Thursday, May 14, 2009

A day of honor

Fiery sunset reflections in Upper West Side apartment windows. 7:00 PM. Photo: JH.
May 14, 2009. Another beautiful Spring day, yesterday in New York.

Down at the Metropolitan Club lunchtime, City Harvest held their annual On Your Plate luncheon, at which I was this year’s honoree. I’ve been to so many luncheons and dinners over the years that I’ve got so I give it very little thought. Being the so-called “honoree,” however, gave me pause. I had to make a little acceptance speech and then after the dessert I participated in an interview conducted by Patricia Barrack of City Harvest.

The following was the “speech” which I stitched together before I left the house, and which was delivered with an awkward, self-conscious reading. Nevertheless, there it is ...

I think, in the past fifteen years since the creation of the New York Social Diary, I’ve seen maybe a thousand of these events where someone or some people are “honored” for their work, their contribution, their money. And I’ve written about them all without giving much thought to the process, because the process is about raising money to fund so many of these wonderful projects.

DPC receiving his award from Jilly Stephens
So it’s almost ironic to me that I should be at this receiving end of the process. When Joy Ingham told me earlier this year that they were “honoring” me at this lunch, I could only think “what for?” Because I haven’t worked for it, I haven’t contributed anything and god knows they’ve never got more than a few hundred bucks outta me.

So she told me it was for all the times I talked about City Harvest in the New York Social Diary. Okay.

I first learned of City Harvest all these years ago through Joy and Topsy Taylor and Emilia Saint Amand who’ve been working for this organization for as long as I’ve known about it. From my outsiders point of view, these are the women, the people ,who deserve this honor. They’ve been dedicated, committed, unflagging, indefatigable and dependable. Especially dependable. When it comes to food and eating, it’s about dependable. All I’ve been doing is spreading the news.

Thirty years ago, at the tender age of 37, I had a very prosperous little business up in Pound Ridge, New York selling shmatte at a discount to the ladies of the community. As my business became prosperous, however, I worried that if I made a lot of money, I wouldn’t be a writer. For I have been a writer – for myself – since the boy stopped playing with toys and picked up a pen and later approached the typewriter.

So after much hemming and hawing and poorly laid plans and what now seems like a lot of gumption, I sold my prosperous little business to one of my employees, got rid of a lot of my possessions and with my books, my dog and five cats, I moved to Los Angeles to become a writer.

Why Los Angeles? Two reasons. One, I’d always dreamed of living in the land of movie stars since I was a little kid growing up in Massachusetts, and two, I wanted to be someplace where no one knew me so that I wouldn’t feel self-conscious telling people that I was a writer, since I hadn’t published anything up until that moment.

Now at 37 – which seemed old to me at the time – having come from an experience of prosperity – which happened, it seemed, almost like magic, with no struggle (and no passion) – I had big dreams of life in Hollywood – as a writer, and I was raring to go.

The raring, however, got rare in short time. After a year of living comfortably (and therefore dangerously), I was no further along in my new professional career than I had been ten years before when such a venture wasn’t even a dream or a fantasy. In fact, within a year I was running out of money.

It was a hard time for me. I recall thinking at the time, that it was the hardest time I’d ever experienced in my life, and compared with my childhood when growing up in my parents’ house was a difficult proposition since they had a relationship of what I’d call natural adversity. And there were many times in those early days in California when I felt like I was about the same age as I was as that child growing up with battling parents.

It was during that time, and I don’t recall the details, when there came a day when I didn’t have money for food. I don’t know if a check didn’t clear, or bounced, but I didn’t have any money which meant no money for food. I remember the day clearly. I remember the market at the end of the street where I went after scrounging up five bucks. I remember thinking very carefully about how I was going to spend it, how much food I could get and how much it would last. I was frightened at the thought of not having anything to eat.
DPC being interviewed by Patricia Barrack at yesterday's City Harvest "On Your Plate" luncheon. CLICK IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO.
It was at that moment – rather late in life to be having such an experience for the first time – that I realized that when you don’t have food to put in your belly, fuel to keep the machine moving, NOTHING else matters. It was then when I understood why people stole. To eat. Without food, life ends.

I managed that day to get something to eat, and I should add, every day after that. I was smart enough to know that this boy had friends (many of whom rescued me at different times – some of them are I this room right now). Furthermore I had a dinner jacket, I knew which fork to use (or I could fake it), and I had the gift of gab. For the next few years in my pursuit of a career in Hollywood as a writer, it was these things that kept the show on the road, NOT my writing talent or writing jobs.

