Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Busy one on the calendar

Delivering down Fifth Avenue. 7:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Beautiful, sunny day, yesterday in New York.

And as usual, a busy one on the calendar. For example, last night at the Edison Ballroom, Joyce Carol Oates was honored at the Author’s Guild black tie dinner. While over at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, Urban Stages held a benefit dinner and honored veteran agent Lionel Larner for 30 years devotion to the organization. His longtime friend and client Dame Diana Rigg presented the award.

Because it was in Central Park, on a beautiful night, and at the Boathouse, the evening included dinner and cocktails of course, and entertainment and dancing, and boat rides! Meanwhile down at Capitale on the Bowery, the Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter hosted a benefit evening with singer Nellie McKay. And dinner of course.

My day started like this. (Horrible traffic in the midtown cross streets, not because of too many cars but because of too much building construction which takes up lanes and often the entire street with construction equipment like plows and bulldozers and cranes). 

It took three quarters of an hour to cross from the FDR Drive at 63rd Street to Fifth Avenue and 59th Street and the Plaza where at  noontime in the Grand Ballroom, the National Audubon Society’s Women in Conservation were hosting their annual 2014 Rachel Carson Awards luncheon.

They honored Ellen Futter, the brilliant President of the American Museum of Natural History; Actress and director Kaiulani Lee, and Nell Newman, daughter of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Over the past 21 years Ellen Futter has raised more than $1.3 billion for the AMNH. During the past two decades the museum’s Center for Biodiversity and conservation has advanced a global mission of environmental science as well as education and outreach about conservation. Eight years ago, with the establishment of the Richard Gilder Graduate School, the museum became the first in the United States authorized to grant the PhD. Degrees. Three years ago the AMNH was the first freed-standing museum-based Master of Arts program in teaching, focused on Earth science.

For the past 22 years, Kaiulani Lee has been performing her one woman play, “A Sense of Wonder” to remind the audience of the monumental stature and influence of Rachel Carson, of how precious our natural world is, and just how dramatic and difficult the challenges can be for those who stand to protect the truth. Ms. Lee’s play promotes environmental education and activism.
Ellen Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History, with Allison Rockefeller, President of the Audubon Society's Women in Conservation, yesterday at the Plaza Hotel.
Nell Newman, who grew up in the Connecticut countryside where she had an early introduction to natural foods thanks to her father and mother. After college she worked at the Environmental Defense Fund, served as Executive Director of the Ventana Wilderness Sanctuary, working to reestablish the Bald Eagle in central California, and as Development Director for the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, the non-profit responsible for captive breeding and restoration of the Peregrine Falcon in California.

It was her commitment to organic foods and sustainable agriculture that led her to convince her father to establish an organic division of Newman’s Own. She did this by creating a completely organic Thanksgiving dinner and then suggesting organic food products for the new Newman’s Own Organics line. Twenty years later Newman’s Own Organics produces more than 100 organic products.
Nell Newman of Newman's Own. Kaiulani Lee, actress and promoter of the legacy of Rachel Carson with her one-woman play, "A Sense of Wonder," based on Carson's life and work.
Allison Rockefeller who is president of Audubon’s Women in Conservation told me yesterday that the organization is committed to promoting and providing opportunities for young women interested in science and environmental careers. She said that amazing as it sounds there are still few women working in the field, which has traditionally always been thought of as a man’s field. Which is surprising just considering the honorees at yesterday’s event. Women in Conservation are working to change that.

This was a very successful luncheon with more than 500 men and women attending; very serious and committed and naturally visionary.
The Grand Ballroom of the Plaza yesterday at the Women in Conservation luncheon.
I started out the evening at the Knickerbocker Club where Frank Wisner, Frank Richardson, Tom Pulling, and Jeff Peek were hosting a book party for their friend James Zirin and his new book “The Mother Court; Tales of Cases that Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court” with Foreward by Robert M. Morgenthau.

NYSD readers may be familiar with Jim Zirin as he and his wife Marlene Hess are active participants in many philanthropic causes in the city.

