Tuesday, March 3, 2009

After a night of snowfall

Snowy sidestreet. 10: 45 PM. Photo: JH.
March 3, 2009. Cold winter’s no school day yesterday in New York, after a night of snowfall.

Last night over at the Pierre, The Women’s Project held its 24th Annual Women of Achievement Awards honoring Lucia Hwong Gordon, Estelle Parsons, Susan K. Reed and Susan Sobbott.
Estelle Parsons, B.D. Wong, and Lucia Hwong Gordon Nurit Kahane, B.D. Wong, David Henry Hwang
The Women’s Project is dedicated to producing and promoting theater created by women, providing a stage for women’s perspectives on a wife variety of political, social, religious and cultural topics. Founded thirty years ago, Women’s Project has staged more than 600 main stage productions and developmental projects. They’ve published ten anthologies of plays by women and have mentored artists through its labs for directors, playwrights and producers. Ten years ago Women’s Project purchased its own theater, the Julia Miles Theater on West 55th Street.
Ling Tan and Zang Toi Susan Reed Tony Maltese, Barbara Tober with Cece and Lee Black
Ken Starr and Diane Passage Bonnie Pfeiffer Evans Marcia Levine
Susan Sobbott and Nell Merlino Donald Tober and Cynthia Maltese
And then, downtown, oh honey, The TriBeCa Ball, the fundraising gala for the New York Academy of Art, now in its 26th year, was held at the NYAA on 111 Franklin, drawing its longtime patrons, artists, benefactors, gallerists and glitterati for the revels. All types beat a path to its doors including Alek Wek, Andre Balazs, Heather Mnuchin Jason Wu, Justin Timberlake, Kate Spade, Liv Schreiber, Monet Mazur, Nicole Miller, Poppy de Villeneuve and….even Bill Clinton showed up! Was that major or what? Honorary chairs were April Gornik and Eric Fischl, Naomi Watts and Mr. Schreiber, Mr. Balazs, the ubiquitous Padma Lakshmi and Jenny Saville. Co-founded in 1982 by Andy Warhol and Tom Wolfe, it’s still hot, with more than 300 showing up for last night. Too kewl to fail. Pictures on tomorrow’s Diary for all you people-watchers out there.

Yesterday it was announced that the lawyers for Mr. Bernard Madoff, were arguing that the poor man be allowed to keep his East 63rd Street penthouse apartment as well as the $45 million in municipal bonds which are in his wife’s name as well as $17 million, also in madam’s name, in the Wachovia Bank.

A guy’s gotta eat and have a roof over his head, no? And who knows when or if he’ll be going to jail anyway. And he’s got great lawyers. And even tho Crime Doesn’t Pay, uh-huh ... just like you learned in grammar school (at least some of us). According to the court papers, this $62 mill and penthouse have nothing to do with the fifty bill ole Bernie-baby gathered from the 13,000+ suckers “invested” with him. This part all came from the tooth fairy. But you knew that.
The Madofff penthouse.
Meanwhile many Madoff “clients” are to make “claims” on their money with the US Bankruptcy judge by July 2nd in order to qualify for a piece of whatever can be recovered from the Madoff accounts, as well as up to $500,000 from the Securities Investor Protection Corp, or SIPC, a division of the U.S. Taxpayer.

Meanwhile another Madoff sucker, Mr. Walter Noel and his wife Monica have been freshly skewered in the new Vanity Fair by its crack journalist Vicki Ward.

The piece opens with an interesting moment when on December 11th, Walter Noel went into his office for some meetings and shortly after arriving learned from a bulletin on the Bloomberg wire that Bernard Madoff had confessed to being one gigantic fraud. Mr. Noel’s Fairfield Greenwich Group had a fund or two with about $7 billion “invested” with Mr. Fraud. You can imagine how that went over in the office.

Since that time Mr. Noel -- who in person is every bit the courtly gentleman a Southern boy could grow up to be – has been the object of trash and bash among many in the social set that he and his wife and daughters and sons-in-law were members of. Vicki Ward’s piece does nothing to dispel that dilemma. Or lessen the trash and the bash.

Monica and Walter Noel. Photo: PatrickMcMullan.com
The Noels have had a sparkling social career for the past thirty years in this neck of the woods – The New York/Palm Beach/Southampton social axis, up to and until December 11th last. They are a remarkably handsome family – five beautiful daughters, all married, with children – who are quite devoted to each other in the way that most families only dream of, and who include each other in their separate social lives.

