Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fair autumn weather

Looking south along Riverside Blvd towards the Manhattan Cruise Terminal between West 47th and 53rd Streets. 12:00 PM. Photo: JH.
October 20, 2010. Grey and cloudy, most of yesterday; otherwise fair autumn weather.

The Michael’s Lunch. The place was especially lively yesterday. In the center of the room, Jolie Hunt, the director of public relations for ThomsonReuters was hosting a luncheon for her friend Tatiana Sorokko, the former Russian supermodel who has just published a book on her career (“lavishly illustrated”) “Extending the Runway.” The book captures the highlights of that glamorous career as well as the great couture collection Tatiana has been collecting for many years now.

She is in New York for a booksigning tonight at the Roger Vivier boutique from 6 to 8 where books (and shoes) will be sold. Tatiana has been on the circuit with her new book. Glenda Bailey, editor-in-chief of Harpers Bazaar and Diego Della Valle, Chairman and CEO of Tod’s, hosted a star-studded dinner for 40 for Tatiana at Caviar Kaspia. Monday it was the nation’s capital. A few weeks earlier it was San Francisco (see Jeanne Lawrence's San Francisco Social Diary).
The guest of honor, Tatiana Sorokko. Lyn Paulsin.
Tatiana was one of the first Russian models to achieve international success after Perestroika in the 1990s. Sorokko was walking the runways for designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Gianfranco Ferre, Marc Jacobs and Ralph Rucci. For more than a decade she graced the covers and editorial pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan. Today she is a contributing editor of Harper’s Bazaar interviewing and styling photo shoots of notable subjects all over the world.

The U.S. debut of her couture collection now at the Phoenix Art Museum exhibition runs to January 2, 2011.

So now you know about Tatiana Sorroko. Oh, she also now resides in San Francisco with her husband Serge Sorokko who owns an art gallery there.
From right: Glenda Bailey, Tatiana Sorokko, Susan Gutfreund, Muffie Potter Aston, and Kristina O'Neill.
Another angle, from left, Kristina O'Neill, Muffie, Susan, Tatiana, and Glenda.
From left: Shari Rollins, Nicole Miller, Jolie Hunt, Rabbi Sherre Hirsch, Dennita Sewell, Valerie Steele, and Lyn Paulsin.
From left: Jolie, Sherre, Dennita, and Valerie.
The clamoring crowds. Meanwhile, their table served only to double the buzz in the room. Right across the aisle Matt Lauer was lunching with Jack Welch. Liz Smith was with the editor of People. Jean Doumanian and Ed Zwick were with Peggy Siegal. Next door to them, the Rubensteins pere et fils – Howard and son Steven were entertaining Emily Smith, the new head of Page Six, replacing Richard Johnson who is moving to California.

Also around and about: Charles Stevenson with his artist son Gordon Stevenson; Richard Belzer with David Vigliano; Mitch Rosenthal with Bernard Nussbaum; George Malkemus, Manolo’s partner; Sharon Bush and friend; Judy Price and friend; Henry Schlieff with Ed Bleier; David Poltrack, Dan Wassong, Alex Donner; Peter Gregory with James Goldschmidt, Linda Wells Jeff Sands, Mary Berner, Tad Smith, David Greenaway, Betty Lee Stern.
Gordon Stevenson with his father, Charles Stevenson.
Emily Smith, the new Page Six columnist, with the legendary Liz Smith.
I was lunching with Meera Gandhi, who created the Giving Back Foundation with operations in New York, London and Hong Kong. Meera and her banker husband Vikram live here in New York in a house where Eleanor Roosevelt lived when she returned to New York after the death of FDR. They also live in Hong Kong with Vikram currently working in London (their three children are in school in England).

I first met Meera a few years ago when Hillary Clinton was Senator from New York. I can’t remember the occasion; it was at Meera’s house and it had something to do with Eleanor Roosevelt although at that point Mrs. Clinton dominated any space by the force of her presence. Fascinates is another word. So Eleanor Roosevelt’s memory that night was present but co-starring.

I could see then that Meera, whom I knew to be an Indian woman (technically she’s Irish – mother – and Indian) from Mumbai (or Bombay as most of its citizens still call it) who was living here in New York would become a force herself.
DPC and Meera Gandhi.
Meera is a friendly woman with that Eastern directness that seems almost serene in presentation. She likes people and likes connecting with people. New York is a perfect place if you have that talent which Meera is loaded with.

We talked about living in Hong Kong. She loves it, of course although it sounds like she’s always on the go between India, England, and New York as well. The social life in Hong Kong is compartmentalized, made exclusive by shared interests, and professions. There is a difference between the mainland Chinese and the Hong Kong Chinese (the mainlanders are much richer, for one). But Meera makes it her business to meet them all and even bring them together. She recently gave a reception for Chairman Mao’s granddaughter who has launched a new jewelry line. In case you’re wondering just how China has changed.

Her foundation is basically about helping. “You don’t need to be giving money” to be a philanthropist, she believes. Helping, giving assistance in a variety of ways is what makes the difference. Transferring things from where they are not needed or used to places where they can be. The western word for it is volunteerism and exchange. Except Meera takes it one step further; hers is international.

Meera went to BU and Harvard Business. Her “Giving Back” film has appearances by Bono, Cherie Blair, Kerry Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and many other well known people around the world discussing the nature and importance of giving back for everyone.
The living room of Andrew Solomon and John Habich, where they hosted a book party for Ivana Lowell.
Last night Andrew Solomon and John Habich hosted a book party for Ivana Lowell at their Victorian brownstone on West Tenth Street. The house has a distinguished history, once having belonged to Emma Lazarus (“Give me your tired, your poor ...”) Andrew, the author, has kept the integrity of the design. Its enormous front parlor (as they were once called) is a beautiful spot for a large reception. There were a lot of people who know each other including some of the headier ones about town like Robert Silvers and Grace Dudley and Jason Epstein, co-founders of the venerable New York Review of Books.

