Friday, April 30, 2010

A beautiful, wind-swept day

A wind-swept host of golden daffocils 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
April 30, 2010. Yesterday in New York was one of those blazingly beautiful (and WINDY) days with one of the bluest of blue skies and Sun shimmering against the glass and the brick of the city’s canyons, kissing the creamy white tulips along Park Avenue. With just enough of a subtle nip in the air to remind us that it’s Springtime, when gardens are planted.

I went down to Michael’s for lunch with my new old friend Joan Kingsley, who lives mainly in London with her husband Philip, the world’s premier trichologist. Michael’s was buzzing with a diverse group: Charlie Rose with Nazee Moinian, the rising authority on Iranian/American relations; Leslie Stahl with Steve Rattner; Fredi Friedman with Linda Stasi of the NY Post where she used to write one of the best commentaries about New York.

Meanwhile, in the garden room, there was a party for Lisa Birnbach and Chip Kidd, who have collaborated on “True Prep; It’s A Whole New Old World.” Lisa, as you may know, was the creator/author of the “Official Preppy Handbook” that became an atavistic force of influence on the eternal 30-somethings among us, noting what’s good for a laugh and a ballast against the winds of change.
Lisa Birnbach and her collaborator Chip Kidd before the cover of their new book. Click to order. Anne Keating, Lisa Birnbach, and Sarah Nelson at Michael's yesterday afternoon.
After lunch I took Joan over to the Waldorf to see my friend Joe Pachetti, the traveling jeweler from down Texas way who was showing his collection (last day today or by appointment). I met Joe years ago, as I’m sure I’ve written before, through our late lamented friend, the inimitable Judy Green, who died nine years ago and left a gap in the lives of many New Yorkers here and elsewhere.

Joe is a most unusual fellow, as you can only half detect on first sight (without knowing him, being in his commanding presence). He’s a mixture of the heart of Texas Americana and international nomad hail-fellow-well-met. He goes nowhere without the accompanied accessories of his treasures so you can see them. He’s his own man with the persona of a cattleman or an oilman, yet who’s not; and he has a lot of what is always known as a Girl’s Best Friend. And to those girls, and their guys, he’s known far and wide.
A selection of Joe Pacetti's collection of fine jewelry on display at the Waldorf Towers.
Joe holding a necklace of 185 carats of colored diamonds -- cognac, champagne, blue, chartreuse and white, 36 inches in length, $400,000. Bracelet: 20 carats, pave diamonds, 18 carats white gold, $65,000; Antique Wooden Prayer Beads/macrame bracelet -- from his men's line; Cartier tank Francaise, $175,000.
JAR 60-carat Burmese sapphire (unheated) natural pearls, purple and blue sapphires pave; set in gold and titanium. Signed, $450,000. Joe Pacetti can be reached at: 214-704-3189.
Also in Joe Pachetti's suite, handbag, the authentic pre-owned, Louise Maniscalco (
There is a moment in this experience when I find myself booked up to the gills. The situation where your time belongs to your obligations and little or none to yourself. So everything can seem the same, the field is leveled.

The Spring season of social activity of 2010 in New York seems to me (without statistical confirmation) busier than any season that has come before. This is ironic considering the financial climate of the past year. This may also be that I have been at it long enough to become so familiar with the many aspects of it and just see more of it.

When I started this thing I call a gig about 17 years ago, I approached it with the satisfaction of knowing that since I was a kid growing up in a small New England town and reading the New York tabloids that my New York born and bred father got everyday (the Daily News and the Daily Mirror), I wanted to write a column in New York, and it had been “realized.” Real dreams-come-true department.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Nancy Randolph at Prince Aly Khan's party.
Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Mar 20, 1959.
Igor Cassini.
Aileen Mehle.
As minor a matter as it is in the annals of most literature (with some exceptionally notable moments), it is not a minor matter attaining such a position for us mere mortals who feel compelled. In fact for the first four decades of my life I couldn’t fathom the possibility of realizing it. And by the time I came to it, quite serendipitously, with a serious approach, it had become a cultural antique – especially a “social” column.

However because I grew up an avid reader of Nancy Randolph – The News, Cholly Knickerbocker – the Journal-American, Joe Dever in the World-Telegram and Sun, and of course the queen of them all Ms. Suzy-Q-once-Knickerbocker, the emerald-studded platinum pen with the movie star looks, the field never lost its shiny allure.

Cholly Knickerbocker, as you may know, was not a person as much as a nom de plume assigned to a column for the Hearst newspapers (back when there were many across the nation) and written by several people over the course of a half century including Liz Smith as a kid writing for Igor Cassini. Suzy – in real life Aileen Mehle – was the natural successor, his heir to the throne so-to-speak and the voice of the era. There was briefly Billy Norwich in the fray, although he eventually abdicated his title of heir apparent – possibly because he knew the queen was never going to die. Alas, poor Charles, no?

So, as I was saying, by the time DPC came along, her highness was still queen and with more than enough wit and eye for everybody. Otherwise, social reporting, I was told, was not something anyone was interested in, let alone saw a future in. I never believed that, only because I was interested.

