Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Having It Your Way

A family outing. 1:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Beautiful, warm sunny Spring day, yesterday in New York. I didn’t have a lunch date. Midday I spent a half hour with the dogs in the park by the river. A lot of that was just sitting watching the river and its activity.
Monday walk in the park ...
Southbound boat traffic.
Power; or Having It Your Way. The conversation du jour has been about Caitlyn Jenner and about Park Avenue Primates author Wednesday Martin. One has been stripped of gender and the other stripped of all privacy. Or is it primacy.

The Jenner story had been on the shelf awaiting attention for quite sometime. Blair Sabol told me a couple of years ago that he was going to do this. That initially came as a shock. I met him a couple of times out there, just in passing, at the house of mutual friends. My only impression of him was that he was such a guy's guy, that All-American surfer macho. Arnold was a good chum. So the switch from him to her, was hard to imagine.

How Blair knew back then, I don’t know but her “asides” are often right on the money. When asked what she thought about it, she said forthrightly that it was his way of taking back the fame and fortune that the Kardashians gained while he had been firstly the famous stepfather, now leaving him in the shadows. That sounded a little extreme, a far-out idea, to me. Radical at least. Although I lived in Hollywood where the only real (and imagined) heaven is Stardom.

Now that it’s “over and done,” so to speak, it’s beginning to look like Blair was right. She’d also mentioned how he was going to draw this one out publicity-wise and get headlines and major interviews and god-know-what-else deals. And so it would seem. However, how would I know what motivates another?

Bruce Jenner was always very talented at maintaining the strong public image that he acquired in his youth. It’s been his bread and butter all his life. There have been many other shiny Gold Medalists who did not extend their celebrity for decades via Hollywood. Jenner’s success in marketing himself is not just another pretty face with necklace of Olympic gold; it is pure show business shrewdness. And now she can be, and no doubt will be, just as shrewd, if not shrewder.

Her fame in the world will now be on another level of interest, besides the transgender issue. She maybe up there with the American sailor George Jorgensen who was the first, who came back from Denmark in 1951 as Christine Jorgensen.

No longer with us and all but forgotten, Christine Jorgensen went from being sailor George who served in the war, into the glamorpuss Christine, swathed in mink and pearls and an early television celebrity as well as published writer. Hers became a “household name” across America, as famous as Joe DiMaggio (for different reasons of course). She did very well financially, and even got engaged a couple of times – but never made it to the altar because the state wouldn’t allow “same-sex marriages.”  That was before there was all the media attention that can now be gathered for business use.
Christine Jorgensen, the former George Jorgensen.
Asked at the end of her life if she “had to do it all over again,” would she? Answer: no. Reasons: practical.

However, all that palaver aside, a woman named Elinor Burkett, a journalist, former professor of women’s studies; and an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, wrote an excellent piece in the editorial section of Sunday’s New York Times, on the subject of gender identity. She was inspired by Ms.Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer.

Ms. Burkett, however, discusses a woman’s self-identity versus a man’s self-identity in a society, and what that means in terms of gender. Enlightening and common sense; a focus on our social reality. In other words, you have to be a woman to understand what it feels like to be a woman. Same can be said for a man. How little we know.
Julie Doucet for the New York Times.
Power is the word that drives us as we navigate in our lives. You could say that about Ms. Jenner and the aforementioned Ms. Martin. It is a natural force that produces a variety of endings, depending, some remarkable and others not. Coincidentally, I had been thinking about this business of power and how it affects us and how we have it or don’t (right now I’m reading Amanda Foreman’s brilliant “A World On Fire” about the British relationship to the War Between the States). Foreman’s book covers all the grounds of power – and loss – in her book, and it’s all part of our American history; a large part.
Julie Doucet
Richard Nixon referred to it as “The Great Game of Life” in one of his last, perhaps his resignation speech. People, especially those who disliked him, snickered on hearing it, as if the reference were evidence of his superficial intellect, as if he were not much of a thinker. It may be the latter, although it now seems as if he were onto something, i.e. power being the prize in the “game.”

For no reason in particular last Saturday afternoon, I picked up my oft-used copy of Jacques Barzun’s “From Dawn To Decadence; 1500 to the Present, 500 Years of Western Cultural Life” (published in 2000). It’s one of those books you can go back and read and learn all over again, and learn even more.

I turned to the pages where Barzun writes about Louis XIV, the Sun King, who came to the throne at age 5, more than seventeen centuries after Nero ruled the world (Nero was 20 when he became the emperor of the Roman Empire). France had a Regent until Louis was 23, but in all he reigned for 72 years and 110 days, longer than any monarch in European history.

Barzun writes: “Life at the court of Louis XIV was a daily drama in which he played the leader. He was also its director and producer, and he built his own theater for it as soon as he was of age and fully king: the palace at Versailles. It was wise to move the court out of Paris, away from the restless populace and the intellectuals. When the chateau 11 miles away was completed, the show, underwritten by the vanity of the nobles themselves, put them at the mercy of the Grand Monarch. Every hour of every day they wanted his favor, his glance – a nod was enough reward, a blessing. By watching one another, making little plots, and getting in each other’s way, the mischief-makers of the Fronde were kept amused and tamed.

