New York, New York
The former Doctor's Hospital (behind Henderson Place), now razed, making way for the Peter Marino-designed 170 East End Avenue.
“You’re busy this time of year?” people ask as if dumfounded. Never is New York not busy.

I missed a cocktail party in my overlapping schedule last night. Peter Marino, the architect/interior designer extraordinaire (he’s a small industry actually) invited me to a cocktail party he was hosting with a man named Orin Wilf in honor of sculptors Claude and Francois-Xavier LaLanne at someone’s apartment at 530 East 86th Street.

Yudda thunk I cudda made it – since it’s just up the block and around the corner. The LaLannes have created sculptures for Mr. Marino’s latest architectural creation which is going up just a few blocks up the avenue from me at 170 East End Avenue on property that once upon a time was occupied by Doctor’s Hospital. There are a lot of New Yorkers still around (including a lot of friends of mine) who were born at Doctor’s Hospital. It later became part of Mount Sinai and eventually went the way of the wrecker’s ball. Originally the neighborhood thought it was going to be renovated and morph into a condominium building. Uh-uh. Now it’s gonna be a big and very expensive Peter Marino-designed residential building – the last word in 21st century apartment luxury.

Vincent Astor's 120 East End Avenue

East End Avenue was originally one of the Alphabet avenues, home of Gracie mansion (which until the Bloomberg mayoralty was the mayor’s house) and local Yorkville/Germantown neighborhoods. Vincent Astor changed all that in the 1930s and 40s when he built himself a beautiful apartment house, 120 East End, with the biggest (at the time – 10,000 square feet) penthouse for himself and his then wife Minnie Cushing. This building matched the ultra-swank riverside apartment building – One Gracie Square, which was built in 1930, just a block away.

Mr. Astor, who was the son and principal heir of the man who went down on the Titanic, was considered a bore and a boor by many of his social peers but unlike a great many of them, he had a social conscience and a vision for the citizens of New York. He used a lot of his inherited property to build housing and playgrounds for average New Yorkers. At the foot of East End Avenue on East 79th street is still standing a block of apartment housing that was built specifically so that working people could have a pleasant space close to the breezes of the East River.

Astor’s efforts lifted the neighborhood with his luxury apartment building. Nevertheless until the mid-1990s, the area, while occupied by a number of expensive apartment buildings and two posh girls’ schools – Brearley and Chapin, was also occupied by quite a few working class tenements from the late 19th century, the very last of which are about to come down in the next few months. Today of course the so-called “average” residents of Mr. Astor’s East End Avenue are six-figure annual income earners (or should be in order to pay the rents and buy the apartments). With the arrival of Mr. Marino’s very grand 170 East End Avenue, overlooking the joyously abundant yet small neighborhood Carl Schurz Park, the neighborhood is going up up up.

No doubt, the cocktail party I missed last night was a celebration of that.

I was in a rush to get down to Rockefeller Center (another historical New York development created by like-minded civic-minded philanthropists) where the Lincoln Center Institute was celebrating its 30th anniversary with a Gala Benefit Program honoring Stanley Silverman, a highly revered and admired composer/arranger/music director who works closely with the Lincoln Center Institute in bringing arts education to the public schools of New York.

I actually didn’t know about the LC Institute, but then you have to be very vigilant to know about all the organizations and their activities that dwell under the umbrella the world calls Lincoln Center. It turns out the Institute is crucial because it takes the case for cultural enlightenment, education and appreciation out to the streets (in this case, the public schools) in an effort to spread the good word.

Julia Stiles and Jonathan Cramer

When I was growing up we had music appreciation in the public school curriculum. I can still remember the blue cloth-bound book of songs in Miss Fuller’s second grade class. Opening them up to sing the songs was one of the best parts of the day. By the fourth grade Miss Lesniak was apprising us of the glories of the oboe, and the trombone, the violin and the sax, and all their accompanying instruments. Magic is what it seemed like to this child’s ears and imagination. Mary Furber Anderson, (“teacher of pianoforte” said the sign by her front door) further educated me in the glories of the piano – occasionally taking my long and tender and bony little boy fingers and exclaiming: “You have the hands of Franz Liszt!” Ahh, more magic! (Although I had yet to learn who Franz Liszt was.) Somehow it all added up to a lifetime of immense pleasure, thousands and thousands of hours of pleasure from all kinds of music and its creators and purveyors. How odd and dangerously empty it seems to this mind that the child in public schools don’t get that anymore. What will they do in their futures without it?

The Lincoln Center Institute is working to avoid that kind of future for not only the children of New York but all over this country.

The evening started with a cocktail reception and by 7:15 we were all moving into the main and famous ballroom called the Rainbow Room which was jammed with dinner tables.

In the orchestra space and next to it, they were set up for more 25 musicians – the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (as conducted by Guest Conductor Rob Fisher). Once we were all settled and served our first course (a delicious beet/stringbean and mozzarella salad), Mr. Fisher began conducting his orchestra with Stanley Silverman’s Overture from the film Simon.

And then when the overture was finished Susan Rudin, who is chair of the Lincoln Center Institute (and the lady who introduced me to it) introduced James Taylor.

I know James Taylor needs no introduction. I’ve been listening to him since he came on the scene with “Fire and Rain” thirty-five years ago. The album cover of the young (like this listener) long haired performer is still clear in my mind’s eye. “Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you…” had a poets’ meaning.

Last night, there he was, like this listener (and so many others in the room) thirty-five years later: no long hair anymore – in fact, no hair at all on the top of his large head. Looking more like an after six pm hedge fund manager, the man, despite his suit and white shirt and tie and prosperous waist-line, still has the laid-back, still-right-there-not-goin’-anywhere manner that he projected when first bursting into pop-culture stardom.

