Friday, May 8, 2015

Much-ballyhooed occasions

Steam rising up on Madison Avenue. 10:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, May 8, 2015. A beautiful sunny day, like early Summer ... in your dreams. Finishing up a hectic week on the social calendar. Galas, symposiums, luncheons, screenings, literary, medical, decorative arts, art and antique, Broadway, municipal, cultural, historical all in the past seven days. I’m referring only to those events that I’ve been made aware of. I missed most of them; almost all of them. There are only so many hours in the day.

I didn’t attend the much talked about Met Ball last Monday. I should add that I wasn’t invited. The truth is, as it is with much-ballyhooed occasions, the best part is always the red carpet. The rest can be a snore, albeit a glitzy one because all the energy goes into the opening curtain. It’s always been this way. My late great friend John Galliher who attended the famous de Beistegui Ball in Venice in the 1950s, said it was like that even then.

That is not to say that many of those attending didn't love it. For they did. This does not surprise. Mrs. Wintour has demonstrated again and again that she has her finger on the pulse. And that pulse is racing these days, as we can all see.

I was having a business dinner at Sette Mezzo last Monday night (of the Ball) when a very attractive young couple came in -- tall and slender, he in black tie, she a beautiful willowy blonde in a strapless gown of blue and white, her streaked blonde hair swept-up. Very glamorous, they looked like they’d just come from the Met Ball (but it was only 9 o’clock). End of story: they had left the Met. Why they left or didn’t eat, I do not know. However, they looked like they’d gone to a different Ball than the one we saw in the Red Carpet photos.

It is not what it used to be. That is the phrase expressed among the cognoscenti of the olden days who remembered the days of Diana Vreeland, Pat Buckley, Nan Kempner and a society that has evaporated. What it is now remains to be seen; that much is clear. There’s been a shift in consciousness. What we are seeing now looks like the munchies personified with maybe too much sugar. Or is it aspartame?

On the other hand, there are many who are out there spreading the good word. One of them is the remarkable Leonard Lauder. You’ve probably seen him in the news lately, with his new bride Judy Glickman. I don’t know the “inside” on this but I could make a good wild guess from the photos of them together. They are enjoying each other’s company! This is angelic.
Leonard A. Lauder and Dr. Howard Fillit
Mr. Lauder has also been very active publicly in just the past ten days, along with his brother Ronald. There’s been the opening of the new Whitney as well as many tours in the week afterwards, for fundraising. Before that there was the annual Alzheimers Drug Discovery Foundation dinner at Sotheby’s. Then there was the Breast Cancer Research Hot Pink Party where he was honored (his late wife Evelyn started it). That’s a lot of moving around New York, believe it or not.

Broadway and film director and choreographer Susan Stroman hosted the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s (ADDF) 9th Annual Connoisseur’s Dinner at Sotheby’s. Co-chaired by Leonard Lauder, the black-tie event featured fine wine, food and art. More than $2.8 million was raised to support Alzheimer's drug discovery and development.
Dr. Howard Fillit and Susan Kind
Catharine Becket, Amy Heller, and Lisa Somar
Donald Tober, Barbara Tober, Margaret Stewart, and Trevor Stewart
Paula Zahn
Tom McWilliams and Heidi McWilliams
Yaz Krehbiel, Kate Krehbiel, John Scully, and Hadley Scully
Ronald Weintraub, Harriet Weintraub, and Kasper
Eleanor Dejoux, Morgan Dejoux, Beatrice Stern, and Jamie Niven
Judy Glickman and Leonard A. Lauder
Julie Geier, Phil Geier, and Martha Glass
Nancy Corzine
Susan Stroman and Dr. Eric Braverman
Then there’s Ruth Shuman. Ruth is “out there” in philanthropy in New York although while not unsung, she wears a fairly low profile considering the magnitude of her work in the community.

Ruth started Publicolor, the organization that organizes very young people (high school age) in New York public schools to engage in projects beautifying their environment. This sounds simplistic, and it is also brilliant in its execution and the results that spring from it. There’s a shift in consciousness there too, and in this case it’s strongly constructive.

Ruth at home.
I mention this because I got an email the other day from Ruth which I believe she sent to a number of people who had assisted her in publicizing Publicolor. I’m sharing it because it succinctly expresses the Positive and the Hope generated through this kind of personal activity in the community.

Ruth wrote: All of us at Publicolor — staff, students, and board — thank you enormously for the terrific coverage you give us. I've been thinking a lot about what's happening in Baltimore and other cities around the country, and how the perils of poverty are exacting a very heavy price. Through our long term continuum of programs Publicolor addresses the effects of single parent households, physical and emotional abuse, neglect, the absence of afterschool programs that help students develop social/emotional skills, the absence of good role models, ignorance about the importance of education, and the absence of goal setting.  

Through our unique applied learning models Publicolor students take ownership of projects from beginning to end. This gives them a sense of agency whereby they become their own best advocates. Publicolor empowers struggling students so instead of hopelessness and anger, our students are focused and determined. Our programs address the deficits of poverty, and help level the playing field. Huge and heartfelt thanks for giving our work some very-needed attention.

Not to change the subject but ... there are other things going on in New York. Like booksignings/book parties. On a Sunday night for example Ashley McDermott hosted a book party for her sister-in-law (or is it ex-sister-in-law – I’m not sure about this detail) the actress Maria Bello, who has written a book about her life today.