So in late 93 I started writing my Social Diary in Quest at the suggestion of Heather Cohane, who founded and ran the magazine for its first ten years. And I’ve been doing it ever since. Later at Avenue under Judy Price and then back at Quest and, since 2000, right here on these pages. In this time since, Mrs. Mehle has withdrawn her omnipresence from the scene, taking the era with her.

All these years later in the land of nobody thinks “social” is interesting or more importantly “important,” thanks to the internet, I have a lot of confreres or competitors (however you wish to look at it) writing daily. We have even more social reporters in the media than ever before in our history. That is not so much the result my industry or of “society” as we have called it, but because of the phenomenon of “celebrity,” or what I think of as the proletarization in our culture. In other words, everybody’s a star – or so they’d like to think.

However, having covered the scene, followed the parties, listened to the rumors for these aforementioned years, and forced by the nature of the beast – competition and/or encroaching boredom -- I’d got to the point of having to take it or leave it, or to look for “more,” or elsewhere.

What is always interesting is how we evolve as citizens in our tribes and clusters, and how they transform with the times. A lot of the motivation is predictable (greed, for example), but along with that there are a lot of surprises. Such as: Greed in our time has attached itself to Generosity. Much of the revenue that is earned by the charities and philanthropies accumulating or seeking funds for their objectives, come from the greediest people in our society. Whether or not that is a route to redemption, I don’t know. However, the result is often positive, constructive and even hopeful.

This irony should not come as a surprise considering the Saga and Epoch of the Rockefellers in America. The first John D. was the creator of this massive fortune – far more massive (depth/breadth) than most are capable of imagining, and far far more than is revealed to the public.

John D. Rockefeller, 1885.
This great fortune (over a trillion in today’s dollars) was the result of the inherent greed combined with the shrewdness of that one man. And his fate. His manner and form in his business heyday was recognized by the public, and he was chastised and demonized to the point of transformation (rather than humiliation or defeat).

Mr. Rockefeller had a lot of assistance, from the Reverends who advised, to the public relations moguls like Ivy Lee, who advised and consulted. The result of his “transformation” was an incredible amount of assistance given to his fellow man for several generations, touching the lives of millions like blessings.

So the thing about the social Spring Social Season in New York, festooning, as it were, once ambition festering, has been a profusion of this “generosity” born of baser elements. In the past week I’ve witnessed a dozen or more events and galas which have raised millions for a wide variety of humanitarian causes/projects. Evelyn Lauder’s creation, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation which celebrated with its annual Hot Pink Party this past week has in the 19 years since its inception, raised more than a quarter billion dollars for breast cancer research.

Mrs. Lauder told me last night at a dinner at Sotheby’s for the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, which her husband is spear-heading, that they are very close to a drug that can reduce the disease to a chronic affliction that can be treated. I know a dozen women personally who have been victims (and mainly survivors in the past few years) of breast cancer. I’ve watched Mrs. Lauder and her associates change a situation. Power on the plus side; this is the thing to follow now. Everything else is being revealed. Everywhere.
Sonja Morgan and Marcia Levine during the cocktail reception before dinner at Sotheby's for the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. Sonja, who was my dinner partner, has recently entered the halls of reality TV on The Real Housewives of New York. A divorcee, mother of a young daughter, I first met Sonja when I did a piece on her for Quest magazine in 1993. She's wearing a ten-year-old Dolce & Gabbana, which she said she takes out once a year.
Meanwhile, last night in another part of the forest, the Horticultural Society of New York hosted its annual spring gala “Flowers and Design” at 583 Park Avenue. They honored Christian Duvernois, the landscape designer, and David Monn, the floral designer and event planner; and Betty Sherrill, the force behind McMillen for the past half century.

Mario Buatta, Chris Giftos, and Bunny Williams were Design Chairs. Their theme was “Legends, Myths and Fairy Tales.” Spectacular displays, fashion, floral and interior-wise were the order of the evening. And being New York, without peer. Our indefatigable photographer Ann Watt got there early to take it all in for those of us who couldn’t be there.
Christian Duvernois, Betty Sherrill, and David Monn.
Karen Casdin. Cece Black.
Nancy Swiezy of Nancy Swiezy Events.
Hartley du Pont.
IMG_7899 Derya Samadi Garden and Flowers
Lynn Jawitz Florisan. Flowers by daye.
Mille Fiori Floral Design.
Sebastian Li events.
L'Olivier Soirees & Galas. Fleurs Bella.
Chestnuts in the Tuileries. Diane Wagner Designs.
George Pisegna.
Harry Heismann Inc. Rachel Cho Inc.
Zak Events.
Flowers, Sticks and Stones.
Tantawan Bloom. Bridget Vizoso for The Designers Co-op.
George Pisegna.
Renny & Reed. Reed McIlvaine.
Rebecca Cole GROWS.
Hugh McManon. Diane Wagner Designs.
Bowman Dahl LLC.
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Photographs by Ann Watt (Horticultural Society).
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