Friday, November 19, 2010

The talk in many circles ...

Looking south along Crosby Street towards the Woolworth Building. 2:10 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, November 19, 2010. Grey skies, brilliant foliage, cool but not cold, yesterday in New York.

Those who recall my blind item in yesterday’s Diary about a “May December” marriage that had just occurred and left the talkers talking bigtime: it was confirmed yesterday in Page Six.

The newlyweds: Kipton and Larry. Photo: Patrick McMullan.
I did not reveal the names of the newlyweds because I hadn’t been able to confirm the “rumor” that was passed to me, but Page Six did.

They are: Prominent private residential real broker Lawrence (Larry to his friends) Kaiser IV, and Kipton Cronkite, whose name has always reminded me of the Superman comics. Others are reminded of Walter Cronkite to whom the groom is not related and never was.

Page Six said the younger groom was 39 and the elder 69. Although I think the younger might be even younger, I believe it is the first marriage for both.

In real life Kipton, who hails from out Oklahoma way but has been a Gothamite for at least a decade, looks like he could have been a perfect Jimmy Olson. Larry Kaiser notwithstanding. However, all-talk aside, Congratulations are in order.

Moving on, the talk in many circles everywhere is the Royal Engagement and The Ring. His mother’s ring. Blue blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds. His mother chose that for herself from Garrard Jewelers in 1981. She broke precedent in a way because, although Garrard historically created jewelry for the Royal Family since the 19th century, the ring wasn’t made specifically or especially for Lady Diana, but rather was in the Garrard catalogue.

The newly engaged couple.
Not everyone approved of this selection at first, for that reason alone, coming from the “it’s just not done” point of view. However, Lady Diana had a good eye, and knew what she liked and what she didn’t like -- as the Royal Family and others were eventually forced to learn. Twenty-nine years ago, the price was 28,000 pounds or (at that time) about $60,000 US, more than twice that in today’s dollars.

The result, according to several prominent jewelers here in New York, is that the phones are ringing off the hook inquiring about blue blue sapphire rings and do they have them in stock.

In an interview Prince William said that he chose it because it was a way to share the joy with his mother, at least in memory. Few mother-in-laws to be don’t have opinions or impressions about whom their sons are marrying. Diana would certainly have been no exception.

This royal marriage is a significant departure from almost all that came before. The bride is neither royal or from an aristocratic, or even upperclass family. Kate Middleton’s maternal great-great-grandfather worked all his life in coal pits owned by the family of Prince William’s great-grandmother, Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Although Ms. Middleton is, according to author Christopher Wilson who will publish a biography of her next Spring, also related to Harriet Martineau, a very independent thinking woman writer of the mid-19th century who counted among her friends, Charles Darwin and the Bronte sisters. She also traveled to America by herself and wrote a book about her expedition which was a forward-thinking sensation.
The ring.
Genealogists have also discovered that Ms. Middleton is a descendent of another British monarch, Edward III, who is credited with having made England the most efficient military power in Europe in the 14th century. He also declared himself the rightful king of France, which did not go down well with a lot of people and started the 100 Years War.

William and Kate, who may one day become King William and Queen Catherine – although it’s been a long long time since a “commoner” became queen of the realm – are thoroughly modern people. This will also be the first time, at least in terms of aknowledgement, that the royal bride will not be a virgn, per se. Much was made of Lady Diana’s eligibility because she (allegedly, anyway), was. How do we know this about the betrothed? Because they have been openly living together in Wales while the prince is in the service. And after all, they’re only human like the rest of us. Not much is thought of it in this age, but it definitely is a sharp departure from what used to be de rigueur.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their wedding day, July 1981 at St. Paul's Cathedral, London.
These differences, while appearing small, are majors changes. The couple are thus unencumbered by constraints of the old ways. This also implies that their relationship will not carry the baggage of royal assumptions about extra-marital relationships, and the bride will be spared the surprises which confronted her fiance’s mother (who was also ten years younger than Kate is) on engagement to his father.

It may be that this will be the first royal marriage since William’s great-great-great-great-grandparents Victoria and Albert where man and wife will be equals and live thusly. Love is in the air.

While Princess Diana's ring is obviously spoken for, should you so desire a sapphire ring ala the British Royal family ... here are some available options:
Verdura: Platinum, Ceylon Sapphire and Diamond "Turban" ring, $187,500.

745 5th Avenue, Ste 1205, 212.758.3388,
Tamsen Z.: Blue Sapphire and Demantoid Garnet and Diamond Ring. $226,500.

