Thursday, February 16, 2012

The rundown

A poster of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's Divan Japonais (Japanese Settee) sits in a window. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, February 16, 2012. Not so sunny, not so cold in New York.

Yesterday, Wednesday at Michael’s was its usual madhouse, although maybe even madder with the roar of the crowd. The list (some of them; others escaped the eye): Star Jones, Maury  Perl and Ed Adler; Joan Jakobson with Susan Patricof; Joe Armstrong with Steven Wagner; Stuart Weitzman, the show man with Susan Duffy and Robbie Myers of Elle; former Senator and head of the New School Bob Kerry; Amy Fine Collins with Nazee Moinian and Debora Spar, the president of Barnard; the Boyz: Dr. Gerry Imber, Jerry della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andrew Bergman; Kerry Kennedy with Cindi Leive; the same table later seated Steven Stolman, Jack Bochonok, Albert Sardelli, Jason Binn; Diane Clehane, the Brenda Starr of the room with Char Margolis, Dr. Robi Ludwig and Corinda Carfora; Ari Fleischer (remember him?) and Matt Higgins; with his table later was occupied by Katie Couric, Matt Hiltzik and Bonnie Fuller; Lally Weymouth with Linda Janklow, Joan Gelman and Sandy Pearl, Michael Gross and Christine Taylor; Katie Lee (formerly Katie Lee Joel) with Ellen Levine of Hearst; David Sanford of the WSJ with Lewis Stein; Gerry Byrne with Martin Pompadour; David Adler; Lisa Linden with Vera Manoukian; Peter Price, Steve Rattner; Karen Keogh; Steve Mosko; Mitch Kanner; Star Jones (oh I wrote that already); Barbaralee Diamonstein Spielvogel with Klara Glowcewska; Pat Mitchell and Jim Hoge; and this writer was with Tracey Zabar of the Zabars (a daughter-in-law and mother of four more Zabars. And everybody talking at the same time. Or so it seemed.

Michael McCarty himself was there, along with his wife Kim McCarty, the painter, in from Los Angeles. Tonight Michael is being feted by C-Cap (Careers Through Culinary Arts Program) at Pier Sixty. Honorary Chairs are Bette Midler and Martin von Haselberg; co-chairs are Nina and Tim Zagat and Susan and Richard Grausman, and Master of Ceremonies is Maurice DuBois.

Naturally the star entertainment is The Cuisine, prepared by 36 of the top chefs in New York including Daniel Boulud, Marcus Samuelson, Sarabeth Levine, Dan Barber, Clifford Crooks, Waldy Malouf, Jonathan Waxman (who was Michael’s original chef here in New York), Alfred Portale, Kyung Up Lim (who is currently chef at Michael’s). I’ll have the full list on tomorrow’s Diary.
Zelda Kaplan.
It is Fashion Week in New York, as anyone who is remotely interested in fashion knows. Besides the shows, the hoopla, the celebrities, the models, the music, yesterday at the Lincoln Center show of designer Joanne Mastroanni, Zelda Kaplan, the 95-year New York fashion icon, nightlife aficionado, philanthropist noted for her humanitarian efforts in Africa, and friend to many, passed out in her chair as the models were starting their walk down the runway. Zelda was carried out of the tent by security and CPR was performed while they waited for a hospital ambulance. It was too late; Zelda had departed forever.

I went to Zelda’s 94th birthday in June 2010 (NYSD 6.25.10) in the upstairs clubroom at Orsay, the restaurant on 75th and Lexington Avenue given by a small group of friends – Kerry Ingvarsson, Jake Bright and Mia Morgan, all of whom were at least half, a third or a quarter her age. They sold tickets which benefited “Keep A Child Alive.” The place was packed. There was a DJ and lots of champagne and Zelda was in her glory taking it all in. She was just a girl who liked people, liked going out and living life to the fullest. Born on June 20, 1917 on a farm in Flemington, New Jersey, one of four girls (Zelda was the oldest). I remember asking her what 94 felt like. “34” was her quick reply. She felt most at home with the thirty-somethings, although she first came to the city to live when she was 44. She just kept getting younger and younger until she’d had enough, exiting from a place that was like an old stomping ground for her – the fashion runway.

