|An old checker cab as part of a photo shoot in the meatpacking district. 7:30 PM. Photo: JH.|
|Hot day in New York, Humid. Grey, overcast and sticky. I went down to lunch at the very cool Michael’s.
Michael’s was its Wednesday jammed. Joe Armstrong with producer Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman; Shubert’s Gerry Schoenfeld with Clive Gillinson (Sir Clive to you and me), the executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, formerly managing director (and cellist) of the London Symphony Orchestra. Next door was Herb Siegel with his pal Frank Gifford, and next to them were Dr. Gerry Imber, Andy Berger and Jerry della Femina. These guys meet every week and have for years and years, always at Michael’s, sometimes two, three, sometimes six or eight. All old friends. And next to them: Kathy Lee Gifford and her colleague Hoda Kotb. Also literary agent Ed Victor and Tim Hunt; next to me: Jolie Hunt lunching with an old pal. Next week Jolie and Joe Armstrong cross the Atlantic to visit Terry Allen Kramer and Nick Simunek at their villa in St. Tropez; quelle tragique, non? Next to them, producer Jon Hart and friends. In the bay: Giants owner Woody Johnson holding forth. Around the room Bonnie Timmerman and Richard Belzer; Esquire’s David Granger with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. At another, Wynton Marsalis with Michael Fricklag; Showtime’s Matt Blank; Nick Verbitsky and Jim Higgins; Jesse Kornbluth and Barbara O’Dair; Harry Benson and David Friend; Richard Johnson as his son Jack; Peter Price; Ed Blier and Peter Wolf; my guest: Gillian Miniter.
I’ve seen illusionists before. They all amaze me and I’m one of those who’s so astonished that I can’t evaluate or assess their expertise, unless they do something really unbelievable. He did one of the standard moves where he asked me to think of a card. I did: the Queen of Hearts. The next thing: he pulled it out of the deck. Then he asked me to write out my name on one side of the card, and the date on the other. I did.
Then he did a couple of “illusions” with Gillian. Then, finishing up, he remembered something in his wallet he meant to show me. Out comes the wallet, one of those large breast pocket folding ones. From it he extracted a white envelope, sealed tightly. He handed it to me and told me to open it, telling me there was something of mine in it. By now you’ve probably guessed what it was, but I had no idea: it was the Queen of Hearts card on which I’d written my name and the date.
Now, the guy never left my sight during our brief illusioning. Later, Loreal Sherman, Michael’s reception director told me JB Benn had removed her watch from her wrist (a leather strap type) without her even knowing it was gone until he later turned over a cup before her eyes under which was placed the watch. Amazing.
“Seeing is disbelieving,” is Mr. Benn’s motto. You can learn more by visiting his web site: www.jbbenn.com
Vaux-le-Vicomte may be the most famous chateau in France besides Versailles. Indeed, it is believed to have inspired the Versailles that exists today versus the Versailles that Louis XIV first began to expand from a hunting lodge to a King’s palace.
The history of the beginnings of Vaux-le-Vicomte is fairly well known but I will review it because it is so 17th romantic to this reader French history. Vaux was the creation of Nicolas Fouquet, the chief financial officer of the very young King Louis XIV who came to the throne at age five.
Between 1656 and 1661, they created this magnificent palace. It was, in the words of the present owner Count Patrice de Vogue, "a masterpiece of classical art, the apogee of grandeur and refinement ...."
In August of that year, Fouquet gave himself a kind of house-warming, a fete in honor of the young king (he was 25). Louis was impressed; so impressed that when his new trusted adviser Colbert planted the seeds of a embezzling Fouquet in the King’s mind, he decided to arrest Fouquet and throw him in jail. This happened less than a month after the grande fete du Roi.
Colbert had much to gain, and in fact, he did. After Fouquet was jailed, tried and sentence to life in prison, Colbert took over Fouquet’s responsibilities and kept them for most of the rest of his life until his death a quarter century later. At first Louis wanted Fouquet to be executed. His trials last for three years and he was sentenced to banishment. Louis added prison for life to that. So (now) poor Fouquet – who had financed his palatial chateau with family money – never saw his magnificent creation again. Meanwhile Louis went back to Versailles with the furniture he liked from Vaux and also with its creative minds – Le Notre, Le Brun and Le Vau – to make a magnificent palace of the hunting lodge. Which they did, as we know.
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