Thursday, December 15, 2016

Holiday cheer

Park Avenue lights. 10:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, December 15, 2016. A fair but mainly grey day yesterday in New York.  The forecast is for much colder and a large swath of “icy mix” moving across the Ohio Valley through Pennsylvania, New York and the northeast into the weekend.

Brooke and Alex at Michael's.
I went down Michael’s to dine with Brooke Hayward and Alex Hitz. The walk from 57th and Fifth through the fences set up to keep people out of the street (except to cross) creates a crowd in front of the Prada and Abercrombie stores directly across the avenue from Trump Tower. There are always crowds of sightseers all armed with cameras or cell phones taking photos of the entrance to the building. Maneuvering through them is inconvenient and annoying, but it’s worse for the businesses. It will be good when the President-elect moves to the White House, for everyone. In the meantime, the crowds and barriers around Trump Tower is only one of the very many maneuvering obstructions around the city.

The traffic is very heavy and the gridlock is all over town up and down. That is a terrible dilemma that has been building and building for a long time, and is obviously the result of someone’s very bad, very bad planning. It’s easy to gripe about because it requires more time for everything travel-wise, including coming into the city. Brooke told me the ride in from Litchfield Country (about an hour and a half) was two and a half.

Nevertheless, it is the holidays, and city traffic during the weekday is always heavier. Michael’s was very festive and tables full up. I was there on Tuesday and it was the same story. Yesterday the Getty Museum was hosting a big lunch in the terrace room. Jay McInerney was there, as was former ambassador Bill vanden Heuvel; and Dr. Mitch Rosenthal lunching with Ron Dozoretz; Bill McCuddy of Fox News; Prince Dimitri; Jon Corzine; Herb Siegel; Lucianne Goldberg; Simone Levinson with Paula Zahn; Shay Pantano with Jean Shafiroff; Joan Gelman; Liz McNeil of People.
On Monday Kim McCarty was hosting a holiday luncheon for friends. Seated, l. to r.: Mary Kelly, Janet Goldsmith, Jean Pagliuso, Patti Smyth McEnroe, (bottom) Pamela Hanson, Kim McCarty, and Kathryn Collins. Standing, l. to r.: Wendi Sturgis, Pat Shea, and Carol Weisman.
Some readers wonder why I go to Michael’s as often as I do. I average a couple of times a week. Sometimes three. First of all I love the room. It reminds me of California – bright, light, and with colorful, vibrant art that is part of Michael’s and his wife Kim’s collection. As well as many of Kim’s works. Then the staff who waits on you and serves you are top flight, professional but also attentive and pleased to serve. Thirdly, the food is very good to this sorta fussy man’s palate and highly desirable to the more sophisticated diner. And fourthly and maybe most importantly, the guests. You’re liable to see anybody (prominent) in the world of media, publishing, theatre, movies, television, public relations, newspapers, as well as politicians all the way up to President. I never saw George W. Bush there but I did see his wife Laura. Hillary Clinton was there several times for lunch over the years. So was Bill. I’ve never seen The Donald there, but I have a feeling he is mainly one who catches lunch on the run because he is always working. But you never know.

What it is is a gathering of talent of all kinds that contribute to the city and sometimes the world in great and sometimes magnificent ways. Then there’s the rest of us, too – willing and able to observe and to listen and see, and learn all kinds of details that make up the mosaic of what we call our lives.

For example, last week when I was lunching there, I was seated across the aisle from my friend Mickey Ateyeh.  Mickey is, or was, in the jewelry business. She worked for a number of years for Tiffany and for more years after that with Angela Cummings whose designs were once exclusive with Tiffany. Mickey is one of those women who likes people and has lots of friends. And loves to travel and travels all over the world visiting friends and taking it in. She’s sort of retired now. Which amazes me because she’s not what I would call of the retirement age or the retiring kind. She told me she still gets involved with projects when they present themselves.

Mickey Ateyeh and Pascale Hermès Mussard with her new tote.
In the meantime, while we were talking, her guest arrived. A very pleasant woman wearing a beautiful leather kind of apron dress. There’s a word for the style and I don’t know it. Mickey introduced her as Pascale Hermès Mussard. I wasn’t sure if I were hearing it correctly because although I am not proficient in language, I had always thought Pascale was a man’s name. So I asked. Yes, Pascale is it. And why?

She told me, in answer to my question, that her mother had wanted a son! She is the great-grandchild of Thierry Hermès (that Hermès), the founder of the internationally famous business; and he had no sons but three daughters – her grandmother Aline, being one of them.  And so it was, on the strength of the daughters that Thierry’s business would prosper and become a leading member of the peerage of international fashion designers and retailers.

