Friday, April 22, 2011

A few blocks in the Sun

William Tecumseh Sherman by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Grand Army Plaza. 3:35 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, April 22, 2011. Yesterday in New York was beautiful, but cold. By nightfall, it was overcoat cold. As usual, I’m impatient for the change in the weather.

I went down to Michael’s again yesterday to keep a lunch date with Leslie Stevens, the public relations executive who with James LaForce, founded the very successful LaForce and Stevens agency. Leslie and I share birthdays one day apart (I’m 26 July ---- and a lot older – and she’s 27). We joke that that’s our bond (Leos) but actually we’ve been friends from the first because we like to talk about our lives frankly with each other.

Seated next door to us was Joan Rivers and Amy Rosenbloom, the television producer. Afterwards we got Steve Millington to take a picture.
Amy Rosenbloom, Joan Rivers, DPC, and Leslie Stevens. Photo by Steve Millington.
After lunch I decided to walk up Fifth Avenue for a few blocks in the Sun. The sidewalks were mobbed. I don’t mean crowded, which Fifth Avenue sidewalks inevitably are. I mean mobbed.

There was mob scene outside the Abercrombie & Fitch store whose patrons are generally in the 13 to 20 age range, no matter how old they look. In the entry-way is a large black and white photo of a well-formed, almost naked, very young man. The crowd waiting to get in (both boys and girls) are busy ogling the boys who are the doormen. No room for pedestrians, and no one knows how to make way. It’s not intentional; they haven’t got a clue. That’s today’s “no-etiquette”/no courtesy and it runs clear across the boards socially.
Donald Trump's Trees in bloom.
History note. On that same location Fifth Avenue and West 56th Street, a century ago was another purveyor of Sex Sells, but for the local tycoons: Duveen Brothers headed by Sir Joseph Duveen. It was a private house before businesses like Duveen moved in. There were a half dozen or more Vanderbilt mansions from 50th Street to 58th Street. Businesses, even as “exclusive” as Duveen’s, was a death knell for the avenue’s mansions although some rode it out until the 1940s. In Duveen’s time, one of his premier customers lived diagonally across the avenue where Tiffany stands today: Henry and Arabella Huntington who were building their Huntington Library in Pasadena, (filling it with pictures, furniture and objets, many of which were acquired from or through Lord Duveen’s.

Since Duveen, the corner has had several incarnations. In more recent times it was a Hallmark card store. Today, Donald Trump is directly across the avenue.
One block north with Bulgari and Tiffany on the northern corners and Van Cleef, Bergdorf’s and Louis Vuitton on the south, the sidewalks were still mobbed with tourists. How do I know? Families; the dress, taking pictures of each other in front of Tiffany and the Playboy offices and (Donald Trump’s’’) Trump Tower. And looking up at everything.

Same thing in front of the Apple Cube whose surrounding plaza has become a kind of street park. There was a steel band playing on the sidewalk in front. One block north, on the other side of the avenue by the William Tecumseh Sherman statue, a group of street performers were surrounded by a rapt and delighted audience. This is New York.
This past Wednesday night, the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House hosted its Spring Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street. The evening which was underwritten by Rolex Watch USA, and honored Elizabeth Rohatyn who is a past president of the Neighborhood House’s board and a longtime volunteer of the organization.

There were 700 for cocktails and 450 attending the dinner. The evening’s theme was “You’re The Top,” as in the Cole Porter song, and it served as inspiration of the table decors which were splendid, fabulous, and even, in some cases, “over” the top.

Diana Quasha was the Gala Chair. In her speech she pointed out that “You’re the Top is a very fitting description of Elizabeth Rohatyn.” 
She told us how Elizabeth Rohatyn had spent a large portion of her adult life serving Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. “A number of years ago, she joined the Board, and at that time, helped to lay the foundations for an annual Gala -- the prototype for tonight’s evening. But she went much deeper into the work of the House, as she herself said, ‘I wanted to be hands-on. I felt it was no longer enough to make charitable donations, no matter how generous they might be.’

“Twenty-five years ago when I was thinking of joining the board of the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House,” Diana continued, “I met with Elizabeth who was on the board. She asked me what I did. I talked about my numerous children, blah, blah, etc., whereupon she said to me, ‘I meant, what do you do for the community?’

In her years at Lenox Hill, Mrs. Rohatyn established the Elizabeth Rohatyn Awards to honor those individuals or organizations who have made an important impact in the social services. The Neighborhood House’s first computer room was a gift from the Rohatyns.
Diana also pointed out that Mrs. Rohatyn had gone on to create other charitable organizations, including the New York Public Library’s Teaching Matters, the Technology Empowerment Collaborative. “She even shared her talent with the French -- not just content to be Madame Ambassador -- founding Frame, a venture between American and French Museums.

