Friday, January 23, 2009

Wondering ...

Looking east across Central Park from high above Central Park West. 1:00 PM.
January 23, 2009. A not so cold day in New York yesterday.

The big news was the announcement by Caroline Kennedy that she would no longer be seeking an appointment as Senator to replace Hillary Clinton. She cited “personal reasons.” Which is politico talk for “no comment.”

This was followed by all kinds of speculation as to “why” she had changed her mind. The three reasons in speculating were that 1. She’d learned she wasn’t going to be appointed and so to save face, she withdrew; 2. Her marriage is in trouble and she didn’t want to go there publicly; and 3. She couldn’t take the heat of public office.

I’m guessing here but I’d say number 2 is not the reason. There have been many rumors over the past few years about her marriage to Mr. Schlossberg and a relationship with a very prominent New Yorker who has recently left his wife. Anything is possible when it comes to marriages and relationships, as we all know but I don’t think that such a thing would have affected Caroline Kennedy’s decision to stay out of the public forum even if it were true.

Caroline Kennedy and Ed Schlossberg
Not long ago I had a conversation with a close friend of the lady. I asked this person what he thought of her accepting an appointment to the Senate. He told me that he thought it would be a great thing for everyone because “she’s intelligent, she’s passionate, she has integrity, she’s committed and she really cares.” His opinions were so positive that I asked him if I could quote him, just as he said it without any slant at all. He thought about it – because he’s a loyal friend who cares about her – and he asked me not to. Her friends do not talk about her. Period.

Ironically they talk about everybody else. Just like the rest of us. But with CK, it’s a no-no. I must say, she has devoted friends who are totally trustworthy. It says more about the woman than about the friends. Her brother grew up in the same circumstances and was Out There. No doubt he appreciated his privacy as well. And from the sound of it, he had more to worry about because he was so public and so sought after. My point is, it’s not about the life, it’s about the individual.

From the beginning of her interviews on camera she seemed very ill-at-ease with her chosen position (to actively campaign for the appointment). At fifty-one, she’s maintained a very low public profile all her life. This obviously suits her. We don’t know what the experience of Being Caroline Kennedy is and we will never know unless she tells us and that is highly unlikely. She knows, obviously; and there’s a certain aspect of it that is uncomfortable with the whole perception. Promoting herself in public does not suit her.

Politicians, are performers, entertainers, exhibitionists, egomaniacs; whatever. They are motivated to be in public. They LOVE the energy of the admiration, idolatry, attention, special favors, special privileges, whatever. They’re actors on the stage and it’s a big stage. They’re thick-skinned, even when they don’t think they are. They have to be. Caroline Kennedy’s father loved being at the center of things. He didn’t look like he was so comfortable with the glad handing part at times but he was willing to bear it, and he did it. And the center loved him. His daughter doesn’t fit that bill.

It may be that Barack Obama’s candidacy inspired her as it did so many millions of other Americans. It may be that she, like so many of us, was so impressed with the possibilities that his political presence aroused, that she too wanted to help his great political movement. Her public support for him, calling on her father’s politically and historically sacred memory was sincere and heartfelt. It may be that she too thought for a minute there she could be a good senator and serve the country.

Public service is a thought that has crossed the mind of many of us at one time or another. It’s a good thought, a high-minded thought. Some of us have even put it into action and some of us, like Barack Obama have actually succeeded in achieving it. However, Caroline Kennedy, coming from the background of “insidership” that is her heritage, knows more than most of us about the nature of the world that she was aiming toward, and it’s not all honorable distinction.

Politicians rate low on the admiration scale because so many of them do not measure up. It is the politicians who have opened the public coffers to the bankers, lawyers and lobbyists which has led our fiancial system to the brink. They have not served the public good in many situations. Fortunately we can vote them out of office as well as in.

Several years ago I went to a luncheon at the University Club where several senators were in attendance. I accepted the invitation for one reason. When I got there, I asked one of the hostesses if she’d point out a senator who was a Democrat. She pointed to a senator from a western state. I went up and introduced myself. He was very gracious. I told him my party affiliation was the same as his and that I wanted to ask him a question about his job. Shoot, was his immediate response.

I told him that one of things that really troubled me about Washington and politics in general was the apparent ability of lobbyists to not only sway public opinion but also to sway the legislators into voting in programs or contracts that would profit the lobbyist’s clients. Like banks, like corporations with the taxpayers footing the bill.

Why, I wanted to know from this senator, was it possible for a corporate entity to give $100,000 and end up with a billion dollar contract of some kind. “I can’t do that. I don’t even have the money to do it,” I said.

I pointed out that my small political contributions got me nothing but perhaps the candidate’s winning. Nor did I expect anything personally. Furthermore, I reminded the senator, that it was my money, tax-payer money, that he was voting to give to someone else for a contract, a road, a bridge, a plane, a program on their terms. Why does this happen?

