The New York Public Library at night. 8:20 PM. Photo: JH.
A beautiful, sunny coolish weekend in New York. Very quiet in my part of town. Neighbors off to the Hamptons or the hills of Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“If you want a future darling, first you must get a past.” The news from across the sea (well, at least the news you can deal with) has to do with precisely that. Heather Mills McCartney is divorcing the very rich and quite beloved Sir Paul and may be collecting a couple hundred million in the settlement. And, according to the London tabloids, she used to be a high class hooker.
Yes. She allegedly slept with Adnan Khasshoggi and even rented for $17,500 a night (ten thousand pounds).
Paul and Heather McCartney
But that’s not all: From bad to worse, to the point of absurdity. These next two paragraphs from the London Independent made me laugh out loud:
The Sun published pictures last week of lady Mccartney posing naked for what they described as a German "hard core porn" book. Her publicist attempted to play down the images by saying that the book was a sex educational manual.
The Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror newspapers carry interviews this weekend with Peter Wilson, the man who posed with her in the photographs. He describes the book that they simulated sex acts for as "cheap, titillating and sleazy" and says that Lady McCartney was "unashamed and unabashed".
“A sex educational manual.” Well, everybody’s gotta start somewhere, no?
But the tabs weren’t buying the lady’s flack. They came back with the man who actually posed for the photos with Lady McCartney. And he described their simulated sex acts as "cheap, titillating and sleazy."
So there. Yes!! Gotcha!! And he added his two pence: Lady McCartney at the time was “unashamed and unabashed” about the whole process. In other words, she’s not camera-shy.
There’s more of a backstory. It smells like a deliberate campaign to publicly humiliate Mrs. McCartney. If the allegations are true, she’s not the first, or the only. The oldest profession was an early path for even some crusty dowagers who are still, as I write this, presiding over the grandeur of the loftiest towers up on Central Park.
I saw Mrs. McCartney along with her husband, at a dinner here in town two or three years ago given by the UNA/USA. They were given humanitarian awards for their their work on landmines. She had taken up the torch formerly held by Princess Diana. She brought up the subject of Diana in her acceptance speech, explaining how Diana’s interest had had a such great impact on helping the cause, and that she intended to keep up the watch.
She already had a bad reputation -- not as a hooker but as a very difficult woman. It was said that her stepchildren didn’t like her. But was more than that. It was that she rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, demonstrating an impossible-to-please personality.
None of this was apparent that night. She seemed to be a very determined and tough woman. A very pretty woman although not remarkable. Toughness in a woman can often be misinterpreted. It can also be obnoxious when demonstrated without calculation. It occurred to me watching her that night that there was much I couldn’t perceive about the lady, yet something was awry.
If this were a movie and I were writing it, I’d make the Girl a former hooker -- not a courtesan, because courtesanship was an art and a discipline -- and she hooks a Big One… a nice dumb-oaf-and-really-rich guy. Then maybe she thought she could get used to the life and turn into something legit -- for girls who hook know from legit. But she couldn’t.
She really didn’t like it. Maybe he was a bore. Really, you never know what anyone’s like till you get them home. Or maybe it was her old demons she kept running into -- which is what happens to most of us in life.
And so although it was nice while it lasted, it couldn’t last -- because she never really cared about him anyway.
These things happen. All the time in certain socio-economic enclaves. And although Sir Paul claims that he and she speak several times and day, and that he is worried for her, there is a massive public relations war launched against her by somebody on the behalf of somebody besides the owners of the tabloids screeching this stuff in boldface.
If the campaign is successful, it might influence the answer to the Big Question: How much of the former Beatle’s billions will go to this woman after only a few years of marriage? How much does an alleged former sexpot get for marrying such a nice, kindly, brilliantly talented and extremely rich guy? A man who was deeply devoted to his previous wife who died of breast cancer, a man who never did anything but make the world feel better about itself? How much does this woman deserve….after where she’s allegedly been? There are far worse problems in the world but the great thing about this one is It Can’t Hurt YOU.
By last Thursday night, the rains had stopped and people were back out on the town. Patricia Burnham one of New York’s most successful independent private residential real estate brokers gave her annual cocktail party at Restaurant Daniel.
Daniel Boulud and Patricia Burnham
Patricia’s party and Mark Gilbertson’s party, which we covered here last week, are both given annually around the same time, after the season has run its course, and they are both very very popular. Between the two of them, there must be several hundred guests (friends, acquaintances) involved. There is a crossover part of their lists, although not entirely; and yet they are different.
