Thursday, May 13, 2010

A grey day in New York

At the end of a Grey Day in New York, Upper West Side. 8:30 PM. Photo: JH.
May 13, 2010. A rainy and otherwise grey day in New York. And what seems like unseasonably cold for the middle of May. It is also the birthday of my two older sisters, Helen and Jane, not twins, and both of whom are older than their little brother and were very often charged with looking after him when he was a little one and our mother was out working to feed us and keep a roof over our heads. Their care and attention; sometimes gladly, sometimes otherwise, considering a nuisance (the little brother), provided lasting stability to their little brother’s now long life, for which he can only be eternally grateful. I never ask them about it but I’m sure they remember it all very well. Both girls are widows, both girls are grandmothers and both are happy to have it such.

The lady in these photos taken in Nice, France last weekend by Murat Jean, exclusively for NYSD, is without the accoutrement (makeup and hair) that New Yorkers see. In Nice she looks relaxed, almost like a young girl touring, secure on the arm of her man, and excited to be there. And from the looks of these pictures, you might imagine she’s mad about the boy. Or rather the Hero. Because you can see that this isn’t just “some guy” to her. This is Bernard-Henri Levy, -- known in France simply as BHL -- one of France’s great modern philosophers. They are the real rock stars to the French. Plus he's a centimillionaire, thanks to his industrialist father. He is currently married to his third wife, French sex kitten and songstress, Arielle Dombasle.

Daphne Guinness and Bernard-Henri Levy.
Coincidentally, yesterday at lunch, who should walk in about two but that very couple. He looking quite the same and she looking like the Daphne Guinness we see in New York. Her knotted brown and blonde hair was up in its black-and-white knot. She was wearing a silk dress, short, almost iridescent violet-red in its sheen. She has a perfect figure, good long legs made even longer by her very high heels. They must add two or three inches (maybe more?) to her height.

I was introduced in passing to Ms. Guinness a number of years ago at a dinner party at Alice Mason’s. She was Mrs. Niarchos, with her then husband, Spyros Niarchos. Son of Stavros. She was not remarkable for her fashion sense at that moment. She was remarkable for being a Mrs. Niarchos. I’m sure that not many in the room even knew she was also a Guinness, etc.

They were a good looking couple – she, a beauty; he not, but nevertheless self-possessed, somewhat reserved, and politely kind on introduction. Her beauty then was without the drama, the aura of drama, that surrounds her now. Almost plain. She looked like the wife who didn’t know anything else. Rich, but obedient.

That was ten years ago when she was in her early thirties. Now: If there is any adult woman who is “the last word” in high fashion in the world today it is Daphne Guinness. Sans Niarchos; they were divorced several years ago.

The look is her creation, not unlike that which one creates in an interior or paints on a canvas picture. It’s Madonna in her wildest dreams (but alas, sorry Madge ...). Daphne Guinness is not beautiful, she’s gorgeous. And she’s got that lingering gaze of terminal ennui about her. Yet always smiling, always alert.

I confess that I’m intimidated by that kind of beauty. Some men would be “knocked out.” I guess that’s intimidation taken to its final phase; me, I’m intimidated. So I am pleased just to be able to look.

I have a theory that the girls who wear the highest heels are the unhappiest. That’s an additional allure, admit it. Unhappy beauty. Marilyn Monroe. It’s just like those of us who have the highest expectations: the slightest disappointment can burst the bubble.

When she arrived at Michael’s yesterday afternoon
as the restaurant was beginning to clear out, I was reminded of a story my friend Hermes Pan told me years ago about his friend Lana Turner.

Lana always made an entrance. She was taught how to do that at MGM. and she was a champ at the game. And so when she arrived at the entrance of a room, particularly a public room, she first stood there, especially if it were elevated by a step or two or four. And then she’d stand there some more, as if waiting, just slightly impatient, to be shown to her table. And you would look. And look and look. Because she looked like nobody else, near or far. She looked absolutely stunningly glamorous. Beyond. Like a star. The ones up in the sky, that is.
Daphne Guinness has that quality when she enters a room. When she wants to. If she wants to. That night at Alice Mason’s it was not apparent. The courteous manner, the natural physical beauty was there, but not the Wow! The Pow! Like yesterday afternoon.

Michael McCarty was there and greeted the couple and led them to table one, the table in the corner. While just across from them, Dr. Gerry Imber, Jerry della Femina, Andrew Bergman et al, led the rest of the restaurant in staring. The good kind of staring -- where it’s just so alarmingly charming you gawk happily.

