Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Accomplishment. Achievement.

Looking west towards the San Remo through Central Park. 1:10 PM. Photo: JH.
November 18, 2009. Yesterday in New York: colder but not too, and mostly sunny. Traffic not too much. On my way down to Michael’s for lunch with Brooke Hayward, I got out of the cab at 57th and Fifth to see if Bergdorf’s had put in their holiday windows. They’re so creative and interesting and as a once-upon-a-time retailer myself, I’m still fascinated to see what people do to create interst, to sell their wares. Especially in times like these. Bergdorf’s windows serves as a guage (one of them) for me in taking stock of New York life.

The guiding creative force behind the Bergdorf Goodman windows is Linda Fargo, a dyed in the wool New Yorker who grew up in the Midwest. Their windows have shades drawn, with “an opening date” on them: November 23. I had to think for a minute: a week away Monday. I’ve never seen that before. Usually you can watch them putting it together. So they’ve got a big surprise planned. Stirring up interest.

DPC and Brooke Hayward.
The Dixie Chicks. Photo: Steve Millington.
Meanwhile. Windows. If I’m walking after a Michael’s lunch I often will check out Barney’s windows for the same reason (I’m not a shopper at all). Its famous design director, celebrated author and media personality Simon Doonan, produces intriguing and provocative windows all the time also.

I vote for them. Their visual contribution to the sidewalks of New York and to our creative imaginations is inspiring. In these tough times, the tough get going. This is New York.

Down at Michael’s, Brooke and I talked about books. Writing books. Our books. Her books. More than thirty years ago she published a family memoir called “Haywire” which was a bestseller and made into a TV movie. It was the first movie star family memoir and it was a riveting modern American family saga. With a Hollywood backdrop. It was a family shot with holes and fraught with error, just like a lot of families we know or belong to.

I’d like to see her write a second book but she doesn’t want to. There’s so much more to tell and now that she is in the processing of getting a divorce from Peter Duchin, there will be even more since divorces do that to us. She doesn’t want to. She turns the tables on me and tells me to write a book.

At the next table were the Dixie Chicks. Yes! I thought Steve Millington, Michael’s GM and head backslapper, was kidding when he told us. I’d never seen the Dixie Chicks before. Just like Darryl Strawberry the day before. For some reason I was thinking Spice Girls. No. These girls look too serious for soccer players with tattoos and ear-piercings. (I’d seen the Spice Girls.)

If I had to guess what they’re like from this picture, I’d say they’re very nice but very serious about their business.
Nicky Haslam (Click to order).
NIcky signing his book ...
Last night. By six, I could have stayed home. I started reading Nicky Haslam’s new memoir “Redeeming Features” because I was going to cover his booksigning at a gallery on East 66th Street. And I’m scheduled to lunch with him tomorrow. And I hadn’t cracked the book.

It’s a big book. The guy’s got a lot of story, a lot of dish from the high life of the Western Civilization in the past half century. Back when it was the Western Civilization. He’s one of those fellows who’s known everybody and, to quote a literary cousin of his, Auntie Mame, he’s “lived!”
Cathy Irwin, Cynthia Frank, Tom Cashin, Jay Johnson, and Thomas Messel.
I’m not a fast reader and when I saw that the print was small and it’s three hundred pages and chock full of unbolded boldface names that leap off the page, I thought it looks tempting and where the hell am I going to find the time?

So I closed the book and decided to get up in my black tie et al and head out the door down to the Dickinson Roundell Gallery on 19 East 66th Street. The black tie, incidentally, was for the event following.

It was called for 7. I got there about 7:30 and people were just beginning to arrive. I was already late for my dinner. I took a couple of shots of the author signing a book, a few more of friends and strangers, and was out the door.
Evelyn Tomkins and Michael Foster. Duane Hampton.
Dame Jillian Sackler and Luke Parker-Bowles. Hampton and Kevin Luzak.
It was bumper-to-bumper crawling across Central Park South on my way to the Mandarin Oriental for the Museum of Arts and Design’s “Visionaries! 2009.”

