Monday, February 28, 2011

Signs of Spring

Looking south across The Lake in Central Park. 4:38 PM. Photo: JH.
February 28, 2011. Mid-winter warm and sunny over the weekend. One of the signs that Spring is coming, for me, is when I see the Promenade by the river with lots of people out for walks, runs, cycling, dogwalking, families. And so it was Saturday and Sunday. (The clincher is setting the clocks ahead which is two weeks from now – March 13th.)
Dining Al Fresco yesterday in New York.
I went to an early dinner at Swifty’s with a friend so that I could get back to “maybe” watch the Oscars. I haven’t really watched in years. You rarely or barely watch them at a party. A couple of years we were in L.A. to cover them, and I could only think of when I lived there, watching them at the house up on Doheny, maybe with a couple of friends. It made me homesick. For L.A.

Nevertheless, I turned them on when I got home last night. In and out of the room watching. I was surprised by a couple of things. There was a lot of dignity and stature on the stage. The presenters were (mainly) charming, sometimes amusing, sometimes funny, but also they were classy, kind of like the old days of black and white TV when I was a kid, in awe of Hollywood and the movie stars.

Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem.
Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem in their white tie and dinner jackets were nothing short of glamorous like Gable and Bogart. Annette Bening has to be one of the most elegant women ever to grace the screen. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but really, how many times do you see that anywhere? And real, like the character she played that she was nominated for. Tom Hooper, winning director of The King’s Speech also had that elegance and grace to his manner and his words.

I wondered what Oprah was thinking. For the most able of anyone with a talent for camera communication, she seemed slightly stiff, in command, of course, but as if she weren’t sure what her role there up there amongst the Movie Stars.

The surprise acceptance was the cinematographer for The King's Speech. He was there with his very attractive mother who looked like she was a seasoned star herself. Assuming you saw his acceptance – his was gracious also, and even elegant in its sensitivity, kindness and humility.

And then the kids from Staten Island in the end singing “Over the Rainbow.” That song, as many know, was written for the score of The Wizard of Oz and sung by the 15-year-old Judy Garland in the 1939 film. It was written by a man called Yip Harburg.

Mr. Harburg, born Isadore Hochberg in 1896, on what was then known as the lower East Side. When he became a professional lyricist, he changed his named to Edgar, keeping his middle name Yipsel, and Hochberg to Harburg.

He was a great friend of Ira Gershwin whom I think he went to school with. They were to become two of the most popular poets in song of the first half of the 20th century.
June 1939: Standing, from left: Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion), Ray Bolger (the Scarecrow), MGM executive L. K. Sidney, Yip Harburg, composer/conductor Meredith Wilson. Seated: Judy Garland and Harold Arlen. (Photo: The Yip Harburg Estate)
Yip Harburg was quite politically to the left with his verses and refrains, as well as a presenter of messages inspiring, like the one performed last night. He also wrote, among others “When the Idle Poor Become The Idle Rich; you never know just who is who or who is which” for a show called Finian’s Rainbow, music by Burton Lane. Fred Astaire sang it in the film version (made decades after it closed on Broadway).

Yip Harburg died in a head-on auto collision after having a heart attack while driving alone on Sunset Boulevard in March 1981. He was 84.

I wasn’t surprised to see The King’s Speech clean up, nor to see Colin Firth win. As was said more than once, all the nominees’ performances were stellar. Sandra Bullock was wonderful in calling out each nominee. But Firth also had the story on his side. The triumph of the self. There is a cry out for that all around the world now. It is a positive sound; it is in the air and deeply moving.

It was also a triumph, and obvious, for everyone – director Tom Hooper, producers, actors and screenwriter, Mr. Seidler. It was a winner for everyone including whoever sees it.
While watching the show, we got an email from our director of the fashionable, Ellin Saltzman, who was loving the show and couldn’t resist some fashion observations of the women presenters.

Memo from Ellin:


Loving watching the Oscars: Mandy Moore in her pale silver sparkled Monique Lhuillier looked delicious. Amy Adams in sapphire blue l'Wren Scott sparkle dress is strong but hair is wrong. Marisa Tomei in vintage dark sapphire Charles James dress was a good surprise and a shout out to great designs of the 50s. Nicole Kidman in white Dior made a mistake. Natalie Portman, pretty pregnant in lavender. Cate Blanchett in lilac Givenchy had me puzzled. I personally dislike the dress with its silly bib but I am getting emails from pals saying how great it is. So chacun à son goût I guess.
Then it was the great reds: Anne Hathaway in her red Valentino looked perfect; however poor Val overdid his blush! Jennifer Hudson in Versace red looked shapely and sexy (I think she must have given Oprah some extra padding. Whoever dressed Ms. Winfrey ought to be fired! She doesn't deserve it).

The red brigade followed with Sandra Bullock with dark and darker hair.

Totally original and elegant is Gwyneth Paltrow in her red carpet Calvin Klein gold paillette dress with her perfectly ironed blond hair and her slightly tanned complexion!
Halle Berry looks awesome in everything she wears! Anne Hathaway's outfits were selected with great taste. Perhaps a booboo but on Anne who cares! Love the fact that Colin Firth gave a shout out to!!

Couldn't wait for the finale which I knew would make me cry..."Somewhere over the Rainbow" does that to me. And sung by these yummy children from Staten Island was a killer! But what a great show and season it has been!

Last Thursday night at the Plaza, the Director’s Council of the Museum of the City of New York held their annual Winter Ball. This party has been held for years up at the museum but because of expansion and renovation, this year they went to the Plaza.
The packed ballroom of the Plaza.
This is a very popular party with the active social set in New York, and is has grown more popular as the council members have got. It is also, comparatively one of the most lowest priced ticket for this crowd. Aside from the funds raised for the museum, it is otherwise a dressy, black tie dinner dance which begins with a mass cocktail party which is very slow to break up (it was called for 7:30 – to 8:30, but it was well after 9 before everyone was seated for dinner).
The tables were long ones but only 36” in width so everyone had close conversational proximity to several people. It was a big crowd and they used every inch of seating space including the stage – although they left a good space for the dance floor (with David Chang spinning). It was one of those dinners where among the hundreds there were a lot of familiar faces to a lot of people, so they were moving around. The women gave us a fashion parade and so there was a lot just to look at.

I left at 11 and the dance floor was still packed, boogeying the night away.
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