Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Just around the corner

Frances Hodgson Burnett's 'Secret Garden' Memorial Fountain and bird bath in the Conservatory Garden in Central Park. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, August 24, 2016. A beautiful day, yesterday in New York with temperature in the high 60s in the early morning when I took the dogs out, and moving up into the mid-70s by mid-day. Mother Nature gave us a much needed break. Also reminded us that Autumn is just around the corner (although I’ve yet to get that “first whiff” of it in the morning air).

These being the last days of summer for a lot of us, including especially the young ones, my neighborhood is very quiet (no school buses for one thing). Two weeks from today it will start to liven up again, and we’ll be beginning the new season.  I have nothing on my calendar except an occasional lunch and dinner, which are often the best part of my work – because of all the interesting people you meet here in New York.
I had dinner last night at Sette Mezzo with Alejandra Cicognani. The beautiful Alejandra is a very prominent public relations executive (her own firm) here in New York. She’s actually Nicaraguan of Spanish descent, although she grew up mainly in Mexico City where her father was the Nicaraguan ambassador to Mexico. She was educated there and in Europe and at Boston College but has lived in New York for the most part of her life (she has two daughters in their twenties). She knows a lot of interesting people and between the two of us we are never at a loss for words or observations on the passing parade.
DPC with and Alejandra Cicognani (right) and Musical Olympus Foundation's Irina Nikitina.
Sette Mezzo was jammed. Soon-Yi and Woody Allen were there dining with Karen and Richard LeFrak; the Schiffs, David and Lisa, just returned from their stay in Nantucket with Joy Ingham, were dining with Marlene Hess and Jim Zirin. At another table Hilary and Wilbur Ross were with Gigi and Harry Benson.

Hilary and Harry have done three books together. Harry, a Scotsman, came here with the Beatles on their initial and sensational trip in 1964 and changed the world (at least for awhile). Harry is a famous photographer but he has taken so many famous (or to use an overused word: iconic) photographs that his personal fame takes a back seat to the pleasure he has given us with his eye over these past five decades.
Harry at home photographed by JH.
A documentary filmmaker Matthew Miele has made a docu of Harry's life "Harry Benson Shoot First." It will be released in theaters this December 2nd (and at the Quad Cinema at 34 West 13th Street on that Friday – which is also Harry's birthday). Word of mouth right now has the film at Number 9 on the Oscar Awards Circuit list.

The film was co-produced by his stalwart and devoted wife Gigi along with Heather Silverman. It traces Harry’s more than six decade career beginning as a kid as a photojournalist in London’s Fleet Street to his arrival in New York with the Fab Four -- they had come to perform on the Sunday night TV institution of the time, “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He’s long forgotten now but back then appearing on Ed Sullivan was like coming to visit God.
After that, Harry went to work for LIFE Magazine which was the real God of photographic celebrity. Between LIFE and Harry Benson, you can see the whole world, a history of the time in his books.

I’ve had the privilege of being photographed by Harry twice. The first time was at one of those Central Park Women Committee luncheons we call the Hat Lunch. Harry caught a shot of me taking a photo of him. I didn’t know he was taking a photograph of me, believe it or not. He’s fast. The second time was for a book he did on New York with Hilary (Geary Ross). 

Harry Benson's view of DPC taking pictures at the Central Park Conservancy "Hat Lunch," circa 2010.
When Hilary asked me if I would do it, I suggested that we get some good looking women in the photo and do it like a lunch at Michael’s. I specifically suggested Joy Ingham, Emilia Saint Amand and Topsy Taylor, all of whom are personal friends, but because they were very active supporters of City Harvest, one of the greatest food distribution charities in New York.

The women all agreed and we met one weekday afternoon after the lunch hour had cleared out. The four of us were sitting at table and Harry was seated in a chair about ten feet away by the bar. We were chatting, waiting for him to set up the shot when finally I said, “Harry, when are you gonna take the picture?” 

“I already have,” he answered.

I didn’t know what he was talking about. He’d taken the picture when we were chatting and when you see it you’re looking at the truth of the moment. We’re all smiling and Topsy’s face is turned toward the camera as if she knew, but in fact, she’d just said something funny, and in our laughing response, she turned away as if to deny it.
Harry's photo of Topsy Taylor, DPC, Emilia Saint-Amand, and Joy Ingham at Michael's.
The documentary should be interesting. I was interviewed for it but I was probably the least informative compared to many of those interviewed, including Henry Kissinger, Bryant Gumbel, Joe Namath, Sharon Stone, Dan Rather, Alec Baldwin, James L Brooks, Ralph Lauren, Deborah Norville, Liz Smith, Harry’s first grade friend in Scotland Carlo Pediani, Patti Davis, Kerry Kennedy,  Carl Bernstein, Kitty Hawks, Hilary Geary Ross, Betty Buckley, Cornelia Guest, Andre Leon Talley, Piers Morgan, Gigi Benson, his daughters and sons-in-law: Wendy and Michael Landes and Tessa and Tucker Tooley; Chris Whipple, David Friend, Charlotte Ronson, and Donald Trump.  

The film got a standing ovation at its premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival and will be released by Magnolia Pictures in December, and will be on Netflix in 2017.
A young Sir Paul and a young Sir Harry.
Meanwhile, the social action for a lot of New Yorkers who are able (and willing) is going on out at the Hamptons. There’s something going on almost every night now that the summer’s drawing to a close. You may have seen the photos from the Animal Rescue Fund benefit in East Hampton last Saturday. That was only one of several big parties going on that night (Saturday). Tomorrow we’ll run another big one.

Today we’re running a party in Southampton last Friday night for Janna Bullock who hosted a private dinner to raise awareness for Hour Children Charity and their upcoming annual Dream Extreme fundraiser where Janna will be an honoree next month here in New York. I wasn’t there, but from the looks of it, this was at least a “fun-raiser” for grown children.
Emanuele Fiore, Janna Bullock, Jennifer Miller, and Alessandro Mele.
Victoria Wyman, Nicole Miller, and Tracey Amon. Cheri Kaufman and Bill Sclight.
Henry and Chris Burch.
Jonathan Farkas, Ramona Singer, and Arnie Rosenshein. Seth and Jennifer Miller.
Linda Argila, Paola Rosenshein, Hendrik Penndorf, Zoe Bullock, and Susan Shin.
Eugenia and Zoe Bullock. Charlotte Stubgen, Dr. Patrick Stubgen, and Dana Hammond Stubgen.
James Stanton, Michael Schultz, Kelly Shaughnessy, Jonathan Farkas, and Kim Taipale.
Brody Jenner and Kaitlynn Carter. Nicole Miller and Kim Taipale.
Marija Nikcevic, Alexandra Adzic, Ivana Matos, and Dana Koyak.
Lauren Day Roberts and Kim Heirston Evans. Lucia Hwong Gordon.

Contact DPC here.