May days
A scene from last night's opening of the International Fine Art Fair. Photo: JH.

These have been cool May days and nights in New York, overcast with rain threatening. Very un-springlike to this writer’s imagination. This had no effect whatsoever on the activity of social life which now includes not only evening events but many luncheons.

Safe Horizon held its 11th Annual Champion Awards Luncheon at the 69th Regiment Armory (on 26th and Lexington). They were “Honoring Heroes,” and “Championing Children” and almost one thousand of New York’s corporate, civic and social leaders turned out to celebrate Safe Horizon’s compassionate counseling and practical assistance to the children of our community.

BD Wong filled in as emcee for a very pregnant Mariska Hargitay at the 11th annual Safe Horizon Lunch, held this year at the 69th Regiment Armory. For more than 25 years Safe Horizon has been at the forefront of meeting the needs of crime victim's and their families. They provide counseling and safe house, and help more than 350,000 people annually. They partner up with corporate sponsors such as Liz Claiborne and USI Holding Corporation to meet the ever changing needs of victims of violence.

Over 8 million days of paid work will be lost this year due to domestic violence at a cost of 5 billion dollars. 1 in 5 teenagers are in abusive relationships: nearly 1/3 of American woman report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point, and 80% of those woman go back to their abusers. Would you call this an epidemic in our society?

15 years ago, Liz Claiborne became the first company to take a stand against domestic violence. Safe Horizon created the Liz Claiborne award which went to Morgan Ramses, who had a schizophrenic father and an alcoholic mother. Ms. Ramses had a young son when she met what she thought was a fabulous caring man. He became a jealous abuser, and after months of carrying around a Safe Horizon brochure, she went and got help. She is now entering Law School.

“She went and got help” sounds t like a simple process, but, as it is in any intimate relationship between two people, nothing occurs or is solved quickly. It can even take years to make the first step. Extracting oneself from an abusive relationship is painful, scary, and for many of us seems like an insurmountable problem without end. Furthermore it is very often THE family secret, leaving the victim with the sense that there is really no place to turn.

Josè Raul Perez

Because women make up 46% of the work place, and because of the staggering figures with regard to lost work due to domestic violence, Safe Horizon and USI Holdings  have collaborated to create SafeWork. SafeWork is an initiative to educate corporations on the impact of domestic violence, and how corporations can get involved and keep employees safe. The leading cause of death for women on the job is murder: last year 17% were murdered by their partner at work!
The keynote speaker was Jose Raul Perez. Jose was a happy little boy, who enjoyed a close relationship with his mother. Then came a stepfather who from the beginning demonstrated violent resentment of his wife's pride and joy. Worse for the child, the stepfather was alone with little Jose three hours each day while the mother worked. Many of those days were filled with horrific abuse. Jose was always warned by his stepfather that if he ever said anything about the abuse, he and his mother would be killed.

Jose’s story is an all too familiar one. There are a lot of men (and also not infrequently, women) who have no problem torturing the weaker members of the family in a variety of ways both physical and mental. One such incident landed Jose in the hospital, and while he knew he still had to endure the abuse until he was old enough to get out, it was a turning point for him. Logically, he felt safe in the hospital. He vowed to himself while he was near death, that if he survived, one day he would tell his story. The mother divorced the stepfather six years later. The brave Jose got the support and help he needed. He also went full scholarship to Penn. He knows the only solution to this epidemic is for the the word to get out, and often. It is the only way the cycle will end.

Abusers do not come from any one educational or economic class. They do often live in homes along with alcohol and drug abuse – also very common on all socio-economic strata. The police precincts and hospital emergency rooms on the Upper East Side are exposed to extreme cases of physical abuse daily. They are often horror stories, acts of life-threatening violence carried out by people who are otherwise posing (and even lauded for it) as mighty pillars of the community. Of the thousand people in the room yesterday, a very large percentage of them knew about domestic abuse from either personal experience or through friends and partners.

Guests lunched Asian fusion cuisine provided Taste; excellent. The centerpieces were made by children of the Safe Horizon clients. There were many more men than are usually present at charity lunches. This is a tribute to Safe Horizon’s getting out the message. Many found the equation refreshing, and appropriate, as everyone must get involved in order to stop the violence.

I grew up in a house of chronic domestic abuse, my father being the perp. I don’t use that word loosely because that is exactly what an abuser is. It is a humiliating word to have assigned to you. However, abusers know somewhere within themselves that they are deserving of it. Because of it, this child grew up confusing fear with weakness/lack of courage. Eliminating that confusion is not an easy task. I should also add that my father was never physically abusive toward me, nor did he inflict me with his abusive words. In that way, I got off easy. My mother and my sisters did not.

