Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fresh and new.

April greenery. 4:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday. It got suddenly colder, yesterday in New York with temperatures dropping into the 40s. Raining in the morning, intermittent in the afternoon.

Everybody’s happy to have the rain. The green of the leaves on the trees are suddenly at that bright lime-ish green. They are fresh and new. Life.
I went to Michael’s to lunch with Blair Sabol who writes her No Holds Barred column for NYSD. She is in town working on another column about a singer. JH joined us. Michael’s was busy but especially notable to us regulars because in the bay at Table One George Lucas was lunching at that big round table with just Martin Scorsese. It was a long one too. They were talking seriously. All eyes (no ears – as noisy as the place can get, the sound doesn’t carry when it grows quieter). But people were wondering what.

So this was today’s movie. Meanwhile, a few tables away the mogul Harvey Weinstein was lunching with Brian Roberts of Comcast. His seat was set, coincidentally so that he could look right across the room at Lucas and Scorsese. So some of us were wondering if Weinstein knew what they were talking about or if in fact he put them together (you never know), or if he wanted to know. Or if he saw an opportunity.

After he finished his lunch, he went over to their table. Hollywood by the Hudson. Movie fans are movie fans even if they don’t go to the movies. At least they go to Michael’s.
Martin Scorsese and George Lucas across the way.
Meanwhile, some of the non-pros (as well as the pros) who were sitting around conjuring on a mogul’s move were Barry Frey, Mantrin Bandler, Matt Blank from Showtime, James Cohen of Hudson News with Sam Katz of the TZP Group; Roger Hertog; Alice Mayhew with Stuart Krischevky. At another table, Jann Wenner; Tim Landi: Hathaway; Peter Schoenfeld;  Susan Blonde and pals; Tom Glocer; Wayne Kabak with Sallie Krawcheck the pretty blonde mega-investment management executive who still looks like Sally CoEd; Henry Schleiff with Charlie Coulier; Kelly Bensimon, Kathy Lacey; Stephen Swid; Michael Mailer who is producing a new film; Nicola Bulgari (of those Bulgaris).
Blair Sabol's bling.
Last night was very busy in social New York. The ne plus ultra affair was the Carnegie Hall gala benefit dinner at the Waldorf honoring New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham with the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence. The award recognizes Mr. Cunningham’s “extraordinary devotion to chronicling fashion for nearly fifty years here in New York, as well as his role in inspiring philanthropy, recognizing the important place that arts, culture and non-profit causes hold in the life of New York City.”

Mr. Cunningham – known simply as Bill to the hundreds (or thousands) who know him or are familiar with him in decades of providing photographic coverage – is also a familiar figure during daytime around mid-town, with his camera, taking in the fashion scene. I often see him at work on the corners of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, and in front of Barney’s. You can imagine that the merchants adore this man. They couldn’t pay a posse of press agents to deliver what he delivers weekly in the New York Times with his pictures taken outside their walls.

From Bill Cunningham New York.
This kind of activity is part of what makes people feel like they live in a small town while dwelling in this enormous metropolis. It’s self-assuring, and oddly comforting.

Cunningham’s photos of the ladies of the town at their events looking chic and self-assured, bright and top of the morning, lend glamour to the atmosphere that the world identifies as New York. In turn it also delights his subjects, and has been known to give them a social heft that would otherwise not not be theirs. He surely knows that and keeps his own counsel about it. All choices are his, influenced only by his eye and his wit well-equipped with irony as well as decorum. He’s from New England remember.

He started out in New York in the garment business and had a stint as a milliner back when ladies still wore hats daily, and to work. His eye has a photographic memory. I heard him give a brief talk in behalf of Arnold Scaasi at the National Arts Club a few years ago. Arnold was receiving some sort of award for fashion excellence. Cunningham recalled seeing the first collection Arnold ever showed in New York. This was in the late 1950s. He recalled the Scaasi designs in detail, describing the garments precisely so you could see them.

