Thursday, June 26, 2008

Manhattan Serenade

View of West 57th Street looking west at sunset over the Hudson last night at 8:30. Photo: DPC.
Yesterday in New York, sunny summery day, bright and fair, crowds of tourists along Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. I went down to Michael’s.

You see so many famous faces and familiar faces at Michael’s but sometimes there is an added drama, mainly imagined, but nevertheless resonating.

Monday, for example, as I was taking my table with my guest Yanna Avis, I noticed at the table across the way was a woman, with long blonde hair, whom I could only see from the back; and who looked, I guessed, on the younger side. She was leaning into her lunch partner, so as to speak quietly and confidentially; least compared to her male lunch partner who was listening raptly (it looked like she was doing the talking), none other than Henry Kissinger.

Now, no matter what you think of Henry Kissinger, no matter what you know about Henry Kissinger, no matter how you feel about Henry Kissinger; Henry Kissinger is a bonafide historical character, standing right there before your eyes. Period; plain and simple.

Henry Kissinger
This is a man whose thoughts have moved mountains (or armies at least) and god knows what else in his post-diplomatic subsequent days in private life. When Henry Kissinger was in his prime during the days of Nixon and Ford, the name Metternich was often offered up as a comparison to this late 20th figure. Hyperbolic or not, the notions of such stature continue to tweak the imagination of his followers.

And then there’s that rolling, craggy countenance, the glasses, and the voice you may be too far from earshot but one you can hear in your ears’ memory just watching his lips move.

And he’s a busy man, with the tycoons and heads of state and power brokers beating a path to his door of Platinum Advice.

So there was this blonde…. And don’t think there were others in the room thinking just that.

Furthermore the young blonde woman was Patricia Duff, one of the most likeable, most enigmatic, controversial, prominent women in New York.

Furthermore, the New York Post was carrying an article on this same day (Monday) reporting that her ex-husband Ron Perelman had gone to court with their 13-year-old daughter who complains that there is verbal abuse going on between mother and daughter. Who’s thirteen. And she doesn’t wanna go home to mom.

Ever hear of such a thing, all you dads, and especially you moms out there? She wants to live with dad and her half-sister, daughter of the late Claudia Cohen.

Far be it for me to judge although you can easily imagine that living with this dad would be pretty cool. You were once thirteen, right? And this particular dad gets around, really gets around. He dates young, hip beauties, even marries movie stars. He lives like an emperor Hollywood producer. He entertains at the Waverly and other nightspots into the wee hours with a bevy of the boldfaced, the bold and the beautiful. Rock stars scrape and bow. Politicians genuflect. Would a thirteen-year-old like that? Wouldn’t you?

After all, this is better than Gossip Girls. Mr. Perelman with his mansions, yachts, private jets and movie stars and famous models keeping the seats warm.
Jolie Hunt getting a shoulder massage
from Billy, the surfer-waiter at Michael's
Somers Farkas, Felicia Taylor, Terry Allen Kramer, and Jolie Hunt
And for thirteen-year-old girls who go to boring old oh-puh-leeze private schools in New York (even the public ones) and have everything including parents who can’t stop bickering just like…well, thirteen-year-olds just want to be happy. And can you blame them?

Meanwhile, back at Michael’s on Monday, this reporter would have liked to have been a fly on the wall just to hear what the beautiful Ms. Duff was saying to the most famous (and most controversial) Secretary of State of the last half of the 20th century.

It was was a tete-a-tete with few interruptions (Lesley Stahl saying hello, excepted), a couple others pay homage. It was obviously some kind of business lunch. Ms. Duff is in the business of political consciousness-raising and promotion. To others she’s a natural born seductress too. She’s been at it for many years, all the way back to Los Angeles when she was married to producer Mike Medavoy. The politics, I mean.

There were probably few people in the dining room who hadn’t caught a glimpse of their famous neighbors deep in conversation; and even fewer who hadn’t seen the article in the Post that morning.

I remember growing up with my parents in what seemed like a constant state of marital, domestic disagreement, frustration and occasional volcanic eruptions. When things quieted down my mother was always concerned (at least in passing) about “what the neighbors think.” Long long after I’d grown up did I realize that the neighbors weren’t thinking. Much, if anything.
Andre Leon Talley and Melania Trump
Peter Rogers, Andre Leon Talley, and DPC
However, I take that all back for a moment. The camera’s eye in Michael’s on Monday lunchtime (no, I didn’t take a picture) was watching a movie at the table across the way. The Beauty and the Pasha. We’re all thirteen-year-olds, after all.

Yesterday was Wednesdays at Michael’s. Another big crowd. Tycoons, agents, promoters, producers, journalists, media executives. It so happened that my lunch partner and I both showed up in seersucker jackets, and a few minutes later in comes Andre Leon Talley (with Melania Trump) also in seersucker. This was the big drama for Wednesday. Not much of a movie though.

