Monday, November 7, 2011

Waiting for winter

Looking west from the roof of the Plaza Athénée Hotel on East 64th Street. 11:15 AM. Photo: JH.
Monday, November 7, 2011. A beautiful, sunny, fair autumn weekend in New York. The city was very quiet, almost peacefully quiet on Saturday, in anticipation to the Marathon which was yesterday (Sunday). On Sunday, if you did live on or near the route, the city was even quieter.
Waiting for winter. I went down to the Promenade overlooking the East River to see if I could get a shot of the New York version (in my neighborhood) of fall foliage.

This was on Roosevelt Island. As you can see, there's no real zap to the change. No riots of bright reds, yellow and oranges that our neighbors get to the north of us.
View looking east at 82nd Street across the East River to Roosevelt Island. You can see one of its original century old buildings in the center. Those red and white smokestacks are Con Edison but on the other side of the other channel in Queens.
A lone boater out for a pleasant cruise on this lovely November Sunday afternoon.
Catching up. We're in multiple events nights. Last Friday night at the Hudson Theater, The American Songbook Project held its annual "Name That Tune" Costume Party benefit ("come dressed as a song title"). They honored Jerry Herman and Guild Hall (for 80 years of concerts featuring American Songbook).

Liz Smith
paid tribute to Jerry Herman. "Jerry Herman is right up there, edging the other greats who made musical comedy such an art form in American history. When he goes, he will sit around for eternity with Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. He's managed to combine his art form with a commercial shock wave! Plus Jerry is a really nice, lovable guy whose music created the stars with whom we have lived in the 20th-21st centuries."
Iris Love, Ruth Appelhof, and Liz Smith.
Broadway's original "Annie," Andrea McArdle sang Herman's "If He Walked Into My Life," and accepted the award on his behalf. The costumes were judged by five time Tony Award-winning costume designer William Ivey Long, Bravo's fashion star Chris March, and actress Jane Kaczmarek.

The American Songbook Project was founded in 1999 as a non-profit organization with the mission to preserve the heritage of American songs, to foster its artists, to promote the art of live performance, and to reintroduce American music in New York City schools and community centers.
Jim DeLisle ("Funny Valentine") and Laurie Bodor ("Hey Big Spender").
Costume winner ("Cabaret") Dan Grassi with judges William Ivey Long and Jane Kaczmarek.
Designer Amy Lau holding her new book Expressive Modern at her book signing last Thursday night at Archivia.
The gang outside Archivia.
Also Friday night, over at the Mandarin Oriental, Casita Maria, Center for Arts and Education, was hosting its annual Fiesta 2011. They honored Roberto Cavalli, Tiqui Atencio Demiredjian, Julio Larraz, Luis Ubinas. Masters of Ceremonies were Mario Buatta and Robert Verdi. Mr. Cavalli, it turned out, couldn't be there because he had to be in Tokyo for Anna Wintour's Fashion Week.

Although Baryshnikov was there, and Fernando Botero, and Rafa Marquez and lots of the younger crowd, all dressed in Cavalli, including Vanessa Bronfman. And Bob Hardwick brought a new kind of life to the crowd withhis merengue band. Overheated and overexcited, were some of the guests after some time on the dance floor; that's the report coming in after the fact.
Sarah Calderon, Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas, Mayra Hernandez, Jacqueline Weld Drake, and Julio Larraz.
Julio Larraz, Jacqueline Weld Drake, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Rafa Marquez and Jaydy Michel. Mario Buatta and Robert Verdi.
Yanna Avis and Prince Dimitri of Yugolasvia. Tiqui Atencio Demirdjian.
Marcos Crespo, Sarah Calderon, and Luis Ubinas.
Rewind. A week ago last Thursday over at Bergdorf's, there was a reception for Martha Stewart and her new book Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations. Many in the crowd were from the worlds of fashion, food, design and media including Clive Davis, Sirio Maccioni and his wife Egidiana, Alex von Bidder, Richie Notar, Todd Eberle, Johnny Pigozzi; John Derian, Jeffrey Bilhuber, Cornelia Guest, Charlotte Beers, plus Bergdorf's Linda Fargo. Pierre Schaedelin made a great selection of hors d'ouevres inspired from the book.

