Friday, January 30, 2009

Old friends; new views

Empire State Building. 6:10 PM. Photo: JH.
January 30, 2009. Sunny winter’s day yesterday. And cold, but not so.

I took an old friend to lunch at Michael’s.
It was sort of a treat: she had been through some very hard times health-wise and she had made it through thanks to the miracles around us. She was very pleased to be there because it was jumping and New York jumping is a turn on for all of us. Barbara Walters was lunching in the corner with Linda Wachner (the one-time tycoon of Warnaco and now active American/ Parisienne businesswoman).

Barbara Walters
I see Barbara Walters often at Michael’s, so much so that I am used to the sight of her. She is often with prominent and influential people. Two days before it was with her old friend Liz Smith. I don’t know Ms. Walters although I’ve been in her company enough to be used to her presence as a woman and not a celebrity. Off-camera she’s not exactly reserved but she’s one who picks and chooses the object of her interest with a journalist’s natural instinct.

She’s always very well dressed. I notice that when she lunches with one of the more socially prominent ladies, she’s also very chicly turned out – a Chanel suit with a diamond brooch maybe – so that there is no question of stature (clothes, remember, as Mark Twain reminded: make the man (or woman). Some things never change and that is one of them.

What I find interesting about this very famous woman whom I see often at Michael’s and know well enough to say hello to, is how after (actually many) decades as La Grande Inquistrix on camera, now made rich from it, and almost iconically prominent socially, she still has the common touch to interest all of us – whether favorably or un – in ourselves and The Way Things Are.

Now that I’m done with my Barbara Walters tribute,
I’m left with the pleasure of knowing how much fun it was for my guest to see the lady. Because the “excitement” of seeing a celebrity, a household name, has worn off with time and reptition, it was a pleasure to be reminded by my friend’s reaction, of the pleasure of the sighting. At the table we talked about Madoff. At one point or another people in New York are still talking about Madoff. My friend is a life long New Yorker with lifelong exposure to the life that is Southampton and Palm Beach. That kind of New York. It happens that she knows – the way you know your next door neighbors, friends or no – many of the players.
The dining room at Michael's.
I was telling her that reporters calling me these days about it want to talk about the Noels. Walter Noel’s Fairfield/Greenwich Group hedge fund group had a multi-billion dollar exposure to Madoff. Mr. Noel and his wife Monica have five beautiful daughters, all of whom are married and four of whose husbands work or worked with the patriarch.

For years they’ve been a constellation in the lives of many of these New Yorkers whom my lunch partner has grown up with. The Madoff catastrophe has been just that for them also, a catastrophe, according to my friend. She said there was a lot of Schadenfreude (reporters want to know mostly about that if they can) out there but in truth, she said, it’s a very terrible thing for a family to have to go through. It is not only that but it is havoc wreaked on a life graced with family. That’s not an easy one for any of us.

Walter Noel
My friend also told me about some other friends, relatives of Mr. Madoff who suddenly have nothing. From everything to nothing. The trauma is the same we experience when robbed of our worldly possessions. Mr. Madoff robbed his own. That is the diametric opposition of Walter Noel.

After hearing her talk about the Madoff relatives, I found myself thinking the Noels are lucky, in a way: they have each other. And unlike a lot of us, they are a unit. That’s the gift of the universe. Or God’s gift.

The problem with this whole Madoff /hedge fund/investment banker/money business is that we are all now stuck in a financial conundrum that will very possibly change all our lives markedly and measurably before it’s passed us.

Although it is a socio-economic incident of historic proportions, it is also the result of decisions and agreements made by (groups of) people who had their hands on the levers of power and responsibility. We have yet to recognize that in order to “right” the situation, we will have to put the “righting” in the hands of those who do not have a vested interest in saving their own skins, necks. The foxes are still in the henhouse and thus is such, take it or leave it.

Furthermore it is now a nationally political matter and at the rate we’re going it will be moreso by this time next year. Common Sense, like the Noel family solidarity, is also a gift of the universe, or God’s gift.
Outside 583 Park Avenue.
Meanwhile, back to the glories of little ole Manhattan. Last Friday night, I am sad to say, I missed a celebration staged and hosted by Alexandra Lind Rose and her impresario husband Louis Rose at 583 Park Avenue where they were celebration at a Supper Dance: the birth of their daughter Kingsley on August 12th of last year; their 7th year anniversary (January 9, 2009), Alex’s birthday (last week) and Louis’ recent court victory over the venue of 583 Park Avenue.

By all reports it was one of those parties where everybody (and there were hundreds) had a wonderful time dancing and dining and seeing old friends, new friends. The perfect party.
Inside 583 Park
Louis Rose
Catherine Shepard, Kathy Thomas, Allison Pappas Mariah Davis, Lisa Errico, and Lara Trafelet
I’ve written about this before. 583 is a Delano and Aldrich designed church (First Church of the Christian Scientist) on the corner of 63rd and Park. Like many such institutions in this work of rocket man, it had been languishing in terms of congregation size and support. Louis Rose, a young entrepreneurial sort, from a family of hospitality-industry inclined, had the bright idea of using the space as a venue for charity galas, fashion shows, private banquets and dances. There were neighborhood objections to such an enterprise. That matter evidently was settled in court in favor of Louis’ activities.

I’ve been to a number of events there over the past couple of years. Oscar de la Renta has the exclusive rights to using it for showing his fashion collections. It’s a great pleasure to go into what is now an architectural landmark. I’m reminded of the First Congregational Churchhouse where I went as a kid. Elegant yet spare as classically beautiful as its exterior. Because of that, the congregations who gather there for the events are using and enjoying and appreciating Delano and Aldrich’s creation for community. Imagine how unimaginable it would have been for them to know that in the 21st century their grandchildren (Delano died in 1960 at 86; Aldrich died in 1940 at 69) and their brethren would be celebrating life in New York in that edifice.
Susan Shin, Coralie Charriol Paul, Nicole Hanlehy, Liz Walker, Allison Aston, and Zani Gugelmann
Will and Allison Pappas, Kathy and Andrew Thomas, Jamie and Gene Edgerton Wharton, and Amanda Essex
Angel Sanchez, Kathy Thomas, Dan Trainish, and Liz Asch
Alexandra Kotur and Storm Nickerson
Alfred Fiandaca and Alexandra Lind Rose
Alexandra Linda Rose, Andrew Thomas, Louis Rose, and Kathy Thomas
 
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