Just to finish the Hermes Pan anecdote about Lana:
Pan said that what was funny about Lana is that she would get herself all dolled up for that entrance, although not for the night. He recalled a night in Acapulco when she’d flown in from Los Angeles to be with the love of her life, Tyrone Power.
She’d arrived at a nightclub to join Pan and some friends, (Power was shooting; Pan was working with his co-star Rita Hayworth), and she was all in white -- long dress, low cut, white fox draped around her, white gloves, necklace, earrings, bracelets and the platinum blonde upswept coif (this was 1947).

Just one look at this confection and it was Ta-Da! For everyone in the room. Once that was accomplished, however, Lana would cross to her the table, throw off the fox, remove the gloves at lightning speed, sit back, light a cigarette, order a martini and kinda flop into her chair and chill. From then on, for the rest of the night, it was Lana, the kid from Idaho who broke into pictures as a teenager and became a star.

Daphne Guinness is no kid from Idaho
with that provenance and experience. Nor does she exactly chill at table with M. Levy. No sir. "Melts" is more like it. When she’s with her man, She is focused. And alarmingly charmed. These don’t look like unhappy moments for her.
Nemir Kirdar tells the guests last night at Georgette Mosbacher's about his book, Saving Iraq: Rebulding a Broken Nation.
On my schedule last night was three different cocktail receptions/parties. Two were for books. James and Toni Goodale gave a party for Sally and Ben Bradlee and their son Quinn. The two messrs. Bradlee have written a book: A Life’s Work; Fathers and Sons; with Observations by Sally Quinn (a/k/a Mom).

Just a few blocks north, Gorgette Mosbacher was hosting
a reception for Nemir Kirdar, an Iraqi-born businessman who has written a book, Saving Iraq; Rebuilding a Broken Nation. Mr. Kirdir spoke for about a half hour about his native country, presenting the history of this country that the British tacked together on their own in 1921. It had a monarchy, a royal family, and some kind of structure preparing for what sounded like a constitutional monarchy.

Nemir Kirdar. Click to order.
Mr. Kirdar signing a copy of his book.
In 1934 it began exporting oil, all of which was extracted by foreign oil companies with 10% of the proceeds going to Iraq. For the next twenty years, the country was run by a diverse group of men (ministers) from different parts of the Middle East including Turkey (since the area known as Iraq was once part of the Ottoman Empire).

But in the early 1950s, the position of oil in the world changed prices, changed percentages and Iraq was sharing 50-50 with the foreign oil companies. And getting rich. The progress the government had made in building this “new” country ran into political conflict. There was a military coup in 1958. And, as Mr. Kirdar pointed out last night, “coups are followed by coups…” Which is what happened, so that by 1968, there came a coup that brought a man to power named Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Kirdar was very frank about the current situation. A democracy cannot be installed in a country by another country. It must be built and built by its countrymen, not outsiders. I couldn’t tell how hopeful Mr. Kirdar is about his native land, but he is definitely saddened deeply by the turn of events.

He educated himself outside of Iraq, went to night school, got a Masters and built a successful investment-oriented business called Investcorp. He left Iraq long ago and regards himself now as an Iraqi who is an international citizen (he lives with his wife in London and the south of France). He has the comportment, the savoir-faire and sartorial of an international man. His English is that of an educated man, and almost without accent (to the American ear). In conversation he’s a man of humanity and of humility.

I hadn’t planned to stay for Mr. Kirdar’s talk about his book, but as he began to talk, I became riveted – how he came to write it, what it is about (a personal analysis of the situation seen through the eyes of a countryman), and what he thinks. He was pleased that Saddam was finally removed from power. The Iraqi people were stuck; they could not remove him themselves because of the terror he created around himself. Now Mr. Kirdar is wary of what can possibly come up in Saddam’s place, a place where corruption abounded and still abounds (my take, after listening to the author).
Georgette Mosbacher with her guests of honor, Nemir Kirdar and Nada Kirdar. The cake for the author.
It was after eight when Nemir Kirdar was finished and I got a shot of him and his wife and his hostess. It was too late for the Bradlee party which had a huge turnout including the Diller-Von Furstenbergs, the Wentworth-Stephanopouloses, Christiane Amanpour, Joe Armstrong, Jonathan and Emily Alter, Bob Barnett and Rita Braver, Hilary and Joe Califano, Marie Brenner, Carl Bernstein, Jodie and John Eastman, Lauren Bacall, Joan Didion, Tina Brown and Sir Harry Evans, Mary and David Boies, Ashley Goodale, Lally Weymouth, Alexandra Penney, the Kissingers, the Bratton-Kleiman’s, Mary McFadden, Michael Kramer, Alice Mayhew, the Conant-Krofts, Joe Scarborough, Mitch and Sarah Rosenthal, Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols, Lynn Nesbit, Lorne Michaels, Liz Smith, Brian Williams, Ed and Sheri Rollins, the Klein-Seligmans, Gay Talese, Andre Leon Talley, Diana Taylor, Ken Auletta and Binky Urban, the Kazickas-Altmans, Richard Johnson, Susan Mercandetti, Dan Rather, David Remnick, Charlie Rose, Sir Howard Stringer, Mort Zuckerman, Meredith Vieira, Barbara Walters and many others of that ilk and stripe. My god, more media stars over Manhattan than there are in the heavens.