I'm not a Martha Stewart customer. I don't watch her shows. I don't buy her magazines. I don't buy her books. That said, I am a Martha Stewart admirer. I've seen her dozens, maybe hundreds of times over the years at parties, events, gatherings here in New York and in the Hamptons. I followed the terrible case against her where she actually ended up going to jail, and appeared to be turning into a pariah (for a nanosecond, that is). I know her mainly from observation although I've had conversation with her. and a few words here and there, like ships passing in the night, as so much of the day to day social life in New York is.
Martha Stewart with Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations. Click to order or buy immediately at Archivia Books (993 Lexington Avenue, 212.570.9565).
I'm an admirer because her accomplishments are awesome, as well as awe-inspiring. Her work on camera is compelling (I've seen her show only twice). The diversity of her enterprise, within the realm of her focus, is incredible. And now, having hit the ripe young age of 70, she continues to do it as well and as thoroughly --- maybe moreso, than she did twenty or thirty years ago when she was first getting into the business.

Her persona remains even. Always with that wry smile, pleasant, moving on, she goes out a lot, makes a lot of parties, small and large; and does everything else. She runs this vast empire, performs on camera and is constantly creating not only ideas in the kitchen and in the home, but in her business, and now also philanthropically. I know she doesn't do it all herself, but she remains the Source from which the creative ideas are born. Her energy, although she seems unconsciously serene in presence, is formidable. She could move a mountain if she thought she could turn it into a good recipe.
Cornelia Guest and Jeffrey Bilhuber. Egidiana Maccioni and Sirio Maccioni.
So, with that in mind, I took a look at this new book of hers. It's beautiful. Big, gorgeously published; thick with dazzling photographs, especially the photographs of what she's serving up. In summation, it's typical Martha. The Best, the Most Beautiful, and you want everything in the picture. I mean, she presents it so that you want to make it, and then eat it. She makes you greedy for beauty.

Except, this book is about her life. Not an autobiography by any stretch, but her life is her work and her work is her life. It covers her parties that she has in her houses – in Bedford, in East Hampton, and in Maine. All fabulous old houses which are site specific to their locations. I started going through the book and found myself getting into it.

Martha Stewart lives better than almost any rich person that I know. She is obviously rich herself. But it's not the money part, it's what she gets from it. Her estate in Seal Harbor, Maine, which was built by Edsel Ford I for family summers, looks like the ideal summer house -- mansion really -- by the sea. But that's just the beginning. The weekend parties she gives –breakfast, lunch, dinner – photographed with the guests at table. And then the table after the guests have gone --- you want to be there even for that. The life you see in these pages is made for a magazine layout. Yet the life that you see in these pages is also the life of the author. She created it that for herself, as well as the fortune needed to acquire it. The power, not to mention the wit and intelligence to pull it off defines a kind of genius.
Todd Eberle and John Derian. Lisa Gersh and Rich Bressler.
However, back to earth. One night at a dinner, I was seated next to Martha. She's just like the Martha on television -- she relates as you'd expect after having watched her. I asked if she found time to use all her houses, especially her house in Maine. Oh yes, she said, she did. I knew it was a big house and hundreds of miles from the City, so I asked if she used it much. Very often, she said. I asked if she ever had guests (because it's a very long drive from New York – about ten hours – and not an especially direct journey even by plane – unless you fly private – which presumably Martha does – and a lot of people still do not). Yes, she used it often and had lots of guests to fill the many bedrooms.

Having been a houseguest many times up in that neck of the woods, I asked what she did with her houseguests on the weekends. It's a great place for picnics and boat rides, maybe a swim in the pool (but probably not in the very cold ocean). Oh, she told me, guests do many things -- hiking, horseback riding, tennis, sailing, swimming, etc. All of that? Every weekend? Oh yes, oh yes. In a day even.
Linda Fargo. Kevin Sharkey and Pilar Guzman and Alex Von Bidder.
I remember thinking I'd be a lousy houseguest for Martha. It was exhausting just to hear what her houseguests do in a single weekend. I'm one of those people who would rather read a book. Hearing about her houseparties, I could only think I'd go back to the city needing a rest.