Mickey, taking in our conversation, told me that Pascale is the Founder and Creative Director of the Petite “H” Collection, which salvages scraps of leather from production and crafts them into Ornaments, Accessories and Collectibles.  A shrewd and creative businesswoman wearing the badge of her great-grandfather’s initiative and self-reliance. Remember those words?

It so happened that Pascale had arrived with one of her products. A tote, made of the leftovers from the making of the famous Hermès handbags. Its design represents outlines of “closures,” attachments, and handles from larger production pieces. Nothing is wasted at Hermes in the design, the quality and the manufacturing. This tote is felt and leather.

Pascale is currently in town demonstrating and even making these totes. They’re very smart looking, and soft and large enough, and strong enough to carry the weight. And good looking. Curious (the pieces) because I know nothing about handbags, and softly colorful, they don’t call attention to their “prominence,” but they stand out as exceptionally stylish and unassuming, too.

It’s party time for a lot of people in New York right now. The holidays are a good reason to have a party, invite friends, have drinks, hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and enjoy the company of people who’ve stolen some hours away from their pursuits, the jobs, and themselves. Last night there were two that stood out in my book: Dr. Doug Steinbrech and Jeff Sharp, the producer. The Steinbrech-Sharp household, an aerie above Fifth Avenue overlooking the Park, is a big draw with a big guest list of active and creative and enterprising (and socially inclined) New Yorkers. At it’s height there were probably two hundred guests taking it all in, sharing the atmosphere, the conversations, the drinks. 
Jeff Sharp and Dr. Doug Steinbrech with Jack Sharp-Steinbrech.
Also about a mile uptown as the crow flies or the taxi drives, Mary Hilliard, the distinguished fashion and party photographer, gives an annual Christmas party at her apartment in the East 80s. Mary’s is cozy, with an eclectic variety of ages and interests. There’s an excellent home made buffet, great drinks and a lot of people who conversationally inclined – many of whom have known each other and the hostess for decades.

I saw Mario Buatta, the internationally famous American interior decorator who hasn’t been getting out that often and even resides in a nursing home while keeping his apartment on the East Side and continuing to work for clients.
Right now Mario is in the throes of the new Hilary and Wilbur Ross apartment in the River House. Coming up will be the house in Washington where the Rosses will take up residence while Wilbur serves as Secretary of Commerce in the Trump Administration. Mario designed their Seventh Avenue penthouse across from Carnegie Hall as well as their sprawling, sunny and chic residence in Palm Beach and Southampton.  He also has clients on the West Coast whom he’s charming with sophisticated and cheerful sensibility.

We talked briefly about his earliest days in the business. The subject came up when we were talking about Aileen Mehle, “Suzy” who died only six weeks ago. She and Mario became great friends. When she was first writing, the first time she mentioned Mario, not knowing him, she referred to him as “Marie” Buatta. That was his first big mention in Suzy who would become a lifelong friend.
Mario with Aileen at the Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education's "2013 Fiesta" gala benefit.
Dinner parties. Last week Jim Mitchell hosted a  holiday dinner for friends at Primola. Diana Feldman, Topsy Taylor, Charlotte Ford, Margo Langenberg, John Castle, Pia Lindstrom and Jack Carley, Regina and Rainer Greeven, Marion and Renato Trichauer and Jim Costigan were present to help Jim celebrate the holidays.
The menu: Caesar Salad, Veal, Pasta, Sorbet and Christmas cakes with lots of Italian red wine and champagne.
Charlotte Ford, Topsy Taylor, and Diana Feldman.
Regina Greevan, John K. Castle, and Pia Lindstrom.
Jack Carley and Pia Lindstrom. Renato and Marion Tichauer.
Rainer Greevan and Charlotte Ford.
But before we close: I received this photograph on Monday from a friend who is in Portugal on a business and pleasure trip.

One day he was in a tile shop buying for a client in Palm Beach when who should walk into the small shop but Charles Aznavour. Aznavour who is now 92, was in town giving a concert.

Most Americans under the age of 45 have never heard of Aznavour, the great Armenian-born French chanteur who has written 800 songs, sold more than 180 million records and CDs and has performed with some of the greatest entertainers of the last seven decades including Placido, Pavarotti, Sinatra, Astaire, Edith Piaf, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan (who said that Aznavour is one of the greatest performers he’s ever seen), and many many others.
 

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