Monday, January 19, 2009

The focus is now on the nation's capitol

Crowds head toward security checkpoints for the concert at Lincoln Memorial in D.C. Photo: Carol Joynt.
January 19, 2009. The focus is now on the nation’s capitol and the Man of the Hour.

A cold winter weekend in New York.
A surprise snowfall Sunday morning just before the town began stirring followed by warmer temperatures in the daylight hours, and more light snowfall in early evening.

Last Thursday night at the Lotos Club on East 66th Street, Paige Rense, the editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest gave her annual dinner for her interior designers (the AD100). The interior design business is a community the real sense of the word. Those who live in and around New York know each other almost as neighbors in a small town. Their social/professional connects extends across the country and across the world. Surely this is a very competitive group of people but when under one roof and presided over by Paige, they come together as one gabby group of men and women who are clearly delighted to be a part of it.

Si Newhouse and Paige Rense
This year’s cocktail hour brought out Conde Nast’s leader (the real master of that universe) Si Newhouse and his wife Victoria. There can be no doubt that one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- acquisitions Mr. Newhouse ever made for his company, was Architectural Digest and its star editor.

A number of years ago when the magazine was acquired there was a lot of talk in the industry about what would happen to Paige and what would happen to the magazine. It’s classic in this industry that new owners like getting their imprint on something they’ve desired. Mr. Newhouse, however, is one of those few people who actually knows that if it works you don’t need to fix it. So nothing happened except greater circulation and more, much much more ad revenue.

AD may be the only magazine in the business that appeals to an across the board demographic gender-wise. The same guys who read the Economist or SI love looking at AD. That is the genius of Paige Rense who put the magazine on the map with her sensibility and never veered. I can think of only one other editor in the history of magazines who has had that kind of creative genius and longevity – and in an entirely different kind of magazine – and that’s Helen Gurley Brown who created what is known as Cosmo today and kept them coming back (advertisers and readers) for more than three decades, even singlehandedly keeping Hearst magazines in the black for many of those years.

This history, known or unknown, is part of the ether at the Paige Rense dinner each year. Good times, bad times, everyone is glad to be there and to be included. Me, I was there for the picture-taking and the lively conversations.
Peter Shelton, Marjorie Shushan, Mrs. Shelton, and Harry Schnaper Amanda Vaill and Penelope Rowland
Geoffrey Bradfield, Wendy Moonan, and Roric Tobin Alexa Hampton, Victoria Hagan, and Joanne de Guardiola
Mica Ertegun and David Georges Amanda Vaill and Jean Strouse Penelope Rowland and Jose Solis Beetancourt
Judith Thurman with Victoria and Si Newhouse Harry Benson CBE talking to Charles Cohen while Nancy Collins recognized the photographer
Joel Barkley and Giulio Capua David Green and Key Hall Lee Mindel and Hugh Jacobson
Campion Platt, Stephen Aronson, and Charles Cohen Scott Snyder, Alexa Hampton, and friend
Stephen Sills, Stephen Shadley, Tom Britt, Ellie Cullman, and Majorie Shushan Howard Kaminsky and friend
Margaret Carl and Tout Fred Joseph Giovannini, Wendy Moonan, and Peter Aaron Mariette Himes Gomez
Jeffrey Simpson David Easton and friends Margaret Dunne
From Carol Joynt, Washington Social Diary

Well, we’re off and running here in the nation’s capital.
Saturday night for the first time it felt like something big is happening. Maybe that fulsome mood swept into town with the Obama and Biden families on the train from Philadelphia to Washington’s Union Station. Sunday was the official opening of the Inauguration festivities with a concert on the mall. And, given how much America loves a hero, it seemed only fitting that USAir Pilot “Sully” Sullenberger and his crew would be invited to the Inauguration. They were to check into the West End Ritz Carlton Sunday evening.
The Ritz Carlton-West End where pilot hero "Sully" Sullenberger of USAirways, and his crew, were expected to check in Sunday night.
As for what the streets are like, my initial reaction is it’s not bad. Very manageable. The weather’s too cold but, hey, that’s why they make coats, hats, gloves and long underwear. Security is visible everywhere, including the National Guard. Saturday, as I took a morning walk through Georgetown, there were bomb sniffing dogs examining the little bridges that cross the C&O Canal. Today, Sunday, they’ve closed two major bridges – Memorial and Roosevelt – for the Lincoln Memorial concert. These events have not affected my life, as yet. But if you had to be commuting around the area it would be rough.