Last night’s gathering of more than 100 of some of the city’s more prominent men and women affirmed their popularity and activity. Jim, a longtime litigator who has appeared in federal and state courts around the country, is also a former Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and served in the Criminal Division of that office under Mr. Morgenthau, a legend in his field.

Jim Zirin with “The Mother Court; Tales of Cases that Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court." Click to order.
He has also written more than 200 op-ed pieces for Forbes, Barron’s, the LA Times as well as The Times of London. Currently is also co-host of the popular weekly prime time cable television program “Conversations in the Digital Age.”

Although there was a lot of camaraderie and affection around the room in speeches about the author last night, one couldn’t help thinking that this new book of his, despite its alluring title of “Cases of Tales That Mattered” might be a little on the dry side for those of us who have little or no legal background.

However, when I got in last night from my travels and was thinking about what I might write about the new book, I randomly opened my copy to page 256 to a trial of one Leon Friedland, “a corrupt accountant who helped a conniving businesswoman named Edith Kendall prepare fraudulent financial statements, covered by fake accountants’ certificates which she gave to banks in support of loan applications,” which were so convincing that Mrs. Kendall was about to secure millions of dollars from the banks.

Mrs. Kendall was described in the courtroom as “quite charming,” “spoke with a European accent that projected glamour and urbanity,” and possessing a “generously endowed bosom” which she “displayed en decolletage with great effect on the gullible bankers…”

Mr. Friedland, aka Lee Armand, was also an SEC accountant by day, working for Mrs. Kendall in the evenings. His defense was that he’d been seduced by Mrs. K and really went to her offices at night ...

In the cross of Mr. Friedland about his hoped-she-would-be client inamorata:

Q. Did you tell her sweet things?
A. Yes.
Q. That you liked her hair?
A. Yes.
Q. Her clothes?
A. Yes.
Q. You lost your head with Mrs. Kendall, didn’t you?
A. Yes.
Q. She seduced you?
A. Yes. I succumbed.
Q. Was it mutual?
A. It was mutual.

Whereupon in the courtroom Mr. Friedland’s long-suffering wife burst into tears and had to be led from the courtroom.

Ah, the nitty gritty emerges and takes over. You can tell this book is a great read of all kinds of cases for all of us who love detective stories, courtroom shows and much much more.

Jim Zirin’s “Mother Court” provides a ringside seat at some of the most famous cases that went down in the US District Court for the Southern District including the trials of Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, The “Pizza Connection” case – longest criminal trial in America history and Government obscenity suits against James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and the film “Deep Throat.”
Cover detail.
Meanwhile back at last night’s beat.  I left the Knickerbocker at 7:15 and walked the two blocks down the avenue to the Metropolitan Club where the Lighthouse Guild was hosting its annual A POSH Affair benefit honoring Lifestyle Visionary: Potter, Designer, and Author Jonathan Adler; Fashion Visionary designer Thom Browne; and Artistic Visionary Sheila Nevins, President of HBO Documentary Films.

POSH dinner hosts were Hamish Bowles, Amy Fine Collins, Alex Hitz and Lorry Newhouse. Honorary Chair was Arlene Dahl, who with her husband Marc Rosen, all assisted by a long and distinguished list of Vice Chairs as well as Committee members. Benjamin Doller, Vice Chairman and Senior Auctioneer of Sotheby’s Americas, conducted a brief auction, raising more funds for the Lighthouse Guild’s work.
The centerpiece at last night's POSH Lighthouse Guild dinner at the Metropolitan Club.
I happened to be seated next to one of the honorees, Sheila Nevins, who is famous in her business but not as well known publicly as Messrs. Adler and Browne. However, since assuming her position at HBO Documentary Films ten years ago, she has in her capacity as an executive producer or producer, received 26 Primetime Emmy Awards, 31 News and Documentary Emmys and 37 George Foster Peabody Awards. During her tenure at HBO, their critically acclaimed documentaries have won 23 Academy Awards and she has personally supervised the production of more than 1000 documentary programs! This is New York!!
Mark Ackermann, Executive VP and COO of Lighthouse, presenting the award to Jonathan Adler.
Mark Ackermann presenting Thom Browne with his award.
Sheila Nevins of HBO Documentaries accepting her award.

Contact DPC here.