Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gathering Landmarks

2008 Living Landmarks: Barbara Goldsmith, Congressman Charlie Rangel, Charlie Rose, Osborn Elliott, Rosamond Bernier, Judy Collins, and Phyllis Newman.
11/5. Almost rainy day yesterday in New York. Until dark when it started coming down steadily, leaving the wet sidewalks and streets in the neighborhood pasted with yellow leaves. Beauty, especially with someplace warm to get to quickly.

At noontime at Le Cirque in their private dining room upstairs, Barbara de Portago held the third of her autumn lunches (for the past three Wednesdays) for her dozens of friends, new and old and then some.

Barbara’s mother, the late Florence Van der Kemp was, with her husband Gerald, the director of Versailles, a lifelong fundraiser for Versailles.

Barbara de Portago
The Van der Kemps lived at Versailles – in the apartments of Colbert, Louis XIV’s finance minister. Mr. Van der Kemp was credited for masterminding the restoration of the Sun King’s chateau. He also, during the Second World War, was responsible for “saving” the “Mona Lisa” from the Nazis.

Together, through the Versailles Foundation, the Van der Kemps – with Florence fundraising and Gerald restoring – and their inspirational influence, made Versailles what it is today with its original furniture and beautifully restored rooms and gardens.
After the couple retired they moved to Giverny and began the same process over again with Monet’s Gardens. Barbara, Florence’s daughter, is very much cut from the same cloth. Brought up under the influence so to speak, she continues to make it her business to raise funds for Versailles and for Giverny.

Fundraising is a business. Barbara is all business in her approach to things. Right down to the last detail. The reason for the fundraising is where the fun is. The result is the glamour and the scholarship, and the myriad dreams and daydreams that motivate millions of people every year to visit Versailles, or Giverny.

Many people associated with Barbara de Portago and her Versailles Giverny Foundations are also collectors or history buffs or are out to learn. Because Versailles is what it is -- one of the great wonders of the world -- it attracts a wide array of fascinating, fascinated and often wealthy people who have the means to help the restoration.

Barbara is a catalyst. Her luncheons are nothing but that. There are enough people who know each other and enough people who don’t know each other, which always makes it interesting.

At my table everyone was talking about the election. This group was decidedly happy about the outcome. I did talk to a man who was happy about the outcome but voted for McCain. Everyone loved Senator McCain’s concession speech. It was the McCain they all voted for. That’s what I was hearing.

The Le Cirque luncheon menu was excellent. After the first course our hostess stood up to address her friends. She’s a very good speechmaker. There’s a schoolmarm charm and quality to her delivery, as she saunters slowly around the room taking everyone in with her words.

The last time I saw her do this, she did ten minutes, in her mother’s memory, of how her mother hated men’s pants without a crease. An odd personal issue, but evidently true. And very funny in the telling.

Yesterday, however, Barbara was brief. She welcomed the assembled and told them that the word of the moment was “Nurture.” And that everyone should enjoy their wonderful luncheon and be nurtured. By Sirio Maccioni also.
Phyllis Kossoff and Nanette Ross Cathy Ingram and Jane Beasley
Cathleen Burke, Klaire Ahmad Taylor, and Madeleine Potvin Elizabeth Stribling and Elie Hirschfield
Marjorie Loeb and Robert Couturier Hillie Mahoney, Lucia Hwong Gordon, and Tinuola Naija
Paola Bacchini Rosenshein, Harriet Levine, and Marianne Kaufman Esther Herrero Gaffron and Susan Kamali
Renee Monnell Morrison Christopher Hyland and Sandra Jessee J. J. Cafaro
Liora Sternberg and Margo McNabb Nederlander Adrianne Silver, David Moyer, and Susan Sosin
Nancy O'Sullivan and Alice Schroeder Linda Lambert and Thierry Millerand
Marc de Gonthault Biron, Kassidy Schagrin, and Scott Holman III Joe Pacetti de'Medici and Francine LeFrak
David Ferguson and Sarah Gore Reeves Laura McCloy and Amelia Ogunlesi
Margo Langenberg Marjorie Rosen Dame Donna Solloway
Victoria Wyman and Sharon Handler Nahila Chianale and Sarah Wolfe
Constantino Castellano and Linda Cooper Whitney Wolfe and Cornelia Bregman
Gillian Spreckels Fuller, Madeleine Potvin, and Kari Tiedemann Stanley DeForest Scott and Cece Black
Leslie Eichner, John Heimann, and Ronnie Heyman Lilian Erdeljan and Count Eric de Saint-Seine
James Mellon and Janet Cafaro Diane von Amerongen and Deborah Schuster-Tanger
Last night at Cipriani 42nd Street, the New York Landmarks Conservancy held its Living Landmarks Celebration. This year’s “Living Landmarks” were Rosamond Bernier and John Russell, Judy Collins, Osborn Elliott, Barbara Goldsmith, Phyllis Newman, Congressman Charlie Rangel, and Charlie Rose.

Liz Smith, herself a “Living Landmark,” was emcee. Peter Duchin, another “Living Landmark” played, accompanied by his orchestra and Roberta Fabiano, his really fine vocalist.

This is one of those events that attracts the “doers” in the city, the people who in one way or another make New York the place it is. A lot of these people know each other, or have met or see each other out, or do business together. Many are famous and/or rich or prominent in their fields or professions.

