Sunday Styles
Union Square. Photo: JH.

Yesterday’s Sunday Styles section of the New York Times had an article on male socialites. The term “socialite” came into the parlance in the late 1920s as Prohibition was driving them out of their clubs and drawing rooms in search of booze, with photographic technology following close behind.

After Prohibition “socialite” became a catch-all word for rich people who belonged to the clubby/nightclub crowd and didn’t do much else (with many exceptions of course). All of it implied style, and ignored the vulgarity of “nouveau riche.” Seventy years later, the term has greatly receded into the vernacular attic. Boldfaced Names has taken over. And it reflects real social and cultural change; it does not imply style as much as something like “Queer Eye For A Straight Guy.”

The Times’ reporter, Peter Davis, (who incidentally is a member of the very old and very social Mortimer family) says that more men are being photographed by themselves at social parties without a woman at their side; whereas 20 years ago, men who went out without their wives didn’t have wives because they were “walkers.” As one of the parties to the photographing, I can honestly say that here at NYSD we’d photograph a two ton gorilla if he showed up as frequently as some of these guys.

So who were the guys; the new boys on the upper-block? When Mr. Davis called me, he named several -- including one whom I’d never heard of (because I wasn’t paying attention?) – and said something like these “are the new socialites.” Well, why not? Curiously he includes Andrew Saffir but ignores his partner Daniel Benedict who, as NYSD readers know is Out There as much as Andrew. He concludes in his piece by accomplishing an editors meeting dream: an article to get your attention before you turn the page to see what else.

Mr. Davis also misquoted me, not an unusual happenstance. Interestingly, the misquote amused readers who wrote to tell me so. This was the quote: “The last well known walker was Peter Bacanovic and he almost died when he heard someone called him a walker.”

That is pretty funny although I have never referred to Peter Bacanovic or anyone else as a walker. Ever. I dislike the term. For one thing it is sexist. For another it is homophobic. I have no appreciation for prejudice, coming or going. The term was the creation of John Fairchild, then the publisher of Women’s Wear Daily. It referred specifically to a man named Jerry Zipkin, a variation on the term “gigolo.”

Jerry Zipkin has passed into the annals of New York social history but in his day he had quite a presence – squawky and surly enough in his bearing to provoke name-calling. A perfect target for Mr. Fairchild’s brand of wit (or turning wit into a brand).

Zipkin was said to be homosexual. He was also said to be the model for Somerset Maugham’s lead character in “Razor’s Edge.” Whether or not that is so, it was widely advertised for decades on the gossip circuit. He was a friend of Maugham’s; that is certain. He also had inherited money and thus, without a specific job, he had time on his hands. He spent a great deal of that time with society women who also had a great deal of time on their hands. He was famous for advising them on the why’s and wherefore’s of fashion and society.

Because he was a sophisticated man who “knew” a lot of people, he was also quite good at gathering the dish and distributing it amongst his bejeweled and bedazzled charges. Additionally he could also pay his own way and even bring gifts which is always a treat for the very rich.

So it was not surprising that many women embraced him as an expert in the hair and make-up consulting department, not to mention the dish. As close as they were ever going to get to Oscar Wilde without seeing the play. He could also be a scold and/or a snob, even with the girls. And persnickety to the point of being obnoxious. They liked that too. He could also be as insensitive about others as Mr. Fairchild was about him. It may be that no one thought Mr. Zipkin was sensitive anyway. Society with a capitol “s” can be like that.

Clockwise from top left: Nancy Reagan; Jerry Zipkin, Nan Kempner, Annette Reed, Judy Peabody, Henry Kravis, Chessy Rayner, Mica Ertegun, and Pat Buckley at Carolyne Roehm's fashion show in 1989 (Copyright Photograph by Dafydd Jones); Jayne Bloomingdale, Betsy Bloomingdale, and Gerry Lenfest.

There were certain women to whom he devoted much time and talk. Mrs. Reagan was one. Mrs. Bloomingdale was another. Obviously he was good company. He liked wielding social power and pushed for it. Then the Reagans moved into the White House, And lo, Mr. Z acquired, thanks to Mrs. R, immense social influence (i.e. power). It was believed that Mr. Zipkin had a voice in who was and who was not invited.

