Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Money, Midases, and the Morning After

William Hurt, Glenn Close, Mary Kay Place, JoBeth Williams, and Jeff Goldblum breakfasting yesterday morning at Michael's.
9.9.08. Michael’s in the morning. Recognize these people? Nick, Sarah, Meg, Karen and Harold. Or: William Hurt, Glenn Close, Mary Kay Place, JoBeth Williams and Jeff Goldblum. I’m not sure why they were all meeting for breakfast (and looking well rested to boot) at Michael’s yesterday, except it was also three weeks to the day from the 25th anniversary of the release of their film “The Big Chill.”

They were the Hollywood version of the boomer generation. This was the generation that stood up against the war in Viet Nam. This was the generation that carried out the credo of Women’s Liberation, of Gay Liberation, of Be Here Now and Do Your Own Thing. This was the most privileged (and educated generation in American history). This was the generation of change. Or so we thought.
The cast of "The Big Chill" minus one. There was another player -- the reason "they" all gathered together -- for the memorial of their friend who had killed himself. He was never seen in the picture but he was originally played by an unknown actor named Kevin Costner. He made a brief appearance that ended up on the cutting room floor.
The film was emblematic of the generation and the age. I’ll bet that many readers on first seeing that photograph were full of fondness and bittersweet nostalgia for what seems in retrospect like much much better times. Youth can always promise that, although it’s usually only delivered in retrospect.

This was the first generation of real eternal youth. Look at Bill Hurt. If he still had a full head of hair he’d look maybe a few years older. Glenn Close still looks ... exactly like Glenn Close. Place and Williams? They just look chicer. And Mr. Goldblum went from geek to handsome; cudda been worse, no?
William Hurt, Tom Bergenger, Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Kline (back to camera), JoBeth Williams, and Mary Kay Place in a scene from "The Big Chill."
Looking them over and thinking about that film, I am reminded of Oscar Wilde’s remark, “I’m not young enough to know everything.” The film’s story takes place just at that moment when the characters were just about to learn that. Its denouement, as I recall, resolved nothing other than the mark of discovery.

Twenty-five years later, its anniversary is marked on the day the Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, announced that Freddie Mae and Fannie Mae would be bailed out by the United States Government – thanks to the US Taxpayer. Youth is gone now for the boomers. At least from our faces, if not our hearts. And so too is the innocence. What does remain are all those foibles of that got us here; youth’s bequest.
The Black Witch Moth -- with almost a six inch wingspan, as photographed on the doorway to Michael's yesterday morning.
And while we’re on the subject. Evidently one of the Big Apple’s biggest boomer princes has left hearth and home and the abandoned wife is distrauight. Elsewhere in that royal orbit are rumors about prince and a new princess. A real one. A real American one, that is. Could be just rumors; you never know. Until you do.

Life’s a movie and who needs a DVD. I couldn’t resist this. Down in Palm Beach where life’s a holiday for a good number of its citizenry, the subject is ... guess what? ... taxes! In this case, it’s real estate taxes on property that’s all prime and no subbing around.

Augustus Mayhew
reports in the Palm Beach Daily News that three of the town’s oceanfront billionaires are paying residential property taxes in excess of one million bucks a year. The guy who paid $95 million for Donald Trump’s Oceanside palace “Maison d’Amitie,” Dmitry Rybolovlev will be paying $1.1 million in property taxes this year.
Dimitry Rybolovlev's on North County, purchased this year from Donald Trump for about $125 million: $1.1 million a year in taxes.
Nelson Peltz: more than $1.6 mill for his spread (called “Montsorrel”) of 7.4 acres plus palace. And just south of the Bath and Tennis, right just next door to Terry Allen Kramer and Nick Simunek’s 45,000 square foot beachfront palazzo, is Casa Apava, owned by Dwight Schar. Mr. Schar bought the place four years ago from Ron Perelman for $90 million. His tax this year: $1.005 mill. Ker-plunk.
Nelson Peltz house on South County; biggest private residental property tax payer in Palm Beach.
There are others. Henry Kravis’s house which he bought two years ago on North Lake Way for $50 million: $917,400.

And hair-care tycoon Sydell Miller on South Ocean: $825,000. John Thornton, former Goldman Sachs biggie: $537,000. His neighbor, who just bought the Lindemann’s Bali Hai Blossom Way estate for $68.5 mill: $504,000. That’s nothing, the richest man in Palm Beach (NYSD personal estimate) David Koch: $561,000 on his two-acre palatial estate.
The home of Dwight Schar, another million dollar a year real estate tax payer.
But all is not hunky dory in this land of might-have-been-hurricanes. Farther up at 1930 South Ocean, Baron Black of Crossharbour, Conrad Black to you and me, the incarcerated (over near Orlando) former press baron still has a house whose property tax bill this year will be $522,000. Well, at least he doesn’t have to worry about them throwing him in jail now, does he?
Henry Kravis's pad. $917,000 per annum in taxes.
Meanwhile back at Michael’s where I had lunch with second generation advice columnist Margo Howard (Dear Prudence), daughter of Eppie Lederer (Dear Ann Landers). Michael’s had its fair share of interesting tables but the one that caught my eyes were three women and a man in the bay. The three women were Maria (Mrs. Nat King) Cole, and her twin daughters Timolin and Casey Cole. Nat King Cole died young – forty-six or forty-eight – in 1965 (from cancer).

