Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The town

Central Park after the late morning rainstorm. 2:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010. A rainy day in New York, off and on yesterday, finally clearing in early evening.

The drill. The town. Ward Landrigan of Verdura was hosting a cocktail party last night in the Verdura Salon at 745 Fifth Avenue for his old friend Frank Bowling who is in from Los Angeles. Frank is quite well known in the world of the rich and famous. He was, for many years, the director of the Hotel Carlyle. After that he went to Los Angeles where he ran the Bel Air. After he left the Bel Air, he became ambassador for a new luxury hotel in Beverly Hills, the Montage.

Frank is one of that special breed, not unlike restaurateurs, whose business is “serving” the public. The really good ones make lifelong friends everywhere they go, and particularly among their longtime clienteles.
Christopher Mason and the guest of honor. Colleen Caslin and John Barrett.
John Barrett and Rudolfo Monaco. Lionel Larner, Cynthia Olsen, and Charlie Scheips.
Canon John G.B. Andrew and Charlie Scheips. Frank with Joan Jakobson swooning and her husband looking on amused.
During his tenure Frank became a popular figure in the neighborhood. I use the word loosely, of course, in this work-a-day city of 17 million (coming and going). But one of the things about New York for those of us who get out a lot, is that it’s almost like a small town. You see familiar faces, friends and acquaintances, almost everywhere you go.

Last night they came to see their old friend and neighbor Frank: John Barrett, Mr. and Mrs. Larry David, Joan Benny, Daivd Kleinberg, Lionel Larner, Shirley Lord, Christopher Mason, Jamie and Lee Niven, Paige Rense, Peter Brown, Jimmy Mitchell, Colin Cowie, Mary Dixie Carter, Evelyn Dallal, Sandy Golinkin, Charles Masson, Debra Roberts, Marc Rosen, Neal Fox, Emily Rafferty, Dick Ridge and Rod Denoult, Mr. and Mrs. Martin Handlesman, Joan and John Jakobson, Dan Camp, John Erman and Richard Blair, Cynthia Olson, Charlie Scheips, Paul Dassenko and Doug Benson. The only ones who weren’t there were Mr. Landrigan the host, and his son and partner Nico Landrigan. Father and son were in Paris on business. It happens.
The crowd outside Archivia for a book party for David Easton.
After the hostless cocktail reception for Mr. Bowling up at Verdura, I took a cab up to 72nd Street and Lexington Avenue to Archivia where Cynthia Conigliaro was hosting a book party for David Easton and his new book Timeless Elegance, which he wrote with Annette Tapert (Women of Style) and with a foreward by Albert Hadley. Remember my telling you how the parties are in stores now? This was an example. Archivia is a smart East Side bookstore specializing in Art and Architecture books, but not solely. Biographies, memoirs, novels, histories too.

It’s on the block between 72nd and 71st, in the heart of the UES. Another neighborhood. When they hold a book signing, they draw a crowd who can hardly wait to get there. When the weather’s nice, which it was last night, they even move the party onto the sidewalk. It always reminds me of those British pubs where after office you see them on the sidewalks outside their pubs with lots of conversation going on. Very cozy; that was this was, and everyone glad to be there.
The window display at Archivia.
Cynthia Conigliaro and David Easton. Annette Tapert and David Easton.
Cynthia Conigliaro told me that when they sent out invitations for this one, people were calling and stopping by right away to make sure they were included. They all wanted to see the author/designer. David Easton, I’ve learned, is one of those men who is very well liked wherever he goes. There’s something about his disposition that charms and disarms. I don’t know him so I can’t say what it is, although Sian and Lesley and JH did interview him once for HOUSE. Here’s the Link. Maybe there are some clues there.

I bought the book a couple of weeks ago at Archivia. I liked these books because they fuel my imagination about the crowd and world I cover, and also it’s often a question of aesthetics and I-can-dream-can’t-I? This one caught my interest because Mr. Easton is very architecturally involved. In the window of Archivia are two maquettes of houses he’s created for clients.

Philip Johnson.
The Finished Product.
I love looking at maquettes. They evoke. And provoke. Back in the early 1990s, I interviewed the legendary Philip Johnson at his office, in his creation, the Lipstick Building on Third Avenue and 51st Street. The subject of the interview was Bill Paley, the pioneer radio and television tycoon.

Johnson, who then was close to 90, was a wiry and immediate personality. He was like an actor playing himself when he spoke. With flourish and frankness. Bill Paley, he told me, was the only man who ever made him cry.

How did that happen? Johnson had been commissioned by Paley to design the proposed new Museum of Television and Radio on West 52nd Street to be built next to “21.”

When the maquette was completed, Mr. Paley was invited into the office to see it. He arrived one late morning with his small entourage of suits. He walked into the room, circled the maquette of the proposed museum building once, and said: ”No. Do something else.” And left.

Left Philip Johnson in tears.

Johnson did do something else/had done something else by the time I interviewed him. It was already built or almost. It was called the Museum of Television Radio, he informed me in the interview, adding as an aside: “It’ll be called the Paley Center after the body cools.” Paley was still alive at the time, although he died within the year. It’s now called the Paley Center.

Meanwhile, I can’t see David Easton a bursting into tears if someone like a gruff Bill Paley type dismissed him with a “no.” I can see him maybe rolling his eyes in exasperation. Or laughing about it. Or maybe steaming. You could tell by the party last night. I didn’t arrive until 7:30 and the crowd had thinned some, but it was still a party, and a fun one.

In the crowd: James Steinmeyer, Annette Tapert, Margaret Russell, Robert Rufino, Mitchell Owens, Carol Prisant, Nancy Goslee Powers, Priscilla Rattazzi, Paula Rice Jackson, Richard Mauro, Sara Vass, Charlie Scheips, plus Schiffs and Boardmans and Hallingbys et al.

Plus legions of former employees who started out in David Easton’s office and went on to open design firms of their own. They spoke so fondly about how much they learned from him.
James Steinmeyer and Duane Hampton with the author.
Alexa Hampton and Len Morgan.
Margaret Russell, the new editor in chief of Architectural Digest.
Sean Driscoll and Priscilla Rattazzi.
Will Rogers, Julie Nikcevich, and Cynthia Conigliaro.
Afterwards I grabbed my friend and neighbor Charlie Scheips and we went up the block to Swifty’s for a quick and delicious meal. Swifty’s was lively. Bill and Melinda vanden Heuvel were entertaining Inger Elliot or vice versa. Gale Hayman and Dr. Richard Bachman were entertaining Ernie Pomerantz and his authoress wife, Marie Brenner. At another Tobie Roosevelt was entertaining and across the way her sister Nancy Baker was dining with husband and friends. Also Dick Nye and Francesca Stanfill, Ed and Pat Ney (newlyweds still), Bobby and Barbara Liberman. Also, Betty Sherrill and her daughter and business associate Ann Pyne. On one side of us was Cheri Kaufman and friend and on the other Hannah Pakula and friend. We fell into a conversation about living in Los Angeles (Hannah grew up there and was married to director Alan Pakula). Her school chum was Joan Benny (who was at the Bowling party last night), daughter of Jack, best friend of George Burns. Beverly Hills was a village then, a real small town except ... American 20th century folklore was being created by its inhabitants.
Sky above Hudson River, 7:45 PM.
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