Monday, September 19, 2011

A touch of Autumn in the air

The rich blue sky on Sunday evening. 5:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, September 19, 2011. We had a touch of Autumn in New York over the weekend, with the temperatures dropping at night to the mid-50s. We’ve come to that moment when the heat of summer leaves and the house turns slightly chilly just before the furnace is turned on for the winter. The jackets come out and soon the scarves. The restaurants fill up again. The road is a traffic jamboree (which is one way of looking at it) and New York’s back.
Al fresco on Bway, 3pm Sunday.
Tony Bennett celebrated his 85th birthday last night with a sold-out concert at The Metropolitan Opera House. Our intrepid associate editor Jill Krementz was there and filed this report along with her photographs:

After being introduced by former President Bill Clinton, the legendary singer, dressed in a black Brioni suit, black tie and an orange handkerchief in his breast pocket, sang his heart out.
Mr. Bennett was accompanied by his fine quartet, Lee Musiker on piano, Gray Sargent on guitar, Harold Jones on drums and Marshall Wood on bass.

Also appearing on stage for several duets with Bennett were Aretha Franklin, Sir Elton John and Alejandro Sanz.
It was like being at a rock concert. After every song the audience rose en masse for a standing ovation.
Bennett’s newest release, Duets II, featuring the last recording by Amy Winehouse, will be available on Tuesday. Lady Gaga is also on the tracklist. It was this duet that became the subject a New Yorker profile by writer Gay Talese.
The View's Whoopi Goldberg. David Dinkins, former mayor of New York City.
Mary Ellin Barrett invited me to join her for the concert at the Met. Mrs. Barrett is one of Irving Berlin's three daughters and has met Tony Bennett on several occasions.

Tonight's performance included a rendition of Irving Berlin's "Steppin out with My Baby" from Easter Parade. Mrs. Barrett's comment: "He has it just right. The tone is good and the phrasing
is perfect."
Harry Belafonte and his wife, Pamela. This coming month will see the publication of Mr. Belafonte's new biography, written with Michael Shnayerson (Knopf) as well as the HBO documentary, Sing Your Life, which airs on October 16th. Directed by Susan Rostock, it focuses on Belafonte's life-long involvement with civil rights.

Mr. Belafonte and Tony Bennett both marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights marches.
Bennett cds on sale in the lobby.
Writer Gay Talese, whose piece "Tony Bennett in the studio with Lady Gaga" recently appeared in The New Yorker (September 19, 2011). Columnist Roger Friedman, who writes Showbiz411 (a blog).
Stephen Holden and his husband Alvaro Frodas. Mr. Holden covers film and cabaret for The New York Times. Mr. Frodas is a TED fellow and teaches music to students in the style of Gustavo Dudamel.
Alec Baldwin, who has just lost 20 pounds, thanks to his new girlfriend and yoga teacher Hilaria Thomas. Hilaria Thomas, who is the focus of Baldwin's life. She's adorable.
The Metropolitan Opera House was packed to the rafters with fans of the crooner.
President Clinton was first on stage and received a standing ovation. He said that his friend Tony Bennett had lived his entire life with perfect pitch. He also told us that on his own recent birthday that Bennett had given him one of his paintings of Harlem. As you know, Tony Bennett is a fine painter and has had many exhibtions of his work.

Mrs. Barrett's driver told me on the way home that Hillary had been in the audience because while he was waiting for us in the tunnel, he had seen her dash out and get into her waiting van.
Aretha Franklin joined Mr. Bennett on stage ... and so did Elton John.
Judging from the smile on Mr. Bennett's face throughout the evening, it was clear he was having as much fun as everyone in the audience. He can still swivel and pivot and hit all the notes. Tony Bennett ended the evening singing without a mike. The performance lasted about an hour and a half, with no intermission.
When I first came to New York out of college, I met a man, the father of a friend of mine, whose hobby was going to auctions. This was an interesting hobby to this country boy. I have since learned that it is a popular one, especially among businessmen and professionals who find it a relaxing as well as challenging pleasure.