His answer? He stared at me for a minute. He was flummoxed. And then, almost apologetically he said: “I don’t know,” I don’t know.

How does this relate to Caroline Kennedy and her withdrawal from seeking the Clinton senate seat? Maybe after her brief and not very comfortable foray into the public forum, into the goldfish bowl existence that her forebears bore with what looked like apparent ease, maybe she just decided she didn’t have the stomach for it, and that at this age, decided she never would. Maybe the integrity her friend cited in her character, got the best of her. Under the circumstances, who could blame her?

Meanwhile, back at the day: At noontime I went down to the townhouse of interior designer Geoffrey Bradfield who was holding a champagne reception in honor of Lady Henrietta Spencer Churchill and her new book “Georgian Style and Design for Contemporary Living.”

The Bradfield townhouse was packed with guests many of whom were using the opportunity to tour the very glamorous house. There were about sixty guests – men and women.

I got a picture of the lady, with her cousin Jacqueline Williams. Henrietta’s father, the Duke of Marlborough is the brother of Jacqueline’s late mother Lady Sarah Spencer Churchill.
Barbara Goldfarb, Alicia Volk, Marina Couloucundis, Christopher Hyland, Anne Pyne, and Mitzi Perdue
At one o’clock the guests all moved on to Persephone, the Greek restaurant which is around the block from the Bradfield residence on East 60th where Christopher Hyland was honoring Lady Henrietta with a luncheon for sixty guests. Lucky guests. If you like Greek food, Persephone is one of the most popular Greek restaurants in New York.

The luncheon menu: Assortment of Pililia, Betts, Marathi Meatballs, Greek Salad; Patmos Salmon; Lamb Tenderloins, Garlic and Rosemary A La Grec; Roasted Potatoes Aki, Horta; and Assorted Greek Pastries.

Mr. Hyland, who is a major supporter of the Capuchin Food Pantries of New York ( also used the occasion to raise funds for the organization. It is administered by Capuchin Franciscan friars – both brothers and priests who served the needs of the poor of a variety of cultures in North America and around the globe.
Barbara de Portago, Fr. Michael Marigliano, and friend Jacqueline Williams and Lady Henrietta Spencer Churchill Ann Rapp and Roger Webster
Geoffrey Bradfield, Amy Hoadley, and Roger Webster Armene Milliken, Juan Carlos Guiterrez, and Martha Glass
Canon John Andrew and Christopher Hyland Martha Glass, Anne Smithers, and Kathy Irwin Anne Pyne
Roric Tobin, Geoffrey Bradfield, and Seth Pariser Ingeborg Rennert, Christopher Hyland, and Lady Henrietta Spencer Churchill
Sarah Hart and Fr. Michael Marigliano Russell Minion and Juan Carlos Gutierrez Joseph Parisi
Alban Krasniqi Brenda Barak, Fr. John McGuire, and Dan fox
Armene Milliken, Kathy Irwin, and Steve Tzolis Nicoloa Katsoni and Steve Tzolis
Anne Zuckerberg Ian Lang George DeAngelo and Dr. Helen Sogolof
Jared Flynn Mitzi Perdue, George De Angelo, Brenda Barak, and Fr. Michael Marigliano
Last night was the Benefit Preview opening of the 35th annual Winter Antiques Show, benefiting the East Side House Settlement at the Park Avenue Armory between 66th and 67th Street. This is one of the great antiques shows of New York and it is running for nine days through February 1st. It’s a great place to visit and you can spend the day there looking and learning and assessing. There is an excellent food bar to enjoy some luncheon or some cappuccino or tea while you take in the show and the scene. We’ll be featuring many of the booths on Monday’s Diary.

Also last night Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom hosted a reception at their Fifth Avenue apartment to celebrate a new bicoastal partnership between Carnegie Hall and Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts which will bring select programming from an upcoming festivalof Chinese culture in New York to the Orange County Performing Arts Center this coming autumn.
Sid Bass and Henry Segerstrom Mercedes Bass and Elizabeth Segerstrom
“Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: Celebrating Chinese Culture” will be presented October 21 through November 10th in New York with 30 events presented throughout the city, including musicians and performers traveling outside China for the first time. On October 15th through November 24th, the Costa Mesa “offshoot” will present performers from the New York festival plus new programming made possible through alliances with Southern California art institutions.

On both coasts, the lineup will feature leading Chinese musicians, including pianists Lang Lang and Yuja Wang, pipa player Wu Man, composer-conductor Tan Dun and conductor Long Yu, and premieres of new compositions by Chen Qigang, Angel Lam and Dun. Also on the program will be the Quanzhou Marionette Theater from Fujian province in southern China, presenting a regional form of traditional Chinese opera.

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