Monday, October 3, 2011

Autumn moved in

Looking north along Bowery from Hester Street. 11:30 AM. Photo: JH.
Monday, October 3, 2011. Autumn moved in over the weekend. Just cooler, the autumn kind where a sweater or a wool jacket comes naturally. Not to everybody of course.

We had some rains, sometimes heavy, sometimes light, throughout the weekend but the sun came out on Sunday, bright and chipper. In the late afternoon, there were the most beautiful and dramatic storm cloud formations over the East River. Just for show. No rain; at least not in my neck of the woods.
The storm clouds over the East River moving in from the south yesterday afternoon about 3:30. Ominous but just a lot of huff and puff in the end.
Yesterday was also the 35th birthday of my esteemed business partner and friend, Jeff Hirsch a/k/a JH to NYSD readers. He and I have been working together for 13 years. He was a kid when started in the business as my assistant at Avenue in the late 90s. He’s one of those people who is just solid, gets things done, has his feet on the ground and is sensible. Over the years he’s become a shrewd editor as well.

He’s also good at handling people. Really good. A diplomat.

We started the NYSD together. We didn’t know what we were doing so the first thing we did was build a desk. My desk. Jeff got the wood. The next thing that happened was the kid we’d hired to put us online daily didn’t really know how to do it and suddenly quit in our second week. Jeff, who had been sitting with him as he went through the process, called to tell me the news.

I said to him: “Now what’re we gonna do?!” (Remember this was the year 2000, ancient times in cyberland).

DPC and JH, the day after leaving Avenue magazine to start up the NYSD, at Swifty's. The enthusiasm on my face makes me laugh now, eleven years later. That kind of enthusiasm is aided by the naïveté of all new ventures. Hopes and dreams department.
Jeff said: “Well, there’s a Book for Dummies on How to Go Up On The Internet. I’ll get it and see.”

That was on a Friday. On the following Monday morning, We were up. Thanks to JH and the Book for Dummies.

He’s also the photographer who takes the pictures we run at the top of the Diary everyday, as well as those intriguing peaks in HOUSE. What amazes both him and me is that the picture he takes for the day – never having discussed what the Diary might be – often applies to the edit.

In all the years we’ve worked together, we’ve also had the pleasure of never working in the same room, or spot, or even part of town, together. All that space gives us a lot of opportunity to stick to the objectives.

I turned 35 the year JH was born. I remember the surprise it was to learn that I still felt very young (read: immature) at 35. Even a baby A big baby. Previously, leading up to that time, I thought 35 was ancient. Now, of course, I regard it as late childhood. I think I can get a lot of agreement from others just from looking around these days.

I should add that I still feel “immature” in some ways as much as I did back then. The difference being I’m old enough to know it doesn’t matter what or how I feel; what is, is; and, I have this particular business partner. The birthday boy is actually one of those guys who is very grown up in his approach to things. Astonishingly so, at times. Look at the site. He makes it look that way. Easy to see, to read, to move around on, stable, and good looking. He likes things to look good. He has an eye for beauty, as you see from his photographs.

I started out intending to merely mention the birthday but got carried away. So this little aside which led to a mini-saga can now end.

Not so incidentally. Yesterday was Leonel Piraino’s birthday also. Leonel, you know, is married to Nina Griscom. Happy birthday Leonel.

Last night Ann Nitze had a cocktail reception at her East Side penthouse to meet Edmund de Waal, the author of The Hare With Amber Eyes.

Ann Nitze, Edmund de Waal, and Dame Jillian Sackler.
Sunday night is not my idea of a perfect night for a book party but when I got the invitation, I didn’t care -- I just wanted to meet the author. I rarely feel that way but I loved that book. I’ve written about it here somewhere.

It is a very important for our times. It is about family, and Mr. de Waal (who is a potter by profession) tells the story in a way that brings in our entire society and Western culture. I know that sounds like a lot of Big Talk but it is required to give you the right idea.

Last night at Ann Nitze’s, the room was full of people who had read the book and just wanted to meet the author. There was an unusual excitement in the air.

Mr. de Waal (he’s British) is very tall and very thin. Towering and lanky. He looks bookish and diffident, but has a warm, engaging manner when you meet him, with a sparkling yet serious kind of politeness. He falls easily into conversation; he’s interested.

I’ve given the book to several people to read and all but one loved it. The one person who didn’t love it is one of those people who doesn’t want to “go there.” Understood.

