Time moves on ...
At last night's reception for Richard Stengel, the newly named Managing Editor of Time (l. to r.): William Weld, Patricia Burnham, and Ed Ney; Philip Howard and Catherine Crier; Eleanora Kennedy and Chris Whittle.

A beautiful summer’s day in New York. Overcast much of the time, slightly humid (in late afternoon). With bustling breezes blowing off the East River by sundown and storm clouds hovering, the air was invigorating.

At 7 I went down to the Racquet and Tennis Club on Park Avenue where there was a reception organized by Jeffrey Leeds for Richard Stengel, the newly named Managing Editor of Time. Mr. Stengel, who is 51, is the 16th Managing Editor of the magazine since it was founded in 1923 by Henry Luce and Brit Hadden, two Yale boys who had co-edited the Yale Daily News.

83 years ago, Time was revolutionary and more than something of an upstart to the traditional press of the day. Today it has nearly 29 million readers across the world as well as a web site Time.com which claims more than 3 million unique users a month.

Mr. Stengel, who is known to his friends as Rick, is a Princeton man, and a Rhodes Scholar and a college basketball winning team player. At Time he’s served already as senior writer and essayist, national editor, cultural editor and editor of the dotcom. He has also written several books including January Sun: One Day, Three Lives, A South African Town and You’re Too Kind: A Brief History of Flattery (as all good flattery should be). He also collaborated with Nelson Mandela on Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk To Freedom, and later served as co-producer of the documentary “Mandela” which was nominated for an Oscar.

So you see, Mr. Stengel has earned his stripes the Old Fashioned Way. Something of a phenomenon in our fastfood overnight billionaire world. I introduced myself to him last night just before I took the picture of him, and found him to be a regular guy, eager to be helpful and easy to take direction. I had no conversation with him to determine much about his personality except that our brief encounter was relaxed and informal as if we’d worked together before. And he seemed genuinely excited to be there last night. Like a kid. I personally believe those are two important requisites to becoming a good reporter. Excitement and kid.

The position of Managing Editor of Time counts a lot in this community. The readership numbers are enough to justify that but it’s also the legendary corporate economic power of the whole Luce empire, now part of Time-Warner, and its profound influence on modern journalism. The late Henry Grunwald was a Managing Editor of Time. It is a position that can confer great prestige, as Mr. Grunwald demonstrated. Rick Stengel will have great challenges maintaining that position for Time in the present and future climate.

Susan Magrino, Patricia Burnham, and Paige Peterson
Richard Stengel
Amanda Burden, Edward Jay Epstein, and John Dizard

There must have been a hundred guests.

I saw Mort Zuckerman talking to Chris Whittle. I saw Sarah, the Duchess of York (I was going to write The Duchess of New York because she’s that too), and Warren Hoge and Pete Peterson as well as his granddaughter Alexandra Peterson and her mother Paige Peterson, Peter Brown, Bobby and Barbara Liberman, Steve Forbes, Moira Forbes, Edward Jay Epstein, Amanda Burden, Ambassador Ed Ney and his wife Judy Ney, Freddie Melhado, Louise Grunwald – Henry Grunwald’s widow who had been previously married to Mr. Melhado; former Governor of Massachusetts William Weld, Priscilla Rattazzi (Mrs. Chris Whittle), Susan Magrino, Eleanora and Michael Kennedy, Henry Schlieff, Mark Gilbertson, Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History; Peter Kaplan of the New York Observer, Billy Rudin, Peggy Siegel, David Hirshey of HarperCollins, Philip Weiss, Observer columnist, Boatie Boatwright, Lloyd Grove of the Daily News, John Dizard who writes for my favorite daily (and weekend), the FT; Barry Diller, Margaret Carlson, Patricia Burnham, Bob Schieffer, Betsy Gotbaum, Attorney General, gubernatorial candidate Elliot Spitzer, Richard Turley with Norma Kamali; Sessa and Richard Johnson of Page Six, Keith Kelly of the Post, and on and on. One very prominent journalist, stood on the edge and scoured the room, and pronounced it a “major networking scene.” In case you’re wondering what New Yorkers are thinking when they’re at a cocktail party like this.

It was also a major scene of good feelings too. Sincerely good feelings are not always so easy to determine in this burg among certain burg(h)ers, but this was mainly a party of media guys and girls, dressed for business of course but still looking for the Big Story. Many seemed very pleased that Mr. Stengel was the Big Story that night.

Of course one of the problems with modern media is that a good number of its more ambitious guys and girls have increasingly found the story in just that – themselves or each other. A mighty bore and snoozy reporting and bad for business. I got the feeling last night that Rick Stengel is not one of those guys.

L. to r.: Elliot Spitzer; Philip Weiss, David Hirshey, Peter Kaplan, and Paul Bogaards; Louise Grunwald, Mark Gilbertson, and Eleanora Kennedy.
Paige Peterson, Peter Brown, and Alexandra Peterson
Norma Kamali, Richard Turley, and Monica Crowley
Katherine Thomson, Moira Forbes, and Kristen Allen
Bobby and Barbara Liberman with Steve Forbes
Priscilla Rattazzi and Margaret Carlson

Charles Strouse is an American composer whose most famous work has been performed on Broadway. You’ve maybe seen his shows, such as “Bye Bye Birdie” where Dick van Dyke first performed Mr. Strouse’s “Put on a Happy Face”; “Annie,” “Golden Boy,” “Superman,” Applause.” He’s written tunes that go around in your head in the middle of the day for reasons you can’t explain, like the theme song to “All In the Family” (“Those Were the Days”). He wrote the theme for “Bonnie and Clyde.”

