Thursday, September 13, 2012

A great day to be out

Fifth Avenue shuffling. 5:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, September 13, 2012. Warm, sunny day in New York. Midtown traffic was practically crawling; the sidewalks jammed along Fifth Avenue. A great day to be out.

Summer’s over. It was a typical Wednesday at Michael’s; wall-to-wall. Even Mrs. Michael (Kim McCarty) was there, dining with Blythe Danner. In the bay, Table One, The Girlz were lunching: Cynthia McFadden, Lesley Stahl, Gayle King, Lesley Jane Seymour, Norah O’Donnell. At the table right next to them, Mickey Ateyeh was hosting two young gentlemen. Next to her Joe Armstrong was hosting Warren Hoge who later introduced me to Jules Kroll (the founder of Kroll);

Around the room: Larry Kirshbaum , the longtime honcho of the publishing industry at Warner Books and now a publishing revolutionary with; literary agent Rob Weisbach with writer Holly Peterson, Steven Stolman of Scalamandre with Jim Brodsky of Sharp Communications (PR) ; HarperCollins; David Hirshey with CBS’ Gil Schwartz (who publishes under the nom de plume Stanley Bing); David Sanford of the WSJ and Lewis Stein; Areyeh Bourkoff of UBS; Liz Wood, in from Washington; Katherine Farley with Cathie Black; Lynn Jackson; Andrew Heineman; John Morgan; Emilia Saint Amand with some reporter looking for the scoop; Diane (“Brenda”) Clehane hosting Julia Nietsch of Bravo with a couple of their Gallery Girls Kerri Lisa and Claudia Martinez; Julie Macklowe with Jennifer Gilbert; Stan Shuman; Da Boyz, Dr. Imber, Michael Kramer, Jerry Della Femina and Andrew Bergman; Ron Insana of CNBC; Keith Kelly  of the New York Post, with Lori Rosen;Steve Mosko of Sony Pictures; Jolie Hunt of AOL with Wenda Millard of MediaLink, Jim Smith of Niche Media; Sam Haskell; Adam Platzner, co-founder of Dream Water; Janet Goldsmith; Morris Goldfarb; Stu Cantor; Lina Kutsovskaya, and a lot more just like ‘em.

It was a great day  to walk a few blocks up Fifth Avenue by the stores – Winston, Abercrombie, Prada, Bulgari, Van Cleef, Bergdorf’s – and then by the Pulitzer Fountain in front of the Plaza, across the avenue from the Apple Cube, which is a destination now for those who want to have a seat and watch this world go by.

I saw a young man, quadri-amputee, moving quickly through the crowd along the avenue, with a friend walking beside him. They were having a good time talking. I could tell by the animated conversation full of smiles and laughter. He was manipulating this cart which put him at almost the same height as his friend (5’10” or so). He had no legs and no arms. He wasn’t thirty.

John Jacob Astor residence (1926), where Temple Emanu-El stands today.
It was a jolt of reality. I looked elsewhere in the crowd for some more smiling faces. Nary a one. Maybe one, but not the same as his. I wondered how he did it, how he got himself out there into the world and was moving along at a quick pace. The real courage.

I walked up the avenue to 66th Street across from Temple Emanu-El, the land of which a hundred years ago was occupied by the mansion of John Jacob Astor IV, the father of Vincent Astor, who went down with the Titanic, exactly a century ago.

I caught a cab there. A young Bangladeshi man was the driver. I asked him how business had been, figuring, because the traffic was so heavy, that he might be doing good business. He had another story. He would have been doing good business but he was late in starting his day because he had to take his daughter for an interview at a school. She must be a first timer. He’s lived here six years. I could see by his attitude that he was prosperous. He had to learn English. He asked me if I could understand him. He planned to be more prosperous, no doubt.

We talked about the Bangladeshis I’ve met who were my cabdrivers. They have remarkably cheerful dispositions in comparison to their confreres, the Indians and the Pakistanis; all different. There are exceptions but few that I have seen among the Bangladeshi. They were East Pakistan before the breakup – he told me yesterday – yet they have a palpably different attitude about life.

Diana Taylor and Jean Shafiroff at a luncheon for the New York Women’s Foundation.
Gloria and Diana.
More; all kinds of things going on. While I was lunching at Michael’s, over at Le Cirque Jean Shafiroff was hosting a lunching for the New York Women’s Foundation with Special Guest Diana Taylor. Everybody knows by now that Ms. Taylor is the mayor’s companion. That item can make it easy to forget that she is a  leader among her peers in good works and greatly admired for her leadership qualities.

Meanwhile, last night. At 1stdibs Gallery at 200 Lexington Avenue, there was an opening gala preview party for Gloria Vanderbilt and her selling exhibition of works. The evening benefited the Huntsville Museum of Art.

Gloria is an amazing person to anyone who knows her and to many who’ve never met her. I was thinking of Diana Vreeland when I saw her the other night at Janet Ruttenberg’s reception for her. She’s a totally creative person. Her life, the saga, while not “totally created” by her, has been lived like a play, or a movie, and she is the leading character. And a very glamorous one at that.

She’s a literary character in that way also, an exponent of the Belle Epoque maybe light years ahead in the interstellar age. I have to be mindful with my adjectives about Gloria because her presence invites hyperbole in me. That’s what I mean by amazing. Her art is herself, self transferred by hand and eye, as if blazing a path that say’s Gloria’s Life. Vreeland was like that. It was her life, an original, like nobody else. Also the Belle Epoque. The show runs through early October, so get down there and take it all in. That’s Gloria; she’ll leave you thinking about it.

Also last night at the National Arts Club, they gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to Byron Janis. Chuck Scarborough presented. This was all taking place in the big old Victorian mansion in Gramercy Park that belonged to Samuel J. Tilden, the man who won yet lost the Presidential election in 1876.

Maria and Byron Janis.
This was one of those only-in-New-York evenings. We start with the history of the house, a mid-19th century brownstone. The man being honored is one of the great piano virtuosos of our time with a great career and a great drama of a life, married to the beautiful daughter of one of the great movie stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. There are performances – Inna Falks pianist; Nimrod David Pfeffer, pianist; Vy Higginsien and the Gospel Choir of Harlem; “Songs from the Hunchback of Notre Dame,” music and accompaniment by Mr. Janis and performed by Robert Cuccioli (Currently starring in “Spiderman –Turn Off the Dark”) and Colleen Fitzpatrick, singer and actress (“Cats,” “Sunday in the Park With George.” All this in 90 minutes in the comforts of a great old clubhouse could only happen in New York.

There’s more: Elaine Sargent gave a reception for another one of those artful women, Mary McFadden and her new book (which we’ve written about here) “A Lifetime of Design, Collecting, and Adventure,” and you can be sure that it’s been all of that. The reception was at the Lotus Club, another great old mansion from the Gilded Age, built as a wedding gift to a Vanderbilt granddaughter, with much of the original interiors. That was the New York I knew about yesterday.

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