783 Madison Avenue, 212.360.7840,
Platinum Cushion Cut Kashmir Sapphire & Diamond Ring; 5.30ct Cushion Cut Sapphire, 2 Cushion Cut Diamonds, .85ct. $175,000.
Platinum Sapphire and Diamond Ring; 9.18ct Cushion Cut Natural Sapphire, 286 Dias, 1.45ct. $140,000.

Both available at Stephen Russell, 970 Madison Avenue, 212.570.6900.
Kentshire: A cushion-cut sapphire ring with diamond baguette stepped shoulders, in platinum. Sapphire 6.63 cts GIA."Kashmir." "No Heat." Diamonds atw .72 cts. $136,000.

700 Madison Avenue, 212.421.1100 or Bergdorf Goodman, 212.872.8653.
Fred Leighton: Kashmir Sapphire and Diamond Ring, French, Sapphire approx 2.96 cts; Diamond approx 4 cts. $150,000.
773 Madison Avenue, 212.288.1872.
Doyle New York: Gold, Sapphire and Diamond Ring Centering one cushion-cut sapphire approximately 7.50 cts., encircled and flanked by 20 old-mine cut diamonds approximately 1.75 cts., approximately 4.8 dwt. Size 5 1/2. Lot 458. Estimate: $25,000-35,000.

To be offered at Doyle New York on December 8, 2010 with Important Estate Jewelry. Click here to bid.
Quick. Blair Sabol, our “No Holds Barred” lady was in town for a few days soaking up New York, getting her fix. Yesterday I took her to lunch at Michaels to join my friends Sassy Johnson and Anne Prevost. The three women have something in common – they all went to Finch, a college for fashionable ladies that once existed here in Manhattan in the East 60s. (As a footnote, our friendships all go back many years to a mutual friend, Bob Schulenberg, the artist/illustrator whose work has often appeared on theses pages.)

A lot of people today have never heard of Finch. It was quite the place in its day, starting out as a “finishing school,” then becoming a junior college and then a four year. Our friend Anne Slater was a Finch girl, as was Tricia Nixon (who was in Blair’s class), and Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) who was in Sassy and Anne’s class. And the future Baby Jane Holzer. One day Jane suggested to Sassy that they become models. Sassy thought that seemed like an impossible idea. Baby Jane didn’t. Sassy later went to work for Halston, running his couture. The stories she could tell. But she won’t. Very Finch.
Sassy Johnson, DPC, Blair Sabol, and Anne Prevost at Michael's.
Finch was the last of the “ladies” schools where the girls often wore hats and gloves and part of the curriculum was developing the social graces to go out in the world and make your way. (Like anything else, not everyone learned, of course.) However, they went to the ballet and the opera and the theatre and the museums.

They were also educated in the niceties of metropolitan life. And, as Anne Prevost said of Finch education: “Ring by Spring or your money back.” This was back in the days when women ran houses (those of their spouses). Of course like everyone else they grew up and all kinds of things none of them would have imagined happened. Gracie Slick anybody?
On Wednesday evening at Sant Ambreous, JH also met up with Blair for a cappuccino, a plate of cookies, and a good laugh.
Last night began for me at the Carlton Hobbs mansion on East 93rd Street. This is an extraordinary house, what Ralph Lauren would have built if he had been God. Designed by John Russell Pope for Virginia “Birdie” Fair Vanderbilt in the early 1930s, after she divorced Willie K. Jr. (and moved from their bridal home on 53rd and Fifth).

A daughter of a Comstock Lode partner James Graham Fair, Mrs. Vanderbilt wanted only the best, and had these aesthetic sense to know what that was. I’m digressing but going into that house does it to you.
Carolyne Roehm and George Farias. Click to order A Passion For Interiors. Miki Duitsterhof, the photographer of Carolyne Roehm's portrait on the back cover of the book.
Last night was a book signing by a woman who also shares Mrs. V’s taste quotient, Carolyne Roehm. Her book, “A Passion For Interiors” is beautiful. And grand. And lavish. And chic and stylish.

What Birdie Fair Vanderbilt wanted in her mansion and got, is what Ms. Roehm wants in her books (and mansions), and gets. Carolyne Roehm is a real person but she is also this persona that has the element of make believe, of romantic novels by the Brontes or Mme. Pompadour. I’m not exaggerating, it’s a complete sensibility.

