Monday, May 3, 2010

A very warm weekend in New York

Looking southeast over the treetops of Central Park, from atop the Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum. Friday at 7:30 PM. Photo: JH.
May 3, 2010. A very warm weekend in New York with temperatures running into the 80s and the humidity ramping up along with it.

This past Friday night the Tribeca Film Festival
premiered Whitney Sudler-Smith’s “Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston” at the SVA Theatre on West 23rd Street to a big crowd of New York bold-facers, fashion people, fashion mavens, film-makers and get-arounders.

Mr. Sudley-Smith’s very entertaining film is half-documentary, half-auto-bio, all in search, as the filmmaker tells us in his voiceover, for the glamour and magic of the 1970s in New York, which he associated with the fame of Halston, along with Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli.
Halston, Bianca, and Liza at Studio 54.
Halston, Bianca, Jack Haley Jr. (who was then married to Liza), and Michael Jackson.
Halston, circa 1977.
These were spectacular icons of a short-lived, but much-talked-about moment, which is now filed in memory under the name of a nightclub -- Studio 54.

The 70s was really the end of what we now think of as the 60s. The 70s, which Halston’s memory evokes, was the culmination of a turbulent time in American social history, beginning with the Assassination of John F. Kennedy; with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, to the huge public demonstrations against the Viet Nam War, to the bra-burning, draft-card burning, the hippies, the Chicago Seven, Richard Nixon, Watergate, and the final instanteous and immediate withdrawal from the Vietnam peninsula in 1975, and finally the sexual revolution. After that came Ronald Reagan, just say no, and political revolution elsewhere in the world.
Sarah Jessica Parker. Pat Cleveland with daughter.
By the late 70s, change had set in. It was everywhere, and embraced enthusiastically. It was a very exciting time to be young, and that excitement was reflected in the arts as well as in fashion. Roy Halston Frowick, a big tall drink of water from Des Moines came to New York at its outset and began his professional career as a milliner at Bergdorf’s. He designed the famous “pillbox” hat that Jackie Kennedy wore to her husband’s Inauguration. It, along with its wearer, created a sensation with the American people. Halston, within a few years became a major fashion designer, revolutionizing fashion with his bias-cut dresses and then with ultra-suede -- a very expensive, revolutionary “fabric” which became a staple signature to his collection.

He was an ambitious boy with big dreams when he arrived in Manhattan. He had a strong work ethic and a big ego pushing it. By the time Studio 54 came into being, Halston was in a class by himself in American fashion, comparable to Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. He was making a fortune and he was very famous. Although he had already demonstrated a lack of shrewdness when it came to hard business decisions. This would later exacerbate his professional problems.
Nicole Miller. Fern Mallis.
The Elephant in the Living Room. There was also one lurking problem which was not recognized as even a threat initially: cocaine. Cocaine is not a new social drug. The rich and the famous had experimented and played with it for a century before, including the famous Dr. Freud, whose interest came from medical experiments. Cocaine was said to be the original ingredient in America’s favorite soft-drink. Cole Porter wrote a 1935 lyric: “Some get a kick from cocaine; I’m sure that if I had even one sniff it would bore me terrifcally too.”

It was a glamorous drug, and when masses of us started trying it in the 1970s, it was a sexy adventure (in our heads if nowhere else). I have no doubt that when Mr. Halston started in, it was just that. To this day you can hear people rhapsodize about how they “feel/felt” on coke. Its “recreational” use is said to be even greater than it was back in Halston’s day.
Judy Licht. Andre Leon Talley.
You won’t see anything much about this matter in this film because the filmmaker concentrated on the shimmer and the shake – and what the 70s “was like.” And because of it, the theater audience on Friday night was fascinated by the “ribaldry” of its players and the film’s main attraction who came off as arch and very self-possessed. Sitting there, watching the story being told on the screen, listening to the 70's disco rock that we were all dancing to in those days, I couldn’t help feeling again that same shimmer and shake. Ten more minutes of Nile Rogers’ “Freak-Out” on-screen and the aisles of SVA Theatre would have been jammed with people boogeying to the beat.

What we did learn about the man from watching the film -- and what has been forgotten in the past twenty-five years -- was that Halston was one of the greatest American designers of the century. In his early days he was driven, disciplined and hugely productive.
Andre Leon Talley, Ralph Rucci, and Pat Cleveland in vintage Halston.
Matt Tyrnauer. Whitney Suder-Smith.
However, that fame and fortune distended his ego, and cocaine blew it to smithereens. His party-going with the arrival of Studio 54 became the nail in the coffin of a brilliant career. His drug use did not start with that. Before Studio he was a man who made sure to be home and in bed at a decent hour in order to start his workday early. The coming of Studio 54, however, had turned him into a night owl. Going to bed at 4:30 or 5, he barely had the energy to get out of bed by eleven or noon, so hung over and coked out from the night before.

