Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Social Climbers Handbook

An afternoon walk begins. 4:35 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011. Partly sunny day yesterday, warming up the chill by mid-afternoon.
JH took in a few more spring flowers ...
Early in the evening there was a booksigning party for Molly Jong-Fast and her new novel Social Climbers Handbook. Molly is a young woman, 30-something. She is married, has three children (including twins) and lives the prototypical Upper East Side environment, the land of fresh, new money, and young families. Daughter of Erica Jong and Jonathan Fast, Molly’s point of view is infused with ironic detail of the surreal in contemporary life among the rich kids. You laugh and believe it at the same time.

The party was at Isaac Mizrahi’s store at 23 East 67th Street (between Fifth and Madison), hosted by Molly’s pal Sharon Hurowitz, who also provided the candies and cookies including those chocolate dollar signs that, it turned out, were homemade in the hostess’ kitchen yesterday afternoon. I had to leave the store to get away from them.
The Isaac Mizrahi boutique at 23 East 67th Street. Inside the shop.
Molly holding her book. Click to order. Custom IM cookies.
A custom cookie of a tough customer.
The terrible homemade chocolate pieces. I could only eat six and then had to leave. There were a lot left.
Author's stepfather Ken Burrows with Molly and Erica Jong. Richard and Sharon Hurowitz (hostess) and son.
Alexandrda Lebenthal, Jon and Lizzie Tisch, and Dori Cooperman.
Chappy and Melissa Morris. The author with her father and stepmother, Jonathan and Barbara Fast.
It's my fault that this photo is blurred but there's something I like about it. You know who you're looking at.
Alexandra Lebenthal and Charlie Scheips. Tracey Jackson and daughter.
After that I went over to Swifty’s for a quick dinner, joined by Charlie S. I hadn’t been there in a couple of weeks. It was warm enough for the front windows to be opened to the street. The place was filling up. Tea Leoni was there (sans hubby); Mimi Stafford and Mr. Gowan, Matthew Kelly and Diane Chapman from San Francisco; Harold and Nancy Baker, Chris and Grace Meigher, Emilia and Fred Krimendahl, Jackie and Gene Williams with a table full of friends. A lovely night in the neighborhood.
Next door to Swifty's -- the window of John Rosselli and Bunny Williams' Treillage.
The Versailles Foundation Inc./Claude Monet Giverny held its annual fundraising gala last Thursday night at the Pierre. Barbara de Portago, who is the foundation’s president, also grew up in the left wing of The Château with her American mother Florence and her French stepfather, Gerald van der Kemp , Head Curator and Director, really the man who was the motivating force behind the restoration of the palace of the Sun King. Mrs. de Portago’s youth was such that, living in that environment (they lived in Colbert’s apartments in the chateau), she became what she would call a Europeanized American. I would call it that too.

Her mother Florence (Fla-RAWNS) van der Kemp, became, under her husband’s administration, a powerful force in raising funds for the ongoing restoration. When she died in her 90s, three years ago, she was out of habit still working the donors. In her very ladylike way of course.
Mitzi Perdue, Foundation President Barbara de Portago, and Barbara Tober
The daughter has taken on the mother’s objectives. She has a drive similar to her mother’s and a style that is both serious and also good for a laugh (including hers). The dinner she puts on at the Pierre is like no other in New York. It is infused with a sense of the Old World and the royal ways. It can seem antique at the outset but as develops, it is an extremely pleasurable experience based on modern history.

Her speakers, one each year, is always of royal heritage. With their monarchies discontinued, they nevertheless hold closely the heritage of their native land. Much closer than most us do. Many of them, while retaining a certain “elan” you might call royal, speak of their countries like true democrats, concerned mainly with the welfare of the People and the Land. As opposed to fighting wars like the good ole Sun King, who practically bankrupted France in the process.

