Friday, November 6, 2009

The stuff New York is made of

Cemetery of Congregation Shearith Israel - The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, in use 1805-1829. West 11th Street just east of 6th Avenue (Greenwich Village). 1:50 PM. Photo: JH.
November 6, 2009. Yesterday was sunny but getting colder in New York. Almost overcoat time.

At the noon hour Barbara de Portago hosted a luncheon at La Grenouille to honor the 2009 Versailles Foundation benefit patrons, in the restaurant’s private dining room on the second floor. There was a crackling fire in the fireplace and four tables set for ten.

Among the guests: Hope Annan, Cece Black, Ketty Maisonrouge, Maribel Lieberman, Tina Geriror, Constantino Castellano, Jeff Coe, Donald Fox, Anna Clemencia Fox, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Juan Carlos Guttierez, Christopher Hyland, Christian Keesee, Suzanne Chute, Leslie Eichner, Janna Bullock, Gillian Fuller, Gigi Fisdell, Hermiune Mariaux, Russell Minion, Melissa Morris, Nancy O’Sullivan, Marjorie Rosen, Richard and Donna Soloway, Mimi Stafford, Barbara Tober, Jean Shafiroff, Kassidy Schagrin, John Punnett, Shahara Llewelyn and Sabrina Forsythe.
Barbara de Portago. The menu.
After the guests were seated, Barbara de Portago got up and spoke briefly about the Foundation’s longtime lawyer, the late Carl Forsythe 3rd, husband of Sabrina. Carl’s father, who was also a lawyer also served the foundation and Barbara de Portago’s grandfather as well. He was a good man, as many of us knew, and a great friend and lawyer to his client, as Barbara attested touchingly.

After the brief bittersweet memory of the man who died suddenly of a brain tumor last July , that was it for the business of the day. The rest of the luncheon was for enjoying Le Grenouiille’s fabulous fare (see menu), and the conversation – which from what I could see was lively at every table.
The upstairs private dining room of La Grenouille yesterday noontime.
The working fireplace provided a coziness to french country chic of the room.
The table setting with the main course.
Among the many things going on last night in New York, was a book launch that drew a lot of the young hotties to the Gramercy Park Hotel. Tom Spry reports for the NYSD:

Spotted: The most au courant stylist and his starlet (in that order) enjoying a soigne soiree. Last night was an evening for those in the young and fashionable social circles to be seen and talked about. The exclusive and deliciously chic Rooftop Club of The Gramercy Park Hotel was the setting.

The occasion: the launch party for Eric Daman's new book, You Know You Want It: Style-Inspiration-Confidence.
The ambiance of the Gramercy Park Hotel's Rooftop Bar.
Daman is the Emmy Award-winning costume designer and stylist behind the hugely popular television show Gossip Girl, which chronicles the feuds and trysts of fictional young, well-to-do New Yorkers.

The luminary of the evening, the oft discussed Leighton Meester (who penned the introduction to Daman's book), is an exceptionally beautiful star. Behind that beautiful star, typically hidden from the limelight, is a talented and ambitious stylist.

Daman, who studied French literature at the Sorbonne, is the man behind the magic of the show. The man whose name flashes ephemerally across the credits at the end of the program is, in actuality, an important decision-maker behind the scenes. Because the fashion of the show is intrinsic to its success, Daman is consulted on how the plot of the episodes should develop long before filming takes place (Designers such as Lola Schnabel and Zac Posen are staples of the Gossip Girl "vocabulary." Abigail Lorick successfully launched her own line after her styles were featured on the show).
Good Girl Leighton Meester and Eric Daman.
Bad Girl Leighton Meester and Eric Daman.
Daman says that the real New York socialites that Gossip Girl characters are based on would recognize the young designers he selects and be "the first to find them and the first to wear them."

The venue for the Swarovski-sponsored evening was ideal for honoring the fashion style of Gossip Girl's fictional New York society powerbrokers, Blaire Waldorf (Meester) and her sinister popinjay hubby, Chuck Bass (played by Ed Westwick). You can just imagine them conspiring against their rivals beneath the ivy-laden trellises of Gramercy Park Hotel's Rooftop Club. 
Olivia Palermo. Artists Andrea Merkx and Gabrielle Giattino.
Swarovski's special event manager, Alexandria Nahlous. Clusters of unlit bulbs hang from the ceiling.
Besides Meester, Daman played host to the gorgeous Gossip Girl cast member, Nicole Fiscella. Also in attendance was one of the most brilliant jewels in the crown of the young New York social set – rumored to be the real-life inspiration for Meester's character, Olivia Palermo.

Palermo, made even more alluring by her stint on the reality show The City, was enchanting to talk to (IF you could make it past her publicist- a woman dubbed "beautiful and dutiful").  

Also an unmistakable presence were the fashion and television industry professionals. However, the iconic Patricia Field was noticeably absent. Field is renowned for being the stylist for Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada. Daman served as Field's assistant on Sex and the City.
Shannon Lumpkin and Amy Kaufman. Mika Jesse.
Designers Cachee Livingston and Yana Evans. Angela DiCarlo.
Around the room: The most entertaining relationship was between stylist and client. Meester and Daman's discreet smirks and giggles bespoke an almost familial relationshipn - sister and brother reunited. Gossip Girl producer, Amy Kaufman, and fur-clad Shannon Lumpkin chatted animatedly by the champagne bar, while other designers, artists, and agents mingled with the club's spectacular real-life views of the New York skyline -- the Empire State and the Chrysler Building are prominent in the background.

Oscar Wilde once said, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." With that in mind, it was fascinating to hear adored celebutantes like Meester and Palermo singing the praises of the the talented Daman. In a Wildean kind of world, and that being Daman's, it pays to be a Gossip Girl.

