Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Glimpse of Tory and Lance; Remembering Vincent Sardi

The waiting glass of champagne on Tory Burch's library bookshelf.
Last night in New York. With the best intentions I was headed over to Michael’s restaurant where the Literacy Partners were holding their kick-off cocktail to get everyone prepped for their annual (fabulous) gala “An Evening of Readings”  coming up on May 7th call Linda Buckley or Anita Hall at Buckley Hall Events, (212) 573-6933. This is one of the great New York evenings.

But I never made it to Michael’s. First stop was Tory Burch’s apartment where she was hosting a book party for her friend Bobbi Brown (Bobbi Brown Living Beauty). I figured I’d get a picture of Tory and Ms. Brown and hightail it outta there.

It’s a spacious apartment but it was crowded. Waiters in white jackets serving up white wine, water or champagne. Burch has  a  very smart traditional New York apartment, glamorous in appointment and glamorous in overlooking the Park. She fills it with a great looking group of women, mainly her contemporaries, and a variety of men in business, in the creative arts, in media, and, as it was last night, sports heroes. Lance Armstrong, looking Rocky Mountain high, with the rugged sheen of recent skiing, and a friendly face.

I told Tory everyone wanted to know about her and Mr. Armstrong. I know this because they call and ask me, as if I know. She laughed and said: “I’m not even divorced yet.” (Someone told me Chris Burch was at the party also.)

One of the guests (the place was bumper-to-belly) came by and asked her what she was wearing. “This is my skirt, the top is Proenza Schuler.’ And the grey cotton tank underneath looked like a gym tank. But, as I said, what do I know? Tory Burch is the arbiter. What I can see is: this time is Tory Burch’s moment and she looks every inch the part.
Tory and Lance
I ran into Celerie Kemble who had a baby boy six months ago. The kid is named Ravenal Boykin Currie. His father is Boykin (Ravenal; they’re Southern and this is a family tradition). But they call the kid Rascal and although he‘s not walking yet, he likes to stand. All the time. An orator is born. The Kemble-Curries already had a little one before Rascal came along -- Anchovie, a Jack Russell. I asked how it was going with baby and JR, a matter that is important to me in many ways. Turns out Anchovie is very good, as I suspected she might be. This was a relief for the parents too. Anchovieis the child’s guardian and first pal, and you know, Jack Russells are intensely serious about their natural obligations. Celerie thinks Rascal’s first word will probably be “Anchovie.” Or maybe it’s Anchovy.

I know, you have to be a dog person to see any value in that last paragraph.

Meanwhile, the party.
So there I was, looking around the Burch apartment. I wanted to get a picture of Lance Armstrong and Tory but we couldn’t find him. I took a picture of Dana Hammond with a very classy looking brunette wearing Wizard-of-Oz red heels. Then I asked the woman her name. “Lorraine Bracco.” Duh. This is what happens when you don’t’ have time for movies or television. Miss Bracco laughed. Thankfully.

It happened to me once before with a very well known actress who was being honored at this one particular gala. I knew the name but not the face, and after taking a picture of her with another actress, also famous, whom I remembered, I asked her name. She was not flattered. Or pleased. Or nice. Like our Miss Bracco.
Kenny Lane with Allegra Hicks
Patty and Bill Stapleton
Kenny Lane was talking to Ashley Hicks. Hicks’ wife Allegra is opening up her own shop on Madison Avenue and 77th Street, with an opening reception tonight. The Hickses are British. Ashley’s late father, David Hicks was a very influential British interior designer. His mother, Lady Pamela  is the younger daughter of Earl Mountbatten, relative of the Windsors and royal houses all over Europe, and murdered by an IRA bomb.

Click cover to order
That geneology is more than enough to take one on some fabulous rides but the Hickses, like daddy are very enterprising and creative; all business.  I also met Patty and Bill Stapleton from Austin, Texas. Bill is Lance’s agent.

Mainly I was looking to catch a shot of our hostess with the Le Plus de Tour de Francer, zee world's greatest!. It was a matter of finding them in the same spot in this large apartment. Finally. Even a glimpse of handholding for you romantics out there.