Charles Strouse

A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, he studied with Aaron Copland and the legendary Nadia Boulanger (if you don’t know whom I’m referring to, just think “brilliant” “distinguished,” “masters.”)

All of this interests me because I am like a child in awe of men and women who create Broadway musicals. I have a complete fantasy about it and it’s been nurtured by Hollywood movies of Yore which probably means I don’t know what I’m talking about.

When I was a very young man, however, I even dreamed (meekly as it turned out) that maybe I’d be up there on the stage singing out those Charles Strouse tunes. Or Rodgers and Hart, or the Gershwins or Bock and Harnick or Kander and Ebb or Sondheim or Jule Styne or Cole Porter…you see I can’t stop myself. It’s all about the magic of making the world feel good, even if it’s just for a moment. Charles Strouse, in my book, has accomplished that in his life. A very great thing.

Charles Strouse with the gang
Now he’s arrived at that place where even his presence can accomplish something. Like raising money. For example, a few weeks ago at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park South, they “honored” Charles Strouse, they performed an evening of his songs, and they raised money for the Encompass New Opera Theatre. Encompass is a non-profit company specializing in developing new music theatre and contemporary opera. Its artistic director is Nancy Rhodes. They raised $35,000 to support Encompass’ Librettist and Composer Program, thanks to Charles Strouse, and of course with Applause Applause for their merry band of performers including Ann Anello, Darius DeHaas, Madeline Gilford, Jason Graae, Judy Kuhn, Tom Meehan, K.T. Sullivan, Karen Ziemba and the Encompass Singers.

Carol Burnett
was on hand to introduce Mr. Strouse. Marian Seldes was hostess for the evening, and Sheldon Harnick and John Kander were honorary co-chairs. And everybody was sitting there in the Victorian mansion that once was the home to Samuel Tilden, New York Governor and Presidential candidate (who won the popular vote and lost the election), listening to the great Strouse show and thinking: This is New York. To learn more about Encompass, visit www.encompassopera.org
Clockwise from top left: Nancy Rhodes and Carol Burnett; Barbara Bliss, Charles Strouse, Carol Burnett, and friend; Carol Burnett; Tom Meehan, Carol Burnett, Joseph Stein, Charles Strouse, Marian Seldes; Nancy Rhodes, Charles Strouse, and Aldon James.
L. to r.: K.T. Sullivan; Haviland Stillwell and Ben Steinberg.
L. to r.: Karen Ziemba; Jason Graae.
L. to r.: Christopher Vettell; Judy Kuhn; Madeline Gilford.
 Darius DeHaas.
 Jody Sheinbaum.
 Ann Anello.

H2O. Yesterday morning’s Bloomberg.com had a report on the investment value of water. According to the Bloomberg, it’s a good investment:

The Bloomberg World Water index of utilities has returned 35 percent annually since 2003, compared with 29 percent for oil and gas stocks and 10 percent for the Standard & Poor's 500 index

Better than oil and gas. Better than a lot of things – cars, computer chips, band-aids and sunscreen. Boone Pickens, the famous Texas takeover artist, oilman and hedge fund manager considers water the commodity that will appreciate the most in the next decades. Oh my. The Water Fund which is managed by Pictet Asset Management in Geneva ($2.9 billion) appreciated 26% last year. They’re forecasting annual returns of 8% percent through 2020.

This is all because water is in short supply and there is a lack of means to deliver the resources. $180 billion SHOULD be invested annually in the water infrastructure in developing countries like China and India. But it’s not. Today half that is being invested in such developments.

Water is now regarded by the investment community as a commodity like copper, aluminum, paper, steel, gold, silver, etc. It’s already generating almost a half trillion a year in revenue, just behind electricity and oil.

Good, I suppose, if you’re in the present investment mode and don’t plan on living much longer. Because. The difference between water and all other commodities, the difference between water and all other investments is: If water is a commodity, then so am I, and you, and Boone Pickens. And so are Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.

Another piece in the Bloomberg today referred to China’s problem – you know, China, the country with the industrial growth future that will dwarf everyone else – which is that they make up 20% of the world’s (growing by leaps and bounds) population, and possess only 7% of the world’s water resources.

Not a problem? I don’t think so. Although the article did not mention other significant details about China’s water supply such as the hastening melting of the glaciers on the Tibetan plateau from which 300 million Chinese get their water. It is now estimated that that source (which has existed throughout the recorded history) will have melted entirely and dried up by 2020. At just about the time the world’s population has doubled.

What is amazing about us is that in the face of human catastrophe, of planetary castrophe, we’re thinking creatively about financial profits but not about the debacle nature is obviously organizing for us, all of us, every last one of us.

“He lies below,
Correct in cypress wood,
And entertains the most exclusive worms.”

Dorothy Parker, “Epitaph of a Rich Man.”


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June 28, 2006, Volume VI, Number 107
Photographs by DPC/NYSD.com


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