Monday, June 21, 2010

Everything Old Is New Again

Freshly hatched vertebrate. 1:30 PM. Photo: JH.
June 21, 2010. First day of Summer. A very hot Sunday in New York. The weatherman had forecast thundershowers and a much lower temperature for evening, but by midnight it was still in the 80s.

Although there was a strong but not very cool breeze coming off the river. Walking the dogs at that hour, our breeze was accompanied by the soft steady din of the air conditioners, like some reassuring faux wind up and down the avenue.
Hudson River, 4:00 PM.
Last Thursday night (which is unofficially the last night of the week for the NYSD), there were all kinds of things going on around town in what I keep assuming is a quieter pre-summer atmosphere. I missed them, all previously committed, but I heard some to tell ...

Down at the Roosevelt House at 47-49 East 65th Street, Jennifer Raab, the dynamic President of Hunter College, presided over a ceremony to confer an honorary doctorate of human letters on Robert Morris Morgenthau, the New York County District Attorney for 34 years until last year.

While over at the Edison Ballroom on 47th Street, things were just getting under way for “An Evening of Fun” to benefit the homeless and celebrate the 80th birthday of Henry Buhl, founder of A. C. E. with Patti Smith making a special appearance to fete the birthday boy (actually his birthday is in late January). See today’s Party Pictures.

Also last Thursday night and also on today’s Shopping Diary pictures, was the World Premiere of a new fragrance from Yves St. Laurent called “Belle D’Opium.” This party took place at the newly named (for the night) YSL Stage at 508 West 37th Street.

Ashley Olsen
There was talk beforehand evoking memories of the original YSL Opium fragrance launch on a party boat in New York harbor 33 years ago. YSL himself was still around and there. So was Truman Capote at the edge of his own abyss and all kinds of rock stars and socialites who were then referred to as jet-setters and The Beautiful People (code words for the word “socialite,” which was long out of fashion) who were falling all over themselves just to be near Yves, the naughty neuresthenic Yves.

This time around from what I can gather, of course M. Saint Laurent and Mr. Capote, along with a lot of other New York boldfacers and flashes of that moment are no longer with us, and a good rock star legend is hard to find. However, they did have Ashley Olsen, Maggie Gyllenhall and a lot of Tweeting.

If there is any question of how things have changed in the last 30 years of fashion and society in New York, nothing could be clearer then this subsequential event. Clearer and drearer. Le meme chose is back. And here to be texted.

Nevertheless, it’s Noo Yawk and the beat goes on.
Also last Thursday night on the roof of the spanking Empire Hotel on Broadway and 65th Street looking out on Lincoln Center, there was a party hosted by William C. Paley to “re-launch” the cigar his grandfather manufactured and in the first quarter of the 20th century.

The invitation read: “to celebrate the re-lauch of the storied cigar brand “La Palina” introducing the “1896.” The year is a reference to when its creator first went into the cigar business.
On the roof of the Empire Hotel for a party hosted by William C. Paley to “re-launch” the cigar his grandfather manufactured and in the first quarter of the 20th century.
First of all it was a beautiful night in New York to be celebrating on the Empire Hotel Pool and Deck Terrace. Those are moments when New York has gotcha.

It was an interesting evening for a couple of reasons. It gathered together in public the off-spring of those famous socialite (the earlier version) celebrities Bill and Babe Paley. Mr. and Mrs. Paley had six children between them (and their two marriages). Two from his first marriage, Jeff and Hilary (now Califano); two from her first, Amanda (now Burden) and Tony Mortimer; and two together: Kate and her older brother Bill, or Billy as he was called.

Goldie and Sam Paley, father and creator of "La Palina."
Their boy Bill, early 1930s.
Babe and Bill Paley.
The name “La Palina” has great significance in the Paley family fortunes for it was the brand of cigar that Sam Paley (grandfather of this night’s host) began manufacturing in Philadelphia at the beginning of the 20th century. Mr. Paley had emigrated with his mother and father and siblings to America from a Russian shtetl as a young boy, less than thirty years before.

“What this country needs is a good five cent cigar,” is a remark made by Thomas Riley Marshall, Vice President of the United States under Woodrow Wilson, offhandedly commenting on some Senator’s speech about the nation’s welfare in the Senate. Later the term upped the price to a “ten cent cigar.” The Vice-President’s sentiment was widely shared by men everywhere.

Whatever it was, Sam Paley’s “La Palina” was selling daily in the hundreds of thousands by the 1920s and by the late 20s he sold a good portion of his business for millions, giving a million of it to his only son and heir, William (father of this night’s host).

We forget (or never knew) how popular cigars were through the 19th and early 20th century. Cigarettes changed all that. But it was when they were popular that Sam Paley was in the business. And when he sold up to stockholders, there were two new businesses involved: radio and advertising. Both industries, so ordinary to us today, were brand new.

The first radio station operating in America was only six years old. Advertising on this medium was brand new as was the notion of national advertising. Both industries also made “La Palina” even more popular, selling a million a day (“America’s largest selling high-grade cigar.”) and employing more than four thousand people.

Young Bill Paley was placed by interest as well as position – perfect timing – in charge of the second radio network to be formed (NBC Red and Blue were the first) that Sam Paley had invested in for advertising reasons. The new group was called the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).

Old Sam Paley retired of course, and his son William S. Paley built that small network of second tier radio stations (NBC got there first and got the biggest markets) into the enormous radio and television conglomerate that it remains today.

In the day when Bill and Babe Paley reigned over New York society, portrayed in both the fashion and financial press as a kind of royalty from the 50s until her untimely death at 62 in 1978, “La Palina” was a distant memory, to irrelevant and unknown in this almost popular cigar-less world.

Grandson Bill would like to change that back again. On Thursday night he was getting a lot of encouragement and New York was a wonderful town.
Alison and Bill Paley Arielle Ditkowich
Andy Levy, Anthony Hesselius, and Estan Esparza
Austin Paley and Ben Slowik
Alexandra Lebenthal and Sara Arnell Bill Paley and Amanda Burden
Courtney Smith, Gary Arzt, Keenan Williams, and Barry Abrams
Dirk Junge Gillian Nadel and Elizabeth Hazard
Charles Thorp, David Mandler, and Ron Melendi
Ivan Barron and Pam Liebman Ivanka Naydenova, Steven Schonfeld, and Hal Stein
David Mortimer, Shelley Wanger, and Bill Paley
Joanne Trambley and Katja Schmidt Kim Burns and Laura Aliperti
David Altschiller, Nina Altschiller, and Alison Paley
Fred Lockwood and Colin Ganley
Linda Gallagher, Pat Gallagher, and Pat Mitchell Maria Andriano and Allyn Magrino
Jill and Glynn Loope
Tiffany Barbalato, Paolo Garzaroli, Bill McCuddy, and Roberta Garzaroli
Per Holmberg and John Bernbach Tony Mortimer and Amanda Burden
Valerie and Jeff Paley, Amanda Burden, and Bill Paley
For an excellent biography of William S. Paley, I suggest you read Sally Bedell Smith's In All His Glory: The Life and Times of William S. Paley and the Birth of Modern Broadcasting.
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