Friday, February 27, 2009

Sunny and Mild

Dog Run in Riverside Park. 1:45 PM. Photo: JH.
February 27, 2009. Yesterday in New York, sunny and mild. A friend, remarking about the weather, said that it was so nice for this time of the year that she was certain Mother Nature would jolt us with some kind of blizzard. A last blast before the Springtime.

New York is in a holding pattern right now. There is a mood about that is palpable. Retailers are seeing it. Cabdrivers are seeing it. Restaurants are seeing it. When business gets dicey and people have less to spend or fear having less to spend, these businesses feel it first. They are in a survival mode. Springtime will be something to celebrate, and something available to everyone to celebrate. The uncertainties of the financials are on the minds of the many New Yorkers whose lives center around the world financial system. Yesterday another friend told me (this may no longer be breaking news) that Barneys is going to close. Barneys has been a New York retail staple for the better part of the century.

We have been living in a financial lala land for many many years now. That’s been pretty obvious to anyone who cared to look away from their Blackberry for five minutes. When you actually hear young children conversing about the quality of daddy’s private jet, its size, power along with the implied disdain for anything “smaller,” you know we’ve come to the end of something.
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It’s a time begging for fortune tellers and psychics although when you’re business (and they are in business), there’s no profit in being the bearer of bad news.

However there is another aspect and a powerful one. The other day I had lunch with three women who, to different degrees, have long been active in charity fundraising here in New York. All three are independently wealthy (with husbands or companions). One woman told us that her charity’s annual gala this year was going to change with the times. Black tie was going to be out. A more relaxed atmosphere, possibly a lower ticket price, possibly low enough to draw a larger crowd and in a new venue and a new approach. They were not downsizing; they were improvising and looking at “community.” This particular charity focuses on the health and welfare of children. These times are even tougher on those children. So the charity will need to raise even more funds, somehow. So they’re improvising. Vamp till ready, as they say in the theatre, to help your brothers. And sisters.

Vamp till ready. This will be the challenge.

Meanwhile, back to business. This past Wednesday night at Carnegie Hall, the National Academy Foundation presented a benefit concert by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by maestro Zubin Mehta and featuring the brilliant concert pianist Lang Lang. The artists donated their time and talent to support the National Academy Foundation’s partnership between top business leaders and front line teachers in preparing students in urban schools for professional careers.
Pete Peterson Jacqueline Burgos
Sandy Weill
Sandy Weill and NAF students
Zubin Mehta and Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Zubin Mehta conducted Wagner's Overture to Rienzi; followed by Chopin's Second Piano Concerto featuring Lang Lang; and concluded with a series of polkas and waltzes by Johann Strauss.

Before the performance, at a gala celebration over at the Waldorf, there was an Award Presentation led by NAF’s founder and chair, Sandy Weill in the Grand Ballroom.
JD Hoye and Donna Florio Eugene Ludwig, JD Hoye, Carol Ludwig, and Sandy Weill
David Marriott, Jim Robinson, Mitch Jacobs, and Samantha Ettus Rich Rauley and Maryann Murray
Ursula Burns, Hillary Pennington, Robert Dughi Robert Kraft, Joan Weill, and Bill Barke
Peter Schlossberg and Marion Dickey Ken and Kathryn Chenault Gene and Carol Ludwig
Charlotte Frank and Hilary Pennington Ed Howard, Susan and Bill Hannon, and Randy Fishman
Bob and Kate Khanna with Jay Fishman Daria and BIll Sheehan
Bill and Victoria Barke Ouida and Alfonso Wyatt Mike Nieker and Bill Barke
Dr Ruth Westheimer Isaiah Miller and Claudia Anzini
Amy, Sabeta, Lauren, Neelam, and Kimberly Nancy Mehta
Joan and Sandy Weill with Pete Peterson Zubin Mehta and Sandy Weill
JD Hoye and Zubin Mehta Lang Lang with Sandy and Joan Weill
Klaus Jacobs, Mary Lou Falcone, and Lang Lang
Meeting and greeting Lang Lang after the show.

Photographs by ANN WATT.
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