Beautiful, sunny early Spring day in New York with temperatures in the low 60s.
I went down to Michael’s to lunch with Erica Jong who has a new book out called Seducing The Demon; Writing For My Life. She has published 19 books including poetry, non-fiction and novels. Her first, Fear of Flying, was published in 1974 and has sold 8 million copies and 18 million worldwide. I remember that one (and so do millions of others) for, among other things, the phrase “the zipless fuck.” In fact, after our lunch I was walking up Madison Avenue and bumped into a woman friend of mine. When I told her I’d just had lunch with Ms. Jong, she nodded and automatically repeated the phrase.
DPC with Erica Jong
I’d met Erica Jong a couple of times before. I once went to a book party (for another author – Phyllis Chesler) at her Upper East Side apartment. She’s a very warm and friendly person with none of the self-importance that best-selling writers can develop (or had all along). I would guess it’s her natural curiosity that’s kept her real: she’s always in the state of learning.
Seducing the Demon is a kind of memoir – the memoir about writing. She’s a very up front person, which is also her objective as a writer. It is a book that if you’ve ever even thought about writing (becoming a writer), you can’t put down. It’s like walking in on a fascinating conversation that you think you can listen to briefly and leave ... but you can’t. It’s the author’s candor about herself that is so compelling.
And her generosity which does not lessen the impact of her thoughts about people who are wide open to criticism. During our luncheon conversation she dropped in a line of W.H. Auden: “If perfect equality cannot be; Let the more loving one be me.”
From Seducing The Demon: “Once I was seated next to Robert Redford at a flashy New York dinner party and I was so scared by his good looks and his possible interest in me that I kept drinking wine till I passed out. I didn’t get a date with Redford, and not only was I not invited back but my hosts gleefully told the gossip columns. Hardly kind of them. But even elegant people can stoop low. I got sober after that – and stayed sober a good long time. I even dated sober and had sex sober during my single days. Not an easy thing to manage.”
Our lunch date was for one o’clock. I, remarkably, was there before she was. We’d never sat down to have a one-on-one conversation before. There were a lot of well known people in the room including Peter Duchin, who stopped by to say Hello to Erica; Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg who was lunching with Gayle King, Oprah’s best friend and a-d-c, as well as Lesley Stahl, who stopped by to say hello to Erica, as well as Susan Silver (who writes “Search for Mr. Adequate” here on Fridays) who was lunching with Margo Howard (who had the piece in the Sunday Times Style section about having an affair with a married man). Margo and Erica have a mutual friend in Kitty Kelley.
Click image to order
Despite the occasional (and pleasant interruptions) the conversation was intense – relationships, the male idea of sex, the female idea of sex; children (she has a daughter Molly) by her last husband; marriage. She’s been married four times – the first being a college classmate. For the past eighteen years she been married to Ken Burrows, a divorce lawyer. This marriage took. Obviously.
It was almost three o’clock and the entire restaurant had cleared out and we were still talking away.
It was one of those times which were far more common when we were much younger when we could have just gone on and on talking. About ourselves. This life. And what we think we’ve learned and what we still haven’t grasped. All this from just having delved into Seducing The Demon.
Last night was another one of those triple-headers in New York. Talk about choice: The Orchestra of St. Luke’s held its annual “Gift of Music Gala” at the Rainbow Room; City Lights Youth Theatre honored Joel Klein, New York City’s Chancellor of Schools at the Copacabana. The American Theatre Wing held its annual gala a Cipriani 42nd Street, honoring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Bomb Magazine celebrated its 25th anniversary honoring artist Elizabeth Murray, at The Park on 118 Tenth Avenue; The World Monuments Fund started their benefit evening with a film premiere followed by a dinner at the Stanley Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center. Dream Yard held its 6th Annual Benefit dinner at the Angel Orensanz Foundation at 172 Norfolk Street. Over at the Waldorf, Evelyn Lauder’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation held its annual dinner – the Very HOT Pink Party.