I don’t know Bill Cunningham except to say hello to. We both come from Massachusetts – he from Marblehead, I from out west near the Berkshires. His New England is as familiar to me as mine. He still retains that Boston/North Shore accent that is not far from the Kennedy accent. There is still the air of the New England boy in his carriage and approach. But New York is his home and he is an example of why New York is what it is to millions of us around the world.

The guest list last night at the Waldorf was another example of what I mentioned yesterday in the Diary – the Society that is New York today. Some of the names on the List: Joan and Sandy Weill, Annette and Oscar de la Renta (Honorary Gala Chairs), Sarah Jessica Parker (Gala Chair), Barry Diller (Gala Co-chair), Mercedes Bass (Gala Co-chair), Mr. and Mrs. Terry Lundgren (Gala Co-chair), Elizabeth and Henry Segerstrom, in from Southern California; Frank Richardson and Judge Kimba Wood, Muffie Potter Aston, Chloe Malle, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Tisch, John Rosselli and Bunny Williams, Linda Fargo, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Rose, Mr. and Mrs. Andres Santo Domingo,  Christine and Steve Schwarzman, Gayle King, Brendan Hoffman, Catie and Donald Marron, Bonnie and Tom Strauss, Jordan Roth, Mrs. Billie Tisch, Ann Ziff, Hamilton South, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Kay Unger, Anna Wintour, Lara Meiland –Shaw, Shirley Lord Rosenthal, Judy Zankel, Alexandra Lebenthal, David and Julia Koch, and on and on into the night.

The evening began with a private cocktail reception in the Waldorf’s Rotunda at the Park Avenue entrance, followed by dinner in the Empire Ballroom and a brief program and award ceremony. World-renowned tenor, Vittorio Grigolo performed. Proceeds from the tribute support the music education and community programs of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.

After all, that, I wasn’t there. Last night was the 60th birthday celebration of my friend Beth Rudin DeWoody. It was held at Colicchio & Sons on 85 Tenth Avenue at 15th Street.

On my way downtown to her party, I stopped off at the Pershing Square Signature Center on 480 West 42nd Street where Isabella Rossellini and Venetian Heritage were hosting a benefit performance of “Caro Luchino” created by Guido Torlonia and performed by Richard Gere and Tilda Swinton about the life and work of  opera and film director Luchino Visconti.

I arrived as the performance was underway. The piece included many clips, including interviews with Visconti who first became famous to American filmgoers with “Rocco and His Brothers.” The production was darkly lit, as if in a movie theater watching a film, except for the spots switching on the two stars on stage who took turns between the clips shown on a large screen behind them that referred to their script – Visconti’s life and work.

Swinton -- in a grey silk blouse and trousers --  was tall, slender, blonde and soignée with a voice that deep and soft and very British. Richard Gere in a charcoal grey linen suit, white shirt, white hair, was likeably expressive and honest in reading Visconti’s words. The result combined with clips of Visconti’s work and the man himself, was quietly riveting. All black and white. Film Noir at its Italian best, raw and earthy, elegant and emotional.

Venetian Heritage is a non-for-profit based here in the US with offices here in New York and in Venice. The organization is part of the UNESCO Private Committees Program for the Safeguarding of Venice. JH and I were guests on one of their summer excursions a few years ago. It was an amazing trip. Among the great films of Luchino Visconti is Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” which was one of a trilogy including “The Damned” and “Ludwig.”

Among the guests at last night’s were Toto Bergamo–Rossi, in from Venice, Robert Couturier, Cecile David-Weill, her sister Beatrice Stern, Tom Quick, Gil Shiva, Marina Galesi, Vanessa Friedman, Mr. and Mrs. Alberto Mariaca, Princess Firyal, Alex Hitz, Lynn Nesbit, Carl Adams, Liliana Cavendish, Judy and Archibald Cox Jr., Gaetana enders, Graziano Boni, Susan and Andre Aciman, Olivier Berggruen, Gianluigi and Adrienne Vittadini, Alexander and Lisa Vreeland, Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Todd Sowers, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Warner, Saundra Whitney, Richard Turley, Alba Clemente, Alejandra Cicognani, Peter McCann, Jane and Peter Marino, Peggy Siegal, Daisy Soros, Bill Haseltine, Lisa Fine, Veronica Bulgari, Kim Cattrall, Carlo Ponti, Margaret Russell, Robert de Rothschild, Muffy Miller,  Sandra Nunnerly, Josabeth Fribourg, and many many more.

