Regular readers know that we’ve been having technical problems for the past week. It’s very frustrating on all counts. At the beginning of the 21st century we humans – at least a lot of us in the “developed” countries – have taken communications technology for granted. The implications do not auger well.
Last night was cool and comfortable, thanks to all that rain. And overcast. I stopped by a birthday/graduation party for Elizabeth Peabody at a club on Park Avenue that does not like its name mentioned in print. I’m serious. So I’ll leave it out, out of deference to my friend who was celebrating her just having completed her MSW/Masters of Social Work at Fordham. She’s been doing this at night while working during the day and it’s been three years in the achievement.
Elizabeth is a New York born and bred girl although the Peabodys are an old Massachusetts family. Being a Massachusetts boy, it resonates. There’s even a town in Massachusetts called Peabody. An uncle of Elizabeth’s, Endicott Peabody was governor of Massachusetts in the 1960s. Her late aunt Marietta Tree was a delegate to the UN and a force in the Democratic Party. Another ancestor, also Endicott Peabody, founded the Groton School and inspired the great Louis Auchincloss novel “The Rector of Justin.” The integrity of service runs in the family. Perhaps not so accidentally her father Sam was for years a teacher here in New York, and her mother Judy has been one of the most effective AIDS activists for the past two decades. These people have impact and it is always in their own quiet way.
Elizabeth and Judy Peabody
Freddie Eberstadt and Louise Grunwald
Elizabeth went to college in Switzerland, later went to work for Bottega in Italy, and lived in Venice for a decade or more. Several years ago she came back here and decided to change her life. She went to work first as an intern at Sloan-Kettering, working in the oncology in the area of therapy. It was this experience that led her to the MSW program at Fordham.
There were sixty or so gathered at Elizabeth’s reception when I made my quick visit. Lots of old friends who’ve known the Peabodys for years, some of whom no doubt have known Elizabeth all her life. The Peabodys represent an aspect of old New York, of what used to be called Society, the bridge between the Gilded Age I and the Gilded Age II (now). Culture, glamour, sociability, possibly wit; tradition and the Arts, or intellect. In its perfection it’s the eternal spirit of youth; in its imperfection it’s pure Edith Wharton.
All of this, incidentally, would probably only amuse Elizabeth on hearing, if that. For, like her parents and her forebears, and actually her heritage, she has far more pressing tasks to consider – her work. Meanwhile, in the picture I took of her and her mother, she lowered herself (by bending her knees) so as to look almost her mother’s height although she towers over her. It’s something I often do when being photographed with a friend who is shorter than I. It’s presented as a joke, it’s a kind of clowning, but it reflects the self-consciousness of us taller ones.
Wynton Marsalis and his septet at last night's Jazz at Lincoln Center's annual gala.
I left the Peabody party at about seven-twenty, and met JH on the sidewalk in front of the club. We grabbed a cab and headed up to the Apollo on 125th Street where Jazz at Lincoln Center was having its annual gala that starts with a show on the legendary Apollo stage with Wynton Marsalis and his Septet, along with some legendary performers. In the past years we’ve seen Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, to name just a handful, all performing for the benefit of Jazz at Lincoln Center. This year’s, the fifth, featured Tracy Chapman, John Legend, John Mayer, Natalie Merchant, and Joe Cocker. With the exception of Joe Cocker, none of the performers this year sang the songs (everyone did two) they are famous for. Joe Cocker, on the other hand, did. He sang three Joe Cocker songs, brought down the house and closed the show. I came home, went on iTunes and bought Mad Dogs and Englishmen and got right back into it. You would too, believe me.
Clockwise from top left:Bernie Mac; The Apollo Theater; John Legend; John Mayer; Joe Cocker; Tracy Chapman; Natalie Merchant.