Monday, November 9, 2015

It’s Autumn in New York

Autumn foliage. Photo: JH.
Monday, November 9, 2015. A very comfortable, sometimes sunny, sometimes over cast weekend in New York with temperatures hovering in the low 70s in daytime, often accompanied with an occasional breeze, and in the low 50s at night. It’s Autumn in New York, and now the foliage is bursting into swan song for 2015.
It's Autumn in New York, in Central Park looking south toward Bergdorf Goodman.
The leaves begin to create the special autumn carpet.
I can’t remember who sent this picture to me, or where I saw it, but it made me laugh, and later, looking at it again, it made me laugh again. A perfect party picture. There is Taylor on the far left, jewel-encrusted with an Alexandre coiffure get-up that only Taylor could wear seriously; hamming it up with faux choc as the white haired gentleman decorates her lips with a moustache. 

On the far right is Burton smoking a cigarette and about to say something intelligent or witty or groaning to amuse the lady on his right. And that lady is the remarkable Jacqueline, la contesse de Ribes, afloat in a gossamer of jewels and silks and satins, and haute coiffure.
They all look like they're having a good time. It is true that the presence of the photographer catching this scene may have had a lot of influence on what and whom we’re seeing.

It is probably Paris in the mid-1960s, when the Burtons made a famous trip there shortly after they married, or somewhere in the calendar of their world-famous “merger.” Richard Burton remarks about that trip in his journals. He was astounded at the crowds of thousands waiting outside their hotel or whatever event they were attending, just to get a glimpse of them, as well as the Paris le haut monde coming out like a crowd waiting in line at a hit movie. This was a moment in the 1960s which, despite all the world’s horrors nationally and internationally, looks like a fun time.

The last time I saw Jacqueline de Ribes was in Paris in 2006 when JH and I were attending the 23rd Biennale des Antiquaires au Grand Palais. Photo: JH.
Jacqueline de Ribes, 1961. Photograph attributed to Raymundo de Larrain.
A legitimate icon of the age, Jacqueline de Ribes as anyone who is interested knows, is one of the greatest fashionable women of the 20th century. Greatest fashionable could easily sound like frippery, but to civilization, it is no small matter. Recognition of women is an old battle and in the past century its victories have increased.  All women of all legitimate interests should be counted as effective leaders.

I’ve met de Ribes once or twice at some gatherings that I can’t recall. We exchanged a few words of introduction or comment. Nothing memorable. Except. In person she is every bit as elegant and soigne as in this photograph. Other than that, she is remarkably, affectingly, like a regular girl, so regular that you can see the presence and the costume is her Creation, the artiste in her; who she is. I could imagine Burton, the boy from Wales who always kept his heritage close in consciousness, was possibly thinking of another bon mot with which to charm the lady, while the white haired man holding the moustache, possibly le comte de Ribes, does the same for the lady on his right.

Or so it looks. Looks have everything and nothing to do with it. The previous paragraphs are simply a single perception based on patchy experiences from here and there. However, that’s good enough to enjoy. I do know that the principals could be fun company all around, no matter who they were with. That’s a precious commodity for most of us including that ilk in this photograph.

Which reminds – Thursday, November 19th, “Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style” goes on view at the Met at the Anna Wintour Costume Institute. This should be a remarkable show of one woman’s portfolio of fashion. There will be 60 ready-to-wear and couture ensembles of her by designers from Armani, Balmain, Blass, Bohan, Valentino, Cavalli, Galliano, Madame Gres, Dior, as well as her own label, and others.

Despite de Ribes’ international reputation, daywear in the exhibition will be outshone by evening wear. Daytime was worktime for her. Jeans and a big sweater were perfect for her. About ten years ago, Edgar Batista suggested to Harold Koda, Curator of the Costume Institute that de Ribes’ fashion collection would make a great show. That suggested was seconded Boaz Mazor, of Oscar de la Renta.

I first saw this kind of exhibition – fashions of one individual – at the Met several years ago when they exhibited the wardrobe of Nan Kempner. One’s “wardrobe” per se is only of passing (on the street) interest to me. But when I saw the vast agglomeration of her clothes, presented in terms of time of day and year, and weather, I saw a whole life, a kind of painting of an individual – the colors, the shapes, the materials, the accessories – a document of a time in our history. Yes, not anybody’s document but a legitimate description of a society of an era.

De Ribes has a profile and countenance almost literary, combined with a slender almost undulating elegance in her physical presence, that she adds a sense of “royalty” to her air, although she is not “royal.” It’s all in the drama, our drama. I’m sure the visitors will not be disappointed. De Ribes never disappointed.
Meanwhile, I missed it but I read that Donald Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live (SNL to you) sent the ratings soaring. Well, duh ... I had lunch last week at Michael’s with Nikki Haskell who has known Donald and Ivana from the '70s when they were first on the scene.

DPC and Nikki at Michael's in 2006.
It was notable to those who follow these things that both Mr. and Mrs. Trump worked assiduously to publicize themselves (and ultimately their businesses; it’s called marketing).

Nikki had a cable TV show back in the days when Cable was the country cousin to network TV. The Trumps were often guests on her show, and it was really there that word began to get around. And it got around.