Rob Grimshaw, Managing Director of, Reed Phillips, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, DeSilva+Phillips Investment Bank and Andrew Heyward, Senior Advisor, Marketspace.
I started out the night at the UN Plaza apartment of FT US editor Gillian Tett who was hosting a cocktail reception for Rob Grimshaw, the new Managing Director of Mr. Grimshaw who hails from London will be living in New York full time for the first time in his life.

There was a good crowd when I arrived just after 7. UN Plaza apartments have magnificent views of the UN, the East River as well as midtown Manhattan. I chatted briefly with the new man. The FT  is my favorite newspaper in the world these days. The Weekend edition is, in my humble opinion, the most interesting weekend journal with wonderful writers and always an excellent interview (FT Lunch) with all kinds of people. They also seem to be staffed with gracious friendly journalists and executives. I’ve seen evidence of this again and again. I remark on it because it does seem an unusually pleasant and unique attitude for people who are acknowledged to be some of the best journalists in the business.

From the UN Plaza I caught a cab to go up to Fifth Avenue in the 80s where Diahn and Tom McGrath were hosting a PEN Authors’ Evening dinner at their apartment with the honored guest being Dick Cavett. Cavett’s “Talk Show,” originally published in hardcover by Times Books, has recently been issued in paperback by St. Martin’s Press.

These PEN dinners which take place at this time of year, are fund-raisers and fun for the guests as they get to break bread with some of the most interesting writers here (mainly) in New York. Cavett, who started out in the television talk show business as a kid working for Jack Paar on the original Tonight Show (Paar broadcast from the NBC Studios in New York) in the early 1960s. In the late 60s, he got his own talk show, and although talk shows have become an art form as commonplace and ordinary as gum chewing, the Dick Cavett Show had an intelligence quotient that proved you could have popular guests (writers, actors, etc.) and be not only amusing (even hilarious) but really really interesting.
Dick Cavett on his show in 1973 with his first employer in television and the man who invented the national talk show format, Jack Paar.
I remember one night watching Cavett interview Katharine Hepburn when they got onto the subject of the phenomenon of the musical movie team of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Cavett asked Hepburn why he thought it worked so perfectly. Her answer, now classic: “She gave him sex and he gave her class.”

Last night at the dinner table he recounted  some of the great moments (the first edition of the show ran on ABC-TV weeknightly from 1969 to 1975; with later editions running into the late 1980s). His favorite comedian of all time was Groucho who he said was funny onstage and off, and also an excellent writer of comic prose.

All the great characters, including political characters of the time and age appeared on the Dick Cavett Show. There has never been another like it. Cavett’s manner, if you hadn’t seen him, was a dry wit, soft spoken with trenchant barbs dashed off so quietly and matter-of-factly that you could almost miss them. But you didn’t because Cavett’s audience listened carefully, not wanting to miss a barb or a laugh or a word of wit or wisdom.
Diahn McGrath, Dick Cavett,Tom McGrath, and Martha Rogers Cavett. Suzanne McDonough and Dick Cavett. The two first met when they were both on the dais at an award presentation in Chicago about 20 years ago, and met again for the first time last night.
It was amazing television, a hallmark of a turbulent time in American history and public life, and a mark in the favor of greatness. Last night at table, the guests and contributors to PEN also got to see him perform one of his magic tricks – a talent he honed when he was a kid growing up in Nebraska. Although he refers to it as a way of self-amusement, his manner being blithe and off-hand, he did a few tricks with a simple white rope that left everybody at table agog and amazed, like kids seeing it for the first time. A wonderful New York evening.

Dick Cavett’s interviews can be found on YouTube and he even blogs sometimes for the New York Times “Opinionator” online commentary series. Click here.

And finally, before we go, yesterday was the birthday of our friend Dana Hammond Stubgen whose face you’ve seen on these pages many times before. I don’t know what number Dana (pronounced Dann-a) was celebrating yesterday but it all took place at Hill Country Barbecue at 30 West 29th Street. The invitation read “Get Down and Dirty with Dana” and I’ve no doubt she filled the club SRO. Happy Birthday Dana. XXX.

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