Thursday, February 9, 2012

The calm before the storm

The calm before the fashion storm. 2:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, February 9, 2012.  Grey, cold, but not too, in New York yesterday, with a light snow falling mid-evening, none sticking.

I went down to lunch at Michael’s to meet Sir Christopher Meyer who was interviewing me at table, on camera, about the social pecking order in New York these days. Sir Christopher is hosting a documentary about the social structure (read, the power structure) in five American cities. After New York I know he heads out to Los Angeles. The documentary will be aired on Sky Atlantic in August.

Sir Christopher was in town on a break neck schedule with interviews. Yesterday morning he interviewed Jim Tisch at the Regency where many New York business people and real estate developers have their daily “power breakfast” meetings.
Waiting for my interview as the restaurant fills up.
Michael's always has sensational seasonal flower arrangements. The forsythia are fresh. Sometimes if you're sitting under them, they shed and land on your table like a little parkland experience.
I was asked about the “400” List that I created in Quest magazine about 18 or 20 years ago (now known as the Quest 400). A certain “gravity” is attached to it at least by outsiders (such as Brits) whose interest helps perpetuate credulity, as do all such magazine lists. My list was “loosely modeled” on the famous list of the Mrs. Astor in the late 19th century (the reported number of people her ballroom could take). The term went into the American vernacular to refer to those who held “wealth and power.” Later it was discovered Mrs. Astor could only fit 370 in her ballroom, so it was never what it seemed. Just like today.

Mrs. Astor’s list was a domineering force in the image of Society in New York for almost a century, or until the Kennedys came to the White House and marked the final blow to the WASP/Knickerbocker era. I was surprised the first time we published the list that people took it seriously because it was more bravado and naivete than authenticity. The second year we put greater attention to it, having recognized its impact. Although all these years later, the face and the size of the List has changed dramatically. As has New York and “400” is just a start.
Joan Gelman and I as I wait for camera and crew and Sir Christopher.
Sir Christopher wanted to know all about those things – “The most powerful ...” (I don’t know), “the five most powerful ...” (many guesses later). I’m vague about those questions because everything changes so much and often power lies in the hands of those who are not necessarily known to be powerful. And there are various kinds of “power,” the most important probably being the power to influence. Then of course there are the very rich. That list is fluid also and frequently changing. Their power varies from individual to individual.

Most interesting to me about the interview, but outside my range of participation was the interviewer himself. Sir Christopher is an Englishman who served for three decades in Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office with his first posting assigned at age 24 – 3rd secretary in the British Embassy in Moscow. Then 2nd secretary in Madrid, then London as head of the Soviet section in the Eastern European and Soviet Department, then as speechwriter and then Press Secretary for the Foreign Secretary, then a year at Harvard Center of International Affairs; then in Washington at the British embassy as deputy head of the mission; then back to London as press secretary to Prime Minister John Major; then Ambassador to Germany in ’97, and then to Washington where he served as Ambassador to the US during the Clinton Administration and extending into the Bush II Administration until retirement in 2003.
There I am in front of the camera (front of picture) with Sir Christopher telling him what I think. Next door Star Jones is enjoying her lunch and her lunch conversation.
God knows what I'm saying but I sure look like I'm really giving him the blustery lowdown.
In 1998, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II appointed him Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG), “Sir” to you and me. For a man with that portfolio he is remarkably unassuming, presenting instead what seems a naturally modest demeanor. And a very good interviewer (he got me going).

In 2005, he published his memoir “DC Confidential” as well as a book about the 500-year history of British diplomacy, “Getting Our Way,” and also writes for the Daily Mail, which to me is now the leading tabloid in the English language.

Anyway, all that and I never got to ask Sir Christopher anything about himself and his life except for: where he was staying and did he enjoy it. Oh yes, oh yes. His wife made the trip with him and she “loves” New York. So does he. However, he, on the other hand, is working working working these interviews.
Here we are after all is said and done. Sir Christopher had his first Barbara Bush ever (orange juice and iced tea).
Michael’s was its Wednesday self; jammed. At the table just next to us was Star Jones (looking looking very smart in red) lunching with Earl Graves Jr., the publisher of Black Enterprise. Next to them: Diane Clehane was lunching with Newell Turner, Editor in Chief of House Beautiful and Michael McGraw and Gabrielle Hamilton. Our friend Joan Gelman was lunching with her two sons, Josh and Gregg Gelman. Around the room: Jacqui Safra; Stan Shuman (his table was later given to Christopher Lawford); only three of Da Boyz yesterday – Imber, Kramer and Della Femina. In the bay at Numero Uno: Debbie Bancroft with Anne Hearst McInerney, Patty Smythe McEnroe, Laura Durning Waters who recently became Mrs. Roger. Next to them: Hugh Freund with Dan Lufkin; Kerry Kennedy (Mr. Lawford’s first cousin) with Henry Schleiff. Joe Armstrong, who was lunching with Ms. Kennedy last week. Moving around the room: Peter Price; Luke Janklow; Deb Shriver and Liz Kaplow; Jerry Inzerillo; Tara Palmeri of Page Six; Christopher Simon of CBS, Jay Fielden (of T&C); Dorothy Kalins; Bonnie Fuller with Brandon Burgess of Ion Media; Rosemary Ellis of Good Housekeeping; Hanna Lee; Lisa Linden and Colleen Roche; Stanley Jaffe; Luke Janklow; Michael Kempner, Lou Cona of CBS; Kurt Mueller and Waheed Ali; Charles Schueler, and hundreds more just like ‘em. I’m exaggerating but you catch my drift.
Tiffany & Co. table at the New York Botanical Garden's annual Orchid Dinner.
Last night at the Mandarin Oriental the New York Botanical Garden held its annual Orchid Dinner. Center at this dinner every year are the breathtaking orchid centerpieces created by more than twenty leading designers from the worlds of fashion, architecture, design, and horticulture including Alessandra Branca, Sherrill Canet, David Easton, Stephen Elrod, Philip Gorrivan, Juan Montoya, Robert Marinelli, Richard Mishaan, Campion Platt, Tiffany & Co. by Richard Lambertson, Baccarat by Rafael de Cardenas, Lexington Gardens, and Roric Tobin for Geoffrey Bradfield.

