Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A busy day in New York

Looking up and east from Park Avenue and 51st Street. 1:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011. A warm sunny day in New York until late afternoon when grey clouds appeared from the north. The weatherman predicts our Indian summer weather will change dramatically over the weekend.

Mercedes and Sid Bass were granted a divorce last Thursday in Fort Worth. The official announcement came on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a report filed by Chris Vaughn in the Friday edition of the newspaper. The couple released a joint statement that they would “continue to love each other and remain good friends.”

Mercedes and Sid Bass with with Bryn Terfel at The Metropolitan Opera's Opening Night Gala
of Anna Bolena, September 26, 2011. Photo: Jill Krementz.
This was the probably one of the most civilized divorces any of us will ever hear about anybody. There were rumors of the marriage being in trouble which I reported here last November or December. Many of their friends were very annoyed at me for writing it although many were passing the rumors around amongst themselves at the time.

I wrote a measured retraction a few days later, having been assured by close friends of the couple that the rumors were not true.

Did I believe it? Not really. But. Divorces are tricky and often mucky and sometimes – as in a couple of cases going on right now – vicious and grotesque. And shame on the lawyers and the husbands and the system for it.

However, the rumors about the Basses persisted through the new year but with nothing new in terms of their behavior to confirm the stories. Only two weeks ago at the opening of the new season at the Met (where Mercedes Bass sits on the board), they were in attendance. Not only were they in attendance but as you can see from the photos Jill Krementz took for the NYSD (9.28.11), that they were together.

Furthermore Jill told me that they were more than happy – he even made an effort – to be photographed together. Looking at it in retrospect, Sid Bass was already sending a message about the kind of divorce they would have.

Mercedes Bass.
Stories about break-ups are interesting gossip because there’s potential drama involved, and anything to distract us from our own relationship problems. Was there somebody else? Were there, are there others? Blah blah. Anything is possible, and if so, like all these things, if so, will eventually out. The truth is only the two people in the marriage really know why a marriage ends, (and sometimes it’s only one of the people in the marriage who really knows, and that person is usually the liar).

In the case of Mercedes and Sid Bass, all of that was avoided, and rather gallantly. Yes, you could argue Mr. Bass has buckets of dough and that always helps. (Yes it does but surprisingly that doesn’t stop a lot of people from behaving like monsters.)

The night of the divorce, for example, the (ex-)couple hosted a dinner party at the house in Fort Worth for all their friends. Think about it. None of that “embarrassment” that friends have in terms of how to relate to either party; whom to talk to, whom to avoid. The Basses dissolved the whispers and the rumors and the taking sides. That is a relief for everyone especially if you like both parties and prefer to remain friends with everyone.

Just last night Mercedes Bass hosted a dinner for her friend Dame Vivian Duffield, a social prominent British heiress (daughter of the late Sir Charles and Lady Clore).

The day after the divorce was granted Sid Bass contacted his closest men friends to give them the news. He explained frankly that he wasn’t angry at his wife but that she liked a busy social life and he preferred a quieter life. (The original rumor was accompanied by the fact that the billionaire businessman has returned to an early interest – painting – and wanted to pursue it seriously. That was and remains the rumor, but maybe that’s also the story). His wife, he told friends, was fine and no longer had the weight of a husband who wanted a different kind of life.

Sid Bass.
So what happened? An early curiosity was about The Money. The first Mrs. Bass, Anne, also a prominent New Yorker and mother of the Bass daughters, was said to have received a huge (nine figure divorce settlement). Whatever it was, Sid Bass was sensitive to his departing wife’s needs and anxious to not make it any more difficult than it naturally was. No doubt he is as sensitive to Mercedes’ needs. That’s the kind of man he is.

What happened, ultimately, after 23 years of marriage and 25 years together, is that someone tired of the process that often gets old and creaky. Mr. Bass, for example, will be 70 next year. Looking at one’s life and one’s future from that vantage point is very unlike looking at it from age 45 (when he first ran into Mercedes at a dinner party one night). It was probably that vantage point that assisted the couple in dissolving their marriage in a most civilized, agreeable way. Setting a good example, while they were at it.

