Monday, September 30, 2013

Drawn to the drama

Glistening on the Hudson River. 5:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, September 30, 2013. Another beautiful autumn weekend with mild temperatures, lots of sunshine and cooler evenings. And great clouds which regular readers know often intrigue me.

I don’t know why exactly except that I’m drawn to their drama. It’s quite a relief from our drama. On both Saturday and Sunday the skies above the city were bright blue clear. Yet all around us were these magnificent storm-ish looking clouds, but gentle and wafting north and east. On my trip across town to Zabar's on Saturday, as I was approaching Broadway on 79th Street, the clouds over New Jersey across the river reminded me of Magritte. Magritte over Manhattan, I was thinking. Jill Krementz covered a show with Magritte on these pages recently.
The clouds around Manhattan on Saturday afternoon.
Then I was thinking of that song where the lines go “ ... then the clouds got in the way ...” Maybe that’s not how the lines go but it fits. I’m reading a book someone sent me in galley form although it’s coming out this week. It’s called “Book of Ages; The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin,” by Jill Lepore. Jane Franklin is Benjamin’s youngest sister with whom he had a lifelong correspondence.  The book is not really about the correspondence. Like the clouds that have taken my fancy about life, so does the book. I’m don’t mean Pollyana. I mean reality, the greater reality. Like the clouds.
And the East River glistening in the autumn afternoon Sun.
Magritte over Manhattan. Looking across the Hudson to New Jersey.
And from the end of East 83rd Street across the East River to Queens and Long Island City, at 12:30 p.m., Sunday afternoon.
Thursday night I went to the Boys' Club of New York’s annual Fall Ball in the grand ballroom at the Pierre. I thought this was my “first” Boys' Club gala but no, someone told me I’d been once before. I only remember having conflicting commitments on the previous times I’d been invited.

It’s a black tie dinner dance. I somehow had it in my mind that it was one of those crusty old-time affairs that had been going on every autumn since Lindbergh flew the Atlantic. I practically expected Eleanor Rooseveltian dowagers to be the chairladies. I know, that’s ridiculous; but if you never saw it, all you have is your imagination, right?

Well, I was wrong. I arrived at the Pierre almost 45 minutes into the cocktail hour which was held in another ballroom, and which was jammed. I somehow knew the minute I walked in the door that this was a good one. Not crusty at all – although with a certain crowd, the likes of whom see each other year round at all their watering holes, country houses and places in Manhattan, Greenwich, Far Hills, etc. The women looked beautiful and the men in black tie all look sort of smart no matter what else – a man can’t lose in black tie no matter where the avoirdupois rolls. It was all definitely a younger group than my imagination’s idea.
Entering the cocktail hour at the Pierre for the Boys' Club of New York's annual Fall Ball.
A view of the crowd.
Cocktail hour over, the guests move across the rotunda to the grand ballroom of the Pierre.
The women were among the younger (not junior, but after) set who are very active on the gala-social scene here in New York, and very active in a variety of philanthropies. The Boys' Club is a favorite – and for good reason: they help the kids.  But these girls, at least a lot of them, dress for the occasion, for the mood: Up. And on this night they got a sponsor in Celia Kritharioti Haute Couture. All of the gala co-chairs: Gabrielle Bacon, Gigi Mortimer, Nathalie Kaplan, Claude Wasserstein, and Sara Ayres were dressed in Kritharioti, and they looked smashing. A lot of the women looked smashing. You could tell during the cocktail hour that they intended to have a good time this night.

I mention this because a lot of these people go to a lot of galas and a lot of events, and while all of them are worthwhile in one way or another, a “good time coming” is not the vibe you run into all the time. A lot of it is business in one way or another, interesting, educational, informative, moving; and enough of them can almost be business-as-usual.
The bare back (or the illusion) of fashion is the moment. And in some cases, even more than the back at the Fall Ball's cocktail hour.
Ironically, this gala, the Fall Ball was just a dinner dance. They did have the perfunctory “auction” with Jamie Niven of Sotheby’s giving it his all – which is considerable. Auctioneers lately have run up against a din of table talkers while, mike and all, he’s got to shout to get attention. Auctions have become a habit that has lost much of its gravity. Jamie Niven knows all (most) of these people, and they all know him and respect his efforts. Nevertheless… This one was brief and made briefer by giving everyone at table cards they could fill in for personal support for a variety of the club’s programs.

They did have a quartet – four boys from the Boys' Club – perform a couple of their songs for us. They were young kids and really good. And there was a brief runway show of Celia Kritharioti’s new collection. But all of that was very brief too. Soon after dinner and dessert, everyone took to the dance floor. And, as I thought, everyone was having a good old time. And it was New York, and it was glamorous. Even the room looked glamorous – it was the work of Antony Todd.
Alexandra Lind Rose. Liz Peek and Christine Schwarzman.
Ashley McDermott and Mark Gilbertson.
It was a wonderful evening and, no doubt, exactly what the co-chairs intended – everyone had fun, had a good time seeing friends, old friends, neighbors in the country. Mrs. Kenneth Langone was chairman of the Program Committee. Honorary Chairs were: Mrs. Jeremy Biggs and Mrs. David Mahoney. 
Seaman Schepps and Wathne USA  provided the party favors. Bill Miller at the Printery provided the invitations.  ELEW and DJ MOSKVA provided the music, and Body Painting (the girls on pedestals during the cocktail hour) was by Lindsey Reit Body Art.

The funds raised by the Fall Ball  support the Boys’ Club’s work in East Harlem, Flushing, Queens, and the Lower East Side. These boys and young men and their parents see the Boy’s Club as a safe place away from the city streets where members have after-school supervision with their studies, find guidance, learn to swim, make music, play sports, and find new friends and have fun.
The table. The event decor was created by Antony Todd.
Looking for seating.
At table.
I was reminded of Nicholas Scoppetta’s New Yorkers For Children which I wrote about here a couple of weeks ago. The Boys' Club, like the NYFC is not only building a future for these young people, but they are building a future for a better and perhaps safer world for all of us.

The Boys' Club of New York’s open-door policy and its $5 annual membership draws a great cross-section of the very young people in New York today. These are our future. Membership is 44% Latino, 38% Black, 14% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 4% White. More them three-quarters of them live in households at or below the poverty level and fifty percent of those households are single-parents. That a lot of burden for the children as much as the adults. The Boys' Club is a natural haven and an important booster.
The co-chairs (all in Celia Kritharioti): Nathalie Kaplan, Claude Wasserstein, Gigi Mortimer, Gabrielle Bacon, and Sara Ayres.
They also have academic programs for these kids, from reading and writing to college planning. Last year, almost 1000 boys participated in the BCNY’s new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs. Also 180 boys received individual tutoring from highly qualified teachers. The Club’s early literacy program (READ) has 72% of its members reading at or above their grade level!

This is really what Thursday night’s Fall Ball was about. Besides being a fund-raiser, and a dinner dance, it was a celebration of the work everyone associated with BCNY, including the boys, the staff, has achieved and accomplished.
Four boys from the Boys Club who performed a couple of their songs for us. They were young kids and really good.

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