It was a struggle, however, and there were many times when people seeing how difficult it was, would wonder how much longer I would give it. Forever or as long as it took, was the answer when the question was posed to me. As long as I had something to eat.

Now, ironically, not only did I have something to eat, but many many times, thanks to that tuxedo and the gift of gab, I ate very very well, and at the same time acquired an education in many things --- many of which I have used ever since in my business.

But the one thing that stayed with me was that moment coming out of the Mayfair Market on Santa Monica Boulevard was the business of No Food. When we don’t have food, we don’t have life. And when I learned about City Harvest and what they do and how much they do, to keep the show on the road, to keep the machine moving, I could only think that it was the life-saving device in this community, I could only think of all those hundreds of thousands of people, of men, women and child who daily face that fear of having nothing in their bellies to keep the show on the road. We can’t have a strong community, or even any community without their assistance and the assistance of the many who make sure we have something to eat. They are the ones to be honored, every day, every hour by every one of us.
Gillian Minter, Joy Ingham, Emilia Saint-Amand, Haisel Vasquez, Carol Atkinson, and Topsy Taylor
Joy Ingham, DPC, Haisel Vasquez, and Jilly Stephens
Guests at the Metropolitan Club for City Harvest's On Your Plate luncheon.
City Harvest is a great organization. It takes common sense and puts it to good use. They collect food all over town and re-distribute it all over town. The numbers of those of in need of food is growing, fallout from the economic contraction. Jilly Stevens, the director of City Harvest told the audience that they are seeing more and more people who have never been to a food kitchen or a food pantry before. Once upon a time the clients were mainly the elderly. Now the lines are composed of everyone from the elderly to the small children. You can help. Anything you can contribute will make a difference. They raised $225,000 at the luncheon.
Ashley and Dana Schiff Lionel Larner, Grace Meigher, and Blaine and Robert Caravaggi
Pax Quigley, DPC, and Tobie Roosevelt Stephanie Krieger and Brian Stewart Charlie Scheips and Doug Cramer
Pax Quigley, Eleanora Kennedy, and Gillian Miniter Chris Meigher and Mario Buatta Blaine Caravaggi and Roger Webster
Carol Bellidora and DPC Jilly Stephens and Jim Kallman
Alexandra Lebenthal and Amanda Gordon Cynthia Lufkin, Victoria Wyman, and Muffie Potter Aston Ann Downey and Mona de Sayve
Barbara Regna, Jordana Zizmor, and Jesse Kornbluth Dara Busch, Robin Verges, and Cygalle Dias
Jonathan Ingham and friend Janna Bullock, Hunt Slonem, and Margo Langenberg Kim Hicks and Gillian Miniter
JH with mom, Rochelle Hirsch Christine Biddle and Bobbi Patterson
Marcia Schaeffer, Betsy Bartlett, and Polly Espy Alexandra Lebenthal and Kim Hicks Cathy Ingram and Margie Thorne
R. Couri Hay and Janna Bullock Jim Kallman
Liz Smith and Peter Rogers Jamee Gregory, Muffie Potter Aston, and Janna Bullock
Naomi Giges, Jules Mayer, and Lauren Coticchio Wendy Moonan, Bill Kapfer, and Charlie Scheips
Last night I started out at a reception at the Carlton Hobbs Gallery on 60 East 93rd Street between Madison and Park. Mr. Hobbs’ gallery is located in a Neoclassical style mansion designed by John Russell Pope in 1930 for Virginia Graham Fair Vanderbilt. Mrs. Vanderbilt died only five years after moving in. The mansion was acquired by Byron and Thelma Chrysler Foy. Mrs. Foy was the daughter of Walter P. Chrysler, the automotive magnate who also built the skyscraper on 42nd Street named for him.

