Thursday, November 29, 2007

Walk up the avenue

More Autumn foliage within Central Park. 2:00 PM. Photo: JH.
A beautiful early evening in New York. The air was nippy and brisk but not too cold.

At six I went down to a private club on Park Avenue where Tina Brown was going to lecture on her best-selling “The Diana Chronicles. The streets and avenue were jammed with people leaving their offices. There’s nothing leisurely about this hour in New York; everyone’s got someplace to go, even if it’s the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis. 

I was there to “introduce” Ms. Brown to the audience who were there also to support the National Hypertension Association. The organization is involved in combating hypertension (high blood pressure) and the Obesity Crisis in the United States. NHA performs hypertension research, education, detection.

Tina Brown speaking before supporters of the National Hypertension Association about the subject of her new book, Diana, Princess of Wales.
NHA was founded 30 years ago by Dr. William Manger who is current chairman. Dr. Manger is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at NYU Medical Center.

He has written and coauthored five medical books and more than 220 scientific publications, mostly on high blood pressure. His most recent research is directed at determining how potassium prevents stroke. He recently founded the VITAL (Values Initiative Teaching About Lifestyle) program to combat in children. Dr. Manger, who is also a prominent member of the Manhattan and Southampton communities, was there last night, as was his wife and his three sons.

About a quarter of all Americans have hypertension. A third of them don’t even know they have it. It’s chronic and it’s a major contributor to cardio-vascular disease – stroke, heart attack, heart and kidney failure and hardening of the arties. It kills and even if it doesn’t, it’s costly. About 60% of hypertensives are salt sensitive – that is excess salt increases their blood pressure. Sixty-six percent of all Americans are overweight (66%) and 31% are obese. We have the fattest population in the world. Obesity is such a problem that it may bankrupt the health system.

Is this a bore? Of course it is. But not as much of a bore as a heart attack, or a stroke or diabetes or life as an invalid. The problem is making this clear especially to the cloudy ones out there who tend to make jokes or protests about the matter to ameliorate their own difficulties with the matter.

Enough of that. The evening at this club where Tina Brown was speaking raised money for the cause through the sale of tickets. And they got a pretty good crowd. I’d say about 250.

I was asked to introduce her for reasons that are unclear to me. I do know Ms. Brown, although not well. I’ve followed her career since she first started getting attention in the media. She is famous in certain circles, namely the ones that are the most famous, where fame resides by the bushel – the media, the world of entertainment, politics and publishing.

When she was editor of Vanity Fair and later the New Yorker, she was without peer in her business. She has the ability, as an editor, to amaze and astonish, as well as shock and amuse. It’s a strong dose of show business grafted onto a lively intellect.

Click cover to order
I’d heard great deal about her in her early days at Conde Nast. Not all of it was complimentary. It wasn’t so much that she sounded like a slave driver as that she was simply, quite naturally very intense. Driven is another word. Ambitious is another word. A very smart friend of mine who knows her well told me she is a “genius.” He wasn’t kidding. And a hard hard worker.

The first time I saw her, in those early days at VF, in the mid-1980s, a friend invited me to one of their cocktail parties one night. I went because I wanted to see what this Tina Brown character looked like. It was a pretty big crowd but I couldn’t spot any woman glowing in charisma, surrounded by fans and friends, etc. Finally I asked my friend to point her out. My friend gestured to a plainly dressed young woman with a short haircut walking through the crowd across the room. I’d already noticed that woman who seemed to be all over the place tending to everything, like someone’s very diligent assistant. For some reason my imagination had created some kind of intellectual Diana Vreeland. Instead I got a very English-looking, professional woman who who had a distant look in her eye, as if she were contemplating what else she had to tend to.

I have not read the “Diana Chronicles.” Yet. I know a lot of people who have. It is very popular. Many like it very much; others are not so sure. It’s not the book, it’s Diana. She, even her spirit, has the ability to provoke controversy. I see Diana as a Shakespearean character in a world where politics and families are the nesting places for the conspiratorial among us.

So last night was my first opportunity to hear the author talk about Diana, the princess. Two things: it was very compelling, and Tina Brown’s talking about it was just as compelling as the story itself. Just like all those pieces in Vanity Fair and the New Yorker that you couldn’t stop reading. It was also true that the poor Diana had a great power to reckon with, even within herself. Tina Brown’s lecture about it confirmed that the character is Shakespearean. And we’re all players on that stage.