He was a lawyer by profession, and a successful one, but he loved auctions. He wasn’t a collector, although he had great appreciation for art and artisanship, craftsmanship as well as the cultural. And he was in it for the fun and potential profit.

He prided himself on having had enough experience to know what was really good, or almost really good, or out-of-style and therefore not as sought after. He told me the secret was to – after assessing the lots for sale – set a top price for your bidding and stick with it no matter what. Many times, he said, he came away empty-handed but sometimes he came away with what would turn out to be a bargain. Usually it was because the item was out of fashion, for one reason or another. This, of course, is no secret to the dealers and designers who watch these things closely.

I still think of this “lesson” when I visit auction houses to see their exhibitions, especially because these days the prices are often very dear. I never developed his technique, nor his intense interest, although for me it’s always one of those things that I kinda wished I’d developed in myself.

I was thinking of him this past week when Doyle auctioned off items from the estate of Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Lieutenant Commander Fairbanks, circa 1945. Sir Douglas late in life.
Mr. Fairbanks was famous in America and the world through most of the 20th century, as an actor and movie star, but also as the namesake of his father Douglas Fairbanks Sr.

(Ed. note: NYSD reader may recall a “ghost” story I wrote about Fairbanks Sr. and his second wife Mary Pickford’s visiting the soundstage at the studio (now Goldwyn) in Hollywood where they made films in the 1920s when they were the most famous movie couple in the world.)

Fairbanks Sr. was the biggest action hero star in the movies in the first third of the 20th century and the growth of the movie industry. He was as famous, across the world, as Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt are today. His wife, Mary Pickford, stepmother of Douglas Jr., was the very first movie star ever.
Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in one of his most famous roles, the silent version of Robin Hood. Fairbanks created the action hero on film, and he was rewarded with wealth and fame.
Douglas Jr.’s film career started early because of his family connections. He was second generation Hollywood, and he was a tall, handsome, worldly, and well brought up by his mother in London, Paris, New York and California. The American version of Cary Grant who was starting out at the same time.

By the time he was 16, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was making pictures. By 24 he’d made more than 25 films and had become his own star. At 19, he married an MGM contract player, four years his senior who later became a bigger star than he, Joan Crawford. Which was exactly what she wanted. The marriage lasted four years. A few years later, when he was 30, he married Mary Lee Eppling Hartford (the first wife of A&P heir Huntington Hartford). That marriage lasted 49 years until her death in 1988.

The young Fairbankses, circa 1930 on the beach at Santa Monica.
The young marrieds at home, Fairbanks and Crawford, circa 1930.
Mary Lee Eppling Hartford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. on their wedding day, April 22, 1939.
In World War II, he began as a commissioned officer in the US Naval Reserve at the outset of the War before the US entered it, assigned to Lord Mountbatten’s Commando staff in London. Mountbatten, a cousin of the King (and uncle of Prince Philip), had honeymooned with his wife Edwina, as guests of Pickford and Fairbanks Sr. at Pickfair when they married almost 20 years before, in 1922.

It was during that time under Mountbatten that Fairbanks learned the British military art of deception (misleading the enemy with simulations). When he was transferred to the American military after the US had entered the war, he convinced the admirals to use this in the invasion of North Africa.

A program called Beach Jumper came out of it and it was a great success militarily. Fairbanks was awarded the Navy’s Legion of Merit, the Italian War Cross for Military Valor, the Legion d’honneur, and the Croix de guerre, the British Distinguished Service Cross. He was also awarded the Silver Star for service on PT boats. King George VI awarded him the KBE (Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire), allowing him to be called Sir Douglas Fairbanks.

As Fairbanks matured his “leading man” status took on more weight. He lived quite a bit of his time in London and New York, as well as Hollywood, and with his wife Mary Lee was rather a society darling who socialized with the aristocrats and even royalty (such as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip).