Also last night in New York: At Cipriani Wall Street, the North Shore Animal League America held its annual DogCatemy Celebrity Gala. Geraldo Rivera was emcee. Diane Birch performed.

The “Green Carpet” event had a dog park theme of larger than life American Dog sculptures by Dale Rogers. Then for the 400 guests there were also celebrity made short films starring their pets. Awww.
Howard Stern and the media circus.
Howard Stern and wife Beth Ostrosky Stern, playing nice with the media.
The green carpet. Martha Stewart and her French bulldogs on the green carpet.
The front and back of Patso, a 76-year-old former motorcyclist.
Martha and board members of the North Shore Rescue Center.
One of Martha's French Bulldogs. Lucky dog sculpture by Dale Rogers.
Friends of dogs.
Patron on auction. Starting bid: $500. Cristal on auction. Starting bid: $1,200.
The centerpieces of each table, on auction for $25.
This was followed by Awards for Best in Show, Best Tail-Waggin’ Comedy, Best Musical, Best Dogumentary and the Best Pawformance. Oh the lengths we go to to express our affection for our animals.

Meanwhile they know how to express their affection far more profoundly through abiding, eternal loyalty. Unfortunate are the many who abuse and reject this gift. The North Shore Animal League is famous for helping out those dogs and cats who’ve known such people far too well. There are many names for them. But for the dogs (and the kitties) the name’s the same. Love and loyalty. Dog spelled backwards.
Dori Villalon, San Francisco ASPCA, with her adorable Chihuahua Miss Millie. Grace and her dog Porsche. Bow-tied Pooch.
Elvis and Dr. David Best, personalities on CBS's Great American Dog show. Greg Kleva and Kody. Beth Joy Knutsen and her dog Bella Starlet.
Rick DiPietro. Heather and Dale Rogers. Dale is the sculptor of the large dog structures seen around the venue. Lisa Alexander and her rescue tattoo.
More pictures from the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Living Landmarks on Wednesday night. I’m not sure what the qualifications are to be named a Living Landmark. There have been more than 120 and so many of them are famous, prominent and even historical names.

It’s most likely a person who in one way or another enhances the place and/or the idea that is New York. New Yorkers are very conscious of this being “the greatest city in the world.” It’s not exactly a matter of pride, but more a matter of awe. I know you could argue the point but when you take it all into consideration, it’s still the center of the world of the last 80 or so years. It’s as visitors always say about it, The Energy. The source.

It became a mecca for other Americans after the Civil War, and for the Europeans en masse with the flourishing of the Industrial Revolution and the development of the West. Now a century later, waves of Asians, Latins and Indian populations have joined this notion called America. And that America started and still starts in New York.
Looking toward the podium and bandstand Wednesday night at Cipriani 42nd Street.
When you’re in this great hall of an ex-bank (the Bowery Savings) that is now Cipriani 42nd Street, as I was on Wednesday night, and you walk among the tables, you know that you are in the presence of a lot of people doing a lot of things to serve themselves, their families, their institutions and us.

Bill Cunningham referred to this kind of energy in his acceptance. He talked about his travels through the city photographing not only the people but the great buildings that define the city’s appearance. He recalled a man named Lawrence Wien, a wealthy businessman, who lived near the Stanford White designed University Club on the northwest corner of 54th Street and Fifth Avenue. This was back in the 1950s or 60s, I think.

Mr. Wien used to walk past this great monument to Gilded Age architecture. He looked at it so often that he soon realized that its façade’s blackness was not its true shade. So one day he stopped in the University Club and made them an offer: Get somebody to clean the exterior and I’ll pay for it. And so, it was done.
Cunningham recounted how after that great success, citizen Wien decided to do the same thing for St. Thomas’ church on the next blook down the avenue. And so it was. One man, one idea and a more beautiful New York.

Cunningham came to New York sixty-one years ago, in 1948. He recalled going up to the garden in Central Park on 104th Street and Fifth. “It was a wreck!” he recalled woefully. Everything falling down, uncared for, ill-kempt and hopeless. Not anymore. Those men and women who got together and decided to create the Central Park Conservancy and the Women’s Committee have transformed the Park to a level that a lot of people now just take its beauty for granted.

These are mammoth undertakings, yet they are approached by some people as matter of fact. These people are the true leaders of a city because they are building it, maintaining it, developing it, creating it, and providing the symphonies (and dance bands) to pay tribute to it.

When you’re at this dinner, the above is in the ether, if you give it a thought. I like it. I’ll bet Stanford White liked it in the same way. It feels good. You’re in the thick of it. In these moments you even get a sense that we’re in good hands: our own. I’m sure a lot of other people feel the same way. It’s an idea and an ideal firstly. That’s what Living Landmarks are.
Guy Robnson and Elizabeth Stribling. Susan Zises Green. Bruce Levingston and Carole Bailey.
Sharon Handler. Dr. Mitch Rosenthal and Ben Gazzara.
Elizabeth Peabody. Denise LeFrak Calicchio. Barbara Tober and Jamee Gregory.
  Joan Jedell.
Amb. John Loeb and Ed Gallagher. Lesley Stahl. Jeff and Liz Peek.
Larry Leeds, Dr. Mitch Rosenthal, and Roz Jacobs. Rainer Greeven, Barbara Cates, and Konrad Keesee.
Elaine Kaufman. Dr. Mathilde Krim. Barbara de Portago.
Marlene Hess.  
Ann NItze and Regina Greeven. Wilbur Ross, Richard LeFrak, and John Calicchio.
Mary McFadden and Gregory Speck. Joan Jedell and Yaz Hernandez.
Joni Evans and Bob Perkins. Giovanni Lo Faro and Prof. Iris Love.
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