Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Going full tilt

Reading in Central Park. 2:05 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014. A very very warm day, yesterday in New York, right into the midnight hour (83 degrees and humid). Soon the streets of New York at night will be a-hum -- like a million sound moderators -- with the armies of air conditioners going full tilt.

Paige Peterson and Peter Brown (more on Peter later) high above the parade on Central Park West.
It wasn’t oppressive yesterday, but it had people predicting a long hot summer. I went down to Michael’s to lunch with my friend Paige Peterson who is the Senior Vice President for Strategic Relations at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.

Paige, who is also a painter, is a highly gregarious individual. She loves people and animals. You might have read about her here more recently because she and her collaborator Chris Cerf just published a new edition of their highly successful children’s book: “Blackie, the Horse Who Stood Still.” Regular NYSD readers may be familiar with her because every year she gives a party the night before the Thanksgiving Day parade at her apartment on Central Park West, takes copious pictures of her guests and of the actual parade the next day, all of which she posts it on the Diary.

Last night in New York: Christopher Buckley and Katy Close,George and Nanette Herrick, Calvin Tomkins and Dodie Kazanjian hosted a booksigning reception for their friend, author Sylvia Jukes Morris whose second volume of her biography of Clare Boothe Luce has just been published. “Price of Fame; the Honorable Clare Boothe Luce” (Random House) was preceded by “Rage For Fame” – a phrase that she applied to herself in her youth. In other words, she wanted to be famous, big time.

Subject, Author: Clare Boothe Luce, and her biographer Sylvia Jukes Morris.
That animal (in rage for fame) is an endlessly curious creature to know, particularly when it is a woman, since she has more mountains to climb and battles to wage before acceptance. Clare Boothe was born in 1903 to the generation who were the children and grandchildren of the Suffragettes. This heritage provided the opportunity of taking advantage of the inroads her forebears created. She also had the wit and gumption to carry out her objectives. Her accomplishments on paper remain remarkable. Author, playwright, screenwriter, the first US woman ambassador, politician (Congress), and wife of two very rich men (never a small matter for an ambitious woman).

Her second husband Henry Luce was the founder and owner of Time, Life and Fortune magazines and arguably the most powerful media owner in the Western Hemisphere mid-century. Mrs. Luce took full advantage of his power and position. With all that, she also had time for more than a little of what we could politely call “romance” in her life.

This was not an easy lady but biographer Morris draws a full, rich picture of the woman’s personality. The subject herself no doubt gave Mrs. Morris a lot of assistance just from her works as a writer (including the highly successful “The Women” both on the stage and in film).

The name Clare Boothe Luce was a household word when I was growing up. Of course I didn’t realize, as a kid, why the adult women who referred to her, were so taken by her. Now, thanks to Sylvia Jukes Morris, you can see why, and it’s a big why, as well as what, where, when, and how. I don’t think there’s been another to compare with the accomplishments of this one woman of the American 20th century.

Last night at Cipriani 42nd Street Literacy Partners were celebrating their 40th Anniversary at a black tie gala. They honored Marcus Dohle, the CEO of Penguin Random House, and presented the 3rd Annual Lizzie Award to Peter Brown. Brown is an Englishman, well known here in New York, who has worn many hats in his now long career, beginning with his relationship to the Beatles in their earliest days, and president of their Apple label.
Guests milling about before dinner.
At table.
The one and only Liz Smith opens the show.
LIZZIE Award Recipient Peter Brown, Chairman & CEO of BLJ Worldwide and LP Board Member.
He has an international reputation for being a man in the know when it comes to managing talent and public images. Last night Valerie Simpson, who performed, told the guests that Peter Brown had been the first manager of Ashford & Simpson and she credited him entirely for their great success in show business. She was only one of the many who valued his advice and friendship. For example, they showed a clip of Yoko Ono, who couldn’t be there last night, thanking Peter for all that he has done for her and John down through the years.

