Friday, December 2, 2011

Soon the holiday stuff starts

A job with a view (of North Bergen Township on the other side of the Hudson). 4:10 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, December 2, 2011. Rains came and went and left us with a sunny colder day in New York. I remember when all December days were very cold, Sun or no Sun.

Soon the holiday stuff starts. It was very exciting when I was a young kid. I didn’t even need an overcoat. And didn’t care. Now that I am an old kid, the holiday time promises a pay-off of rest and the luxury of time to read and think. I’m not what I would call a “thinker” but I still cherish the time provided for the ride.

Yesterday I went to the doctor (again) because of this thing that I have that I’ve been told is going around. The doctor of a friend of mine calls it “The 100 day Cough.” I hope that’s hype.

Meanwhile I’m almost finished reading Michael Gross’ tome “Unreal Estate.” And it is a tome. About 500 pages. With my surfeit of extra time, that’s a hike. However, they are action-packed pages. I don’t mean like in a video game, although that’s always a possibility in someone’s mind (someone who doesn’t read). If you don’t know about it, it’s Michael’s West Coast version of “740 Park.” In a nutshell. Or a shell for nuts. Although L.A. is distinctly not New York.
Francesca (Frandy) Drown Keck, Carla Kirkeby, Bridget Gless Keller, and John Lee at a party hosted by Carla Kirkeby for the author at Katsuya in Brentwood. 
Michael Gross, Frandy Drown Keck, Dagny Janss Corcoran, and Paul Keller.
Frank Lloyd Wright is said to have said -- and I’m ruinously paraphrasing -- that if the United States were flat and you tilted the East Coast up towards the West, all the riff-raff (or weirdos, take your pick), would end up in California.

Wright said it much better (and more succinctly) but I can’t find the damned quote. Anyway, Michael Gross confirms Wright’s idea very well in his histories of the houses (and their occupants) of the Golden Triangle that occupy a section of the western part of Los Angeles.
David Netto and Ione Skye at a party for Michael Gross hosted by Mr. and Mrs. (Liz) Netto at La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills.
I love Los Angeles. I have always loved Los Angeles from the very first time I visited in 1970 and throughout the years I lived there from the late 70s to the early 90s. (Which tells you a little something about me now, doesn't it?) I don’t miss it, all these years later living in the East (and New York), but whenever I’m exposed to it in words or images, it takes me back to the serene weirdness that is part of its atmosphere and zeitgeist, and I'm still there.

It’s peculiar, strange, exotic, beautiful, ordinary, thrilling, chilling, and Raymond Chandler and Nathanael West. You could imagine that the characters who populate their novels could live and/or have lived in the very houses that Michael Gross portrays with all the ratta-tat-tat glee of Walter Winchell. (You had to be there.)

So, 500 pages, 5000 pages, what does it matter. It’s about the thrill of it all, and if LA is one of your addictions, this book’s for you. Although every time I finish a part, a piece, a chapter, a house, I wonder if there is something in the water. Or even the air, as a fellow ex-Los Angeleno suggested recently.

I hadn’t meant to write about the book just yet but I got carried away. As you can see.
Liz Netto with Al Uzielli and Stephanie Ittleson.
So, it’s finally holiday time in New York. No weirdness here; or rather no sun-drenched palm fronds clacking in the Sant’anas. Now at holiday time the get-togethers, the parties, are simply for just that: getting together. And that’s a nice change.

In the meantime, there are still a host of gala benefits keeping a shine on the Big Apple.

At the UNICEF gala the other night at Cipriani, they had a terrific turnout. An often younger group of prominent individuals. Such as: Ishmael Beah, Maggie Betts, Natasha Bedingfield, Adrien Brody, Andy Cohen, Vera Farmiga, Prabal Gurung, Angie Harmon, Kevin Jonas, Gayle King, Zoe Kravitz, Matt Lauer, Dikembe Mutombo, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mark Ruffalo and wife Sunrise Coigney, Marcus Samuelsson, Gillian Hearst Simonds, Uma Thurman, Brian Williams, Vern Yip, Geoffrey Zakarian, Jeff and Caryn Zucker, and many others.
It was the 7th Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball, celebrating the lighting of the UNICEF Snowflake which hangs over the junction of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue – the four corners of Tiffany, Bulgari, Van Cleef and Louis Vuitton. Oh, the snowflake itself can match ‘em in eclat: Baccarat.