So when you’re watching Donald Trump, you’re watching a pro. A pro maybe like Ronald Reagan (I’m not comparing them politically but only their effectiveness as public figures, in terms of their origins). Ronald Reagan was an actor. He knew his job. Actors are real too, remember. Anyway, there is a documentary coming out on Mr. Trump very soon. It was just completed a couple of weeks ago but they are rushing it through editing to get it out there asap. Hollywood calling. Nikki was interviewed for several hours. Watch for it.

Meanwhile, back to business. This past Thursday night the New York Landmarks Conservancy hosted its annual “Living Landmarks Gala” in the grand ballroom of the Plaza. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the city’s Landmarks Law.
Philip J. Smith, Robert E. Wankel, Susan L. Solomon, Dr. Susan Weber, Brooke Garber Neidich, Daniel Neidich, and Ken Langone at Thursday night's New York Landmarks Conservancy's annual Living Landmarks Gala. Photo: James Salzano
This is a black tie evening. The Landmarks president Peg Breen opened the evening and introduce Paul Binder as host. For years Liz Smith was emcee and possibly for as long as, Peter Duchin and his orchestra have been performing, keeping the evening moving with music. Both Smith and Duchin are “Landmarks.” The number of prominent and celebrated people who’ve been made “Living Landmarks” for the occasion is like a Who’s Who of important New Yorkers. Yet black tie and VIPs aside, it is a relaxed and festive sort of evening.
Liz on video telling us it’s been great fun but not tonight folks ...
Susan Solomon who co-founded the New York Stem Cell Foundation, accepting her award.
The entertainment aspect is in the presentations, all of which are different. For example, Liz Smith, no singer by profession, always warbled a few Broadway lyrics with Peter Duchin accompanying her on piano. This year she attended via a video of her talking about getting over to the hotel safely. Liz will be 93 on her next birthday (February 2nd) and as NYSD readers know, she turns out five columns a week, but this year she decided to take a break. Nevertheless her video speaking to the audience was almost as good as her being there. She’s another pro at her work, like The Donald who is a beloved topic for her.

One of the honorary Landmarks this year was Ken Langone, the man who created Home Depot and has since then become a major philanthropist in the city, a benefactor of several institutions including Animal Medical Center, and NYU Hospital and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (refurbishment). He was introduced and presented with his award by Timothy Cardinal Dolan.
The Cardinal introduces his friend the Awardee. Mr. Langone.
The Neidichs co-read their greeting and their thanks. Dr. Susan Weber extols the virtues of the Landmarks as well as her Bard Center.
Mr. Langone in his “acceptance” speech spoke passionately about the poor quality of public school education in the city how it was hurting our children’s future as well as our own. He spoke from his heart and left us with the feeling that he’s working on it. And so should a lot of people.

Joel Grey (another Living Landmark) came up on stage and sang George M. Cohan’s “Give My Regards to Broadway,: After the song, Joel then introduced Bernadette Peters who introduced Robert Wankel and Philip Smith of the Shubert Organization as two of this year’s Living Landmarks.  The Shubert Organization operates 17 theaters many of which are landmarks and restored.
Joel Grey delivers a George M. Cohan song. Bernadette Peters.
Brian Stokes Mitchell sings Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
Brooke Garber Neidich and Daniel Neidich accepted their award with a poem about their days and their work especially with Child Mind Institute. Also feted as a Living Landmark was Susan Solomon who co-founded the New York Stem Cell Foundation ten years ago to accelerate finding cures through stem cell research. Also honored was Dr. Susan Soros who established the Bard Graduate Center in 1993 and today is an internationally respected institute that trains curators and collaborates on exhibitions for leading museums.

The Landmarks Conservancy was founded 42 years ago, and has loaned or granted more than $40 million to help people save their homes and communities, including cultural, religious and social institutions. These grants and loans have in turn mobilized more than $1 billion in more than 1500 renovation projects throughout New York.
Our favorite songbird Roberta Fabiano and maestro Peter Duchin close the evening with a song.
Then Saturday night Joy Ingham and I went down to Birdland to listen to Barbara Carroll on the piano accompanied by Jay Leonhardt on the base. 

A little girl from Worcester, Mass., Barbara first took piano lessons at age 8 but by high school, she was just wanted to play jazz. She came to New York in 1947 when she was 22 to play professionally after playing with a lot of bands back home.
La Barbara singing and playing ... “Hey, old friend, whattaya say old friend, are we or aren’t we unique?”
It wasn’t easy in those days for a female jazz musician to get hired for gigs. Her agent first started sending her out as “Bobby” Carroll, fooling the managers who’d made the hire over the phone. Not surprisingly when she arrived for the gig, she might be told they were waiting for a guy named Bobby Carroll to show. Well ...?

She got through that one, and sixty-eight years ago, the lady has by now been the jazz lady she set out to be. It’s an hour performance as she takes the audience on her trip through the American Songbook to which she sometimes  also adds the lyrics. A great evening. 6 p.m., Saturdays at Birdland, enthralling her audiences with her command of the keyboard with her riffs.
Jay Leonhardt and Ms. Carroll congratulate on another show together.

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