Friday, November 9, 2012

Living Landmarks

Cocktails at the Plaza for the 2012 Living Landmarks Celebration. 7:45 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, November 9, 2012. Snow over, Sun out, it was cold (but not very) yesterday in New York. But the streets and the sidewalks were dry. This Nor’easter, despite the snow was not nearly as harmful as many feared, considering what so many people have been through. Although: JH’s mother-in-law, who lives in New Jersey, and who lost her power for several days during Sandy but was otherwise unharmed, had a tree fall across her driveway in this storm. She was fortunate; it didn’t hit her house.

The city looks like it’s recovering well from Sandy, although my vantage point is basically mid-Manhattan which went mainly unscathed.

Last night at the Plaza Hotel, The New York Landmarks Conservancy held its annual Living Landmarks Celebration. This year’s Landmarks were Daniel Boulud, Robert Caro, Peter L. Malkin, Liza Minnelli, James M. Nederlander, James L. Nederlander (son) and E. John Rosenwald.
Living Landmarks on the big screen (Clockwise from top left): John Rosenwald, Jr.; Robert Caro; James M. Nederlander and James L. Nederlander; Liza Minnelli; Peter Malkin; Daniel Boulud.
Mr. Rosenwald, who was the final honoree on the program, is a very well known Wall Street investment banker and an ardent philanthropic leader. He’s been active in business and the life of the city for many years now, and highly regarded. He comports himself with an ease of dignity and carriage that if you saw him on the street, and didn’t know who he was, you might think he was a prominent civic figure busily going about his day.  Which he is. He has served on many boards of important New York institutions including the NYU Langone Medical Center.

On the full moon of Sandy passing through last week, -- he told us last night when he took the podium to acknowledge his honor -- the East River, which is not actually a river but an estuary connecting the Harbor with the Long Island Sound, rose sixteen feet over its normal level. This was higher than the previous record of eleven feet in 1821!

Last week the river spilled over the banks including the east side of Manhattan at 31st Street where the Langone Medical Center is located. The hospital’s subterranean floors were flooded with salt water, and so it lost its power.
Cocktail hour at the plaza.
Behind the scenes prepping.
The table and its New York skyline as centerpiece.
At that moment, there were 314 patients with diverse health conditions under care, including two newborns. A decision was quickly made to evacuate all patients to other hospitals in Manhattan.

Mr. Rosenwald and others gathered forces and coordinated a plan with hospitals such as Memorial Sloan Kettering, Mt. Sinai and Lenox Hill Hospital. Rallying the entire Langone Center staff, and a fleet of ambulances, they removed all 314 patients from the powerless building. This meant the staff making multiple trips, walking up and down all the flights, and carrying each patient one by one. Each patient was then placed in ambulance and moved to whichever hospital would best serve his or her condition.
John Rosenwald, Jr.
I got ahead of myself with this Diary’s account of last night’s dinner because John Rosenwald’s story was an excellent example of what and how New Yorkers looked after each other in a crisis. There are many stories like this, and there are many New Yorkers still working at every level to help those who have been painfully affected by Sandy. Someone told me the other night that Roger Altman, also an investment banker and a former US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton, has “adopted” a family that lost its home in the storm.

I was told that Mr. Altman will assist in supporting the family, shelter-wise until they get on their feet again, Hearing the story, and considering the source -- a friend of Mr. Altman’s -- no doubt the donor was making an effort to get others in his position to do the same.
Some of last night's guests: Barbara Goldsmith and Iris Love.
Bill Stubbs and Denis Ferrara.
Peg Breen and Stewart Siegel.
Arlene Dahl.
Jackie Weld Drake and Sam Peabody.
Meanwhile, back at last night. I’ve been attending the Landmarks annual evening for sometime, thanks to Liz Smith who has long been a big supporter of the Landmarks, and was also co-chair of last night’s with Pete Peterson.

It’s a special evening which because of its purpose (recognizing prominent New Yorkers for being New Yorkers), is entertaining -- but with a bit of small town atmosphere. The “Landmarks” are the locals. They’re well known around town Many are also world famous, etc. The Past Honorees List reads like a Who’s Who in America. There are scores of them and many were in attendance last night, including Mr. Peterson and Peter Duchin who was on stage to entertain with his band including my favorite band vocalist (and guitarist) Roberta Fabiano.
Two of the seven landmarks as dessert: James L. Nederlander and Peter Malkin.
Living Landmark Peter Duchin with Roberta Fabiano.
Peg Breen, the President of Landmarks opened the evening reporting on the progress they’d made over the past year including the effect Sandy had on the Landmarks. A tree fell on a porch of a house in Astoria that they had just finished restoring. She told us that this particular evening was the most successful of all, raising a million dollars for its work. She added that an anonymous donor had made a deal in advance to match the amount raised at a million or over. So they doubled the donations.

