Thursday, May 27, 2010

Temperatures hovering

Looking south along the Hudson River from the Riverside Park promenade. 8:00 PM. Photo: JH.
May 27, 2010. Yesterday was a very hot day in New York with the temperatures hovering in the high 80s-low 90s, and feeling like 100. It was still 85 degrees at midnight by the East River.

Michael’s big Wednesday lunch was full up. Susan Silver with MediaBistro’s Diane Clehane; T&C’s Pamela Fiori; Felicia Taylor, Deborah Norville, Becca Thrash; Bob Benton with Joan Jakobson; HarperCollins’ Jonathan Burnham with Ed Victor; Kate White of Cosmo with Dave Zinczenko of Men’s Health; Gerry Byrne, Lisa Belzberg, TV’s Judy Licht lunching with TV’s Penny Crone and Lynn White; Tommy Tune with Francine LeFrak; Frederique van Derwal, Tamara Mellon, Joe Armstrong. And I was with Dr. David Shafer, a plastic surgeon who looks like a kid but already has an illustrious career behind him.

We were lunching because Dr. Shafer has been a loyal advertiser on the NYSD for more than two years, and we’d never met beyond a passing howjado. I’ve interviewed plastic surgeons before. Although the subject is not of great interest to me, it is of great interest to a lot of people including a lot of people I know. I know so many women (and some men) who have had plastic/cosmetic surgery of one kind or another (and even another and another), including several who’ve got carried away and now look like someone else.
DPC and Dr. David Shafer at Michael's.
I mentioned that last fact to the doctor. He said that people would come in with pictures of Jennifer Aniston’s nose and want the same one. He kindly explains that it’s only good on her face and doesn’t necessarily work for another. In other words he’ll talk you out of it – make sense – if you want to know. Although not everyone wants to know, as we all know.

I had decided I was going to avoid the plastic surgeon interview. However, Dr. Shafer looks so much like a kid to these not-a-kid’s eyes, that it was hard to believe he’s been practicing privately for a few years now (offices at 10 East 53rd Street, 212-888-7770). What intrigued me was his CV, which includes residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and a fellowship under Dr. Sherrell Aston here in New York. Just being granted such a fellowship under Dr. Aston is serious acknowledgement in his field as Dr. Aston is a star. Aside from his social profile and local reputation, Sherrell Aston is famous “out there.”

Dr. Shafer grew up in East Lansing, Michigan. His mother was a psychiatrist and his father was a lawyer. He has one brother who became a lawyer and of course, the doctor became Dr. Shafer. He never had therapy as a child or teenager. It wasn’t required.

We ended up talking about the surgeries done for cosmetic reasons. There are all kinds of procedures. It seems endless. However, the doctor said because of the internet, today’s patient knows a lot about his business, and knows what to ask for and ask about.

Some men get facelifts. You’ve seen some of them on TV or in the movies. Or here in New York or Los Angeles or San Fran (not to mention PB). But they’re not so common. But women …women today, Dr. Shafer said, are so matter-of-fact about it that some even go out shopping when they are still wearing their bandages, they’re so excited about it.
Building along West Houston at Broadway, just across the street from the Angelika Film Center.
Plastic surgery. Coincidentally. Ironically. Moving right along. Last night I went down to the Angelika Film Center to see “Joan Rivers – A Piece of Work,” a documentary about the lady, the force. The film was made by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg.
I have been a Joan Rivers fan since I first saw her all those years ago on Johnny Carson. She was fall off the couch funny. She said in the documentary that she does not regard herself as a comedienne but rather an actor playing a comedienne (or any other role she can get).

But she is a comedienne. Comediennes/Comedians are just funny. They go for laughs when they talk. They almost can’t help it. The great comedians – the ones who make a big impression either through fame or by reputation in their business, are also often deeply sensitive people. Along with that comes quite a psychopathology. It can manifest itself in a drive that is a very real kind of compulsion and Joan Rivers is alpha in that department. She works. And works and works. She’s always thinking about her work.
Before the screening inside the Angelika.
In the film she talks like she’s got to work to pay the rent and keep up the nut. But that’s only the official reason (and kind of exaggerated). The real reason is because she can’t help it: she just has to. She likened it to being a nun; a religious calling.

When she was first coming into her fame, her shtick was making fun of herself – her looks, her relationships, her contemporary life for a woman of her circumstances, etc. Now, of course, her shtick is making fun of everything. She can get raunchy, and I mean really raunchy but she turns it into a joke because she mocks it. She’s very smart, aside from her zany wit; and sensitive. There was a moment when she was doing her standup and was confronted by a man in the audience who was offended by something she said about a handicapped person. He was angry. She took it and threw it back at him by frankly describing her personal relationships with a severely handicapped lover and turning that into a laugh in conclusion. Sabre-shape, the wit and the perspective.
Joan being interviewed.
I met her a number of years ago through some social situation. I’ve got to know her a bit over the years. The thought that always comes to mind about her was back when I first knew her. I was walking up Madison Avenue one cold winter’s afternoon just passing Barney’s when I heard someone calling out my name. I looked around and there was a black limousine right on the corner of 61st and Madison with the back window down halfway. When I got close enough, there was Joan looking out.