Louis XIV, King of France, in 1661.
“In the presence of the absolute monarch the great became the small. It was with veneration that the courtiers approached a king who was the sole object of their respect and the sole arbiter of their fortunes. Those who had been the little tyrants of their province were now nothing more than their tutors. To obtain favors from them, it was no longer necessary to bluster or to fawn.

“The proof is that from his accession to his death, Louis terrified all who came near him.  No source of pride or strength – great estates or wealth, fame as a soldier or genius as an artist – helped anybody to withstand his glance; all were reduced to humility.

“Physically, Louis was well designed for his role; he was of medium height and sturdy build. His features were regular, the mouth firm and eyebrows strongly marked over a wide-open glance. And as we see in the standard full-length portrait of Rigaud, which obviously makes a point of it, Louis had an athlete’s legs. 
Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701).
“Nor did Louis achieve this mastery by any form of thunder – he was said to have lost his temper only twice. He dominated by his stance and his gaze, his self-control and his vigilance about the minutest infraction of what he regarded as his due. This peculiar power is well illustrated by a remark on record: “I was almost kept waiting.” It was part of his grand strategy to mention with a shudder his escape from that catastrophe.

“Plentiful as were the king’s expensive entertainments, they did not fill every moment of the day or night. The hours left over were occupied by two other pastimes – gambling and lovemaking.
Louis XIV and his family portrayed as Roman gods in a 1670 painting by Jean Nocret. L to R: Louis's aunt, Henriette-Marie; his brother, Philippe, duc d'Orléans; the Duke's daughter, Marie Louise d'Orléans, and wife, Henriette-Anne Stuart; the Queen-mother, Anne of Austria; three daughters of Gaston d'Orléans; Louis XIV; the Dauphin Louis; Queen Marie-Thérèse; la Grande Mademoiselle.
“To stay out of the production was impossible. Louis, with the memory of a politician, knew everybody and noted at once the absentees. “Where is So-and-So?”  Any relative who was present was rebuked by the question alone, thus compelling attendance from whoever had stayed away out of sulks or love of country life. By this simple device potential rebels were under permanent surveillance. It was an automatic “Divide and rule,” because the competition for favors made each courtier the enemy of every other, and not in a trivial way.”

And so it was. Louis’ kingship, with his copious military battles and his gilded rococo shelters and bejeweled mistresses, left behind a country with leadership that gave birth to his bad habits of self-delusion, followed by another boy king exercising the same.  By the time Louiis XVI came along, the Bourbon monarchy was presiding over economic misfortunes of disastrous, irreparable proportions. And that was that; power moved on.
Louis XV with his father Louis Duke of Burgundy, his grandfather Louis Le Grand Dauphin and his great-grandfather King Louis XIV.
Last Monday, a week, The Battery Conservancy celebrated Bill Rudin for his 20 years of leadership and generosity with The Battery Medal for Philanthropic Leadership at the 20th Annual Battery Gala.

Each year, The Battery Conservancy celebrates the support given to the continued revitalization of the park with this major fundraising event. More than 800 attended this year’s Gala, which raised over $2.5 million. In 2014, the event raised $1.2 million  and attracted 420 people.
The SeaGlass Carousel, a permanent, aquatic–themed attraction set to open at The Battery this summer.
When I learned those numbers, it occurred to me that Bill Rudin had a big hand in making that difference. I’ve known Bill almost as long as I’ve know his big sister Beth – which is about four decades. They had a great father. Lew Rudin was one of the great New Yorkers of the 20th century. The family was in the real estate business which was started by Sam, the father of Lew and his brother Jack. The family had been in the business since the beginning of the century. When I met them, they’d long before progressed to be influential business people in the city of New York, and owners of prime commercial and residential real estate.

The brothers ran their business sensibly and practically. Their apartment houses were often almost filled by tenants whom they knew as friends or friends of friends, or family. I know of several instances when people were having a hard time making their rent, and Lew might call on the phone and ask what he could do to be helpful. A mensch? A giant. I recall back in the late ‘70s when there was a big tax cut enacted for higher income earners, and Lew was quoted as saying ,“It’s good for me but it’s not good for the average working man.”
Ophelia Rudin, David Earls, Elle Earls, Samantha Rudin Earls, and Bill Rudin.
He was that kind of a father to his daughter and son whom he adored. Both sister and brother bear a lot of his character. Son Bill has progressed from that young man I first met to a great leader in the community and a great family man.

This year’s Gala theme shined on the SeaGlass Carousel; an innovative, permanent, aquatic–themed attraction set to open at The Battery this summer. Featuring 30 magical fish figures and housed in a spiraling pavilion of glass inspired by the chambered nautilus, SeaGlass Carousel lit up The Battery for the first time, creating a mystical underwater experience for guests. SeaGlass will open to the public in July.
Claire Weisz (WXY Architecture + Urban Design) and Commissioner Mitchell Silver.
Marty Burger and Warrie Price.
Susan Rudin and Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Donald Tober, Peter Krulewitch, Junia Doan, and Deborah Krulewitch.
Janice Shorenstein and Marissa Shorenstein.
Frank Bisignano and Steve Schirripa.
Jon and Lizzie Tisch.
Genie Birch, Jim Hamilton, and Bob Birch.
Samantha Rudin Earls, David Earls, Sabrina Rudin, Michael Rudin, Ophelia Rudin, and Bill Rudin.
The birthday cake for honoree Bill Rudin on his 60th birthday.