Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Too Big To Fail

Looking north along Madison Avenue from 95th Street. 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
February 23, 2010. Sunny and cold yesterday, then grey skies hinting at snow which the weatherman was predicting. But then a quiet rain late in the evening.

Yesterday, a woman friend gave me a book, Too Big To Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin. I’d heard of it of course, and in fact, Mr. Sorkin even made an appearance in a recent Bits & Morsels column.

My friend gave me the book telling me that several friends of hers had said they “couldn’t put it down,” and so she got a copy, started reading it, now she can’t put it down.

That’s always a great recommendation. Depending on the recommender. My friend, for example, is a sophisticated New Yorker, active in social circles and philanthropy, with few degrees of separation financially from many people in Wall Street.

Andrew Ross Sorkin and Jordana Z. at Avra. Click to order Too Big to Fail. (Photo: Jill Krementz).
On my way home I took a quick look. It has a cast of players – all laid out in a few pages, by the author. There must be several dozen, categorized by firm or financial institution or government agency or title.

Running through the list quickly I saw the well-known ones – the big players whose names are national and even international – the stars so to speak – as well as many more names that are now highly publicized.

Looking through the list I was thinking how my friend and her friends “who cannot put it down” most likely know many of the players on the list, as well as their wives, children, parents, in-laws, what have you. Because that is the nature of New York and its society today. What you might call the neighborhood.

Although I follow the financials more closely than most people I know who are (mostly) not in the financial business, I’m always as interested in the characters’ lives – the quality thereof, the relationships, etc. – as I am in their business. For me that’s the essence in understanding even the financials.

For example, yesterday in New York was the day that parents learned whether or not their four and five year old sons and daughters were accepted in the private kindergarten of their choice. This is no small matter in the lives of the rich. Their children’s schools are badges of not only their prosperity, but their successes. Furthermore, these kindergartens are highly selective besides being highly expensive ($15,000 - $25,000 annually). And of course there is a pecking order as to which is the best and which is the ... least ... best school. A kid – a toddler, even – can start off on the wrong foot in life when he doesn’t get accepted at Episcopal.

Where a child is accepted or not accepted is a mark for or against the parents’ standing in the community. Something money can’t buy. As in: Not Too Big to Fail.

I wondered, reading Mr. Sorkin’s list of players in Too Big To Fail, whether or not some of those names were mamas and papas of a little one who did or didn’t make the grade (cut the mustard) yesterday. Could be. I know that sounds like an absurd thought, and it is. Except this world of ours right now is a world where there are some for whom it could be more embarrassing than anything Andrew Sorkin might report about their financial acrobatics and shenanigans, if their kid wasn’t “accepted” in the right kindergarten. This is as close as many of us have got to reality so far.
Patrick MacDonald. Michael Richmond-Boyle.
Meanwhile, Fashion Week over Jill Lynne took in some of the last of the shows and submitted the following assessment:

Are we at that Malcolm Gladwell “Tipping Point” when it comes to the Mercedes-Benz IMG NYC Fashion Shows? Due to the significant cost of showing beneath the tents, approximately two thirds of the venues for Fashion shows, festivities and related events were held “off-site” – sometimes far away from the tents, in difficult to reach areas – the far reaches of the Lower East Side, wee corners of Soho, the very far West – as well as the more established alternative locations – the Altman Building and the Milk Studios.

This season the real theme of most designers seemed to be focused on “salability” – showing a bit of everything in an attempt to see what works. Under such pressure, trend-spotting is challenged. However a few are outstanding ... long, floor-sweeping coats, irregular hemlines, layering beyond recognition, the resurgence of fur – faux and real, darker more somber hues, the color purple, the chapeau – in 20's cloche, and saucy styles, large, prominent jewelry, leggings and tights, boots-galore, longtoe-touching scarves, wraps and capes twisted and turning.

In the front row, Reality Show celebutantes prevailed. For a non-viewer, such as myself, much of the cameras flash revealed the unrecognizable.
Mickey Boardman and Lauren Ezersky with a friend.
Derek Warburton ("Derek Loves Shopping"). An Academy of Art Model sporting applauded couture knitwear (the Academy is rated #2 Fashion School).
The New Callula Lillibelle Collection. Designer Melanie Fraser Hart with the New Collection.
Handbag designer Christopher Augmon, Debbie Dickinson, and stylist to the stars, Robert.
Zang Toi Fan. Carmen de Lavallade.
Zang Toi models in purple theme (walking to "Purple Rain").
Designer Zang Toi with models.
Chanel Iman in Mercedes VIP Lounge. Jewelry designer Cokie Lee and daughter in the Mercedes VIP Lounge.
Rebecca Taylor models.
Herve Leger models (note special European detail work).
Patricia Field and Suzanne Bartsch. Patricia Field.
Suzanne Bartsch in Betsey. Two Betsey Johnson models.
Betsey's daughter Lulu and grandchild. Betsy orchestrating ...
Betsey model. Betsey & Amanda's Tribute to Alexander McQueen.
Betsey's Valentine's finale.
We’re late with this but earlier in the month, debutantes, dignitaries and diplomats had a “Magical Night at the Opera” at the 55th Annual Viennese Opera Ball in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf. Dancing With the Stars’ Maksim Chmerkovksiy and Tony-Award winner Geoffrey Holder and his wife Carmen de Lavallade, mingled with the reigning Miss Universe Stefania Fernandez and Miss USA Kristen Dalton as well as Austrian Ambassador to the U.S. Christian Prosl, the senior ranking Austrian diplomat in North America, and other “Excellencies.” 

The Ball, a white tie charity gala, had already decided to donate the proceeds from its online Charitybuzz auction to the U.N.’s Nothing But Nets anti-malaria campaign when the earthquake in Haiti happened. Upon re-grouping with the U.N. a few days after the earthquake, the Ball’s organizing committee refocused its efforts. The proceeds will now benefit the U.N’s Haitian relief fund.

The 2010 Opera Ball debutantes performed a choreographed dance by Heinz Heidenreich, the Artistic Director of the Vienna City Ballet, then stayed until 4:00 a.m. at the Ball-sponsored after-parties in the Jade and Astor rooms across the hall from the Grand Ballroom. 
Carmen De Lavallade greets H.E. Ambassador Shigeki Sumi, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN and Mrs. Sumi.
mbassador Jose Filipe Mendes Moraes Cabral, the Permanent Representative of Portugal to the U.N. and his wife. Elizabeth Gore, Executive Director of Nothing But Nets, and Grammy-nominated singer Kenna.
Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, Ambassador Jose Filipe Mendes Moraes Cabral and a
fellow Dignitary.
Franziska Wallner-Hollinek and Gregor Hatala of the Vienna City Ballet make their entrance into the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria
Franziska Wallner-Hollinek and Gregor Hatala of the Vienna City Ballet perform to selections from “The Magic Flute.”
The Color Guard of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point brings in the flags for the singing of the national anthems of Austria and the United States.
The 2010 class of Debutantes and their escorts are formally presented during the 55th Annual Viennese Opera Ball.
Carmen De Lavallade greets orchestra leader Peter Duchin, the orchestra leader for the night.
Kristen Dalton, Miss USA 2009, takes a turn around the floor with West Point cadet Cody Buck while raising money for a good cause, the U.N.’s Haitian Relief Fund.
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