Friday, February 13, 2009

A Windy One in the Big Apple

A windy day forces the kiddies to keep close. 3:50 PM. Photo: JH.
2/13/09, Friday. It’s been unseasonably warm in New York – not that anyone’s complaining because it’s lovely. A few more days like this and I expect to see the forsythia budding in the park next door.

It’s perfect “going out” weather and New Yorkers love to go out and see each other. Last night was very busy in the city. I missed several events taking place. I started out at the Museum of the City of New York on Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street where they were holding their opening night of an exhibition of Valentina’s oeuvre and celebrating the publication of Kohle Yohannan’s book on Valentina and her work.

I come at this particular exhibition from several paths. I’ve known Kohle Yohannan for about fifteen or more years. We met through our mutual friend John Galliher (see The List In Memoriam). I don’t know how they met but John introduced Kohle to Mary McFadden. Perhaps it was because they both loved to play tennis. A few months after, Kohle and Mary married. It was an unlikely looking alliance because of the age difference although Mary is imbued with waters from the Fountain of Youth. She and Gloria Vanderbilt are the only two women I’ve ever known who took on eternity. At least as it stands at this time in our history.
Kohle Yohannan Kohle Yohannan and Mary McFadden
I digress.

Kohle is a California boy. He grew up, I think, somewhere in the north around San Francisco. When he was married to Mary he was intensely interested in the fashion business. In the years since he acquired a big, neglected house in Yonkers that has been described as a “castle” which he has restored to pristine condition. I’ve been told that he “makes a fortune” renting out the space to film companies for television and movie productions, commercials, etc.

It wasn’t surprising to hear. Kohle’s one of those people who is at once a student as well as a force. This fashion biography of Valentina will no doubt be influential.
Last night's opening of My Life at MCNY.
Anyone born after 1950 probably never heard of Valentina. Valentino yes. Valentina, no. In her day Valentina was a force in American fashion and famous for a couple of reasons. She was famous in New York and the work of fashion for her chic and her classic designs. She had a following that included Hepburn, Dietrich, Garbo, Mary Martin. The latter two were same-building neighbors on East 52nd Street and the East River. The Garbo relationship is somewhat uneasy and even thorny, whatever that may mean. Garbo’s “companion” later in life was a man named George Schlee, whose wife was Valentina. The complexity of that troika remains a fascination.

In the meantime, the museum was jammed for this opening. It is without question one of the most important fashion collections 20th century assembled for public exhibition. It talks to you; its emergence at this time is more than coincidence.
Rod Winterowd, Victoria Lindgren, Evelyn Tompkins, Hamish Bowles, and Mark Gilbertson Gene Meyer and Amy Fine Collins
Last night at Graff on 63drd and Madison, they held a kick-off cocktail for Lincoln Center's upcoming "Leading Ladies of New York celebrate Alice Tully" which will be held on February 23rd, the night that launches the new Alice Tully Hall. The black tie evening will honor Laurie Tisch and include performances by Dawn Upshaw, Emerson String Quartet and the Juilliard Orchestra followed by a seated dinner in a tent in Damrosch Park.
Graff models Henri Barguirdjian and Laurie Tisch
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