Meanwhile Bobbi Brown
. Whether I know or not, Bobbi Brown is probably more famous than anyone in the room because she’s the makeup/makeover/beauty guru.  Ms. Brown may be a cosmetics tycoon but in person, at a cocktail reception at Tory Burch’s Fifth Avenue apartment, she’s just-folks, Noo Yawk style, ready smiles, happy to be there, happy to be. I’m not a reader of beauty books but I went through this to get an idea of what Ms. Brown writes about. Improvement, upkeep, maintenance, and reality, like the savvy author.
Lorraine Bracco's red shoes; Alex Kramer, Todd Meister, Dennis Basso, and Dr. Patrick Stubgen.
Hilary Dick and Jill Roosevelt
Dennis Basso and friend
Daniel Benedict
Valesca Guerrand Hermes, Andrew Saffir, and Zani Gugelman
Samantha Gregory talking to Jane Lauder
Rena Sindi
Ann Jones and Celerie Kemble
Walking through the living room
Lance talking
Kenny Lane and Ashley Hicks
Lorraine Bracco and Dana Hammond
Marisa Noel Brown
Hamish Bowles and Elizabeth Lindemann
InStyle's intrepid reporter
Carlos Mota
The dining room
Nathalie Leeds
Passing through
Lillian von Stauffenberg, Renee Rockefeller, and Reed Krakoff
Deborah Roberts with Peggy Siegal and Bobbi Brown
Tory's library
Tory with Samantha G. and Jane Lauder
Grey and mild yesterday in New York. At eleven in the morning there was a memorial service at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater on West 45th Street for Vincent Sardi Jr., theBroadway restaurateur who died at 91 a couple of months ago.

The theater, where “Chorus Line” is now playing, was packed to SRO along with lots of photographers and cameraman. Broadway memorials are one of the hottest and most privileged tickets in town because it’s New York playing itself. The theater, that big black giant, that sleeping giant, is so rich in the history of the city. All of this emerges in one form or another at Broadway memorials.

Gerry Schoenfeld, the man himself, was seated onstage at a table covered with a red and white check tablecloth and a mike. Mr. Schoenfeld who was for years the head of the Shubert Organization along with Bernie Jacobs, has been one of the most powerful forces in American theatre of the last half of the 20th century.  An executive yes, but an executive in the theatre. There’s a difference.

For one thing Mr. Schoenfeld is such a character, with his wise-guy cracks, that he could have been an actor on the stage, introducing the guests. He was “waited on” by Donald Sadler, the choreographer director playing the role of a veteran hoofer working as a Sardi staffer, dancing his way about the stage (and putting up with Schoenfeld’s Broadway brash). All very amusing and transporting to us theatre-lovers sitting out there in the dark. Vincent would have been very amused too, and I could hear his laughter observing it in my mind’s ear.

His son David Vincent Sardi spoke about his father, how he was at once a giant and also fun to be with --- when he was home, because the restaurant business is even more consuming time-wise, than the theatre business. The great ones, the legends, live in and for their businesses. Vincent Sardi also had a world-class personality, as a personality, swathing you in his warm Italian charm, moving about, darting from person to person but never quite settling in. David Sardi described that experience (as the man’s child) with frankness, affection and, in closing, tears. It was very sweet and from it you knew that so was Vincent. Very sweet.
Vincent Sardi's Memorial Service at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater, with a piano piece played by the girl he sponsored at Juilliard forty five years ago.

Bebe Neuwirth singing Kander and Ebb's "And The World Goes Round."

The great Hal Prince recalling the magic of Sardi's and the theater when he was just getting started 50 years ago.
David Sardi also told about the letter from Japan his father once got that was address: “Vincent Sabbi, Famous restaurant, Broadway, U.S.A.” Amazingly he got it. It was from a woman writing about her very young daughter who had won a piano competition and a scholarship to attend to Juilliard. Except she needed a sponsor. The woman asked Vincent if he’d be the child’s sponsor.

Vincent contacted the woman, agreed to be the sponsor, and the child came to New York to live with Vincent and his wife Adele and their four children, supported in every way for the duration of her (long) stay in which she became “the fifth” Sardi child.  Yesterday, forty-five years later, the child now woman came on stage and played a classical tribute to her esteemed sponsor in his memory.

The night before I was seated next to the director/choreographer Susan Stroman at George Farias’ birthday dinner. She told me that she had wanted to be a director since she was nine. There was never anything else. I told her about the first time I went (as a kid) to see a Broadway show, “Auntie Mame” with Greer Garson (who’d replaced the original Rosalind Russell) at the Broadhurst Theatre. The first time experiencing the all-encompassing feeling, womb-like even, of the theater in those moments before the lights dim and the curtain goes up came back to me as we talked. That, topped with what also my first visit to Sardi’s before the matinee, remains rich (and comforting) in memory.

So yesterday morning, sitting in the Schoenfeld, looking up at the screen on the stage at a slide show of family pictures of Vincent (as everyone called him) from babyhood to his tenth decade was a kind of culmination for me. For as it happened, the kid who’d come to the Big City to see “Auntie Mame” and lunch at Sardi’s grew up, and in its thrall came to New York where he actually came to know Vincent Sardi, knew him as a professional, as member of a family, and knew him in his environment as a prominent, major character in the world of magic and grit and laughter known as the theatre.

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Photographs by DPC /NYSD