And most importantly at the Snowflake Ball they honored individuals who have made key contributions to UNICEF’s mission of saving and improving the lives of children worldwide. The children are the real key to our future, something that seems to escape a lot of people running to or for the future. UNICEF and its supporters remember however.

In choosing the following pictures to run, JH and I had another one of our discussions about the dreary, boring commercial backdrops that now plague the red-carpet at these events. I realize all of these businesses promoting themselves on these scrims are footing at least part of the bill for the event. But after awhile it looks like so much automated graffiti. Period. And never as good as the real McCoy.
The real Sarah Jessica Parker versus the "reel" SJ. Real's far more compelling..
So why bother, boys and girls? Let the red-carpet-goers look real and great without a commercial staring us in the face. You get the deduction anyway.

As a result of the most recent conversation about this earth-shattering matter, JH decided to show us the difference between the Pose and the Real. I know Mr. Andy Cohen has a million dollar smile to go with his million dollar income, but isn’t he more interesting looking without all that Tiffany blue behind him? Judge for yourself.
Andy Cohen. Is this the same guy?
The real Gayle King, and the Working Professional.
Angie Harmon can't lose either way.
Natasha Bedingfield, what is going on?
Caryl Stern and Ken Hayami. Kevin and Danielle Jonas.
Zoe Kravitz. Charlotte Moss. Matt Lauer.
Naeem and Ranjana Khan. Christian Simonds and Gillian Hearst Simonds.
Uma Thurman. Ashley Sousa. Alexandra Lebenthal.
Hilary and Bryant Gumbel. Sunrise Coigney and Mark Ruffalo.
Adrian Brody. Alicia Bythewood. Pamela Joyner.
Ishmael Beah. Gillian and Sylvester Miniter.
Vera Farmiga. Geoffrey and Margaret Zakarian. Vern Yip.
Dikembe Mutombo. Marcus Samuelsson and his wife Maya Haile.
Rewind: This past Monday night, you may remember (if you were looking at these pages) that I took some pictures of the holiday windows of Bergdorf’s and Barneys and then continued walking up Madison Avenue where my digital was longing to have a look at what money can buy that’s worth having (or at least wanting).

Did you know that once upon a time Madison Avenue was where the very proper, very rich lived back in the days of Edith Wharton’s novels when the Mrs. Astor was lording it over the Haves and the Recently Acquireds. The rich and harrumphy old school WASPs and their children, however, had town houses on Madison Avenue. They all knew each other because that was the neighborhood for the Social Register. Their forebears came on the Mayflower, or shortly thereafter. Harrumph. And you didn’t. And therein lay the diff. So there.
I forget the name of the shop, but you can't miss it because of the stockings; all good ideas. And the dresses on these mannequins reminded me of images of Millicent Rogers.
This was Roger Vivier's window. Those white and gold strips look like they're floating in the wind even though they remain stationary.
I don’t know when that all stopped. A woman I knew when I first lived in New York - the mother of a college friend - who had a pied a terre at 740 Park, and was an alum of the School of Les Dames Grandes, actually grew up on Madison Avenue, in a townhouse around the corner from her grand 16 room, duplex apartment. While the sofa in her library was getting threadbare, and the mink she wore when she went out to see her banker or lawyer was a bit ratty, she didn’t care. She had nothing to prove to anyone. Anyone who mattered, that is. Harrumph, This was quality. You were born into it and therefore you possessed it, no matter what it was. And what was money? Something you discussed with your banker or your lawyer. Period.

