Friday, December 4, 2015

Sound of Redemption

Nearing the end of fall. PM. Photo: JH.
December 4, 2015. Mostly cloudy day in New York with temperatures in the 48 to 52 range. So, not cold really, not warm and not much like our memories of this time of December. Easy getting around the city, however. There’s a promise of holidays in the store windows.

I went down to Michael’s to lunch with an old friend of mine from Los Angeles, James Egan. James is a film producer.  Among his films he’s made six documentaries, the most recent being “Sound of Redemption; The Frank Morgan Story” which opened here in New York at IFC this past Tuesday and runs through next Thursday, December 10.

The blurb for the film says it: “At the late night jam sessions in LA, Jazz musicians used to dedicate their shows to the greatest alto sax player in the world, Frank Morgan. But if you wanted to hear him, you had to go to San Quentin.”  “San Quentin” (the prison) is of course, the tease. For this amazing story.
The documentary that was produced by Mr. Egan and directed by Ms. Heikin.
If you are jazz fan you may already know this. Morgan was in San Quentin Prison for 30 years, where he played in the San Quentin Jazz Group. They had public performances at the prison that were attended by San Franciscans. When Morgan was released his music flew out into the world with him. I think he won about six Grammys for his albums.

The film was executive produced by writer Michael Connelly, who I believe was the producer’s source to this great story.  The film was directed by NC Heikin, an American writer/director who lives in Paris. Ms. Heikin met us at the end of our lunch.

Meanwhile, back to the producer. James is making another documentary – this one of Molly Ivins – for which he is now conducting interviews which have thus far included Dan Rather, Paul Krugman, Rachel Maddow, Cecile Richards, among others.
DPC, NC Heikin, and James Egan at Michael's.
Which, while we’re on the subject of Michael’s. Because I didn’t publish a Diary yesterday, I missed the Wednesday Michael’s lunch list. So, in case you’re dying to know, here is some of it:

Publicist, journalist, editor,
respectively: Lisa Linden with Diane Clehane and James Panero of the  New Criterion; Jane McCauley; investment banker and former Deputy Mayor (under Koch), Peter J. Solomon; Eric Zinterhofer; Joe Armstrong, back in town for a Noo Yawk moment from his new home in Plano, Texas, lunching with David Zinczenko, editor, writer, publisher, TV personality, restaurateur and otherwise layabout; Bonnie Fuller of at Table One with Gerry Byrne of Penske Media hosting Lisa Bernbach, author of “The Official Preppy Handbook,” Jeffrey Trachtenberg of the WSJ; writer Jim Meigs; Jeremy Barr of  AdAge, Natasha Cornstein, Maxine Shen, Aimee Kestenberg Elan, Jennifer Caserta. At the table next door was columnist/commentator Michael Wolff with Larry Kramer, and on the other side of them was this writer with PR guru Gina de Franco; and next to us, Paige Peterson and Jesse Kornbluth.

Moving around the room: Michael DelGuidice of Millenium Partners; Jason Rapp, VP of Barry Diller’s IAC; Peter Brown with Hearst’s Deb Shriver; Joan Jakobson with Barbara Liberman; Joan Kron with Linda Wells; Tom Quick with Mark Freitis; Gary Zarr with Harold Holzer; Peter Price; William von Mueffling; Susan Blond; NBC Senior Exec Producer Richard Esposito; Barry Frey with Tom Teeple; Andrew Greystoke; Charlie Rose and lunch guests; Larry Cohen of Alliance Bernstein; author Vicky Ward; jewelry designer Nicholas Varney. And a host of others. And they’re all talking. Non-stop. The world of Media, etc.
Home at last. Audrey Sabol, Sunshine, the fancy (and elegant) French mutt, and his momentarily taciturn mistress Blair Sabol, happily ensconced by the fireplace -- no fire -- in Scottsdale after the major move.
More catching up. A couple of Mondays ago, November 23rd, at the Plaza in their newly refurbished Palm Court, the Lighthouse Guild held its annual gala, LightYears at which they honor the artistic, philanthropic, and civic contributions of New York’s most influential and forward-thinking leaders. Proceeds from the dinner support vital Lighthouse Guild programs that help people to overcome the challenges of vision – something very few of us ever think about and yet many of us suffer from or are subject to vision problems of a variety. This is a great great charity benefitting all people of all ages.

This years honorees were Gary Barnett, who is founder and President of Extell Development; Louise Hirschfeld Cullman and Lewis Cullman.  The evening was hosted by Carol Alt, with a performance after dinner by Julie Budd.

Louise Hirschfeld Cullman and Lewis Cullman.
Lewis Cullman who is now in his mid-90s, is one of the greatest philanthropists of this past century in New York. He is a man born into a distinguished family -- distinguished especially by their lifelong copious and various philanthropies. He is also related to Benjamin Cardozo and Emma Lazarus.

He wrote a book several years ago which I “reviewed” on these pages. It was a memoir about his professional life and the fortune he accumulated as an entrepreneur by going outside the family business (General Cigar) and succeeding spectacularly (in business; not finance. At a certain age he and his wife, the late Dorothy Cullman embarked on a program to Give Away the bulk of their fortune over a period of a decade or two. His memoir advised anyone with the means to follow suit to make a better world for all of us to live in.

Last year he wrote a piece for the New York Review of Books called “Stop the Misuse of Philanthropy.” Aha! This is the definition of a REAL philanthropist as opposed to the types Mr. Cullman identifies in his article. His honoring at the Lighthouse is as much as a vote for the Lighthouse as it is for Mr. Cullman whose philanthropy rewards distinction.

Lighthouse Guild is the leading not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization, with a long-standing heritage of addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired including those with multiple disabilities or chronic medical conditions.

Through the integration of vision and healthcare services and the expansion of access through education and community outreach, our innovative and comprehensive approach helps people achieve and maintain the highest possible level of function and independence. For more information contact Lighthouse Guild at 1-800-284-4422 or visit
James Dubin, Carol Alt, and Dr. Alan Morse.
Anna and Mario Damianides. Marilyn Weitzman Kahn and Thomas Graham Kahn.
Ann Thivierge and Richard Durkin. James and Susan Dubin.
Somers Farkas and Dr. Quist Ogunlesi.
Cathy Hull and Neil Janovic. Dorothy and Lawrence Philips.
Dr. Richard Leinheardt and Francie Leinheardt. Sharon Bush and Oscar Plotkin.

Contact DPC here.