Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer in New York

West Village sunset. Photo: JH.
The storms from the West have brought in the occasional rains cooling the pavement and roadways and making the city hot but beautiful.

Last Thursday the city began to empty out of weekenders and vacationers leaving for their week or two away from the hustle bustle. The result: lots of tourists to take their place but lots of quiet time and spacious sidewalks for those of us New Yorkers who remain in town. After years of spending weekends in Southampton (talk about hustle bustle --- and more hustle) summer in the city is peaceful and beautiful for this reporter.

Last weekend was Gay Pride in New York and they were calling it Heritage of Pride, giving you a little indication of how the movement has transformed into its own kind of establishment where the issues at hand affect everybody – gay or straight, whatever the ethnicity – and where its leadership is assisting its neighbors, brothers, sisters and strangers in need.

Yesterday I had lunch at Michael’s with an old friend of mine from Los Angeles, Richard Ayoub. Richard, who is the personification of kindness and grace to the point where it’s even fun to make fun of him (he has a great sense of humor and of irony), is a long time television journalist and producer. He’s one of those guys who shares his generous spirit and always by nature sees the glass “half-full.” He was in New York specifically to attend an event last night at the Mandarin Oriental for the Trevor Project, an organization that I was unaware of.

DPC surprised by Steve Millington's digital and then settles down to an Iced Coffee with Richard Ayoub.
The Trevor Project operates the only nationwide, around-the –clock suicide prevention helpline for gay and questioning you. Richard told me that the suicide rate for teenagers who are gay or questioning is four times the suicide rate for depressed teenagers. The Trevor Project saves lives thorugh its free and confidential helpline, its website ad its educational services.

The following is from the Trevor Project’s web site: The cornerstone of The Trevor Project is the 18-minute film Trevor, a comedy/drama about a gay 13-year-old boy named Trevor who, when rejected by friends and peers because of his sexuality, makes an attempt to take his life. Heartfelt and moving, this bittersweet tale won the 1994 Academy Award® for Best Live Action Short Film.

Also from the site: The Trevor creators -- James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski, and Randy Stone -- established The Trevor Helpline in 1998 to coincide with the airing of Trevor on HBO®. The organization's seed funds were provided by The Colin Higgins Foundation and by HBO’s license fee to broadcast Trevor. As a result, The Trevor Helpline became the first national, 24-hour, 7-days a week toll-free crisis and suicide prevention helpline for gay and questioning youth.

Last night at their benefit at the Mandarin Oriental the Trevor Project honored actor Alan Cumming with the “Trevor Hero Award,” The N with the Trevor Commitment Award and the Colin Higgins Foundation with the Youth Courage Award.

Mr. Higgins was the screenwriter/ director/ actor/ producer who first gained fame with his screenplay of “Harold and Maude,” and later as a director of “Nine to Five,” “Foul Play,” and “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.” In 1986 he established the Foundation to further his humanitarian objectives. He died of AIDS in 1988.

Last night at the dinner at the Mandarin Oriental before an audience of more than 350, there was a special performance by Tony Award wining actress and recording artist Idina Menzel performing songs from her latest album, and the irrepressible, incomparable Sandra Bernhard.
Yesterday afternoon, I received the following email from a writer friend of mine, Bart Boehlert. I first met Bart when I hired him to write something for us when I was editor of Avenue magazine back in the late 90s. He’s one of those industrious free-lancers, totally dedicated to his craft, whose pieces have appeared in most major magazines and periodicals here in New York. Like this writer, he grew up in New England, and like this writer he’s never quite got over the awesomeness of the city and it’s endless curiosities and varieties.

