Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sunny and warm

Looking up towards the San Remo (twin towers) from within Central Park. 2:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011. Sunny and warm in New York; it might as well be Spring. For a minute anyway. More warm weather headed our way according to Mr. Weatherman. Everybody’s ready for it.

Ellin taking in Ralph Rucci last night.
It’s Fashion Week in New York, in case you’ve been under a rock. Which means all over town, and especially up at Lincoln Center, thousands of people – buyers, designers, mavens, socialites, club kids, journalists, celebrities looking to be seen (and to see) – are heading for one show after another or another.

It’s a break-neck pace with so much going on, and a little like a habit that you just can’t break.

Over the years, as you may be aware, the number of shows and designers showing, has grown. Whereas once upon a time the front row of the runways featured buyers and retail CEOs plus a small cadre of very chic ladies, now you might just see Justin Bieber (I don’t know if he’s made an appearance, but it’s possible) who has about as much to do with fashion as Mickey Mouse or your local deli owner.

It’s a parade, a show, a circus and it dominates the week ... fascinating.

Here at NYSD we’re fortunate to have Ellin Saltzman reporting on the actual runway shows, which as you might recall, is what the whole thing’s about.
The line outside Godiva last night. 6:35 PM.
Also it was Valentine’s Day, as you know; and they were lined up around the corner at Godiva chocolates and other purveyors, as well as the flower shops all over town. I even got a couple of floral gifts, much to my surprise (and pleasure). One of my heroines, one of the great ladies of New York sent me a dozen roses, in thanks for something I’d written about one of her charities. Wow. And then another purveyor of beautiful things – jewelry – sent me a beautiful red orchid plant. Wow again. No chocolates though which is just as well because I would have eaten them immediately

Up in Harlem at the legendary Apollo theater,
Deborah Roberts, Jonelle Procope, President and CEO of the Apollo Theater Foundation, and Leslie Uggams (a Foundation board member) hosted a “Dining with the Divas” benefit onstage “celebrating Extraordinary Women.” The mission, according to Jonelle Procope, was “to pay homage to these influential women and give back to our community.”

They opened the program at noon with a Serenade by the Abyssinian Baptist Church Women’s Choir. Roberts, Procope and Uggams also spoke. There was a presentation to the Apollo Theater Academy Students.

Proceeds from Dining with the Divas will go to the Apollo’s Education Program, which reaches thousands of families, educators, and elementary and high school students each year. The Education Program includes Career Day panels, a summer internship program, the Saturday Workshop Series, and an Oral History program.

The Apollo is one of Harlem’s – and New York’s – great cultural institutions, as well as landmarks, right up there with Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall, and, like them, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one of the first theaters in New York, and the country, to fully integrate, welcoming traditionally African-American, Hispanic, and local immigrant populations in the audience, as well as headlining uniquely talented entertainers who found it difficult to gain entrance to other venues of similar size and resources. It seems like nothing now in our vastly changed world, but for more than a century century it was a trail blazer and a pathfinder.
Yolana Ferrell-Brown, Alicia Riley Bythewood, Jonelle Procope, Deborah Roberts, Rita Jammet, Debra Shriver, and Joannie Danielides.
Ami Brabson, Marcia Gay Harden, Mira Nair, and Jonelle Procope.
Since introducing the first Amateur Night contests 67 years ago in 1934, the Apollo has played a major role in cultivating artists as well as the emergence of innovative musical genres including jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul, and hip-hop.

Ella Fitzgerald was discovered there on one Amateur Night. So was Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown, Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, and countless others who began their road to stardom on the Apollo’s stage.

Among yesterdays guests were: Leslie Uggams, Marcia Gay Harden, Mira Nair, Deborah Roberts, Lynn Whitfield, Crystal McCrary Anthony, Debra Shriver, Sade Baderinwa, Tonya Lewis Lee, Marva Smalls, Marvet Britto, Donna Hanover, Susan Fales-Hill, Judith McGrath, Cathy Hughes, Pauletta Washington, LaTonya Richardson, Bevy Smith, Bethann Hardison, Thelma Golden.
Yanna opening her show with "Je t'aime," followed by "C'est si Bon."
Last night while all that fashion stuff was going on, I went over to the Florence Gould Theater at 55 East 59th Street, which is part of the French Institute/Alliance Francaise (FIAF) for a special Valentine’s event: “Yanna Avis, L’amoour, toujours l’amour; A Valentine’s Day Cabaret.”

Yanna’s smoky voice has charmed audience at Spoleto in Italy, the Jermyn Street Theatre, the Firebird, Feinsteins as well as the drawing rooms of Beverly Hills and Manhattan. Yanna is a romantic, ma chantouze, as I call her, and her repertoire includes Cole Porter, Leo Ferre, and Misraki.

Parisienne by birth, Yanna began her career as an actress. She received her training at the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Paris and has performed in a variety of classical and contemporary productions.
With her late husband, rent-a-car king and businessman Warren Avis, she has long been an active member of international society. Her career, however, has always been at the forefront and, with the enthusiastic encouragement of Warren, in 1992, she began working in cabaret. She’s made three albums, the most recent being Speak Love to Me, in collaboration with music director and pianist Lee Musiker.

Last night’s program was a mix of French and American songs, including some American songs to which she supplied the French lyrics such “My Man” (Mon homme). Near the end of the show, three Can Can girls came out and demonstrated after which Yanna sang several stanzas of Cole Porter’s homage:

If in Deauville ev'ry swell can
It is so simple to do,
If Debussy and Ravel can,
'Twill be so easy for you.
If the Louvre custodian can,
If the Guard Republican can,
If Van Gogh and Matisse and Cézanne can,
Baby, you can can-can too.
If a chief in the Sudan can,
If the hefty Aga Khan can,
If the camels in his caravan can,
Baby, you can can-can too.

After Yanna’s show I went up to Swifty’s for a Valentine dinner with a friend. Also there were Susan Gutfreund and Ann Prevost, in from London, who had just come from Ralph Rucci’s show down in SoHo. Both women, wearing their own copies of Rucci creations were raving about the show. Susan said that of all the couture she’s owned in her life, Ralph Rucci is now the only American whose work she would define as couture. Read Ellin Saltzman’s review today on the NYSD.
The table setting in the window last night at John Rosselli's Treillage, next door to Swifty's.
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