A Calder in front of the Seagram's Building. 8:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Beautiful day in New York, overcast much of the time, temperatures in the perfect mid-60s, looking for the rain that never came.
Although I wrote the other day that the spring social season comes to an end with the Conservatory Ball at the New York Botanical Garden (last Thursday), that’s not literally true: the calendar is still jammed.
Over at Christie’s there was a reception and private viewing of the jewels of the late Princess Margaret which are being sold at auction for her heirs – son David, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto. The scuttlebutt (true or not) is that the Queen was not particularly pleased to see her sister’s possessions go up for auction. But the fact is estate taxes in the UK demanded that Linley and Chatto come up with the funds one way or another. Evidently there are many pieces which they will continue to retain.
Just a couple of blocks up from Christie’s on the other side of Rockefeller Center, the Museum of Modern Art held its annual The Party In the Garden which is an enormous (and fun) cocktail party in the museum’s garden, followed by a dinner for the supporters and benefactors, followed by an even bigger cocktail party with dancing for the junior set along with everyone else who couldn’t resist. Meanwhile down at the Chelsea Piers, Pier Sixty, Sanctuary for Families was holding its “Zero Tolerance Benefit” including cocktails and dinner.
JH and the Digital and I started out the evening at Mark Gilbertson’s annual late spring cocktail party at that men’s club that occupies a McKim, Mead and White landmark position on Park Avenue across the street from the Seagram’s Building. A few hundred from Mark’s massive rolodex started arriving about 6:30 and when I left at a little after eight it was back-to-back-belly-to-belly. There were two bars, one just white wine, champagne and sparkling water, the other, the booze. Waiters were passing the trays of hors d’oeuvres including the totally popular pigs-in-the-blanket. This affair is possibly the last one at which a lot of these people will see each other in Manhattan for the rest of the summer. They will still see each other – a lot of them anyway – out where you find the sun and surf.
Among the crowd: Tony Ingrao, Jill and Andrew Roosevelt, Rachel Hovnanian, Heather and Steve Mnuchin, Celerie Kemble, Tantivy and Tommy Bostwick, Dr. Sherrell Aston, Cristina Cuomo, Phoebe Gubelmann, Bettina Zilkha, Chappy and Melissa Morris, Deborah Norville and Carl Wellner, Eric Javits, Jon Ylvisaker, Ghislaine Maxwell, Peter and Jamee Gregory, Peter and Jill Melhado, Patty Raynes, Topper Mortimer, Linda Wells and Charlie Thompson, Antony Todd, Sara and Charlie Ayres, Tara and Michael Rockefeller, Hilary and Wilbur Ross, Douglas Hannant and Fred Anderson, Carol and George McFadden, Sandy Golinkin.
Memory Lane. A big and pleasant surprise for me was running into John Cahill and Anne Slater who told me that they had just read “Debbie: My Life,” the autobiography that I wrote for Debbie Reynolds and published in 1988.
How did that happen? John happened upon a copy and picked it up for Anne but it ended up hitting the right note for both. Working with Debbie, by then a seasoned trouper, raconteur, and comedienne who always knew the importance of delivering the goods to the audience. For me it was one of my most educational and informative experiences living in Hollywood.
Although I literally wrote the book, it was entirely hers – her words, her experiences, her dramas, her tragedies, her timing and her natural resilience. Our editor was Lisa Drew, then at William Morrow who now has her own imprint at a Scribner. I ran into Lisa at Michael’s last week and she shocked me with the news that she’s retiring at the end of June. Lisa has had career in publishing every bit as prolific and glamorous as Debbie’s Hollywood career. She was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ first boss (and eventually good friend) when Jackie first went into publishing. Many years later, in 1990, Lisa edited Caroline Kennedy’s first book “In Our Defense – The Bill of Rights in Action,” on which she collaborated with Ellen Alderman. She was also editor for many other best-selling authors including Sidney Sheldon as well as, Alex Haley’s “Roots."