The evening was sponsored by Veranda Magazine. The Botanical Garden also honored Tiffany & Co. and The Tiffany & Co. Foundation for the Foundation’s decade of support as the Founding Sponsor of The Orchid Show, celebrating the company’s 175th Anniversary.
Cocktails at the Mandarin Oriental.
The Orchid Sale.
Dara Caponigro, Richard Mishaan, and Carolyn Englefield.
Michael McGraw and Holly Whidden. Jennifer Bruno and Alexa Wilson.
Dale Brooks and Bill Cunningham.
Eliot and Wilson Nolen with Eliot Stewart.
Charlotte Moss. Fernanda Kellogg and Kirk Henckels.
The evening was chaired by Dara Caponigro, editor in chief of VERANDA, and Fernanda M. Kellogg, Chair of the Board of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation. Carolyn Englefield, VERANDA’s Director of Decoration and Special Projects, was decorations chair.

Gala Chairs were Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Clay and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Royce. Honorary Chairs are Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Davidson and Mr. and Mrs. John M. Sullivan, Jr
Philip and Lisa Gorrivan.
Roric Tobin and Justin Concannon.
Lucinda Bhavsar and John Clay.
Guy Robinson, Elizabeth Stribling, and Barbara and John Schumacher.
Brian and Joanna Fisher.
Dinner took place in the Grand Ballroom where every table was presided over by an orchid centerpiece and table setting created and donated by notables in fashion, architecture, horticulture, and literature. 
All proceeds from the Dinner underwrite the development of the Garden’s orchid research collection, which helps maintain the highest horticultural standards of orchid conservation. The Garden has also been designated a Plant Rescue Center through the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  Improperly documented shipments of endangered wild orchids are seized at international borders and sent to these Centers.  Through careful research and the application of appropriate horticultural techniques, Garden staff members have been successful in bringing a majority of these ailing specimens back to health.  Many are on view year-round in orchid displays at the Botanical Garden.
Juan Montoya.
David Duncan.
A far fancier lunch than mine yesterday took place this past Tuesday at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, the New York City Ballet held its Annual Luncheon benefit with over 500 guests in attendance and raising more than $300,000 for the Company. 

The topic of this year’s luncheon program was “Iconic Roles – The NYCB Way.” The program featured commentary by principal dancers Robert Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, and Sara Mearns, and soloist Chase Finlay, moderated by principal dancer Jenifer Ringer. Highlights of the program included archival film footage as well as live dance excerpts from Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet.  
Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild perform an excerpt form Peter Martins' Romeo +
Sara Mearns performs an excerpt from Peter Martins' Swan Lake.
The Benefit chairs were Maria-Christina Anzola, Donya Bommer, Kristin Clark, Darren Henault and Sharon Jacob. The décor was provided by DeJuan Stroud.
Room décor, Promenade of the David H. Koch Theater.
NYCB's 2012 Annual Luncheon Benefit Chairmen  Darren Henault, Sharon Jacob, Maria-Christina Anzola, Kristin Clark, and Donya Bommer.
Pauline Reyniak and Julia Koch. Jean Shafiroff and Fe Fendi.
NYCB Corps dancer and 2012 Janice Levin Award Honoree Taylor Stanley, Adam Levin, NYCB Corps dancer and 2011 Janice Levin Award Honoree Anthony Huxley, and NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins.
Pamela J. Joyner, Darren Walker, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Jill Kargman and Allison Aston. Somers Farkas and Muffie Potter Aston.
Kianga Ellis, William H. Wright II, and Judy Bunzl.
Carol Perlberger, Joni Evans, Lesley Stahl, and Cynthia Matthews.
Donya Bommer, Adelina Wong Ettleson, and Maritess Lilien.
Avis Gold Richards and NYCB Principal Dancer Jared Angle. Charlotte D'Amboise and Terrence Mann.
John Vollmar, Barbara Dugga, and Alrene Cooper.
Anne Schnitzer, NYCB Soloist Chase Finlay, and Jennifer Saul Rich.
Kristin Clark and NYCB Principal Dancer Tyler Angle.
Photographs by (Orchid Dinner); Mary Hilliard (NYC Ballet Annual Luncheon).

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