Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rooftop chatter

Moon by day. 4:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, February 21, 2013. Very cold. Sunny and brrrr, in New York.

The Michael’s lunch. Wednesday busy. A lotta familiar faces and names that mean most to their possessors, alliances, and other people in the room. Remember this is a media/banking clientele at lunch, which you’ve already gathered. Most are unknown to you and even me, dear reader. But one thing you can be sure of is that there was a lot of interesting and serious conversation going on amidst all the clatter and chatter.

In the mix:
At table one, Catherine Saxton (PR) and Katlean De Monchy with investigative reporter and former NYC detective, John Connolly. Mr. Connolly who writes for, among others,Vanity Fair is one of those guys who really knows the scoop. Catherine Saxton’s long time client list has included Hiltons, Trumps and many of the brighter boldfaced names on the national celebrity trail. I’m sure everyone got an earful.

Moving along: CNBC’s Ron Insana; Stan Shuman (Allen & Co.); Harriet Weintraub (PR); Jacques Azouilay with Jennifer Simonetti; Barry Frey and Peter Borish; Tom Goodman; Simon & Schuster’s distinguished editor (Jennet Conant, Doris Kearns Goodwin) Alice Mayhew; Lisa Linden with Beth Shapiro and Suri Kasirer; Andrew Stein with Stuart Sundlin; David Sanford and Lewis Stein; Dawn Bridges and Maurie Perl; Pete Peterson; Ron Perelman with Lyor Cohen, the recording executive who up until ten minutes ago was the boyfriend of retail tycoon Tory Burch, who herself had lunch with Mr. Perelman just a couple of days before.

Da Boyz.
Also, Newell Turner with the wild and witty interior designer Alexa Hampton. Mr. Turner, who recently has been editor of House Beautiful, has recently been promoted at Hearst to head up their shelter magazine triumvirate of HB, Elle Décor and Veranda; Hugh Freund; Matt Blank; Rob Wiesenthal; Tad Smith and Lisa Benenson; Michael’s Brenda Starr, Diane Clehane with Laura McEwen and Lauren Theodore of SELF magazine. And in the center of the room, Da Boyz, Della Femina, Imber, Kramer and Bergman.

Debbie Bancroft and I were talking about that table. I see those four guys (and occasionally Jeff Greenfield also) meeting for lunch on Wednesdays. They’ve been doing it for many years, maybe 25. They’re media oriented except for Imber who is considered one of the best plastic surgeons in the country (he’s written a couple of books too). I always wonder what they talk about. 

Right after wondering that out loud to Debbie, Michael Kramer came over to the table and said: "I want to ask you a question."

I said, "I want to ask you a question: What do you guys talk about every Wednesday?"

He said the reason he came over to the table was because they were talking about the interview with Lee Radziwill by Nicky Haslam in the Sunday Times “T” magazine – the first issue of its new editor Deborah Needleman who just moved over from the weekend WSJ.  
Michael Kramer, Jerry Della Femina, Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield and Andy Bergman. Photo: Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times.
Kramer and the guys at the table wondered if Radziwill had ever been the girlfriend of Aristotle Onassis.

Well, duh, if you don’t know about that kind of a minutiae. Kramer said: “I told the guys I’d ask Columbia, he’ll know.” So there you have it.

You probably know too. I said: “Haven’t you ever read Peter Evan’s ‘Nemesis’?”


"You gotta read it", I said. "It’s a page turner". If you haven’t read it dear reader, it’s a page turner. About the marriage of Jackie Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis.  Life on Onassis’ boat the Christina. The ship of jools. High life among the rich, the chic and the shameless. People who knew I’d read it (and knew the author), asked me if I believed it? I believe people do behave like that, is my answer.

Lee Radziwill in the living room of her apartment in Paris. Photograph by François Halard for the New York Times.
The Nicky Haslam interview with Radziwill is a good read, an excellent interview. Haslam, who is the British very-sought-after international interior designer and social gadfly par excellence, obviously knows Radziwill and vice versa. She was at ease with him and clearly felt comfortable letting go. This is unusual because she is not often so available even in the day-to-day. I don’t know her although I have been in her company a few times and have never heard a peep out of her, so I had no idea who this person WAS, other than what I’ve read in the papers. She may be shy – although I doubt it. Whatever it is, Haslam had no problem with her.

No matter what you think of her, this is one of those vintage great old-time interviews where the subject does all the talking and seems to be very privately confiding what turns out to be a novel. Her life was, to most people, one of Make Believe. Jackie’s sister, chic, rich and glamorous.

In reality it was more fairytale princess with all the worldly problems of death, divorce, booze, and age, to boot. What emerges in Haslam's interview is this personality that comes from another sensibility, from her mother and father's world (society in the '20s, '30s and '40s in America) where people did not look themselves over and contemplate, where shrinks were for people who were "crazy," and pills were for people who were "sane." Where, from the outside looking in (from a distance), money was connected to style and grace, and a cool but crusty image of hauteur. And whatever was tawdry was pushed under the Aubusson and forgotten. Attractively wicked maybe, in the memory of those of us who were never there in the first place, but brutal on the spirit.
Photograph by François Halard for the New York Times.
Radziwill is clearly a child of all that. She can't help this anymore than you and I can help who we are because of where We Came From. The interview, however, curiously reflects a paradoxical lightness and a kind of depth that was so well expressed by Cole Porter in his songs of life. Longing but long gone. Who can resist, it’s so otherworldly, especially now. I still love Cole Porter's songs and I always will. He gives you the sense of something fresh and new, no matter how old or bittersweet.

Nicky Haslam did this for us in his song (her song really) of Lee Radziwill. True or false, I'll take it. It was a deadly dull grey and cold February Saturday morning in New York when I read it, and for a few minutes there I felt like I was (sorta) in Paris too.

Meanwhile, back to reality: Is she really like that? Like I said re Nemesis, I don’t know but there are a lot of people who act like that. Better read about than known.
Cocktails at the Pierre last night for the Director’s Council of the Museum of the City of New York's annual Winter Ball.
Last night at the Pierre, the Director’s Council of the Museum of the City of New York held its annual Winter Ball, sponsored by Carolina Herrera. This was a black tie affair. Cocktails were called for 7:30. I arrived about 8:15 and was amazed by the big crowd – more than 500. Maybe it’s because the gala benefits have been few and far between lately but this felt like a great party the minute you walked in the door.
500+ guests about to sit down for dinner.
It was also, it turned out, their most successful fund-raiser, and brought in more than $500,000 for the museum’s teaching programs. The impresario of this Ball is always Mark Gilbertson. Mark is one of those people who will call everyone five times, if need be, to make sure they get to his events. And so they do. The result is a highly successful evening. There were two brief speeches – Gilbertson and Susan Henshaw Jones, the head of the museum. After that it was a dinner party and then dancing. A good time was in the room.

I took a lot of pictures and there were several photographers were in the room. This is a taste. More later ...

Contact DPC here.