Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Many Are Wishing

Looking up. 4:00 PM. Photo: Jeffrey Hirsch.
Thursday, February 27, 2014. A friend wrote me yesterday to say that February was always the longest month of the year for her in New York. I kinda knew what she meant, especially after this one just passing. Tomorrow is the last day of that month. So the long one is over.

That’s what many of us are thinking and what many are wishing, going into March, Ides or no. It’s cold in New York. The leftover snow is just about gone. So it’s that stark, dull, colorless cold when you’re outside. The roads are now grey and dusty but not slippery; and it’s dull to look at except ... Spring is just around the corner. The weatherman is saying we might get more snow over the weekend.

The happy family.
Yesterday a woman named Polly McCourt, very pregnant and heading for the hospital to give birth, lost the cab the doorman hailed for her to another woman who snatched it. You’ve heard about this, right? Right after ... right after ... Snatcha grabbed the cab from her, Polly McCourt had the baby right there on the pavement. On the freezing  pavement of Third Avenue at 68th Street (she was only nine blocks from the hospital).  Thanks Snatcha. Hope you made your botox appointment on time.

The good news is many people passing by pitched in and helped McCourt and her newborn child. They gave their coats and scarves to keep the baby warm. Soon the ambulance was there.

The bad news is the creep who took her cab. This goes on all the time, especially in the “better” parts of the city, and by the “better” parts neighbors. I’ve written about the woman who took the cab I was waiting for one day and when I reminded her that I had been there first, she gave me the finger. As she was getting into the cab. Same neighborhood (in their heads). I always wonder who these people go home to, and what it must be like for their partners, family, children, etc. Creeps, all. And, they’re not just the so-called younger generation, so don't go blaming it on the 20-somethings (exclusively).

Ms. McCourt, judging from the photos looked quite happy after the incident. In fact she looked really happy. A helluva lot happier than the woman who stole the cab. She’s probably looking at her phone messages. Or her apps. Happy apps. Waiting for Godot. Okay, enufs enuf.
Last night I went down to the 1stdibs Gallery at 200 Lexington where Michael Bruno was hosting a reception for Gloria Vanderbilt on the opening of her new exhibition “Gloria Vanderbilt; The Left Hand is the Dreamer” (Work from 2013 -  2014 in gouache, collage and pastel). Here’s the invitation with one of her pictures. Do get over to the 1stdibs showroom and have a look. Gloria will intrigue and fascinate. Always.
I met her about twenty-five years ago when I was living in California and had come to New York to work on a project. I contacted her to interview. She was one of the few who agreed to see me. Gloria likes meeting new people, and we became friends – New York style – meaning: we’d see each from time to time and get to know a bit about each other, but never much more than that. It has more to do with time and numbers than anything else. Too little time and too many to meet, plus all that you have to do to keep your mojo.

She was living in a newly acquired townhouse on East 91st Street and she had a new shih-tzu. I had an older shih-tzu whose name was Mrs. Fa Fa. (Don’t ask.) Gloria liked the name (so did I) and she’d always ask me how Mrs. Fa Fa was. Despite her gossamer-y charisma, Gloria is right there in the moment. She’s nobody’s fool but she’s also acquiring, learning, from people. Romance too; she likes romance, possibly almost as much as when it was new (she married her first husband Pat DiCicco when she was 16).
15-year-old Gloria.
She is the only celebrated person I have known who never over time lost her aura of specialness.  By “specialness,” I mean she just not like anyone else you’ve ever known. (Except possibly in a Southern novel – although Gloria is not at all Southern).

