Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Neighborhood Walk

Magnolias on Broadway. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015. A beautiful sunny day in New York yesterday; with temperatures reaching above 70.

I went down to Michael’s to lunch with our fashion commentator Blair Sabol who was in town for an overnight.  The midtown sidewalks were jammed with people.

Neighborhood. Walking along 57th Street on my way to 55th, I turned the corner onto Fifth Avenue at Tiffany where there was a crowd in front of the store’s entrance and a cameramen with mike, and a crowd surrounding and following a couple of men walking along slowly and talking. I recognized the tallest one of the two – and you would too – with his signature blond hair, wearing a navy suit: Donald Trump. It looked as if they were heading toward the building next door – the Trump Tower – where Mr. Trump lives with his beautiful wife and young son.
I stopped long enough to take the picture of the two. I didn’t recognize the other man, nor could I hear what they were saying. Obviously a TV interview. The “interview” was surrounded by a crowd of people taking pictures of the two – especially of The Donald – who, although he abstains from a lot of the weekly social life in New York these days, is still a popular figure, almost a folk figure, if you will, with the people on the street.

After lunch Blair and I walked up Fifth looking at the windows while she commented on what she was seeing (and not seeing). The name Gerry Stutz came up as we passed Bendel’s. Stutz is a name remembered by the fashionable of a certain (advancing) age. She was one of the star merchandisers on Fifth Avenue in its heyday in the '60s and early '70s. She had taken over Henri Bendel’s management and turned the sleepy store with an old prestigious name into a series of specialty boutiques. It was a first, common as it is today, and it was hot. You walked up the avenue or down the avenue and all along the way you’d see women, many women, beautifully dressed, looking smashing; a glamorous parade. Geraldine Stutz was one of the most important arbiters of fashion in that era. The style of Linda Fargo, the fashion director for Bergdorf Goodman, is reminiscent of Gerry Stutz, as you can see in the window at Bergdorf's where a member of the team is finishing up the window.
It was also the era when John Fairchild came to the fore (see yesterday’s Diary for the report of his memorial on Monday morning).  It was also the era of the great liberations, the Civil Rights Movement, and the massive, frequently-staged Anti-War in Viet Nam protests – which were very powerful in their achievement although almost none anywhere was violent in any way. Today, as Blair observed, the look is black.

Nevertheless Bergdorf’s doesn’t disappoint with their beautiful and imaginative windows displaying stunning clothes.  Across the street from Bergdorf’s and across the road from the Plaza Hotel is the Pulitzer Fountain surrounded by pear trees in full bloom. They’re all over New York right now and they are magic.
Walking up Madison Avenue, nearing the Carlyle where Blair was staying, we passed a small shop called Dyptique. I ask her what that was. Fragrance candles. The best, she said, inviting me in to see and smell. I like fragrance candles. So do my dogs, giving them a little fragrance to go along with their natural gaminess (unless they’ve just come from the groomers).
Actually my dogs probably could care less, and I could care less too. But for the sake of any visitors, it’s nicer to have some perfume above all the canine. Blair bought me the Gardenia fragrance. When I lived in Los Angeles, my workroom had a gardenia bush that seemed to grow wild outside the sliding glass door of the room. I’d be sitting at my desk at my keyboard and almost suddenly the scent of gardenia would come wafting in on a gentle breeze. Mother Nature’s luxury caressing. Dyptique’s candles also smell good even when they’re not lit.

I started out the evening at the Pierre where the Catholic Big Sisters and Big Brothers were hosting their annual gala dinner dance and honoring the Legaspi Family with the Humanitarian Award and my friend Cathy Callender with the Distinguished Service Award. Cathy and I have been friends since our college days.
The reception at the Pierre for Catholic Big Sisters and Big Brothers' annual gala dinner dance.
The CBSBB regards Cathy as a loyal and genuine friend, and that she is also to her friends, like this writer. The Legaspi family are Mexican although they live in New York and Mexico City. The family is committed to their philanthropies which include educating Hispanic families, and supporting breast cancer research.