As Ashley explained to me: “Maria's book is the result of a Modern Love piece she did for the New York Times last Thanksgiving about the questions that arose after she fell in love with Clare, her best friend. It's about the labels women put on themselves, and her journey as a successful actress through this life changing stage of her personal life.
Clare Munn and Maria Bello
Click to order Whatever Love is Love
It's about resilience and forgiveness and love and acceptance. "Whatever, Love is Love" is the response her teenage son (my nephew) gave her when she told him about Clare."

Mariska Hargitay and Mario Batali who are also long time friends of Maria co-hosted the evening with Ashley.  To put everything in perspective, it should be noted that in the days of Diana Vreeland, Pat Buckley, Nan Kempner and their Met Ball, there would be not book parties given by a sister-in-law for her brother’s wife who fell in love with her best (lady) friend and wrote a book about the whole transition.
Mariska Hargitay and Ashley McDermott
Lisa Fine, Penny Morrison, and Rachel Lee Hovnanian
Ashley McDermott, Jeffrey McDermott, Clare Munn, and Maria Bello
Chappy Morris and Debbie Bancroft
Mariska Hargitay and Mario Batali
Kathy Bello, Maria Bello, Mario Batali, and Serena McDermott
Tracy Jackson and Taylor Templeton
Audrey McDermott, Ashley McDermott, Serena McDermott, and Maria Bello
Mariska Hargitay, Kathy Bello, Joe Bello, and Maria Bello
Serena McDermott, Maria Bello, Kathy Bello, Mariska Hargitay, Ashley McDermott, and Clare Munn
Jennifer Creel, Monique Richards, and Natasha Zupan
Nathalie Kaplan and Bettina Zilkha
Ara Hovnanian, Daniel Benedict, Jeffrey McDermott, Andrew Saffir, and Dennis Basso
Suzanne Lerner, Maria Bello, and Blythe Danner
Wednesday night, there was a book signing/book party at the Four Seasons restaurant hosted by Jeanne and Herb Siegel for Richard Farley who has just published “Wall Street Wars.”

Richard Farley, whom I had met previously, is a young lawyer, a recognized expert in global high yield bond and leveraged loan transactions, among the “highly valued” lawyers who specialize in both “bank” and “bond” financing. These are the lawyers who do the work – put in the real time, researching, ingesting, learning, as well as facetime with clients. I’m telling  you this to indicate that he’s been at the center of it, and to write a book about it in the meantime is an awesome achievement, probably the child of passion.

Richard Farley with a copy of Wall Street Wars. Click to order.
He is also known professionally as an exceptional legal writer -- his articles on matters of law have appeared in numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times.

What separates him, in my book from the legions of hardworking lawyers or any other professional category, is that he is also on the board of directors of Herbert G. Birch Services, New York State’s largest non-government provider of education and related services to children and adults with autism and other mental disabilities. He is also the Chair of the Board of Directors of Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, the leading provider of HIV/AIDS education to the young people of New York City. A man of his time.

So. He has written this history of the financial world’s response to the great Stock Market Crash of 1929 and who and how it affected their future and our present. An old story currently presiding over our lives in a newer costume. It’s a drama of course, real-live, and historical so that the names are all familiar to readers of history. It also happened at a time not unlike the time and culture we live in, where transition and transformation were unrecognized but in the cards. It is also about the emergence of the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933. Repealed at the end of the last century by You-Know-Who, from which all blessings still flow, like it or not.
Mary Alice Stephenson, Frederick Anderson, Coralie Charriol Paul, and Susan Shin
Among the characters that drew my curiosity were: Carter Glass, an ill-tempered, arrogant racist and staunch defender of big banks, who ended his formal education at age fourteen and never held a job in a private sector financial institution. Despite his considerable disadvantages, Glass remains the single most important lawmaker in the history of American finance—the maverick responsible for the legislation creating the Federal Reserve System.

And heroes for the people:
Ferdinand Pecora, the feisty Italian immigrant lawyer who, as chief counsel for the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, launched an investigation into stock market practices, uncovered systematic shareholder fraud, and brought down powerful banking moguls.    

And characters like: The outrageously persuasive Huey Long, Senator and Governor, who among his exploits, conspired to save a local Louisiana bank by conjuring up a new bank holiday—to commemorate the day America severed diplomatic ties with Germany during World War I; the formidable Joseph P. Kennedy, an ardent capitalist who succeeded in convincing Wall Street that the SEC need not be deemed an adversary; and Henry Ford, the man who invented the 20th century (and his browbeaten son Edsel). Buy the book. Richard Farley is just as curious as you are to know the backstory.
Joseph Driscoll, Debbie Bancroft, Stuart Sundlun, and Dini von Mueffling
Graziano de Boni and Valerie de Boni
Jason Ewart and John Cobb
Douglas Kennedy, Marty Bregman, and Cornelia Bregman
Alisa Roever, Chele Farley, James Farley, Lauren Roberts, and Kristen Krusen
Rhonda Sheakley, Helen Marx, Valentin Hernandez, and Yaz Hernandez
Jeanne Siegel and Anne Hearst McInerney
Richard Farley and Judith Regan