Friday, March 4, 2011

Mothers of the Year

Looking towards the Beresford from within Central Park. 3:10 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, March 4, 2011. Cold in New York. But sunny.

Yesterday at noontime at the Plaza in the Grand Ballroom,
the American Cancer Society of New York held its annual Mother of the Year luncheon. This year’s “Mothers” were Dr. Freya Schnabel, Professor, Director of Breast Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center; and Muffie Potter Aston, Professor and Director of Social and Philanthropic Life in New York City.

Mrs. Aston not only provided the ACS with an interesting Mother of the Year but she also sold twelve tables for the luncheon. This kind of dynamic activity comes as no surprise to those of us who know Mrs. Aston. But more on that later.
The packed house in the ballroom of the Plaza.
Diana Feldman, who is the organizing volunteer director of fundraising (or something like that) for ACS-NY, also arranged for this writer to emcee the awards. Benefit co-chairs were Grace Hightower DeNiro, Somers Farkas, Diana Feldman, Patti Hansen, Daphna Keitel, Alexandra Lebenthal, Cynthia Lufkin, Georgette Mosbacher, Allison Stern, and Adrienne Vittadini.

Big crowd. I saw -- off the top of my head: Charlotte Ford, Paula Zahn, Topsy Taylor, Tory Burch, Ashley McDermott, Dalia and Larry Leeds, Debbie Bancroft, Nazee Moinian, Joan Jedell, Libba Stribling, Gigi Mortimer, Cece Black, Jean Shafiroff, Ann Rapp, Peggy Siegal, Gillian Miniter, Peter Davis, Richard Feldman, Margo Langenberg, Fred Anderson, Mark Gilbertson, Brenda Johnson, Wendy Carduner, Harriet Weintraub, Barbara Tober, Felicia Taylor, Mariana Kaufman, the Missus Lufkin, Hightower DeNiro, Lebenthal, Stern, Hansen; Susan Fales-Hill, Cece Cord, Judy Gordon Cox, Lauren Lawrence, Mary Hilliard, Martha Kramer Fox, Dr. Sherrell Aston, Dr. and Mrs. John Potter (Muffie’s parents), Margo McNabb Nederlander, Hilary Geary Ross, Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Cricket Burns, Eleanora Kennedy, Andrea Glimcher, Sharon Handler, Anne Hearst McInerney, Gayle Atkins, Katharina Otto Bernstein, as well as hundreds of others.
DPC as emcee.
Right after the main course I introduced Patti Hansen aka Mrs. Keith Richards. Ms. Hansen told us about her relationship with Dr. Schnabel who was her breast cancer doctor. Dr. Schnabel, one quickly learned from Ms. Hansen, is one of those doctors who appears to care about her patient. I qualify that because there are many doctors practicing today who do not appear to care about any of their patients other than to perform their medical services efficiently (and correctly, of course). This is not a new subject but is actually like so many other issues in life today in terms of how we relate to each other both publicly and privately.

Dr. Schnabel, just to listen to Patti Hansen, cares. Dr. Schnabel is a friend forever to Patti Hansen, and after hearing her brief anecdote about their relationship, I had the feeling Dr. Schnabel could be my friend forever too.
Dr. Freya Schnabel and Patti Hansen.
Then Dr. Schnabel came up to the podium. She’s a native New Yorker (“first generation,” as she pointed out to me). Her father was from Rumania and her mother was from what used to be Czechoslovakia. The doctor however, was born and bred here, and to an out of towner, on meeting, she is unmistakably a New Yorker, accent and matter-of-fact directness. From her brief “acceptance” speech, you could tell that she was one of those remarkable women who seems to be able to carry many tasks willingly and gracefully. And with certain authority. She also seems to be one of those women who knows what she is talking about, and can help you learn too.

Listening to her, I was reminded of how different women relate to one another as women versus how most men do not or are unable relate to one another in quite so frank and forthright a manner, when it comes to the mentally and physically functioning male self. I concluded that birthing explains the difference; but nevertheless much is to be gained from it for us men -- if we are willing, which is the tricky part for us.
Dr. Freya Schnabel and her daughters.
Dr. Schnabel has two daughters who are the light of her life. She learns everyday, she told us, from her daughters. They are her gift in life. Lucky daughters, lucky mother.

When the doctor was finished, I introduced another doctor, Dr. Sherrell Aston who is one of the most famous cosmetic surgeons in the world and considered at the very top of his profession. Sherrell then introduced his wife Muffie by telling the audience how they met on a blind date and how it progressed to matrimony.

Dr. Sherrell Aston with Ashleigh and Bracie Aston.
It was when he suggested to Muffie one night that they think about making their relationship “legal” that she informed him of another priority: she wanted to have children.

She explained to him that because he already had three children – now grown – from his first marriage, she did not expect him to share that need and could understand why. Aha, but he was. And so ...

The road to children was long and arduous. Muffie had 12 failed pregnancies (including a previous marriage), but she remained determined.

About six years ago, the Ashton twins, Ashleigh and Bracie, were born. They were there yesterday, and were introduced by their parents. Muffie’s feelings about being a mother and about having her daughters was very much like Dr. Schnabel’s feelings about her daughters. And, coincidentally, she also has two.

