Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oh Babe ...

Wrought iron fence in Chelsea brought to life. 2:20 PM. Photo: JH.
10/17. Yesterday was a sunny autumn day. The leaves are just beginning to turn here in New York.

The news of the day came after four when the stock market closed with the Dow down 733.

Market Analysis made easy.
In the 1960s there was a stock analyst named Ralph Rotnem who was head of research for an old white shoe brokerage house called Harris, Upham & Company. Mr. Rotnem made the Harris Upham (which later merged into Smith Barney) name slightly famous because of his really famous “hemline theory.” Mr. Rotnem had noticed that as hemlines on women’s skirts moved up (or down, according to the season), so too went the Dow Jones Industrials.

This “theory” happened to be advanced at just about the time the stock market began a substantial move to the upside. Skirts got shorter. The mini came into being (so did pants on women as evening and office clothes). The mini got shorter and shorter, with movies and television pushing the cause. Sex sells and sells and sells. By about 1971, the mini went all the way to hotpants. For a few months every young woman in town who entertained or went out to parties, often wore hotpants of silk or velvet or taffeta, etc. After that there was no place else to go with hemlines, no? That’s what the market thought too, and we moved into the great decade of rising interest rates which killed the DJI bigtime and transmogrified Jimmy Carter’s public image into “Dumb” and Ronald Reagan, our rich uncle, took over.

Ralph Rotnem’s theory ended about there. I think Mr. Rotnem departed also, moving on to more celestial climes. By the 1980s women’s skirts were heading back down towards the ankle. And then it was up again, over the knee. Sometimes. Or Nancy Reagan mid-knee sometimes. And then it went up again and by the 2000s, the skirts went way up. And way down. Down to the floor down. And pants and Way up to the hotpants point of departure. And way down. And up and down and up and down. And now we have a stock market playing the same tune. On Monday it was up 936 and Tuesday and Wednesday it was down 77 and then 733 respectively, or about 810.

So maybe, after all, Ralph Rotnem Lives! He was a somewhat small but compact, almost stocky man with a shock of close-clipped white hair. Glasses, conservative grey suit and tie; courtly in bearing and courteous. I can picture him up there in Heaven looking down on all this with a wry smile on his professorial face, SOOO happy that he doesn’t have to face his own theory every morning these days.

Arnaud de Borchgrave, Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave, and Patricia Patterson. The author holding her new book Heavenly Order; Twenty-Five Meditations of Wisdom and Harmony. Click to order.
Meanwhile back at the ranch. Just after noon I dropped by Swifty’s which was swiftly filling up for luncheon and where Patricia Patterson was giving a small luncheon for her friend Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave and her new book “Heavenly Order; Twenty-Five Meditations of Wisdom and Harmony.” An excellent gift for yourself or someone close to you.

After getting the picture of the author with her husband (Arnaud de Borchgrave) and her hostess, I headed down to Michael’s to lunch my friend Raul Suarez, the international art dealer.

Michael’s was swarming with the likeliest Wednesday suspects and then some. At the tables: Henry Schleiff with Donna Mills with Michael Shain and Linda Stasi of the New York Post. A couple tables over it was Liz Smith of Liz Smith and Paula Froelich of Page Six. Gerry Schoenfeld was with Steve Simpkin, and just across the way Michael Kramer, Dr. Gerry Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman. Next door to me (our table had just vacated by Melania Trump and Rachel Roy), was Patricia Duff and Debbie Bancroft celebrating Debbie’s 39th birthday which is today (October 17th, same as National Jewelry Institute’s Judy Price).

Next to them, Lynn Nesbit with Peggy Siegal. Around the front room: Selma and Army Archerd (of the Hollywood Reporter), Patricia Watt with Sharon Bush and Marisa Berenson; Mike Ovitz with Herb Allen; Jacqui Lividini, Ron Delsener, Rob and Shery Goldstein, CeCe Cord with Betsy Klieban; Joan Gelman with Bikeman author Thomas Flynn; Ed Klein, Sara Eaton of Sundance, Deb Shriver, John Josephson, Chrystia Freeland of the FT, et al et al et al.
To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Preview Party for the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show, The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center gathered past and present chairs of the Preview Party yesterday. The event, which raises funds for The Society's many programs, will offer patrons a first peek at over $500 million worth of fine art and antiques. The Society of MSKCC is a volunteer organization dedicated to promoting the well-being of patients and their families while also supporting cancer research and providing public education on the prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer. Sponsors this year include Michel Witmer, ELLE DECOR, Bacardi U.S.A, and 1STDIBS.COM. Tickets are still available for this evenings event at the Park Avenue Armory (67th & Park) by calling The Society office at 212-639-7972 or at the door.

Front Row: Karen LeFrak, Barbara Gimbel, Grace Meigher, Mary Carpenter.  Back Row: Alexandra Lind Rose, Lavinia Snyder, Muffie Potter Aston, Joanne de Guardiola, James Niven, Jamee Gregory, Daisy Soros, Leslie Jones, Nicole Limbocker, Alexia Hamm Ryan.
After lunch I stopped by Verdura at 745 Fifth Avenue (above Bergdorf Men’s) to have a look at some of “Verdura’s Rare Editions,” specifically “A special offering of important estate pieces from the Jewelry Collection of Babe Paley.”

Next Wednesday night Verdura is holding a reception and exhibition of the jewels. Included here are some of them.

Babe Paley was one of the most fashionable American women in the world from the late 1930s until her untimely death from lung cancer in 1978 at age 63. She was always beautifully turned out, and kind in her approach to other people. Although there have been many fashionable women who would never have been described as particularly kind, in Mrs. Paley’s case it was reflected even in her costume. It elevated her.