Saturday night I had dinner with New Yorker John Coleman at the new Bourbon Steak restaurant. He’s in town for the inauguration and to make some needed adjustments at his Jockey Club Restaurant. Though the scene at Bourbon Steak was raucous, beneath the rock n’ roll and hip-hop vibe was the leading front of the social and cultural change Barack and Michelle Obama will bring to Washington and, ultimately, the nation. He’s the first post-baby boomer President and his base is young and diverse and not hindered by grudges about wars fought or not fought or deep racial divides. His is a generation that benefited from affirmative action and largely did not have to go to war, even though it will fall to him to get us out of a uniquely complicated entanglement. There’s that nasty economic crisis, too.
The out of towners have arrived in Washington for the inauguration. The fur coat is a good sign this woman is from elsewhere. It may look the same on the outside, but on the inside the Georgetown Four Seasons has had a make over.
Just outside the velvet rope: the lobby at the Georgetown Four Seasons Saturday night.
But none of the woes were on the minds of young swarm that hit Bourbon Steak Saturday night with a frivolity somewhere between frat party and Fourth of July. They were five deep at the bar, in jeans and casual shirts and sweaters. They table hopped, carrying their beer bottles with them from bar to dining room to lobby and back. They were loud and happy. They were attractive. There were many African Americans and while they were mostly young there were mothers and grandmothers, too, dressed to the nines, smiling, laughing, feeling the pride of a nation that has elected a black man as president.

There was no timidity, no, “is it okay to be here?” My guess is that this is the way power here will sway – younger and blacker than before, and carrying few burdens of the past. Will the old guard be dismissed altogether? No, Obama understands how to use the wisdom of those who have gone before.
Coming up out of the subway to head to the Lincoln Memorial for the Inauguration opening concert.
If you want a piece of the Obama inauguration there are plenty of vendors ready to take your money.
What made Saturday night’s party scene especially interesting is that it took place at the heretofore very grown up Georgetown Four Seasons Hotel, home to Bourbon Steak. It felt like Club Med minus the tropical temperatures. Anything goes. (Possibly Bourbon Steak will be a more youthful and less studied competition for Café Milano? Similar scene minus the boob jobs and botox.)

Hardly any of the patrons noticed the oldsters in the room — Tom Brokaw, or, on a double date, Alan Greenspan and wife Andrea Mitchell with Sen. Christopher Dodd and his wife Jackie Clegg. Later, according to The Washington Post, Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King breezed through. Oprah’s staying in the hotel’s Royal Suite.
Short of a motorcade, possibly the best way to get around.
As crowds stream toward the Lincoln Memorial, members of the military stand by, and help to direct traffic.
Yes, there were dozens of other parties Saturday night, too, and even a few balls. The Clinton and Gore veterans had a reunion. BET had its annual honors awards. The Harman Center, which is booked nightly for one big event or another, had Yo Yo Ma on the stage. Jay-Z had a party Friday night.

There have been sightings of Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Beyonce, but this is no surprise since they and a couple dozen other major names planned to perform at the Lincoln Memorial. Sunday was to see competing “power” parties from Maureen Dowd and the Kuwaiti Ambassador and his wife. Again, there’s a party for every taste. It’s just getting the invite, getting through traffic, getting through security and getting through the door.
The line to go through security at the Lincoln Memorial grounds.
The scene on the edge of the Lincoln Memorial grounds.
Back to DPC/NYSD: Tennis great Sidney Wood died a little more than a week ago at the age of 97. I first met Sidney about fifteen years ago in Southampton with his wife Pat. Sidney must have been about 82 then. He was a friendly fellow, with a warm hello making one feel welcome. He was elfin like in stature and presence, a smile in his repose. Not being a tennis fan per se, I knew nothing of his professional background and he wasn’t the kind of person to boast or draw attention to himself. He was a man who simply had a yen for life. Reading the following obituary of him in the Telegraph, I was surprised to learn that Sidney was one of the giants of the sport in his day. And he started very early.

