|West Broadway. 1:30 PM. Photo: JH.|
|Thursday, June 7, 2012. Beautiful day, beautiful night. Sunny and maybe 70 with wide moments of bright Sun. Then the billowing grey and purple storm clouds rolled in en masse and threatened the day. Soon thereafter they rolled out again, and the Sun returned.
The plan for the night was first to a booksigning at Archivia, and then the Central Park Conservancy’s “Taste of Summer” at the Bethesda Fountain off East 72nd Street. There was also another book-related party (I’ve been telling you, books and booksignings are often the new hot parties in town). I had tentative plans to attend this one: Taschen Publishers’ reception for Harry Benson to celebrate his new limited edition book.
For those who are unfamiliar, Taschen is the crème de la crème of art photobooks, right up there with yesterday’s aforementioned Steidl. These books are Art Collectibles to many, and they are exquisitely published, providing a special feeling about the subject, the photography and the page.
The assignment with the Beatles when they first came to America in the early 1960s was what launched this long career. I remember that visit quite clearly. It was big big news across the nation, to give you an idea of how innocent the world seemed. The Beatles and James Bond; total intellectual, cultural entertainment. The haircut, so revolutionary, even controversial, the irreverence with a smile; all charm. In their hotel Harry got a shot of them jumping up and down on the bed. America was captured beyond description. People said the Beatles changed the world; that’s what it felt like.
This new book is of his two years on the road with the moptops. In one of their first interviews, a reporter asked Ringo what he “called” their (then far-out) haircuts.
Ringo replied “I call it Arthur.”
The whole world thought this was priceless. Hahahaha. Soon everyone across the world was moptop. That turned out to be just the beginning for all of us, as well as for the photography of Harry Benson. He was also there with Muhammad Ali training for his world championship. He was in the kitchen on the spot in the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel in 1968 when Robert Kennedy was shot.
Meanwhile, the memory of Ringo, Paul, John and George and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on that first trip to America remains a lovely memory for those us who were coming of age.
|Cassius Clay holding Ringo Starr in Miami, 1964. Photograph: Harry Benson.|
|Last night’s party was the spectacular version of a New York booksigning. Held at 107 Greene Street downtown, it featured an exhibition and sale of both famous and never-before-seen photographic Harry Benson prints; an interview with Harry by Reuel Golden, the Taschen author and editor, and Harry signing this special edition – “personalize copies of this historic book” is how the invitation read. All this while The Tribute String Quartet performed their Beatles Tribute.
Harry has published several important photobooks as collectors of his work know. This one, however, is even a cut above. The publishers are sending Harry and his wife Gigi on a world tour to publicize it. The airfare alone (for two, no less) tells you everything about this book. Sensational. The Beatles; On the Road 1964-1966. Harry Benson, Taschen.
The company is a collaboration of Mr. Hollander and Maryanne Connelly. Edmund Hollander was signing copies last night at a party that Cynthia Conigliaro and her associate Will Rogers were hosting. Earlier in the day Mr. Hollander also installed an instant garden on Lexington Avenue in front of the store.
When I first opened the book expectations were not high. I’m a reader firstly, and this book is about the visual; the words are yours when you see the work. So when I opened it, I was instantly astounded by two things. The landscapes, all of private residences, many of which are in the outlying areas of New York such as the Hamptons, are so beautiful and peaceful and spectacular, that you almost feel they’re part of it. In reality, they’re part of someone else’s life and that leads to the thought that this must be what it’s like to be very rich.
I know that sounds odd, coming from one whose chronicles are often about the rich. But Hollander and Connelly’s landscapes really do look like oases from the harsh realities of everyday life. Although no properties are identified, some belong to very famous names in America from both entertainment and business worlds.
This is no surprise. Hollander and Connelly are two of the top landscape architects in the country. Mr. Hollander says their work varies from the palatial to the somewhat more modest. Modest is a gentle word for hard facts. You know the work is costly because the time alone needed to create and then complete these projects must be huge. The company has a dozen landscape artists on staff.
Every landscape has a story to tell. The architects are focused on the environmental, the ecological. Their work is seen in waterfront parks, golf course planning and restoration, corporate headquarter, historic landscapes, horse farms and urban rooftops.
One other thought: this is a perfect Father’s Day gift. Mother will like it too. If nothing else, why not a dream to bank on?
|The master signs (unaware that I have come up from behind and am photographing him).|
|Some of the guests taking in the beautiful evening, as seen from inside.|
|The staff getting ready for their DPC portrait. I think I had just told them to keep their eyes open and stop talking. Somehow this cracked them up.|
|Finally, a more serious note, the Archivia staff with publicist Dalia Stone on the other side of the counter.|
|Sunblazing on 72nd and Lex just as I'm about to go a few blocks west to the Park and Taste of Summer event. 7:45 PM.|
|Same spot looking north. As soon as I got to the other side of the street, the raindrops started one by one ...|
|As I was leaving Archivia last night, those aforementioned billowing clouds of purple and grey were rolling in again over the sunset. I walked down to the corner of 72nd and Lex to go over to the Park for the “Taste of Summer” event. Despite the sunset’s blazing on the facades of the apartment buildings on the south side of the street over toward Madison and Fifth, raindrops started falling on my head.
At first it was a drop or two. Then a few more. Slowly. Softly. Almost sparse enough to walk in. The clouds, however, were ominous, I thought of being in the Park. No. I thought of the trip downtown. I put up my hand to wave down a cab. Just as I caught one, it started. It rained all the way home (five minutes) at which point, it stopped. Home at last.
|Roosevelt Island and the 59th Street Queensboro (now Mayor Ed Koch) Bridge. The red towers are the Con Edison plant in Long Island City. By the time I got back to East End Avenue, the clouds were moving out towards the Atlantic.|
|The Promenade (John Finley Walk) looking north from 83rd Street toward the Triboro (now RFK) Bridge and the (red arched) New Haven Railroad Bridge. 8:15 PM.|
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