Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Modern Aristocrats

Bike crazy. 1:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016.  It was a mainly overcast day in New York yesterday, with the splashing through occasionally for a few minutes. The weatherman said it was 72 degrees but it felt cooler. When I looked it up, it also stated the Real Feel at 68. Interesting because felt colder than the 70s. Autumn is here. I also read that some are forecasting a very snowy winter for us. Sounds nice but that sort of  thing in New York definitely has serious drawbacks for a lot of us.

Yesterday I went to lunch at Kenny Lane’s who was giving it for his friend James Reginato whose new book “Great Houses; Modern Aristocrats” (Rizzoli) was officially published yesterday. You’ve probably read Jim’s reports and accounts many times in W and in Vanity Fair. He’s a writer who can give you the bare facts unblemished and without insult.
Jim Reginato talking with Kenny Lane before the guests arrived at yesterday's luncheon for him.
A trip to Kenneth J. Lane’s duplex is always a pleasure. Kenny is a naturally welcoming host and the environment seems to encourage the conversation in his guests. Kenny himself often says very little except to interject a comment or anecdote to sum it up, or keep things --  including the laughter -- going. It also seems effortless and yet at the same time everything is executed in a formal way.

His apartment is located in a Stanford White mansion that was completed in 1891 for a wealthy New York businessman. Today the house is broken up into several apartments.  It is one of the most disarmingly impressive apartments in New York. It impresses your imagination and your fancy. The main salon is grand but hugely comfortable and full of fascinating objects, furniture, paintings and carpets. A few weeks ago we ran a long interview with Kenny by George Gurley. And a couple of years ago we ran an HOUSE interview with Sian and Lesley, and the place was photographed by JH. I mention this only because if you didn’t know, it’s an opportunity to actually see it, and to get a sense of its owner and his international taste.
Views of Kenny's drawing room. Photos: JH.
There was a three course lunch with excellent wines, naturally, and a menu that seemed like the work of a five-star chef. I’m not exaggerating. And it’s always like that. And around the table the conversation continues. Yes, the Presidential campaign came up of course, and a brief opinion or two of the candidates were expressed -- but with none of the abusiveness of either of them that you can read or hear all over.

Jim Reginato is a old friend, hence the lunch in his honor. Kenny has also been in many if not all of the houses, as a guest. So has Jonathan Becker who was also present, and whose photographs of several houses and grounds appear in this book.  

Click to order "Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats."
The book is beautifully published, and when I first opened it, I expected it to be full of the beautiful photographs of these amazing houses, centuries old, and still extant and habitable by members of the same families who owned them centuries ago. Jim Reginato’s accounts of his visits there, and of the owners, and their family histories, brings everything into the focus of reality.

For example, the young couple on the cover are Nicholas and Dinah Ashley-Cooper (and son Anthony), the 12th Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury, seated in the library of St. Giles House in Dorset, under a portrait of the first Earl. While we look at the interiors of this centuries-old house, we learn in Jim’s text that the earl -- known as Nick to friends and family -- fourteen years ago, in 2002 when he was still the Honorable Nicholas A-C, “moved to a walk-up on a Second Avenue and 12th Street in the East Village, where he began to thrive as a techno-disc jockey going by the handle DJ Nick AC ...”

From there we’re led into the family history of the previous two earls (brothers) including Nick’s father, the 10th earl, who was murdered in the South of France by a man hired by his wife.

From there we go into the history of the families in the house. One of the previous earls, a great-uncle of the present earl was once married to an English beauty and former chorus girl named Sylvia who after her divorce from him and retaining the name and title, Lady Sylvia Ashley, became famous in America for marrying two charter members of Hollywood aristocracy, first Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and later – among others – Clark Gable. After those boys, Sylvia went on to marry yet another earl and also a Russian prince.
Douglas Fairbanks and Lady Sylvia Ashley, circa 1937.
Lady Sylvia Ashley and Clark Gable on their wedding day in 1949.
Also among the guests yesterday was Ivana Lowell, the daughter of the late author Lady Caroline Blackwood who was the daughter of the 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava and the brewery heiress Maureen Guinness. Lady Caroline, who died in 1996, is buried at Luggala, the estate in County Wicklow, Ireland whose chatelaine was her aunt,  Oonagh Guinness. Luggala, which is surrounded by green mountains and Lough Tay lake looks like Peace. And Poetry. Today its master is Ivana’s mother’s cousin, Gareth Browne, son of Oonagh Guinness.
Luggala, the estate in County Wicklow, Ireland.
Luggala is surrounded by green mountains and Lough Tay lake.
Ivana’s mother was also briefly famously married to Lucien Freud, to Robert Lowell, and a man named Israel Cytkowitz. For a long time in Ivana’s young life, there was a mystery as to who her birth was.

Ivana with her mother, Lady Caroline Blackwood.
It was long believed to be Robert Silvers, the founder and publisher of the New York Review of Books. After her mother died, a friend of hers, Ivan Moffat, told her he was her father. The clue was there all the time: Ivan/Ivana. It was confirmed by DNA.

Ivan, who lived in Los Angeles, was a screenwriter/ producer. He was a charming fellow, an Englishman whose mother was Iris Tree, daughter of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, a very famous English actor in the late 19th century.

Iris, who was born at the end of the 19th century, was also famous as an actress, a poet and an artist’s model, painted by Augustus John, Modigliani among several others, sculpted by Jacob Epstein, photographed by Man Ray. Her son Ivan came to the US and Hollywood.
Lady Caroline Blackwood and Lucien Freud on their honeymoon in 1949.
Lady Caroline and Robert Lowell.
Robert Silvers with Ivana's daughter Daisy at her christening in 1999. Ivana with Daisy.
In 1910, Ivana Lowell published her very successful memoir “Why Not Say What Happened?”  She is now working on a biography of her grandmother and her  grandmother’s sisters who were known in their day (the 1920s) as the “Glorious Guinnesses.”

