Monday, November 18, 2013

So it was

A view of downtown Los Angeles from the London Hotel in West Hollwood. JH and his wife Danielle spent this past weekend in Los Angeles celebrating a birthday of a friend who lives out there. Hence one of JH's great photos opening the Diary, taken from their hotel balcony. Although he didn't tell me the time it was taken, it looks (from this ex-Los Angeleno) like midday with what out there they refer to as a "marine layer" covering the Basin. Winter's on its way out there too, and although it's warmer than New York, it does get noticeably chillier at night where the heat comes on in the house, and for some of those girls who can afford it, even the furs start to come out of storage.
Monday, November 18, 2013. Rainy, foggy, Sunday in New York with the temperature hovering damply around 50. A good day to stay indoors and read a good book. Or the FT.

Which, speaking of
, Simon Schama, the historian, wrote a very good piece on the political career of John F. Kennedy who was murdered in Dallas by an assassin, or assassins, fifty years ago this Wednesday.

In August 1962, the Kennedys rented the house of Mr. and Mrs. Morton Downey on Squaw Island in Hyannis Port to be used as the Summer White House that year. Squaw Island is connected to Hyannis Port and specifically to the Kennedy family compound. Right across the street from them was the house of Joan and Ted Kennedy and their new family.
The Assassination was such a trauma for the nation including those close to the slain President that the event has been shrouded in speculation ever since. The suddenness of his departure did the same to his political legacy. Schama tries to put it in some perspective in an effort to address the man himself.

All public figures are never what they seem much of the time. Great public exposure through media or public appearances (speechmaking, etc.) lends itself to illusion and even delusion. We believe we know them, or know what they’re like. And what they like.

So it was with John F. Kennedy whose image and stature was greatly assisted by the presence of his beautiful young wife Jackie and their two beautiful children. When he came to the office, he had succeeded a very popular and highly admired man, a military hero, a two term President, whose only deterrent was his age (he was 70; JFK was 43).

Despite the rhetoric of the incoming candidates -- namely Senator Kennedy’s -- in the campaign, Ike was leaving the country in fairly good shape (or so it seemed) --  mentally, physically, and financially. The biggest issue of controversy in the Presidential campaign for many voters was Kennedy’s religion, really a non-issue in retrospect. Even among those who shared his religion many Americans had doubts about his winning because of it.

President John F. Kennedy claps as his four-year-old daughter Caroline plays in the Oval Office of the White House in October 1962.
Everything changed with his elevation to the White House. He was born to play the role. In fact, the public already knew his father had been grooming and/or directing him on that course from the time he was a young man. His father had succeeded, and admirably.

It was as if we had all suddenly become prosperous and at full sail with this man at the wheel. He was a generation younger than his predecessor. He was handsome. He was the son of a very rich man (not bad on the resume if you’ve got other “qualities” too); also an honest-to-God war hero (and among the wounded), and a Harvard grad who had written a best-selling book.

The word “egghead” came into the national vocabulary because he chose several “brainy” people from academe as advisors. It soon got out that he read  a lot too. He even read spy novels, particularly those by a until-then unknown writer called Ian Fleming. James Bond/John F. Kennedy. Cool-headed, movie star looks, daring, brave, and a good guy at the end of the day. This was the real morning in America.

Furthermore he was a wonderful speechmaker. His speeches were garnished with quotable conventional wisdom, giving the American people something comprehensible and something to ponder. Eggheads were becoming heroes too.

He held press conferences almost weekly. There was no evident fear of the press, no smoldering hostility toward them. He could take the questions, no matter how tough. He could even admit mistakes when pointed out to him, and do it in such a way that while confessing he made us even laugh. We too could feel comfortable in our own shortcomings and tight spots. It was refined Irish-American charm.

Not everyone felt that way about him, of course. I had a college roommate whose father was very close to an important  Republican senator who brought news of the JFK’s “weakness” in conducting a summit-meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna. Word went around that Khrushchev had walked all over him, that the President was “inept” and out of his league.

