Monday, April 28, 2014

Almost there

Pear trees almost in full bloom on West 69th Street. 1 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, April 28, 2014. A mainly sunny, somewhat cool weekend in New York, with clouds and some rain coming in on late Saturday afternoon through the evening. Unremarkable otherwise, and still early Spring.
It rained lightly and briefly Saturday afternoon, and about 5:30 a friend called me and told me to get down to the river to see the rainbow that stretched all the way from the Triboro Bridge to the southern tip of Roosevelt Island. By the time I got there (ten minutes later), the top of the rainbow was hidden by haze. However, you can see how intense it was. 5:45 p.m.
Early Sunday afternoon with lots of big clouds rushing across the blue -- to the south and the Queensboro/59th Street/Edward Koch Bridge.
Same time but looking north away from the Sun, looking toward the same spot where Saturday's rainbow appeared.
And the Promenade looking north toward Randall's Island. All those dark clouds, but no precipitation.
West 82nd Street Saturday afternoon about 4. I took this picture for its brief tunnel of pear trees.
The neighbors have their tulips out. Gracie Terrace, Sunday afternoon about 2 p.m.
Same hour, over on the corner of 85th and East End by 120 East End Avenue.
And back home, the real thing and the bronze doré version.
Last night in New York at the Four Seasons Restaurant the Irvington Fellowship Program of the Cancer Research Institute held its annual “Through the Kitchen Party.” Perri Peltz, who briefly emcees the evening, told us how this was their 32nd, all started by her mother Lauren Veronis, who every year swears it will be her last, and how every year Perri talks her into doing it one more time. Perhaps there will be a 33rd.

It is a very successful fundraiser. 260 guests and many of the most prominent people in town  buying a ticket. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a long time supporter of the Irvington Institute, was there. I don’t know how much they raised although Jamie Niven conducted an auction and raised at least $400,000 by asking people to give in increments of 50, 25, 10, 5 and one thousand. He also sold a dinner for six at RAO’S for $15,000. Getting a reservation at RAO’S can’t even be had for that price. You have to know somebody who’s not using their table that night.
The Chrysler Building from ten blocks north at 7:15 p.m. last night. I'm so used to the image with the lights but the sunset on the building gave it a different majesty. I never get tired of looking up at the Chrysler Building. It's almost as if I'm seeing it each time for the first time.
The guests last night in the Grille Room for cocktails before the Through the Kitchen dinner.
The chairs: Lauren Veronis, Perri Peltz, Jeanne Siegel, and Jo Carole Lauder.
The process is the same. It’s a Sunday Supper, New York style. A magnificent buffet in the kitchen in the restaurant.  An: all-you-can-eat-and-drink-and-dessert. And people aren’t shy about filling their plates.

The evening always has a theme (it’s held in the pool room). Last night’s was “Dancing” and so the tables had names of dances. Mine was the “Belly Dance” table. I was a guest of Herb and Jeanne Siegel and they had Joanie Schnitzer, in from Houston, on her way tomorrow to Rome; Richard Meier, Peggy Siegal, who made a mountain of food on her plate; Regis and Joy Philbin, Tony Bennett and Susan Crow, Bill Finneran and his guest.
Then the kitchen doors open and they're already lined up, and the apron servers assist with the wearing. That's architect Richard Meier on the top right. Mr. Meier is currently walking with a cane because he is recovering from his third hip replacement. And still managing a smile.
Perri Peltz thanking her mother Lauren Veronis for the great success she created and expressing her hope that Mrs. Veronis will go for her 33rd next year.
Sotheby's Jamie Niven raising about $400,000 in fifteen minutes by selling a couple of auction items and then just asking for special donations beginning at $50,000.
After the auction they open the dessert and people literally run up the steps to get to it. All these prominent, sophisticated New Yorkers (not exactly spring chickens, either) run to the dessert tables. A tribute to the pastry chef.

Last night’s host committee: Christine and John Fitzgibbon, Denise and Michael Kellen, Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder, Jamie Niven, Margaret and Andrew Paul, Perri Peltz and Eric Ruttenberg, Betsy and Paul Shiverick, Jeanne and Herb Siegel, Diane and Tom Tuft, Lauren and John Veronis.  A good night, and home by ten.
I didn't get all the food that was put out. But the guests got to see it all. It was one of those situations where you can have everything on the menu and you decide to see if you can actually put all of that on your plate. Ridiculous but impossible to avoid: it's all very good.
Guests ready to begin ...
Last night’s theme was “Dancing” and so the tables had names of dances ...
Thursday last.  I had lunch at Michael’s with Cornelia Guest. American’s debutante of the 1970s. American Heritage-goes-Studio 54. I mention this only because Cornelia today is possibly more beautiful than she was in her gilded youth, and now she’s a one-girl industry. I mean the girl works. She’s got a catering business that is growing by leaps and bounds. She’s got an all-natural handbag business and is coming out with her Spring line in the next few weeks. And between here in New York and the family house in Long Island, she’s got about eight dogs. And may be acquiring another any day now. Her mother, the fabled CZ was like that, and Cornelia in that way is a chip off the old coif. And she likes L.A. too, like this old fan.