“You want a ride?” she asked. Actually I was going about twenty blocks and she was going about two. I told her that and she said, “get in, he’ll drop me off and take you home.” A small gesture you might think, for someone who has a car in a world full of cars (and taxis, and buses). But not everyone in New York stops to give an acquaintance, or even a friend, a ride. Just don’t.

Off-camera she’s a quiet, gracious woman, given to a few cracks or bon mots here and there, but mainly just a gracious person. She cares about a lot of people (and animals) and she’s a worker bee. In the film you see that aspect of her but you also see what I’d never seen before, and that’s the suffering, the personal angst of that life.
The view from the Tahari terrace looking southeast under the full moon.
The party on the terrace, looking south from the balcony. 9:30 pm.
Looking southeast.
She’s 76 now and although that sounds like quite an advanced age (to anyone under 65), it’s not if you’re Joan Rivers. The energy is the same young woman’s energy. What is different is how time has altered perceptions, sensibilities and feelings for her.
We know she lost her husband Edgar to suicide. She also lost another man, a successor, after a long relationship, to another woman. She also lost her right arm/pal/companion, Tommy Corcoran to cancer, and, as we learn in the film, her manager of more than 30 years, Bill Sammeth, who just kind of disappeared.

You realize that those losses also signify something else: the woman’s sense of being on her own, with no one to lean on. It doesn’t seem that way when you watch her everyday business life. Her relationships with her assistant Jocelyn and with her famous daughter Melissa are solid and forthright. Joan is a mother, and she is a boss, but there’s a feeling that she knows about the other side of that equation too.
But she’s a performer. A trouper. She mentions “old” quite a bit throughout the film in describing herself. She’s still in search of that stardom that she was graced with decades ago.
Joan Rivers and Tommy Tune. Rory and Elie Tahari.
Celerie Kemble and Boykin Curry.
“Fame is fleeting,” Marilyn Monroe once famously said not long before she committed suicide at 36. Many have speculated that had Marilyn lived, she would have become a has-been.

This is every serious actor’s terror. Some ignore it and disappear. Others fight for it and stay in the game. As time passes, it gets more challenging. That’s the Joan Rivers saga, in a word. What’s interesting about it is, she still meets the challenge. She doesn’t always think she’s going to be able to, but at the end of the day she has what is called stick-to-it-iveness. She’s talking to the universe. “I’m here,” she says to the gods (this is my script); “and here I’ll stay.” You’re glad she is. Then she says something zany or raunchy yet practical, and you’re laughing and so is she.

If you like Joan Rivers or were even curious what makes that performer ratta-tat-tat (and hem and haw), you’ll love this film. You’ll also love her; she’s a beauty.
Marisa Frank and Margaux Rogers watching the door (They've gotta list, so they know.)
Afterwards Elie and Rory Tahari hosted an after-party dinner at the Tahari residence in SoHo and just a short walk from the theater. The Taharis’ home is duplex or a triplex (it’s far-flung) with a great rooftop terrace. From the terrace on a beautiful evening of a full moon over Manhattan, the views are spectacular. Joan was there. When I saw her she was talking to Tommy Tune. I got a picture of the two of them just before I left.

I left thinking how I’ll always see her a little bit differently, through another prism. I thought of Debbie Reynolds, a contemporary of Joan’s for whom I wrote a memoir. I was thinking how much they had in common as (still) hardworking women who basically have lived a big life of performing and keeping on. I was thinking of that Peter Allen song (which I think he wrote about his one time mother-in-law Judy Garland). “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady Onstage….” That’s them; that's our Joan now. Listen up.
The film opens in four theaters in Manhattan on June 11th.
Cocktails in MoMA's Sculpture Garden for their Party in the Garden.
The Museum of Modern Art hosted its biggest social event of the year, the Party in the Garden, on Tuesday night. The evening began at 7 p.m. with cocktails in the Sculpture Garden. The crowd was sizable by about 7:15, and included Agnes Gund, Richard Meier, Danny Meyer, Chuck Close, Jeff Koons, Yvonne Force Villareal, Vera Wang, Ronald Lauder, Leonard Lauder, Evelyn Lauder, Leon Black, Steven A. Cohen, Bob Colacello, Diana Tayor, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Waiters passed hors d'oeuvres including sliders, crab cakes, and mini grilled cheese sandwiches. The weather could not have been nicer — not too hot, not too cold, and the crowd lingered outside long after staff started ushering people inside for dinner at 8 p.m. Guests were seated at long, narrow tables, but that's about as much as I can tell you as they were not allowing journalists any access to the dinner portion of the night (which is unusual among events like these).
Clearing out the garden for the seated dinner.
So with not much to do until the After-Party was set to begin at 9 o'clock, I lingered outside the 54th Street entrance to the museum's Education Building. By 8:30, two lines had already had already begun to form: one for people who were still hoping to buy one of the few remaining tickets, and another for those who had already purchased tickets.