Babe Paley, age 43, in her suite at the St. Regis, decorated by Billy Baldwin and photographed by Lord Snowdon in 1958. Mrs. Paley is wearing a pair of "black and white" pearl bracelets and a pearl and diamond necklace, both designed for her by Fulco Verdura and now part of the sale and exhbition of her jewels at Verdura.
Eleanor Lambert made the oft-repeated (in these pages at least) that if you were to deconstruct any fashion ensemble of Babe Paley, and hung it up all together, you would see an artful composition. The self-presentation was a treat to the eye. She was a beauty. Women loved seeing her because they saw what many regarded as “perfection” of choice and ornamentation. Men were drawn to her too because that famous style which represented power and wealth was possessed by her warmth. The result was men admired her and women were not jealous of her. They just wanted to look like her. Or dress like her. Or something like her.

She was a trophy wife, long before the term was coined, and it came with a price – but that was realized only at the end of the story. Her husband, who founded CBS, was well aware of her impact and was impressed himself. He encouraged it by making it accessible to her (she could afford to shop, to buy) and by gifting her with quantities of precious and beautiful jewels which he loved also (and saw the financial value). She not only appreciated them but wore them frequently with the same wit and sparkling restraint as her clothes.

The cat brooch, diamonds with emeralds, a pearl, and sapphire whiskers.
This collection about to go on exhibit and sale at Verdura is a feast to the eye. Among them are several pieces designed especially for her by Fulco Verdura who was a friend and thought of her as one of his most graceful (and friendliest) muses.

The pieces range from the lavish Pearl and Diamond Tassel Choker (circa 1950) of cultured pearl with diamond, platinum and gold elements; 260 round diamonds weighing 6.03 carats ($95,000) to the Emerald and Diamond Earclips (circa 1955) with cabachon emeralds, diamonds, platinum, blue enamel and gold ($215,000) to the Jeweled Double Blackamoor Brooch (1961) of American Baroque pearl, onyx, emerald, sapphire, canary yellow diamond, white diamond, ruby and gold ($95,000), to the pair of Natural Black and White Pearl and Diamond Bracelets, 196l; natural black and white pearls, diamond and platinum, ($135,000.)

Looking at the woman’s jewels yesterday afternoon there was an impression, a fabulous one to be sure, of simplicity, of elegance and extraordinary design, of artisanship and a grown up playfulness – the wit of the designer who amused his muse; and the real luxury – not the “luxury retailing” kind – that comes from the coming together of all those elements and speaks of history and continuity.

Everything is stupendous to the eye for those reasons. Mrs. Paley evoked that and shared it. To learn more about the exhibition and the sale, you can call Verdura at 212-758-3388.
Several of the Verdura designed pieces in the sale. Clockwise from top left: The bumblebee brooch with coral shell, wings of diamonds (2 cts. each), diamond baguettes, onyx and gold; A pair of Natural Black and White Pearl and Diamond Bracelets, 1961, $135,000; The swan of natural pearls, gold, diamond and onyx. This brooch became very popular among the fashionable set, a side reference to Truman Capote's "Swans." This was the first one; Emerald and Diamond earclips, c. 1955. The emeralds are large and round and almost transparent. $215,000; the pearl and diamond tassel choker, c. 1950, 260 round diamonds weighing approx. 6.03 cts; Jeweled Double Blackamoor Brooch, 1961. American baroque pearl, onyx, emerald, sapphire, canary yellow diamond, white diamond, ruby and gold, $95,000.
Last night in New York, with the beautiful full moon over the city, Victoria and Frank Wyman gave a dinner dance at the Asia Society. Black tie. A celebration of China and the Olympics which, I later learned, inspired this party. There were ninety-six guests for dinner with cocktails before, with Peter Duchin keeping the music in the air.

The Asia Society is one of the most elegant (that word again) organizations that supports American and Asian relations through culture. Their exhibitions, lectures, dinners all have a specialness tied to their mission and objectives (which includes fundraising). Their supporters are often people who support many philanthropies in New York. Except. There is another element that provokes support, and that is the cultural exchange and its benefits.
My place setting.
That said, I half-expected something along those lines when I entered the building at 8 o’clock although the time should have been the tip-off. Few dinner invitations these days call for cocktails at 8. The Latins perhaps. The Europeans occasionally. Mrs. Wyman, the former Victoria de Zeteny is European, as is her husband although he’s lived in this country most of his long adult life.

It was just a beautiful dinner dance given just for fun by a host and hostess were inspired to give after their brilliant and fascinating visit to China. Our hostess, coincidentally and not, was turned out in the style of the aforementioned Babe, a jewel to the eye.

Black tie for the men and lots of women in red. Mai Harrison wore a Chinese style dress that she had made for her in China tens years ago. By 11:15, dessert was being served, Duchin was putting out the dancing tunes, dance floor was filling and people were having a bit of a respite.
Cornelia Bregman and Frances Hayward Renee Wood Mr. and Mrs. Peter Tufo
Somers Farkas Fernanda Kellogg Peter Duchin
The hostess surrounded by guests Christopher Mason and Richard Schurkamp
Kitty McKnight and Victoria Wyman Host Frank Wyman with Mai Harrison Wendy Vanderbilt Lehman and Emilia Saint-Amand
Suzanne Murphy April and Roddy Gow Audrey Gruss
Regina Greeven, Peter Tufo, and Katharina Otto Bernstein Libby Kabler
The ladies in red ...
LuAnn DeLesseps Jill Spalding, Asher Edelman, Cari Tiedemann, and John McCloy
Chris Mason and Martin Gruss Adrienne Vittadini
Stephanie Krieger Billy Salomon, Sharon Handler, Alex DeLesseps, and Carole Guest

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