She was a household name by the time we met. She’d been famous as a small child because of the custody case between her mother (also Gloria) and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, her late father’s elder sister. Thanks to Barbara Goldsmith’s highly readable (and fascinating), best-selling, in-depth study of the girl’s famously tabloidal childhood and growing up, “Little Gloria, Happy at Last,” that fame became legend. But then by the time she was in her 40s, she’d become an all out commercial brand too. She’d had her great success with her Jeans, and then with her perfume.
With her mother, Gloria Morgan, and governess. Gloria's mother lost custody of her in 1934. Gloria's paternal aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney was awarded custody.
But when you’re in her company she’s neither commercial, or a culture relic. She’s a kind of a magical soul, an artist whose life is the work. What I admire about her is her stick-to-ive-ness, her supranatural commitment to finding ways to express herself through her works and her writing. She carries the ambition gene of her great-great-grandfather, the Commodore who put the name on the map (and even owned a lot of the map). I don’t think money was ever an object (except to be spent on beautiful and interesting things), but achievement was all.

Gloria turned 90 last Thursday. I haven’t seen her in a  year or two but I’m sure she still looks amazing. To “amaze” is one of her talents. So I went down to 200 Lex last night just to say hello and to take her picture. The reception was called for 6 to 9. I left the house about 7. It’s about a ten minute ride down the FDR to the New York Design Center where 1stdibs has its showroom on 32nd Street and Lex. I got there about 7:15.
Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper, Gloria's son with Wyatt Cooper. Emily Goldstein and Stan Stokowski, Gloria's son with Leopold Stokowski.
Andrew Slaby and Gloria.
Stuart Cohen, the PR and special events manager at 1stdibs was at the entrance. It was from him that I learned that Gloria had “just left.” I was surprised, but he reminded me that she’d been there for an hour. That doesn’t seem like a long time but then again ... she’d been there for an hour.  I was sorry I didn’t think of it.

I was disappointed not to have had the pleasure of seeing Gloria and her only-Gloria charm. When I left the building, back out on the avenue looking for a cab, I noticed the Chrysler Building only ten blocks to the north, its spire lighting up the night. This, I decided was what I came for: I took the picture in the stead of another sensational New York icon whom I had missed seeing by just few minutes last night.
The Chrysler Building lighting up the night.
Catching up: This past Monday night, Ward and Nico Landrigan of Verdura hosted a cocktail reception and a lively discussion of “Memos: The Vogue Years” about Diana Vreeland with the book’s editor (and the subject’s grandson) Alexander Vreeland, moderated by New York Magazine Design Editor Wendy Goodman.

Memos: The Vogue Years, published by Rizzoli New York, is an amazing compilation of more than 250 pieces of Mrs. Vreeland’s personal correspondence, selected by her grandson.  Mr. Vreeland was on hand to sign books for those in attendance. 
In the audience: Taylor Gildersleeve, Brad Livingstone Black, Ward Landrigan, Reinaldo Herrera, and Carolina Herrera.
Sicilian Duke Fulco di Verdura began his extraordinary career in Paris as jewelry designer for Coco Chanel for whom he first designed his signature Maltese Cross brooches and cuffs. With a Hollywood connection through his friend and client Diana Vreeland, Verdura designed colorful jewels for stars of the era including Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich. Fulco di Verdura and Diana Vreeland enjoyed a lifelong friendship and years of collaboration.
Alexander Vreeland, Wendy Goodman, and Ward Landrigan.
Judith Landrigan, Alexander Vreeland, Carolina Herrera, and Nico Landrigan.
Geoffrey Bradfield. Emilia and Pepe Fanjul.
Catherine Hart and Cynthia McDonald.
More catching up.  This past Tuesday night Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) held its 2014 Vision at Cipriani 42nd Street, celebrating its 45th Anniversary. This year’s gala theme was “Live the Moment.” Honorees of the evening were Patti LaBelle who received the Arthur Mitchell Vision Award; dance educator and arts advocate Jody Gottfried Arnhold who was given The Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Medal; and Goldman, Sachs & Co. senior partner Valentino D. Carlotti receiving the inaugural Virtuoso Award. Billy Joel was honorary chair of the evening (although he wasn’t in attendance).
Paula Zahn, Laveen Naidu, and Patti LaBelle.
Beverly D'Anne and Guy Mognaz. Nana Meriwether, Miss USA, and Virginia Johnson.
They raised $700,000. $75,000 of that came from the entertaining live auction conducted by Audrey Smaltz. Proceeds benefitted the DTH School’s Next Generation and Community Engagement Funds.