Jim’s new book “Great Houses; Modern Aristocrats” is also a great read. This beautiful book is a compendium of family stories that easily rival in one generation or another the stories of Julian Fellowes or Evelyn Waugh and even P. G. Wodehouse. He gives us a tour that expands the imagination by inviting us to meet the family, of families. It is also a touch of history and reality that can provides an antidote to much of the reality abounding around us. Treat yourself to the pleasure.
After lunch I walked down to Lexington Avenue and turning to look up the avenue for a taxi, I saw this, the always magnificent Chrysler Building built by automaker Walter Chrysler in 1931 and still the most beautiful tower in New York eighty-five years later.
While we’re on the subject: Last Thursday night here in New York, there was a reception for Juan-Pablo Molyneux, the international interior designer who has a new book out about great houses. In this book there are three, and they all belong to Mr. Molyneux and his wife Pilar. One is here in New York (although it has been sold and the Molyneuxs are in the process of making a new home for themselves), the second is in Paris in the Marais, and the third is a magnificent chateau outside Paris.
Juan-Pablo Molyneux with a copy of "Juan-Pablo Molyneux at Home." Click to order.
Pilar and Juan-Pablo Molyneux.
Juan-Pablo is a student of the classics and his work, which is beautifully realized in his own homes is a tribute to artists, artisans, craftsmen of all kinds, elegantly comfortable surroundings and color. This book is a tribute to all that.

JH and I had the privilege of attending a dinner at the Hotel Claude Passart, the 17th century Paris mansion of Pilar and Juan-Pablo in Paris several years ago, when we were there with the American Friends of Versailles.
The Hotel Claude Passart built in 1619 in the Marais.
The salon with its original painted wood beam ceiling is the house's most important feature making it a listed landmark.
The gallery in New York.
The chateau at Pouy-sur-Vannes.
Juan Pablo before the chateau.
A tower bedroom; a portrait of Madame de Sevigne.
The arched roof structure of the old barn was renovated to create a wonderfully luminous volume that now houses a pool and a spa.
More catching up. Last Tuesday night, Jacqueline Weld Drake hosted a celebration for upcoming gala for theCasita Maria Center for Arts and Education at her Upper East Side residence last night. Guests toasted Fiesta’s! 2016 Gold medal honoree Ms. Joanna Fisher. 

Guests included Yanna AvisSteven Aronson, Tony Bechara, ABT’s Ashley Bouder, Clodagh and Daniel Aubry, Martha Bograd, Sharon Bush, Jennifer Chun, Angela ChunAmy Fine Collins, Suzi Cordish, Somers Farkas, Marina Galesi, Michele Gerber-Klein, Susan Gutfreund, Carol Guest, Mai Hallingby Harrison, Yaz Hernandez, Elizabeth Jacoby, Margo Langenberg, Mercedes Levin, William Ivey Long, Tina and Paul Lubetsky, Dietlinde Maazel, Christopher Mason, Mary McFadden, Pilar and Juan Pablo Molyneux, Prince and Princess and Khemka, Ann Nitze, Jonathan Rondinelli, Marc Rosen, Sana H. Sabbagh, Lady Sharon Sondes and Geoffrey Thomas, Adrienne and Gigi Vittadini and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia. 
Brian Fisher, Joanna Fisher, and Jacqueline Weld Drake. Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia and Marina Galesi.
The Fiesta Gala, which will take place at the Plaza on October 18th, will also honor Marcelo Claure (President and CEO of Sprint Corporation) and Hutton Wilkinson. Dinner Chairs for the evening are Jacqueline Weld Drake and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia. The Honorary Charis are Violaine and John BernbachAnnabelle and Alberto Marica and Lisa and Julian Niccolini.

The mission of Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education is to empower youth and their families by creating a culture of learning through high quality social, cultural, and educational opportunities.
Carol Guest, Frederick Guest, and Haydee Morales.
Charlotte Neuville, Amy Fine Collins, and Joanna Fisher.
Adrienne Vittadini, Amy Fine Collins, Yanna Avis, and Violaine Bernbach.
Ashley Bouder and Roger Kluge.
William Ivey Long and Dietlinde Maazel. Pilar Molyneux and Tony Bechara.
Ann Rapp, Edgar Batista, and Sana Sabbagh.
Michele Gerber Klein and Suzi Cordish.
Welcome back. Marianne and John Castle hosted a dinner for friends one lovely early autumn evening in the penthouse of the Metropolitan Club on Fifth Avenue overlooking the park. There were cocktails at sunset and the dinner was to welcome everyone back from the summer (and before everyone in the crowd heads to Palm Beach).
Among the guests: Grace and Chris Meigher, Sharon Bush and Oscar Plotkin, Ann and Donald Caldor, Margo Langenberg, Richard Zieglasch, Maria Cooper and Byron Janis, Pia Lindstrom and Jack Carley, Ada Zabetti and Jim Mitchell. The perfect menu for the evening: Avocado and crabmeat salad, Filet of beef, and Grand Marnier Souffle.
Pia Lindström and Jack Carley. Maria Cooper Janis and Byron Janis.
Ada Zambetti, John K. Castle, and Margo Langenberg.
Donald and Ann Calder. Oscar Plotkin and Sharon Bush.
Pia Lindström, James Mitchell, and Maria Cooper Janis.
Chris Meigher and Grace Meigher. Margo Langenberg and Richard Ziegelasch.

Photographs by Annie Watt (Casita)

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