Thursday, February 12, 2009

Early Spring Day

Light post in Astor Place decorated by Jim Powers aka the mosaic man. 1:50 PM. Photo: JH.
I2/12/09. An early Spring day in the middle of February yesterday in New York.
Last night there was stuff going on. 1% of the Planet celebrated a 1000 member milestone, with an evening hosted by Tom Brokaw down on 54 Thompson Street in the home of Steven and Judy Gluckstern. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and a stellar guest list for that sort of thing, including editor-in-chief/film producer/haute restaurateur Graydon Carter.

Graydon is from a short but distinguished line of Vanity Fair magazine editors reaching back a century. But Graydon is also probably the only Vanity Fair editor who is all the things his predecessors dreamed of being (besides a Vanity Fair editor). This is no small potatoes in the landa Manahatta. Or way out there in Hollywood also.

Farther uptown also last night in a quite different and yet equally serious issue at hand, Dr. Thomas Kaplan and Dr. Alan Rabinowitz hosted an evening with an honored guest, Dr. Paul E. Klotman of Mount Sinai Medical Center -- for Panthera. I hadn’t heard of Panthera and when I looked at the list of its board members, it was curious.

Panthera was founded in 2006 with the mission of conserving the world's 36 species of wild cats: from the small black-footed cats of southern Africa to the massive tigers of Asia. It focuses its range-wide conservation strategies on the world’s largest, most imperiled cats – tigers, lions, jaguars and snow leopards – and is planning conservation strategies for cheetahs, leopards and mountain lions.

Utilizing the knowledge and expertise of the world’s top cat biologists, and working in partnership with local and international NGO’s, scientific institutions, and government agencies, Panthera develops, implements, and oversees range-wide species conservation strategies. This is accomplished, in part, by fostering the next generation of passionate felid biologists and conservationists through our various grant programs and our Kaplan Graduate Awards Program.

Panthera’s supporters, many of them medical men, are full of passion, expertise, and large-scale strategic thinking about their cause. In just a little more than three years, they have set new standards and become an influential force in the protection of wild felids. Talk about one percent, how about much much less.
The Housewives
And then, if not to be outdone by the serious business of conserving life on the planet, also last night at the Palace Hotel which was once owned by the late and lamentable Leona Helmsley, was the premiere party for this next season’s Real Housewives of New York.

Not being a television watcher and not sure that if I were I would be watching Housewives, it nevertheless does quite nicely without my attention. I know a lot of people – women – who love it. The world is a stage and it’s more apparent than ever.

Leona with Rick Hilton in 2002.
Leona Helmsley, as we all know, was not exactly a housewife type. But she acquired what a lot of these housewives would like to acquire: a pile-a-dough and her very own real estate.

I never knew Mrs. Helmsley. A quick look back you can see it didn’t turn out into a “happily ever after.” Talk about money can’t buy you love. I met her a couple times at black tie benefits. At that time in her life she had a young very handsome boyfriend about half her age whom it was said she would marry.

The obvious contrast in ages made it a naturally suspicious looking situation. Interestingly the guy didn’t look like the stereotypical gigolo type, the unctuous greaseball, but rather like a former preppy stock broker type. Which would never be the same as gigolo, now would it?

Mrs. Helmsley was a goodlooking woman and goodlooking for her age. She wasn’t a beauty but there was something attractive about her when she was vulnerable and when she smiled. Which doesn’t of course mean she wasn’t a monster in certain parts of town. But you didn’t have to marry her.

There she was this night, at a black tie benefit at the Waldorf with all the fashionable ladies resplendent and chic, amongst a lot of high mucky-mucks which impressed Mrs. H even if she thought they were all a bunch of robbin’ sons-a-bitches. She was a woman.

She wanted to look good and have a good time. And there was this very handsome (and not very tall) young-ger man with whom she danced cheek to cheek. He didn’t; she did, kinda like the clinging vine. I remember watching them and thinking how much she looked like anyone who wanted to be wanted by a certain someone. At the end of the day. At the end of her life, Leona was just a girl in the lurch, all that money and everything.

Well, it didn’t work out. Sir Lancelot was anything but. Basically a pay-off; I loved ya honey but the show closed. Leona was left with her little Maltese “Trouble,” whom she protected in her will with a $12 million trust. They called her The Queen of Mean but Mrs. Helmsley knew the cost of being wanted; it was steep but it was worth it. What’s money? Better that than the pain.
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