Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Diaries on Early Spring Dog Days

Late afternoon in Palm Beach. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013. Snow in the forecast; turns out to be some rain, and cold; leaving everything wet and raw in the first week of Spring.

Diaries on Early Spring Dog Days. This is Passover Week and although I am not Jewish, many of my friends and associates are, and so the schedule alters, even if slightly. I like all this. The two schools on either side of me are closed. The neighborhood is quieter, less traffic. There is less going on. Many who can afford it take the week for their last vacation before Memorial Day.

For me it’s like a little down time. The internet is a harsh mistress although deeply compelling (or, more simply: appeals to compulsive personalities). Nevertheless, a respite of one sort or another is a welcome gift.
Friday afternoon, my two favorite neighborhood entrepreneurs on their rounds ...
83rd and East End Avenue at 7:20 PM Friday night after a bit of rain. East End Avenue Monday night after the "Big Storm" had passed us by leaving the streets and sidewalks wet.
For others it’s a trip. JH and his wife, for example, flew down to Palm Beach on Sunday to celebrate the holiday with his immediate and extended family. They boarded their plane at JFK for a 3 PM take-off. They were delayed because the a/c system wasn’t working. Then they faced the big storm heading this way and had to fly around it. Five and a half hours later they touched down in Palm Beach (where it was raining). He was rewarded yesterday with some Sun.
The Hirsch clan down in Palm Beach.
Which, speaking of Palm Beach, it’s not quiet down there. The Season is in full swing. For those who keep track of these things, the high season starts its glorious wind down after the Preservation Ball, which is the first Friday in March.  In the 1930s and 1940s the last time Palm Beach had this kind of social dynamic, the season lasted six weeks – February 10 through the end of March. And then it was on to the next. Nowadays with easy jet travel, they come and go  throughout the colder months up north. And a lot of these fragile ones begin to get chilly up north by late October.

Rosita, Duchess of Marlborough, in her studio.
Meanwhile, Rosita, Duchess of Marlborough arrived in PB on March 10. After a few weeks in Barbados.  And she will be in PB until the end of this week. Rosita lives near Blenheim Palace at Lee Place where her former husband, the duke, grew up. When Rosita and the duke were married, they lived in the house during the summer when there were many tourists visiting Blenheim Palace. Rosita was given the house as part of her divorce settlement. She also has a house in London, what some say is a jewel of a house in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. Let’s hope so.

Sunny, The Duke of Marlborough and his Duchess, Lily Mahtani are also in Palm Beach, at their apartment at the Everglades Club. Sunny (whose nickname derives from his first title Earl of Sunderland) has been coming to Palm Beach since he was a little one, visiting his grannie, another former Duchess of Marlborough, Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan and her husband Jacques. Another former little one, Lord Charles Spencer-Churchill, brother of the duke, who has been coming to visit grannie since he was knee high to a grasshopper, has also been in Palm Beach recently, along with his charming best friend Sarah Goodbody. Those Brits never liked those big old draughty country houses when all those March winds are howling about.

Meanwhile, back down under the sheltering palms, Rosita was the guest of honor at the North Ocean Boulevard villa of Marianne and John Castle. The Castles who own the former Joseph P. Kennedy mansion are also famous for their food. Their guests were Dr. Annette Rickel, William Bologna, Ann and Donald Rickel, Grace and Chris Meigher, Margo and Donald Steever, Max Field, Carol Butcher and Jim Mitchell. Now you know.
John Castle with Rosita, Duchess of Marlborough.
Marianne Castle and Max Field.
Now, getting back to the Big Town: when I say New York “quiet,” I don’t mean that quiet. After all, this is New York, and people are out there, going, doing, moving. For example, last Saturday night at the Dempsey Theater in Harlem,  MAMA, I WANT TO SING, the classic 1983 gospel musical created by Vy Higginsen, celebrated its 30th anniversary with a very special performance of Mama, I Want to Sing: The Next Generation.

With more than 500 attending, the Gala event took place exactly 30 years to the day from when the original production opened in Harlem to great acclaim. The evening raised over $100,000 for Gospel for Teens, a program of the Mama Foundation for the Arts' School for Gospel, Jazz, and R&B Arts.
Myrna Gershon, Lesley Stahl, Freddie Gershon, and Vy Higginson.
Lesley Stahl was the chair of the evening. She won an Emmy for her "60 Minutes" profile on Gospel for Teens. The event’s underwriters were Myrna and Freddie Gershon along with Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick, Valerie Simpson and Angie Stone (who surprised the audience when the four Divas got on stage at the end of the performance and joined the choir in This Little Light of Mine), Chuck Jackson, actor Hinton Battle; designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, Damon Dash, Marcus Samuelsson and Andrew Chapman (Red Rooster Harlem), Representative Charles Rangel, Senator Bill Perkins, Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright and Council Member Inez Dickens.

The after party was a celebration of Harlem highlighting some the area’s best food from Sylvia’s, Spoonbreak, Corner Social, Chez Lucien, Jacob’s Soul Food, Melba’s and Make My Cake.

You probably know this already but Cissie Houston, besides being the mother of Whitney, is the aunt of Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, and a cousin of Leontyne Price. In other words, the legendary talent runs in the family.
Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick, and Valerie Simpson.
 

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