Maria Cole married the recording star sixty years ago this year. As Maria Hawkins Ellington, she’d been a singer in the Duke Ellington band. The couple were married here in New York at the Abyssinian Baptist Church by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. They moved to Los Angeles where they purchased a large house in Hancock Park, one of the smart (and very conservative) enclaves of wealthy Los Angelenos. They were greeted by the property owner’s association telling the star that they did not want any undesirables moving in.

Maria (Mrs. Nat King) Cole with her twin daughters Timolin and Casey Cole.
“Neither do I,” he retorted; “And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here,” I’ll be the first to complain.”

The Coles had five children – Natalie, Carol, Nat Kelly and Casey and Timolin. Maria Cole is very elegant in bearing with a certain grace.

I was amazed when Steve Millington told me she was 86. I asked to meet her, and he arranged it after they’d finished their lunch. She’s very warm and gracious, as are her daughters who have started a corporation, Nat King Cole Generation Hope which will support and supplement music education and activities in public, private and religious schools.

Also at Michael’s: Andrew Lloyd Webber who told me he was in New York working on his next big show which will be a sequel to “Phantom ...” and will be trying out parts in London later this year. Most of the score has been completed. Also lunching: Vernon Jordan and Chrystia Freedland who is the American editor for the Financial Times.

Mr. Jordan is interesting to observe. He looks like a Very Important Person. You can see the charisma. He’s big and tall with an almost loping stride. Large bright eyes, a handsome head; it is a powerful presence. Both women and men are easily charmed. He’s smart and savvy, courteous and focused. When he talks to you – and even little old you/me, he talks to you; and sometimes with the touch of humor. Ms. Freedland is young and has the aura of the FT: Bright, young, excellent journalist and informed (the latter two not always found together). (Alas.) I was imagining Ms. Freedland was using the opportunity of her position to find out what the Great Man is thinking about.
Carolina Herrera and Renee Zellweger backstage at Carolina Herrera's show.
Meanwhile, no one’s forgotten: it’s Fashion Week in New York. Jamee Gregory went to the Carolina (Herrera) show in the Tents. There’s a definite excitement in the air as you enter the immense darkened tent with everyone taking their seats. Anticipation, yes; but something else too. A sense of being present at the creation. Maybe. That sense. Plus it’s wall-to-wall people; all kinds of people: the retailers, the clients, the massive amounts of fashion press, the bankers, the buddies, the fashion queens and the fashion queens. It’s Noo-Yawk people watching at it’s very finest because it’s frenetic and sophisticated and cosmopolitan and cool and social pandemonium where all the compulsive and obsessive come together for a love in.
Here’s Jamee ...

Carolina Herrera’s glorious show sent the season off
to a rip-roaring start! All of New York’s head-turning fashion plates turned out, looking tanned and rested from Lauren Santo Domingo to Amy Fine Collins. Ashley McDermott and Jennifer Creel passed Jill Roosevelt and Anne Grauso looking for their seats. Susan Fales-Hill wore her Obama pin, Anna Wintour donned Prada, and dermatologist to the stars Pat Wexler wore Carolina, whose clothes she said “Always make me feel sexy in a grown-up way.”
Roopal Patel and Linda Fargo Ivana Trump Jennifer Creel
Venus Williams and Andre Leon Talley Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington
I chatted with Joanne de Guardiola, Shirin von Wolffen, Saks’ stellar Karen and Steven Sadove, Tory Burch and Fern Mallis, but the person who drew the most attention was handsome Mario Grauso who looks as if he has lost 70 pounds! ABT’s newly svelte Peter Lyden drew his share of fans. Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley, Time’s Kate Betts, Harper’s Bazaar’s Glenda Bailey, Hearst’s Cathy Black and W’s Etta Froio all said hello as I walked alongside the runway.

Bergdorf’s Jim Gold, Linda Fargo and Mallory Andrews were all waiting anxiously for the show to begin. As the lights dimmed and the plastic was rolled back the paparazzi were forced away as Renee Zellweger made a glamorous entrance with her hair very blonde and upswept. Phoebe Gubelmann, Carolina’s press genius, saw that everyone was ready and the show began very close to on time.
Stefano Tonch Susan Fales-Hill and Marina Rust Connor Leigh Lezark
Jamee Gregory Somers Farkas, Joanne de Guardiola, Carolina Herrera, and Patricia Lansing
The evening dresses made a major impact, right from the first short sleeve persimmon silk organza shift dress that passed by, its ruffles rippling. I was mad for a persimmon and teal shift that looked like feathers. A strapless long evening dress of broken black and white stripe silk georgette with a ruffle at the back caught my eye. Its elegant simplicity would be perfect for the spring ballet galas.

A silk lace jacquard blouse looked so chic paired with a black and white tweed organza skirt with a petal detail. I loved a silk blouse embroidered with black jet flowers. A series of gowns paraded past with charming Marigold print used for detail. A long georgette halter gown with more broken stripes tempted, as well as an embroidered black and white version. A black and white embroidered silk blouse with glamorous white wide-leg pants was outstanding. Black raffia was used in horizontal panels on several gowns. Cigarette pants with short jackets made an appearance.
On a beautiful, sunny day these elegant creations summoned spring. If the audience response can be counted on, ladies will be ripping these gowns off the racks. Black and white always looks right in the Big Apple and who can resist a blast of persimmon? No wonder everyone ran backstage to give Carolina a hug. Her delightful husband Reinaldo proudly greeted her fans, while Carolina’s adorable grandson, held in the arms of her daughter Patricia, stole the show.

My only regret was the absence of day clothes. Guess we’ll have to guard our trove of classic vintage Carolina Herrera's or just wear jeans.

Photographs by ©PatrickMcMullan.com
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