Carolyne always reminds me of that old question: “if someone gave you a million dollars, how would you spend it?” I think I’d give it to Carolyne Roehm and tell her to do it for me. She just knows. This book is about that. It’s a feast.
The author signing George Farias's copy.
Dara Caponigro, Editor-in-Chief of Veranda, who hosted the evening with Carlton Hobbs, and the author. Carlton Hobbs.
Book buyers waiting in line for the author to sign.
I ran into our friend George Farias there. He was in black tie. I asked him where he was going, wondering if it were the same place I was going. I was not in black tie because I couldn’t find the invitation that would have told me. I hate going to non-black tie affairs in black tie, so when in doubt, I don’t.

George was going to the same place -- the American Museum of Natural History for their annual gala, and he offered me a ride across the park.
The cocktail hour in the Roosevelt Rotunda of the American Museum of Natural History last night.
The AMNH is one of my favorite museums in all of New York although I visit it infrequently and mainly when attending events. I didn’t grow up in the city but everytime I go there I think of what I missed. Not only the exhibits but the knowledge they impart naturally. When I’ve been there in daytimes I’ve seen the work of the Museum. Millions of children down through the decades have had their first real thrill of learning at the AMNH. Kids today, even toddlers, learn the names of all the dinosaurs. The AMNH is a temple of learning and hope.

Almost 4 million visit the museum annually and more than 400,000 are schoolchildren. There are collections of 32 million specimens and artifacts and one of the world’s largest scientific databases. It is the number one family destination in New York and the number three family destination in the United States.
Clockwise from above, left: David and Julia Koch; Henri Barguirdjian with Allison and Howard Lutnick; Karen LeFrak, Alexis Clarke, and Gillian Miniter.
Marcia Mishaan, Marianne Lafiteau, and Gillian Miniter. Lynn Debow of the AMNH and Sylvester Miniter.
The Museum is also one of the most successfully managed organizations in the city, thanks to its brilliant president Ellen Futter. Mrs. Futter always reminds me of that favorite school teacher you had in grade school who was kind and courteous and interested and smart and encouraging and always had a smile for you. And if she was ever angered or disappointed about something you did, you’d feel terrible just knowing she was.

I know that sounds a little corny but the point is, Mrs. Futter is one of those women who is a real leader, a woman who is thoughtful and democratic, yet decisive and far-thinking, and encourages in the best in people. She is remarkable in many ways. You get it when you’re around her, and the world is a better place because of her. I know this sounds like a love letter but I am also still that child in school too. The AMNH, for example, is the only museum in the whole world which can grant a PhD. It’s also one of the few museums of the world where children are introduced to the wonders of the universe. Hooray for all that.
The 94-foot Blue Whale in the Millstein Hall of Ocean Life awaiting the evening's guests.
The table settings. First course: Wild Arugula with Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms, Jerusalem Artichoke Fricassee, Oven-Dried Tomatoes, Piave Ribbons, Black Truffle Oil, Wild Mushroom Crostini.
In the natural light.
Guests entering the dining room.
Last night was attended by more than 500, including prominent personalities in the city and even some movie and TV stars, such as Anne Hathaway, Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Fallon. And the main attraction was Sir Elton John, who was seated at the table nearest the bandstand on which stood a concert grand.

Sir Elton was donating his talents to entertain the guests. After the main course and dessert, Jamie Niven and Tom Brokaw conducted an auction of trips and such that raised about $700,000 to add to the night’s total fundraising, more than $2.7 million.
After Niven and Brokaw, came Sir Elton, now a philanthropist in his own right, but also a man who loves to play and entertain. The guests got a full concert of his hits. It was a brilliant evening and a great success for a great museum.
Jamie Niven and Tom Brokaw conducting the auction.
At the beginning of Sir Elton’s concert, I stood up from my table (about a dozen yards from the stage) to get a flash-less picture of the man at the piano. I was immediately told by one of the young women assisting on the event that there were to be no pictures.

I of course desisted. However, within seconds, dozens of flashes went off from all over the great room, and kept going off. The rule of “no pictures” is not enforceable, thanks to the digital revolution. Everyone has a little digital camera (or a cellphone) and they are take pictures everywhere all the time. Period. Sorry Sir Elton. I’m sure it’s distracting, and it is true that people are often oblivious to the intrusive annoying flashes. However, it’s all part of the changes technology has wrought on our world and our behavior.

I did take a quick one as I was departing before the concert ending. It was a great evening all around.
Sir Elton John performing.
The Origami Christmas Tree in the ground floor lobby of the museum.
In the goody bag: Blue Diamond chocolates inspired by The Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond on temporary exhibit at the Museum of Natural History through January 1st.
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