In my father’s case, he grew up in a home of domestic abuse that ultimately was fatal. When he was fourteen, his mother murdered his father in front of him. Family lore has it that my father’s father had it coming. That killing has reverberated down through three generations and dozens and dozens of family members acting out the ramifications of human trauma that many are still, to this day, unaware of. I’ve written about this before and will surely write about it again because it is always part of my consciousness, thanks to my father’s failure to come to terms with his demons. Possibly in a more open environment and with the caring assistance of counseling, he might have found a way out of his own deep-rooted sense of humiliation and spared all of us the feeling. He would also have had a better life for himself as well as his family if he had. Unfortunately for him this never happened. He had to wait for old age to deliver his reality – which is everyone’s reality – that we are all vulnerable all the time.

Jane Randal, Gordon Campbell, Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson, Brooke McMurray, Pamela Hootkin, Stephen McCandless, and Josè Raul Perez.

There is nothing new in human history about domestic abuse. The solution is difficult to arrive at often because the problem is most often concealed by all parties, including the neighbors who are exposed to it, for all kinds of reasons: guilt, humilation, fear of retribution, fear of death, being only four of them. Safe Horizon is actually making inroads to correcting that, and for this they are to be lauded and supported. Its ultimate goal is the same ones that the nations of this world must achieve if we are to exist: peace.

Congratulations go out to all those who helped make yesterday’s luncheon possible – the guests and all of those friends who were absent. The Honorary Chair was Christine Quinn, the new Speaker of the New York City Council. Corporate Chair was David L. Eslick, Chairman, President & CEO, USI Holdings Corporation. Corporate Vice Chair: Emanuel Chirico, CEO, Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation; Event Chairs: Brooke McMurray and John Fowler, Diane and Steve Parrish, Jane and Jack Rivkin. The Benefit featured Champagne and wine by Barefoot Cellars.

Among the guests at this most successful fund-raising (more than $1 million) were Sharon Bush, A.A. Lari, Christina Lari, Harriette Rose Katz, Andrea Stark, Ashley Stark, Laurie Stark, CeCe Cord, Allison Weiss Brady, Diane Weiss, Janna Bullock, Joey Prego, Dr. Robert DiPilla. Alison Minton, Michel Witmer, Eva Dillon, Estee Elkayam, Sharon Elkayam, Liz Finkel Elliot, Dr. Howard Sobel, Elizabeth Scokin, Dr. Paul Cotterill, Melissa Berkelhammer, Elaine Sargent, and Michele Gerber Klein.

Sydney Masters
Maile Zambuto and B.D. Wong
Allison Weiss and her mom
Brooke McMurray, Gordon Campbell, and Linda Fairstein
Tom Murray, Pamela Hootkin, and John Walsh
Neil Rubler, Angela Burt-Murray, and Stephanie Kugelman
The table centerpieces
Matthew David decor
Jane Rivkin
Bob Nesbit and Pat Campbell
Sharon Bush and Liz Finkle
Martha Nelson and B.D. Wong
Cathy Weiss, Iona Siegel, Kathy Ham, and Linda Fairstein
Walter and Margarie Knosp with Richard Helfick
Eugene Pickens and Stephen McCandless
Matthew David and Helen Sears
The luncheon room

Last night was the Preview Opening of the International Fine Art Fair for the benefit of the special exhibition program of The Frick Collection. Honorary Chairmen were Debra and Leon Black. Benefit chairs were Katharine and William Rayner.

The Frick Collection, which is one of the city’s great treasures, was founded in 1920 after the death of Henry Clay Frick, by the directions of his will “to encourage and develop the study of the fine arts and to advance the general knowledge of kindred subjects.”

Following the death of Mrs. Frick in 1935, the Collection was open to the public. The collection as it exists today is pretty much as it was at the time of Mr. Frick’s death. There are masterpieces by Bellini, Holbein, Titian, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Gainsborough, as well as important furniture, sculpture and related decorative arts.

Today almost 300,000 people a year visit The Frick, which now also features special exhibitions including lectures and concerts. All of this costs money. Mr. Frick’s endowment, supplemented over the years by other gifts cover most of the costs. But because The Frick Collection has grown in terms of public popularity along with the growth of public interest in fine art, it is important for them to raise more funds to accommodate the public interest. Last night’s Preview provided some of that assistance.

Martha Loring, Marina Rust, and Lauren DuPont
Mel Oldenburg and Isabelle Wilcox

Last night’s preview was a very glamorous affair. Brian and Anna Haughton who stage this annual art fair provided a beautiful environment. The booths themselves were serene with color and light. The art was fascinating, beautiful, astonishing and not unsurprisingly not for the faint of wallet or pocketbook. There is a fourteen million dollar Canaletto at the Moretti Gallery, its actual physical dimensions dwarfed by its current market price. There were also several other multimillion dollar works of art for sale.

