Thursday, January 24, 2008

Birthday Nights

Looking south in Central Park towards the warm glow of the Plaza. 5:30 PM. Photo: JH.
An Alberta Clipper, the weatherman calls it, moving our way from way out West, maybe snow showers, maybe snow, but definitely fuh-uh-uh-reezing cold.

In New York on Wednesday, that quiet I mentioned about Tuesday went away and the streets of Manhattan were jammed and gridlocked once again, just like old times.  Down at Michael’s the place was jumping and full-up. The beautiful and intrepid journalist Phoebe Eaton, just back from South America where was getting lessons in polo (oh really?); at the center table in the bay, Joe Armstrong, Sharon Hoge, Chris Buckley, Maurie Perl and Michael Clurman were holding their annual Shirley Clurman Memorial Luncheon.

Mrs. Clurman, who was Michael Clurman’s mother, passed away about ten years ago and had stipulated that she didn’t want a memorial, so a bunch of her adoring friends met for lunch and started this annual occasion. Mrs. Clurman and her husband Richard (who was head of correspondents for Time) had a famous (among the famous) media salon in New York. They were members of that club of top media players in New York and brought more than one generation of them together at their salons. They ran with the Henry Luces, introduced Harry and Tina Brown to New York, and made a point of helping young journalists. Mrs. Clurman herself worked in editorial at Time, then at ABC News and 20/20. Missing today from the regular group was Jean Halberstam who is traveling in India, and Tina Brown who was in London.

At the next table over: PR executive Richard Rubenstein; literary agent Esther Newberg with Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa of the Food Network; Pamela Keogh passing out Obama buttons, with James Curtis; Lynn Goldberg with  Joan Gelman; Jack Kliger; CNBC’s Jonathan Wald with Newsweek’sJohnnie Roberts; bi-coastal hotel exec Frank Bowling (Carlyle, Bel Air, Peninsula); Dr. Gerry Imber and his pals luncheon (these guys have been meeting weekly for the past quarter century) including Michael Kramer and Jerry Della Femina; Kathie Lee Gifford and Lisa Dallos with Eduardo Verastegui; Emmys honcho Peter Price; Cindi Leive with Dave Zinczenko; Chris Meigher with Mrs. Andrew Heiskell and former LIFE publisher Charles Whittingham; Fern Mallis getting ready for Fashion Week; Donna Player of Veranda: Leslie Moonves, Josh Harlan with Todd Meister; David Schiff and a cast of what seems like thousands. 

I was lunching with Ron Mwangaguhunga, American journalist/blogger (contributor to mediabistro.com) who hails from Uganda but has an American political commentator’s passion for the scene, particularly at this moment, the Presidential campaign scene. Check out his blog, called The Corsair.
Alexandra Peterson and William Cart
Upper East Side Last Night. Paige Peterson and Chris Cerf hosted a birthday party for Paige’s daughter Alexandra Peterson whose birthday is June 15th but she was away in Buenos Aires on a special study program when the big day came and went, and so ... last night’s event was held at Chris Cerf’s townhouse.

Guests included the birthday girl’s friends, her parents (father David Peterson), and family friends, many of whom have known her most of, if not all of her life. This was a family affair, even for those of us who aren’t family, and included her paternal grandmother Sally Peterson and her husband literary agent Michael Carlisle (her paternal gramp, Pete Peterson wasn’t able to make it), her brother Peter Cary Peterson.
Sky-diving girl in the Anthony Asbury video of her life.
Some of Chris Cerf's Emmys and Grammys.
One of the guests, Doug Leeds told us how as a lifelong New Yorker, “21” used to have a tradition for its clientele, that when a new child was born, the parents could purchase a wine commemorating the occasion and it would be stored in “21’s” wine cellar until the child reached his or her majority, at which point there would be a birthday party at the restaurant and they’d break out the 21-year-old vintage. This program has been discontinued but it inspired Mr. Leeds to present the birthday girl with a vintage that was bottled in 1986, marking Alexandra’s 21 years.

Alexandra graduates from Middlebury in June of this year. In the meantime she’s been working as an intern for Diane Sawyer on ABC’s Good Morning America. When she completes her studies, she’ll be coming back to New York to work for the Council on Foreign Relations.
The birthday gang breaks into Sugar Pie Honeybunch with Chris Cerf on the ivories.
After the first course guests were treated to a video of the life of Alexandra, from birth to the present. The Petersons (who are now divorced) have always had a large extended family of actual family and friends, so there was lots to look at. The video was created by actor/documentarian Anthony Asbury (of mydocumemories.com) who is currently working with Chris Cerf on a new children series for PBS called “Lomax, The Hound of Music,” an educational show for pre-schoolers.

Mr. Cerf is an author, composer/lyricist and record and television producer. He is well known for his musical contributions to Sesame Street and for co-creating and co-producing the PBS program Between the Lions. He’s won at least two Grammys and three Emmys for his songwriting and musical production. And in fact, part of the treat of having a party at his house is that before the night is over, Chris takes to the piano and the guests get up to sing rock-and-roll. Last night was no exception as this tiny clip shows.
Joe Armstrong, Alexandra Peterson, and Chris Cerf
Doug Leeds telling us about the 21-year-old bottle of wine with John Hirschfeld looking on
Peter Cary and his grandmother Dr. Sally Peterson (Mrs. Michael Carlisle)
Mother and daughter congratulate birthday documentary maker Anthony Asbury
Dr. Sally Peterson and Dr. Doug Steinbrecht
Parents David and Paige Peterson with Alexandra and Peter Cary
The table settings
Gordon Travers, Nancy Collins, Joan Jakobson, Michael Carlisle, and John Jakobson