Sunday, June 22, 2014

Weekend musings

Going green. 6:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, June 23, 2014. Another beautiful Summer weekend on the first day of Summer. Blue skies, some clouds, not too hot; cool at night, clear. No complaints.

Sunday, in the late morning, I took the dogs out for their walks. We walked the block down 83rd Street to the river.  I’d brought my camera (I always take my camera – you never know and I’m lousy with the iPhone camera). As soon as we turned the corner on 83rd, I saw at the river’s edge, a massive crane quickly floating by. I love all these river boats, and cranes are dramatic since they naturally evoke awe and wonder, just like when you were a kid.
There she is, well along the way before I could get a shot of her ...
I wanted to run down the block to get a closeup because it was close to the railing, on the westernmost edge of the channel. From a couple hundred yards (East End Avenue), it looked like you could reach out and touch it as it very smoothly floated by. But Byrone is a dawdler and small as he is, he’s like pulling dead weight when he’s busy trying to sniff something.

By the time we got to the Promenade, the barge with crane was no longer close to the edge, but mid-channel and approaching Randall’s Island and the bridges. It was moving very quickly for such an enormous barge being pulled by a good sized tug.

The sense I had of its size when it was passing by the 83rd Street section of the Promenade is lost in these pictures. Much to my disappointment. Because it was astoundingly enormous.
Passing by moving down river is a private sail boat. I took this picture to give you a sense the size of the barge and crane.
The same sailboat passing by our spot on the Promenade.
I love watching the river, as you may know by now if you visit us regularly. It’s full of passing interest and fascination always changing, as well as being a vast well of human and wildlife drama. The river is carrying the information. When Hurricane Sandy was moving through, although we in this neighborhood were not exposed to its hurricane rain and wind, the river was making it very clear. Mother Nature’s Son.

Mainly it’s watching the great variety of boats, all full of lives and stories to these wondering eyes. But the river itself, I have learned, having lived by it and watched it for the past more than  twenty years, is the message about This Life of Ours. Always moving, always moving on; and taking us with her.
And what should come along right after but something smaller -- a couple on jet skis.
Thursday night, Susan Burke and Charlotte Ford hosted a cocktail reception in the back room at Swifty’s for Charles Masson and several of his paintings. I got there early because I had to go on to dinner. There were about 25 when I took the picture but more than 80 turned up to greet Charles, and 7 pictures were sold that night.

This is how New York is a village, like any other. Charles has been a painter all his life. So was his father. And their mentor was Bernard Lamotte, who for years had a studio on the second floor of La Grenouille, the restaurant that Charles’ father and mother started and ran until death made changes.

For the last almost two decades that Charles had been running the great restaurant, he kept a small studio for his painting off a small passage above the second floor (the building was built in 1871 as a stable for the mansion across the street).  Up until his sudden departure from the restaurant a few months ago, it was here where Charles continued to paint in the tradition of his father and of Bernard Lamotte.
Entering the back room of Swifty's for the reception for Charles Masson last Thursday night.
Charles’ sudden departure was a matter of distress to many of his friends and the restaurant’s very loyal and admiring clientele. Because the artist was the manager and created an atmosphere that was as sensitive and beautiful as his paintings. We ran a long piece on Charles in the restaurant last year. You can get a sense of it in that piece.

Recently we learned that he’s going to be the general manager of a new French restaurant opening in the new Baccarat Hotel on West 53rd Street, just around the corner from his home restaurant.
Liz Smith with Charles Masson in front of one of his paintings.
Charlotte Ford and Duane Hampton.
Susan Burke, when she heard the news, decided it was time to celebrate. She arranged through Robert Caravaggi at Swifty’s to exhibit some of Charles’ paintings and watercolors and to give this reception. The (Swifty) neighbors all came. Liz Smith had just written about Charles in her column on the NYSD that day, and she was there. It was also a little like old home week as  Swifty’s and La Grenouille were/are patronized by many of the same clientele.
Sessa and Richard Johnson with Jane Cuozzo.
Susan Burke, Charlotte Ford, and Sydney Shuman.
I startled Alexandra Schlesinger, as you can see, looking to get a shot of Sam Peabody with Mary McFadden, whom I haven't seen in a while.
That's Carmen in the black and white, Jay Jolly, and Elizabeth Peabody. Barbara Uzielli.
Liz is listening and Duane is telling.
Otherwise, it was a quiet weekend in New York for this writer. I went out to dinner with friends on Friday night at Swifty’s, Saturday night at Bar Italia, and Sunday night at Sette Mezzo. Otherwise, besides my Zabar’s run and walking the dogs, I was at home, often reading.

I’m reading, as I’ve written here before, the Barbara Stanwyck biography by Victoria Wilson. The book has been well publicized but it is a big one – almost 900 pages of text as well as another 150 pages of references, acknowledgements, index and bibliography – and challenging to the eye. However, Wilson’s scholarliness on the subject of the life of a movie actress, a movie star whose career ran (she worked) for six decades, is awesome. And what quietly piques your curiosity at the outset – the picture – eventually grabs you so that you know if you don’t finish it, you’re going to miss something ...

I was slow in starting the book because of its size. I found right off that it was a very easy read. Wilson’s literary style is short (but not too) and succinct. She’s there to tell you a story, to show you a world, and a time, and a woman who against great odds progressed and succeeded, and what she was like, and what it was like, and what the people were like. 

I’m a Hollywood fan anyway. I lived out there for several years and never lost my awe and curiosity about the place, and the world, and the life. I had a brief, albeit short but trenchant view of it working with Debbie Reynolds on her autobiography “Debbie, My Life” (William Morrow 1988). Those women who have had long and successful careers in that business understand it as a business and their obligations to it. They also have a high regard for talent – all kinds of talent. They learn from it and it enhances them. That is a big part of the success that they represent in the business.
As a showgirl with Ziegfeld Follies.
As an "honest gambler" in Gambling Lady.
Reading about Stanwyck, I’m reminded of Debbie Reynolds, another one of those rare women who succeeded in that business on her own terms despite whatever barriers and disasters would confront her. For her, for them, it’s all about the work. The commitment is as natural as any artist or great creative talent.

Despite my tentativeness in getting into this book, now at page 500, I am well into it and regret only that I couldn’t read it all in one night because it is a rich portrait of a life and its environment and atmosphere, and it’s Hollywood. Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler and Joan Didion novelized it, Victoria Wilson lives it in “A Life of Barbara Stanwyck; Steel True 1907-1940” (Volume One – Stanwyck died in 1990).  If you are a movie fan, a filmmaking fan, a fan of Hollywood history, a filmmaker, or would be, should be, could be, or even just a person who is completely a TCM addict, this book you should be reading.
 

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