Friday, June 25, 2010

Another incredibly hot day

Central Park frolicking. 2:10 PM. Photo: JH.
June 25, 2010. Another incredibly hot day, yesterday in New York. The weatherman forecast a heavy thunderstorm mid-afternoon.

I was lunching at Michael’s and left at twenty to three with no rain in sight, not even overcast. I caught at cab at Sixth Avenue and 55th Street.

We took the road through Central Park up to 72nd and Fifth. No rain. We went up Park Avenue to 79th Street. No sign. The cabdriver told me it had rained earlier, downtown, for a few minutes. At East End Avenue, the roads were dry, but I ran into a neighbor who’d just come from the West Side where he got caught in the deluge and was drenched. He said it went on for twenty minutes with thunderclaps clapping. Manhattan is thirteen and a half miles long and only 2.3 miles wide, yet we’ve got our own variety of micro-climates.
A Haagen-Dazs truck on Park Avenue ready to unload.
Last night I went down to Orsay on 75th and Lex. Ten years ago that was the site of Mortimer’s, the most famous society bistro/burger joint of the last quarter of the 20th century in New York. Oh yes, there were and are many others, but in its day under the ownership (and dictatorship) of the late Glenn Birnbaum, it was without peer.

In the 60s, when I first came to New York out of college it was a local bar-restaurant called the Whiffenpoof. It was the hangout, the last stop for quite a few journalists, publicists, advertising people. “Meet me for drinks at the Whiff” they’d phone each other (no cells, no computers, nothing but phones in those days) before they left the office. Or, mainly they’d just show up for whoever was there. And so every time I was there (which was frequently, although I was probably the youngest kid at the bar), I’d see someone I knew. New York lives and how they grow.
Zelda Kaplan in portrait at the party for her last night upstairs at Orsay.
Last night there was a private birthday party for longtime party girl Zelda Kaplan whose presence has graced our party picture pages dozens of times. The party was hosted by Kerry Ingvarsson, Jack Bright, and Mia Morgan. Zelda was celebrating her 94th birthday. The place was mobbed with a hundred 20- and 30-somethings, and Zelda.

Zelda was standing in front of one of those tacky promo red carpet screens that shout "PROMO," this one for “Keep A Child Alive” which was benefiting from the tickets sales for Zelda’s party.

I’ve seen Zelda out for years but I don’t think we’d ever conversed. I asked her how old she was on this birthday. I know a couple of nonogenarians whom I wouldn’t dare ask, but I could tell Zelda has absolutely no pretence about numbers.

“94 June 20th.”

I asked her if she considered herself a Gemini or a Cancer.”Gemini,” she replied without hesitation.
Zelda with Alexis Graham. Kerry Ingvarsson and Mia Morgan.
The Pensive Zelda.
She’s very expressive and animated when she talks. She rarely sat down throughout the hour or so that I was there.

I asked her if she were a born and bred New Yorker. No. She was born on a farm in Flemington, New Jersey.

I asked her what she thought was the secret to her long life. She said she had the most wonderful parents in the world. “They loved me,” she added as if to explain why she herself was a very happy woman and is still celebrating that grace.

She was one of four. All girls. And the oldest. One is no longer with us, one lives in Massachusetts, and another lives on Long Island. I couldn’t help wondering what they are like.
Ann Suwandijar, Kerry Ingvarsson, The Birthday Girl, and Jake Bright.
On the farm in Flemington, she had a pony, and then when she was old enough she had a horse, and she rode all the time. Later she took up golf and played five days a week. Somewhere in there she married. And divorced.

She came to New York in 1960 when she was 44. I asked her why she came here. She told me she was tired of all that golf and wanted something different. And from the looks of it, considering where I’ve seen her and with whom, she has it. Every day.

I asked her what 94 felt like for her. She said: 34. I believe her. She’s got a very fresh and energetic vibe. Actually she has more natural energy than a lot of girls I know at 34, some of whom suffer from terminal ennui.

Zelda prefers the company of 20- and 30- somethings. You could say she’s an age-ist, just like some of them. But life at her stage of the game is all irony.
Party photographers at work.
She likes the energy of younger people. For the women who are reading this and curious: she has remarkably beautiful skin and it kind of reflects the zestfulness (I was going to say youthfulness) of the woman. When you’re 94, you just don’t look like 54 anymore, let alone 34, although with Zelda it’s close because of that energy. I think she’s a party girl, through and through.

