Monday, June 30, 2008

Rainbows End

Saturday after the storm. Photo: Chris Prendergast.
Rainbows End. It was a warm but beautiful weekend in New York. The streets seemed noticeably quieter as many New Yorkers left town to begin their one and two week vacations over the Fourth of July. The Saturday heat was summertime heat although there were passing showers. Chris Prendergast caught this amazing image from the Prospect Park area of Brooklyn looking east. It perfectly captures the rich and beautiful light of the storm and the sun, and the rainbow.

Today we’re running three new additions (four, technically speaking) to The List: Debbie Bancroft, Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera, and Kathy Sloane. When one is more than passing familiar with someone, as it is with me and the aforementioned, it is a challenge at times to describe them accurately to someone who may not know them at all.
Looking west from the East 60s in a light fog following the afternoon storm.
In portraying another in words, there is always the reality that as well as you may know someone, there is much you don’t know about them – unless they are close personal relationships or lovers or spouses. And even then “knowing” someone can be up for grabs. I tend to rely on my perceptions, on what it feels like to be in the presence of another; how his or her personality affects you, the impact that it has.

Of the three subjects, the Herreras stand out for their impeccability because their approach to their lives is literally steeped in fashion as well as the culture with which both were deeply inculcated. Their approach to life has a distinctly Latin quality and discipline. It is precise in its definition, and often engaging to the eye and a pleasure to the senses.

I don’t know if the three subjects of today’s List all know each other. I’m sure they’ve all been introduced at one or perhaps many times because that is the way New York works – the access to variety in vast and wide. No doubt they’ve shared the same table and/or row at an opening of the ballet or the opera or a museum gala. No doubt that their paths have crossed many times, as that is the way of New York, as I said; and that is what draws so many millions of us to this city and its myriad dreams.

Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera

The Herreras have long been a fixture in social New York both as a couple and individually, even before they met and married more than two decades ago. If there were a very select list of the top socialites in New York, they would undoubtedly be on it. Their family backgrounds are authentically international society. Both of Spanish descent and native to Venezuela, they are familiar faces with many friends on both sides of the Atlantic as well as down South America way.

Reinaldo and Carolina Herrera
Living as they do in a rarefied world often inbred by its nature, they are very very well liked, almost uncommonly so. One often eventually hears something untoward (or downright gossipy) about those who travel in the highest circles. In the case of the Herreras, I have never heard an unkind word uttered.

Reinaldo, as he is known and referred to by his legions of friends all over the world, is a member of a noble Spanish family, and with an accompanying title of Marques de Torre Casa. His father was a prominent sugar planter in Venezuela and his mother, a writer (and translator of the Spanish version of the Rubiyat of Omar Khayam, was very involved in philanthropy both in America and in Venezuela, and was active for four decades with the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Reinaldo has an ebullient and instantly friendly personality. He has a natural elan and is always elegantly turned out in the style we have come to expect from European and South American aristocrats and members of the International Best Dressed List. There is nothing ostentatious or pretentious about this; it’s perfectly natural, a reflection of a culture and an upbringing.

Carolina, as she is known and referred to by her legions of friends from all over the world, has what appears to be a more measured personality on meeting. I read somewhere that she regards herself as a “very private person.” You could almost say “shy” although it is probably not true. Nevertheless she is gracious and attentive on meeting, yet intense. When you see her with her daughters, you see a proud mother. She too is always elegantly turned out. Of course, that’s her business, but her background, like her husband’s, is a lifetime of attention to self-presentation and place in the world.

These are people who have often dined and socialized (and indeed, grew up with) the royalty and aristocracy of their world. Their social backgrounds may have provided the avenues of interests and connections, but that said, they are also two of the most accessible personalities in New York, for they are friendly, curious and gracious.
Reinaldo works for Vanity Fair as a special projects editor. This “position” reflects the cache and connections that is part of his portfolio. He is also a reader. I was in a bookstore one afternoon several years ago when Reinaldo was buying a newly published three volume set of the Memoirs of Duc de Saint Simon. Suffice to say that Proust read Saint-Simon voraciously before he became a writer.