After the performance there was a dinner.
One of the rooms at Colicchio and Sons, the scene last night at Beth DeWoody's 60th birthday party.
The “Birthday Ball” for Beth DeWoody was hosted by her brother Bill Rudin and his wife Ophelia, her stepmother Rachel Rudin and her cousins Fiona and Eric Rudin. David Monn decorated the rooms for the occasion.

I went to Beth’s 23rd birthday party. We met around that time through our mutual friend Bob Schulenberg, -- who occasionally appears on the NYSD (the Easter hats was the most recent piece) -- and we have been close ever since. Beth has that gift of promoting friendship and the enormous restaurant was full last night with so many of her friends and members of her family including her son and daughter Carlton and Kyle DeWoody and even their father (Beth’s first husband whom she also met through Schulenberg), Jim DeWoody.

So for many of us it was a reunion. Friends came from California, from her school years, and of course from the art world. Midway through the evening, when everyone was present – there must have been a couple hundred guests – Mrs. DeWoody, standing with a mike next to the great photographer Firooz Zahedi, thanked everyone for coming and announced that she and Mr. Zahedi will be getting married. I don’t think she named the date but there was a big whoop out of the crowd and so we wouldn’t have heard her if she did.
The cake.
The wish.
The couple have known each other for some time but their friendship blossomed last year. Last night’s announcement did not come as a complete surprise to many of her friends, although it was not known by almost any of us until last night. Actually, if Beth were to have a wedding reception in New York, last night’s party would be a good example of what it would be like. Great food, all kinds of buffets (including excellent pizzas fresh from the ovens), a seafood bar, and everything else, lots of old friends and lots of family.

The rooms were beautifully set by David Monn, and the great music was from Tom Finn. So that by the time the cake came out, half the guests were dancing, and after the birthday girl blew out the candles, the whole place was rocking.
Charlie Scheips with Beth and Christy Ferer.
Beth and Christy again.
The birthday girl and David Wasserman and friend. Ann Dexter Jones.
Guests dining, more lined up at the buffet tables in the background.
Hunt Slonem and friend.
Tom and Suzanne Cochran with Tracy Snyder.
Thomas and Tettina Braziel, Patricia Papachristidis, Ophelia Rudin, and her brother Basil Papachristidis.
Beth and Firooz. Cousins, Carlton DeWoody, Bobby Lewin, and Michael Rudin.
Geoffrey Thomas, Sharon Handler Loeb, and Sharon Sondes.
Debbie Bancroft and Doug Hannant.
Jimmy and Margo Nederlander. Colin Lively.
Felicia Taylor and Sasha Newley.
Richard Mishaan and Nicole Miller.
The crowd watching Beth (top of her head, lower right) as she pops the announcement.
Word's out ...
Steve Sheppard and Laurie Tisch
The room.
Joanne Cassullo and Anne Keating. David Croland and Randy Bourscheidt.
Jay Johnson, Tracey Swope, and Nancy Stoddart (both in from L.A.)
Nancy with Sharon Sondes and Geoffrey Thomas.
You don't say?
Samantha Rudin and her husband. Dayssi Kanavos and Tracy Snyder
The designer and the artist.
Jimmy Nederlander and Jonathan Farkas.
Beth's staff of assistants: Sandra Kaszak, Christina D'Onofrio, and Wendy Grogan.
George Farias and Susan Stroman. Tom Lampson and and Estelle Greer.
Cornelia Bregman with Dr. Patrick and Dana Stubgen.
Beth and Firooz.
Alice Judelson. Micky Ateyeh and Peter Duchin.
Fred and Michelle Oka Doner with Andrew Klink.
Carlton and Sara. Kyle dancing.

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