Thursday, March 29, 2007

Another beautiful spring day in New York

Walking past the Whitney Museum. 11:15 AM.
Another beautiful spring day in New York. Some of the buildings have planted blooming daffodils and other flowers in the beds around the trees.  Breakfast meeting at Via Quadronno, the very hip and delish panini place on East 73rd off Madison.

I went to Michael’s for lunch. It was packed. Tom Brokaw with wife Meredith and Ken Burns, Brad Grey; Jerry della Femina, Dr. Gerry Imber, Michael Kramer, Joel Siegal at their round table; Peter Brown with Patty Hambrecht; Herb Siegel, Alice Mason, Sherry Rollins, Peggy Siegal; Maurice DuBois with Jonathan Tisch, Gerry Byrne and Mrs. Gerry (Liz), Pamela Keogh and Liz McNeil, Susan Lyne with George GreenMonica Crowley with Victor Neufeld; Leslie Stevens with Gigi Glazer who has a new tv series coming “Starter Wife,” based on her book.
Top & left: The scene outside Via Quadronno. Above: Leslie Stevens and Gigi Glazer at Michael's.
Then last night I went down to the National Arts Club which was hosting a book discussion with Frederick and Vanessa Vreeland  and their now classic “Key to Rome” which Gore Vidal says is “Easily the handsomest and most useful guide to the city that likes to call itself eternal.”

Key to Rome
Mr. Vreeland, known as Frecky to his myriad international friends is one of two sons of Reed and Diana Vreeland. He had a long career as a U.S. diplomat in Rome. He and his wife Vanessa, a British artist, love Rome and put this guide together over period of more than two decades. It was a labor of love and now it’s the stuff of armchair travelers as well.

The Guide is separated into four sections – “Ancient,” “Christian,” “Renaissance and Baroque,” and”Shopping and the Grand Tour.” There is a comprehensive reference section at the back of the book detailing day trips of intrest, a guide to Italian food, the newest in specialty shops and boutiques, “Rome By Night,” and “Rome for Kids, as well as transportation facts, hotel and restaurant suggesetions. A friend gave me a copy the first time I traveled to Rome. Because it is a “travel guide,” I approached it from that point of view.  I finished it as a book about a place, past, long long ago, and today.
Frederick and Vanessa Vreeland
The Business of Being Olivia. Olivia Palermo is a very pretty young woman who grew up in Greenwich and New York.  She attends classes at the New School, has worked part time for Quest magazine, in which she’s appeared in fashion layouts, and recently was photographed in a fashion layout for the revived Radar magazine.

Olivia, fairly new on the scene, skyrocketed to prominence thanks to the phalanx of digital photographers present at every event. She has become a card carrying member of that group now called the New Socialites. 

What does that mean, New Socialites? Many members of the media call and ask: who are the New Socialites? “Socialite” that word has recently had a revival thanks to a couple of web sites which write about these girls you see in the party pictures over and over: Tinsley, Zani, Fabiola, Marisa, Arden, etc. There are a truckload (a Cadillac Escalade of course) of them. They go to all the parties where they are photographed non-stop.

Joanna Molloy of the Daily News’ Rush & Molloy called me yesterday morning asking what it takes to be one of the New Socialites ... My answer: a good pair of running shoes, preferably stilettos. To get yourself smack in front of the nearest digital. Whence all fashion freebies flow.

That’s it?” Molloy asked.

“Well maybe razor-sharp elbows to eliminate the competition on your way to your place in front of the camera lens.”

I was kidding of course. Sort of. Because the publicity these girls are garnering, while not unique, is directly the result of their proximity to those digitals, and really nothing else. Oh, looks. That’s a big help, although ... not always necessary. And the clothes, which now often come from the racks of some designer interested in promoting his shcmatte. Here and there a family name adds luster, but often the family name isn’t so lustrous or only made up. So yes, it’s the publicity.

The comparison to the “old” socialites, or the socialites of other decades (or even ten minutes ago) is inadequate. The “new” girls are far more temporary (have less “playing time”). They’re the Warholian 15 minuters.

Recently they’ve become the fodder for a few internet sites that purport to cover the social scene in Manhattan. These web sites, claim the social arbiter’s authority, and deal almost exclusively in the 20-somethings who go out every night (and are photographed). A good place to start. NYSD does some of it. 

The process has turned several of these girls into minor celebrities among their contemporaries.

Olivia Palermo is one of the newer ones on the New Socialite block. It’s easy to see why: she’s a very pretty girl, and  sweet -- that being her charm when you meet her. And if there’s an intellect , she’s left it back at the New School (where she’s majoring in History). What she is, besides being a beauty, is nice.

Envy makes the heart grow darker. Recently one of these “social” web sites chided Olivia for spending too much time at parties and not enough time in the classroom. Dear dear. Oh dear oh dear. Tsk-tsk.

This is the nature of a lot of  present day internet “journalism”: snark, to intrude its set of rules onto someone else, or pass judgment on everything from shoes to nail polish and assigning a moral equivalent to it. Except for Patrick McDonald who gets a free pass. It’s a trip to Bounty-less, witless items and mean.

Yesterday one of the web sites published an email said to have been written by Olivia, allegedly sent out to dozens of girls she knows. In it she laments that she’s been feeling ignored or unaccepted by them, and beseeching them all to ... please, please, please ... like her. “She” made a perfect fool of herself. It was an embarrassing epistle that of a teenage girl who’s not making it. But signed “Olivia.”

The “email” was read by thousands and commented on by scores, if not hundreds. They blasphemed Olivia Palermo’s vanity, sanity and inanity. You might have done the same had you read it. However, late yesterday afternoon Olivia Palermo let it be known that she had nothing to do with that email, had never written it or even thought to. It didn’t sound like her, that’s for sure.  She also said that if she were sending an email, she would have texted it off her cell using the 400 names she keeps on her cellphone directory.

So someone engaged in a little character-assassination, to amuse the congential bearers of ill-will.  It turned out to be just another aspect of the journalism of snark. The reader response to the “Olivia’s” email on one particular web site was enthusiastically condemning of the girl who DIDN’T write what she was said to have written. The socialite’s new life.