Families are always fascinating, and Edmund de Waal’s family fit many requirements of fascination, not to mention their history and its conclusions. They passed through the darkest times of the last quarter of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, finally ravaged and torn by the elements we call politics and high finance. Nevertheless, there was wisdom, pockets of it, throughout. And lots of family personality. And horror.

Authors, like actors, are never what, or who you might think they are, if you’re judging from their books (or their films or plays). I had a picture of the author in my mind’s eye and he didn’t fit it at all on meeting. What he did possess, however, which you do find in the book, was a gentle yet deliberate certitude about what a family represents in life. That may be why the book resonates with so many of us. We agree.
Autumn at Treillage, last night a couple doors down from Swifty's where I dined with Shirley Lord Rosenthal after the book party.
Phyllis Newman, the Tony Award-winning actress also held a book party at her Central Park West apartment, although this was a week ago (and I’m just getting it). The party was for What's New At The Zoo? the children's book from Blue Apple Books which is illustrated by Travis Foster and features an introduction by Ms. Newman.

The book features the lyrics to the song "What's New At The Zoo?" from the Betty Comden/Adolph Green musical, Do Re Mi. Mr. Green was also Ms. Newman’s husband. Both song and book tell the tale of an overcrowded zoo and the amazingly witty animals who want OUT! A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative.
Hostess Phyllis Newman with the kids of PS 212 in Hell's Kitchen.
The party also had a group of special guests, children from PS 212 in Hell's Kitchen performed the number for the assembled audience, which included Kate Baldwin, Polly Bergen, Eileen Fulton, Joan Hamburg, Sheldon Harnick, Nancy Opel, Alexandra Silber, and Jean Kennedy Smith.

A good time was had by all which in itself is a good thing to hear about these days. Both the children and the older people. The hostess, Ms. Newman, was famous on Broadway for her laugh. I think I first heard it in Subways are For Sleeping, a show which was written by her husband and Ms. Comden. She also used to be a regular on Jack Paar and later Johnny Carson, and you’d hear the laugh. It was funny; it made you laugh. It makes me laugh right now just thinking of it.

She also has a web site that is autobiographical and often focuses on that laugh. (You had to be there):
Jean Kennedy Smith and Phyllis Newman. Click to buy What's New At The Zoo?
Piedi Lumet, Amanda Green, Sheldon Harnick, Margi Harnick, and Margaret Styne. Pure Broadway.
Kate Baldwin (Tony nominee for "Finian's Rainbow"), Alexandra Silber ("Master Class"), Nancy Opel ("Memphis"), and the hostess.
More book parties. Last Thursday night at Archivia, there was a booksigning for interior designer David Kleinberg and his new book Traditional Now; Interiors by David Kleinberg with foreword by Albert Hadley (Monacelli Press). This was a very popular event as book signings go. Archivia is cozy but bright and feels spacious with windows on the avenue. Kleinberg drew a lot of boldfaced names from the worlds of fashion and interior design including Charlotte Moss, Calvin Klein, Newell Turner from House Beautiful, and many copies of this beautiful book went home with the guests.
Interior designer David Kleinberg signing his new book last Thursday night a party at Archivia. Behind him is his co-author, Chesie Breen. Buy at Archivia Books (993 Lexington Avenue, 212.570.9565).
Authors Chesie Breen and David Kleinberg.
Team Archivia.
On another “biographical” note. I wasn’t there but it was reported to me soon after, that some friends gave a surprise birthday party for Gail Hilson at a very popular little neighborhood flower shop on East 52nd Street called Zeze Flowers. Gail’s three sisters showed up as part of the surprise and the four got up and gave the audience a soulful rendition of “Sisters.” A big hit!
Out side Zeze Flowers on 52nd Street just east of First Avenue.
Susan Burke and Karen LeFrak arriving. Mariana Kaufman and Jessie Araskog.
The birthday girl arrives and has to admit she can't believe it!
Friends crowd around the birthday girl.
The bartenders at work.
Wendy Carduner, Nicole Limbocker, and Polly Espy.
Nicole Limbocker and Eleanora Kennedy.
Joanne Bilby, Toni Peebler, Gail Hilson, Jessie Araskog, Susan Burke, and Melinda Blinken.
The hostesses address the guests.
Jane Gammill, Norman Dana, and Mai Harrison.
Regina Greeven, Judy Ney, and friends.
It takes a cake. A chocolate one with four candles. One for each decade.
Gail and her three sisters -- Stephanie Callum, Mary Shapiro, and Pat Shea -- give the guests their personal renditions of "Sisters."

Photographs by Kathy Araskog Thomas (Hilson b-day).

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