The Honorary Chairs for the evening were His Eminence Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York; Joseph L. Lipari and Linda McMahon. The Gala Chair was Cathy Dougherty. Peter J. Johnson Jr. of FOX News was host of the evening.
The Legaspi family -- Isabella, Ander, Camila and Edgar, with Cathy Callender.
The CBSBB was founded in 1902 with the mission of addressing the challenges facing youth living in New York City’s low-income neighborhoods by providing one-to-one community based mentoring services, supported by family counseling and skill learning programs. They seek to improve the lives of children of all faiths, empowering them to recognize, reach for and achieve their full potential as self-sufficient adults. This dinner dance is their primary fundraising event each year.

From the Pierre I walked a few blocks up the avenue to the home of Katharina Otto-Bernstein and Nathan Bernstein where they were celebrating Katharina’s birthday. Katharina is a filmmaker who has written and directed two award winning documentaries “Absolute Wilson” which was a seven-year collaboration with and about artist-director-producer Robert Wilson; and “Beautopia” about the dark side of the modeling world.
Birthday balloons guiding guests to Katharina
Otto-Bernstein's birthday reception and dinner last night.
Elke Gazzara and Katharina.
Katharina who has two sons with Nathan – both boys who are now away at boarding school – is one of those women whose commitment to her interests has created an enormous amount of work directing, producing, planning. She is also on the Dean’s Council of Columbia School of the Arts and spearheads the Film Department’s thesis mentor program. She is also a trustee of the Metropolitan Opera, a member of the International Director’s Council at the Guggenheim.

Katharina’s interests focus on fostering sustainable and humane practices, and promote freedom of expression and peaceful co-existence throughout the world. Katharina and I have known each other for a long time although as it often goes in New York when one has a full calendar of commitments and interests as does she and as do I, we rarely see each other. It was nice to see her on her birthday last night in their elegant, art-filled house .     

Just as I was leaving our friend Elke Gazzara arrived. I didn’t know they knew each other but they’ve known each other longer than we have. Katharina wrote a short story “Dog Days” which appeared in Elke’s “No Better Friend: Celebrities and the Dogs They Love.”
Spring has come to Park Avenue in full force. 8:30 p.m.
Viewing looking up from the same spot, taken mainly to catch the color in the clouds, although Rafael Vinoly's new Park Avenue tower distracts, no matter what.
Catching up. Monday night, Jackie Weld Drake hosted a PEN dinner at her Park Avenue apartment with special guest authors Geoffrey C. Ward and Eric Foner. Mr, Ward recently published the paperback of his 1989 biographical study of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “A First-Class Temperament; The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt 1905-1928.” This is an enormous book with fantastic Source Notes, running well over 800 pages.

Our hostess Jackie Weld Drake and guest.
I mention the length only because for those of us who love reading history, but read slowly (or have very little time to read), it is a compelling challenge. I’ve already looked through it briefly (afraid of getting it started before I finished the wonderful “Supreme City” that is brilliantly readable).

Eric Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. His distinguished work on the Civil War has garnered him the Pulitizer, the Bancroft Prize, the LA Times Book Price and the Lincoln Prize.

He has written many books and has recently published “Gateway to Freedom; The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad" (Norton Publishers). At dinner (there were twelve at table), our hostess introduced the authors and sparked a conversation in which many participated as well as had the opportunity to learn what these two distinguished historians know about us and our world and whence it came.  A wonderful evening in New York.
Ann Nitze and artist Darren Waterston. Daisy Soros caught in a laugh.
More catching up. A few Monday's ago at Book Culture (536 West 112th St.), Uljana Wolf and her translator (and poet-in-own-right) Sophie Seita; Patrick Coyle with his poem-prose-performance-piece; and poets Peter Gizzi and Joshua Beckman delivered readings of their work for the New York launch of The Cambridge Literary Review Issue 8/9, honoring all forms of writing for, with, inspired by and about children and their literatures. The Cambridge Literary Review is an occasional journal of poetry, short fiction, prose, essays and criticism.
Uljana Wolf and her translator Sophie Seita.
Patrick Coyle.
Peter Gizzi.
Joshua Beckman.
The event was hosted by Lydia Wilson, who edits The Cambridge Literary Review with Rosie Šnajdr and Jeremy Noel-Tod. Guest editor for this issue was Eve Tandoi. The journal's UK launch will take place at the Judith E. Wilson Drama Studio, 9 West Road, Cambridge on May 2nd. For more information or to purchase the latest issue, visit www.cambridgeliteraryreview.org
Lydia Wilson, Peter Gizzi, Sophie Seita, Joshua Beckman, Patrick Coyle, and Uljana Wolf.