His email was about the final shuttering of a New York legend, Florent, the all-night coffee shop with a decidedly French flavor, which sits in the middle of the hottest, hippest piece of nighttime real estate in New York these days, the Meatpacking District. Once upon a time, not that long ago, New Yorkers remembered that place as what it was called – warehouses, trucks, meatpacking, taxi garages, the nitty-gritty part of the city. Florent was one of those diners where you could go to get something substantial to eat after a night of partying (drinking) or just to fortify yourself for that long sleep in on Saturday or Sunday morning. You saw everyone and every kind of everyone there. It was a scene but it was the food, the good good food, and the good prices that kept them coming form Out of Nowhere to get something to eat.

Well, that’s over. The rent was $6,000 a month. Now the owners want $50,000 a month. Why not? Take it all! All the traffic will allow. Pity the real estate owners when the traffic won’t allow it anymore.

So the neighbors and the tourists and the downtowners and the uptowners downtown and the hipsters will have to find something as grandly good elsewhere.

Anyway, enough of my quasi-sermons. Here’s what Bart wrote to his friends about the closing:


Yesterday after a slightly spotty Gay Pride Parade (it rained, twice) Ted and I decided to walk over to Florent, the legendary restaurant that was closing that very night. You have have been there with us, and Florent catered our union ceremony in 2000. We wanted to see our friend Harry, the maitre d' who now lives on Summit Lake in Argyle, New York.

So off we set expecting to maybe to have a beer at a block party, or something like that. When we got to the restaurant on Gansevoort Street there was a crowd outside, and a line waiting to get in the door. We ran into a friend on the sidewalk, a judge, who disappeared into the restaurant and then came out to tell the doorman that Harry said to let us in front of everyone else.

We stepped inside and walked down to find Harry. He motioned to two seats at the counter. "We're just here for a drink," we said. "You better eat," he said. So we did, delicious steak. The best seats in New York City on that particular Sunday night.

The place was packed of course, a big party. There was a blonde girl with no top on, but she wore a nice sarong. Great music, a lot of old Stevie Wonder. A new song came on and suddenly about ten people jumped up, including the blonde girl, and took off ALL their clothes and started dancing and running through the restaurant!

The room went wild. The first thing I said was, "Ted DO NOT take your clothes off." The second thing was, "People, put your clothes on, I'm trying to eat!" They ran to the front of the restaurant and the girl jumped up on the counter and danced in front of the window. People outside on the street and inside were going crazy.

The old lady sitting next to Ted at the bar said, "If you've seen that once..." Everyone was taking pictures. A black guy with a camera passed by us and said, "White people will do anything!"

I thought, well they can't shut the restaurant down for indecent whatever. Everyone was cheering. It was the most fun -- and certainly the most amazing New York experience.

We ordered the last chocolate mousse in the place, and Harry bought us a glass of wine. Florent walked by and we thanked him again for our ceremony. I thought Harry had a tear in his eye as we said good bye.

We walked out into the dusky night, down the middle of the cobblestone street. It was the end of an era I think, the magic of that crazy, spontaneous artistic/East Village/anything can happen possibility. And it reminded me again of why I love New York so much and feel so lucky to live here and call it my home.

It was a rare night out in Manhattan for a small group of suburbanites mainly from Westchester County, but with a few guests who came all the way in from sunny Brentwood, L.A. to celebrate the birthday milestone for Canadian-turned-New Yorker Carolyn Hirsch, adored first cousin-in-law of NYSD's JH.
The birthday cake.
The intimate evening included family and friends both old and new (sans the kiddies) and the evening extended long past typical suburban bedtimes. The laughing turned to self-reproach the next morning but hey, as they say, "life begins at forty," so what's to lament?
Carolyn and Daniel Hirsch
Elaine and Richard Hirsch
Jeremy and Amy Singer
Jaclyn Ciringione and Adam Hirsch
Evelyn Nuggethed, Jason Hirsch, and Artmis Youssefnia
Elon and Sacha Gold
Ilyse and Andy Newman
Debbie and Ben Hochberg
Samuel and Susan Elhadad
Sacha Gold, Amy Singer, and Carolyn Hirsch

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