Thursday, June 28, 2012

Making Philanthropists

Hudson River. 8:20 PM. Photo: Jeff Hirsch.
Thursday, June 28, 2012. Warm and sunny day in New York.

Many New Yorkers were saddened to learn the news yesterday morning that Nora Ephron had died the night before. Blair Sabol, NYSD’s “No Holds Barred” columnist sent me this email message this morning ...

Nora ... She was the first writer to take me to lunch when I was between The Voice and Vogue and lectured me about how great I was. I was so impressed. Then she invited me to her apartment (she was married to Dan Greenburg at the time) for dinner, and they fixed me up with a big time TV news anchor guy.  Nice enough but I wasn't blonde enough. But they all ended up playing charades after a grand dinner. I was horrified and left early.

That was very Nora. She was a great champion of women writers. She was the real deal. One thing is for sure, Nora had CLOUT. If she liked you, it meant everything. She was Hollywood pedigree, and she was smart and quite generous.

Down at Michael’s, the Wednesday lunch. Just inside the door, across from the bar (and next to this writer), Diane (Brenda Starr) Clehane was lunching with television producer Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman the political analyst, whom you may have seen on  Fox News or CNN. Right next door to me, at Table One, Gerry Byrne, Vice-Chair of Penske Media, and its publisher Bonnie Fuller were hosting their monthly media luncheon. Around the table: Philip Bloch, the stylist; Carlos Lamadrid, also of Penske; founder of USA Networks, Kay Koplovitz; Rance Crain of Crain Communications, plus Joy Bauer, Tammy Brook, Gretchen Rubin, Fran Pennella, Vicki Ziegler. The talk: I don’t know but these people work. All the time. Next to them Marshall Cohen was lunching with his son Rob, and his wife, Ellen Brooks. One table over, James Cohen of Hudson News, Around the room: Peter Brown; Cindy McCain (uh-huh), pretty in pink; Steve Rubenstein in the corner; Henry Schleiff, Pete Peterson, Reese Schonfeld; David Sanford and Lewis Stein, Erik Gordon, John Keitt, Stephen Swid; Kira Semler and Vi Huse; Andrea Glimcher with Knight Landesman; Cristina Green Cuomo; Fern Mallis with Jennifer Hyman; Simone Levinson with Stephanie Greenfield; Bob Towbin, Alexandra Trower; Eizabeth Musmanno, and this writer with old L.A. friend Christopher Clarens who after many years in the Big Apple now lives on the Outer Banks in North Carolina and doesn’t miss a bit of the big towns.
Taken the other night at a birthday party for the lady in the black and white summer dress, Jackie Weld Drake, with DPC and Liz Smith. The photo was the idea of, and taken by, Joy Ingham who stood there with the camera in front of her and asked in language as blue as the background is red, "Why doesn't this (deleted) camera work?" I advised her: "Press the button!" And lo, there we are in Happyland (for a couple of minutes at least).
Making Philanthropists.  Francine LeFrak was a film producer when I first met her twenty years ago, dividing her time between L.A. and New York. She became a socially conscious film producer through her interest in a script about Rwanda because:

More than 250,000 women (UN estimate) were raped during the 1994 Genocide in that country, and as a result many were infected with HIV. The surviving women have been left to support not only their children, but the children they bore as a result of rape as well as the orphans left behind by family members who did not survive.
DPC and Francine LeFrak at lunch at Michael's a couple months ago. She's wearing the Same Sky crystal beaded braecelets that have borne a new industry and a new philanthropy for a better world. Last night at Henri Bendel, Same Sky held a benefit.
Francine laid it all out for me me one day over a Wednesday lunch at Michael’s. She wanted to help the women. It was that simple (and challenging). This overall interest of hers is not unique: many women I know are involved in global women’s issues. With Francine, this led to, among other things, a philanthropic/ business venture. She calls it Same Sky – a cooperative business making jewelry by hand. Same Sky comes from the fact that we all live under the same sky. Simple but oddly elusive to many of us.

She says it’s a “trade not aid initiative” — empowering women in Rwanda and Zambia, with a focus on those who have survived the genocide of the mid 1990s and also live with HIV. The results since the project was begun three years ago are amazing. They started out with 4 artisans in 2007, and now there are 70.

Signature Same Sky Bracelets.
The women put all of their net proceeds from the sale of their jewelry directly back into the business and in employing more women. Their first step of course is stepping out of poverty and into financial stability and caring for their children and the children of those who died from AIDS.

