Friday, December 23, 2016

On the way to Holiday

Having made their "bows," the debutantes of the 83rd edition of the Debutante Cotillion and Christmas Ball held last night at the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom. Photo: DPC.
Friday, December 23, 2016.  Sunny and mild yesterday in New York. Actually on the warm side – 50 degrees pm the high side.

On the way to Holiday. I went down to Michael’s to have lunch with a friend. This was my first trip down there this week. The city is noticeably (traffic-wise) quieter although the foot traffic on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 56th where Trump Tower is, is very heavy with lots of sightseers taking photos of the entrance as well as selfies with the entrance in the background.

Steve Millington's family Christmas tree on the Upper West Side.
Because it’s a walk I’ve taken hundreds of times over the years (on my way to Michael’s), and because I’ve literally seen Donald Trump dozens of times over the years as he was entering or exiting his building, it’s mildly annoying to have to maneuver through a mob to get there these days.

Yesterday, however, I was thinking just that, and thinking how ironically, if I were on that walk for the first time, I would be very impressed that the next President of the United States was very possibly, at that moment, sitting in his office or apartment in that Tower. But no, not yesterday; I was a New Yorker feeling harassed in that Noo Yawk way. Moving along to wherever.

At Michael’s Steve Millington the gregarious GM showed me a photo of his family’s Christmas tree. I don’t have a Christmas tree and haven’t for a number of years. Although most of my life, until I returned to New York 24 years ago, I have had a Christmas tree. I’m not sentimental about it, and don’t mind/never think of having one. Although I like looking at them everywhere – on the street, in neighbors’ windows, building lobbies and store windows.

My neighbor Charlie Scheips usually has an extraordinary tree (which we ran last year) although he didn’t have one this year.
Charlie's Christmas tree from yesteryear.
Meanwhile on the subject of Christmas trees, Katherine Bryan and Carolyne Roehm hosted a holiday reception at Katherine’s Park Avenue apartment on Tuesday night. I go to fewer cocktail parties than the reader might imagine. First of all, I’m rarely invited to one, and second of all I’ve had my fill anyway. However, there is such a thing as a special occasion, and there is such a thing as a comfortable vibe at what is basically a cocktail party. Katherine’s, as well as Carolyne’s parties have that vibe.
Entering the cocktail party at Katherine Bryan's on Tuesday night.
You’re aware of it as soon as you enter the room; everyone’s relaxed. This one was from “six to eight.” I don’t think I got there much before 7:30 and it was ostensibly supposed to end in a half hour. That’s good too. However, it was 8:30 before I left.  There must have been fifty people in various rooms and everyone was engaged in conversations or enjoying taking it all in. I was reminded of the famous John Koch painting of a New York cocktail party. People watching at cocktail parties is like reading a novel.
Naturally, with John Koch in mind I wished I could illustrate the idea with my camera. Forget it. But before I left Katherine’s apartment, I took a few photos of which  the result isn’t anything to write home about but photos of people, even strangers, are always interesting no matter, no?  I also don’t use my flash enough – according to JH – because I hate that white flash on the subject’s face. However, whatever.
I don't recognize everybody but the blonde woman in black is Hilary Geary Ross talking to the lady in red, Judy Taubman, and the man on the right with glasses looking in my direction is George Farias.
Judy Taubman talking to Susan Gutfreund.
Katherine Bryan, our hostess, with her son, journalist George Gurley. Nina Griscom and Sharon King Hoge.
Katherine's tree.
Walking up Park Avenue on the west side of the avenue, I took this shot of the entrance of the Park Avenue Armory.
And when I got home from the party, with the tree and the decorations in mind, and thinking about my holiday decorations, I realized I have them all year round. Tiny, ornaments and ornamental, sent to me by various friends one year or another. I put them out and leave them there for no other reason than I don’t know where to put them otherwise. They serve to remind me of this wonderful season, and only the good part. Calms the mind at times.
A few years passed passed before I realized this Ruritanian soldier was carrying Hershey's Kisses on his apron. They must be petrified by now. This lonesome little Santa pup without his own tree has his own ashtray that I picked up at a dinner at Versailles years ago. Behind him is a photo of a dear looking pup waiting for a loving home at the Lange Foundation in Los Angeles.
This is Snoopy, another decoration without his own tree which was gifted to me yesterday.
I don't know where I got this but it's been hanging there for so many years anticipating the big day that I don't remember when or from whom. Same with this snow bunny. Always shining and smiling, summer fall winter spring. Who could give him up?
Last night in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf=Astoria, was the 83rd edition of The Debutante Cotillion and Christmas Ball. Often referred to as the Infirmary Ball, it is the oldest and biggest coming-out party held for charity (which was NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital). 42 young women were presented, each escorted by a white-tied young man who held the debutante’s and steadied her as she took her deep curtsy.

It was a really beautiful, old-fashioned evening with about 800 guests and the majority of them under the age of 25. I was invited by Gillian and Sylvester Miniter whose daughter Serena (UPenn ’20) was making her debut.
Sylvester Miniter, Anita Meltzer, Ross Meltzer, debutante Serena Miniter, and Gillian Miniter.
The room as you can see was bathed in pink and everyone, even old grandpa, looked peachy (pink). The Bob Hardwick Sound was fabulous playing the great contemporary pop and show tunes from the last century and in the fashion that I heard it a half century ago. The young people looked handsome and beautiful and very contemporary; the women in white long gowns and the men in white tie, all looking quite at home. It was a wonderful evening and we’ll have more about it next week.
The Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria last night for the Debutante Cotillion. Pretty in pink.
The debs and their escorts dancing after the completion of the Presentation.
A coincidence but deeply memorable: On this same date in 1960, a college sophomore, I came to New York to attend the first (and most important) Coming Out party I’d ever attend. And it was at the Waldorf in one of their banquet rooms (then called The Sert Room – located at the top of the main entrance staircase). It was given for three young women – girls to these boys. I remember very little of the details, whether there was a dinner or not (which there probably was). The music was the Meyer Davis orchestra. Davis, Lester Lanin and Emil Coleman were the top three society bands in New York in those days.

What I remember was meeting this girl, one of the three debutantes, when we danced together. Strangers to each other, we hit a common note and laughed throughout our dance. It turned out to be the beginning of an important relationship in my life. And she, unwittingly, unknowingly to both of us, became my muse.
A party in The Sert Room.
I can only make that last statement at this time in my life, 55 years later. That evening had an impact on my psyche and memory that determined my future to this moment.

We saw each other for the next three years but by year four we had both married and moved on in our young lives. 50 years passed without a word or a letter between us. However, as it happened quite unplanned, in the summer of last year, she and I had a reunion for the first time in all those years. That made a deep impression also.

It was a very cold snowy winter that year 1960. John F. Kennedy had just been elected President. The mood was like the new President-elect and his beautiful wife – upbeat and young. There were snowbanks everywhere on That December 22nd. This college kid had only heard about this side of New York, the glamour side. All of it was a feast for these eyes and imagination. The day after the party, I read about it in Cholly Knickerbocker’s column in Hearst's afternoon Journal-American. How awed this kid was to read that also at the same party was the new President-elect’s mother Rose Kennedy. And another guest was CZ Guest whom I’d first learned about when she appeared on the cover of Time. I was also in awe to learn that I knew the girl in the story, whose presence at that moment profoundly influenced my life.
 

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