I was thinking as I was listening to both women extol the gift of motherhood that this is not always the experience for mother or child. I was thinking of foster children, or children put out for adoption. I was wondering what makes the difference in attitude that allows a woman to be a kind and loving mother.
DPC, Marysol Castro, Muffie Potter Aston, Diane Feldman, Dr. Freya Schnabel, and Chris Wragge.
Marysol Castro, Muffie Potter Aston, Diana Feldman, and Chris Wragge.
Fran and Marc Aragona. Gary Snieski and Bonnie Comley.
Muffie with daughters, Dr. John Potter and Tanya Potter, and friends
Fran Ehrlich and Jean Troubh. Alexandra Lebenthal and Eleanora Kennedy.
DPC, Paula Zahn, and Richard Feldman.
Wanda Brighenti, Judy Gordon Cox, and Carol Holmes McCarthy.
Margo Langenberg and Tom Gates. Hilary Geary Ross and Muffie Potter Aston.
Joan Kuhn, Deirdre Kiely, and Jessica Li.
Muffie with daughters and their portrait. Robin Morris.
Vivian Chambers, Susan Fales-Hill, Ted Kruckel, and Somers Farkas.
Rupa Mikkilineni and Sharon Handler. Cece Cord and Somers Farkas.
Caryn Zucker and Caroline Hirsch.
Tanya Potter and Dr. John Potter.
Muffie Potter Aston, Kate Allen, Kate Pickett, and Jennifer Oken. Claudia Overstrom and Karen Glover.
Suzanne Weiss and Barbara Mones.
Jean Shafiroff and Ann Rapp. Lisa Hill and Claire Austin.
Tanya Potter, Muffie Potter Aston and Dr. Sherrell Aston with Ashleigh and Bracie, and Dr. John Potter.
Cynthia Lufkin, Somers Farkas, and Muffie Potter Aston with Ashleigh. Mary Hilliard and Ashleigh.
Alexandra Lebenthal and Frederick Anderson.
Cricket Burns (center).
Scott La Du. Tory Burch.
Grace Hightower De Niro.
Gayle Perkins Atkins, Gillian Miniter, and Alexis Clark.
Charlotte Ford. Mia McDonald and Margo McNabb Neiderlander.
Barbara Pearlman, Elizabeth Stribling, Cece Black, and Ursula Lowerre.
Courtney Moss and Gigi Mortimer. Nicole Sexton and Caroline Ruschell.
Robin Morris, Xanthipi Joannides, Patti Hansen, and Andrea Curry.
Angelina Lipman. Wendy Carduner and Brenda Johnson.
Mary Hilliard and Susan Fales-Hill.
Peggy Siegal. Heidi and Gary Merjian.
Ted Kruckel and Barbara McLaughlin. Margo Langenberg and Richard Cowlan.
Michele Parker, Alicia Newman, and Jill Swerdloss.
Georgette Mosbacher. Jake and Devorah Leibowitz.
Sharon Handler, Muffie with daughters, Patti Hansen, Dr. Sherrell Aston, and Cece Cord.
Last night my neighbor, Mr. Art Set, Charlie Scheips invited me to dinner at The Lion at 62 West 9th Street. The restaurant opened about eight months ago under the aegis/ownership of John DeLucie, the founding chef of the very popular Waverly Inn and restaurateur/realtor Mark Thomas Amadei. The Lion is a huge success and after one visit (last night) I can see why – everything about it makes it the perfect New York restaurant. It’s the atmosphere, the crowd, the lighting, the acoustics, with the piece de resistance – the menu. The Belgium Endive Salad was like no other I’ve ever had. I could have eaten it as a main course (a larger portion of course), it was so satisfying. For the main course I had the Lobster Pot Pie. Excellent.

The place was packed. It has a great bar area, as well as a private dining room and salon on the second floor. Charlie told me one night he was in the private room where he met Sandra Bullock with whom he had a nice conversation about living L.A. (where Charlie’s lived also).
The Lion at 62 West 9th Street.
I’ve heard it’s hard to get a reservation (I shy away from such places, believing nothing is worth the trouble) only to conclude after last night, that it’s worth the wait for The Lion. The staff is efficient and friendly. I had the pleasure of meeting the chef, and his business associate Mr. Amadei – both also naturally welcoming and intent on doing their best. It’s perfect New York, and it’s fun. Mark Thomas Amadei is also opening a new restaurant called Crown on East 81st Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues, in early May.

It was packed last night and the fashion is downtown although a couple of tables away, I saw some upper East Siders -- novelist and former assistant D.A. Linda Fairstein was dining with Kate White, editor-in-chief of Cosmo.
Mark Thomas Amadei and John DeLucie.
Looking across toward the southwest end of the main dining room.
The space in its previous incarnation was a restaurant called Village. In the early 1960s it was a gay bar called ... The Lion. It had a cabaret show in those days, and once the club’s hatcheck girl won the amateur night contest. The prize was a two week booking at ... The Lion. That little girl was called Barbra Streisand.

I asked if Miss Streisand had been to the new Lion. Answer: not so far although Chef DeLucie’s menu is a big temptation. However, she wouldn’t recognize the place because it was completely refashioned.
The Cheesecake in a Jar dessert. Yum!
Enter your email address below to subscribe to NYSD's newsletter. It's free!

Photographs by ANN WATT (ACS)
Comments? Contact DPC here.