Thursday was the day she also signed the papers to sell the family house “Templeton” with its sixteen acres and ten bedrooms. More than she needs, eight dogs and all. Cornelia will remain in residence for about a year and by then will have got herself a new piece of property. She plans to remain on Long Island.

Michael’s was doing business, especially with the ladies. By which I mean, at table one were these three at brunch: Rosanna Scotto, Jeanine Pirro, and Maria Bartiromo. The guy is Steve Millington, the Michael’s GM who always takes the pictures in Michael’s that you see on the NYSD, so he wanted to be in one too. It’s the selfie-effect at work in the room. He’s having his moment with the three.
Steve Millington, Rosanna Scotto, Jeanine Pirro, and Maria Bartiromo at Table One,
It would be interesting to listen in on those three girls at table. Oh, if the flowers behind them only had ears. Or hidden mikes. Never mind, it was probably all about dermos, manicurists, shrinks (of friends) and the downside of this and that. Remember there’s always downside when your life is in a rush in NYC. It’s all a challenge for balance everywhere, including in the head.

Meanwhile, speaking of balance in the head, in the Garden Room at the same hour Peggy Siegal put together a luncheon for Marlo Thomas and her new book: “It Ain’t Over ... Till It’s Over”.  And what would that be that ain’t over? The whole magillah. The room was filled with a lot of girls who have just that on their minds all the time.

Marlo Thomas with a copy of "It Ain't Over." Click to order.
Such as: the hosts -- Arianna Huffington, Diane Sawyer and Judith Curr, President and Publisher, Atria Publishing Group, in honor of Marlo Thomas. Also: Nancy Armstrong, Maryam Banikarim (SVP of Gannett Company), Joy Behar, Candice Bergen,  Myrna Blyth (SVP and Editorial director of AARP), Joanna Coles (EIC Cosmopolitan), Lucy Danziger, Cristina Cuomo (EIC Beach Magazine), Gayle King (CBS This Morning host), Ellen Levine (Editorial Director of Hearst), Susan Lyne (Vice Chairman of GILT and on the board of AOL, Inc and Starz), Sheila Nevins (President of HBO Documentary Films), Elaine May, Zhena Muzyka (author), Jennifer Raab (President of Hunter College of the City University of New York [CUNY]), Carolyn Reidy (President & CEO of Simon & Schuster), Gloria Steinem, Meredith Vieira, Diane Von Furstenberg and Ali Wentworth.

Also attending were some who were subjects in the book, like Julie Azuma (mother to an autistic daughter, who launched website to help autistic kids), Lori Cheek (Match Game, dating website), Kerry O’Brien (CEO of Commando) and Sue Rock (created a clothing line for victims of domestic violence).  

There’s always a lot going on for these ladies who lunch nowadays. The entire luncheon was a marketing activity, in other words, business-as-usual -- and, although many of the guests have friendships and ongoing social relationships with others, this is a ritual of helping a friend. And seeing people you haven’t seen in awhile. And nobody wears a hat.

Prince and Princess Karl Friedrich von Hohenzollern
That night I went over to the Pierre where the Versailles Foundation was having its annual New York City black tie benefit. This dinner is hosted by Barbara de Portago who runs the Foundation that was begun by her stepfather, Gerald Van der Kemp and her mother Florence (Flo-RAWNS). Van der Kemp was the man who restored Versailles in the 20th century. No small feat, an extraordinary journey through life. The Van der Kemps also got involved with the preservation of Monet’s Giverny. The work continues through the present day Versailles Foundation.

Each year Barbara invites a royal personage to speak to the guests about some aspect of the experience of royal life. Almost all are individuals whose royal/political power has long since disappeared into the political changes of the past century and a half.

This year’s guest of honor was His Highness, the Prince Karl Friedrich of Hohenzollern and his wife Princess Katharina (known as Nina to her friends). The Prince and Princess were in the “royal receiving line” with Gillian Fuller, the Foundation Director. After the cocktail reception (Taittinger), The Patrons are photographed with a backdrop of handsome red plumed Cadets from Valley Forge Academy from which Mrs. Portago’s son Russell Grant graduated.