There were other behind-the-scenes stories of his alleged shortcomings on the world political stage also. Although none weakened his public image because of the enormous forcefulness of his charming personality. His rousing Ich bin ein Berliner! speech before the German people thrilled Americans also.

It was that personality and his native intelligence that presented new ideas about themselves to the American people,  especially young people who were inspired by him to reach up, to reach out; to give, to serve. All was noble. The Peace Corps – first run by his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver – led many to the paths of public service.

The Warren Commission cover.
There were no stories of a randomly voracious sex life. Only the inner circle, the small circle of social, political and press people knew, and only in pieces. It was also a time when matters of personal privacy weren’t even mentioned in good company. Those who knew protected him as well as his beautiful wife and children.

The term “conspiracy theory” came into the parlance with his assassination and the complicated circumstances (and deaths) surrounding it. It became the go-to explanation for the inexplicable (or unknown). The Warren Report was accepted and then later de-bunked without alternative conclusions. Nevertheless, the majority of us prefer to dump any explanation contrary to the first “single bullet” theory into the “conspiracy theory” well where so many succeeding truths have lain dormant or largely forgotten.

In the end, it was a very great sadness for the American people to see a young man, a young father, with a vigorous and compassionate spirit and an inspiring consciousness of his world, our world, torn from us by man’s inhumanity.

There has been endless consideration given to “what” he would have done had he lived. All is irrelevant in history’s eyes. “What” he did do, in the short time he held office, was to underscore and encourage The Best in an entire generation of young Americans, filling them with hope for a better life for all. A rare gift in a leader anywhere, anytime.
Jackie, John Jr., and Caroline at the eternal flame of the gravesite of JFK at Arlington National Cemetery on what would have been his 47th birthday, 5/29/64.
Last Thursday night’s social calendar was loaded with gala benefits. Over at the Chinese Porcelain Company on 58th Street and Park Avenue for Jean-Charles de Ravenel and his new collection of collages referencing late 19th/early 20th century Russian history, nobility and icons.

Jean-Charles and his wife Jackie de Ravenel are very popular members of international society who now make their main home in Lyford Cay although they travel frequently to the U.S and Europe to see their many friends. Many of their New York friends turned out to see Jean-Charles exhibition which is now on view (and for sale) at the Chinese Porcelain Company.

I stopped by to see the exhibition and to get a photo of the de Ravenels who are both hail-fellow-well-met individuals as well as being warm and friendly. That spirit of theirs was in the room; everyone felt good being there, and John-Charles’ works are beautiful, and intricately subtle and curious. You can stop by the Chinese Porcelain and see for yourself.
A view of the crowd at Thursday night's exhibition.
The artist, Jean-Charles de Ravenel. Jackie de Ravenel with two of the evening's guests.
One of Jean-Charles' collages on exhibit.
I left the de Ravenel opening and walked two blocks west to the Plaza where The New York Landmarks Conservancy was hosting its 20th Living Landmarks Celebration. I’ve been to quite a few of these.

I don’t know who started this gala but Liz Smith has always invited me, along with several other friends of hers, and she has always been the emcee. Liz is also a Landmark, not to mention as a Landmark an emcee here in New York. In the years I’ve been covering this scene, Liz has emceed scores of gala evenings and always for a good and noble and sensible and practical cause.

It’s always a black tie affair. And the ballroom is always filled with some of the most distinguished individuals in New York, as well as some of the most prominent – artists, businessmen and women, politicians, public servants, producers, directors and of course philanthropists. But the feeling is almost homey, because many of the same guests attend every year, and not a few of them are “Living Landmarks,” so named at a previous gala.
Looking towards the cocktail reception in the Terrace Room from the Palm Court of the Plaza.
Cocktail hour in full effect in the Terrace Room.
The list of honorees is long – four or five or six a year for 20 years; do the math. Many are household names and/or leaders in their fields and professions. And of course there are always entertainers.