Yesterday was a busy day in New York.
I started out at Le Cirque at noon where HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia as Patron, along with Chairpeople Muna Rihani-Al-Nasser, Susan Gutfreund and His Excellency Feodor Starcevic, Permanent Representative of Serbia to the United Nations, were hosting a luncheon for the benefit of Lifeline New York.

Ten years ago the crown princess established a foundation in Belgrade to help the people of Serbia by providing vital medicines and medical equipment to hospitals and clinics, and desperately needed supplies to orphanages. To learn more about it visit

There were more than 100 guests and they filled the entire main dining room of Le Cirque. There was a Special Guest, Tea Obreht, author of the bestsellin The Tiger’s Wife.
The cocktail reception yesterday at Le Cirque for "Be A Lifeline For Orphans" luncheon hosted by HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia.
Co-chairs Susan Gutfreund and Muna Rihani Al-Nasser. Barbara Taylor Bradford, Shirley Lord, and Jill Spalding.
HRH Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia and Serbian Ambassador to the UN Feodor Starcevic. HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia and Susan Gutfreund.
The table setting.
From there, I went over to Michael’s for another luncheon appointment. The restaurant was just starting to fill up when I arrived. My lunch partner had not yet arrived. I tested my camera settings and it occurred to me that I refer to Michael’s luncheons all the time but the reader never really knows what I’m seeing. This is what it looks like from Table 8.

I was initially drawn to Michael’s for the décor. It has a very California feeling to it. It reminds me of a place that is significant to this writer The light and the colors. Michael is a big art collector (including the art of his wife Kim McCarty). The Hockneys and the Lichtensteins and Stellas do something in the room. I love sitting there and just looking at them while waiting.
Loreal and Joanna, often the first voices I hear in the morning when one of them calls to remind me of a lunch date. Two distinct personalities. Joanna is wry and a wise-guy when she wants and Loreal is your sweet protector. Both grace Michael's. The table with the olive oil, salt and pepper, pumpkin, the "Barbara Bush" -- iced tea and orange juice -- and the red hot chilly peppers. Autumn in New York.
My view of the room where I can see them coming and going. And vice versa (although I get to see the interesting part).
After lunch I went over to the Carlisle Per Se Collection on East 52nd Street where I was interviewing Paxton Quigley about her course in Women’s Self Defense.

Pax is an old friend of mine. I met her thirty years ago when she was an executive with Playboy in L.A. Several years later she developed an interest in guns. I remember when she told me about the idea. I don’t know where she was but she had a boyfriend at the time who lived or worked on a ranch. She was with him one day in a gun store when it occurred to her that women are afraid of guns because they don’t know how to shoot correctly, properly and carefully.
Paxton stalked by DPC. Paxton is wearing one of Carlisle's autumn creations, great looking I have to say. ($504, free alterations).
Paxton grabbed from behind by DPC.
Scream at your attacker!
She wrote a book after that called Not An Easy Target. I think it’s still available. She’s written an updated version because she’s learned a lot more not only about guns but about the matter of women being able to defend themselves when under threat.
It’s a complicated issue and I’m going to write about it more at another time. But yesterday’s event – there were about fifty women from 20-somethings to 60-somethings, many professional – was very successful. And fun. I think many of the guests could have stayed long after the hour was over because everyone was riveted.