At the stall of the Weiss Gallery (59 Jermyn Street, London) there were beautiful English portraits of the 16th century including a full portrait of a distinctly Elizabethan couple (“Sir Reginald Mohun 1st baronet of Hall and Coconnoc, and his wife Dorothy Chudleigh of Ashton, Devon”) which is believed to be the first instance of affection and tender feeling between husband and wife in early English portraiture. Also at the Weiss (if you like portraits, as I do) there is a full portrait of the ten-year-old Duke of York who eventually became King, succeeding his father James I (also in the portrait hanging next to it). Charles I was beheaded. It is more than fascinating to consider the end of this small boy with what to this viewer looked like a face devoid of childhood.

The art world is a mysterious place to the outsider, serene on its surface, like at last night’s beautiful show (which runs through next Wednesday, May 17). It is a world of riches both economic and aesthetic. It is also the world of greed and avarice, chicanery and ultimate deceit. It is also the world of the scholar, as impassioned as the greatest collectors, many of whom wisely and even shrewdly support them. Old Mr. Frick started out buying pictures but by the end of his life, he had raised the bar for himself into the realm of immortality. He was no longer buying pictures as much as he was “acquiring to preserve” the beauty of artistic genius, a pure act of humility. What he possessed possessed his spirit. So, with that in mind, it is easy to assume that an International Art Fair like that produced by the Haughtons last night draws newcomers with the potential passion of a Frick or a Morgan. Some are already identifiable. Leon Black, last night’s Honorary Chairman with his wife Debra, is one of those men. They may not be notable at present – and if they are buying, they are unquestionably rich, but they are associating with true cultural legacy, whether they know it or not.

A Tintoretto at Agnew's
Anna Haughton and Michel Witmer
Reem Kasi and Anat Peri
Richard Green
L. to r.: Bob Haboldt and Alain Goldrach; Frances Hayward with Billy and Kathy Rayner.
Clockwise from top left: The Haughton clan; A Vuillard at Neffe-Degandt Fine Art & Jill Newhouse; Heather Cohane in Adam Williams Fine Art LTD.
A Canaletto at Moretti
Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts
Edgar Batista and Heather Cohane
Carol Mack and friend
Guarisco Gallery Ltd.
Scenes from the show and a series of portraits from The Weiss Gallery (top right: 10-year-old Duke of York, later Charles I. Above right: An Elizabethan couple. Bottom right: James I.)
L. to r.: Evelyn Tompkins; Galerie Cazeau-Beraudiere.
Martin du Louvre
Nazee Moinian

And then, last night, farther downtown at Joe’s Pub on Lafayette Street The Compania Juan Polvillo presented (for the second and last night) “De Sevilla,” or, as it says in the press release, a captivating hour of flamenco dance and music accompanied by the ancient rhythms of North India’s classical kathak, a forebearer to the famed flamenco tradition of Andalucia. The performance featured dances by Juan Polvillo and Maha Akhtar who choreographed the pieces mixing flamenco and kathak movements and rhythms. Talk about passion; oh my darling, my dear.

Maha Ahktar, better known to her legions of friends and acquaintances as “Kim,” is Lebanese-Indian by birth, granddaughter of Spanish/Indian flamenco dancer Anita Delgado whose life has been recorded in Passion India, the Spanish best selling biography. British boarding school by education (which evidently is where she got her charming enunciation), Kim was for several years was/is the assistant to Dan Rather at CBS News. She is also a very enterprising lady in a number of ways. For example, she has a business called Garde Robe, which advertises on the NYSD (in case you hadn’t noticed). Garde Robe is a meticulous solution to the problem that afflicts many of those among us who can afford it: not enough room for all the garments, shoes, etc., that we acquired.

But I digress. Garde Robe, CBS News/Dan Rather, a legion of acquaintances, notwithstanding, the very erudite and enterprising Ms. Akhtar is a flamenco dancer, given over body and soul (at times anyway) to the art of the flamenco. The first time I saw her perform – having heard about it long before – I was not only entranced (which is at least what watching flamenco can do to you), I was mesmerized by the woman who revealed all of those aforementioned qualities and also the passion which is so compelling and always raw in its most refined state.

Since I was first aware of her passion, she’s traveled several times during her moments off, to Sevilla to study with the best. The current result (there will be more, I am certain) is the Compania Juan Polvillo performing last night, along with Kim Ahktar. She’s an Aquarius, her focus and devotion are the only things about her that are immovable. The rest is flamenco!

Last night at Joe’s Pub for The Compania Juan Polvillo's “De Sevilla."


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May 12, 2006, Volume VI, Number 81
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch/


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/