It’s a beautiful house to see; splendid and grand. However, Mr. Hobbs’ collection is even moreso. Carlton Hobbs has long had a reputation for having extraordinary pieces in his galleries. You have to see to really understand why people are so impressed.
Roric Tobin and Geoffrey Bradfield with friends
A wood and bronze model of Solomon's Temple.
A gallery room.
Carlton Hobbs and Michael Goedhuis Sean Murphy and Jamie Drake
Entrance gallery of the mansion.
Exquisite table tops
From Mr. Hobbs’ gallery I grabbed a cab to get down to a reception Terry Allen Kramer was having for a friend. I was surprised when the elevator stopped at her floor and the doors were closed. I knew I was late (it was from 5 to 7). It turned out I wasn’t late. I was early. By a week. So instead Terry and her husband Nick Simunek gave me a little tour of the gardens of their penthouse. More New York Green.
Views from Terry Allen Kramer's terrace ...
From there it was down to the Plaza where The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center hosted its 2nd Annual Spring Ball. This glamorous evening is the Society’s biggest event of the year: dinner, dancing, and a live performance by Grammy® Award Winner, R&B singer-songwriter, Macy Gray.

350 guests attending, music by DJ Tom Finn, and décor by New York’s leading event and floral designer, Andrew Pascoe. The event was Co-Chaired by Muffie Potter Aston, Sara Ayres, Tory Burch, Shafi Roepers, and Caryn Zucker. NBC-Universal sponsored. Nearly one million dollars was raised to benefit The Society’s patient care, research, and education programs at MSKCC.
Somers Farkas Alexandra Lebenthal and Muffie Potter Aston
In the crowd (I was told; I didn’t see all): Robert DeNiro and Grace Hightower, Tory Burch, LL Cool J, Muffie Potter Aston, Sara Ayres, Shafi Roepers, Caryn and Jeff Zucker, Tiki and Ginny Barber, Mort Zuckerman, Shoshanna Gruss, Paul and Dayssi Olarte Kanavos, Christopher and Sherman Meloni, Valesca Guerrand Hermes, Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Natalie Morales, Nina and Mitch Davidson, Lisa Errico, Alexia Hamm Ryan, Peter and Leslie Jones, Leslie Heaney, Lisa McCarthy, Heather Leeds, Anne Grauso, Webb Egerton, Martha Glass, Peter and Jamee Gregory, Sylvester and Gillian Miniter, Dee Dee Ricks, Gunnar and Claudia Overstrom, Dr. Harold Varmus and Constance Casey, Jennifer Creel, Suzanne Johnson, Heather Mnuchin, Mary Snow, among others.
The table settings ...
Honorary Co-Chairs: Constance Casey and Dr. Harold Varmus, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas A. Warner III. Event Co-Chairs: Muffie Potter Aston Sara Ayres, Tory Burch, Shafi Roepers, Caryn Zucker. Event Vice-Chairs: David Anton and Neva Martin Anton, Libby Fitzgerald, Danielle Ganek, Alexia Hamm Ryan, Rachel Hovnanian, Richard and Dana Kirshenbaum, David H. Koch, Karin Luter, Ashley McDermott, Jamie Niven, Dee Dee Ricks, Renee Rockefeller, Jill Roosevelt, Helen Schifter, Lavinia and Brian Snyder, Martha Webster. Website:
Peter Gregory, Muffie Potter Aston, and Jamee Gregory Roger Webster and Sylvester Miniter Dee Dee Ricks and Bronson Van Wyck
Dee Dee Ricks and Catherine Carey Martha Glass Elizabeth Fekkai Mary Snow and Maria Villalba
Michel Witmer and Alison Minton Hilary Geary Ross, Lee Niven, Wilbur Ross, and Jamie Niven Margo Langenberg and Jamie Figg
Chris and Grace Meigher Michael and Eleanora Kennedy Marvin Davidson, Nicole and Derek Limbocker, and Mary Davidson
Nina Rennert Davidson, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, and Heather Mnuchin Alexia Hamm Ryan and Gillian Miniter Frank and Victoria Wyman
I left the Sloan-Kettering dinner dance just as they were moving in to dinner. I went over the Upper East Side apartment of Shirley Lord Rosenthal who was giving a little dinner in honor of her friends Pepe and Emilia Fanjul. The Fanjuls became grandparents much earlier in the day when their daughter Emilia Pfeifler gave birth to a little girl, also named Emilia.

Mrs. Rosenthal, whose late husband Abe was Managing Editor of The New York Times, is also a writer and journalist. Her guest lists are eclectic and high on conversation be it political, economic or literary; a pleasure to end the day.
Olivia Hoge, Hillie Mahoney, and Shirley Lord Rosenthal Linda Janklow and David Margolick. David is working on a story on Sid Caesar and is looking for people who watched "Show of Shows."
Carolina Herrera and Pepe Fanjul

Photographs by Ann Watt/JH/DPC/
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