Thursday, April 25, 2013

A religious experience

Pear tree in front of church on Amsterdam Avenue. 4:00 PM. Photo: Jeffrey Hirsch.
Thursday, April 25, 2013. A really beautiful, warm Spring day in New York yesterday. Bright sunshine, no humidity and temperatures in the low 70s.

I went down to Michael’s (Wednesday, natch). I was meeting our No Holds Barred diarist Blair Sabol who is in town for a few days, and she invited her friend Ali MacGraw to join us. Ali was in town to go to last night’s opening of “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers” starring the One the Only Divine Miss M, Bette Midler.
Bette Midler on opening night of "I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers."
Michael’s was wall-to-wall. It turned out there were other California girls in the room (technically Ali MacGraw lives now in New Mexico but she still goes back and forth to Los Angeles as it’s only an hour and a half away by plane). Terry Allen Kramer, who is one of the producers of the Midler show, was lunching with Wendy Stark who came in from L.A. for the opening, and Alana Stewart aka Alana Hamilton, also in for the opening. At the table right next to them was another interesting group: Pat Kluge, Sharon Bush, Patty Raynes, Anne Hearst and Elizabeth de Kergolay. I don’t know if any of them were going to the opening last night.
DPC, Ali MacGraw, and Blair Sabol. Photo by Steve Millington.
Which, speaking of the show, the title of Charles Isherwood’s review in today’s New York Times is “A Schmoozy Cobra, About to Be Bitten.” (“... a delectable soufflé of a solo show by John Logan ... a heady sensation, thanks to the buoyant, witty writing of Mr. Logan, the focused direction of Joe Mantello and above all to Ms. Midler who gives the most lusciously entertaining performance of the Broadway season.”) Need there be anything more?

I never knew Ms. Mengers although I heard stories about her because she was a character who inspired tales and portraits; nor do I know Ms. Midler but you know and I know she’s droll, sharp-witted and always cracking that wry smile with her presence. I’m now anxious to see it. Although it sounds like there’ll be a wait for tickets, and probably a limited run with the star.
Film producer Beverly Camhe and Jennifer Lee (Mrs. Richard) Pryor at Michael's.
So, back to the tables down at Michael’s. Since they more than doubled their menu and cut their prices by 20%, it seems to be a mob scene almost every day. Media/movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was lunching with Len Blavatnik, the Russian-born, American reared and educated, international investor; Beverly Camhe who was with Jennifer Lee Pryor, the 5th and 7th wife, and widow of Richard Pryor. Mrs. Pryor is in town for the Tribeca Film Festival and for publicizing a documentary about The Man’s life.

Moving around the room: Stan Shuman, Scott Singer; political consultant and TV commentator Robert Zimmerman; producer Arthur Rankin; talent manager Wayne Kabak who represents among others Maria Bartiromo, Jane Pauley, Condoleeza Rice, etc.) Dr. Sarah Simms Rosenthal; Holly Peterson; Tom Bennet; Peter Price, Mark Rosenthal (CEO of Current (cable satellite station); PR exec Steven Rubenstein; Jesse Kornbluth with Marshall Cohen and Wendy Goldberg; entertainment mogul Allen Grubman (who coincidentally bought the late Sue Mengers house in Beverly Hills); Coppy Holzman, creator/founder of, with Diane Clehane; PR guru Michael Kempner; James Murdoch, son of Rupert; Star Jones; Wendy Millard; Annette Tapert;  David Margolick with Wednesday Martin; former Ambassador to Denmark John Loeb Jr.; John Bernbach with Martin Puris; Jason Binn; media mogul Jimmy Finkelstein; Andrew Heineman. And lots more just like ‘em.
Wendy Stark, Terry Allen Kramer, and Alana Stewart.
Our table was (more than) a tad more popular because of my movie star guest. New Yorkers love movie stars more than they’ll ever admit. Ms MacGraw has not made a movie in a long time but the “audience response” beamed star-power nevertheless.