The irrepressible ambassador of charm and good will, Hassan, at Orsay's main dining room, last night at 10.
I'm reminded of a famous popular song from the 1920s written for Eddie Cantor, star of Broadway, Hollywood and Radio. It was called “How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)?"
There’s a line that goes:

How ya gonna keep em away from Broadway; Jazzin’ around, paintin’ the town?

I think that’s Zelda Kaplan’s story in a nutshell. A big one.

Leaving Zelda’s party I went downstairs where the place was buzzing. I sat at a table in the bar and had a drink and something to eat with Hassan El Garrahy, who is the restaurant’s partner (with Jean Denoyer and Regis Marinier) and official greeter.

Although he’s still a kid to many eyes, for years Hassan was at Cipriani (where he started in his 20s) both uptown and downtown. You may have read about him on these pages before.
Financial Times hosted its 6th annual “Business of Luxury Summit” in Beverly Hills.
Last week, the Financial Times hosted its 6th annual “Business of Luxury Summit” in Beverly Hills, gathering industry leaders in media, entertainment, luxury and fashion.

“Business Summits” or media happenings are not exactly our beat or even my cup of tea but I take exception with the FT. The first one I went to was just a cocktail party. I was invited by Jolie Hunt (who hosted a party for Hugo Dixon of Reuters’ this past Monday night).

That first FT party had an eclectic list, heavy on the writers and journalist leanings, and very welcoming group of hosts. Rarely do you ever go to a cocktail party and enjoy not only the camaraderie of acquaintances but also find yourself in conversations that are enlightening or even provocative. And all under the auspices of the “getting-to-know” the FT.
Lionel Barber, Marigay McKee, Victoria Greenwood, and Leonard A. Lauder
Tom Murry, Jonathan Newhouse, and William S Susman
I should add that the FT is my favorite newspaper read. The Weekend FT beats all weekend print media.

So when I learned about their Los Angeles, I was curious to see who they’d “gathered.”

Speakers and delegates included Robert Iger (President & CEO, The Walt Disney Company), Leonard Lauder (Chairman Emeritus, Estée Lauder Companies Inc.), Bryan Lourd (Managing Partner, Creative Artists Agency), Tom Murry (President & CEO, Calvin Klein Inc.), Diane von Furstenberg (CEO & Founder, DVF Studio and President, CFDA), Jonathan Newhouse (Chairman, Condé Nast International), André Leon Talley (Contributing Editor, Vogue), Tamara Mellon (Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Jimmy Choo),  Dov Charney (Founder & Chief Executive Officer, American Apparel), Sebastian Suhl (COO, Prada Group), Marissa Mayer (Vice President, Search Products & User Experience, Google Inc.)  and Tim Murphy (Chief Product Officer, MasterCard Worldwide).
Gillian de Bono, Deepak Ohri, Marissa Mayer, Edgar Huber, and Diane von Furstenberg
Previous Summits have been held in Monte Carlo, Venice, Tokyo, Las Vegas and Shanghai. This year, Los Angeles was chosen in recognition of its position as a global center of entertainment, fashion and luxury. Frankly the notion of a business conference bears little interest for me. However, considering the locale – Los Angeles, which I love – and the FT’s style of hosting, I could only think it was probably very interesting not to mention the pleasure the LA nights where they dined under the stars outside the gates of Paramount Studios. So Hollywood; always a trip, no matter what.
Dov Charney, William S Susman, and Alexis Maybank
Lionel Barber and Robert A. Iger
Leonard A. Lauder and Lionel Barber
John Studzinski CBE and Sebastian Suhl
Martin Wolf, Rachel Garrahan, and Matthew Garrahan
John Ridding and Ben Hughes
Marigay McKee and Leonard A. Lauder
Diane von Furstenberg and Gillian Tett
William Powers
FT mannequin 
Jonathan Newhouse
Lionel Barber and Bryan Lourd
Vanessa Friedman and Tom Murry
Tamara Mellon and John Ridding
André Leon Talley
View of opening reception of FT Business of Luxury Summit/Beverly Hills Hotel
Vanessa Friedman and Leonard A. Lauder
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