A stormy New York weekend
Storm clouds over 13th Street and Seventh Avenue on Friday night. 6:50 PM. Photo: JH.

Then the rains came. They started Thursday night, after very hot and humid day, with thunder and lightning and hailstones the size of golf balls, astonishing a lot of New York with its ferocious torrents quickly flooding a lot of streets and the highways. It calmed but still continued raining on Friday and then again in the late afternoon, it came down in torrents for a couple of hours, letting up some but continuing right into Saturday.

Friday a friend invited me to lunch at the new Le Cirque at the Beacon Court on 59th Street between Lexington and Third across from Bloomingdale’s. Regular customers of the old Le Cirque’s will find the same impeccable European-style service, only this time in a sensational, post-Modern quarters.

The main dining room (there will also be restaurant service in the bar including late late afternoon luncheon and late evening after-theatre supper) is tall and elegant with highly polished wood paneling with chrome and glass flourishes and a long and sweeping wall of banquettes so that you initially are taking in the scenery. There are no bad tables for each location offers an interesting and different perspective of the room which has no angles but only curving, sometimes undulating walls and walls of windows. At certain tables, because it is at ground level, you can see the cars arriving in the courtyard entrance.

I also had dinner there on Friday night when I took a friend, a longtime Le Cirque customer, for her first time in the new location, and then again on Saturday night when Raul Suarez, an art dealer from Zurich, had a small dinner for eight. Both days the restaurant was full and there were arrivals throughout the evenings.

On Friday night Chelsea Clinton arrived (with a small cadre of Secret Service) and a friend. Also two tables away from her were Brian Williams and party. The acoustics in the room are perfect: you can hear the chatter of conversation but everyone is spaced far enough apart that you can’t hear your neighbors’ talk, only the sound of their voices. It’s lovely. On Friday night my neighbor on the banquette had not one but TWO cellphones placed to the left of his dinner plate. And he used them. Although mercifully I couldn’t hear the ring.

The place was jammed again when we arrived for our 9:30 reservation on Saturday. Ron Perelman was dining with a pretty blonde woman. At a table nearby Princess Firyal of Jordan and Lionel Pincus were dining with former Ambassador Donald Blinken and his wife Vera and Barbara Walters. I was surprised at the capacity crowd only because the Le Cirque clientele are very often out-of-town on weekends. Everybody in my parties loved being there and you could feel the excitement in the room.

The food? Excellent. I’m quickly a creature of habit. I had the vegetable salad twice (the luncheon portion is smaller than the dinner portion) on Friday and then the vegetable casserole on Saturday, and the Smoked Scotch Salmon twice (which is served with a plate of garnishes) and a very simple (but irresistibly reliable) dessert of a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of vanilla ice cream with some hot chocolate sauce. Interesting the portions of the menu items are not nouvelle cuisine meager, nor are they gargantuan, but both dinners were perfectly satisfying portions.

Last Thursday at noontime I went down to the Ingrao Gallery on 17 East 64th Street where Tony Ingrao, Randy Kemper, Joanne de Guardiola and Susan Bodnar Malloy were hosting a group of supporters of the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center were gathering for a luncheon in honor of the Decorator’s Committee for the Society’s Preview Party for the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show on Thursday, October 6th. Malloy and de Guardiola are the Preview Party co-chairs.

The Decorator’s Committee for the event is: Samuel Botero, Thomas Britt, Mario Buatta, Barclay Butera, Robert Couturier, Elissa Cullman, Jamie Drake, David Easton, Sallie Giordano, Albert Hadley, Alexa Hampton, William Hodgins, Tony Ingrao, Randy Kemper, Hermes Mallea, Carey Maloney, Brian McCarthy, Richard Mishaan, Juan Montoya, Charlotte Moss, Todd Alexander Romano, Carleton Varney, and Bunny Williams.
Joanne de Guardiola, Tony Ingrao, and Jamee Gregory
Grace Meigher and Susan Bodnar
Barbara McLaughlin and Olivia Striffler
Felicia Taylor, Joanne de Guardiola, and Muffie Potter Aston
Alex Lind Rose, Vera Safai, and Sallie Giordano
Randy Kemper and R. Couri Hay
Helena Martinez, Betty Sherrill, and Melinda Blinken
Richard Mishaan and Roger Webster

I took some pictures of the luncheon guests as they were arriving at the Ingrao, and then left to take a very warm walk down Fifth to 55th where I was meeting Paige Peterson and her daughter Alexandra for lunch. I was thinking as I was making my way down the avenue that Paige, a several-times cancer survivor, is one of those individuals who has benefited (with her life) from the work of the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering and their brilliant staff which make up the largest private institution dedicated to the prevention, detection, control and cure for cancer.