The Museum of Arts and Design is not new in New York but it is relatively new on the major museum scene. The decisive moment came when they moved into their newly acquired home on Columbus Circle almost next door to the Mandarin Oriental. I tried to get an honest shot of the MAD from the Mandarin ballroom window but instead I got the “artsy” shot. Nevertheless.
The Museum of Arts and Design, the triumph of creative forces sitting in its iconic home on the southern side of Columbus Circle across from the Mandarin-Oriental (from which this photo was taken). 9 pm.
JH and I had a tour of the place a few months ago with Holly Hotchner, the museum’s longtime director and Barbara Tober, the museum’s longtime supporter. I know about MAD through Mrs. Tober. Mrs Tober is a force. I’m laughing when I write this because I’m not exaggerating.

Last night’s gala, for example, was packed. I don’t know which tables went for what (ranging from $25,000 to $10,000 and individual tickets from $2500 to $1000) but there were 550 in the room. Every inch of floorspace was used. That is unusual right now.

Eva Zeisel with her award presented by Holly Hotchner.
I thought: Barbara Tober. She had a thirty-odd year career as e-i-c of Conde Nast’s Brides magazine. She’s an executive and a creative thinker. After our tour I could see that the Museum of Art and Design is a creative thinker. And you will become one too when you visit. It is totally engaging and life-enhancing. As all great art is. And, it is the Art of the people. As fatuous as that might sound, it is so.

There’s a man named Jerome Chazen who has also been a very generous force behind this museum’s development. He opened the evening. He introduced us Holly Hotchner (her father A. E. Hotchner was made a Living Landmark last week). Ms. Hotchner has taken those opportunities provided by the museum’s passionate supporters, and built this center of astonishing creativity.

Ms. Hotchner presented the first award to Eva Ziesel. Ms. Ziesel who is 103 (you can see her HOUSE interview here) is now almost blind and has little hearing. She was in a wheel chair also, but she is still working and she is OUT THERE. She is now also an iconic figure to the artists of the Museum of Art and Design.

The Ms. Hotchner introduced Shelly Lazarus, chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. I didn’t know about Mrs. Lazarus. I only learned that Mrs. Lazarus, who looks like she lives in Palm Beach and East Hampton and plays a lot of golf and tennis, is a fulltime dynamo with executive and creative abilities that move mountains with a simple message.
Honoree Shelly Lazarus, Chairman and CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide with MAD Director Holly Hotchner.
Barbara Tober accepting her Award from Jerome Chazen.
There was another message. This is a museum created by women, and brought to completion by women who were from the generation of the women’s movement.

The museum was created in 1956 by Aileen Osborn Webb, who was an amateur potter and a creative supporter of national organizations in the craft field. She was a native New Yorker who grew up to be quite serious about her interests in a way that was far from amateur.
Guests taking their seats ...
Table centerpieces from the Museum's collections ...
She was born in 1892 to a socially prominent New York family. Her father was a lawyer and her mother was a Phelps Dodge copper heiress. She went to Chapin, studied in Paris, made her debut in 1916 and married a boy she’d known from childhood, Vanderbilt Webb, a great-grandson of the Commodore and a scion of the Sherburne, Vermont Webbs. By the time of her death at age 87, in the summer of 1979, Aileen Osborn Webb had created a museum that would one day adopt institutional stature.

Her legacy has been commensurately advanced now to world class, with the efforts and abilities of last night’s honorees, Mrs. Tober, Mrs. Lazarus and Ms. Ziesel, and the museum’s director Holly Hotchner.

There was an energy in the room last night, a sense of triumph. That’s what took me to the window of the ballroom to try to get a shot of the monument to this energy down below lighting up Columbus Circle in the New York night. Triumph. Accomplishment. Achievement. Big stuff; good for all of us.
Sherwin Goldman and Mildred Brinn. Dr. Susan Krysiewicz and friend. Diahn McGrath.
Jeanne Lawrence. Somers Farkas. Barbara Tober. Suzanne Murphy and Nazee Moinan.
Vera Blinken. Barbara Taylor Bradford and Tom McGrath. Antonia Milonas.
Anka Palitz and Arlene Dahl. Jo Hallingby. Carmen Dell'Orefice and Marc Rosen.
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