Not surprisingly, Sir Douglas, Mr. Fairbanks, lived much of his life in Britain. Which brings me back to the Doyle auction and the Fairbanks Guestbooks. This is the sort of thing that always gets my curiosity. Among the items and memorabilia of this man who lived a long and amazing life, were the guestbooks from his residences in the UK as well as New York and California. They each had estimates on them of two or three hundred dollars, but went for thousands. The world graced his threshold and their names including QE II and Philip are there as proof. After Mary Lee died in 1988, Fairbanks remarried, to Vera Shelton in 1991 until his death in 2000. The third Mrs. Fairbanks organized the auction of his personal property as a tribute to her husband with whom she shared nine years of blissful happiness.

I saw the man occasionally in New York, and was introduced to him in 1969 when Carter Burden was running for City Council in the Silk Stocking District. Among those of us who volunteered to canvass the neighborhoods for him was his cousin Sir Douglas Fairbanks.

He came to the storefront headquarters in the early evening on East 79th and Second Avenue to get his instructions. He looked like the photo – white hair and moustache, dressed well-tailored in a navy suit with tie, very sharp yet at ease with himself and with others. A distinguished, gracious presence, just like you would imagine (but rarely see). He had volunteered to knock on doors (in Yorkville which was still very much neighborhoods of tenements on the streets east of Third Avenue) for his cousin’s campaign.

The night that I met him, he was sent out to canvass a block with Christina Onassis, whose stepmother Jackie had urged her to volunteer. An odd couple for the nabes, if there ever was one. Carter Burden won the election incidentally.

I got off-the-track. I didn’t go to the Fairbanks auction at Doyle, but after reading the results (on their web site) I wished I had. There were bargains as well as wonderful things to collect. See for yourself ...
[FAIRBANKS, DOUGLAS, (JR.)] Group of signed photographs and ephemera spanning the life and film career of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Estimate: $400 - $600
Sold for $704
[HOLLYWOOD ACTRESSES] Group of approximately eighteen signed or inscribed vintage photographs; T/W group of eight vintage photos
Estimate: $600 - $900
Sold for $1,792
[HOLLYWOOD ACTRESSES] Group of approximately eighteen signed or inscribed vintage photographs; T/W group of five vintage photos
Estimate: $600 - $900
Sold for $1,063
[HOLLYWOOD ACTORS] Group of approximately seventeen signed or inscribed vintage photographs; T/W group of seven vintage photos
Estimate: $600 - $900
Sold for $2,500
[FAIRBANKS, DOUGLAS, (JR.)] Three wallets belonging to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr; T/W a large group of credit and membership cards
Estimate: $100 - $150
Sold for $625
[FAIRBANKS, DOUGLAS, (JR.)] The guest book from 1939-1952 for Douglas Fairbankss house Westridge.
Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000
Sold for $2,560
[MAXWELL, ELSA] Photograph Inlaid Cigarette Box
Estimate: $150 - $250
Sold for $469
[CRAWFORD, JOAN] Photograph, gelatin silver print, of Joan Crawford.
Estimate: $400 - $600
Sold for $1,375
ADDAMS, CHARLES My Crowd; Together with another work inscribed by Addams to Fairbanks
Estimate: $600 - $900
Sold for $2,000
Reginald Marsh American, 1898-1954 Dancer on Stage
Estimate: $800 - $1,200
Sold for $1,500
Clemence Dane British, 1885-1965 Portrait of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Estimate: $600 - $900
Sold for $2,880
[FAIRBANKS, DOUGLAS, (SR.)] Group of approximately sixty cancelled checks
Estimate: $1,500 - $2,500
Sold for $1,625
Group of Six Sterling Silver Match Book Holders; Together with a Key Chain, Buccellati Cigarette Case and Pocket Knife
Estimate: $400 - $600
Sold for $896
Group of Sterling Silver Bread Plates and Bowls
Estimate: $1,500 - $2,000
Sold for $3,750
Tiffany & Co. Sterling Silver Dish
Estimate: $400 - $600
Sold for $1,625
Set of Four Tiffany & Co. Sterling Silver Compotes
Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000
Sold for $4,375
Assembled Group of Seven Sterling Silver Dresser Articles
Estimate: $300 - $500
Sold for $1,125
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.s 9 Kt. Gold Finnegans Ltd. Bond Street Dresser Set
Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000
Sold for $45,000
COWARD, NOEL Group of approximately thirty-two titles by or about Coward, including several inscribed to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Estimate: $600 - $900
Sold for $1,664
[PHOTO BOOKS] Group of approximately twenty volumes.
Estimate: $400 - $600
Sold for $688
[BARRYMORE, JOHN] White silk scarf with a design of black squares belonging to John Barrymore.
Estimate: $200 - $300
Sold for $875
There’s another coming up tomorrow, Tuesday. The Collection of Elaine Kaufman of Elaine’s. (click here to view). I think you can bid on-line.