After the screening there was a panel discussion moderated by Matt Tyrnauer (who made the fabulously successful docu about Valentino called “The Last Emperor”). Several people voiced opinions that there was too much emphasis on Halston’s addictions. Unfortunately, however, Halston’s addictions were his nemesis, and they drove his life the way any serious disease can. Then, his affliction also came to its fore with another disease that would decimate the society he lived in: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

This was a great sorrow for so wonderful a talent. He was not  the first and he wouldn't be the last, but many great artists (and  ordinary people) destroy themselves with their addictions and  compulsions.
Mario Buatta, Pat Altschul, and friend.
The panel recalling him on Friday night were inclined to stay off the topic of Halston’s afflictions. One person commented that “we all have done all the drugs, we all know about the drugs,” etc. Which is so for many of us. Nevertheless his addictions were a disease, and remain the focal point in what is a Great Cautionary Tale, which is Halston’s legacy – an important and legitimate one.

Because what did come across authentically on the screen was this man’s genius, and that it is still wonderful to look at. He himself lost his way in the turbulence  of fame and fortune. This is not to be condemned, but it is to be acknowledged as A Lesson for all of us.  He was, after all a man of his time. It is not shameful in the way so many people regard it; but it is tragic.
Deeda Blair and Boaz Mazor. Nancy North Dugan.
After the screening and the panel discussion, the crowd moved onto the Trump Soho where Cinema Society and Vanity Fair and Ambrosi Abrianna were hosting the after-party. 

A lot of people there from the Halston days as well as a lot of the current glitterati. Among those who were at the after-party who were in the film were: Bob Colacello, Amy Fine Collins, Naeem Khan, Andre Leon Talley, Pat Cleveland, Boaz Mazor, Patricia Altschul, director Whitney Sudler-Smith.
Bill Dugan. Nancy Collins and DPC.
Also part of the passing parade: Sarah Jessica Parker, Marc Jacobs, Georgina Chapman, Rob Thomas, John Leguizamo, Marg Helgenberger, Kate Walsh, Melissa George, Laura Harring, Bryan Batt (“Mad Men”), Ingrid Sischy and Sandra Brant, Deeda Blair, Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes, Carol Alt, Nicole Miller, Russell Simmons, Donald Trump Jr. and Vanessa Trump, Kelly Klein, Zuleikha Robinson (“Lost”), Veronica Webb, Vicky Ward, Peter Melhado, Genevieve Bahrenburg and John deNeufville, Rachel Zoe, Cecilia Dean, Dan Abrams, CNN’s Alina Cho, Tori Praver, Frederique Van Der Wal, Andre Harrell, Ann Dexter-Jones, Irina Pantaeva, Linda Fargo, Kate Betts, Fern Mallis, Rosanna Scotto (“Good Day New York”), Olivia Palermo (MTV’s “The City”) and Johannes Huebl, Daniel Benedict, Lorenzo Martone, Alex Lundqvist, Charlie Scheips, Ann Blinkhorn, Mario Buatta, Nancy Collins, Nancy North, Bill Dugan, Tyson Ballou, Dylan Lauren, Olivia Chantecaille, Alex Hitz, Lucy Sykes Euan Rellie, Jennifer Creel, Ali Wise, Debbie Bancroft, Jill Fairchild, Bettina Zilkha, producers Adam Bardach, Anne Goursaud, Shawn Simon and Mark Urman, Ralph Rucci, Matt Tyrnauer and Cinema Society founder Andrew Saffir.
Kenny Lane, Naem Kahn, Amy Fine Collins, and Alex Hitz.
Last Thursday night at Sotheby’s the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation held its annual fund-raising dinner in the galleries where its great paintings and sculpture are exhibited before going to auction. This is a lovely dinner, black tie, with beautiful tables set amidst all the wonderful and exquisitely lighted art. The subject of the evening, however, is a deeply serious one.

Alzheimer’s was discovered a century ago but no effective drugs have been found for treatment and/or prevention. The statistics predict that the number afflicted will increase from 4.5 to 14 by 2050; remembering that the afflicted are almost all older or elderly people with naturally shorter life spans.

Marti Dinerstein.
What ADDF is doing is raising money for research, and to hear Dr. Howard Fillit, the foundation’s Executive Director discuss it, the ADDF is making very important progress to finding a treatment.

There were 245 guests. Dr. Fillit introduced Marti Dinerstein, a banking executive who has been diagnosed with Alzheimers. Mrs. Dinerstein took the podium to tell us about her experience. She’s a petite woman, with a quiet but deliberate manner of speaking, quite calm and matter-of-fact about it. She told us she's taking a test drug right now. She talked about the drug taking process openly and sensibly. There was a never the slightest reflection of fear or anxiety about the matter in her voice and manner.

