Monday, October 26, 2009

In the neighborhood

Sunday in Central Park. 2:45 PM. Photo: JH.
October 26, 2009. An autumn weekend in New York. Rainy Friday night and Saturday and a sunny Sunday.

In my neighborhood over in Carl Schurz Park they had a Halloween Party for the dogs yesterday. At first I thought it was a couple of nuts when I saw two people walking along the Promenade with dogs wearing pink ruffled jackets on their backs. And then a little tan mutt with purple fairy wings. It made me laugh. Because the poor dogs looked so ridiculous. As well as forlorn. The looks on their faces all said the same thing: “you see what I have to put with to get fed and walked?”

We often forget that dogs (and cats) and all other creatures are not human. And not nuts.
An autumn Sunday afternoon on East End Avenue (looking north from 82nd Street) with little sign of autumn foliage. 3:15 pm.
Meanwhile yesterday in Palm Beach it was an extremely hot autumn day, and Jeffry Picower drowned in the swimming pool of his 17,700-square-foot palatial oceanfront mansion. Autopsy showed death by drowning due to massive heart attack.

Mr. Picower, who was sixty-seven last May 5th, was an associate of Bernard Madoff. There was a federal lawsuit filed against him and his wife Barbara (along with their Picower Foundation and other defendents) by the trustee liquidating the Madoff company.

Barbara and Jeffry Picower
Mr. Picower, who is often described as a lawyer and accountant, had such an investment with Mr. Madoff, that over a twenty year period he was able to extract 5 to 7 billion bucks, (depending on your source) from the Madoff “investment.”

After TSHITF, as they say in computer talk, Mr. Picower’s investment seemed more than a little suspicious. Where I come from it sounds like a partnership or some kind of. He claimed he had no idea.

Lately, however, Mr. Picower has been facing possible indictments. It’s been said that he was severely depressed, and that his poor wife was told to keep her eye on him. She is said to have told the police that she checked on him every fifteen minutes. And so it was that the man went into his pool presumably for a swim around the sweltering noontime, and when his wife checked on him, his body was motionless at the bottom. Like the movie.

Mrs. Picower and a maid pulled him from the pool, according to reports, and called 911. Paramedics were unable to revive him and at 1:30 pm he was pronounced dead at the Good Samaritan Hospital.

Barbara Picower is said to have been a close friend of Ruth Madoff. It was Barbara Picower who had the money, according to a friend, that put her husband on the map financially in the first place. Now, however, resumably Mrs. Picower herself is still facing the federal lawsuit. Notice how the women get left holding the bag. (And how the public buys that.) Watch.
Hutton Wilkinson holding his new book, and the special two volumes in a special case, last night at Beth DeWoody's apartment. Click images to order.
Meanwhile, on a lighter (I’ll say) note, last night Beth DeWoody had a cocktail reception for her friend Hutton Wilkinson of Beverly Hills who is here in town to publicize his new book “More Is More; Tony Duquette.”

For those of you who don’t know about Tony Duquette, in the classical definition he was a designer. He designed theater and film sets, rooms, jewelry, furniture, light fixtures, paintings, rugs, anything. He lived in California where he was either a native or had gone there in his childhood years. He lived through most of the 20th century and so he grew up in and with the development of the West Coast and the metropolis that is now Los Angeles. He was affected and highly influenced by the movie industry where he worked and knew and socialized with many of the players.

However, none of that description can even begin to describe the man. He was uniquely Los Angeleno. I knew him, although not well, when I lived in Los Angeles. We had mutual friends and I was invited a number of occasions including an annual New Year’s brunch to the house that he shared on Dawnridge Road with his artist wife Beegle.
Our hostess and the guest of honor. Charlie Scheips and Linda Fargo. Donna D'Cruz and and Marcia Mishaan.
Dawnridge was/is the introduction to the man. Although not large, it feels palatial on a child’s sense of human scale. It has the elegance and bravado of a very refined child-like imagination. His creative eye disregarded little. He’d take anything and make it into some kind of dazzling ornament. A silk purse of a sow’s ear, was a cinch for him. He transformed.

I was always reminded of the child’s ability to fantasize. Dancers very often have that too. Tony Duquette called it “the enchanted vision.”

Hutton Wilkinson was his assistant from age 18, in 1971 until Tony’s death in 1999 (Beegle died a few years before him). They made worlds, not unlike the way children make worlds to play in. But always for business. The results were always astonishing and fascinating, and a pleasure to be in and around.

Hutton was also the heir to the estate, at least in terms of its preservation. Whether that was intentional on Tony part or not, Hutton Wilkinson has taken his legacy and placed it where it belongs, in (the history of) American design culture.
Guests in the entrance gallery of the DeWoody apartment, last night at 7:30 pm.
This book, which is the second – the first is “Tony Duquette” done with Wendy Goodman (and there is a deluxe edition of the two in its own Duquettian case) – “More Is More” is a biographical portrait of the man’s life which was prolific and entirely creative.

He was always somewhat puzzling to me. He was almost like an actor, a Hollywood person, in presence -- always in costume and always living on a set. It wasn’t an act, however; it was his style. It had its subtle charm; there was a lingering sense of whimsy despite the gravity of the artfulness. He was also a smart businessman. He made a good living and he invested it in the land he loved.

His “ranch” up in Malibu, on the top of a canyon was in no way a “ranch,” but in every way a child’s fancy of how a king would live on a mountain top overlooking the Pacific. Garbo used to love to visit. I can see why. It was very theatrical and very comfortable, but more than that it was transporting, as if you had walked into a movie. And with the privacy that a child knows first.
A desktop in the library.
In this art market center of New York where we are surrounded by many artists and creative people, we are rarely if ever exposed to that artist who lives his creations -- and from them produces more creations. Tony Duquette did that. This book is a treasure trove of photos that show you how; images, creations, thoughts and not least of all, nostalgia for the innocence that was the “enchanted vision” make it a feast.

I realized after I’d come home and was looking at the book, that my friend Mrs. DeWoody’s apartment was the apposite spot for this party. Although she sees herself, creative speaking, in far different light – she’s a collector – she too has a constantly re-shaping sense of that “enchanted vision.”

I’ve been in her house so many times, even lived in her house for long periods of time, that I am used to her fluid modus operandi as a collector. I am used to seeing something I had never seen there before, as well as not seeing something I had seen before. Like Tony Duquette, everything’s moving with Mrs. DeWoody.

However, last night seeing some visitors who had never “seen” her home, I looked through their eyes and realized that her operating factor was that “enchantment.” New York style of course, year 2009.
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