There were performances by the Dance Theatre of Harlem School to “Over the Rainbow,” choreographed by School Director Endalyn Taylor; a preview of the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company’s forthcoming spring season at Jazz at Lincoln Center with an excerpt from “The Pas de Dix from Raymonda.” There was a special tribute performance by the Company to Patti LaBelle, choreographed by resident choreographer Robert Garland. 
Sam Peabody with Honorees Jody Gottfried Arnhold and Valentino Carlotti.
However, the surprise performance of the evening was from “Lady Marmalade” herself when she ended her acceptance speech with an acapella rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer,” with opera singer Jessye Norman joining her, along with the entire audience, in singing amen

“I can dance, but they dance like angels,” said LaBelle during her acceptance speech, referring to the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company’s performance. “This is my 52nd year in this business called Show and to be honored by the Dance Theatre of Harlem for their 45th year anniversary, I feel so blessed, so honored.”
DTH Company Dancers with Honoree Valentino D. Carlotti.
Nearly 400 corporate sponsors, supporters, friends, alumni and members of the board attended, including journalist Paula Zahn, Malaak Compton Rock, Kimberly Chandler, Miss USA 2012 Nana Meriwether, Isiah and Lynne Thomas; Miss New York City 2014 Kira Kazantsev, Samuel Peabody, Judith M. Hoffman, Jean Shafiroff, Beverly D’Anne and Guy Mognaz. Members of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Board of Directors were present, including Chairman of the Board Kendrick Ashton, Jr., Gala Committee Chair Leslie Wims Morris, members Isabel Kallman, DTH Vice Chair Michael Armstrong, Trey Muldrow, Kevin Cofsky, Zandra Perry Ogbomo, Asha Richards, Anne E. Robinson, Don M. Tellock, and Aliya Lee Kong.
Jessye Norman and Patti LaBelle.
Also this past Tuesday night, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer — an organization funding research for pediatric cancer treatments hosted a special evening benefit, “Chefs for Kids’ Cancer” on at the Altman Building (135 W 18th Street). All the  proceeds will go to benefit research for childhood cancer. Chefs Jonathan Benno (Lincoln Ristorante) and Dan Kluger (abc kitchen) served as Co-Chairs. Both men are friends of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Founders Gretchen and Larry Witt and knew their son, Liam, through his battle with cancer. The event will be held seven years to the day after Liam’s courageous journey with cancer began; his dreams of someday becoming a chef were tragically cut short in 2011 after a four-year battle with the disease.
Chefs Kluger and Benno have curated an outstanding collection of chefs for the event, each of whom prepared a multi-course meal for individual tables of guests. Jim Meehan (PDT) mixed cocktails at the event, and Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar) led an assembly of 15 pastry chefs. Barenaked Ladies performed an acoustic set, and guest speaker Dr. Michael P. LaQuaglia, Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, spoke about the need for advancements in treatments for pediatric cancer, the number one disease killer of children in the U.S.

In attendance also were Chef Mario Batali, actor Paul Rudd, and supermodel Karlie Kloss. The room décor was being personally designed by DwellStudio Founder Christiane Lemieux. Smart Design has created the visual identity for the evening. Additionally, a live auction was held, led by the lovely and lively auctioneer Lydia Fenet from Christie’s.
Mario Batali, Gretchen Witt, and Ella Witt. Paul Rudd and Gretchen Witt.
Christy Turlington. Jim Meehan.
Damon Wise, Justin Smillie, Gretchen Witt, Jonathan Benno, and Shane McBride.
Nick Anderer. Justin Smillie.
Gavin Kaysen, Gretchen Witt, Marco Canora, Sisha Ortuzar, Nick Anderer, and Ben Pollinger.
Marc Murphy. Gavin Kaysen.
Karlie Kloss and Christina Tosi.
Barenaked Ladies.

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