Pax is really good at teaching women What To Do (sans guns). But that’s for another Diary.
Paxton Quigley, Carol Ostrow, and Lisa Carnoy.
Iris Rossi and Jeanne Mitchell.
Evelyn Gellman and Carol Cohen.
Judith Agisim and Ellen Easton. Lauren Ezersky.
Antonia Milonas and Margo Langenberg.
Viva Bhogaita. Fern Mallis and Sharon Hoge.
Junto Yamada Cusick and Kathleen Kirkwood.
Anita Sarko. Maggie Norris.
Jean Shafiroff, Judith Agisim, and Alice Judelson.
Victoria Moran, Magda Katz, and Carol Ostrow.
Wendy Moonan and Mickey Ateyeh.
Ann Rapp and DPC. Magda Katz.
Victoria Moran and Lynette Dallas.
Last night’s lineup was long. Over at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the New York Stem Cell Foundation hosted its 6th annual Gala and Science Fair honoring Christo with the NYSCF Humanitarian Award. The Mayor presented the award to the artist. They also honored Julian H. Robertson Jr., the investment adviser and hedge fund whiz (Tiger Management) and philanthropist (the Plaza at Lincoln Center is named in his late wife Josie’s honor).

Mr. Robertson was given the NYSCF Leadership Award, which was presented by Joel L. Fleishman. There was also the presentation of the inaugural NYSCF Robertson Stem Cell Prize.

In those last few sentences I have laid out a clear diagram of how philanthropy and fund-raising operate successfully in New York in the 21st century.
On my way home yesterday afternoon I passed this doorway. In another week there will be many doorways like this along my neighborhood side streets. Some quite elaborate and creative; some real productions. More later.
This particular Foundation is the creation of Susan Solomon and Dr. Roy Geronemus, CEO and Chairman respectively. They are but part of a big team but they are the leadership, particularly in my experience, Ms. Solomon. She has put their project/objective on the map. And they are making a difference, the potential of which cannot yet even be measured.

Also last night, over at Roberto Cavalli’s store on 63rd and Madison, the gang who are putting together this year’s Casita Maria Fiesta 2011 – Jackie Weld Drake, John Bernbach, Mario You-Know-Who, Kalliope Karella, Christine Schwarzman and the Casita Maria Fiesta and Pachanga committees. Mr. Cavalli was hosting and also celebrating the re-opening of his New York store. Another part of the aforementioned diagram.

In another part of the same forest, over at 232 East 59th Street, there was a preview of the Todd Alexander Romano Tastemaker Tag Sale, and celebrating the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s 23rd annual Preview Party for the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show. They were having their very own TARTTS and 10% of sales was donated by Mr. R to the SMSKCC. Another part of the aforementioned diagram.

Onward. Last night at the Metropolitan Museum, Iris Cantor and Thomas Campbell, the Director of the museum, hosted a preview and reception for the opening of a new exhibition “Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keeffee” in the Tisch Galleries.

I stopped in last night because Mrs. Cantor is a friend and I know she appreciates her friends seeing what some of her philanthropy can do. I was also drawn by the invitation. I wanted to have a look at the actual Charles Demuth oil on the cover.

As you can see, I got a good shot of the lady in red. I can’t explain it adequately but Iris is one of those people whose manner can only be called “a subtle charm.” She’s very serious about her business – I think she’s biggest woman philanthropist in America today – but the charm is quietly direct and amusing. She makes me smile.
Iris Cantor, whose foundation underwrote the exhibition, standing at the entrance of this treasure trove of an historical moment in 20th century America and art. A birds-eye view of last night's reception in the gallery below. The brick wall on the right is a facade of the original museum building.
I didn’t have time to see it all. It is not only a big installation, full of the works that the master photographer collected of other artists of his time, but I found it oddly touching, so I couldn’t move fast enough. I can’t explain why because I’m not an art historian or an art critic. But as I quickly moved through the collection his photographs -- which are compellingly, haunting, evoking mystery and poetry -- along with the works (and his photographs) of the artists such as Brancusi, Demutyh, Hartley, Kandinsky, Picasso, Matisse, O’Keeffe – many of whom debuted in America in his gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue (known as 291) and later; I found myself affected emotionally, as if about to choke up. Stieglitz is the professor here for historians, art and otherwise. This is a document of the beginning of what became known as The American Century. It has a powerful subtext. It gets to you; it got to me.
Over the East River. 6:30 PM.
And over the Hudson. 7:00 PM.

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