Thursday, September 16, 2010

Changing Shoes

The view from the 42nd floor of the former GM Building at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, looking north (that's the Hotel Pierre directly in front) over Central Park and in the distance (the span of the George Washington Bridge and the Palisades). Those specks you see on the Great Lawn of the Park (mid-left just above the silhouette of the Sherry Netherland roof) are sun-bathers. 3:15 PM. Photo: DPC.
September 15, 2010. Another almost early autumn day in New York with bright sunshine and temperatures in the cooling low 70s. The streets and sidewalks in midtown were literally jammed.
The same view but a bit to the left with the tower of the Sherry Netherland presiding over the southeast corner of Central Park, in all its late summer glory. 3:15 pm.
Down at Michael’s so were the tables. Right next door at table 2 Peter Brown was lunching with Patti Boyd who will be remembered in Rock history as once the wife of George Harrison of the Beatles, and later the wife of Eric Clapton. For those of us of a certain generation, we’re talking icons of the newsprint.

Across the room at another table was Harry Benson, the international photographer who came to America with the Beatles on their first trip here (1964?). Harry stayed, married an American girl and still lives on the upper East Side. He was lunching with Quest publisher Chris Meigher. Nearby: Somers Farkas with Grace DeNiro, Susan Gutfreund, Diana Taylor.

Patti Boyd and George Harrison.
Across the way: Herb Siegel with John Mack, ex-CEO of Morgan Stanley. On the other side: Joan Gelman; in the corner at table 4, Kirk and Ann Douglas with their daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones. One over from us: Jesse Kornbluth with Paige Peterson and son Peter Cary Peterson.

Around the room: John Sykes, Linda Wachner, Roger Wilson, Rick Winningham, John Tishman, Jarrod Moses, Philippe Salomon, Richard Ader, Richard Anderman with Dr. Joyce Brown of FIT, Jaqui Lividini, Rob Weisbach of Creative Management Literary, Donald Kreindler, Richard Koshalek, Cancy McCarty, Kelly Stapleton, Richard Belzer with Fred Seibert; Randy Jones, Gene Ludwig; at Table 1, the gang: Jerry della Femina, Andrew Bergman, Jeff Greenfield and Dr. Gerry Imber.

More: Jeffrey Rosen, Robert Rowland, Frank Gifford, Stu Hendel, Tim Hanlon with Michael Perlis, Beverly Camhe with Seth Weinstein, Chris Taylor; Henry Schlieff with Jeanine Pirro, Pete Hunsinger with Lisa Fields; Robert Rufino, Jeff Horowitz, William Coughlin, Jeff Sagansky with Bob Friedman, Richard Descherer with Kevin Sheekey; Robert Blumenfeld, Andrew Grapkowski.

If none of this means anything, worry not, it’s a room full of New York at the moment – part of New York, that is – with one or two degrees of separation from much of the world and three and four degrees of separation from most of the world. Michael’s on Wednesdays.

I was lunching with Tina Sloan, actress formerly of “Guiding Light” for 26 years until the soap dissolved in its own suds. Tina and I have good mutual friends, the very same who’ve entertained us (and others) aboard the yacht the Big Eagle which you may have read about recently on the NYSD.
DPC and Tina Sloan at Michael's.
Tina grew up in Bronxville, went to Manhattanville and very soon thereafter decided she wanted to be an actress. Declasse was her mother’s word for “being” an actress. In Paris, however, not long after college, she met a woman, Aga Church, a Parisian friend of her parents. The parents thought Aga would talk some sense in the girl about being an actress. Aga was “the epitome of female independence.” Self-assured, confidant, alive, “filled with style and flair. She even had a piece of the nightclub, Crazy Horse.

One day Aga took Tina to Chanel to buy some shoes. Passing through the collection, Aga would say: “these shoes are for having fun; these for when you want a man to notice you, but not fall in love with you. And these are for seduction.”
The gift bag for Tina's book. The black flats are the shoes she wears on the way to the party. The heels are what she puts on when she enters. Sound familiar, ladies? Today she had a pair of flats in the bag -- along with a handy copy of her book.
Aga believed that each experience in a woman’s life corresponded with a different pair of shoes (“and she had seemingly walked in them all.”) Tina chose a pair of classic black heels. “When I first kicked off my college-girl Capezios and slipped on those black Chanel heels, I felt as if the world around me became more exciting.”

And so the story moves to what for many would be a lifelong adventure, as an actress, wife, mother, friend, actress, and now playwright and memoirist. “Changing Shoes” came first as a one-woman show. When “Guiding Light” was over, a quarter century later, a girl no more, Tina encountered what she calls “the diminishment of getting older.”

Click to order Changing Shoes.
Her antidote: Work. Go For It. Get Out There. And move .... This is her story. It’s a funny one although it comes with the aging and eventual loss of both parents and the education their experience provided for their daughter, and what the French call “coup de vieux,” the blow of age “when one suddenly looks old.”

It hits different people in different ways, much according to nature and its effect on the individual. Tina and I talked about this at length in a gabfest because we’re both old teen-agers from way back. Her approach to her generation’s experience of life moving on is at once hilarious, touching, intriguing (because of her chutzpah as an actress and fortitude as a woman — such as climbing Kilmanjaro).

It’s such an engaging and funny story (because Tina is one of those people who not only feels inclined to entertain others but also tends to entertain herself when problem solving – the main ingredient in a “charmed life” ... my opinion). But at the end of the day Changing Shoes is a memoir about the changing times of life; a search, a reflection, a proposal to the self, a map for the unknown, and a palliative for the harsh realities whatever they may be.

As I said, I’ve known Tina for quite a few year through our mutual friends. She has a naturally effervescent personality. Enthusiasm lights her way much of the time. So I knew about important aspects of her life that are part of her memoir. What I didn’t know, which is the most interesting part, is how it all adds up into an approach to the challenge, to life. Some people call it Survival. Tina calls it “Changing Shoes.” Simple, fundamental and life-changing.

No Holds Barred: Blair Sabol.
Which reminds me. On today’s NYSD, Blair Sabol graces us with another one of her “No Holds Barred” columns about the life of fashion and the fashion of life on today’s NYSD.

Blair, who now lives in Arizona, was one of the hot fashion writers in New York in the 60s and 70s. I didn’t know her then but I read her “Outside Fashion” column in the Village Voice all the time, because she was one of those people who just Said It. You got the picture, you knew how she felt. And because there was so much Common Sense to her point of view, you almost couldn’t help agreeing. While laughing at how she says it. Irony is her denouement, but it’s also ballast for her thoughts and perceptions.

Living out there in the desert now, it seems like a pastoral life for this city dweller. However, she still travels East and West to New York and Los Angeles to keep up with friends and an eye on the fashion of life, as it is known here and there.

This week she’s got Fashion Night Out on her mind. You remember that -- just seven days ago. It was an enormous success here in New York. At least for New Yorkers. The avenues and streets from Madison to Chelsea to SoHo to the Meatpacking, the crowds were out, on a beautiful night and it was a retailer’s carnival. “The city was electric,” was how one New Yorker described it. For Blair – out there it was thought provoking but also food for thought on the Big Picture.
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