After Mr. Zip’s ascension to celebrity prominence thanks to John Fairchild, the term “walker” became commonplace, and was used to refer to anyone who was presumed homosexual and spent social time in the company of women, especially at black tie affairs.

Meanwhile, WWD found another name for Mr. Z – “The Social Moth.” That sharper (and wittier) nudge in Mr. Z’s ribs. It suggested many things including, the impermanence, the fluttery, helpless vulnerable zip-zip of motion, not to mention the chance fatality of the flame.

At that particular time in his social career, Mr. Zipkin was often seen in the company of (as the escort of) Mrs. Bloomingdale, to the point where the paper started captioning her party picture with the name “Mrs. Moth.” This was not appreciated and the reaction was not passive on the part of Mrs. B’s friends: the paper dropped it.

However, “social moth” did not catch on, although there are a lot of them out there. As well as the locusts, depending.

As it has turned out, what distinguished Mr. Zipkin from his so-called successors was the breadth of his worldliness. He grew up in a time where knowledge was power and much acquired by reading. Today people don’t acquire much information outside of what’s on their calendars. They wouldn’t even know what Mr. Zipkin was talking about ... unless he was zinging them. And even then, maybe not.

Waiting for The Donald outside Trump Tower

Friday afternoon in New York, I left Michael’s about 2:30 and headed up Fifth Avenue for a stroll before getting a taxi to take me home. On the block between 56th and 57th Street, there was a crowd of mostly young people with cameras gathered and looking across the street where, in front of Trump Tower, there was a huge mob of people, along with video cameras and mikes, and a stretch limousine at the roadside, also surrounded by fans with their digitals.

I figured a movie star. I stopped a girl and asked her what everyone was waiting for. “Donald Trump!” she shrieked ... “I saw him!” she shrieked again, ecstatically. Really.

Donald Trump? Our Donald Trump? Now we all know that the name is famous far and wide thanks to his ability to keep the mills grinding out the interest. And the television show “The Apprentice” took the nation by storm. But ... a mob, waiting for the guy to come out of his apartment house on a warm Thursday afternoon in Manhattan? Okay.

A real estate tycoon. Were you wondering how things have changed in society? In our culture? In America? Look no further; it’s The Donald.

I waited a moment just to see if Melania would emerge with him, and with the baby. Melania really is a beauty; movie star beauty. Alas, I couldn’t see anything in that mob, so I moved along.

Friday afternoon in New York
On Madison Avenue the tulips were out in the plots surrounding the trees. Beautiful. And on the steps of St. James Episcopal on 71st and Madison, there was a bower of flowers. A beautiful day.

It rained cats and dogs all weekend. Chilly, blustery. Sunday afternoon it stopped and things warmed up a little. On early Sunday evening, I stopped by Beth DeWoody’s apartment to wish her a happy birthday which she was celebrating with her son Carlton, her close friend Joanne Cassullo and a few other friends, along with pizza in front of the “Sopranos.”

Beth DeWoody

From there it was down to The Four Seasons for the annual Sunday dinner for the Irvington Institute. I’ve written about this a number of times and it doesn’t change, thankfully. Cocktails in the Grille Room and Bar with a big crowd. CeCe Cord was there with her new husband (a month ago), Dr. John Baldwin who works out of a hospital in Boston but is from Tennessee. Dr. Baldwin is also something like a fifth generation Texan.

There were several newlywed couples in the room. No youngsters, mind but ... Sam and Anita Michaels, Mr. and Mrs. Jamie Niven, along with CeCe and Dr. John. Someone commented on it, in view of the divorce bug that’s hit the younger set. Last week the New York Post reported that Jennifer and Larry Creel had hit the matrimonial skids. And Ron Perelman was last reported to be seeing Kelly Bensimon, whose marriage to photographer Gilles is said to be splitsville.

