Thursday, August 2, 2012

Full Sturgeon Moon

Sunset over The Hudson. 8:03 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, August 2, 2012.  Full Moon. Overcast and rainy in New York with temperatures in the mid-70s and humidity way up there. More rain promised which the mind translate as possibly cooler. Nicer.

The Native Americans of the north and eastern United States had names for their Full Moons. Giving each recurring Full Moon a name was part of how they kept track of the seasons. Each name applied to the entire month, or specifically every 29 days.

Farmer's Almanack from 1835.
Today’s was known at the Full Sturgeon Moon by the fishing tribes. This month was/is most favorable for readily catching those large fish in the Great Lakes and other large bodies of water.

To some other tribes August was known as the Full Red Moon because the moon often appears reddish as it is rising through any sultry haze. For others it was known as the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon.

All of this can be found in the Farmer’s Almanac. When I was a kid growing up in Massachusetts, there were still a lot of active farms in the area. Most prominent among the magazines you might find in the farmer’s parlor or bathroom was the Farmer’s Almanac. Almost everyone consulted it for its weather projections. I don’t know how accurate it was, but it was generally believed to be very accurate.

It was Wedneday, and so it was the Michael’s media madhouse – although suitably subdued for a high summer day. Jolie Hunt, the new Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for AOL was lunching with Arianna Huffington: Table One birthday lunch for mega-real estate broker Debbie Grubman. Among the friends celebrating: Barbara Walters, Hilary Gumbel, Penelope Inzerillo whose husband Jerry Inzerillo was at a nearby table also.

Moving on: David Sanford and Lewis Stein who actually lunch at Michael’s more than I do; Harry Benson and David Friend; Fred Shuman, Gillian Miniter and Tim Landi; Debra Black with the Lyden Brothers, Peter and Dr. David. Many of us who know Peter (who runs fund-raising at the American Museum of Natural History, having come from a highly successful stint at the American Ballet Theatre) didn’t or don’t know that he had/has a twin brother.
Debbie Grubman and her birthday cake at Table One.
Yesterday lunchtime as Dr. David Lyden passed our table on his way out, I thought the guy looked like Peter but obviously didn’t know me. When a couple minutes later Peter passed by, I asked him. Hence the picture. They were both wearing navy blue jackets, both the same size, height, hair color, posture, physical manner, and, as you can see, about as identical as you can get.

Moving around the room: Ed Rollins was with Steve Cohen; the King of QVC, Dennis Basso, a born ringmaster if there ever was one, with Quest’s Chris Meigher. As I was leaving, I asked Loreal Sherman, the message voice of Michael’s who keeps no one waiting at the reception, if she had a copy of the new Quest. She looked but alas, they were gone. She  told me that of all the magazines that they distribute to the Michael’s customers, they run out of Quests first and fastest.

Continuing at tables: Ralph Baruch; Susie Arons; Bill Hemmer of Fox News with Wayne Kabak; Esther Newberg; Kevin O’Malley; Diane Clehane at table with Marianne Howatson,and Kendell Cronstrom of the Cottages & Gardens magazines; Judy Price; Susan Silver with Judy Twersky, Sherrie Westin; Susan Blomd, Shelly Palmer, Rob Weisbach; Arthur Rankin; Neal Boulton with Christine Drinan; Francine LeFrak; Duncan Darrow; Philippe and Paula Salomon; Anait Bian; Joan Gelman who was lunching with this writer and NYSD partner Jeff Hirsch; George Sheanshang; Pat Malone; Ed McCarrick; Debra Timmerman; scores more just like ‘em.
Michael McCarty with Peter Lyden and Dr. David Lyden.
As the world now knows, author, playwright, critic and essayist Gore Vidal died Tuesday in Los Angeles where he had a home for more than 40 years in Outpost Estates in the Hollywood Hills. Like millions of us, I was a great fan and read almost all of his books and essays. He was a liberal thinking individual, which is not to be confused with the political designation, although I’m pretty sure he voted the Democratic ticket, if he voted at all. 