This will be interesting. Among all those Elaine’s customers were some of the greats who either influenced her choices of purchase, or outright gifted her with their works. Remember they wanted to know Elaine more than she wanted to know them (except when it came to the artists and writers – she admired them).

250 lots. Artworks, books, memorabilia, furniture, decorations, fashion and accessories for her East 86 Street penthouse which was just around the corner from East End Avenue. I never saw the interiors of Elaine’s home but of course I saw the treasure trove collected in the restaurant. It’s not only a piece of the artists’ and writers’ works, but it’s a piece of New York. Noo Yawk, that helluva town.
Lot 1203
Large group of Elaine's restaurant ephemera. Comprising a framed poster for Elaine's 25th Anniversary by Joe Eula; framed poster for Elaine's 30th Anniversary by Jamie Wyeth; group of mounted posters for New Year's Eve parties; group of business cards, postcards, matches and menus; and a printed caricature of Elaine.
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $200 - $300
Lot 1201
Elaine's Table Number One; Together with a Set of Four Cafe Chairs
The first table in "The Line" was the most desirable table in the house. Patrons sat at this table to see and be seen.
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $400 - $600
Lot 1127
Baseball inscribed to Elaine Kaufman from George Steinbrenner. Ink inscription on an Official 1978 World Series baseball, inscribed indistinctly to Elaine and signed George. Ball nicked and soiled possibly from game use, inscription and signature faded.
The Yankees won the 1978 World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games with memorable play by Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Thurman Munson and others. Elaine and Steinbrenner were lifelong friends.
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $250 - $350
Lot 1125
Baseball signed by Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. Hernandez has inscribed the ball to Elaine Kaufman, and Carter has simply signed. Ink somewhat bleeding.
Hernandez was a longtime customer of Elaine's, and Carter was his teammate on the legendary World Series winning 1986 New York Mets.
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $150 - $250
Lot 1049
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
Color lithograph, 1895, on thin wove paper, fourth state of four, from the edition of 1100 published in PAN, with the letterpress text, collector's blue inkstamp WNKT verso.
12 7/8 x 9 5/8 inches; 327 x 244 mm.
Sheet 14 9/16 x 10 7/8 inches
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $7,000 - $10,000
Lot 1050
Andy Warhol
Hand-colored offset lithograph, 1956, signed and inscribed Happy Today and me in ink.
21 3/8 x 8 1/4 inches
Sheet 26 x 20 1/8 inches
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $10,000 - $15,000
Lot 1011
Wallace Berman
American, 1926-1976
Signed W Berman (lr) in plate
Negative verifax collage
24 x 26 inches
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $30,000 - $50,000
Lot 1044
Alphonse Mucha
Color lithograph and a rare keystone lithograph printed in gold, 1896, the second signed and dated 11 in ink, printed by F. Champenois, Paris, with (full?) margins, framed together.
Sheets approximately 25 1/8 x 17 1/8 inches
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $8,000 - $12,000
Lot 1041
David Hockney
Etching and aquatint, 1972, signed, dated and numbered 3/125 in pencil, published by Brooke Alexander, New York, printed to the edges on two sides.
Sheet 16 1/2 x 13 3/8 inches
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $5,000 - $7,000
Lot 1068
NEWTON, HELMUT [NEWTON, JUNE-ED.] Sumo. Monte Carlo: Taschen, 1999. First edition, copy 05320 from the edition of 10,000, signed by Newton on the limitation leaf. Original publisher's binding in dust jacket, housed on the metal stand designed by Phillipe Starck, as issued. A small tear to lower edge of the jacket, else a fine copy.
The work contains 400 duotone reproductions of photographs by Newton.
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $3,000 - $5,000
Lot 1076
[SIGNED BOOKS] Group of approximately thirty signed or inscribed books mostly on political or New York subjects; T/W a signed photo...
Estimate: $250 - $350
Lot 1197
Vintage Black Painted Metal Cash Register
Height 21 inches.
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $400 - $600
Lot 1087
English Painted Metal 5 Pence Slot Machine
Height 24 inches.
C Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Estimate $500-700
And while we’re on the subject of bargains at auctions, Leigh Keno is holding an auction on Saturday up in Stamford. Last week he held a private view at his Upper East Side townhouse, of antique and contemporary jewelry – a first for his auction house – as well as Maritime paintings from a prominent Connecticut collector, American furniture and folk art, and rare silver from the Estate of Hans Christensen. Christensen was the head of Georg Jensen’s prototype department. Saturday. In Stamford, Connecticut at the Marriott Hotel.
Leigh and Leslie Keno.
Marjorie McGraw and Leigh Keno.
Pamela Harris and Leigh Keno.
Sarah Sperling and Deidre Miller. Anne Seeler.
Betsy Murphy.
Nancy Swiezy.
Sarah DeSanctis, Valerie Vlasaty, and Alexia Palmer.
Leigh Keno and Artie. Catherine Skibitcky.
Nancy Ross and Heidi Massey.
Amy Sheldon and Marilyn White.
Mrs. John Alger and Leigh Keno.
You may know Mr. Keno who his brother Leslie have created a national image as experts in the field of collectibles, antiques and antiquities. They also are in the new primetime reality show on FOX, Buried Treasure. Leigh Keno has been working in the business for over 30 years although he still doesn’t look like he’s old enough, and in the process he has built some of the best private and institutional collections of Americana in the world (as well as setting world record prices at auction).

