Friday, March 11, 2016

11 days and counting

Acitivty on the Bridle Path in Central Park. 1:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, March 11, 2016. Very warm in New York yesterday – 76 degrees and even feeling a little muggy on March 10th, eleven days before Spring.

Wednesday night I went over to Hayward House on 70th, just off Lex going west for a book signing by Michael Thomas for his new novel "Fixers." A friend of mine gave me a copy as a gift, having just read it. She told over lunch that I'd recognize a lot of the people in it because it's East Coast/NYC/Wall Street/DC oriented. Well, I'm reading it and still only about halfway through (slow reader, sorry/ and busy sked), I've just begun to get what she was talking about. Because this book is about NOW although it's set in 2008 or thereabouts when the sh*t first hit the fan. Hillary is in it. A lot of people could easily be made to think the story is film thriller fiction. I'm not one of them; it's all too real to me.
Michael Thomas with a copy of "Fixers." Click to order.
Michael Thomas, whom I know only sparsely but over many years, is a well-known writer/novelist/commentator here in New York. For years he had a column in the original New York Observer which was capable of pissing off just any latest hoo-ha that had hit New York in the big time. He hones in on characters and socio-economic and political situations with a vast knowledge of the underpinnings of power and how it works the Real world (as opposed to the world you read about in the New York Times and most other mainstream media). You end up learning a lot along the way with him too.

The party was held
at the boutique of Marin Hopper, Hayward House. If you haven't been, you should even if to look. It's a beautiful location, in a late 19th century townhouse still vibrant with its original interiors. Marin has a line of luxury handbags under the label of her mother's maiden name, Hayward (as in Brooke), daughter of Leland, the international agent and producer. Marin's mother, Brooke, was married to Michael Thomas with whom she had two sons, who are Marin Hopper's half-brothers as her mother (Brooke) was later married to Dennis Hopper. That's show business.
Michael seated, signing a book for his friend Jamie Niven. Michael's late father-in-law Leland Hayward was once Jamie's father David Niven's agent. Small world years later.
Another view of the signing. The merchandising is more like that of a museum, of pieces utilitarian yet collectible like the photographs of Dennis Hopper.
The other room to Hayward House. All the photos on the wall are those of Dennis Hopper who was prolific and often in the company of interesting people and situations, including of course, the rich, the chic and the shameless.
This past Monday evening, March 7th, 400 chorus members of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City filled the stage and the balcony boxes above, while YPC Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez gave the downbeat to The New York Pops, to set the stage for one of the most exciting and successful galas in YPC’s 28-year history.  The program was sold out.
Well-wishers greet YPC Artistic Director/Founder Francisco J. Núñez (center) backstage (l-r) Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, YPC parent and owner of LaPalestra Deborah Manocchia, YPC Board Chairman Adam Chinn, (Francisco) with YPC chorister Melania, actor Liam Neeson, and YPC Executive Producer Nancy Bloom.
BeBe Winans, the six-time Grammy Award-winner and one of today’s most inspirational American gospel singers, was joined by his friends, gospel artists Dorinda Clark-Cole and Hezekiah Walker, who with the YPC singers, raised the roof of the Rose. 

The Young People’s  Chorus, the award-winning multicultural chorus, known worldwide for virtuosity and brilliant showmanship is truly the thrill to experience. These kids from early ages – 6 and 7 up to teenagers, are fantastic. Their concerts leave you thinking that hope springs eternal. Their songbook spans from classical, Broadway, as well as medleys from The Sound of Music to Motown, complete with show-stopping choreography by Jacquelyn  Bird.
YPC sets the Jazz at Lincoln Center stage for its 2016 gala.
YPC Performs the high-energy Motown medley.
A gospel celebration featuring all 400 YPC choristers and led by (l-r) gospel icon Dorinda Clark-Cole, YPC Associate Conductor Elizabeth Núñez, and inspirational gospel singer and gala host BeBe Winans.
Guests included Liam Neeson, Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows, actress Jennifer Westfeldt, and Ron and Iva Rifkin. After the concert  there was a reception in the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental, where Steve Kuhn, the evening’s corporate honoree from Pine River Capital Management was feted for his support and passion for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.

