers and art directors) use to look at something (like a precious stone) close-up. Guests were each given their own loupe with which to preview all of Graff’s fabulous new stones and what insiders regard as the new trends in shape which are the Marquise and the pear shape.

Editors learned (and some may not have known already) that the term “marquise” – a dramatically curved diamond with pointed edges – came by its name in the middle of the 18th century when Louis XV ordered the shape to to match the smile of his beloved mistress Madame de Pompadour. Because of the honor, the unique cut is considered symbolic of nobility.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Krupp Diamond

The art of louping developing in the Graff salon caused one observer to quip that “Louping” may be fast becoming the new Olympic sport along Madison Avenue.

Among the purveyors of glam who were in the Louping brigade were: Alexis Bryan, Alice Kim, Alison Burwell Rappaport, Sophia Chabott, Isabelle Kellogg and Amber Michelle; Brooke Magnaghi, Heather Severs and Marcie Nehmen Pantzer; Claudia Mata, Cynthia Frank, Denise O'Donaghue, Filipa Fino, Lindsay Bromley, Jasmine Chang, Kelly Carter, Jamie Rosen, Hedda Schupak, Hedy Gold; Hyla Bauer, Jennifer Heebne, Monica Cotto, Karla Martinez, Kate Criner; Luisana Mendoza, Stefano Tonchi, Tania Riddel, and Tanya Dukes.

Diamonds have always been popular in our civilization although they are presently having a phenomenal resurgence all over the world. And all cuts remain popular. The pear-shaped always brings to mind, for me, visions of Elizabeth Taylor whose fifth and seventh husband actor Richard Burton bought her the famous 33.19 carat pear-shaped Krupp Diamond in 1968.

For her 40th birthday in 1972, Burton also bought her a heart-shaped diamond known as the Taj-Mahal. "I would have liked to buy her the Taj-Mahal itself," Burton remarked at the time, adding, "but it would have cost too much to transport. This diamond has so many carats, it’s almost a turnip." Then he added, "Diamonds are an investment. When people no longer want to see Elizabeth and me on the screen, then we can sell off a few baubles." That ending never occurred – the couple later divorced, she kept the diamonds and alas poor(er, but not poor) Richard died twelve years later in 1984.

A selection of marquise and pear-shaped Graff colored diamonds ("Fancies") and a very happy little loupe (right).

Graff also made the news last week when its founder Laurence Graff paid a record $425,000 a carat or $3.66 million for an 8.62 carat cushion-cut Burmese ruby at Christie’s in St. Moritz, setting a record. Now referring to the stone as the Graff ruby, the jeweler said he might set it in a new ring for a client.

Jewelry prices are sky-rocketing as more and more new buyers from the U.S. and Russia enter the market. Accord to Art Market Research, the index-maker, auction prices for precious stones have shot above their 1990 highs.

“The trend is still up,'' said Francois Curiel, chairman of Christie's Europe and worldwide jewelry chief. The previous record was for a ruby of 8.01 carats, sold by Christie's in New York last year, he said. Auction sales of jewels totaled $490 million last year, compared with $395 million in 2004, Curiel said. That's equal to about 10 percent of worldwide diamond-jewelry sales, he said.

If you’ve ever stopped to gaze in the window cases of Graff on Madison Avenue you can’t help being amazed. And now the sparkling world of white diamonds is impacted by a trend towards colored diamonds – one of nature’s most exotically beautiful creations. These rare naturally colored diamonds are known as ‘fancies.’ They come in a variety of hues and depths of color – deep pinks, powdery blues, and citrus yellows. Very few fancy diamonds are of exceptional quality, so those that do exist are extremely valuable, naturally making them particularly sought after. I’d never seen a pink or blue or a yellow diamond until I’d seen the Graff collection.

Mr. Graff, who is famous for his colored diamonds, describes finding the rarest, best quality and most beautifully cut stones as “a passion, a hunt or even an expedition into the world to find the very best.” The thrill of the Loupe.

February 22, 2006, Volume VI, Number 32
Photographs by JH & DPC/


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