Here too, are a few highlights available at Saturday's auction.
Hans Christensen, The Guardsman Jewelry Box, 1975 (Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000); Life, 1980.
Hans Christensen, Stop. Look. Listen I Roadrunner, 1980 (Estimate: $3,000 - $6,000).
Hans Christensen, Candelabrum, 1970 (Estimate: $4,000 - $84,000); Interfaith Chalice, 1975 (Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000).
Hans Christensen, Water Pitcher, 1959 (Estimate: $4,000 - $8,000); Teapot and Warmer, 1944 (Estimate: $15,000 - $25,000); Jewish Spice Box, 1964 (Estimate: $3,000 - $6,000).
Queen Anne Cherrywood Bonnet-top Secretary Bookcase, circa 1750-1790.
Estimate: $10,000-20,000.
Tiffany Studios Dragonfly leaded glass fluid lamp,
circa 1910.
Estimate: $40,000-80,000.
Joseph Decker, Strawberries in a Basket, c. 1890. Estimate: $20,000-40,000.
James Buttersworth (1817-1894), The Active off Castle Garden Garden. Estimate $60,000-90,000.
Robert Salmon, Lugger on a Wind, 1838. Estimate $40,000-60,000.
William Howard Yorke, Ship St. Mark Outward Bound Fastnet Rock, 1883. Estimate: $20,000-40,000.
Sale 1004 Lot 29
A Diamond Fringe Necklace
Supporting a graduating fringe of round diamonds, mounted in platinum, length 15 ½ inches.
The total diamond weight is approximately 10.70 carats.
Estimate $12,000-15,000
Sale 1004 Lot 84
A Colored Stone and Diamond Flower Spray Brooch.
Designed as a stylized spray of flowers, the petals set with heart-shaped aquamarines, amethysts and garnets, further decorated with round and single-cut diamonds, mounted in 18 karat gold and platinum, circa 1945.
Estimate $6,000-8,000
Sale 1004 Lot 18
An Antique Diamond Fox Brooch
The running fox studded with rose-cut diamonds, the eye accented with a small round cabochon ruby, mounted in silver and gold, late 19th century.
Estimate $ 6,000-9,000

Photographs by Ann Watt (Keno).

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