Monday, October 26, 2015

A light has gone out

Streetlamp. 6:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, October 26, 2015.  Cooler, mainly cloudy weekend with a rainy late Saturday night.
Saturday afternoon while walking the dogs on the Promenade along the river, I came upon these horses and carts in Carl Schurz giving the children rides.
Saturday afternoon on my weekly excusion to Zabar's on the West Side, I ran into JH himself on Broadway. While we were talking along came someone on a bicycle shouting something. We stopped and looked and it was Steve Millington the GM of Michael's restaurant cycling back home. Here he is with his bicycle on display standing in front of DPC's Mini Cooper.
Today is the birthday of three remarkable women I have known.

The late Judy Green.
Alice Mason.
Judy Green, who died three days after 9/11 of pancreatic cancer, would be 80 today. Alice Mason is 92. And Hillary Clinton is 68. I should point out that I met all three women here in New York. I met Judy through Dominick Dunne and something I had written that impressed her. I met Alice through Judy and Hillary through Alice. New York degrees of separation.

Re: Clinton. I should clarify: I do not know Hillary Clinton any more than the rest of the public knows her. We all know her through what we can read or hear reported, and from “impressions” one gets from another’s photo or broadcast image. I trust that the least, for we all live in disguise; it is a natural act of self-defense. She and I are not friends nor even acquaintances.

I have had the pleasure of meeting her a couple of times. The first time being at Alice Mason’s apartment where she was giving a fund-raising reception to introduce Hillary who was then running for Senate. I had a brief conversation with her. She seemed exactly like she seems when you see her interviewed. A well turned out, well-fixed (financially) professor; a no-nonsense lady, an authority (compared to a lot of us). A total professional. She is clearly very knowledgeable – something that comes from an ambitious student. It is an impressive quality to this would-be lay-about. (If I didn’t have to pay the rent.)

She is pleasantly direct under these (fund raising, electioneering) circumstances, and on meeting I related to her as a woman of my generation (I’m older). In our meeting she asked me what I thought was the most important issue of that time. That to me is such a big question that I had to pause and think about it, with so much to choose from (yet provide an instant answer). I told her that I thought ultimately the environment was the most important issue for the human race. She agreed that it was very important, but not the most pressingly important. She offered her opinion in a way that could have started a conversation about it; I didn’t ask her what she thought was the most important issue. But that wasn’t the time and place and besides, that would never have happened.

But that was 15 years ago. Since then the woman has been Senator and Secretary of State and is now running for the Presidency. How has that affected her in her relationship with the world. She travels on a different plane both figuratively and literally. One thing that is difficult for everyone to come to terms with is that those engaged in leadership in our society, both politically and socio-economically, navigate and live in a different world, with a different sensibility by dint of the fact that they have very little contact with the quotidian life of the working man or woman. This is also true for the very rich. It is not a “fault” so much as it is a given; it comes with the territory.

*It should be noted that the experience just recounted has nothing to do with my personal political opinion about Mrs. Clinton or any other candidate for the Presidency.

DPC with Alice Mason.
As for the number one birthday girl in my day, I do know Alice Mason. We met in the early 1990s when Judy Green suggested she invite me to one of her famous dinner parties. I’ve written about them several times so I won’t go into them here, but Alice’s dinners were many things to many people because of the guest lists which mixed a high level of media with society, diplomacy and the arts.

Her dinners could be described as brilliant marketing because Alice was the premiere private residential real estate broker for decades. However, her great success as a broker was her ability to help her client get into a building that would suit their needs and, it was hoped, their wishes. Back in the day before the great growth of high end condominiums,  co-op boards were the bane of many a potential client. Alice’s advice was always brief and to the point. Not a few of the movers and shakers and tycoons (men) often called her for advice on matters outside the realm of their real estate pursuits. “Common sense,” Alice would always say. It’s Common Sense.

Jimmy Carter and DPC in the '90s at Alice Mason's apartment.
Alice’s personal life story is one of a plucky, shrewd, self-reliant woman who made a small fortune in the real estate business and had a wonderful and fascinating time doing it.  When Jimmy Carter was first running for President, Alice, who had met him before in Atlanta, gave a series of dinners (using her guest list) and raised a total of $1.5 million for the Carter campaign – the largest single sum ever raised for that campaign. After President Carter was elected, he asked Alice what he could to repay her great help. She asked that she be invited to a dinner at the White, and two other requests: that he do something in the world for Human Rights; and also would he go to Africa. No President had ever been to Africa.  All of her wishes were granted.

Today Alice resides in the same rent stabilized apartment on the Upper East Side that she moved into sixty-four years ago. Happy Birthday Ladies!
Anita Sarko, a longtime contributor to the NYSD, died by her own hand on Sunday, October 18th, here in New York. It made both me and Jeff Hirsch very sad to hear about it because Anita, whom we knew mainly through working with her, was lovely, sensible, practical, hardworking and an honest woman who had been having personal difficulties in her life which brought her down and made it difficult to get up. She was one of those girls who could just soldier on. She was diagnosed with uterine and ovarian cancer a few years ago, for example, and recovered miraculously.
Anita with her dear friend, Michael Musto.
Her friend, Michael Musto, the great chronicler of the Downtown Scene in New York, recounted that she continued to have physical after-effects of surgery that added to the burden that became crisis for her.

She was a girl from Detroit, daughter of a prosperous businessman and a mother who “loved” fashion. Anita recalled as a young girl making fun of her mother’s Norman Norell dresses until one day her mother told her one day she would eat her words, and lo, she did. When she died her mother left her collection of Norell and Anita loved wearing them.
She had a Midwestern personality – plainspoken, out-there, unaffected by the chic and shameless razzmatazz of New York nightlife and club scene – which in Anita’s day was the destination, total New York. For a girl from the Midwest, it was an exciting place that fit right into Anita’s zeitgeist.

You can read a lot about her, especially by people who knew her long and knew her well, on Google: R.I.P. Anita Sarko.
Anita by EJ Camp.

Contact DPC here.