Listening to this woman I was witnessing resolve and courage under this duress. I was witnessing the power and legitimacy of hope. I found myself reflecting about this time and world we're living in, including the oil leakage in the Gulf and the worldwide financial uncertainties.

I was thinking about all the things that threaten our survival as a specie, not to mention us as individuals. With that in mind I was reflecting on Mrs. Dinerstein’s approach to a catastrophe, up, close and personal, and hardly speculation. She was so sensible. So grownup.
Dr. Howard Fillit addresses the crowd.

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) is the only public charity whose sole mission is to accelerate the discovery and development of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias and cognitive aging. No other organization targets finding a cure with the focus and intensity that we bring to the battle. 

Founded in 1998 by the Estée Lauder family, the ADDF awards grants to leading scientists conducting breakthrough drug discovery research. They use a venture philanthropy model to bridge the worldwide funding gap between basic research and later-stage drug development, using any return on investment to support new research. They have granted more than $40 million to fund over 295 Alzheimer’s drug discovery programs in academic centers and biotechnology companies in 15 countries. Scientists funded by the ADDF have entered clinical trials with several new drugs. The ADDF has invested over $8 million in 40 biotechnology companies, which have received follow-on commitments of over $1 billion.

Under the leadership of Executive Director, Dr. Howard Fillit, a world-renowned geriatrician, neuroscientist, and expert in the field of Alzheimer’s disease, the ADDF maintains a Scientific Review Board and a Business Advisory Board to review grant applications from academic scientists and biotechnology companies. The Scientific Review Board is composed of over 150 world-renowned scientists in academia and industry who encompass various areas of expertise within Alzheimer’s disease research and general drug discovery. The Business Advisory Board comprises leaders from various backgrounds including venture capital and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

For more information, please call Nancy Lynn, Executive Vice President, at (212) 901-8014 or go to
What is life? Those of us who live long enough get to that age where we are looking at the horizon. Even the civilization, it would seem, is proposing horizons, although most of us would be inclined to ignore the obvious. It occurred to me that Mrs. Dinerstein might be wondering about these things too – besides her own highly identifiable problem to deal with, to solve, to conquer. Her steady resolve gave me the feeling she might actually triumph. I know that is part wishful thinking but not entirely. ADDF is in the business of discovering miracles and Marti Dinerstein was out there at this dinner telling everybody, pressing for funds for the foundation, to raise more to do more.

Courage is the order of the day; the order of everyday. Courage with a plan: find a cure. Would that we could extend such resolve into many other areas of our environment and our lives.

They raised $1.57 million, $314,150 of which was raised at an auction conducted by the ebullient and irrepressible Jamie Niven, Sotheby’s Vice President.
Evelyn Lauder, Leonard Lauder, and Nancy Corzine
Bob and Ricki Larimer
Nancy Lynn, Dr. Jerry Lynn, and Sherry Lynn
Alsa Chang and Aaron Raphael
Arti Finn and Christopher Grewe
Amy and Howard Rubenstein
Carol and Roger Einiger
Beatrice duPont and Alfred Dhallewin
Cynthia Cunningham, Andrew McQuilling, and Mirtha McQuilling
George and Joan Schiele
Arthur Mason, Nancy Corzine, Diahn McGrath, and Tom McGrath
Anne Smithers, Deborah Terhune, Bobba Hauserman, and Sherry Lynn
Dennis Basso, Nancy Corzine, and Michael Cominotto
Lisa and David Klein
Elizabeth Evans, Angela Smith Domzal, and Lynn Quinn
Carol and Michael Weisman
Dr. Howard Fillit, Gregory Stock, and Dr. Sidney Strickland
Cy Vance and Nancy Corzine
Donald and Barbara Tober
Diane and Phil Bazelides
Karl Wellner and Deborah Norville
Maxine and Stephen Sands
DPC, Evelyn Lauder, and Nancy Corzine
Nathan Tinker and Mary Lamothe
Harry Conrad and Lisa Salibello
Cary Stamp, Randal Sandler, Henry Kim, and Kevin Bjorkdahl
Judith Boyes and Robert Christnan
Marti Dinerstein and Dr. Howard Fillit
Lee and Jamie Niven
Manny Matos and Carolyn Polito
Isabelle Black, Scott Black, Luigi Boscain, and Carol Seabrook Boulanger
Nancy Corzine and Jennifer Fischer
Kenneth Bernardo, Angela Smith Domzal, and Scott Black
Maurice Sonnenberg and Harriet Weintraub
Nancy Lynn, Dr. Robert Gotkin, and Dr. Deborah Sarnoff
Tobi and Anne Schapiro
Victoria Parisi, Ed Parisi, and Lori Cantor
Deborah Krulewitch, Kevin Deitrich, Rich Marzullo, and Karin Marzullo
Jamie Niven
Simon and Tina Beriro
Norman Muller, Amy Treitel, Patrick Thomas Roth, and Noreen Roth
Vanessa von Bismarck and Marcia Mishaan
Al Engelberg, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, and Gail Engelberg
Jamie Creel, Marcia Mishaan, and Marco Scarini
Kicking the Clouds Away. The concert pianist Bruce Levingston played and hosted a gala evening last Wednesday night in Andre Balazs' Boom Boom Room, to benefit Premiere Commission, the music foundation Mr. Levingston created in 2001.

