Monday, October 19, 2015

Frivolity Before the Storm

Fifth Avenue and 92nd Streeet. 4:00PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, October 19, 2016. It turned cold over the weekend – the first time this year with temperatures plunging into the low 40s – greeting New Yorkers by surprise on Sunday morning. Out came the warm jackets and woolly caps. Yesterday morning I had to bring my plants inside from the terrace, and uproot the more delicate ones that couldn’t take the cold the night before.

I went to an early dinner last night with my old friend Charlie Scheips who often writes an Art Set column for us. Charlie and I met through our mutual friend Beth DeWoody in 1992 when coincidentally both of us had returned to New York after living for a number of years in Los Angeles. We learned at the time that we knew many of the same people out there, attended many of the same events, yet had never met. It so happened that he was looking for an apartment at the time, as was I, and coincidentally we both found apartments in a building owned by Beth’s family, the Rudins. Even more coincidentally, our apartments were on the same floor, and we moved in at the same time.

Charlie in front of the New York Junior League.
Click to order "Elsie de Wolfe's Paris."
Charlie is a curator, art adviser, archival director, writer, and art historian. Last year he published: “Elsie DeWolfe’s Paris: Frivolity Before the Storm” (Abrams, publishers). Currently Charlie is iProject Director/consultant for the creation of the Elizabeth Taylor Archive for the Elizabeth Taylor Trust. Because at the end of her life (as well as the beginning) Taylor lived in Los Angeles, the main material is located there, so he’s back and forth to LA frequently these days.

Despite Taylor’s far-flung life both privately and publicly, she was very business-like with her possessions, properties and assets. Nothing was disposed of. For example, back in the 1980s when I lived out there, I. Magnin, the department store in Beverly Hills, had sold their Fur Storage department to an independent company. In making the switch of ownership, all those who had furs stored at I. Magnin had to remove them for 24 hours.

This was a major assignment for Taylor: she had 64 fur coats stored at I. Magnin. I learned at the time that not only did she have those furs in storage there but she had another 84 (!!) furs stored in a warehouse in Gstaad where she also had a residence. She also had in the Gstaad warehouse every piece of clothing she had ever worn. Elizabeth Taylor’s career/life was intensely documented with contracts, photos, letters, art, properties, publicity. All of it is still in hand and now in the process of being archived under Charlie’s direction.

Despite our close proximity neighbor-wise, we rarely bump into each other in our apartment building. But last night he and I had quick dinner at Sette Mezzo, the Italian restaurant on Lexington Avenue and 71st Street.  The place was jammed with early Sunday dinners, including Paul McCartney and his wife Nancy with David Geffen; also Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder; author Barbara Goldsmith with Maurice Sonnenberg.

At dinner Charlie was telling me about a lecture he’d given at the New York Junior League last week about Elsie DeWolfe, and the book he’s written about her. His friend and sometimes work associate, Cindy Cathcart, a member of the Junior League, introduced him to the audience.
The luncheon menu at the New York Junior League: Elsie de Wolfe's Chicken a la King Vol au Vant and Waldorf Salad.
I share her introduction: “It’s sometimes hard to remember that The New York Times was once a hometown newspaper – and as such, if you had been reading it on a September morning in an early Mad Men year, you would have seen the following: A son was born at the Lying-In-Hospital to Dr. and Mrs. Charles Dare Scheips.  Mrs. Scheips is the former Miss Marguerite Toole of Augusta, GA.  The child has been named for his father.

I am fairly certain this period in the hospital was the last time our guest, Charlie Scheips, did any “lying in.” I like to think that as soon as he could tie a bowtie, he was out and about – a “boy about town” – probably telling playground friends about a fabulous party they might have missed.  Of course this has an element of fantasy but, I’d guess, just a small bit ...
Not exactly wearing a bowtie, but Charlie with his father near the UN, 1960.
Charlie and his partner Tom Graf have been friends of mine for many years.  They came into my life to work on an inventory project for Conde Nast.  Sounds glamorous, right?  I can assure you that it wasn’t but that the very early work of cataloguing thousands of boxes led to the creation of a true archive for Conde Nast – thanks to the hard work of Charlie and Tom.  I can also tell you that we had fun.

Charlie and Tom.
After the dirty work of early records management for Condé Nast, Charlie was hired as the founding Director of the Condé Nast Archive. As director of the Library, our working worlds were both connected and complimentary.  In our careers we’ve been able to work with some of the legendary women and men of the Conde Nast world – and also watch a world change wildly.

Charlie’s love of history, photography and art is evident in his bio. His association with renowned artist David Hockney spans over thirty years and includes the recent curation of a groundbreaking exhibit of Hockney’s IPhone and iPad still-lifes. 