Liz opened the evening and introduced each guest – with the exception of John Rosenwald who was introduced by his friend Police Commissioner Ray Kelly whom Liz enthusiastically introduced as the “next Mayor of New York.”

Liz praised Robert Caro for his early book “The Power Broker; Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.” She added her admiration for Mr. Caro’s great oeuvre, a five volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, stating that his work had made him an authority not only on those men but on the subject of power. Liz also recognized Ina Caro for her assiduous collaborative assistance on her husband’s decades long project and for her own writings.  Caro was recipient of the Lew Rudin Award, funded by a legacy of the late real estate giant who was known as “Mr. New York” and closely associated with the promotion of New York (including the “I Love New York” campaign).
Ray Kelly introducing John Rosenwald, Jr.
Lew Rudin Award recipient Robert Caro.
The Nederlanders, pere et fils spoke from the dance floor with lights on them. The elder Mr. Nederlander is in his early 90s and remains very active in the family theater and production business. Last night at their Palace Theater they opened the new revival of “Annie.” Jimmy the younger praised his father for all he’d taught him.

Liz recognized Peter Malkin one of the city’s most prominent business and community leaders. Mr. Malkin was instrumental in the restoration of the Empire State Building, and as the first “green” restoration of a major office building in the city.

In his speech he reminded us that the Seagrams Building (now a Landmark) is older than the great Pennsylvania Station was when it was demolished in 1963. The demolition of Pennsylvania Station is to this day a blot on the development of New York. Although it served to motivate citizens to avoid such mistakes in the future.
Liz Smith and Peter L. Malkin.
Peter L. Malkin.
Mr. Malkin also reminded us that next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the completion of Grand Central. He urged us all to visit it if we haven’t lately, to see its marvelous condition, the result of their restoration. The proposed demolition of Grand Central Terminal was a landmark for the Landmark Conservancy. Jacqueline Onassis got involved and raised the profile of the organization.

Daniel Boulud came up to the stage after his introduction and brought a couple of bottles of champagne and glasses. He also introduced his oldest daughter Alix. He acknowledged Sirio Maccioni who was in the room with his wife and family and who was Boulud’s employer at the original Le Cirque – which was located where Restaurant Daniel is located now.

He then went about opening a bottle of champagne the way the French would to celebrate, quoting Napoleon about how champagne (chum-pan-ya) is perfect for celebrating a victory as well as for forgetting a defeat. Boulud then took out of a case what looked like a small sword, and holding the bottle before him, with one stroke of the sword, he popped the cork and the familiar trail of white foam burst from the bottle.
Daniel Boulud.
Daniel with his daughter Alix.
At the close of the evening Liz introduced the Landmark who needed no introduction. Liza appeared, ebullient, effervescent, and as high-strung nervous as is her style.

This was the first Landmarks evening attended by JH and his wife Danielle who celebrated their first anniversary four days ago. Photo: Bill Stubbs.
She told us how she came from California when she was fourteen and a half because she wanted to be on Broadway --  and then she began singing that signature song a cappella, New York New York.

When Liza mentioned her first time here, I was reminded that I too was new in New York at that time, and coincidentally taking an acting class at the HB Studio with Lily Lodge. This was Liza’s first class also. She was already famous because of her parents but had no background as a performer.

She was so young that the first night Lily asked me to walk her home – she was staying in the Village at the townhouse of actress Polly Rowles (who was Vera in the original stage version of “Auntie Mame” with Rosalind Russell.)

Watching her perform last night I was reminded that that quality in her performance was apparent in her very first scene in Lily Lodge’s class. All these years later, now she’s a veteran, and she owns the stage when she’s on it.

It was a great evening  in New York New York it's a helluva town; The Bronx is Up and the Bowery’s down. The people ride in a hole in the ground; New York New York it's a helluva town. And the Landmarks Conservancy is protecting all of it for us and all those millions who will follow.
Liza singing "New York, New York."
Liz and Liza embrace.
Billy Norwich and Liz on the way out. 10:45 PM.

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