Liz herself is an entertainer when you give her a podium and a mike and a good cause. She always opens this particular evening with her Texan lilting warble rendition of a famous Broadway tune. This year it was “Willkommen (bienvenue, welcome…)” from Kander and Ebb’s “Cabaret,” introduced by Joel Grey who was one of the evening’s honorees.
Landmarks William vanden Heuvel, Dr. Robert I. Grossman, Joel Grey, Ann L. Buttenwieser, Brooke Shields, and Mary Wells Lawrence
Honorees this year were Mr. Grey, William vanden Heuvel (who worked in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations), Mary Wells Lawrence, Brooke Shields, Ann L. Buttenwieser and Dr. Robert I. Grossman.

Least well-known publicly but equally as prominent, Ms. Buttenwieser is a born and bred New Yorker who has made it her business over the decades to improve the city’s waterfront as well as living conditions for its dwellers. Only one of her many successful projects has been the development of the Hudson River Park site and public swimming pools.
The young William vanden Heuvel with his leader, President John F. Kennedy, and (then) Vice-President Lyndon Johnson.
Mary Wells Lawrence holding the logo designed by Milton Glaser for the "I Love New York" campaign that she spearheaded at her advertising agency, Wells, Rich and Greene.
Same for Dr. Grossman, head of the NYU Langone Medical Center. The center’s cellars were flooded during Hurricane Sandy and they lost all power. Under the good doctor’s leadership, all 215 patients, including a newborn, were evacuatedand moved to other hospitals – which meant carrying many people in beds down  as many as 11 flights of stairs (no power/no elevators) in the storm.  Heroes, all. That’s the point of the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

PS. Joel Grey was the last on stage to be honored. His brief acceptance was a brilliant acapella performance of his famous opening number “Willkommen….” – the original cast recording in person. Only in New York.
Sirio and Mauro Maccioni. Guy Robinson and Elizabeth Stribling.
Peter Duchin and Roberta Fabiano and the Starlight orchestra.
Susan Calhoun and Barbara Goldsmith. Danielle Hirsch and Denis Ferrara.
Ari Kopelman and Mary McFadden.
Mary McFadden and Brooke Shields. Lewis B. Cullman and Louise Hirschfeld Cullman.
Donald and Barbara Tober. A.E. Hotchner and Holly Hotchner.
Nancy Majteles, Stan Warshawsky, and Sandy Warshawsky.
Linda Johnson and Leonard Lauder. Rose Marie Bravo and Marla Sabo.
Coco Kopelman and Lewis B. Cullman.
Liz Smith. Peg Breen and Peter Duchin.
Lloyd Zuckerberg and Charlotte Triefus. Tobie Roosevelt and Alexandra Schlesinger.
Elisabeth and Dr. Robert I. Grossman. Robert and Encarnita Quinlan.
Toni Goodale, Billy Norwich, and Iris Love.
Elaine and Ken Langone. Bob Nahaf and Chita Rivera.
Barbara Goldsmith, Stuart Feld, and Sue Feld.
Robert Perkins and Joni Evans. Eduardo Donati and Loreen Arbus.
At the same hour, over at Cipriani 42nd Street, The Humane Society of the United States was holding its New York gala benefiting and celebrating the life-saving work of its Animal Rescue Programs, hosted by Ali Wentworth with a live performance by Colbie Caillat. Co- Chairs were Amanda Hearst, Georgina Bloomberg and Kimberly Ovitz.

Guests included Angela Simmons, Katrina Bowden, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Ms. Bloomberg’s father, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Diana Taylor. Also Mark Sanchez, Katrina Bowden, after-party host Angela Simmons, Jets’ Scotty McKnight, Giants’ Prince Amukamara, Lo Bosworth, Pia Lindstrom, Jenna Morasca, John Quinones, Top Chef’s Sam Talbot, Michael Ovitz with Tamara Mellon; Lorenzo Borghese, Sasha Cohen, and Miss New York City 2013, and Acacia Courtney among others out supporting the great cause.