So I left the clubhouse trying to take in all the world around me. Park Avenue’s office office along with its commanding  sisters (like the Citicorp Tower) on the next avenue, were brilliant with light against the inky smokey night sky at that hour. I was headed north and had some time so I decided towalk over to Fifth Avenue since I knew they were lighting the tree at Rockefeller Center. I wasn’t going near it but I was curious to see if the crowds had begun to gather in that area. They had.
The lighted trees on the Fifth Avenue Trump Tower.
A GREEN window display at Barney's.
I went on up the avenue. Harry Winston was having some kind of a cocktail reception. I got a shot of the trees all it on the terraces of Donald Trump’s building where Gucci is getting ready to move in on the ground floor corner.  Next door there was a line, like a movie, out in front of Tiffany where Sprint (according to the banners) was having a party. One block up there was another party at Bergdorf’s. On the first floor, the very chic Carolina Herrera was leaning over a case of leather goods and jeweled accessories, looking with great interest. I walked over by the Apple cube with its crowds sitting outside on the plaza, chatting with friends or on their cells, or having a cigarette and taking the world in.

I went over to Madison. Passing Barney’s, I took some shots of the windows. This year’s season is GREEN and the displays intriguing, beautiful, amusing and just a little off the beaten path of retailing convention. Farther up the avenue I passed Daum where a cocktail party was going on behind their glass doors. And the newly opened Leviev, also entertaining the beguiled troops.
Another Green window at Barney's.
Julie's Artisan Gallery.
Clockwise from above: The Pilar Rossi window; Roger Vivier's purple feathers heels; Roger Vivier's slightly more sedate holiday offerings with handbag.
A couple blocks up I passed a little sliver of a place called Julie’s Artisan Gallery stenciled on the door, with some wild looking, but beautiful garments in a tiny window. I took a picture. Just a few doors up, past La Goulue, I came upon Roger Vivier, its window brightly lit. A pair of women’s shoes caught my eye: they looked like heels covered in big bright purple chicken feathers. I have a friend out in Montecito who has fancy hens who have feet like that. Very cool; I took the picture. Then I took a picture of the other side of the display which were very expensive looking conventional shoes.

Then across the street and another block up, I saw the black and white sparkling number in the window of Pilar Rossi. I thought of all the girls in this part of town who’d be dressing up for the holiday parties that are only a couple of weeks away at most.

From there it was on to the Nathan Bernstein Gallery
at 21 East 65 Street and a new show “Empty Nest,” portraits of children (“The Changing Face of Childhood in Art 1880 to the Present”).  The show was curated by Lowell Pettit. Michael of Michael’s was there with his wife Kim who has a portrait in the show (I photographed them by it). This is a beautiful show. The exhibition runs through February.
Nathan Bernstein next to Jill Greenberg's Grand Old Party, 2005
Michael and Kim McCarty next to Kim's Untitled (green boy, seated), 2007
Lowell Pettit, curator of the exhibition, next to Junge Mit Ball, 1917-1919, Hermann Max Pechstein
Sonja Morgan and Adlin Tuchman
Maurice Tuchman and Dana Hammond Stubgen
Katharina Otto-Bernstein
From Empty Nest, portraits of children (“The Changing Face of Childhood in Art 1880 to the Present”) at Nathan Bernstein Gallery.
Meanwhile, the night before last (I got distracted with yesterday’s Diary by the breaking news in the Astor case), I started out at Treillage, the shop belonging to Bunny Williams and John Rosselli at 418 East 75th Street.

Their friend, the artist Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff was having a booksigning for his “Homage, Encounters With the East,” a volume of drawings and water colors done by the artist on his journeys through the Far East.

This is a beautiful book, perfect for anyone who loves the East and India. Among the friends attending were Judy Auchincloss, Annette de la Renta, Jean Harvey Vandebilt, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Vanderbilt, Ashton Hawkins, Barrett Freylinghuysen, Alexandra Golinkin, Bobo Legendre, Andre Bishop and Peter Manning, Billy and Kathy Rayner, Sydney Shuman, John Yunis, Ellen Sweeney and Tim Lovejoy (the artist’s partner, also an artist, who made the journey with him and worked alongside him).
Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff with his book Homage and a drawing from the book. Click images above to order.
Some of the drawings and water colors published in Homage.
Leaving Treillage, I went down to Carnegie Hall for a concert and a dinner. “Music for Medicine” was the 11th annual benefit concert for the Salzburg Weill Cornell Seminars of the Open Medical Institute. Doctors Helping Doctors – Medical Education without Borders. The evening was presented by the American Austrian Foundation.