Ms. Burnham is a very outgoing, and an in-her-own-way kind of sultry businesswoman who likes people and loves putting them together. There’s very little stand around at her party, and people always come away amazed at whom they met. There are so many people, interesting, attractive, friendly, that you find conversation just because you’re there. You can meet people at Patricia’s cocktail parties whom you’ve heard of because of their special work or special interests that you might not otherwise meet socially. And you can see the friends you often see on the social circuit.
The party was held in a private room off the lounge in Daniel. Waiters greeted you at the door with trays of Mojitos (I never had one before). Between me and JH, I think we got a picture of most of the people I saw whom I knew and some I’d never met before.
John Connolly and Michael Kennedy
Melissa and Chappy Morris
Dr. Cap Lesesne with his fiance
Prince Dimitri, Peggy Race, and Eric Javits
Michael and Eleanora Kennedy with Patricia Burnham
Debbie Bancroft and Roy Kean. Enter Barbara Gross.
Jim Dunning and Michael Gross
CJ Satterwhite and Montgomery Frazier
Albert Hage and Melissa Morris
Chappy Morris and Patty Raynes
Mona and Dimitri Joner
Henry Heller, Jonathan Farkas, and Heather Cohane
Alina Cho and Geoffrey Carroll
Phoebe Eaton, John Connolly, and Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder
Susan Magrino and Anna Lou Ponti
Michael Gross and Patricia Burnham and friends
Sharon Sondes and Geoffrey Thomas
Jonathan Farkas and Sonja Morgan meet ...
... and greet
Bonnie Pfeiffer and Charles Evans
I could have stayed all night but because of commitments, I went from Patricia Burnham’s down to The New York Public Library where 360 members of the Library’s Young Lions group had honored the five Fiction Award finalists. The night before where Ethan Hawke, Terrence Howard and Famke Janssen read from each of the five finalists works. The winner was Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nations, who won the $10,000 prize (awarded annually to a writer under the age of 35).
Thursday night was the big celebration. I missed the cocktail reception beforehand for the five finalists, having stayed the max up at Burnham’s. As I arrived the crowd was moving into the library’s rotunda where the room was dreamily lit in mauvy-pink and the tables were set for dinner. This was a young crowd – twenty- and thirty-something; goodlooking, fashionable, sometimes flashy. The girls really get up these days. They love dressing up and it shows and it’s great to look at because so many of them, not just a few, look sensational.
The theme of the evening was “The Beautiful and Damned,” a paeans to Fitzgeraldian times and the guests were encouraged to dress formally but accordingly. Which brought out the slackers like me (in a pinstripe blue serge) or Andrew Rosen of Theory who wore a black tee over a white tee and jeans and a jacket over his shoulder, to the younger more stylish aspirants including the young man in the monocle and top hat. The style that was inspiring was post-Edwardian and a million miles away from today’s shoddy-chic but when they shoot for it, some of them demonstrate that the longing for style is never out of fashion. Mr. Rosen incidentally is a big believer in style and is reviving the Helmut Lang brand.
One of my dinner partners was Teri Agins, a Senior Special Writer (her card says) from the Wall Street Journal whose beat is Fashion. Ms. Agins whom I’d never met before, is a card-carrying New Yorker. She grew up in Kansas, went to Wellesley (she was the only girl from Kansas in her entire class), came to the big town, and has been an important reporter for the Journal for a number of years. She has also written books including the widely lauded and read “The End of Fashion.”
I’m one of the few people I know who doesn’t read the WSJ regularly. My loss. Teri Agins confirmed that with our conversation. I figured when she told me “Fashion,” she meant the runway shows, the collections, the reviews, etc. That all interests her but mainly as background.
Teri Agins is interested in “the story” in a business where you can be a big media star and a flop at the cash register. Or where you can become a centimillionaire with some talent, a stroke of good luck and a taste for betrayal. She rattled off a few of those household names for my amusement. She also explained to me the inner workings of some of these great fashion businesses where ego can overtake creativity but business genius is always victor. Fashion is like all other businesses at the end of the day: the bottom line is the judge. Teri Agins gets the story on the judge, and it’s always riveting, at least when she tells it.
So I spent my entire dinner all ears and rapt in conversation with this post-modern Brenda Starr. This is one of the remarkable things about living in this city and one of the reasons why when people ask me if I ever get bored with my work, I can honestly say: “never.” Because New York is a mecca for talent and brains and drive and ambitious and trainloads of defiant creativity, on some lucky nights I’m introduced to such a citizen. I always leave those encounters with something I didn’t come in with – be it insight, knowledge, inspiration or all of the above.
After the main course, the crowd began getting up to mingle. Many never returned to their assigned table.Dessert was touched on wherever one might happen to wander. And then it was downstairs to the Celeste Bartos Forum where the big dance and hundreds more were joining the crowd for the young and glamorous evening at the New York Public. Me, I went home thinking about what I’d learned from meeting Teri Agins.