Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sunny day in New York

Afternoon dining. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, October 18, 2012. Sunny, mild day with temperatures in the high 60s.

I was up at 7:30, especially early for me because of my worknight hours, to go over to Roosevelt Island for the official dedication of the Louis Kahn designed memorial to our 32nd President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

This was a day of distinguished personages gathered together before the community. They set up a tented platform and chairs lined up on the grass lawn leading to the actual monument. The feeling in the air was collegial and personal, as these congregations can be. The difference is: it is New York. On an ancient island steeped in its own history of the changing world down through the centuries. And the monument, sleek and white and wedded to the rock as if for an eternity, is just across the water from the tall white/grey and glass tower and conference quarters for the United Nations, an idea that is part of the legacy of Roosevelt.
This is what you see when walking from the tram on the western path that leads to the FDR Four Freedoms Memorial.
The old hospital that served many institutional purposes when the land was known as Welfare Island. Now a ruin, and located right next to the FDR memorial, it will be become an historical site also.
There was a tented platform set up on the lawn midway between the entrance steps and the actual monument on the northern tip of the island. Ironically the speakers platform obscured the view so that the audience couldn’t see it. On the platform were seated Tom Brokaw who served as master of ceremonies, William vanden Heuval, the former ambassador and co-founder of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, former President Bill Clinton, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the man who is minister of FDR’s home church in Hyde Park, New York. Audra MacDonald, the Broadway star, was also scheduled to appear and to sing but she called Tom Brokaw at 6:30 AM to tell him that she wasn’t feeling well and regretted that she could not appear.
The crowd gathering before the speeches began.
Looking north from the platform as people are taking their seats.
In the audience of a few hundred were several members of the family of Franklin and Eleanor including Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and Franklin III, as well as members of architect Louis Kahn’s family. The late Franklin Jr.’s wife, Tobie Roosevelt, has been actively involved in bringing the project to completion was there to help cut the ribbon. Many of those attending were donors to this project that ended up costing more than $50 million, most of which was raised by, and largely through, a small group of impassioned committed people, with Bill vanden Heuval at the source of inspiration.

Also in the audience, were Henry Kissinger and Nancy Kissinger, the D.A. Cyrus Vance and the now retired longtime D.A. Henry Morgenthau, Jamie and Toni Goodale, Kerry Kennedy, LTG David Huntoon, Superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point; former Mayor David Dinkins, former Governor Mario Cuomo and Matilda Cuomo, parents of the present governor; former prosecutor and novelist Linda Fairstein, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, and many friends and associates of all of the aforementioned.
Waiting for the event to begin, LGT David Huntoon, Superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point, Tobie (Mrs. Franklin D. Jr.) Roosevelt, and an officer from West Point. Former governor Mario Cuomo stopping for a guest to take his picture.
Two of Tobie's seats waiting for her guests.
Franklin D. Roosevelt III. Linda Fairstein, who had just taken my picture, surprising me, so I did the same.
James and Toni Goodale. Jim Goodale is the lawyer who successfully defended the New York Times in the Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers case.
There was a strong representation of “friends of” filling the audience because of the nature of the project, both politically, financially, and socially. Many of these people know one another by two or three degrees of separation. One can have many acquaintances, associations and friendships in the world of New York. Common personal interests nurture them and attract others with similar interests and objectives. It’s the politics of society more than party politics.

The idea to build this monument to our President who presided over a much smaller population in the middle of the greatest depression up until that time, and eventually the massive involvement in the Second World War, was a long time incubating. Franklin Roosevelt had great detractors in his day and they weren’t all standing on false platforms, but his ability to lead the people through the great crises that involved all mankind ultimately, is more than laudable. He was the man who delivered the line to his people then in terrible distress and  danger, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
President Bill Clinton, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the reverend from FDR's church in Hyde Park.
President Clinton giving the opening speech. From left to right: Tom Brokaw, Mayor Bloomberg, William vanden Heuvel, Clinton, Governor Cuomo, and reverend.
William vanden Heuvel speaking.
Another strong irony to this whole construction and dedication is that we are living in a world and a culture steeped in fear, the politics of  fear, the merchandise of fear and the artists of fear who are found prominently in all media today. This is not someone’s fault or blame. This is the nature of our ways. The Four Freedoms monument can be read by some as something more than a memorial to one man (and his wife), but perhaps as a beacon of hope for all mankind.

That was in the air yesterday on that beautiful creation of Louis Kahn and all the work force who graded the land’s end, moved the boulders, laid the more than 260,000 stones, laid the lawn, planted the trees and finally erected this solidly handsome monument with the bronze bust of Mr. Roosevelt by his friend, the sculptor Jo Davidson.
The cutting of the ribbon. This was done in four stages, as the two children unfurled it after the reading of of the Four Freedoms.
Bill vanden Heuvel, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Tobie Roosevelt, and the reverend, with Tom Brokaw behind.
The Jo Davidson bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I haven’t seen President Clinton in person in a few years. He’s much thinner by diet, as we know but the familiar robustness is somewhat diminished in his physical stature. But the persona nevertheless remains vigorous and his speech reflected his great interest and observation of history that has led us to this island. Mayor Bloomberg, also an accomplished public speaker, introduced several members of the city government and praised the work of FDR.

Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke briefly and announced that the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was going to become a New York State Park. The governorship has imbued Andrew Cuomo with an ease of leadership that was not readily apparent in him to the eye before. It looks to have come to him with the position and he wears it with aplomb. He is serving the people of New York with a certainty of purpose that transcends that aforementioned factor of fear. It is easy to speculate on his future in American politics and that speculation is highly favorable.
The walk back to the tram, looking northwest. The white buildings are the southern end of Sutton Place.
Bill vanden Heuval, the hero of the monument thanked everyone for their effort and spoke of the legacy of Eleanor and Franklin that this monument will evoke for some.