Diana concluded, “She is part visionary, part pragmatist, and as gutsy as she is glamorous.”

In closing her introduction of the honoree, Diana quoted Winston Churchill who once said: Tonight, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Wednesday night’s Gala was a big success. They raised They raised $945,000 and there’s more counting.  Honorary Chair was Sydney Roberts Shuman. Dinner Chairs were Ingrid and Thomas J. Edelman. Dinner Partons: Audrey and Martin Gruss, Arthur Loeb, Mariana and Juan Sabaater. Honorary Design Chairs were Bunny Williams and John Rosselli. Design Chair was Christopher Spitzmiller.
The Design Committee responsible for all those You’re The Top tables were: Ashley Whittaker Design, Carleton V. Ltd and Eddie Ross, Chestnuts in the Tuileries, Christopher Spitzmiller, Danielle Roberts Interiors, David Duncan Antiques, de la Torre Design Studio, Dennis Rolland, Ellen Hanson Designs, Etos, Francis Palmer Pottery, Grace Kaynor, Harry Heissmann,  Jonathan Berger, Kristen McGinnis Design, Libby Cameron, Lindsey Coral Harper, Lucca & Co., Lynde Easterlin Interior Design,  McMillen, Inc., Nancy Swiezy Events & Sugar Flower Cake Shop,  Noland Interiores, Inc.w/ Kathryn C.Greeley, P. Allen Smith, Patrik Lönn, Robert Farrell, Rod Winterrowd Inc., Roric Tobin for Geoffrey Bradfield Inc., Scott Snyder Inc, Tobi Fairley Interior Design, Todd Schwebel, Tyler Taylor Interiors.

Galas and encomiums aside, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House has been operating for 117 years and is New York's premier neighborhood house offering a wide-array of integrated human services which significantly improve the lives of 20,000 people each year, from ages three to 103. As distinguished as its past is, its future is even more dynamic, strengthening the community. These are hard times for many many New Yorkers as well as other Americans. Places light LHNH not only provide need care and services but also offer with it hope, strengthening the community. If you think you might like to volunteer and join your community, visit this link:
Felix Rohatyn, Elizabeth Rohatyn, and Diana Quasha
Kathy Angele and Harry Heissmann
Liz Edelman, Tom Edelman, and Ingrid Edelman
Lindsey Harper and P Allen Smith
Melissa Morris, Melissa Berkelhammer, Margo Takian, and Barbara Regna
Michel Witmer and Alison Minton
Louise Masano and Frank Folz
Lynde Easterland, John Pontius, and Tommye Easterland
Linette Semino and Matt Semino
Lila Warburton, Matt Fallon, and Sean Boyles
Diana Quasha and Christopher Spitzmiller
Marianne Brenner, Chris Constanada, and Tyler Taylor
Nancey Sipp and Amy Tsui Luke
Michael Jones, Katie Evans, and Michael Evans
Renee Landegger and Carl Landegger
Trinka LaBranche and Gigi Sheldon
Othon Prounis, Kathy Prounis, Jamie Heijmen, and RJ Heijman
Mariana and Juan Sabaater
Frances Schultz and Charles Holmes
Nancy Sweezy
Gillian and Sylvester Miniter
Lianna Blechinger, Alberto Villalobos, and Mercedes Desio
Charles and Clo Cohen
Mark Gilbertson, Kathy Prounis, and Othon Prounis
Louise Masano and Frank Folz
Randy Takian and Margo Takian
Dr Howard Sobel and Gayle Sobel
Barbara and Peter Regna
Richard Nye and Francesca Stanfill
Geoffrey Bradfield and Roric Tobin
Sharon Handler and Ambassador John Loeb
Stan Shuman, Sydney Shuman, and Diana Quasha
Roxane West and Amy Hoadley
Adelina Wong Ettelson, Alvin Valley, and Heather Georges
Debbie Bancroft and Jeffrey Sharpe
Alberto Villalobos and Mercedes Desio
Alyssa Bonomo and Tom Bonomo
Carol and Gary Beller
Carol Prisant
Don and Kerry Peterson
Daniel Dottavio and Claire Dominguez
Elizabeth and Felix Rohatyn
Emily and Richard Leonard
Claire Fitzgerald, Mark Dorfman, and Emily Leonard
Edith Dicconson and Bennet Leifer
Jaithan Kochar, Sebastian Varney, and Eddie Ross
Vincent and Wendy Cebula
Judith and Stanley Zabar
Jane Spinak and Warren Scharf
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