Friday, January 8, 2016

Being seen

Resembling springtime in Central Park. 11:00 AM. Photo: JH.
Friday January 8, 2016. The freezing weather lifted up in to the low 40s by nightfall Wednesday, a sunny, cold day in New York. Feels better. The weatherman predicts rain this weekend with temps in the low 60s. Not surprisingly, some daffodils have sprouted in the Park, four months in advance.

Stuff. On Wednesday, I went to Michael’s. Their holiday calm (few tables) is over and the tables are full and the palaver is back. I put it in those terms because I hear none of the conversations and just watching them can offer the imagination all kinds of relationships and stories but without the words, the “deal” – and this is the place for pitching – is never apparent.

When I first visited Michael’s for lunch 17 or so years ago  as a guest of my then boss Judy Price, the publisher and owner of Avenue magazine which she created, it was clearly a certain kind of business lunch spot. The room itself, even in its previous incarnation -- The Italian Pavilion -- drew a crowd from publishing, radio and television. Editors, producers, directors, writers. Not a country club but a venue, a device, a vehicle for getting it all up there and out. And being seen.
Michael's was always dressed up for the holiday season.
That pretty much defines maybe fifty percent of the lunch clientele. The other fifty is New York today in the upper reaches of business, which nowadays also includes philanthropy. Here you find hedge fund owners, directors, bankers, socialites, professional women outside media, as well as an array of putting themselves “out there.” And tourists who like to get a look at that part of New York.

New York is a commercial center and so is Michael’s. Oh, you see politicians there too. Even ex-Presidents. And their wives. So why would I go there on Wednesday? I discovered this reality way back then – on Wednesday – the median day of the week is also the media day at Michael’s – and I started writing about it in the Diary when we started sixteen years ago this year.

Somers Farkas hosted a lunch for her friends Francine LeFrak,  Shari Rollins, Margo Catsimatidis, and Jamie Colby. At the table next door was Luke Janklow; next door to him, Patrick McMullan with Larry Burstein, publisher of New York Magazine. In the corner Steve Rattner; and moving around the room: John Ledecky with Scott Malkin who owns the Empire State Building; Dr. Imber, Mr. della Femina and Mr. Bergman; Pax Quigley with Heather Childers; Joan Hamburg with Kim Bryant of Westwood One; Diane Clehane of interviewing Carol Anne Riddell, Gail Yancosek and Susan Iger who’ve started a new media company called Gail Yancosek Consulting.
Margo Catsimitidis, Somers Farkas, Jamie Colby, and Francine LeFrak at Michael's.
Continuing the room: Ambassador Bill vanden Heuvel with Seth M. Siegel, author of “Let There Be Water; Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World”; Chuck Whittingham, erstwhile publisher of LIFE, with his son Charles Jr. who recently moved here from San Francisco; Ted Hathaway; Neil Krauter; Tyler Morse; Godfrey Rayner, Sara Beth Shrager; David Blum of Amazon; Tal Keinan; Jim Smith of Niche Media. I was lunching with Barbara Liberman.

How did you spend your Holiday vacation?  Our friend Jim Mitchell wrote from in Marrakech for Christmas where he spent the Eve with his friend Said and Said’s girlfriend Nissarine at her family’s house in Zagora, a town on the edge of the Sahara.

On Christmas Day, they went for lunch by camel at a Berber camp. “About one hour ride.” The camels take their time, unlike so many of their riders. Christmas night it was back in Marrakech for dinner for 50 at La Mamounia.
La Mamounia Marrakech.
From the Sahara, Jim moved on to ... Round Hill, in Montego Bay, Jamaica (!) where the weather was glorious and Round Hill Club was host to some of the famous such as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, as well as Beyonce and Jay Z and their family. Plus Francesca Hapbsburg and her family. Josef Foprstmayr, the director of Round Hill hosted everyone with a big cocktail buffet at his cottage.
Pulling into Round Hill.
Meanwhile, Ralph and Ricky Lauren and son Andrew were at their cottage; Daisy Soros was at her villa at  Tryall, along with her son Peter Soros and his family. Also on the island: Alfre and Roderick Woodward Spencer, shoe designer Vanessa Noel who had Princes Cecilia zu Hohenlohe-Langenberg as her houseguest; Sue Warner and Neal Leonard, interior designer Miles Redd, fashion designer Jessie Randall and her husband Brian Murphy. And from Canada, the McCain family and the Bombardier family.