The West Point Band played the “Star Spangled Banner” while the guests stood and sang the words. The reverend from Hyde Park’s St. James Episcopal led the crowd in prayer.  It was a beautiful day, a lovely invocation and a joyous occasion for all of us.
A schooner moving down river just as we were nearing the tram.
It was also the Michael’s-Wednesday lunch and when I returned to Manhattan I couldn’t remember if I’d made a lunch date or not (I hadn’t written it down – which doesn’t always mean much), so I went over to Michael’s, figuring if I weren’t meeting anyone I could get something to eat since I hadn’t eaten breakfast.

Michael’s was its usual Wednesday melee. I didn’t have a date waiting so they gave me a small table across from the bar next to the table I usually have which was occupied by Tony Hoyt and Pam Howard. Barbara Walters and Linda Janklow in the bay were giving an informal baby-shower for their friend, the beautiful Crystal McCrary.

The one, the only: Steve Millington, GM of Michael's.
Right next to them CNBC’s Joe Kernan was lunching with Senator Ron Johnson; next to them was media mogul Jimmy Finkelstein with George Green of Hearst. Next to them: Herb Siegel with Frank Gifford. Mrs. Gifford stopped by on her way to her next appointment (she’s very busy these days). Across from them: Da Boyz, Imber, Kramer, della Femina, Bergman and Greenfield. Nearby: Gina Sanders of WWD, Pat Mitchell of the Paley Center; Tom Freston; Gale Hayman, Laurie Tisch, Lisa Linden; Mitch Rosenthal; Lloyd Grove; Maria Cuomo Cole and Conde Nast communications exec Maurie Perl; Alicia Bythewood and Steven Stolman of Scalamandre; author Ed Klein; Wednesday Martin; Fern Mallis, whose going the HSN route of the kaleidoscopic fashion retailing; Bronson Van Wyck.

On the other side of my table were Leslie Stevens, Patti Pao and Diane Clehane finishing up their lunch. I know Leslie, one of the big-time Manhattan P.R. executives who keeps a soft and sunny demeanor through all her days. Diane is the “Brenda Starr” of the place because she’s keeps track of what the crowd is up to. Yesterday the keeper-upper news was Ms. Pao whom I’d never met before, but she’s one of those girls who jumps right in. I soon learned that Patti Pao is an entrepreneurial expert in the area of cosmetics, marketing and especially special skin creams.

I’m neither an entrepreneur nor an expert on skin creams. Although there is one, I told her, that I learned about a number of years ago when I  was invited to one of those marketing lunches they have to introduce products. I was so impressed by the creator’s explanation of why his moisturizing cream was good for your skin, your aging skin, that I took my sample home and have been using it daily ever since. Just a dab’ll do ya, in my book, however – and it does – because these products are A Fortune (at least for a poor writer). So I told Patti Pao this story and she told me hers was different and better. And cheaper.
My next door lunch partners who were great company while I was lunching: Leslie Stevens, Patti Pao, and Diane Clehane.
I’m going to borrow from Brenda Clehane’s explanation of how this new product came about in her column because she gets it more than I ever will:

“While hiking with clients during a visit to the Norwegian countryside, Patty opted out of continuing their 13-mile trek to visit the largest salmon hatchery and made an amazing discovery. She was fascinated by the workers’ hands, which looked decades younger than their faces. Determined to uncover their anti-aging secret, Patty discovered an enzyme derived from baby salmon hatching fluid which kept the workers’ hands, while submerged in the water every day, incredibly youthful looking. With $300,000 from three business school pals for clinical trials and after a year of research, Patti worked with a Norwegian bio-tech company to develop and patent the enzyme and secured the rights to use it in her debut line in both her Restoresea Rejuvenating Day Cream and Revitalizing Eye Cream. (I just love the beautiful blue-green sea glass-inspired jars whose lids are embellished with the Chinese infinity fish) She showed me some before-and-after photos where women used the products for 12 weeks and the results were impressive to say the least. “It used to be if you were a great marketer you could sell anything,” Patty told me. ‘Today, because the market is saturated,  you have to have a great product that really works. The world doesn’t need another $300 day cream.’  Amen.”

Collaborators Tino Zervudachi and Natasha Fraser-Cavasonni. Click to order or buy immediately at Archivia.
Last night over at Sotheby’s there was a booksigning reception for Tino Zervudachi, the international interior designer who divides his time between Paris and New York. The book is done in collaboration with Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni.

Tino is famous among his international clients for his style, which is hip, sleek, chic, calm, colorful and warm. And very contemporary. The book is loaded with examples of this, located all over the world. You could live with it quite easily because it eases.

I just met the man last night and he has that welcoming quality in his presence also. There were a lot of his friends there, as well as members of the design community. Tino is very well liked, obviously. It is always interesting for this Amurrican to be in the company of the internationals. Their lives always seem more interesting and dramatic. And poetic. Now I’m being dramatic.

Tino is having another book signing at Archivia from 6 to 8. I hear a lot of his European friends will be stopping by. This is New York. You’re invited, one and all. You never know what.
Lars Bolander in a phototelephonic frame of mind. Impressario Elisa Wagner adding some life to the party with Louis Charles de Remuset and Tino.
Elisa with her pals Johnny Moore and Ashton Hawkins ... and ready for the lensman.
Natasha signing a copy.
The publisher, Susanne Slesin of Pointed Leaf Press, with Tino. Fran Nelson with the lively Elissa.
Jamie Creel and Tom Scherer, two Americans who also live in Paris. Christopher Mason and Louis.

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