Mama and Papa have houses in the best places -- Greenwich, Mustique, Palm Beach, Southampton, and a duplex on Park Avenue in New York. Before the bottom fell out (or the roof caved in, take your pick), an invitation to one of their soirees here there or anywhere, was a prized possession. They were frequent patrons on the gala benefit circuit and an addition to any party. The fact that daddy was so rich from his hedge fund business, and that the husbands were getting so rich from daddy’s hedge fund business (one son-in-law, Marco Sodi, was not in the family business) was a big help.

However, according to Vicki Ward and her sources, a lot of people in Southampton were not so happy with the ebullient, effervescent Noels and their “Vegas Casino”-like parties in their $10 million dollar Stanford White-designed cottage on posh (and polluted)(the water, I mean) Lake Agawam, just a stone’s throw from the Southampton Bathing Corporation, the town’s beach club de rigueur that turned down Walter and Monica for membership via the blackball.

Not to mention the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (also Stanford White) which allegedly also turned down Walter Noel for membership. And all this before last December 11th.

Pushy pushy pushy is more or less the objection, from what I could glean about Walter and Monica Noel. And the problem, if you are to believe the gossip (and I don’t use that word lightly), seems to be Monica. Ironically, what also can be gleaned from Vicki Ward’s piece is that Monica Noel is a super wife, a super mother, a super mother-in-law, a super grandmother, a super chef in the kitchen, super-duper go-getter when it comes to putting together a party, a dinner, a celebration, a business (she had a line of children’s clothes) and now even a super-supporter of her suddenly and ambiguously disgraced super-husband/father of her children, Walter.

It’s like: what’s wrong with this picture.
Well, one thing that’s wrong for starters is Madoff. With the news came the plunging asset accounts (presumed at this point). The icky business of getting into the clubs is relatively minor in the scheme of things when you have the mega-means and the close and dynamic and devoted family that the Noels have. The problem with the Bathing Corporation, as put forth in the VF piece had to do with Monica’s girls going to the club in bikinis and thongs, and table hopping. Really. And Monica going to the club for lunch on her son-in-law Philip Toub’s membership a little too often. Then when they went to Palm Beach and were guests at the Bath & Tennis – where a lot of the Southampton folks hang-out in wintertime, she was always “embracing” friends. You know, like have-you-hugged-a-friend-today? This seemed to have irked some people (“don’t touch me!”).

Frankly, from the sound of it, it seems like there were too many Noels-bells around too much of the time. People were overwhelmed by all that Latin-from-Manhattan (Monica’s Brazilian and her daughters and grandchildren – as well as some sons-in-law – are bilingual) in the room, on the terrace, on the courts, by the pool. And probably jealous – a frequent ingredient in the social swirl.

It also seems that financial success – millions and jillions thanks to ole “Save My Penthouse” Bernie kinda filled the Noels with an extra bit of vim and vigor which in those aforementioned rarefied climes usually adds up to arrogance, snobbery, and a kinda faux droit-de-seigneur. This happens all the time. With almost everybody (yes there are lots of exceptions but not as many as you might wish). The new and new-ish money crowd when they’re feeling their oats are about as fulluvit as it gets.
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However, be that as it may, and that just may be it with these gilded Noel detractors, until last December 11th, the Noels were close to, if not, just about the most popular kids on the block. Everybody and his uncle Louie were bowing and kowtowing to be invited to their soirees and private jets and Caribbean holidays fiestas. Then came that damn phone call. Followed by the knives, and the kicking them while they’re down. This is a mean crew. World class hypocrites. That is not to say the Noels weren’t part of that same hypocrisy because they were playing in that sandbox.

It should also be said that despite all this the couple still have a lot of supportive friends who realize that this is a jungle they’ve all been playing in when it comes down to dollars and cents. There are a lot of people as guilty of the faults that the Noels are being criticized for.

The problem with the Noels is that when they were riding high they were not discreet about it. They’d probably deny it but considering how much attention they drew to themselves, what else would you call it? And there were complaints by those who felt ignored or “snubbed” by the daughters who were always smiling but often directing it beyond whomever they were in the presence of. There were complaints among the overlooked, but very sotto voce -- because people wanted to be “invited.” That is the key here. “Invited.” The world that the Noels were prospecting and then mining and then dominating is full of this kind of folderol.

The VF piece also mentions “due diligence” several times, pointing out the Walter Noel’s FGG funds didn’t do it enough or thoroughly. Does this surprise? Bear Stearns anybody? Lehman Brothers? Merrill Lynch, AIG, a trillion dollar bailout on its way to nowhere? In the last two years, the Bear Market has already wiped out $10.4 trillion of equity value and there’s no telling how much longer this will go on. One thing we do know, however, is Monica Noel will stand by her man and her family. And vice versa. No matter what anybody says.

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