Two young men working on a political campaign passed fliers out to people in the lines; they were John O'Hare and Matt Brumberg, whose brother Ryan is running for Congress in New York's 14th District (which includes most of the East Side of Manhattan). Two museum staff members came out around 8:45 and replaced the After-Party Ticket Sales sign with one saying that the After-Party tickets were sold out. It had little effect though; everyone kept waiting.
The dinner place cards.
A view of the dinner from outside.
A few well-dressed latecomers to the dinner came by hoping to gain entrance through the Education Building. They were all turned away by the security guards at the door. Almost all, that is. Former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. and his fashion designer wife Emily Threlkeld were ushered inside immediately upon walking up the door.

People were getting anxious and inched closer and closer to the door, and around 9:10 the staff finally let people inside through the lobby and out into the garden. The bigwigs were still inside at dinner, of course, and most seemed to leave after dinner without coming outside to the garden. A few did, though, and were rewarded. Karen O and Nick Zinner of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, an indie rock band, put on a good show around 11 o'clock to close out the night. Hugh Jackman was there to take it in from a slightly elevated terrace just outside The Modern's dining room.

— SD for NYSD
The line to buy tickets.
The other line, for those who had already bought tickets.
Hugh Jackman. Comley Turner and Melissa Gluck.
SPEC Entertainment: Paul Haines, Alex Malgouyres, Laura Cheung, Jack Connolly, Daniel Gabrielli, and Patrick Strickler.
Matt Brumberg and John O'Hare of the Brumberg 2010 Campaign. Kim Kaupe and Josh Peck.
DJ Joshua WIldman.
Carol Sharks, Jeanette Converse, and Katie Branham.
In the old days my great-grandfather used to jump in the Hudson, diving off the West Side piers. The waterfront was alive and vital then – although perhaps not cleaner. However the demise of commercial shipping brought about the abandonment. Those piers were allowed to rot and decay.

In 1998, when I first worked with the Hudson River Park Alliance as their in-house Photographer and unofficial Advocate (under the aegis of the dynamic Vince McGown – now presiding over the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy), the greening of Manhattan’s waterside Westside was a controversial dream. Residents of Tribeca, and many West Village neighbors, feared that the project would be commercialized. However the Hudson River Park has maintained it commitment to be a natural oasis for adults, children and canines of all sizes.
Tom Strazzini with wife Danielle, Brian Semeer, and Lee Sadrian in front of Chelsea Piers.
Brian Gorman and Thomas Roma at the Gardens. Chris Anderson, The River Project, and Adam Herman.
Meta Brunzema, HRP Board Member and Brenda Levin at the new Chelsea Lynden Miller Garden.
The Friends of Hudson River Park is to the Alliance, approximately what the Central Park Conservatory is to that great parkland. It keeps a watchful, protective eye and provides badly needed funds to support, complete and sustain the park. Founded in 1999, as an advocacy group representing thousands of individuals and organizations, it is committed to ensuring the plan for the park’s five-mile, world-class sanctuary, stretching from the Battery to 59th street. The Hudson River Park is a private/public partnership. During this economic crisis, when government support has dwindled, the efforts of “Friends” are needed more than ever.

The Friends of Hudson River Park’s sold-out Gala raised more than $580,000. Honorary Chair Martha Stewart and Dinner Chairs Douglas Durst and Bette Midler hosted cocktails in the newly opened, beautifully planted rolling hills of the Lynden Miller Garden at Chelsea Cove, Pier 62, and dinner at Martha Stewart’s divine Living Omnimedia, atop The Starrett-Lehigh Building. Dessert scheduled for the roof garden, was held indoors due to NYC’s recent heavy winds.
Walking to Martha Stewart's for Dinner.
View from HRP.
The Lynden Miller Chelsea Gardens.
The Lynden Miller Chelsea Gardens. Beautiful Dinner Fleurs by Martha Stewart.
Lynden Miller was honored with the Public Service Award for her thoughtful design and restoration of many of many of NYC’s public gardens, Skansa for their distinctive construction of much of HRP, and Ross Graham for many years of service in the New York Senate as well as HRP.

ABC News Correspondent Deborah Roberts was emcee. In attendance was one of the HRP’s early visionaries, Tom Fox, now President and CEO of Harbor Experience Companies and that wonderful yellow Water Taxi.

As you know, for all New Yorkers, our parks are one of the greatest resources, providing a democratic natural respite from the stress of intense city life. If you too would like to contribute, please visit

— Jill Lynne for NYSD
Martha at The Podium Hostessing. Martha with ABC News Correspondent Deborah Roberts.
Lynden Miller receives the Public Service Award from Connie Fishman, President of Hudson River Trust. Ross Graham receives the Leadership Award from Gale A. Brewer, NYC Council Member.
Susanna Aaron (HRP Board Member) and husband, Gary Ginsberg, Executive VP Time Warner Inc., former Counsel to President Clinton & Justice Dept Lawyer. Vince McGowan, Director Battery Park City Parks Conservancy.
Mott Hupfel and wife, Sara Goodman. Co-Chair Douglas Durst.
Tom Fox, President & CEO, Harbor Experience Companies (the Water Taxi). A. J. Pietranpone, Executive Director of Friends of the Hudson River Park.
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