Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rara Avis

The entrance to the Reservoir at Fifth Avenue and 90th Street. The monument honors John Purroy Mitchel, New York City's youngest mayor. He presided over the opening of the first water tunnel in 1917, which is the reason his memorial is on the Reservoir site. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016. Yesterday was overcast in the low 80s but not humid, followed by some rain and cooling temps in the early evening.
The rolling clouds over the East River on Saturday afternoon while expecting the tropic storm that never visited.
Monday I received the following message from Joan Kingsley in London: “Dear David, I am sorry to tell you that Philip had a massive and catastrophic stroke Saturday and slipped away from us later that night. It was entirely unexpected and sudden. We are all in shock as we expected him to outlast us all.”

It came as a great shock to me, and in thinking about it, I like Joan and her family expected him to go on beyond any of us. His mother died at 100 and he used to joke in a gentle, jolly way, that he was going to live that long, too.

This photo was taken when I had dinner with Philip and Joan at Sette Mezzo at the beginning of the summer. They always came over and rented in Quogue each summer.  At the time of his photo they’d just been traveling extensively, as was not unusual for them, often on business but also often for pleasure.
Philip and Joan at Sette Mezzo eariier this summer.
Philip with his daughter Anabel, a fellow trichologist.
If you didn’t know of Philip Kingsley, he was the famous “hair doctor” who grew up in cockney London and through natural interest and curiosity, as well as being blessed with sunny and (again) gentle personality, became something of a tycoon with his interest.

I met him only about ten years ago when he was here in New York on a regular business trip (his salon is on East 52nd Street between Fifth and Madison) with Joan. Joan and I met almost fifty years ago when we were both briefly aspiring actors working in summer stock in Lake Placid, New York. Ours had been one of those friendships that appeared to end when the show closed (“I loved ya honey but the show closed…”), and indeed it did. Or seemed to. However, we were reunited about ten years ago through our mutual friends Joan and John Jakobson.

And with that came Philip.
John Jakobson with Philip.
Philip was somewhere around his mid-80s although he really seemed ageless on meeting, and in getting to know him. He was full of humor, and as hip as any hipster when it came to the ways of the world. He also had the rare ability to laugh with bemusement at much that passed by him. And he read all the time. Last year he’d re-read “The Count of Monte Cristo” first read when he was a schoolboy. He was amazed how rich and compelling it was.

He was like a holy man when it came to his business, however. He’d started out sweeping floors in his uncle’s hairdressing shop in London in the 1940s. From a poor family where everything was shared, he began working when he was twelve or fourteen. At first, the idea of being a hairdresser impressed him, but his uncle advised that he pursue a different route: the study of trichology (study of the hair and scalp and all problems related to it). The boy had the curiosity and followed his uncle’s advice. He became the leader in his field.
DPC with Philip at Michael's in 2010.
When he went into business, opening an office, one of his first clients was the famous English actor Harry Andrews who was then working in the National Theatre Company with Laurence Olivier. Andrews was so impressed with Philip’s work that he told Philip he was going to send Olivier – already a very famous actor – who had a full head of hair but was always “worried” about it, fussing with it.

Indeed, Olivier appeared, and was so pleased that eventually just about everyone in the entire company – men and women – came to Philip. After that his reputation grew to a vast array of clients, including many famous movie stars, society people, politicians, aristocrats, royals as well as the rest of us.  For years now he’s lived and worked with his offices in Mayfair in London. Besides New York, he also opened an office in Hong Kong.
Philip's early clients Harry Andrews and Laurence Olivier in The Devil's Disciple.
I went to him once – not that I needed to, but because I was curious to see what it was that he did.  I was amazed at his manner of inspecting my scalp because it was, again, like him, both gentle, yet direct and encouraging. Such a quietly confident manner is a technique in itself because it lends great confidence in the man in charge. After that initial visit I began to see him and Joan five or six times a year when he came over to tend to his clients here in New York.

Despite his approaching great age, Philip was one of those rara avis whose natural harmony made him a unique kind of friend. One always felt a certain calm in his presence.

Philip is survived by his wife Joan and their daughters Anabel, a fellow trichologist and his company's Director of Communications; Kate, a novelist; Sue, a pharmaceutical consultant, and Helen, a curator and archaeologist.
Philip with his daughter Anabel about 30 years ago.
Meanwhile while we’re on the subject of rara avis – up at the New York Botanical Garden, beginning in October 6th through February 12th, they are exhibiting a very rare collection -- Redouté to  Warhol: Bunny Mellon’s Botanical Art:  Masterworks from the Oak Spring Library.

