Monday, May 10, 2010

Beautiful, windy weekend in New York

Looking towards the Conservatory Water in Central Park on a blustery Saturday night. 8:30 PM. Photo: JH.
May 10, 2010. Beautiful, windy weekend in New York with very chilly temperatures in the late night and occasional raindrops.

Today is the 111th anniversary of the birth of Fred Astaire, the man who many believe was the greatest dancer of the 20th century. Fred started dancing on the vaudeville stage with his sister Adele when they were small children in 1905.

Although Fred was the more creative of the two, Adele (who often called her brother “Moanin’ Minnie” because he was such a perfectionist about his work) was three years older, and the star of the duo until she retired from show business in 1932 to marry Lord Charles Cavendish, the second son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire. At the time of the marriage there were many doubts in show business circles about the future of Fred without his charming and beguiling sister as his partner. Those doubts were dispelled forever when in 1933 he made a picture for RKO called “Flying Down to Rio” and danced with a newcomer named Ginger Rogers.
Fred and Adele, 1931, just before she retired from the stage and left her brother solo for the first time in his 32 years.
Today is also the anniversary of the birth of the man who hired Fred for his first film appearance (at MGM), David O. Selznick, who is most famously remembered as the producer of “Gone With The Wind.”

Also born on this day: Bono, Sid Vicious, Judith Jamison, John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln’s assassin; Barbara Taylor Bradford, Fats Domino, and Pat Summerall.

Today is also the day of publication of The Unavailable Father by Sarah Simms Rosenthal. Sarah is a good friend of mine although I’d be inclined to publicize her book even if I didn’t know her because it’s a good idea. As it happens, she’s also a psychotherapist and very interested in the complexities of human relationships. This is her first book.

Sarah Simms Rosenthal
The Unavailable Father: Seven Ways Women Can Understand, Heal, and Cope with a Broken Father-Daughter Relationship. Click to order.
I haven’t read her book yet although we’ve had a number of conversations in the past about parent-children relationships as well as our personal experiences. I called her yesterday to find out how this book came about.

She remembered exactly – which was not surprising since it’s characteristic of her (and her business) to remember the incident of a thought.

She’d been sitting on the beach in East Hampton a couple summers ago with her friend Alexandra Penney, the former magazine editor/writer who lost most of her life-savings in the Madoff debacle and later wrote about (The Bag Lady Papers). Not far from them a young father was playing in the sand with his very young daughter. The incident caught Sarah’s eye for, as she recounted yesterday, her eye is often drawn to fathers and daughters when she sees them in public. On this summer day watching the scene, two things came up for her – tears to her eyes on the joy of witnessing, and sadness at the awareness of never personally having experienced joy and love with her own father.

Alexandra was witnessing all of this as well as Sarah’s reaction. She asked her about it, and as Sarah told her, she added that she’d been entertaining an idea of writing a book about father-daughter relationships. Alexandra, as is her wont around good ideas, immediately replied that it was a “fabulous idea” and that Sarah should write the book. Together that day, they came up with the title.

It was a beautiful evening last Thursday night when I went down to 124 East 31st Street to Sukyo Mahikari (Soo-kee-oh Ma-hee-KA-ree) Center for Spiritual Development where they were celebrating the opening of their new New York home, which is an entirely “Green” project.

The Center purchased the property – a four-story townhouse – with the intention of refurbishing it as a Green project. As was explained to us by the Center’s director George Houston, at the convocation, it was a far more complicated matter than just “gutting” the building. On this night, however, Margaret Leighton, a representative of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), awarded the organization for their success in creating energy efficiency that will cut their use (and their bills) by more than 30%.

I do not know much about Sukyo Mahikari although I was made aware of it by a friend of mine. Sukyo Mahikari Centers for Spiritual Development is an international nonprofit spiritual and community service organization with more than a million members across the world. Since its inception fifty-one years ago in Japan, it has emphasized the importance of taking major action to restore and revive the earth’s environment.
Pax Quigley with Michael and Eleanora Kennedy. Rabbi Marvin Rokayer, Jewish Communities of Southeast Asia and the Far East with William Roberts, Assistant Regional Director, Sukyo Mahikari North America.
The Centers themselves are places where people can go to receive light and learn about positive spiritual practices. It is not a religion or a cult although its principles have much in common with most religions and encompass universal truths of people’s relationship with the universal. The light they refer to is “a universal life force from a high dimension, often referred to as God.” Many of its members are aligned with religions, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist.

Another friend of mine personally experienced the “receiving of the light” and was very impressed with its effect on him. I am not one to promote spiritual or religious organizations because I believe that is a purely personal matter with each of us. However, the simple objectives and non-intrusive (physically and philosophically) aspects of Sukyo Mahikari, along with my friends’ experiences in seeking to improve their lives and helping others improve theirs, is very impressive to me, especially in these times of turbulence and turmoil for so many of us, as well as for our planet. To learn more:
Masaaki Fujisaki, Regional Director, Sukyo Mahikari, North America with Ishan Tigunait, Representative of the Chairman of the Himalayan Institute, Honesdale, Pennsylvania. 13-year-old Lucas Stratmann, who has just been accepted at Juilliard and has already performed publicly. Thursday night he played Sonata No. 2 in A minor by J.S. Bach.
Also last Thursday night, a little more than a mile away as the crowd flies at the DVF Studio, the Whitney Museum honored Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller and her son Alex von Furstenberg for their work with the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation at the 19th annual American Art Award Gala.

The evening began with cocktails at the DVF studio and then moved a few blocks south to a tented space on the site of the Whitney's proposed downtown building. After the awards, John McEnroe introduced surprise performer Lou Reed, who sang set which included "It's a Perfect Day" and "Walk on the Wild Side."
Susan Hess, Barry Diller, Diane von Furstenberg, and Adam Weinberg
Anne Bass Claudia Cisneros Diane von Furstenberg and Ali Kay
Adam Weinberg and Beth DeWoody Bob Colacello and Susan Hess
Andre Balazs, Alice St. Clair Erskine, and Lou Reed
Dori Cooperman Fern Tessler Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini
Annemarie Cartwright and Nicole Hanley Ali Kay and Alex von Furstenberg
Adam Weinberg, Joanne Cassullo, and Phil Geier
Barry Diller Chris Jennings and Tauba Auerbach
Christina Greeven Cuomo and Samantha Boardman
Diane von Furstenberg, Christine Quinn, and Beth DeWoody John McEnroe and Patty Smyth
Lou Reed
Kimberly and Scott Resnick Lisa Dennison and Rod Waywell
Nigel Barker, Cristen Chin, Pamella Roland, and Dan DeVos
Matthew Mellon and Nicole Hanley Shala Monroque and Larry Gagosian
Raymond Learsy, Melva Bucksbaum, and Adam Weinberg
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