As a writer, Charlie has contributed to major publications including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Vanity Fair.  If you read New York Social Diary, you’ll find his Art Set columns. Charlie is the author of “Andy Warhol: The Day the Factory Died”; “American Fashion” commissioned by the CFDA and of course, “Elsie de Wolfe’s Paris:  Frivolity Before the Storm.” He is currently working as Project Director in the creation of the Elizabeth Taylor Archive. I cannot think of a better person for the job.

I find it impressive that in the midst of this very busy life, he completed a M.A. in American Studies from Columbia University.  Again – this is a man who does not do a lot of lying in.
Charlie with David Hockney in 1985.
I’d like to share a quote. “Amusement is a very highly developed art. The throngs of people who sit at the plays and supper rendezvous of New York often give one the impression of a bored lot. Can it be that they do not know the wonder of what they see?  And if so, what’s amiss? For it is indeed a jaded person who cannot be thrilled by our night-life in New York.  It is the most amusing thing of its kind the world has to offer today.”  This appeared in Vogue in 1922, written by Johnnie McMullin -- but could have been written by our guest himself. And it could apply to him as well. 

Some might think that Charlie should have been born in another time. That he would have been at home in the cabarets and night clubs of the city that never sleeps. I understand this but strongly disagree. As an historian he travels to different eras but reports with a modern eye. He shares his access, curiosity and enthusiasm with us all and we ourselves our transported. This is a gift. And we are the luckier for it.
Charlie at Florian's, Piazza San Marco, 1990.
Meanwhile back on the Social CalendarLast Thursday evening at Gotham Hall, Ralph and Ricki Lauren, his wife Ricki, Greg Lauren, and other members of this distinguished extended family of American fashion turned out for the American Folk Art Museum Gala.

The evening was a salute to Jerry Lauren, Ralph’s brother who is a leading collector of American folk art and self-taught art, and Executive Vice President and Creative Director of Men’s Design, Ralph Lauren Corporation. Arthur Hoffman, representing the Leir Charitable Foundation, and Laura Parsons, the museum’s chairman, were also honorees.
Gotham Hall, the scene of the American Folk Art Museum Gala.
350 guests were in attendance. Among the speakers were Nancy Druckman (Sotheby’s) and the Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker. John Hays (Christie’s) served as auctioneer to raise additional funds for education programs, partnerships, and other museum initiatives.

“American Originals: Folk Art and Jazz” featured music by JC Hopkins and His Biggish Bank, courtesy of Minton’s Jazz Club.

The American Folk Art Museum is dedicated to collecting, interpreting, and exhibiting works of art by the self-taught, ranging from early American works to art by living masters of drawing, painting, and sculpture.
Board members Liz Warren and Karen Fielding welcoming guests and beginning the program
Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, introducing Laura Parsons, chairman of the American Folk Art Museum Board, honoree
Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice, Executive Director, American Folk Art Museum
Nancy Druckman of Sotheby's, introducing honoree Jerry Lauren
John Hays of Sotheby's, conducting the auction to raise funds for education initiatives
The musical program, band from Minton's
Iris Love
Ralph and Ricky Lauren
Museum trustee Charles Atkins and friends
Jerry Lauren and longtime American Folk Art Museum trustee Joyce Cowin
Honorees Jerry Lauren, Laura Parsons, Arthur Hoffman of the Leir Charitable Foundation, with American Folk Art Museum Executive Director Dr. Anne-Imelda Radice
Phyllis Kossoff
Jerry and Ralph Lauren
The Lauren Family
Catching Up. On Thursday evening, a week ago, October 8th, the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (CAHPT) and the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) hosted a cocktail party at the George F. Baker House, the private residence of Richard H. Jenrette.
The grand spiral staircase
The oval dining room
Guests in the Drawing Room
Co-Presidents of CAHPT, Margize Howell and Peter Kenny spoke briefly, welcoming guests of both organizations to the event. Ms. Howell commented: “We are delighted to partner with the ICAA. Recently, their students and members have been given special access to our six historic classical houses for various programs. Our organizations’ missions are closely aligned, and we look forward to continuing this collaboration into the future."
Peter Kenny, Peter Pennoyer, Margize Howell, and Peter Lyden
Bronson van Wyck, James Anderson, and Steven Gambrel
Karen Pascoe and Caroline Saudek
Carol Strone, Dan Strone, and Bunny Williams
Lucy Danziger, Jackie Powers, and Michael Powers
John Rosselli and Edward Lee Cave
Suzanne Santry, Gary Brewer, and Anne Kriken Mann
Fernanda Kellogg and Ralph Harvard
Scott Bessent and Mark Ferguson
Tham Kannalikham, William Ivey Long, and Margize Howell
Jeanz Holt, Kathleen Maloney Lo, and Richard McGovern
And, for all you bridge devotees out there, tomorrow, Tuesday, October 20th, is the annual Arthur L. Loeb Cup Bridge Tournament to benefit Lenox Hill Neighborhood House (Coffee, 9 am; Play, 9:30 am). Master Points in all sections. For more information call Virginia Pitman at 212-218-0474 or email:

Contact DPC here.