Joanne de Guardiola and Mark Gilbertson
Cynthia and Dan Lufkin
Gillian and Sylvester Miniter
Elizabeth and Doug Lake
Polly Onet airing complaints
Polly Onet relieved
Anne Slater and John Cahill
Stephanie Krieger and Brian Stewart
Emilia Saint-Amand, Stephanie Krieger, and Brian Stewart in an animated conversation
Emilia takes a break
Mario Buatta, Roy Kean, and Barbara Cates
Helena Lehane and Jonathan Farkas
Geoffrey Bradfield with Dana Stubgen and Dr. Patrick Stubgen
Christine and Steve Schwarzman with Jackie Weld Drake
Cornelia Ercklentz, Christian Leone, and Minnie Mortmer
John and Nina Richter with Mark Bryant
Thorne Perkin and Tatiana Papanicolau
Nick Simunek, Terry Allen Kramer, and Chris Meigher
Allison Sarofim and Natalie Levethal
Allison Rockefeller and Tom O'Handley
Frederic Fekkai and Shirin von Wulffen
Othon Prounis, Whitney and James Fairchild, and Kathy Prounis
Jonathan Farkas and Amy Fine Collins
Todd Romano and Pierre Crosby
Mai Harrison, DPC, Jeff Pfeifle, Mark G., and Ashley McDermott
Susan Henshaw Jones and Ann Nitze
Paul Beirne and DPC
Blaine and Robert Caravaggi with Margo Langenberg
Suzette de Marigny Smith, Mrs. Howard Clarke, and Frances Scaife
Leonel Piraino, Nina Griscom, and Garrison Rousseau
Heather Cohane, Cece Cord, and Jane Johnson
From Mark’s party, I went up to the Plaza Athenee where Nazee and Joe Moinian took over the hotel’s restaurant and hosted a dinner for the French Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Jean-David Levitte.
There must have been sixty or more on the Moinian guestlist. I saw Patricia Duff, Bill and Melinda vanden Heuvel, Mort Zuckerman, Matthew and Stacey Bronfman, Carole Holmes McCarthy, Ann and Arnold Jurdem, Barbara Winston, Anka Palitz, Donald Tober, former Governor Mario Cuomo and Matilda Cuomo.
The Moinians who are Iranian born ordered a menu with touches of their native cuisine especially with the entrée – a choice of Filet Mignon or Pan Roasted Black American Sea Bass with Persian Rice, Shirachi Salad, followed by a dessert buffet of a selection of Persian Sweets.
After the main course, Mrs. Moinian who is getting her Master’s in International Relations at Columbia, introduced His Excellency who first presented his credentials to President Bush in 2002.
Ambassador Lewitte told us about his background. He explained to us that he was of Jewish origins. His father emigrated from Russia to France during the Bolshevik Revolution and married his mother who’d come from Mozambique. The ambassador, who was born in 1946, said his parents were very happy in France until it fell to the Nazis at the beginning of the Second World War. In 1942, his paternal grandparents, who had remained in Paris with their youngest child, were arrested and sent by the Nazis to Auschwitz where they were killed. The ambassador’s father then moved to the south of France and joined the Resistance.
Nazee and Joe Moinian
M. Lewitte’s recollections of the war were pertinent to the discussion because France has long had a reputation among many people for its anti-Semitism. The ambassador disproved that notion, pointing out the significance of the Dreyfus Affair where the nation rallied around Captain Dreyfus because the accusations against him were politically motivated because of his religion, and that France had had several prime ministers who were Jewish. He told us that a recent poll about anti-Semitism demonstrated that the lowest rate of anti-Semitism in Europe is in the Netherlands where 87% of the Dutch harbored no prejudice against Jews. France came second with 85% tolerate. The United States was fifth on the list.
He then talked about the international problems particularly those in the Middle East. He told us that President Bush and President Chirac in private meetings got on very well, that both men were very informal and relaxed with each other and were in agreement about almost all issues with one exception. When the men last saw each other in Brussels, President Bush allowed that history would be the judge of Iraq.
There was a great deal of discussion, arising from the questions asked after the Ambassador finished his talk, about Iran. There were a number of Persians at the dinner, and a number of them who are also Jewish. One guest pointed out that all of them loved their native country and those who remain there consider themselves Iranians first and Jews second. The consensus is that the Iranian people, not the leadership, want the same things that most of us want – education, shelter, a decent life for their children. Ambassador Lewitte explained in some detail the issue of nuclear energy with Iran and how it is being thwarted by Mr. Ahmandinejad and his followers who appear to be intent on developing weapons. Reactors for electrical power are not the issue; Iran needs to first build the reactors, after which they can get fuel from other countries. This does not seem to be the direction Mr. Ahmandinejad wants to go.
It was a very interesting evening in New York and we were very privileged to be guests of Nazee and Joe Moinian who provided a lovely dinner and the expertise and insights of the French ambassador.