That, of course was not the only thing the crowd was talking about. Mayor Bloomberg came with Diana Taylor, and actually put on the apron and stayed for dinner. Not that he hasn’t done that before, back in the days when he was the social lion of the city with his tycoon’s checkbook, always open for a good cause. He’s been a backer of the Irvington Institute for a long time but he rarely stays at any of these functions for dinner anymore.

In the crowd: Deborah Norville and Karl Wellner, Vera Wang, Claudia Cohen, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Tovah Feldshuh, Jessie and Rand Araskog, Alex and Louis Rose, Peter and Jamee Gregory, Henry and Nancy Silverman, Marie-Josee Kravis, Lally Weymouth, Jonathan Capehart, Jenny Conant and Steve Kroft, Peggy Siegal, Kitty and Steve Sherrill, Allison and Leonard Stern, Ron and Harriet Weintraub, Daryl and Steve Roth, Felicia Taylor, DeJuan Stroud (who did the Broadway musical theme) and his wife Debra, Nazee and Joe Moinian, Vera and Donald Blinken, Gillian Miniter.

About eight o’clock, they got the glittering mob under control and began directing them toward the kitchen where the feast of the evening was laid out. Chef’s aprons are distributed at the kitchen door. The array of the buffet astounds me every year. There were a lot of people who hadn’t eaten all day, anticipating this culinary free-for-all (not exactly free – they raised $350,000 last night). I went Asian this year, filling my plate to overflow, with the intention of returning for a second round.

My eyes were bigger than my stomach. I thought of that lunch I had with Viscount Linley earlier in the year when he didn’t clean his plate. I asked him if he liked his lunch. Yes. I then pointed out that he hadn’t finished. He said his doctor had told him he was over-nourished and to not eat it all. I wasn’t following those orders last night. And then came the dessert buffet which was vast also,a long with a Haagen-Daz ice cream cart. Think of David Linley’s doctor, I passed.

The annual Irvington Institute of Immunological Research “Through the Kitchen Dinner” is one of the few benefits that bring out the crowd on a Sunday night – a crowd, many of whom ordinarily are just getting back to town from their country retreats. They make the trip at the behest of the Institute and the co-chairs and most especially Lauren Veronis who has been running this event (and trying to retire) for years now. Her daughter Perri Peltz is now co-host, along with her husband Eric Ruttenberg and Bob Hormats. Tom Finn provided the music throughout the evening.

The Irvington Institute is an extraordinary organization, a leading private, non-profit supporter of excellence in immunological studies. They highlight the importance of science, and specifically the role of the Institute’s postdoctoral fellows in researching diseases such as AIDS, diabetes, cancer and other immune system disorders. Since 1984, Irvington has provided more than $20 million in funding to support such investigators. Good job; pass the Bromo.

Somers and Jonathan Farkas
Nina Rosenwald

Perri Peltz

Bob Hormats and Felicia Taylor
Dr. Bill Haseltine

Deborah Norville

Jamee Gregory
Joanne de Guardiola

Nancy Silverman

Caterina Hausmann and Sabrina Keraudren
De Juan and Debra Stroud

Dr. John Baldwin and Cece Cord

Bob Colacello, Claudia Cohen, and Peggy Siegal

Steve and Daryl Roth

Allison Stern
Jessie Araskog

Lally Weymouth

L. to r.: Nazee and Joe Moinian; Casey Ribicoff, Herb Siegel, and and Monica Crowley.
Mr. and Mrs. Jamie Niven
Gillian Miniter and Alex Lind Rose

Dr. John Baldwin and Cece Cord

Deborah Norville, Annette and Matt Lauer, and Perri Peltz
DPC and Debbie Bancroft
In the dining room
Meanwhile, through the kitchen ...
...

Bill and Nancy O'Shaunnessy

Diana Taylor and Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Anita and Sam Michaels

Roberto de Gaurdiola

Lauren Veronis
Patrick McMullan and Debbie Bancroft

Daniel Hirsch

Lisa Burns
In the Pool Room of The Four Seasons


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April 24, 2006, Volume VI, Number 69
Photographs by DPC/NYSD.com




 

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