She was the daughter of the man who created Listerine, who grew up with and also married into wealth ... but Rachel “Bunny” Mellon was a significant American horticulturist and art collector who began her lifelong love of gardening at age 5. By the time of her death at 101, she had amassed thousands of works of botanical art ranging from engravings, watercolors, works on paper and canvas and more than 10,000 rare and scholarly books -- all housed in the specially built Oak Spring Garden Library at her family home in Upperville, Virginia.  

Now, for the first time ever, more than fifty rare masterpieces from her collection – many never shown in public before, will be exhibited at the Art Gallery of The New York Botanical Garden’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library beginning  October 8, 2016

The Masterworks from her Oak Spring Library includes such artworks as rare hand-colored engravings by French artist Jacques LeMoyne de Morgues, watercolors on vellum by German artist Georg Dionysius Ehret and 19th and 20th-century works on paper and canvas by artists including Henri Rousseau, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol

Curated by Dr. Lucia Tomasi Tongiorgio, one of the world’s preeminent scholars of the Mellon art collections, Redouté to Warhol  celebrates the horticulturist’s vast collection and love of botanical art.  The exhibition will be augmented with a series of public programs as well as an illustrated catalog.
Georg Dionysius Ehret                                 
[Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia)], ca. 1737
Bodycolor on vellum
Sophie Grandval-Justice               
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), 1990
Oil on canvas
Pablo Picasso                                      
Pot of Flowers, 1958
Colored lithograph with crayon
Pierre-Joseph Redouté
Tulips and Roses, 1811
Watercolor on vellum
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau
Flowers of Poetry, 1890–95
Oil on canvas
Hans Simon Holtzbecker
Bodycolor on vellum in An Album of Plants, Hamburg, ca. 1665
Nicolas Robert
[Tulip, Campanula, and sunflower]
Watercolor on vellum with gold borders
Cristofaro Munari, attrib.
[A quince, an apple, two lemons, and three blue and white cups], ca. 1700
Oil on canvas
Jan van Kessel the Elder
[Still life study of plants, insects, arachnids, mollusks, and reptiles], 1653-58
Oil on copper
Jacques LeMoyne de Morgues
A Young Daughter of the Picts, ca. 1585
Watercolor and gouache, touched with gold on parchment
Andy Warhol
Vine Leaf Marinade, ca. 1955
Ink and watercolor on paper
Charles Germain de Saint-Aubin
[Honeysuckle], ca. 1736–85
Watercolor, bodycolor, pen and ink
in Receuil De Plantes Copiées d'Après Nature Par de Saint Aubin, Dessinateur Du Roy Louis XV. 1736-85
Daniel Seghers
[Flower bouquet in a glass vase]
Oil on copper
Konrad von Megenberg
Manuscript text and watercolor on paper in Buch der natur, ca. 1350
And while we’re on the subject of the New York Botanical Garden, in three weeks, on Sunday, September 25th, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. — rain or shine — The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) will be presenting "The Edible Academy Family Garden Picnic,” a celebration of organic gardening and cooking for the whole family. 

This is one of the great family events of New York, held in a fantastic environment for everyone including small children. What makes it really special is how the whole family shares in its pleasures. It’s an afternoon of outdoor discovery in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden. 
Carla Hall at last year's NYBG's Edible Academy Family Garden Picnic.
There’s a special guest, chef Carla Hall, co-host of ABC’s The Chew. There are live cooking workshops, and a delicious picnic featuring Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen chicken. There’s a great selection of kitchen crafts; organic vegetable gardening, honey harvesting, apple pressing, plus tree climbing, plus live music. It’s also just being out in the middle of the forests actually right here in New York City.

The Chairmen of this year's Edible Academy Family Garden Picnic are Noreen and Ahmar Ahmad, Christina and Laurent de Marval, Emma and Todd Goergen, Annie and James Lansing, Jennifer and Beau Lescott, Amory and Sean McAndrew, Allison and Roberto Mignone, Kimberly and Jean Putzer, Kate Solomon and David Wasserman, and Julia and Ted Weld. The Honorary Chairman is Jill Joyce. The Founding Chairmen are Julie and Nick Sakellariadis. The Honorary Chairman of the Edible Academy Committee is Mario Batali.
It’s a fund-raiser for the NYBG, but children of all ages will enjoy this particular Sunday afternoon with the family. Proceeds support the Garden's Edible Academy, which is the hub of the children's organic vegetable gardening program.

The Edible Academy, and its planned state-of-the-art facility, will soon be significantly expanding the edible gardening program opportunities, so that twice as many children, parents, and teachers (from 50,000 to 100,000 annually) can learn how to grow organic fruits and vegetables, as well as make the important connections among plants, gardening, nutrition, and healthy living.
For more information and tickets, contact Heather Gries at 718.817.8657 or or visit

Your children will thank you.

Contact DPC here.