Monday, January 21, 2013

There’s always something going on

Looking through Central Park towards Fifth Avenue in the 70s. 5PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, January 21, 2013, Inauguration Day for Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States. The President was sworn in for his second term yesterday – the official  Inauguration Day – in the White House by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts.

A quiet holiday weekend here in New York with mild temperatures in the 40s and the weatherman predicting colder temps and some snow over the next few days.

It’s been a quiet month so far on the social calendar but this is New York and there’s always something going on.

Last Wednesday night, the 92nd Street Y there was a good crowd gathered for Fern Mallis’ Fashion Icons Talks with Betsey Johnson, the award-winning fashion veteran.
Betsey and Fern hamming it up ...
The 70-year-old fashion icon was in the hot seat with Mallis, the fashion industry leader and award-winning creator of New York Fashion Week hosted by MARTINI Sparkling Wines.

Johnson was cheerful, effervescent self as she answered questions and posed for pictures, including a playful photo with Fern Mallis and an oversized bottle of MARTINI Asti decorated with the designer’s name in silver crystals. Johnson giggled and delightfully asked, “do I get to keep this?!”  

Over 500 guests gathered in the Kauffman Hall to hear the pint size queen of stylish excess dish about everything from her bankruptcy, early years at Mademoiselle, upcoming reality show and feelings on the industry as a whole.

“I love the industry! There’s no discrimination, there’s never been any of that sh*t,” Johnson pointed out to the audience. Although Fern tried her best to keep the consistently inconsistent designer on track, Johnson danced to the beat of her own drum throughout the interview.

Fern and Betsey and their bottle of sparkling wine.
Taking the audience on a journey through her life, Johnson reminisced about her early years as a designer – times filled with excitement, hard work and partying with the likes of Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol, and Lou Reed. “To this day," (Lou Reed) says, "I cut a really good crotch!” 

When asked what it was like during that time – specifically the years she worked at the hot clothing boutique, Paraphernalia – Johnson explained, “We would work from 8am to 8pm, then go to the clubs, dance on the mattresses and pop these pink little pills!”

In the midst of such a booming and fast-paced career, it’s surprising Johnson had time to settle down and start a family. 

“I had the 60s ... boom! The 70s ... boom! And then the working women’s wardrobe came along. Uh oh.” Betsey explained. “If it weren’t for the working women’s wardrobe, I wouldn’t have had time to have a kid,” alluding to the fact that no one’s going to wear her tutus to a job today.

Betsey lives in the same building as her daughter Lulu and both of her children, setting the precedent for her reality show.  “I’m the luckiest grandma in the world!”  

According to Betsey, it was Lulu’s idea to do the reality show.  So what network gets to work with what Betsey calls “a comedy”?  

“I can’t cook and I can’t be a housewife, so I hoped the Style network comes through!” Lucky for Betsey, it did.

One thing was evident throughout -- nothing seems to faze her. Even when it came to her recent bankruptcy troubles, she kept a positive attitude. Johnson said she was shocked to learn that she owed money to the private equity firm that bought her. “We had to pay $56 million back! And $6 million a year in interest rates!”

“Yes Betsey. There is no such thing as a free loan,” said Fern Mallis with a smile. Betsey also credits her fans and supporters for getting her through her difficult moments. “When my fans came up to me (after we sold) it was the first time I realized I achieved something special.”

Today, Betsey now works under her longtime pal Steve Madden, who purchased the company in 2010. When the takeover happened, instead of being sad “we celebrated with cupcakes and champagne!” explained Betsey.

So what’s next for Ms. Johnson?

“I hope to meet a great guy and fall in love! I love being in love!” The audience “awww-ed” in unison. Staying true to the Betsey-philosophy, she ended with the following advice, “Keep on kicking!”
Sharon and Geoffrey's house in Palm Beach.
Meanwhile down in Palm Beach, Sharon Sondes and Geoffrey Thomas hosted a buffet dinner and cocktails for London's very popular Kathrine Palmer and her longtime beau, author Peter Watson, who had just spent three  weeks in Palm Beach wining and dining with their many friends there. 

Sharon writes about the evening:

While Peter worked on his newest book during the day, Kathrine played bridge, a passion of hers and many of the women in PB. I had such fun listening to Peter and Emilia Fanjul discuss books over dinner. Between them, I think they've read every good book ever written.