Barbara Goldsmith, Peg Breen, and Frank Sciame
There’s a cocktail reception, a dinner. Liz gets up to begin the evening, presenting the presenter for each honoree. There’s a lot of talk. The talk, however, can be intriguing (Norman Mailer riffing on marriage, for example, as Liz recalled last night). The talk can be a song. Last night Liz sang verse and refrain of the Gershwins’ “Who Cares? ... If banks fail in Yonkers, as long as you’ve got a kiss that conquers ....” She’s not exactly Renee Fleming, or Merman or even Elaine Stritch but she’s a natural anyway, singing and talking the lyrics and updating some of the expressions so that she could bring in Mr. Obama and Mr. Bloomberg, etc.

Another thing, this year two of the honorees died a few weeks before the dinner – Osborn Elliott and John Russell, the distinguished art critic and journalist.

Inger Elliott spoke of her late husband. He had a long life and he had a gift for life. He was born and brought up in New York (he watched the building of the Chrysler Building from his bedroom window as a kid), both his parents and both sets of grandparents were born and bred New Yorkers too. So this was his town. He gloried in it. He was gracious and smart and full of cheer. Knowing the man even briefly you got all that in the first meeting. He was blessed. And he blessed the city with his talents and his grace.

Rosamond Bernier spoke of her husband’s
career and how much he loved his work. Judy Collins spoke about her early days living in the Village, playing there with Joan Baez and Bobby Dylan who was then singing Woody Guthrie songs. For a girl from Colorado, it took hold immediately and New York has been her home. She sang part of her speech – beginning with Both Sides Now, a capella, in its entirety, with perfect pitch. The audience was in awe. This was followed shortly thereafter with Amazing Grace and We Shall Overcome, all a capella. With that Judy Collins voice that needs no orchestration (as she demonstrated last night, thrilling everyone with her pure sounds), nothing more was needed.
Phyllis Newman, Arnold Scaasi, Judy Collins, Liz Smith, and Carolyn Maloney
Barbara Goldsmith is a New York girl also. Besides her illustrious career as a writer and historian, she’s also devoted a great deal of time in raising funds and raising consciousness about preserving books. She also serves on PEN where her foundation awards a prize every year, helping writers around the world in dealing with political harassment, imprisonment and worse. Barbara, twice married, mother, grandmother, author, lecturer, screenwriter, philanthropist, who also finds time to share with friends, to entertain, to be with her family, exemplifies what is remarkable about New York and its “Living Landmarks.”

Charlie Rose possesses his own place
in New York that is oddly without peer. I say oddly because there are others, many others, who conduct interviews on television. There are others who are more famous and undoubtedly earn larger salaries. But nobody else is Charlie Rose. New Yorkers, and especially these “Living Landmark” New Yorkers love him. To be his guest is the media equivalent of an invitation to dine at Mrs. Astor’s table. A Southern boy from North Carolina, he said that New York has the greatest concentration of talent of any place on earth.

Phyllis Newman was introduced by Lauren Bacall
who is an old friend. Miss Bacall, who can get thorny at the drop of a hat, remains with that voice that beckoned an army of the besotted and the enthralled for decades. She spoke of Ms. Newman in loving and admiring phrases. They are obviously good pals and Phyllis Newman is someone Lauren Bacall really values as a friend.
Rosamond Bernier, Beth DeWoody, and Barbara Goldsmith Peg Breen and Father Tom Pike
Then Ms. Newman got up and said that her favorite landmark was the Chrysler Building and that she even had a picture of it on the silk taffeta cravat/tie she was wearing which was created for her by fashion designer Cho Cheng. She then proceeded to read her speech of thanks. She thanked her children, her friends, her fellow actors, her voice teacher, her therapist, her manicurist, her hairdresser, her dog, her dog’s vet, her Pilates guy, her dermatologist, her colorist, her pharmacolgist, her plumber, her cable repairman ... You had to be there. Hilarious. Besides being a good friend, and a very industrious person, and very actively charitable, Phyllis Newman is also good for the laugh. Everyone wins.

Charlie Rangel needs no explanation.
You can hear that voice in your mind’s ear, right? He talked a bit longer than the others and said it was because he was a politician. He thanked Billy Rudin who presented him, and Bill’s father Lewis Rudin, for whom the Award is named. Lewis Rudin was also a “Living Landmark,” and a great New Yorker.

These people love New York. The people gathered at Cipriani last night love New York. They’re addicted to New York. New York is them. Are them. The money raised last night helps the cause of restoring, preserving, protecting and maintaining New York of then which gives the fiber and texture to New York of Now.
Sharon Hoge and Alexandra Schlesinger Parker Ladd and Arnold Scaasi Enid Nemy
Pat Schoenfeld, Giancarla Berti, and Marva Griffin Freddie Eberstadt, Mary McFadden, and Marc de Bary
Phyllis Newman Charlie Rose Buddy Stallings, Vicar of St. Barts with Mildred Brinn
Pat Patterson and Gay Talese Louis Nelson, Nan Talese, Judy Collins, and Gay Talese
Melva Bucksbaum, Barbara Goldsmith, and Ray Learsy Charles Stevenson and Duane Hampton Lauren Bacall
Inger Elliott and Nicholas Platt Martin Siegel with Mimi and Howard Rubenstein
Barbara and Donald Tober Sylvester and Gillian Miniter Ellery Gordon, Giosetta Capriati, and Marjorie Reed Gordon

Photographs by DPC & Ann Watt (Landmarks)
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