Thursday, July 19, 2012

Around the room

New York City skyline from a distance at 1:30 pm, just before the rains came. Photo: Jeff Hirsch.
Thursday, July 18, 2012. Yesterday was another hot one with the air thick and heavy. After days and days of this, it wears on you. The weatherman forecast wild thunderstorms and heavy rains for the afternoon, and about quarter to four, thankfully, the dark clouds moved in and took over. It thundered, but not so bad, and poured, and poured for about two hours. Very nice. The temperatures dropped by almost 20 degrees (although remaining muggy so that the Real Feel was ten degrees higher).

I went down to Michael’s to meet a Hiram Williams for lunch. Hiram and I have never known each other well or steadily but for many years have had many mutual friends. The world of New York can be like this. So we had a lot of catching up and looking back to do.

I hadn’t been to Michael’s in about a couple of weeks – some kind of record for me. The heat determined that. Although I was looking forward to seeing Hiram, I didn’t expect to see much going on at Michael’s because of the overbearing weather.

Wrong. Michael McCarty himself was presiding, having just returned with his wife Kim from their annual summer sojourn in Europe. Michael divides him time between his restaurants here and in Santa Monica. Every ten days or so, he’s back here for a week, or sometimes longer, especially when the art sales and exhibitions are going on.
I caught a cab on 61st and Madison. Just as we moved with the light, we came up on this Roman Legionaire transporting a couple of the city's visitors.
When I arrived at 12:30, the place was already jumping. In the room: Ann Curry lunching with Bob Barnett, the Washington lawyer who has made such a big difference in assisting some of the great careers in the media and show business. Don’t think everybody who saw that wasn’t wondering where we’re going to see the dynamic Curry again. Next to them Calvin Klein was with Deborah Kenny, founder and CEO of Harlem Village Academies. Next to them: Leonard Lauder looking coolly dapper in his very pale green striped seersucker suit and a sky blue tie putting him right at the top of the Best Dressed List. He was lunching with Cathie Black.

Next door was Joe Armstrong with Ed Victor the literary agent, and next to them Linda Wells of Allure  with Don Loftus. Across from them, AOL’s Tim Armstrong with Lloyd Braun, visited by Jolie Hunt and Courtney Dolan on their way to their table. Hunt and Dolan are two of the most dynamic and attractive young women in media public relations. Both women have held important posts at several magazines and media companies.

If this window could talk ...
Both Dolan and Hunt were heading up the marketing and public relations at the FT (at different times). You may have read about them here. Dolan is currently running those things at W, and Jolie, having just come from a stint at Reuters has just joined AOL (hence the visit with Mr. Armstrong of AOL) as head of their Public Relations. Jolie also just got married.

A couple tables over Black Ocean’s Gerry Byrne was with mega public relations guru Jim Abernathy. Moving along: Steven Stolman of Scalamandre with his CEO Louis Renzo, and Janice Langrall (PR) with New York magazine’s fashion and style chronicler Wendy Goodman; across the aisle: international hotelier Sol Kerzner with Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem. At his regular table, Quest’s Chris Meigher hosting a Michael’s lunch with three of the magazine’s summer interns, giving them a look at where so much happens in the media business. They probably had no real idea of what that means.

Sometimes I think I don’t either. But I do know that, although I can’t see it and most often don’t even hear it, aside from the fraternity and sorority and camaraderie of the place, stuff is happening, ideas are being hatched and deals made. All under the guise of one big “hi-how-are-ya?”  

Nearby: Out in the garden, Michael’s very own Brenda Starr, Diane Clehane with that digital media man to know, Scott Singer; also among the guests nearby: Paul Beirne; Fred Shuman; Michael Kempner.

Up front, around the room: the inimitable Southern belle as talent agent Boaty Boatright; also Lucky magazine’s Brandon Holley; Cablevision’s Tad Smith with Shelly Palmer; Dr. Imber with two of Da Boyz: Jerry della Femina and Jeff Greenfield; Catie Marron; Alexandra Trower of Estee Lauder with Nancy Mahon who manages the MAC AIDS fund; Chuck Pfeifer; Steve Rattner; Michael Kassan; Tom Goodman and Missie Rennie; Nick Verbitsky of United Stations Radio; Michael’s GM Steve Millington’s brother Hunter Millington; Antonio Weiss; Michael Bianco; Elanor English; Marie Oates; Alex Evans; Richard Bressler; Tom Goodman. One table over from me was George Malkemus, of Manolo Blahnik.

The mood was so upbeat in contrast to the street where you couldn’t help feeling dreggy (the best word, made up maybe, to describe it). I made it home just as the first big rain drops started to splatter on the cab’s windshield, a minute before the downpour. First thing I did was open the windows to let in the fresh air coming from the storm.

Jim and Ene Greenfield last night at ShirleyLord Rosenthal's.
Last night Shirley Lord Rosenthal hosted a dual birthday dinner at her book and painting filled Upper East Side duplex for her friends Ene and Jim Greenfield. Ene’s birthday is next Friday and Jim’s was this past Monday.

Shirley, British-born, a longtime editor at Vogue, is the widow of A.M. Rosenthal, who for more than twenty years was executive editor of the New York Times and then an Op-Ed columnist. Jim Greenfield was also an editor at the Times, and worked with Abe. Jim was also the man who decided to publish the Pentagon Papers, a profound issue in the Viet Nam War years that affected greatly the public’s attitude toward the War being conducted by Johnson and then Nixon.

Jim told me last night that when they received the Papers, they published what amounted to the revelation of the Papers’ existence, but that they would not have published them completely if the Supreme Court had ruled against it.

Shirley’s dinner guest lists run in more than one direction, depending on her guest (or guests) of honor. She’s one of those British journalists who came over here – after her first two marriages – and started afresh with a career. She’s also one of those people who likes people and keeps up with a wide variety of individuals of multiple interests. Conversation reigns at her tables. The food is always good and the toasts as eloquent.

Last night after the Happy Birthday song, Jim Greenfield toasted the hostess, recalling their connection through Abe Rosenthal He recalled a time that he and Abe flew to Karachi for the Times where they were going to meet Richard Nixon for the first time. This was years after Nixon’s resignation in 1973.

A. M. Rosenthal in the New York Times newsroom in 1979.
On their long journey by air, Rosenthal seriously expressed in a variety of ways why he didn’t think much of Nixon. It was also true that this sense of Nixon accompanied him all his life in the press, as well as politically. So Abe’s attitude was not unusual. This was also after the great Watergate Scandal which ultimately brought down the Nixon Administration and actually sent many of the perpetrators (some of them anyway) to jail. So it was easy at that time for many to hold Richard Nixon in personal contempt for several reasons. Such an opinion was widespread and bedeviled the man who once was President as well.

So when Abe and Jim reached their destination and attended the reception where they would meet the disgraced former President, Abe introduced himself to him as “Rosenthal of the Times.” Whereupon Richard Nixon took Abe’s hand to shake with both of his hands, and asked with intensely enthusiastic curiosity:

“You mean A.M. Rosenthal?!”

“Yes,” replied Abe, to which Nixon added excitedly: “I read everything you write.”

The men left the conversation with Nixon, with Abe confiding to Jim: “You know, when you meet the man, you see he’s not so bad after all.” Laughter filled the dining room.

Such is life in the last lane, the fast lane and the worlds that collide in the Big Apple. Such a pleasure was evoked for all. At the end of the evening, the heat slowly followed the rains, but it was a good day, and this is New York.

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