My dear little Byrone (aka Big Guy) came to live with us from the Humane Society almost six years ago. He’s a sweetie and follows me around the house at all times. When I sit, he sits. When I get up from this desk to go to bed, he’s up and at the bedside before I even enter the room. Someone had given him up for reasons never explained. In the beginning he was confused and unsettled. When out for walks, he was always looking around for someone who’d left him behind. 
Georgina Bloomberg
Ricky Bobby, Megan Bliss, Georgina Bloomberg, Amanda Hearst, and Kimberly Ovitz
Wayne Pacelle
Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Laurie McGrath and Carlee McGrath
Ali Wentworth
Eric Bernthal
People have a variety of reasons for giving up their pets. Many can’t help it, and then there are many who ultimately don’t care, who think of their pets as “things” they can dispose of when it’s too much bother. These times that we’re in now, are growing more challenging economically, and you can be sure it will be even more challenging for the pets in the family, many of whom will find themselves out of luck and out the door. It pains me to think of their predicaments.

The Humane Society and many other organizations who rescue these animals, have their hands full, but they soldier on. It is important now to ADOPT when you want a dog or a cat. How would you like it if someone decided to throw you out of your home because they didn’t need you around anymore? That’s what it’s like for these friends. And they are friends, even forever, despite us.
Kimberly Ovitz, Georgina Bloomberg, and Amanda Hearst
Mark Sanchez, Ricky Bobby, and Megan Bliss
Georgina Bloomberg and Ramiro Quintana
Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal
Frances Hayward
Wayne Pacelle, Ricky Bobby, Megan Bliss, Georgina Bloomberg, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Ali Wentworth, Ricky Bobby, and Megan Bliss
Paige Rense Noland
Ondine de Rothschild
Peter Max and Mary Max
Miss New York City 2013 Acacia Courtney
Tamara Mellon and Michael Ovitz
Prince Amukamara and Pilar Davis
Tom Murro
Allie Rizzo
Ali Wentworth
Charles Ferri and friend
Sasha Cohen and Tom Murro
Lorenzo Borghese
Angela Simmons
Breanna Schultz and Jordan Schultz
Laiea Smith and Katrina Szish
Ondine de Rothschild and Adrian Ulrich
Mark Dorfman, Jack Levy, Stacey Kivo, Elke Gazzara, and Sam Cole
Miss New York City 2013 Acacia Courtney and Robby Browne
Georgina Bloomberg
Diana Taylor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Georgina Bloomberg, and Ramiro Quintana
Eric Friedman and Ali Wentworth
Karen Duarte, Michelle Ashkin, Roberta Ashkin, and Sharon Patrick
Samantha Goldstein, Amanda Ruisi, Allie Rizzo, and Scott Buccheit
Lauren Weinberg, Christopher Wolff, and Louise Tabbiner
Mark Doskow, Emily Doskow, Jacques Azoulay, and Andrea Loudon
Stephanie Bulger and Karen Duarte
Amanda Hearst and friend
Tamara Mellon, Michael Ovitz, and Kimberly Ovitz
Sarah Schaffer and Steve Read
Colbie Caillat
Also Thursday night: New York City Center held its annual gala beginning with cocktails at City Center, followed by a performance of the new Stephen Sondheim/Wynton Marsalis show, “A Bed and A Chair: A New York Love Affair”starring Bernadette Peters and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. They honored City Center’s outgoing Board President, Raymond A Lamontagne. The Chairs behind this great success were Bobbie and Lew Frankfort, Patricia and Jesse Lovejoy, Perry and Marty Granoff, Stacey and Eric Mindich, and Lisa and Richard Witten.

Among the guests attending: Adrienne Arsht, Fred Wilpon, Ellen and James Marcus, Alexander Bernstein, Douglas Cramer and Hugh Bush, Barbara J. Fife, Cathie  Black, Marlene Hess and Jim Zirin, Dina Merrill and  Ted Hartley, Lewis Lapham, Patsy Glazer, Richard Mittenthal, Marnie Pillsbury, Fred Seegal, Lisa and David Schiff, Laurie Tisch, Dolores Wharton, Brian Williams, Ted Chapin, Maurice DuBois, Ellen Levine and Dr. Dick Levine, Linda and Harry Macklowe, Ann Strickland Squadron, Norm Lewis and Jeremy Jordan.
 

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