I started out at a cocktail party, a kind of kick-off for El Museo’s upcoming gala and the birthdays of the honorary committee chairs – Ruben and Isabelle Toledo – at the Upper East Side apartment of Yaz and Valentin Hernandez. The evening also saw the unveiling of Mr. Toledo’s portrait of the Honorary Committee which includes, among others, Marife Hernandez, Yolanda Garza, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Cathy Hardwick, the Toledos, Clarissa Bronfman, Paul Cavaco, Francisco Costa, James de Givenchy, Agnes Gund, Alex Gonzalez, Candy Pratts Price, Angel Sanchez, Linda Wells, and Sarah Wolfe.
Ruben Toledo’s portrait of the Honorary Committee
Isabelle and Ruben Toledo
Candy Pratts Price
Jana Pasquel and Florencia Masri
Valentin and Yaz Hernandez
Young Valentin Hernandez Leslie Dumont
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From the Hernandez’ I went down the avenue to the Waldorf to catch a bit of the crowd at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s Very HOT Pink Party.
Elizabeth Hurley and Evelyn Lauder
This foundation has been going since the early 90s, started by Mrs. Lauder. If you’ve read these columns before, you’ve read about it before – because it’s been a sensation.
They’ve raised more than $127 million since its creation and last night 1000 guests filled the Grand Ballroom and they raised $4.2 million.
Elton John, who has long been a contributor of time, talent and money, was there, as was Tony Bennett who performed. The epidemic of breast cancer continues to spread (I personally know eleven women who have had breast cancer – all survivors, incidentally). The good news is that the survival rate continues to climb. Evelyn Lauder is a heroine for a lot of women out there.
Melody Balczon, Dera Lee, and Laurel Johnson
Noel and Harriette Levine
Jamee Gregory and Olivia Flatto
Eleanora and Michael Kennedy
Linda Wachner and Kenny Lane
The table setting
Alyne Massey with Jim and Ann Sitrick
Harry Platt with the Wathne sisters
Ben and Linda Lambert
Ron and Harriet Weintraub
Bonnie Lautenberg's gloves
Bonnie and Senator Frank Lautenberg
Joanne de Guardiola, Jamee Gregory, and Audrey Gruss
Susan Burke and Lorna Graev
Jamie Figg, Deborah Norville, Lis Waterman, and Karl Wellner
Roberto de Gaurdiola and Wolfgang Flöttl
George and Marianna Kaufman
I left the Waldorf at 8:30 to head down to the Media 3 Broadcast Facility and Studios to go live on MSNBC and the Rita Cosby Show. The segment I was in there for was a discussion of the Page Six/Jared Stern/Ron Burkle alleged extortion imbroglio, along with Robin Leach (telecasting from Las Vegas) and Jeanne Wolf in Los Angeles.
I arrived at quarter to nine – scheduled to go on at 9:30. Michael Musto of the Village Voice was in one of the green rooms waiting to go on Keith Olbermann to discuss the why’s and why-not’s of Brangelina et al.
A young make up woman named Patricia Longo sat me down and brushed my cheeks and forehead with some powder because I had “too much red” in my face already. Ms. Longo and I chatted for a few minutes and learned that we are neighbors, living only three blocks from each other.
Then I was told to go into the room where the discussion would take place by remote with Ms. Cosby. I’ve done this before but I’m always cowed by the process because it feels like you’re going into a room to talk to yourself. Which, in a way, you are.
DPC on MSNBC
It looks okay if you’re watching but ... you sit at a table in a room by yourself facing a permanent standing camera, next to which is a television monitor. Although you’re instructed not to look at the monitor because it won’t seem like you’re talking to Rita. So you’re sitting there in this dark room with two brights on you, with a single earphone over which comes the director’s words (“can you hear me?”).
Then you hear Rita Cosby announce the subject (although you can’t see her) and introduce everyone. And then the questions begin, and when one is directed at you, you respond. In this dark room all by yourself. A little like talking to the wall. A little like acting (a lot like acting). Except the words, of course; they were all mine.