I love going to Carnegie Hall not just for the music but for what the hall represents in my imagination. It was completed in 1890. The cost of the property and construction came to $1,156,000 and was funded entirely by Andrew Carnegie. He was motivated by his wife Louise who was a singer and a friend of conductor Walter Damrosch whose orchestra would play there. The hall was the realization of Damrosch’s father Leopold, who died before it was built. The Damrosches in those days were considered one of America’s foremost families of musicians.

The concert hall opened with a five day Music Festival on May 5, 1890. The now immortal Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky came from Russia to conduct his own music. In the beginning it was known as Music Hall. It quickly became Carnegie’s Music Hall and by 1894, Carnegie Hall.
Some of the memorable posters from Carnegie’s illustrious history.
The concert on Tuesday night was performed by members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra: Ernst Ottensamer, Clarinet; Eckhard Seifert, Violin; Clemens Hellsberg, Violin; Elmar Landerer, Viola; Gerhard Iberer, Violincello. They performed two pieces by Mozart: Divertimento in E-flat major and Clarinet Quintet (Stadler-Quintett). These musicians donated their time and talents to support the efforts of Doctors Helping Doctors.

After the concert, the guests gathered in the Rohatyn Room for dinner. I got up there before almost everyone else to photograph some of the memorable posters from Carnegie’s illustrious history. Soon, however, the place filled up. Daisy Soros introduced me to Wolfgang Aulitzky, MD who founded the organization. Among other things, Dr. Aulitzky is a practicing urologist. 

The organization that he created stages semiars (The Salzburg Weill Cornell Seminars). The idea is another variation of Doctors without Borders.
More memorable posters.
Dr. Aulitzsky told me he was motivated, after the breakup of the Soviet Union to do something about bringing its Russian medical community and students out of the dark ages and into the world of technology. The first year of their meetings and conferences, the young doctors from the old Soviet satellites would bring their thoughts and illustrations on pieces of cardboard or paper. Everything they had seemed to be primitive. Today, Dr. Aulitzsky said, those doctors from the former Soviet Union are equipped with all the latest technological equipments and now are contributing forces. Because of Doctors Helping Doctors, American and European doctors are educating the world and going into countries which are way behind in the process, improving medical treatment everywhere they go.

Tuesday night they raised more than $1 million for the organization. The vast majority of the guests on this night were doctors and their spouses. At my table, there was a doctor and spouse who both were doctor and spouse (him and her).  Parties where there are many doctors in attendance also bring out a certain kind of individual who is interested in supporting medical research. It is a very special kind of philanthropy and it is safe to say it is one of the few fields of philanthropy where contributors are in awe of and have deep respect for the medical profession. Doctors, generally speaking, have intense professions and work very hard and often under very stressful circumstances. But they’re into it, and so are their supporters.

Among those supporters last night were Ambassador William Vanden Heuvel and his wife Melinda, Marife Hernandez and Joel Bell, Diahn and Tom McGrath, George Soros, Sandy and Joan Weill, Vera and Donald Blinken, Daisy and Paul Soros, Stephanie Stokes, Martha Bograd, Alexander and Nancy Auersperg, Saundra Whitney and Paul Wallace, Mitzi Perdue, Elihu and Susan Rose, Gerhard Andlingder, Charles Gargano with Kelly Knight, and Donald and Barbara Tober.
George Soros with Vera and Donald Blinken
Marsha Malinowski and John Joseph Finan III
Tom McGrath and Charles Gargano
Charles Gargano and Kelly Knight
Diahn McGrath
Mitzi Perdue, Paul Wallace, and Saundra Whitney
Stephanie Stokes and Dr. Michael Stewart
Joel Bell and Dr. Kimberly Sippel
Katherine Eltz-Aulitzky, Dr. Wolfgang Aulitzky, ad Daisy Soros
Mrs. and Dr. Stephen Corwin
Dr. Stephen Corwin, Marife Hernandez, and Dr. Donald D'Amico

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