Then he was back in New York for New Year’s Eve and a dinner at Swifty’s hosted by Richard and Diana Feldman along with this writer and Charlotte Ford.
Jim Mitchell (with Liz Smith) partying like it's 1960.
Last night, a friend invited me to see Jerry Seinfeld at the Beacon Theater on 74th and Broadway. The Beacon is a beautiful theater with an interior that looks like it has been entirely refurbished in its original style as an old-time movie palace/legit theater. It is physically on Broadway above the theater district, but used for off-Broadway plays or solo performances and rock concerts. The last time I’d been there was several years ago when Liza Minnelli did a one woman show (she was great).

I’d never seen Seinfeld before. Or his show. It’s true, I’m one of the few. I heard about it, of course; and often I’d hear about it from someone who would never miss a segment under any circumstances. I happened to tell another friend yesterday morning that I was going to see him and she broke into some of the stories from Seinfeld – while laughing about it.
The Beacon Theatre. 7:45 PM.
My hostess last night is the same way. She had a hard time getting tickets and ended up paying top dollar (she wouldn’t tell) with a scalper for three (she only had wanted two but was required to buy three if she wanted any). So when she asked me to be the third, seventh row, on the aisle, how painful could it be I wondered. I wasn’t especially excited about it, never having seen the man who rose to a stardom where the one name says it all. But I figured it might be something I could write about. Like Michael’s.

Well the place was packed. A very hip, what some would call an older crowd. Forties up. But hip, with it, Noo-Yawkers always young in their heads if nowhere else. The music before the show began was entirely Sinatra singing. When it stopped, a man came out and introduced the evening and then Jerry Seinfeld’s opening act. It was a warm and funny ten-minute routine from a guy who used to live three blocks from the Beacon, on 73rd Street but now lives in Santa Monica. Having lived in both places, I already knew what he was going to talk about. Culture change and weather that you can’t not like is too funny and weird to pass up. He was very good, and very funny.
Seinfeld on stage at the Beacon last night ...
Then came Seinfeld. In a suit. I can’t remember all the paths he took in his stand-up. Everyone was laughing right away. I was laughing right away. He invites you in and talks to you about this world we’re living in, and takes the ordinary and punches it full of  constant laughter for the listener. There were guffaws and yelping, howling laughter, but everything quick, like Seinfeld’s patter, always moving on with what is basically a social commentary on American life. He speaks to a generation brought up in a time of the greatest prosperity and cultural expansion after the Industrial Revolution.

I put it in those rather lofty sounding terms because in a way, Seinfeld was reminding me of a Mencken-like character a century on, making his way through the ordinary and the idiocy and the hilarity in our behavior as human animals on this planet.
I was also amazed how he could run with such apparent ease through a diversity of subjects and incidents, one after the other, seamlessly making it all part of the whole – our lives. Yes it looked like it had just come off the top of his head extemporaneously, but it was complex with lots of twists and turns and outbursts or flashes of the quotidian and absurdity of it all.

With 3000 people laughing along with their friend, this man, now 61 (he told us), who married at forty-five, and now has three kids, first saw a comedian when he was a young kid growing up in Massapequa, on Ed Sullivan on a Sunday night. So taken by the man on the tv, the kid asked his parents who were watching too, what did that guy do as a "job." His father told him: that was his job. The kid's thought right then and there: that’s for me. And so it was. And so it was for all of us in the Beacon Theater last night. I can believe there wasn’t a man or woman in the entire house who wasn't really glad to be there taking it all in. And even grateful, if you think about it.
I can’t describe the humor except to say I was laughing all the time, and when it was over and we were all leaving the theater, I felt good, Good, like I’d had an actual GOOD time with a man who sees it all very clearly, can talk about it, and leaves you feeling like you’d just taken a happy pill, and it had kicked in. Thank you Seinfeld, and congratulations from all of us!

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