We asked Peter which were his favorites among what he's written and I'm looking forward eagerly to reading "Sotheby's: Inside Story" about how the auction house masterminded the smuggling of paintings and antiquities out of Italy and India and into their London salesroom! And also about art, "The Caravaggio Conspiracy" about how Peter recovered six Old Masters that had been stolen in Italy in the Veneto.  You can easily Google more about his other books ... all fascinating.
Geoffrey entering his elevator to change for dinner. Sharon Sondes, dressed for dinner.
My sister Maureen Oxenberg and I met Kathrine when we were teenagers in Monte Carlo. We lost touch over the years and I was really pleased to run into her at Earle and Carol Mack's reunion bash at The Ritz in London last June.

Everyone I know knows that I love to give parties (ask anyone who lived in New York during its halcyon days during the 70s and 80s). Geoffrey and I were thrilled to be able to give Kathrine and Peter a good-bye party before they left to spend a month in the Bahamas.

We had a wonderful group of people comprising old friends of theirs and ours and some new friends who turned out to be old friends of their friends. Among the guests were Pauline Pitt and Jerry Seay, Terry Kramer and Nick Simunek, Emilia and Pepe Fanjul, Hasheem and Kate Khosrovani, Bill Eubanks, Mona de Sayve, Emme  Walbach, Nadine Kalachnikoff and Lars Bolander, my sister and brother-in-law Maureen and Bobby Oxenberg, Harry and Gigi Benson, and Donna Ward who's off soon to London and Hong Kong.
Sharon's mother was the last debutante presented at Court before WWII. Sharon's portrait by Alejo Vidal-Quadras.
Sharon's family at El Morocco during WWII.
Cole Porter with Sharon's grandmother Eve Lehman.
Orin Lehman, Pearl Bailey, and Jayne Mansfield.
Andy Warhol, Maureen Oxenberg, and Sharon in New York Magazine circa 1977.
I'm in awe of Donna's daughter, Clarissa, a foreign correspondent for CBS News and a contributor to 60 Minutes. She has received an Emmy, a Peabody, the David Bloom award and this week the Dupont Columbia award. Nadine and Lars chatted excitedly about the upcoming show of her butterfly creations at the Art Palm Beach Fair at the Convention Center from January 24th to the 28th.

We were disappointed to have missed having Joan Collins and her husband Percy Gibson for dinner as she came down with a virus. Bobby's sister, Catherine Oxenberg, was in the great old series "Dynasty" where Joan played her mother.
Hunt Slonem's Toucan painting in the living room.
Papaya from Sharon's garden. Sharon's homegrown avocado.
Luz and her laser-cut tea sandwiches.
The cold buffet.
The hot buffet.
The dining room set for dinner.
We had a divine buffet prepared by my fabulous housekeeper, Luz, who made one of my all time favorite meals reminiscent of the old "21" restaurant in New York. There was a Shrimp Salad, followed by Chicken Hash "21" with Wild Rice with Cranberries, Creamed Spinach, Roasted Baby Red, Yellow and Orange Peppers, and a big chopped salad with Lorenzo dressing.  

It's so nice to be able to grow a lot the vegetables and fruits we use such as papayas, mangoes, lemons, and bananas. The avocado in the salad came from a tree I started as a pit! Dessert was my signature ice cream bars, including the newest frozen Reese's peanut butter cups, Snickers, Twix, Milky Way, Dove and mini Häagen-Dazs popsicles. All washed down with delicious wines and champagne for the many toasts to the couple and to us at the end of the dinner.
Mona de Sayve, Maureen Oxenberg, and Sharon Sondes.
Geoffrey in his Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) autographed shirt with Maureen Oxenberg.
Mona de Sayve and Harry Benson. Peter Watson.
Jerry Seay, Pepe Fanjul, and Sharon.
Terry Allen Kramer. Nick Simunek.
Kathrine Palmer and Emilia Fanjul.
Lars Bolander and Kathrine Palmer.
Put your left foot in ...
Nadine Kalachinoff, Bobby Oxenberg, Peter Watson, Billy Eubanks, and Ben Stein.
Sharon's just desserts.

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