Pat Wood (who is also the mother of NYSD’s Palm Beach Diarist Hilary Geary Ross) lent me a couple of pictures of the man: one at Wimbledon 82 years ago (taken with his opponent Rene LaCoste who later made a fortune from those shirts with the crocodile on them ), and one taken seventy years later of Sidney and Pat at a Southampton Hospital benefit. It was a charmed life for the charming athlete.

15-year-old Sidney Wood Vs. Defending Champion Renee LaCoste, Opening Day, Centre Court at Wimbledon, 1927
From the Telegraph, London ...

Sidney Wood, who died in Palm Beach, Florida, on January 10, aged 97, was crowned Wimbledon men's singles champion in 1931, becoming the only player to win the title by a walkover.

At only 19 years and 245 days, Wood was already competing in his third Championships, and was the youngest winner since Wilfred Baddeley took the title in 1891.

Among Wood's supporters during the tournament was the actress Gertrude Lawrence, who (in company with Noël Coward) would pick him up in a Bentley from the Grosvenor House Hotel, where Wood was staying, to drive him to the courts.

Having defeated Fred Perry in the semis, Wood was to have met his American Davis Cup colleague Frank Shields (who would become the grandfather of the actress Brooke Shields); but Shields was suffering from a niggling ankle injury, and with the Davis Cup tie between the United States and Great Britain imminent, it was decided to withdraw him, handing the title to Wood by default. The victor later recalled: "Frank wanted to play me, and it was an insult to Wimbledon and the public that he didn't. But it gives you an idea of the importance of the Davis Cup then."

In the event, Great Britain won the Davis Cup tie anyway. Most felt that, had he competed, Shields, who had started the tournament as third seed (Wood was seeded seven), would probably have won Wimbledon. The year before, in the semi-finals of the US singles at Forest Hills, he had beaten Wood by three sets to one.
Because of the unusual circumstances Wood refused to keep the Wimbledon trophy until he had proved to his own satisfaction that he was a better player than Shields on grass, and in the meantime he handed over the cup for safe-keeping to the former American women's player Maud Barger-Wallach. It was three years before he was able to reclaim it, after beating Shields in the final at Queen's.

Sidney Burr Beardslee Wood was born on November 1 1911 at Black Rock, Connecticut, and educated at the Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He was a delicate child, and the family moved to Arizona in the hope that a warmer climate would be beneficial to his health. After being introduced to tennis by an uncle, he won the Arizona state men's title on his 14th birthday.

Sidney and Pat Wood at the Southampton Hospital Benefit, August 1996.
He first appeared at Wimbledon in 1927, when he was only 15. Sporting white knickerbockers, he was beaten in the first round, winning only four games against the great Frenchman René Lacoste, known as "The Crocodile" and the progenitor of the Lacoste tennis shirt. In 1934 Wood lost in the semi-finals to Fred Perry, and made his last appearance at Wimbledon the following year, going down in the last eight to Australia's Jack Crawford.

Wood was also a singles and doubles finalist at the US Championships (now the US Open) in 1935 and 1942, and a mixed doubles finalist at the French Open in 1932.

He was ranked in the world top 10 five times between 1931 and 1938, in that year reaching number five. For 15 years (1930-45) he was in the top 10 of the US rankings, peaking at number two in 1934. He played in the Davis Cup in 1931 and in 1934, when the team reached the final.

After the Second World War, Wood and his friend Don Budge, the first player successfully to complete a calendar Grand Slam, founded Budge-Wood, a laundry business in Manhattan. Wood is also credited with inventing, designing and patenting a synthetic playing surface used for indoor courts and for the World Championship Tennis series between 1973 and 1978.

Sidney Wood is survived by his wife, Patricia, and three sons. Another son predeceased him.

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