Funny, when you think of it, all these changes later -- maybe the word is irony --  how quality still resides on Madison Avenue, no matter.

Anyway, a walk up the avenue on a week night with its bright lighted windows advertising the wares within, is a great pleasure in the city. You forget about all the Snookies affronting the aesthetic. So I mapped it (very randomly). Just for you. Really.
My favorite window, the one where I always stop when passing by during the day, is just north of Vera Wang and those ruffles trailing the mannequin. It is Ken Rendell’s emporium of autographs and exponential treasures for those of us plundering history and its nostalgia.
Forever Oscar. And Michael Kors goes for the gold.
But just inside it's pinks and blacks and zebra stripes. This is the year of the zebra. Shoes, handbags, wallets, shirts, jackets, hats. Zebras are everywhere and they don't even know they're chic. Lucky for them.
I love Creed. For me it starts (and usually ends) in the packaging although I love the Creed signature in all their fragrances. It might be the idea of history that draws me to it.
Ken Rendell, cont'd: Each day they feature, in the window, a photo and some kind of autograph of a famous person in history, both recent and ancient. It marks the birth anniversary of a historical character. You see, on 15 August, for example, an image of that little warrior from Ajaccio, Corsica, Napoleon. It always occupies an impressive frame along with some original document with the man’s signature. And you’re instantly a captive of the aura, egomanical scourge that he was. You’re reminded of what the French got from their revolution, not so incidentally. Benny Bigdeal.

Then there are the sheets at Frette. They look pretty good too. And that mannequin relaxing on the duvet with her sweater and diamond clip could be the perfect antidote to the sight of ole Nappy-baby, for some women I know. Then there’s always Ralph (what do you mean Ralph who?) who is to 20th century American style what Irving Berlin is to 20th century American tunes. Classic.

The jewelers windows, alas, were jeweless. They, after all, are always vulnerable in the New York night, where temptation lurks in the Naked City.
Frette. I can dream, can't I? That's the way a bedroom should look. Ready for beddy.
Dolce & Gabbana, the candy store ...
One Christmas someone gave me a cashmere sweater from Malo. It's still a beauty. And Prada.
And Ralph. And Mallett. The flowers, I think, are real. So is everything else too.
Oopsie doopsi Lady Laboutin.
Zitomer's is the women's version of a hardware store to the ladies of Madison Avenue. This window appreciates their business faithfully.
Stubbs & Wooten. Someone gave me a pair a number of years ago. I took them back because I knew I'd never wear them. I took home another pair which I thought looked okay (to my eye) but then never wore them for the next five years. Now I wear them all the time. Like a pair of old slippers but with a dash of splash. They look worn now, which is how I like it.
Vera. Next door to Ken Rendell's. I forgot to say that I didn't take a picture of his window because the security cover they put down at night made it impossible for me to get a clear picture.
And the world's most expensive men's bathing suits. Surely I'm exaggerating. And why not? They are cool. They're beauties, and they do one other thing: they're to bathing suits what Hermes is to ties. Nobody else's.
Missoni had some great looking clothes in the other windows but I liked the Missoni signature patterns on these pillows and ottomans. Michele Negri. I looked at these and thought this is how the coolest looking (rich) women should look on Madison Avenue after a snowstorm.
Meanwhile, over at Christie's they are gearing up for the Big Days of the sale of the Elizabeth Taylor Collection. NYSD was there today to get a preview of what can be had by those who have. Meaning, this should be some record-breaking auction. Back in the late 80s, Saks in Beverly Hills, or I Magnin, one of those stores, had sold its fur storage concession to another company. All those who had furs stored there had to remove them for a 24 hour period before the new owners could take over. I dont know why that was but it was. Elizabeth had furs stored there. Some of her furs. 84. Fur coats, jackets, capes. More than anybody else of course. But, it turned out that Elizabeth had a lot more in Switzerland where she also had in storage every garment she had ever EVER owned. No doubt many and much of it will be available to those lucky buyers

Photographs by Rob Rich (UNICEF)

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