The Young People’s Chorus of New York City is renowned not only  for its artistically excellent, but as a model for an inclusive society that is being replicated globally. Founded in 1988 by Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez, a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow, YPC harnesses the power of music to fulfill the potential of children of all cultures and economic backgrounds and has heightened an awareness of the ability of young people to rise to unforeseen levels of artistry. 
Beryl Snyder, Jeff Schwartz, Elizabeth Núñez, Tracy Schwartz, and Steven Trost.
Francisco J. Núñez with BeBe Winans.
Corporate honoree Steve Kuhn with YPC board member Robert Neis.
Dinner guests actress Jennifer Westfeldt (standing) with actor Ron Rifkin and his wife Iva.
Francisco Núñez with gospel singer Dorinda Clark-Cole.
YPC Vice Chair Phil Lovett is flanked by his wife Beatrice Liu and YPC Artistic Director Francisco J. Núñez .
Then on Tuesday, March 8th, the Randall’s Island Park Alliance (RIPA) hosted its annual Fielding Dreams Gala Dinner at the American Museum of Natural History. The Gala recognized an John McEnroe for the extraordinary community leader  that he is, and also celebrated the continued success of Randall’s Island Park, a world-class destination for sports, recreation and environmental exploration. The event raised more than $1.1 million for Randall’s Island Park Alliance.

RIPA is the direct result of an idea --a dream – borne of an observation by Karen Cohen, who as a young mother back in the early 90s, 24 years ago, used to go out there to watch her son’s after school soccer practice. At that time, the island was rundown, neglected, deserted, damaged and covered with debris in many places. Its soccer fields were used mainly by private schools in the city.
Jack Hayflick, Lauren Starr, Karen Cohen, and Christopher Starr.
Mrs. Cohen was left with the nagging thought that this was a treasure trove going to waste. She realized that if the private school kids could use it, that just across the river were thousands of kids from Harlem and the South Bronx that could use it as their outdoor playing fields and playgrounds. She consulted with friends, namely Betsy Barlow Rogers who created the Central Park Conservancy that rescued the park. She was told that if she really wanted to succeed, she should be prepared to spend at least ten years just to get it off the ground.

At the time, it sounded like an almost insurmountable challenge – so much time just to get started. But, the thought that there were thousands of underserved and underprivileged children in nearby Harlem and South Bronx without outdoor facilities to accommodate their energy and needs, was enough motivation. One of her very first supporters was Michael Bloomberg, who immediately saw the value and contributed the funds to move the project along.
John McEnroe.
Eighteen years later Randall’s Island Park is a dream come true. At the suggestion of a friend of Karen’s, Linda Silverman, Carl Icahn built a stadium. You’ve seen the top of it from the roads when you cross the Triboro Bridge that leads out to Long Island. Nowa days, runners, cyclists and families enjoy the space and facilities; children harvest vegetables from gardens there, herons forage the tidal marshes, and thousands of children have an afterschool space for games and sports. All from a mother watching her son’s game and looking around, paying attention, Karen Cohen took a dream and made it come true.

Tuesday night, 2016 Fielding Dreams Gala Honoree, John McEnroe, joined Randall’s Island Park Alliance in recognizing the importance of promoting active and healthy living for New York’s children. John McEnroe was recognized for his long-time support and work towards the Randall’s Island Park. Through the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, a program that runs out the Park’s SPORTIME Tennis Center, John works to identify and inspire young tennis players and provide them with opportunities that may otherwise have been out of reach.  Jeanne Moutoussamy Ashe, wife of former tennis legend Arthur Ashe, presented his award.
John McEnroe and Howard Schwartz.
The evening hosted more than 600, many of whom joined to champion Randall’s Island as the key to providing New York City’s children with innovative and comprehensive opportunities for outdoor sports and recreation.

The Gala was Co-Chaired by Rodney Cohen (no relation to Karen Cohen) and Justin G. Hamill, and the Dinner Committee was Co-Chaired by Melissa Boxer, Christine Mack and Jenny Slayton-Green.

“Master of Ceremonies Greg Amsinger, MLB Network Studio Host, led the program throughout dinner, which concluded with an energetic live auction directed by Howard Schwartz, owner of Grandstand Sports and Memorabilia, Inc. The most sought after items sold included VIP passes to the multi-day Governor’s Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island, tickets to the final round of the Masters in beautiful Augusta, Georgia, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to join John McEnroe himself for an on-court session and autographed tennis racket to take home.

Photographs by Susan Stava & Stephanie Berger (YPC)

Contact DPC here.