John Simon
It was also much too late for me to make the John Simon Birthday reception that William Ivey Long was giving for him at William’s bar and restaurant (William Ivey Long, the Broadway and Hollywood costume designer, owns a bar and restaurant called Shoolbred’s on Second Avenue between 12th and 13th Street).

I’ve never met John Simon – celebrating his 85th yesterday -- although I’ve read him for years in New York Magazine where he could often skewer a play or musical, but eviscerate a production so much as to make a mockery of the talent that created it. Oh my, oh my. However, because of Mr. Simon’s “high” standards, when he did like something not even love something, your ears perked up.

Meanwhile this past Monday over at Dizzy’s Coca-Cola
at Jazz at Lincoln Center our recently departed (for some tropical climes) friend and newly arrived mother, Ashley Schiff Ramos made it up to New York from her Palm Beach abode on Monday to host the first annual Essentially Ellington luncheon.

The objective: to raise funds to benefit the many jazz education programs produced by J@LC. More than 100,000 high school students have been inspired and enhanced by these programs in this country, Canada and American schools abroad.

Ashley co-hosted with Diana DiMenna, and there were 75 lucky guests who enjoyed performances by alumni of the Essentially Ellington program, Carlos Henriquez who is now the bassist in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Erica von Kleist, now enjoying her own flourishing career. Among Monday’s guests were Mica Ertegun, Gordon Davis, John Arnhold, Diane Coffey, Lisa Schiff, Muffy Flouret, Alexandra Kotur, Alexis Clark, Lisa Rinehart, Amber Frumkes, Rita Ewing, Tonya Lewis Lee, Erana Stennett, Mary Beth Daniel, Andrea DuBois Aston, Greg Kelly.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Walter Blanding with Jazz at Lincoln Center Board member Ashley Schiff Muffy Flouret and Amber Frumkes
Kim O’Connor and Beth Strauss with friends
Ruthe Ponturo, Jazz at Lincoln Center Board member Ashley Schiff, and Tracey Snyder
Walter Blanding and Marcia Mishaan Lee Galvis and Margie Sung
Producer of Broadway musical Fela! Edward Nahem, Assistant Musical Director of Fela! Jordan McLean, performer with Fela! Abena Koomson, and guitarist with Fela! Ricky Quinones
Jazz at Lincoln Center Board member Diana DiMenna with Helen Williams Nancy Sipp and Vicki Foley
Mary Beth Daniel, Jazz at Lincoln Center Executive Director Adrian Ellis, and Nate Chinen
Gillian Miniter and Alexis Clark Hannah McFarland and Simone Levinson
Vivian Chambers, Brenda Earl, and Anna Benton
Andrea DuBois, Tonya Lewis Lee, and Alexis Clark Ruthe Ponturo and friend
Jazz at Lincoln Center Chairman Lisa Schiff with Jazz at Lincoln Center Board member Mica Ertegun
Tracey Synder with Jazz at Lincoln Center Chief Officer of External Relations Bret Silver Ashley Schiff with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra bassist Carlos Henriquez
Carlos Henriquez, saxophonist Erica Von Kleist, and Greg Kelly
I received this email yesterday from Anne Nitze about a little beauty named Rascal. Please Read carefully:

Dear friends,

I have a Mission almost impossible: I want to find a "Family" for this little female dog named Rascal and I have only a few weeks to do so before I leave for Italy this summer.

All I'm asking you with this mail, is to forward it to your friends. It is a very simple operation which would cost you few minutes but in doing so, you will increase the chance for her to find a home.

Little Rascal.
Just a few lines to give some basic information.

I found Little Rascal in the woods near my apt. in Washington Heights three weeks ago, free, no collar, no leash. She was starved and scared but she followed me and I brought her home. She's been with me for two weeks and now is in a shelter, obviously I can't keep her! I went to visit her and she was very stressed so I decided to take action. 

She is very, very sweet (no kidding, she would hug you!) with people (all). I did see that she is not aggressive with other dogs when unleashed, more when she is on leash; this is true for most of the dogs though!

She likes to run and chase squirrels or little birds (very funny!), she's high energy dog, needs exercise, she is not well in that shelter.

Rascal is very healthy and strong. She should be around two or three years old, all she needs is affection and a master to love. This dog has a soul!

If you want more information, please don't hesitate to email me.

Thank you very much to everybody!

Serena d'Ovidio
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