Every time I’ve sat at one of these dinners and heard these patriotic historical recollections and anecdotes, I’ve been struck by the irony of the royal attitude – almost unanimously held. They’re way ahead of present day leadership, all over the world. They also have no political power but they deeply understand the responsibilities inherent in matters of power.
Valley Forge Military Academy & College Color Guard
Every year, Barbara invites a Royal personage as the Guest of Honor. The evening begins with their greeting the patrons during a Taittinger Champagne Reception. 100 Cadets from The Valley Forge Military Academy and College (her son Russell Grant’s alma mater) then escort the ladies, while the Band plays the patron’s formal entrance to dinner, and the Heralds herald in the Royals and the esteemed guests. You had to be there.

Before dinner is served, the Guest Royal speaks for fifteen minutes. The rules are: no slides, no podium, no read speech, making it anecdotal and personal. That’s how you find out what they’re really like. Royal heritage is often far more impassioned than the rest of us. It’s the study of genetics before Watson and Crick discovered the Double Helix. What is different from the rest of us is their sense of connection to their ancestors. In some ways, it is humbling in its self-expression.

Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth of Bavaria and Foundation Director Gillian Spreckels Fuller
This year’s guest was the very tall, very young and very beautiful redheaded descendant of that eccentric King Ludwig II: Her Royal Highness The Duchess Elizabeth in Bavaria, Princess of Bavaria. The Princess began her talk with the controversial fate of the enormous Wittlesbach (the House of Bavaria’s proper name) Blue Diamond that graced the top of the family’s Royal Crown. It disappeared after the war only to surface recently and was purchased by Laurence Graff, the international jeweler, who had it re-cut.

Her Royal Highness went on to talk about her odd, reclusive, poetic and technologically advanced ancestor Ludwig II. The King so admired Louis XIV and Louis XV that Court Life at Versailles was depicted everywhere in his Linderhof Castle. Such was his obsession that he actually built a replica of Versailles on the Herren Island of the Chiemsee Lake.

About fifteen minutes later, the talk is over. You’re left wanting more but nevertheless nurtured. Then before dessert gets up and thanks all her supporters, and always adding a personal anecdote told with a bemused seriousness. This year she talked about how when she was thirteen, she was sent to sailing school on the Chiemsee Lake. The school was rounded up for a day of sight- seeing by ferry to the forest covered Herren Island. As she emerged from the forest path, she stood astounded to find smack in her face the colossal garden façade of the Château de Versailles! It was then, she duly stamped her very own little motto: “You can take the girl out of the Palace, but not the Palace out of the girl!”

At Thurday night’s gathering was the Foundation’s International Committee Member, His Imperial and Royal Highness Prince George Frederick of Prussia, the descendent of King Frederick II of Prussia. Frederick the Great, as he was known, also modeled his Palace at Potsdam after Versailles.

The evening benefited the continued restoration with poured replicas of the marble statuary in the Parc at Versailles. The Foundation also restored the Home and Gardens of Claude Monet and continues to fund the Munn American Artists Program at Giverny which at present is curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody. “Beth,” Mrs. de Portago explained, “might breath in air like you and moi but exhales contemporary art!”
His Imperial and Royal Highness Prince George Frederick of Prussia and Gundel Dorrance.
Ambassador John Loeb, Jr. and his fiancée Sharon Handler
Adam Levin and Heather McDowell
Cadet and Cat Jagger Pollon
Brendan Walsh, Phyllis Kossoff, and Vincent Rudan
Janna Bullock and Anna Starak
Cadet and Miss Viviane Müller
Geoffrey Bradfield and Melissa Morris
Cate Cox
Heide Hüttl Canellopoulos
Thomas Bell, Susan Krysiewicz, Maryann Alonso, and Marjorie Sonderling
Cadet and Michele Gerber Klein
Jean and Martin Shafiroff
Kari Tiedemann and Dr. Daniel Terberger, husband of HRH The Princess of Bavaria
Giverny Munn Artist Program Mickalene Thomas and its Curator Beth Rudin DeWoody
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Photographs by DPC & Jay Brady (Versailles)
Comments? Contact DPC here.