Last night in accepting his award he reminded everyone that this particular charity is very important to the entire community (helping adults learn to read), and raising money for it was always a job. “People tend to give to causes that they can relate to, such as medical…” Most of us who can read take it for granted that everyone can. We usually never even consider what it must be like to lack that fundamental ability.
Nicholas Kristof introducing the evening's honoree, Markus Dohle.
Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House.
Board Members Leslie Klotz and Jeff Sharp.
Yoko Ono thanking Peter for all that he has done for her and John down through the years.
Last night’s celebration was maybe the best of all those I’ve attended over the years. Liz Smith emceed and remarked that she’d recently read that the over-90 crowd was the fastest growing demographic in this country. She introduced the “Guest Readers”: Bette Midler and Gary Shteyngart.

Ms. Midler read from her 1980 memoir “A View From A Broad” which has just been reissued. I could say she was amusing at times, because she always is. But she also had a moment in her reading, recalling two of her very closest friends who died of AIDS, and demonstrated unintentionally how the memory of those losses still can overwhelm her emotionally, as we witnessed last night. She took us with her in memory: “The ‘80s were official end of the ‘60s,” she read, when the blue skies turned to grey with the oncoming epidemic.

Bette Midler is one of those performers who, no matter what she speaks or performs, or whatever the message, she is irresistible.
Bette Midler reading from A View from A Broad. Click above to play.
Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972 and came to this country when he was seven. His bestselling memoir is “Little Failure” (his mother used to call him that). He’s also written three novels, “Super Sad True Love Story,” ”Absurdistan,” and “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook” along with fiction and essays for The New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, Travel + Leisure, The New York Times Magazine. He’s been published in 28 languages. His wit and personality have shades of Woody Allen, a kind of simpatico (not imitation), but of course with a Russian-bred sensibility. I haven’t read “Little Failure” but several friends have been raving about it.
Alina Cho introducing her new BFF author Gary Shteyngart.
Gary Shteyngart reading from Little Failure: A Memoir.
After the Guest Readings, two people, Victor Bazemore and Beverly Jenkins, students with Literacy Partners who have achieved readership through the programs, were introduced and read a speech they’d written about their experience. This gives everyone in the room a chance to realize how crucial it is to the community that everyone, man, woman and child, need to be able to read.

Beverly Jenkins read to us what she’d written about her personal life that led to the dilemma where she couldn’t read above second grade level. Her life experience in childhood and young adulthood was hair-raising, and rife with life-threatening danger and violence. By the time she was fourteen she was living on the streets, without a home. She told us last night that she has just been accepted to begin college. She’s forty-one. She’s brave and courageous, resolute and self-respecting enough to know she can depend on those qualities to assist her.
Student presentation by Beverly Jenkins.
Ira Joe Fisher conducting the live auction.
Beverly Jenkins, Victor Bazemore, and Executive Director Anthony Tassi take in the live auction.
This is what Literacy Partners does and has been doing for the past forty years for more than 37,000 New Yorkers. They could do more with more funds. A better world is still out there.

After the awards and speeches, Nona Hendryx, the singer songwriter (“Lady Marmalade”) came out to perform with her singers, as part of the tribute to Peter Brown. Hendryx (who is a cousin of Jimi Hendryx) and Brown are also long time friends. Ms. Hendryx, who will be 70 this coming October, has still has her youth, her petite, shapely figure and her dynamic performance that command the audience. She sang a couple of the Beatles’ songs that she associates with Peter Brown, including “All You Need is Love.”
Nona Hendryx singing "Lady Marmalade" before moving onto “All You Need is Love" with Valerie Simpson.
Valerie Simpson singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
Nona Hendryx singing “All You Need is Love" with Valerie Simpson.
Valerie Simpson congratulates Peter Brown.
Beth Kseniak, Elizabeth Peabody, and Walter Owen with Joni Evans, Bob Perkins, and Bill Hamilton.
Philippe Delouvrier and Paige Peterson.
Barbara Taylor Bradford and Bob Bradford.
Liz Smith and Barbara Taylor Bradford.
Sam Peabody and Joni Evans.
Iris Love and Tina Flaherty.
Toni Goodale and Aaron Latham.
Linda Yellen and Denis Ferrara.

Contact DPC here.