He had a very cynical view of much of modern life and especially us homo sapiens Americanus. He was so consistent in his pronouncements, and ordered in his thinking, and so highly intuitive in his political prophecies, that it was easy to forget that he also liked the limelight for all of its advantages, and bathed in it profusely along with others who were in it also. For as much as he could so skillfully deconstruct American society, be it politics, the rich or show business (its three main contemporary components), he also enjoyed being the center of attention immensely.

I met him a couple of times out there at the  homes of mutual friends or acquaintances. I was very interested in talking with him of course, having read everything he’d written, and listened to almost every interview he gave. But he was about as interested in talking to me as a New Yorker is interested in missing a bus or a train at rush hour.

The first time I met him was at a big splashy holiday party at the Beverly Hills mansion of a famous talent manager. It was during the era of Central American political upheavals in the 1980s. I asked his opinion on a question about the Sandinista revolution. His immediate and reasonably expressed response was uncharacteristically favorable to the Americans and the American military. Which surprised me only because of his public remarks about the subject were acidly to the contrary. Perhaps his remarks to me were made in an effort to ending a conversation before it began. Therefore I didn’t have the opportunity to ask him about his unusual (for him) point of view -- although I didn’t question his sincerity.

However, he was at that moment far more interested in connecting with a guy named Paul Jabara, a songwriter who wrote “Last Dance” for Donna Summer. So he was soon lost in another crowd among the famous.
Gore Vidal with JFK.
The next time I was introduced to him, I refrained from expressing my curiosity about any opinion he might have about anything. However, I did know Gore’s partner Howard Austen somewhat as I would sometimes see him at lunch or cocktails at Jean Howard’s or Doris Stein’s -- both of whom considered Howard a good friend (along with Gore, albeit separately).

Howard was an unassuming and friendly fellow, pleasant, gentlemanly but as uninterested personally in the limelight as his famous partner was drawn to it. His demeanor spoke well of Gore Vidal, however,  since they had lived together for decades at that point, and Howard pretty much ran the domestic side of Gore’s life.

While Gore made no secret of his sexuality (although he objected to the veracity of compartmentalizing terms such as gay or homosexual), he stated publicly for anyone who brought up the subject, that he and Howard had never slept together. Furthermore it was a moot point to all of their friends.
Howard Austen on the left, with Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, Gore and company at the Newman's in Connecticut.
William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal.
Nevertheless, Howard was like a very good wife to Gore -- a considerate, good helpmeet, an able and canny executive assistant who managed their houses, and their personal lives seamlessly. Very often they socialized together at private parties and dinners.  Despite Gore’s large personality, there was no sense of one man being “more important” than the other; they were equals.

Howard was very much is own man, but not given to any kind of pronouncements like his author-partner, and a lot more congenial with relative strangers such as this writer. It was Howard’s manner and presence that convinced me basically Gore was a good guy too, off-screen.
Father letting son take the controls.
As the world knows, Gore Vidal was the grandson of an Oklahoma Senator named Thomas Gore, a man blind since childhood, who served from 1907 – 1921 and again from 1931-1937. Senator Gore had a profound influence on the intellect and thinking of his grandson who idolized and adored him. As much as he was emotionally devoted to his grandfather, Gore frequently expressed harsh and sharp umbrage for the Senator’s daughter, Gore’s mother Nina.  Although I have my ideas about it, we’ll probably never know what the wound was that caused the son’s love for his mother to be so afflicted that he carried it with him throughout his life. But it was there, and there to stay.

Whatever it was that drove the man, be it love or hatred, Gore Vidal was always his own man, enormously productive as a writer, a reader and a thinker, and very well liked, even loved by his many friends. For Americans, his presence marked the final chapter in American literature that emerged after the Second World War when the American power was transformed in the eyes of the world and especially the Americans. It remains a pleasure in memory to have met him enough to gain some insight into the writer, the man.

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