And what’s she like to lunch with (never having met her)? Like meeting your friendly, very attractive, bright-eyed and forthright next door neighbor (we should all be so lucky). She lived in the New York in the 60s when I was here also. I didn’t meet her but I first heard of her back then when she was working as a stylist for photographer Melvin Sokolsky. My wife at the tine was working as a stylist for William Helburn, another major commercial and fashion photographer, and she often remarked about Ali MacGraw’s “great taste.” I was telling  Ali that yesterday. She told me that it was William Helburn who took the test shots of her as a model for the Chanel No 5 campaign. The rest is (Hollywood) history.
Patty Raynes, Pat Kluge, Elizabeth de Kergolay, Anne Hearst, and Sharon Bush.
She grew up in Bedford Village, and loved living in New York as a young woman working as a photographer’s stylist. But after her big career change to the West Coast and her subsequent marriages and settling there in Beverly Hills and then Malibu, she’s now a Western girl.

She and Blair met at a yoga class in Los Angeles way back in the '70s and have been good friends ever since. She just celebrated a birthday April 1st (same day as Debbie Reynolds and Jane Powell). This is her first trip back in awhile, so she’s having a wonderful time seeing the city. Last night in the theater must have been interesting for her because she was a longtime friend, client and frequent guest of Sue Mengers for many years, and I was told she is a strong character portrait in the Mengers/Midler monologue.
In the meantime, JH took a mid-afternoon walk around his hood (Upper West Side) ...
Last night the Versailles Foundation Inc., headed by Barbara de Portago hosted its annual black tie benefit dinner in the Cotilliion Room of the Pierre. They honored the Her Royal Highness Princess Margareta of Romania, also the Crown Princess of Romania, Custodian of the Romanian Crown, former Princess of Hohenzollern. The princess is a great great great granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England, and of Czar Alexander II of Russia.

This annual dinner raises funds for the Versailles Foundation and the Gardens of Claude Monet at Giverny. It is run by Mrs. Portago  who always invites a royal personage to speak about their experience as a royal.
Our table. I was seated beside two fascinating women -- The Crown Princess on my left and Tatiana Copeland on my right.
The guests stand for the entrance of the Crown Princess and her husband Prince Radu.
Many of the honored guests at this annual dinner have been members of deposed royal families. However, because so many are related to each other across the borders -- brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins of cousins -- their influence remains strong however benign in their native lands. This is not true of every royal but there are many who are actively involved in their country’s culture and civic philanthropies, much like the British Royal family (whom they’re all related to).

They lack the political power of their ancestors but nevertheless they are often deeply committed to assisting and working for their country’s welfare and well-being. The First and Second World Wars not only deposed a lot of monarchies, it also tore apart the families, the communities and capital structures of their countries.

Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Romania.
Princess Margareta’s “return” to Romania was in fact her first time living there. Her father the former King Michael I and his wife Anne of Bourbon-Parma were living in Switzerland when Margareta was born after the War and Romania had fallen to the Communists. She grew up in England and graduated from the University of Edinburgh, so she speaks with a definite British accent. She loves England, not surprisingly, and has a special feeling of kinship with the Scottish from her University Days.

The Princess came to New York with her husband Radu Duda whom she met in 1994 when he was working as an art therapist in orphanages. They met when the Princess was visiting a program on behalf of her Princess Margarita Foundation. They married in 1998.

She told me that after the War, many women were raped because the regimes wanted them to produce more children to grow the destroyed populations. Many of those children were abandoned by their mothers and tragedy set in which is still present in the lives of many now older adults. She said Romania is loaded with abandoned dogs also. She and her husband have two rescued dogs.

The recovery from the War and the subsequent political dictatorships made it very difficult for the people to live stable, comfortable lives. The Crown Princess sees her role in her family’s country as working to improve the lives of the Romanian people.

This attitude is family legacy prominent in many of the royals who’ve appeared at these Versailles Foundation benefits. Their work is often unnoticed and unheralded, but nevertheless their strong international connections can be constructive. Having been stripped of their political power yet at the same time members of an extended international family of cultural and political traditions dating back centuries, they represent a refined, and often a far more positive sense of leadership for a republic struggling to maintain, or restore itself.

The Crown Princess was a very interesting dinner partner and a very lively conversationalist. More on this when we run the pictures of the party.

Contact DPC here.