For many years, it was believed by many people, including Mr. Silvers, that he was the father of Ivana, whose mother was Caroline Blackwood, author and daughter of Basil Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava and Maureen Guinness of the brewery Guinnesses. Ivana’s mother kept the identity of her real father a secret almost to the end of her life. In the meantime, she had other men in her life including the poet Robert Lowell, who lent his name to Ivana. Ivana did find out several years ago that her biological father was Ivan Moffat, a British screenwriter and Hollywood producer. Hence the name Ivana. As it happened I knew Ivan Moffat in Hollywood. He was an interesting man, full of interesting anecdotes about his life and times, but that’s for another Diary.
Ivana Lowell, Lisa Fine, and Jay Snyder.
Ivana signing away. Marcie Blum with a little bird on her shoulder who looks like Debbie Bancroft.
By the piano.
Debbie Bancroft. John Habich and Andrew Solomon.
Guests listening to Andrew's words about his friend Ivana.
The author and the host.
Tiffany Dubin, Paul Austin, and Ariadne Calvo-Platero. Averil Meyer and Steven Aronson.
The library.
Keith Langham and Bettina Zilkha. Luann de Lesseps and a very good friend,
Caroline with Ashton Hawkins.
Caroline Weber and Christopher Mason Kenny Lane.
I’ve known Ivana almost as long as I’ve been back in New York – about seventeen years. Know, by which I mean, I’ve seen her dozens, maybe hundreds of times at restaurants and parties and dinners. I don’t think we’ve ever had much of a conversation, always like two ships passing in the night. New York can be like this since it is so densely populated with mutual interests and inclinations. However, she and I share many mutual friends and acquaintances, and I’ve noticed over the years that she has a devoted coterie of friends of which she is a part or at the center.

Ivana has had a dramatic life.
That’s kind of common knowledge in her set, as well as among literary people and social people across the sea because of her mother. I haven’t read her memoir yet as I received it only two days ago, but it is easy to assume that it will be a story about what Americans would call an alcoholic dysfunctional family. Both her mother and her birth father were alcoholics. In other words they could and would drink themselves into a pickle. In their day, in their worlds, it was just considered a great deal of drinking followed by a great deal of apparently eccentric or ragingly destructive or self-destructive behavior. It’s a more romantic notion and fits well in literature. However, it also runs in families – both the notion and the disease -- as we have now learned, although it almost always produces the same thing: a mess. Especially for children of alcoholics. Who are quite likely to grow up and join the crowd and the constant dilemma.
Jenny Easton, Daisy Miller (Ivana's daughter), and Matthew Miller.
Judy Auchincloss and Elizabeth Peabody.
Andrew Solomon and George Solomon.
Paul Beirne and Catherine Cahill.
Carolina Richardson and Nancy Richardson.
Howard Blum and Paul Beirne.
Jay McInerney and Robert Couturier (who designed the interiors of Andrew Solomon's house).
Jason Epstein and Mac Griswold.
The word always was that growing up Ivana with that mother, with those problems, was a hard one for the girl. Makes sense. The book will either verify that or dismiss it. The book’s titled Why Not Say What Happened? Exactly, why not? Why not get it off your chest? I’m a big believer in that. Often if you do, you get rid of it. Or a lot of it.
As I said, I just got the book, but yesterday afternoon I opened it up, as if just to read a page or two here or there to see what I could catch in the way of flavor or interest. I came upon this page.

“During her last few days, (ed’s note, February 1996) my mother was unbelievably sweet and considerate. She never complained about anything, and even though we knew she was very frightened she tried to not let her children see it I just can’t believe I am not going to be here anymore, she said to me, matter-of-factly, and I knew exactly what she meant. It is too odd a concept to contemplate.

“How will I know that you are all right? Do you promise you will be all right?” she asked me. She seemed to want assurance desperately. I promised I would, but I didn’t feel or sound very convincing. I wasn’t at all sure that I would be all right but I didn’t want her to know I felt that way.

It was Valentine’s Day, of all things. New York was sunny and the streets were full of men carrying bunches of red roses and chocolates for their loved ones. I left the hotel just to get some fresh air and maybe buy a magazine or two.”
James Reginato, Angele Parlange, and Hamish Bowles.
Kevin Thompson and Richard Schurkamp.
Laura Grenning, Ivana Lowell, and Karen Easton.
Richard Schurkamp and Meredith Ogilvie-Thompson.
Back in her mother’s suite.

“The night nurse told me that my mother’s breathing had slowed. When she did exhale, a ghastly choking crackle came out of her mouth. She was permanently in Morocco now. Her room had the sick, sweet smell of deterioration. Her face was solid yellow and seemed to have caved in on itself. Now when I held her hand, although it was still warm, I knew my mother had gone. There would never again be any little jokes between us, never any laughing about us being a ‘couple of clowns.’ This really was ‘too bad even for us,’ and yet I couldn’t share it with her.

“When she had stopped breathing for good, we opened the window in her room. It’s an Irish tradition to let the spirit of the dead fly out. It was a beautiful clear cold day that I thought my mother wouldn’t mind going out into it ...”

The Author looked lovely last night, very chic in her black dress. A big cross-section of a crowd of writers, editors, publishers, social, Brits, just old friends, new friends. This turned out to be the first thing Ivana has ever written. It took her about two to three years to put together and complete. She had a lot of encouragement from her brother and her friend, journalist Howard Blum to whom the book is dedicated. An achievement to share.
Ariadne Platero, Kalliope Karella, and Ivana Lowell. Click to order Why Not Say What Happened?
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