Meanwhile that’s all water under the bridge these days for Paige who is one of those people whose personality is always putting the best foot forward. No matter how she’s feeling, she’s one of those people who will put a good face on things. I think you’re born with that quality although no matter what you often have to work at it. Paige is a hard worker.

I’d never had more than a passing conversation before with Alexandra who is an undergraduate at Middlebury and about to go to Buenos Aires where she is going to study for a year. Both Alexandra and her younger brother Peter Cary are bilingual, proficient in Spanish because of their longtime housekeeper. When the children were very small, Paige asked her housekeeper to speak to them only in Spanish. The simple result: today Peter and Alexandra converse effortlessly in Spanish with among others, their housekeeper. Only mama Paige doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Paige Peterson and Christopher Cerf
Friday she was showing off a new summer haircut and brimming with excitement over the new children’s book that she and Christopher Cerf have put together called “Blackie, The Horse Who Stood Still.” It is a true story about a horse who lived out his life on an island in the San Francisco Bay. Chris wrote the text and Paige did the illustrations. With Sloan-Kettering still on my mind, I asked Paige about her bouts with cancer.

She told me it started years ago with a pain in her face. “It felt like some demon with an ice pick was in my right cheek bone stabbing me relentlessly ... then out of no where it would stop. This went on for years. I would grab my face to stop the pain. I finally went to a doc who said that I probably had a sinus infection, but we would do an MRI of my brain just to make sure everything was okay. It never occurred to me that anything other than some antibiotics would be needed.

“One day I was on a train with my friend, Peter Brown, headed to the White House for the first Tony Blair dinner with the Clintons.  While on the train I spoke to my doc who said I had brain tumor and that I needed to come right back to New York.  I did not. I thought to myself I may never have the opportunity to go to the White House again, and so I went to the dinner and had a wonderful time.  Upon my return, I saw Dr. Frank Petito and he advised me to remove the tumor immediately, so we did.

“The tumor was the beginning of many operations. I have ended up at Sloan Kettering too many times. My body makes tumors, some malignant, some not. I have had surgery somewhere around every 18 months for the last 10 years. Often times the treatment is harder than the surgeries.

DPC with Paige Peterson and her daughter Alexandra
“However, after years of design and television work, I took the presence of the brain tumor as a wake-up call.  I knew it was time for me to concentrate on what I truly loved doing - painting. I had always spent time painting, but now I decided to focus on it exclusively. “I started painting my children, my friends at the beach, and my family. Over the past few years, i have had 6 gallery shows and was privileged to be included in Jonathan Becker's book, "Studios By The Sea."

“One opportunity led to another. Now I have collaborated with Chris and illustrated ‘Blackie, The Horse Who Stood Still.’ It will be coming out in September through Welcome Books and Random House. “Blackie” is about being calm and quiet and focused and thoughtful - things I have concentrated on being since my body began challenging me.”

Spellbound by her matter-of-fact telling of her story and impressed by her pluck, I asked how she handled all the bad news. “It is all about attitude in the end, and how well we handle ourselves in the face of adversity.”

I’ve been an admirer of her work since I first saw some of it a few years ago. The images just moved into my imagination and have stayed there ever since. Barbara MacAdam in ARTnews put it more succinctly: “It continues and even updates a Pop-minimalist tradition of such practitioners as Will Barnet and Alex Katz. Her use of “negative space,” is what makes it personal and distinctive. It both conceals and projects a certain emotional content, hinting at an underlying narrative. The group of bathers are defined mainly by stripes and their suits and towels,” and yet you can almost see and feel the East Hampton beach that they are on.

Or as described by her longtime friend and collaborator, Chris Cerf, "What I most enjoy in Paige Peterson's canvases is her irrepressible energy and her unexpected bursts of humor. One of my favorites—an image of a young boy, jumping for joy right 'out of frame'—is a perfect example."
A sampling of Paige Peterson's broad range of work


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June 5, 2006, Volume VI, Number 93


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