Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Photobombing along ole Broadway

432 Park as seen from inside Central Park. 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015. Fair and mild with temps in the high 40s yesterday in New York. Most of the leaves have departed the trees in the nabe although there is one across the street from me that remains with foliage. I don’t know the species but I remembering photographing it in the Springtime because it has a gossamer-like delicateness just as the leaves were opening up, and now in its final stages of foliage, that delicateness returns and with the rustic colors that match the buildings it stands before, and it’s beautiful, as you can see.
Also beautiful is the 22-inch Della Robbia Christmas wreath now adorning my front door – a gift sent to me annually from two generous friends, purchased from Boys Republic in Chino Hills, California. The wreaths are produced through a work experience program that teaches disadvantaged students the value of honest labor. The result, as you can see, is beauty.
To learn more about this achievement, click here.
I went down to Michael’s to lunch with my friend Penny Bianchi from Montecito, California. Penny and I met years ago when JH and I started the NYSD. She was a reader who’d read an interview about me by George Gurley in the New York Observer. Penny said the piece made her buy a computer so she could tune in!

She came to town with her daughter Ella Brittingham for the Sunday night opening of the new Andrew Lloyd Webber show “School of Rock” which got raves in the New York Times. I was surprised to learn that she had come to New York specifically for the opening night of the new musical on Broadway. I knew she loves New York and loves Broadway, but why this one, I wanted to know.
DPC and Penny Bianchi at Michael's.
The story. “School of Rock” the film which was released in 2003, written by screenwriter Mike White. Penny’s daughter Ella grew up with Mr. White. In fact they are the same age and were in pre-school in Pasadena together.

It was there, according to Penny, that the two bonded because they were the only two kids in the class who screamed a lot! (“Gemme outta here!!” – I made that up but something along those lines). The teacher put them next to each other so that their “screeching” wouldn't disrupt the whole class. And from there, a brother-sister act was born.

Mike’s parents divorced when he was very young and so as a little boy he was often at Penny’s house. He was a kid who really liked to be around adults, so the Bianchi household was a real second home to the boy. When he and Ella were nineteen, they drove across America together. Penny reported that their phone calls home were always reports of their experiences, howling with laughter. It was that kind of a relationship, and it has remained.
Jack Black and Mike White.
When Mike was grown up and writing out there, he became friends with musician/actor Jack Black, and decided to write a movie for him, taking in mind his personality (“a man of few words”) and so School of Rock was born. Mike even wrote a small part for himself (Ned Schneebly) and a “song” for the part.

I don’t know if it was a blockbuster but it grossed more than $35 million (which used to be a lot) and became a kind of cult movie for the younger sets. Years later (don’t know the year), Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber came home from the office/studio/theater one day,  and noticed that his son was watching the same film that he seemed to be watching all the time.

One day Sir Andrew finally asked his wife “WHY does he watch the same film all the time??” And Lady Webber replied “why don’t you watch it and see? Maybe there’s a musical in it ...” And so he did.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Mike White.
Fade out/fade in. One day in Santa Monica, Penny Bianchi stopped by Mike White’s house since she was in the neighborhood. When she arrived, he was on the phone and couldn’t interrupt to greet her.

Shhhh, he motioned, as if it were something important going on over the phone.  So Penny made herself busy, and when Mike got off, he said to his second-mother, “You’ll never believe who that was! It was Andrew Lloyd Webber and he wants to make a musical out of School of Rock’!"

The show's logo.
And so it is came to pass, and Sunday night a new “School of Rock” opened to the world (actually it had been in previews) with book by the amazingly prolific and multi-media writer/author Julian Fellowes, whom American audiences know as the man behind Downton Abbey.

Penny said it was fantastic, so did the New York Times, and so did the opening night audience. Webber even incorporated the “song” Mike wrote for Ned Schneebly.  After the show, there was a party at the Hardrock Café, and Penny and Ella went. Outside, Ella got a photo of the composer and the “based-on” screenwriter as they were arriving. At first Penny thought she might get in the shot since they’d arrived together, but she was told to move back to get just the two creators. So, as Ella put it to her mother afterward, she “photo-bombed” the picture. Everyone was happy.

Coincidentally, Andrew Lloyd Webber was seated three tables away from us at Michael’s yesterday. As he was leaving with his lunch guest, he stopped to say hello to Ron Meyer, the NBC/Universal man who was at the table next to ours, and after they finished  they were about to pass us when Michael pointed him out to Penny, so he stopped and they briefly discussed the show and the opening. Everyone was still excited.
There's our friendly photobomber behind Sir Andrew and Mike White after the show.
Michael’s lunch: Journalist Michael Wolff with Robert Ruiz; Judy Cox with LuAnn DeLesseps and Patty Watt; Jeff Haley of Marketron; Dina Said of Unifund; Juliana Terian of Rallye Motors; Mickey Ateyeh with jewelry designer Ivana Jermoluk and Dana Della Valle; James Chanos of Kynikos, with Bill Brown; Bill Courakos with Steve Kroft; Gordon Davis with Adam Weinberg of the Whitney, Diane Coffey, and Thelma Golden, Director of the Studio Museum; Barry Frey; Lynn Jackson of Clear Channel; Susan Mercandetti of Random House; Stanley Moger of SFM Entertainment; Jack Myers with Kathleen Finch of HTV; literary agent Esther Newberg; Peter Price with Regina Buckley; Armando Ruiz; Theo Spilka with Cindy Lewis; Andrew Stein with Missy Ross; Joe Armstrong with Dorothy Kalins of How2Media, and Stephen Wagner; Mitch Rosenthal with Carol Brown; Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber; Len Blavatnik; Susan Blond with Peter Asher;  producer John Hart; Lawrence O’Donnell; David Rhodes, President of CBS News; Clifford Robbins; Stan Shuman; Mark Simone; William von Mueffling of Cantillon Capital; film producer Jay Kanter; Ron Meyer, Vice Chairman of NBC/Universal; George Ledes of Cosmetic World.
The dining tables last night at Cipriani 42nd Street with its decor created by David Monn.
Last night, the Animal Medical Center held its annual 2015 Top Dog Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street. They honored former Police Commissioner of New York Ray Kelly and the NYPD Canine Units. This was, as always a beautiful evening and brings out a lot of dog-lovers (and cat lovers too). The benefit co-chairs were Cass Adelman, Nancy Kissinger, Elaine Langone, Annette de la Renta and Robert Couturier, and they organized a very glamorous evening with the hall transformed by the remarkable David Monn. But we’ll have a lot more about it on tomorrow’s NYSD.
Ray Kelly expressing his thanks for the recognition and telling the guests about the Animal Medical Center's relationship to the Canines on the force, explaining the dogs' life in the NYPD. Several of the dogs were there with their handlers last night. Beauties, every one of them. The former commissioner told us about the dogs in his life, and the most recent one whose picture Mr. Kelly's son Greg often posts on Good Day New York. "How could you not love a dog? They give you love!" Mr. Kelly asked rhetorically and with irony.
Bobby Liberman, Chariman of the Board, showing the AMC's citation to a truly delighted honoree, Ray Kelly, with Katherine Coyne, the AMC's CEO.
 

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