He opened with “Getting to Know You,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein song written for Gertrude Lawrence to sing to the children of the King of Siam in “The King and I.” At first it seemed an odd choice to these ears. Except the tune, which I, like the singer, first heard and was delighted by in childhood, was lovely and his signature delivery with, delivered with a curious brogue-ishness, gave it both nostalgia and a new meaning. We were reminded that he was a star because he was/is an artist. The audience loved it and when he was finished, in acknowledgement he told us his father used to call it “The Song of the CIA.”

Same old Baby James.  From there it was (always accompanied by his musicians Larry Goldings, piano; Jimmy Johnson, bass; Steve Gadd, drums, Bob Mann, guitar and the Orchestra of St. Lukes) “In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina” – vintage James reassuring, followed by George Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and then his own composition “Millworker” returning us to the lump-in-the-throat James Taylor:

It be me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
And the rest of the afternoon
Gone for the rest of my life ...

And then into Lerner and Loewe’s “Almost Like Being in Love,” (from “Brigadoon”) and then his own “The Secret o’ Life (is enjoying the passage of time)”. And then Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight":

With each word your tenderness grows
Tearing my fear apart.
And that laugh that wrinkles your nose,
Touches my foolish heart.
James Taylor singing “In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina”

So there he was, this icon of my young manhood, the contemporary romantic but rebellious balladeer, singing songs that had been written (and made famous) by himself, and by Fred Astaire of our parents’ generation. Bringing it all together. James Taylor the artist. He didn’t sing “Fire and Rain,” which may have disappointed some, but no one in the room was disappointed. There was a standing ovation and whistles and candles waving and weaving and more applause and more whistles. Baby James grown up and us too.

Susan Rudin presented him with an imaginative (for these affairs) token of appreciation: A pair of Steven Smith walking shoes – perfect size, and as he said himself, perfect timing.

Then Mrs. Rudin introduced Frank Bennack who was joined by Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts and Scott Noppe-Brandon, Executive Director of the Lincoln Center Institute in presenting the Guest of Honor, Mr. Silverman.

Mr. Silverman is one of those fellows who is a famous secret, not well kept because of his industrious creativity and evidently legendary gift of friendship and collaborative talents. If you Google him, as I did when I got home, you’ll see a CV longer than both your arms and legs, and work that is very familiar to your ears.

Besides his own creative endeavors, Mr. Silverman gives his time and energy to the cause of the Institute, namely finding ways of transporting children and young people into the realm of dreams, delights and the beauty of appreciation. Artists and composers are being nurtured by the work and efforts of Stanley Silverman as I write this; concealed perhaps even from their own consciousnesses, but incubating nevertheless. In appreciation, Mrs. Rudin presented him with an award that he will find useful and personally appreciate – some new LaCoste polos (his favorite).

Sitting there high above the metropolis looking out across the land as far as the eye can see, lit by the nighttime civilization, I couldn’t help contemplating the state of things, the grim and decrepit state of life on this planet and then considering the men like Stanley Silverman who bring us gifts bearing light and hope and joy, reminding us of another reality that children know better than any of us.

This year was the fourth annual fund-raising benefit for the Lincoln Center Institute. They raised $850,000 for their work. Like the night before (yesterday’s Diary), the vibes were all in the right place. There were at least two generations of guests at the Rainbow Room taking in the artistry of James Taylor and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. After dinner, after presentations, unusual for this kind of gala, the guests all stayed in their chairs, at their tables, with their coffee and desserts, schmoozing, regaling, and riffing appreciation.

Rena Silverman, Silvio Horta, Teri Weinberg, and Ben Silverman
Marlene Hess, Norma Hess, and Jim Zirin
Ellen and Dr. Dick Levine
Stanley Silverman, James Taylor, Brooke Shields, and Scott Noppe-Brandon
Ben Silverman and John Stiles
Louis Dubin and friend
Mr. and Mrs. Reynold Levy
Betsy Vorce
Brooke Shields
Susan Rudin
Erin Pond and Peter Friedland
Mike and Maggie Chi
Diane Coffey
Jennifer and Braden Keil
Julia Stiles and friends
Frank Benack, Stanley Silverman, James Taylor, Susan Rudin, and Scott Noppe-Brandon
Jack Rudin and Beverly Sills
Last night, among the many other things happening in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art had their annual Whitney Biennial opening. This is always an exciting moment in the art world (and for the media too) and for the art mavens everywhere to love, to hate, to dish, to praise, to peak, to poke and debate. My friend Charlie Scheips (whose Art Set is featured on Monday’s Diary), gave a little dinner at a wonderful neighborhood French bistro called Le Boeuf a la Mode for his friends, art dealers Jeff Poe and Tim Blum of Los Angeles who had three artists with works appearing in the Biennial – Mark Grodtjahn, Florian Maier-Aichen, and Chris Vasell. I couldn’t resist stopping by to get a few shots of the crowd:
Connie Uzzo, Charlie Scheips, and Bobbi Queen
Dave Muller and Maxime Falkenstein
Mark Grotjahn with his mother Barbara in the background
Jeff Poe and Dirk Skreber
Blair Taylor
Charlie Scheips and Melissa Feldman
Jessica Hacker and Adam Cohen
Sam Orlofsky, Karen Boyer, and Josh Adler
Florian Maier-Aichen, Stephanie Hin, and Mariko Munro
Tom Graf and Andrea Teschke
John White Cerasulo and Lisa Jo
Anton Kern and Matt Monohan
The table at Le Boeuf a la Mode
Chris Vasell, John White Cerasullo, and Tim Blum



March 1, 2006, Volume VI, Number 37
Photographs by DPC/NYSD.com

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