Carolina’s business would appear to be at the center of her life. In the fashion world, her antecedents, indeed her mother and grandmother’s couturiers were Balenciaga and Dior. However, as a working design in the world of Seventh Avenue, she is, like her most successful peers, out there in the world much of the time meeting her clients, promoting her books, her fragrances and her collections. She is indefatigable in her approach and maybe if you’ve seen her in one of her store appearances somewhere in America, she always looks fresh and impeccable. I’ve never seen her once, anywhere, when she didn’t. It’s a breath of fresh air. And chic too; that’s Carolina Herrera.

Kathy Sloane

One the highest grossing private residential real estate brokers in Manhattan (with sales in 2007 in the nine figures), Pittsburgh born and bred Kathy Sloane comes to her position from a fascinating path participating in state and national politics that includes an adult-lifelong relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Kathy Sloane
Mrs. Sloane’s husband, Harvey, a physician by training, twice served as Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky (in the 1970s and 1980s), later ran twice for Governor of that state, narrowly losing each time, and also ran for Senate, losing to the present Senator Mitch McConnell. Harvey Sloane is now active internationally in public health projects (he once served as the public health commissioner of the District of Columbia).

After Harvey Sloane quit elected politics, his very supportive and plucky wife decided to find away to make some money for the family after almost three decades of public service, and so exploiting her connections, she came to New York and became a real estate broker.

The Clinton connection dates back to the days when the Clintons were in Little Rock and the Sloanes were in Louisville, contemporaries with common political goals. They remained big supporters of the Clintons throughout the 90s and into the 2000s when Hillary Clinton ran for U.S. Senate from New York.

When Chelsea Clinton finished school and planned to come to New York to live and work, it was Kathy Sloane, working very closely with Chelsea’s mother, who found the apartment.
In the labyrinthine world of national politics, it is impossible for a writer such as I to determine if the Clinton connection remains strong. I know that Mrs. Sloane has always been an active backer of Mrs. Clinton but has often been in close communication with the senator as a friend. The length and frequency of their friendship reaffirms the fact that Mrs. Clinton maintains several longtime loyal friendships. Long time and loyalty are terms and words often foreign to the worlds of politics and business. Their value is often overlooked because they are rare.

In the meantime, Mrs. Sloane like her friend the Senator, is a tireless worker in her business as well as in other interests having to do with her husband and their children.

Debbie Bancroft

One of the most photographed women in New York, one of the most social, most socializing women in New York, one of the most ubiquitous women on the New York-Southampton social axis, a number of years ago she married into one of the most socially prominent families of the now bygone days when the Social Register determined one’s pedigree in the scheme of things.

Debbie Bancroft
In that earlier era (the first half of the 20th century), the Bancrofts were related to the Woodwards (banking) and the Bedfords (oil). Several Bancrofts are still very much a part of the North Shore, Long Island, Locust Valley, Piping Rock set. The “social prominence,” i.e. however, has come from the interest and efforts of the women in the family and not the men, many of whom loathe society (other than their golf and club buddies) and publicity.

Her name is often on list of chairs and co-chairs of many charity benefits, from hospitals, to schools, to neighborhood houses, to theatrical philanthropies such as the Drama League.

She’s a very friendly woman in the neighborly sense, and because of it she has all kinds of friends from all walks of life. When Michael Bloomberg was running for mayor, the suggestion was floated around that Debbie Bancroft would have been a perfect chief of protocol for the city. That never happened but it might have been a brilliant selection because she’s a woman who loves people, loves meeting people, loves getting around, loves the high life and loves the tradition that protocol requires. She knows everybody, as they say, and moves among several different social crowds.

She’s ambitious and always brimming with energy for new projects. I once suggested to her, unsolicited, that she go into the public relations business as a “catalyst,” bringing people along socially -- for which there is always a market in this great city of commerce. If you want to meet somebody in New York, Debbie Bancroft can make that introduction happen, so wide-ranging is her circle.

In a way she has put that talent to work by writing a social column once a month for Avenue and summertimes in the Hamptons Magazine. Her style is an intimate and homespun wit with which she reports on the party lives of the moneyed and the glitterati and How They Spend It.

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