Tete-a-tete-Tett

Pigeons line up. 5:40 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, February 9, 2010. Cold winter day in New York.

Tete-a-tete-Tett.
Went down to Michael’s to meet and lunch with Gillian Tett, the US Managing Editor the Financial Times. We were joined briefly by Emma Gilpin-Jacobs, the Global Director of Communications for the FT and FT Group.

Michael’s was positively jammed.
At Table One, Al Gore was lunching with several gentlemen including Mark Rosenthal and Keith Olberman, the newest addition to Mr. Gore’s Current Media (Mark Rosenthal is its CEO), the cable network founded in 2005. Yesterday’s luncheon was a celebration of the new association. Mr. Olberman, now sporting a fresh beard, will produce and host a nightly live news show. His title will be Chief News Officer.
DPC and Gillian Tett at Michael's. That's Keith Olberman at the table behind with the glasses and the beard.
Some faces around the room: Joe Armstrong with Deeda Blair; Henry Kravis and friend; Barry Diller with Andrew Tobias, Herb Siegel with Frank Gifford; Fredi Friedman; Hugh Freund; Bonnie Roche-Bronfman; Dan Wassong; Christine Taylor; Joe Versace; Kate White; venture capitalist and international mystery man Vivi Nevo; Mike Ovitz; Harold Holzer of the Met; Diana Taylor; Lewis Korman; Catie Marron, Sherrie Westin; Randy Jones; Paul Wilmot; Chaz Palminteri; Marilyn Crawford; Derek Johnson; Michael Kassan; Jeanine Pirro; Morris Levy; Gerry Byrne; Neal Shapiro; Ralph Baruch. Beverly Hills Chef, Alex Hitz, was hosting Hiram Williams, Peter Vaughan and Brooke Hayward, who has just re-issued (by Vintage Books) her 1977 Number 1 best-selling memoir Haywire. At the time, Truman Capote wrote: “One of the most extraordinary personal memoirs I’ve ever read. It has great honesty and charm and humor and beauty and it is deeply moving.”

Click cover to order.
Daughter of a famous movie star, Margaret Sullavan and Leland Hayward, a famous Hollywood agent and Broadway producer, Brooke’s book re-defined the Hollywood memoir.

This was the first time meeting (to talk) with Ms. Tett who began her professional life (after graduating with a PhD from the University of Cambridge) as a social anthropologist. Now married with two young daughters – five and seven, after university she worked in Tajikistan the Soviet Union during Perestroika when she started writing for the FT.

In 1997 she was posted in Tokyo where she became bureau chief, returning in 2003 to London to write the paper’s Lex column. After her Japan experience she wrote the highly praised Saving the Sun; How Wall Street mavericks shook up Japan’s financial system and made billions (HarperCollins and Random House).

I started reading her when she took over the daily Lex column and began filing a financial column on Fridays. I was struck by her incisive reports which were easy to comprehend for this non-financial person, and also by her good looks. Yes, it’s true, a smart good looking woman is impressive to me, and even daunting at times -- as sexist as I know that can sound.

In 2009 she was named Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards and her book Fool’s Gold; How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Market and Unleashed a Catastrophe won Financial Book of the year at the Spear’s Book Awards. Three years before in 2006 she had predicted the financial crisis. Oh, and she also speaks French, Russian, some Japanese as well as Persian. See what I mean?

I had wanted to meet her after reading her columns when she was writing from London, and did send her an email at the time, asking to set up a lunch when she had an hour during one of her (I assumed) trips to the US. I did receive a response although nothing was set.

Last March she was named US Managing Editor of the FT. In July, Kathy Lacey gave a luncheon for her at Michael’s at the time, and on a day when I was, coincidentally at the restaurant. I had not been invited but, acting like a typical fan, I did take the opportunity to get a picture of her for the Diary.

Gillian Tett, taken by DPC at Michael's, at a lunch given for her on July 19, 2010.
Having given up on the idea of interviewing her, by chance Darcy Keller, the FT’s communications director here in New York invited me to lunch one day last December, and suggested we meet.