Then the Color Guard enters as the guests stand and then the trumpets herald the cortege of Foundation supporters, Director Mrs Camila Koenig, International Committee Member Mrs John Dorrance III. They are closely followed by the Foundation's Royal International Committee Members : their Imperial and Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess George Frederick of Prussia and Her Royal Highness The Duchess and Princess Elizabeth of Bavaria. All are cousins and neighbors of the Prince Karl Friedrich who some believe bears an uncanny resemblance to King Frederick the Great of Prussia.
The ballroom of the Pierre set for the Versailles dinner as guests assemble at their tables.
In his fifteen minute talk before dinner the Prince told us that the family Hohenzollern is more than 950 years old. In other words, that’s how long they’ve been important in the political scheme of things. Although that importance was lost with the First World War. A small percentage of the thousands of Hohenzollern descendants retain the financial clout and wealth.

The name itself means “toll taker” (tax collector) which is exactly how they started out in the business of eventually acquiring enormous political and economic power. "Zoll" translated is a toll as in a tax levied for the liberty of crossing a bridge for example, or a country border, selling goods in a market etc.

The Prince also told us that .18% of Germany's population is of royal and noble descent and that one percent of it still owns all their castles, collections and lands ... intact.   
Barbara de Portago and Donald Tober Barbara Tober and Cat Jagger-Pollon.
Cat Jagger-Pollon's "Lazy Ring" designed for her by Prince Dimitri.
The Prince is the father of three children from his first marriage to Count von Stauffenberg's daughter. The Count, you may remember, was the man behind the plot to blow up Hitler in a coup that failed. As an officer he was executed; his children (whence the daughter of Hohenzollern's first wedding) were thrown into the anonymity of orphanages and his brothers hung from meat hooks. The prince did not remind us of this in his talk.

Also present at the evening was His Imperial Royal Highness The Prince George Frederick of Prussia who is the direct descendant of Frederick the Great of Prussia and the great-great grandson was Kaiser Wilhem II, and a great-great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria. Aside from his very royal blood, the prince was a very pleasant fellow as interested in history as I and no doubt, moreso.
Melissa Morris, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, and Cat Jagger-Pollon. Princess Elisabeth of Prussia with Gillian Fuller.
The Foundation continues the mission of Barbara’s late mother and stepfather, Florence & Gerald Van der Kemp for The Chateau de Versailles and the Home & Gardens of Claude Monet.

There are also projects of French origin such as the restoration of Thomas Jefferson's Georges Jacob Mobilier at Monticello, the performed revival of Versailles XVIIth century Court Music by William Christie's "Les Arts Florissants".

At Giverny the Foundation underwrites Garden Volunteers culled from all over the world, an Artists in Residence Fellowship Program and the current restoration of Claude Monet's Greenhouse.
DPC and Susan Gutfreund.
Sheik Khalaisa Al-Khalisa, Alana Parry, and Thomas Leddy.
After the Versailles dinner, I had to make a quick run down to Michael's to pick up my credit card that I'd left behind at lunch. On my way back north, I stopped to get some shots of the great new Bergdorf's windows.
Catching up. Last Wednesday night at the Pierre, CASAColumbia hosted its 22nd anniversary dinner and honored Jon and Lizzie Tisch with the Distinguished Service Award for their philanthropic and civic leadership in health, arts, and education.

Elizabeth Vargas.
“To be in this room tonight with individuals who care so much about a cause that touches us all is very meaningful,” Jonathan Tisch said. “Everyone will deal with addiction in some manner and by being here tonight you are giving the much needed dollars and your support to CASA to break down all of the walls that surround addiction and allow us to talk about addiction in a manner that is respectful to the seriousness of the disease.”

Joe Califano, who founded CASA, introduced the organizations newly appointed President and CEO Dr. Samuel Ball. Elizabeth Vargas, co-anchor of ABC News 20/20, served as master of ceremonies.

CASAColumbia, formerly known as The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, is a science-based organization focused on developing effective solutions to address the disease of addiction. It is committed to understanding the science of addiction and its implications for health care, public policy and public education. It was founded in 1992 by Joseph A. Califano, Jr. former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
Samuel Ball, Ph.D., Joseph A. Califano, Jr., and Jeffrey Lane.
Jonathan and Lizzie Tisch with Nancy and Jeffrey Lane. Sondra and David Mack.
Jay Diamond and Alexandra Lebenthal. Olivia De Grelle and Jamie Niven.

Photographs by Eric Weiss (Casa).

Contact DPC here.