Beautiful last night in New York. First stop Georgette Mosbacher’s cocktail reception to celebrate the publication of Man of the People: The Maverick Life and Career of John McCain by Paul Alexander. Six to seven-thirty.

The evening sun was setting in the west over avenue. The Mosbacher shades on the 12-foot windows were drawn but the light filled the room, giving it an extra sheen and softness.
Georgette Mosbacher and Paul Alexander
Lyn Paulsin
The author was there. I took a picture of Jolie Hunt and Cat Buckley. Ms. Buckley is the daughter of Ms. Hunt’s Main Personal Interest, Christopher Buckley and grand-daughter of the late Pat and Bill Buckley. She has her father’s sunny countenance and her grandfather’s quick wit, albeit presented with her grandmother’s divine grace.

I left the Mosbacher-Alexander party having learned that this was the last party our hostess was giving until the Fall. Her sister and co-host Lyn Paulsin told me they were sending out all the furniture to be cleaned, recovered, whatnot. These rooms see a lot of social activity over the course of the year. And where will our flame-tressed hostess be? Probably in the Adriatic on board some yacht, with cellphone running her cosmetics empire back in the States.
Lally Weymouth and Somers Farkas
Jolie Hunt and Cat Buckley
Christopher Buckley and Maria Cooper Janis
Scenes from the Mosbacher apartment.
On to the Manhattan Serenade Penthouse of Hilary and Wilbur Ross where they were hosting a book party for Harry Benson and his new photographic journal of traveling with Bobby Kennedy in what turned to be the last days of his Presidential nomination campaign in June 1968. Harry was present at that fateful moment and subsequently took some of the most famously gruesome and tragic photographs of the senator’s last moments on the kitchen floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, having just been shot by Sirhan Sirhan.

The book is called R.F.K.: A Photographer’s Journal. For those of us who were alive in the time of Bobby Kennedy and who remember the “passion” that he evoked so powerufully -- far more than they’d felt for his brother Jack when he lived – this is a haunting photo-memoir.

Harry Benson has an eye that sometimes is so intimate that you could almost think he staged his shots. But I think it’s the other way around. As my colleague JH, with the photographer’s eye has said of Harry: “You don’t see the photographer in his pictures.”
Carriages waiting for their "twilight" ride through the Park, on Central Park South last night at 7:45 pm.
This journal with Bobby Kennedy at the source and center will amaze you at how young the man was. He looked like a kid. I think he had nine or ten kids already with Ethel, he’d run his brother’s Presidential campaign, served as his Attorney General and adviser, did the same for Lyndon Johnson, courted controversy (and accusations of carpetbagging) when he first ran for Senator from New York (people thought of the Kennedys as being from Massachusetts – which was only partly true).

You’re left with the inevitable question: what might our world have been like if Bobby Kennedy had lived. He was a scrapper and had a reputation with the people for being a good judge. True or not, that was his highly romantic public image. It was very powerful; he was very powerful.
Carnegie Hall at 8 p.m.
Meanwhile back at the penthouse up in the sky. The Rosses own a famous New York apartment, once the home of a man named Earl Blackwell, a press agent (circa 1950 – 1980) who raised his art to chic penthouse status and who entertained the smart set, the industrialists, the movie stars and the advertising hucksters in his palatial space with a ballroom that now serves as the Ross’ living (as decorated by Mario Buatta).

Everybody always talks about that “ballroom” when they refer to the apartment. But last night it was the Terrace where everybody wanted to be. A simply gorgeous twilight in Manhattan, with the Park up to the North, the Great White Way just blocks down to the South, the Sun setting over the Hudson and the East Side tower beginning to light up.
From the terrace, looking east on 57th Street; looking south down toward Broadway and the Great White Way.
From the terrace looking north to the Park, Central Park West, and the upper West Side, 8:30 pm
Plus a fully stocked bar including champagne and the chilled Ott and mountains (served in small arrangements) of hors d’oeuvres.

Probably not what a thirteen year old would have found interesting, but then that’s the good thing about growing up: you can really see how beautiful things can be, even if only for a moment.
The Ross livingroom, the former fabled ballroom of Earl Blackwell
Brad Collins, Joanne de Guardiola, and Amy Fine Collins
Mr. Benson, center, and his fans (and book promoters), Ann Dexter Jones and Woody Johnson (click to order).
Wilbur Ross and Jamee Gregory
Annette Tapert and Chris Meigher
Carole Guest and Barbie Bancroft
Ann Downey and Mario Buatta
Gayle Atkins
Sharon Sondes and Geoffrey Thomas
Annabelle Jones and Ann Dexter Jones
Roberto de Guardiola, Mario Nievera, Joanne de Guardiola, Hilary Geary, and Sharon Sondes
Mona de Sayve and Anthony Baker
Joni Evans and Bob Perkins
Adrienne Vittadini
Jack Carly with his wife Pia Lindstrom and Jamie Figg

CLICK here to subscribe to our mailing list.