The Naked City at Michael's

Looking west across 54th Street towards MoMA. 2:10 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011. Weird day. Not cold, not warm; grey but with a bright white around as if the Sun were trying to break through.

I went down to Michael’s to have lunch with Nancy Stoddart who is in from L.A., and Jackie Weld who is here briefly on her way to PB. Nancy’s written a novel and came to town to meet her agent. It was Nancy’s guesthouse where the Johnson girl came to her tragic and untimely end early last year. Nancy’s lived in New York too, so the portfolio of personalities to cover is always interesting.

She’s one of those people who “knows everybody.” I have that reputation also but it’s the result of people seeing me around so much, and not really so. Nancy; it’s so. She grew up on the Mainline, was married to a banker here in New York (where she lived at 740 Park Avenue  -- you can read about her in Michael Gross’ book on the building).

Nancy's ride in L.A.
Then she had an intense affair with a very famous musician Nile Rodgers, through whom she met the music world. Then she moved to Los Angeles where she has one of the most fabulous houses I’ve seen out there in the land of celluloid dreams. Digital, I guess it is now.

She’s one of those people who has the gift of friendship. It’s simple; she’s interested.

I’m riffing on this only because I was thinking about how I could describe the day. Weird. I said that. The drive to midtown, which I take some times twice a day – The FDR to 63rd, then York/Sutton to  Fifty-seven, then across to Fifth – usually takes about fifteen to twenty minutes. Today’s was very quick because there was little traffic: whole blocks were empty, sometimes in all four lanes. That’s very unusual for 57th Street unless it’s Sunday morning. I thought to myself that Michael’s would be quiet. After all, it’s Monday.

Michael’s was jammed and noisy. Jeff Zucker and Ronald Lauder were lunching with Aryeh Bourkoff, the UBS investment banker. A Swiss banker, a world class art collector, a former network head man. What was that conversation?  Then Mr. Lauder’s brother, Leonard, was two tables beyond lunching with Elihu Rose, the man who is transforming the Park Avenue Armory into a world class cultural center. Next door was Jean Doumanian and Jackie Safra. In between, Somers Farkas was hosting a lunch for Karen LeFrak, which included Jamee Gregory, Pamela Gross (who’s now working for CNN and Piers), Dana Hammond and Kathy Hilton, who is in town because of something to do with Paris’ new show.

A couple of tables over, producer/casting director Bonnie Timmerman was lunching with movie director Max Winkler, all-grown-up son of “The Fonz.” If you don’t know whom I’m referring to, it’s just retro-culture. Euan Rellie was lunching with John Gapper who is one of my favorite writers on the FT. He did an FT Lunch Interview with Sean Parker about a month ago that was a perfect celebrity interview. I know, Mr. Parker is “more than” a celebrity. At least sometimes. Mr. Gapper isn’t a celebrity interviewer, per se. He writes about business, finance and other things. He’s a thinker. You will be too if you read him.

Bill Rondina of Carlisle was at Michael’s. So was Joan Jakobson, Susan Patricof, Sarah Syms Rosenthal with Susan Mercandetti; Dr. Mitch Rosenthal nearby; so was Julie Macklowe; and Maria Cuomo Cole, sister of the Governor and daughter of another, with Deborah Roberts, Tania Lee and Cindy Lieve, the editor-in-chief of Glamour. Harold Holzer of the Met was there; Joe Armstrong with Greg Lawrence who wrote Jackie As Editor, and Teri Whitecraft of ABC News; Shirley Lord; Richard Descherer, Ellen Futter, the esteemed leader of the American Museum of Natural History; Geoffrey Kent, the man behind Abercrombie & Kent; Jim Taylor of Town & Country with Joey Zee; those international verygoodfriends, Daphne Guinness and Bernard-Henri Levy aka BHL.

Daphne Guinness and Bernard-Henri Levy.
Mrs. Guinness is one of the few women around who knows how to make an entrance. And boy, does she. She often wears black (or white), has a waist the size of Scarlett O’Hara’s, always in platforms that are just this side of a ballerina’s toe shoes and add about ten inches to her height. And she’s a beauty.

Nobody else looks like her. When accompanied by son homme, who looks sort of laid-back professorial (tweed jacket, open shirt, blah blah blah), it’s like watching a movie go by. Maybe a mystery. M. Levy, it was reported in yesterday’s Times, although a philosopher, was credited or claiming credit for advising President Sarkozy to get involved in Libya. The couple are also remarkable for their coiffures. Evidently he is quite proud of his, and hers is unique and intriguing.

Moving on: Jaqui Lividini was there, also Judy Price with Samantha Brown, and at another table, her husband, Peter Price; Quest’s Chris Meigher with Tony Hoyt.

What do I think when I see a crowd like this, an excellent cross-section of the New York that is at the forefront of people’s image of this great city? Businessmen, real estate moguls, retailers, educators, museum directors, society dames, media people, editors, writers, bankers, curators, political people, actors, artists, shrinks, all in the same room (and talking their heads off) for lunch.

What do I think? I’m reminded of the Jules Dassin movie and especially the TV show that came later: “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” Or, and this has been sixty of them, at lunch, at Michael’s. And believe me, they’re all different and all fascinating.
Last night in the Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, The New York Festival of Song and its co-founders artistic directors, Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, hosted “A Fine Romance,” a Gala Evening of Jerome Kern songs, with a concert by Kelli O’Hara, and Joseph Kaiser, with Matthew Pena, Timothy McDevitt, Jonathan Estabrook, and Lauren Worsham. The concert ran an hour and a half, and was followed by a supper at “21.”

Taking their bows: Steven Bleir at the piano, Joseph Kaiser, Timothy McDevitt, Jonathan Estabrook, Matthew Pena, and Kelli O'Hara.
Kelli O'Hara and Joseph Kaiser.
Sherwin Goldman and Liz Peek. Steven Blier, founder and artistic director of the NYFOS, which is now in its 24th year.
The dinner at "21."
Afterwards I stopped by the Plaza where in the Grand Ballroom, New York City Center was holding its Gala, honoring Kathleen Marshall, Jack Viertel, and Walter Bobbie, present and past Artistic Directors of City Center's Encores! series. I'd arrived after the musical performance and guests were in the middle of dinner. I got this one shot and departed.
Across the square from the Plaza is Bergdorf's. Their windows are always imaginative, inventive, and beautiful.
This beautiful horse, standing by the Plaza, was eating its oats off the wet pavement thanks to less noble creatures who obviously don't give it a thought.
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