Another important achievement is that in these cooperatives, women have someone to talk to: they can openly discuss concerns of their communities such as HIV/AIDS, poverty, family planning, and domestic violence. They also earn an income that is more than fifteen times the average wage in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Product: Signature Same Sky Bracelets ($160) and Necklaces ($350) are made of hand-blown glass beads crocheted on a complimentary colored, non-stretch cord.

Each bracelet is signed by the artisan who made that individual piece. This personal touch is a reminder of a connection the customer has with the women supported through their purchase. They can also email the artisan through and get a response.

Same Sky also produces Fabric Wrap bracelets ($30 for men; $40 for women) that are made of Rwanda textiles and adorned with our signature glass beads. Same Sky’s new Prosperity bracelets ($65-$85) are made in Zambia by its newest collective ABATAKA. Same Sky’s Hope Necklace ($395) and Same Sky’s cufflinks ($100) are its newest products.

Last night at Henri Bendel, Francine, and Jennifer Bandier, Maria Bello, Margo Catsimatidis, Dr. Doris Day, Shelley Goldberg, Grace Hightower De Niro, Francine Leinhardt, Janet Malpeso, Lavelle Olexa, Anne Pasternak, Sarina Russo, Misty Shores and Lara Warner hosted a shopping event to benefit Same Sky. Beauty everywhere under (the) Same Sky. The fabric wrap bracelets can also be found at Bergdorf Goodman, DKNY, Neiman Marcus, and Free People.
Also, last night up at the New-York Historical Society, the NYHS and Altria Books held a reception and a book signing for Susan Fales-Hill and her new novel Imperfect Bliss. The evening included a talk by the author – who is one of the most interesting and amusing speakers in New York these days – as well as questions and comments. Susan, as you may have read here and elsewhere, has had a unique (for most of us) and fascinating life, as a New Yorker, as well as a brief Los Angeleno where she had a great career as a television writer and producer, beginning with Bill Cosby and his hugely successful series.

Since marriage and motherhood, having returned to her hometown, Susan has been very active in philanthropic activities besides her natural commitment to her writing. She  does her writing, incidentally, at the New York Public Library.
Catching Up. A few weeks ago at Janna Bullock’s Beaux Arts mansion at 14 East 82nd street, site of her politically charged art installation “Allegories & Experiences,” Janna staged a  “happening,” hosting a question and answer lecture with Jay McInerney.

Janna’s installation consists of 24 found images, each of an individual or group from the Russian power elite: politicians, businessmen, lawyers and journalists. Some are tyrants, some are criminals, and some are victims. The 24 images represent 24 frames per second—the standard in motion picture film speed; hence the underlying visual of film in the exhibition’s aesthetic. In the manner of Richard Prince, Jenny Holzer and Ilya Kabakov, each image is accompanied by a provocative title and a story in both English and Russian, written by Janna.

Jay McInerney, whose latest book The Juice, Vinous Veritas, was released that week, stated that the exhibition represented the ‘failure of the second Russian Revolution.’
Charles Askegard and Michele Wiles.
Guests were treated to a special performance of the White Swan Duet from the Swan Lake ballet, danced by Charles Askegard and Michele Wiles, founders of the newly formed BALLET NEXT company.

Then everyone was seated at dinner at one long table that spanned the length of the exhibition. Among the guests: Will Cotton and Rose Dergan, Nicole Miller and Kim Taipale, R. Couri Hay, Christopher Mason, Serena Lese, George Farias, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Debbie Bancroft, Patricia Duff, Syl Tang, SNL’s Jim Signorelli, Helen Schifter, Karen Klopp, Cristina Cuomo, Alison Mazzola, Kimberly and Jonathan Farkas, Hal Witt,  joined by artist/director Robert Wilson, whose video portraits are currently being highlighted on multiple screens in Times Square.

Following dinner, Robin Cofer, Paul and Alice Judelson (celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary that evening), Zoe Bullock Remmel with husband Towson Remmel, Angela Ho and Stuart Sundlun, Luke and Savine Pontifell, Milly de Cabrol, Norman and Alicia Volk, Paola Bacchini and Arnold Rosenshein were graced with a second performance by Askegard and Wiles, Stravinsky’s Divertimento, played by the Ballet Next ensemble of a piano, cello and two violins.
Janna Bullock, Debbie Bancroft, and Patricia Duff.
Jay McInerney and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia.
Zoe Remmel. Patricia and Thomas Shiah. Sharon Bush.
Christopher Mason and Somers Farkas.
Robert Wilson and Victoria Wyman.
Cristina Cuomo. George Farias. Nicole Miller.
Milly de Cabrol, Paola Bacchini, and Robin Cofer. Rose Dergan and Will Cotton.
Serena Lese and Luke Pontifell.

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