But not Martha. Martha is indefatigable. It's like she's got her thermostat adjusted to the perfect temperature and she operates coolly and confidently because of it. The whole book has that vibe. It's curious because you know, if you have any brains, you could never make so much beauty so consistently and frequently, not to mention the scrumptious looking dishes she serves up. You know you could never get that far. Yet, somehow you still entertain the possibility when she read or watch her.

The last hundred pages are recipes. My friend Cynthia Conigliaro who owns Archivia, where I got the book, and is herself an accomplished cook, told me that what was interesting about Martha's recipes was that they really work. She's tried several, and the results were delicious. I was somehow not surprised, because that's part of being Martha.
Martha Stewart and Clive Davis. Parker Ladd and Johnny Pigozzi.
When I got to the recipes I knew I'd find one I could actually do in my postage stamp kitchen -- which is nothing like her amazing kitchen in Maine with its zinc covered kitchen table, surrounded by happy guests partaking of feasts, in the most beautiful surroundings inside and out. But when I do one of those recipes, and when it's finished and I'm eating the creation, I know I'll lend myself to imagining being in Martha's environment – I think that what she does to you, it tastes so good – a trip and a thrill.

This book is a treasure for anyone who loves to cook, or garden, or decorate, or fiddle around in the kitchen, or with a camera, or even none of the above. It's about the real "living well." And though you might think you can't afford it, just remember: almost all those guys and girls who make up the 1% we're hearing so much about these days – those who can afford it -- could never achieve what Martha has for herself. Because it's really about the imagination, not the money. It's about that delicious little dish you made yourself from one of her recipes. It's the getting there that brings the final accomplishment.
The Hirsch-Rossi menu and wedding cake.
And speaking of Getting There and Final. This was a very special weekend in New York Social Diaryland because one half of this operation, the man behind what you see on your screen every day, the man known to the readers mainly for his Digital, Mr. JH got married on Saturday evening to the former Danielle Rossi, in a civil ceremony at the Plaza Athenee on East 64th Street.

After the service, in the presence of about 60 guests – close family members, close friends of family and longtime, even schoolhood friends of the bride and groom – adjourned around the corner to Restaurant Daniel in 65th Street just off Park.

I've been to a lot of weddings in my now long life and although I know how meaningful they are to those participating, they hold next to zero interest to me mainly because they always seem so long and predictable or a great big party (and I've been to a thousand of those ... Zzzzzz ...).
The bride and groom ...
Cutting the (carrot) wedding cake.
However, the Rossi-Hirsch wedding, completely planned out by the bride (and with input from the groom no doubt) should be patented. Perfect number of guests – many of whom did not know each other and were intergenerational (old and young; no children, however). Perfect length of ceremony (between 15 and 20 minutes), and a perfect dinner at Daniel which seemed not like a wedding dinner but a dinner for a small private party at a great New York restaurant. Of course, the couple had tastings of everything right down to the wines. The size of the guestlist made it easy to move people and easy for people to mingle and talk to others.

The bride who, as you can see, is an exceptionally pretty young woman, looked extraordinarily beautiful in her very simple, very elegant, Calvin Klein wedding dress (I think she had a hand in the final piece). The groom, who has been paying more attention to his physical exercising in an effort to lose some of that extra stuff we acquire sitting/working 14 to 16 hours a day, looked exceptionally slender too. They were what your grandmother would have described as a Beautful Couple. And, so it was.
Jen Lippmann and Diana Lamarca.
The evening began at 6:30 with the ceremony. At 7 guests were walking around the block (it was a beautiful, cool evening but not too cold) to Daniel where we started with a champagne reception which lasted just 45 minutes so that we were seated at our placement for our first course at 8.

This schedule did not inhibit people from moving around and talking to people at other tables, but it kept a focus. I think it was that tight schedule that turned the whole evening into a really fun dinner party in an exquisite venue and for a joyous occasion.

Then came the toasts, and the cake, which was carrot cake underneath all that icing! Excellent. And at 11 o'clock, the other partner in the NYSD, DPC, was on his way home with these pictures that I took, as is my habit. I know they're not what JH could have done but JH was, unfortunately, unavailable at the moment. What they capture is the mood. A good one. And so, a very good evening it was for all, and especially for the newly wed couple. Congratulations are in order.

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