The capacity audience included David Rockefeller, one of the organization's founding supporters; Agnes Gund, former president of MoMA; Malu Edwards, wife of the Chilean newspaper publisher Augustin Edwards; Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter; writers Dana Vachon and Ann Brashares; composers Sebastian Currier, Augusta Gross and The New Yorker's composer/critic Russell Platt.
Bruce at work.
Mr. Levingston (Bruce, to planeloads of friends)’s unique abilities to combine music, art, society and philanthropy to powerful effect were on full display against the sweeping views of the city skyline and the Hudson River, all mingled with the magical sounds of Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Gershwin, Piazzola and the Beatles.

He was joined in performance by friends including virtuoso trumpeters Chris Coletti and Brandon Ridenour from the famed Canadian Brass Quintet, Kimball Gallagher, the talented young pianist who recently made his Carnegie Hall debut, and acclaimed cellist Eric Jacobsen. This was New York City at its best: smart, elegant, fun, romantic. A magical evening on top of the clouds. 
Agnes Gund, Bruce Levingston, and Pepita Serrano.
Dana Vachon, Bruce Levingston, and Stephen Dignan. David Rockefeller and Bruce Levingston.
Bill and Nancy Rollnick. Guillermo Gomez and Valeria Pollak.
Amanda Church, Alfredo Pecora, and Vivian Bernal. Katie Durgin-Bruce and Patrick Durgin-Bruce.
Justin Rockefeller.
Nelson and Cedra Rockwood. John Duberry and Cameron Schwabenton.
Nicoletta Giordani and Barbara Hemmerle-Gollust. Hedi-Ann Lieberman and Victor Teicher.
The IBLA Foundation hosted its annual New York awards performance at dinner last Thursday. The concert took place at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, and was followed by a black tie dinner at Le Cirque.

You may not be familiar with the IBLA Foundation, so here's a brief description: IBLA is the name of the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Baroque quarters of Ragusa Ibla, the southernmost provence of Italy in Sicily. For the past 18 years, hundreds of musicians from all over the world have gathered in Ibla every summer to perform and compete for the IBLA Grand Prize.

There is no age requirement (one of the best performers on Thursday night was a 10-year-old pianist named Oliver Betz), and the competition is open to pianists, vocalists, instrumentalists, and composers. Winners are then presented all over the world in concerts under the auspices of the IBLA Foundation.
Italian Pianist Gloria Campaner and IBLA Foundation Music Director Salvatore Moltisanti.
IBLA Foundation Winners and Music Director Salvatore Moltisanti.
IBLA Foundation Winners, including 10-year-old Oliver Betz (red vest and tie).
The concert was presented by IBLA Music Director Salvatore Moltisanti and showcased the talents of pianists Gloria Campaner, Jacopo Giovannini, Anna Rutkowska-Schock, Oliver Betz, and Chie Sato Roden. Adrienne Miks, a Hungarian soprano, sang everything from Puccini to Beethoven. Daniel Lessner and David Cieri both performed rousing piano improvisations, with Lessner riffing on Bach's Goldberg Variations to close out the program. The night's chairwomen were Baroness Mariuccia Zerilli Marimo, Lillian Vernon, and Dewi Sukarno. Also among the crowd: Geoffrey Bradfield, Paolo Martino, Steve Madson, Vicky McLaughlin, Helen Lowe, Michael Yasenak, Ford Models Gelila Bekele and Heather Ann Burton, Princess Mimi Romanoff and Jocelyne Wildenstein, and Baroness Gabriella Langer von Langendorff.

— SD for NYSD
IBLA Foundation Winners with Music Director Salvatore Moltisanti (back left) and Baroness Mariuccia Zerilli Marimo (center).
Lillian Vernon and David Hochberg. Helen Lowe and Vicky McLoughlin.
Gelila Bekele, Juliette Bellacosa, and Heather Ann Burton.
David Hochberg, Chie Roden, and Alice Kandell .
Janet Rogers and Paolo Martino. Sam Dangremond and Heather Ann Burton.
Post-concert dinner at LeCirque.
Lloyd Klein and Jocelyn Wildenstein.
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Photographs by Jill Lynne (Halston)
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