So what did we talk about? I wanted to know the difference between a social anthropologist and a plain old anthropologist. She cleared that up quickly; in short: One studies/observes tribal behaviors and the other studies a (specific) tribe. Tribe is a word which comes into her conversation easily as a reference to contemporary behavior as defined by nations, politics and borders.

The FT, she told me, like a lot of British newspapers, move their journalists around so as to give them a larger sphere of interest and a broader expertise. They moved Gillian Tett into the financials quickly by first assigning her to learn and write about Currencies. Following the currencies in the world is the first lesson to learn about How It All Works.

We talked a great deal about the worlds we live in now. She is currently living on the East Side near midtown and although she likes it, she misses an easier access to a place to run (she’s doing that by machine these days).

She asked me if I liked what I do. I told her that although my work consumed almost all of my waking time, to the point where I often feel I have little time to myself, I love the opportunity it gives me to meet a broad variety of individuals who actually do have a hand in making the world go round. This is the biggest perk of all, enlightening and always enhancing.

By the time we finished, Michael’s had nearly cleared out except for Mr. Gore’s table. As he was departing at the same time as we were, we all got to say hello. I introduced him to Gillian, informing him of her business. He told her the FT is among his daily reading.
The scene at 583 Park Avenue last night just before the gala dinner for the IWHC.
Last night at 583 Park, the International Women’s Health Coalition held its annual gala dinner honoring Dr. Paul Farmer, who is a Medical anthropologist (that word again), a physician and a founding director of Partners in Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty.

Dr. Farmer is also the Presley Professor of Social Medicine and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School as well as Chief of the Division of Global Healthy Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti, under Special Envoy Bill Clinton.
Dr. Paul Farmer. Dr. Paul Farmer, last night's honoree, with Aryeh Neier.
The phrase we heard several times last night was Gender Equality. The IWHC understands better than most of us that the most important road out of poverty and ill-health is Gender Equality and Gender Equity. Education and high quality health care in resource-poor settings.

HIV is rampant in the developing world and its victims are mainly young women, many of whom have no choice, or medical assistance to avoid the disease. Cervical cancer, he said, kills more women in the developing world than any other disease, and yet there is now a vaccine available.
Adrienne Germain, president of the IWHC addressing last night's guests.
The developed countries are well aware and in many ways adapted to Women’s Rights. The developing countries are far behind. The solution to breaking the grip of poverty is simple but difficult to achieve: education for women and health care. This is charter of the IWHC.

There is not yet a cure for HIV but it is now a treatable disease. Last night Dr. Farmer told us about a Haitian girl whom he has known since birth who was born with HIV – her mother died of AIDS – and who is now 20 years old. He ran into her recently on one of his trips to Haiti. The young woman has grown up educated about gender equity and equality. He asked her what she wanted to do with her life. She told him she wanted to start a business, to be independent, to determine her own future outside the binds a male dominated social structure.

Marlene Hess, an IWHC board member served as emcee. She introduced Aryeh Neier, the human rights activist who is president of the Open Society Institute and former director of the Human Rights Watch. He was standing in for George Soros who could not attend. Mr. Soros is the founder of the Open Society Foundations that spends about $450 million annually promoting the values of democracy and an open society.
Fern Mallis and Micky Ateyeh. Samantha Topping and her aunt Polly Espy.
Ellen Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. Susan Cohn Rockefeller and David Rockefeller Jr.
The International Women’s Health Coalition is relatively unknown to our American everyday world, yet it is leading global and local actions to secure every woman’s right to a just and healthy life. When you sit in on one of these dinners, among serious-thinking, concerned citizens, and listen to men and women like Dr. Farmer, Marlene Hess, Aryeh Neier, Adrienne Germain (president of IHWC) you realize that despite all that we read and hear about politics and economics and warfare is irrelevant without the vision of the IWHC, which is focusing on the survival of all societies on this planet. And with it, comes hope.

It starts with women and girls. Visit their site (www.iwhc.org) and find out how you can contribute and participate.
Dr. Farmer with his co-workers in Haiti.
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