Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Those moments

Looking west towards Fifth Avenue and Central Park from 91st Street. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016. Cold and rainy yesterday in New York with temperatures dropping below freezing with more rain (and snow) in the night.

Yesterday morning I opened my New Yorker to see what this week’s contents were, and would I have time to read what looked good? Or really good. There are those moments with the New Yorker whenthe words are truly compelling from the start, and you read it right away. At least I do.

I recall the Wednesday back in the mid-’60s when I was leafing through the new issue (there was no Table of Contents in the magazine up until Tina Brown became editor in the ‘90s). I came upon this sentence leading a piece — The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." — and I just fell into the page as if under a spell. When I got to the end — which turned out to be the first of four installments — I saw it was written by Truman Capote. Also until Tina Brown, the New Yorker since its inception always published the author’s byline at the end of the piece.

I had that experience yesterday morning when I was having my oatmeal at my desk. I turned to a piece called “The Voyeur’s Motel” by Gay Talese.

Now, when I saw Gay’s byline at the top of the piece, I knew I had to read it because I am a friend of his, aside from reading two of his famous bestsellers — “Thy Neighbor’s Wife” and “The Kingdom and the Power” (which is about the New York Times). I mainly know Gay and his beautiful wife Nan and his two lovely daughters Pamela and Catherine because, aside from having met any number of times at events and dinners, they have invited me every year to their Christmas Eve party which is the grown-up version of Christmas Eve  -- nothing is expected from the guests but a really nice time with a lot of nice, interesting people who like to talk to other people. It’s all you could really wish and hope for. Pleasure everywhere.

So I started reading something that I wasn’t so sure would interest me. I am not a voyeur in that I can’t even imagine sneaking around to watch someone have sex. I get the concept and even the desire, but I don’t personally have it. Or at least I didn’t think I had it until yesterday morning when I finished Gay’s piece in the new New Yorker. That is not to say I ended up thinking of taking up the habit.

Because it is a habit, like a kind of drug. And it’s common. Like, really common. At least in terms of human curiosity, if not activity. A lot of us are potentials more than practitioners. This story is about a man who took his desire very seriously and embarked on a voyage, a lifetime of organized, effective, scientific research — if you want to look at it that way — for his own private thrill. He went to great lengths to succeed in his quest.

Gay met this man, or rather the man (who’d read “Thy Neighbor’s Wife”) contacted him about it a number of years ago. He wasn’t sure what to think of the idea when it was presented to him. But eventually he investigated and now takes you with him. It is beyond fascinating; it’s a good solid look at the Psyche. There is one point in the account where the author delivers a momentary thrill of suspense (which made me think someone’s going to pick up the screen rights).

Did you know men are really the voyeurs?  I wouldn’t be surprised to know most women (who think) know this. Women prefer cosmetics, or so they say. I can’t say any more about this article except every adult man and woman would benefit from reading it for a variety of reasons. Aside from that, you can’t put it down once you start.
Charlotte Ford celebrated her 75th (she’s just a kid to young Gloria Vanderbilt, to get some realistic perspective) over the weekend. First with a luncheon given her by her “oldest” friend Diana Feldman at Doubles, and then Sunday night at chef Michael White’s Ai Fiori, the very smart restaurant in Langham Place on Fifth Avenue between 36th and 37th Street, Charlotte’s daughter Elena Ford threw a birthday dinner for her. This was a family party, not something one sees or experiences often in New York life.

The birthday girl and Rosemarie Lieberman.
Charlotte is the eldest of three. Her sister Anne lives here in New York also. Their brother Edsel and his wife Cynthia live in Michigan. When the sisters have a birthday (or a “significant” number), they give each other dinners. Anne worked with her niece Elena on this. Edsel and his wife came from Michigan, as did one of their sons. Anne’s son Al Uzielli and his wife Kimm and their two young daughters came from Los Angeles. Elena’s four came from Michigan also, although this year, Elena’s eldest, also Charlotte, is now a resident of the city.

Coupled with old friends, it feels like an old fashioned family birthday dinner with good food and many brief speeches. Everyone in the room had something to say about the birthday girl, including a stepdaughter from a previous marriage who choked up thanking Charlotte for being the mother she lost when her own mother died.

What made it so remarkable for me was to sit among three generations of a family in the room with a lot of the warmth that we imagine “family” to be ideally. That is actually the essence of Charlotte Ford. When she was a very young woman, she was the most famous debutante in America, on every magazine cover, dating movie stars, authors, diplomats, princes and Greek shipowners. And even Frank Sinatra.
Tables set for the birthday dinner in a private room.
Yet the young woman whose public image was glittering and star studded, she grew up to be a devoted mother, with an active philanthropic life. She is Vice-chairman of New York/Presbyterian, to which she’s given much of herself in the last four decades with the same caring and compassion that she shows many of us whose lives she touches. There was a lot of affection and laughter in the room because Charlotte’s a great target for someone’s caustic ribbing or practical joke. And she’s the first one to laugh at it too. But there’s a lot of respect implied in all of it, a girl who made something of herself, and to the benefit of many.
The birthday cake referring to a favorite game that a lot of us played back in the early '60s on a rainy or snowy weekend afternoon. This entirely covered with icing and underneath is an perfect chocolate cake from Creative Cakes.
Some close ups of the "board" (remember everything you see is candy or icing) the "streets" marking a history of Charlotte's life ...
Last night. It was a busy one in New York. I started out over to the Time Warner Center for the New York premiere of a HBO’s “Nothing Left Unsaid” with Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper, a documentary by Liz Garbus.  

I got there after the cocktail reception was breaking up to go into the screening room so I didn’t see Gloria, although I’ll assume she was there. There were a lot of people attending who are friends and have known her for a long time. She is a woman who has lots of friends.

I’ve known her since the early '90s. I met her when I was working on a project that I interviewed her for. She’s the only (very) famous person I have met and known who in personal relationships continues to have that charisma that gives her such an allure to the world. She’s nice to know. And fun. And gentle. And girlish. And clever, and warm, and well attached to what is wise.

She told me once that when she was at the height of her business success with the GV Jeans, a woman came out of the crowd at a personal appearance/sales event one day and said to her: “Congratulations on your life!” She was so affected she almost came undone by the acknowledgement. In a very real way, this documentary, which is shared by her and her son interviewing her, is about that life long strife.  Watch it. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of it.

After the screening (the docu is about 80 minutes), I went back out into the cold night to join Bunny Williams and John Rosselli at the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club's annual gala at Cipriani 42nd Street. Bunny was the chair of the event for the fifth year.  I was late for the great Cipriani dinner (Oso buco) although Bunny secured a plate for me, thankfully.
The scene at Cipriani 42nd Street for Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club's annual gala.
Jim Druckman and Daniel Quintero had just taken the podium to make a pitch for the organization. Quintero – who is Executive Director of the Kips Bay club explained to the 790 guests that it costs $660 per child to maintain the club and run the great programs which have helped so many children and young people get a foothold on making a good life for themselves.

So, Mr. Quintero continued that that amounted to less than $1.80 day in case 660 sounded like a lot to help a kid in need.  People responded immediately. Everyone who donated got a gold balloon tied to their chair. Within fifteen or twenty minutes, the room was full of golden balloons wafting. They raised more than a million last night for the children and the young people making a path for themselves.
Also last night on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, the Jewish Children's Museum held its annual gala dinner where they honored Rudy Giuliani, Maurice Rosen, David Feit, and Jason Hirsch (yes, JH's brother himself) with the Young Leadership Award.

On March 4th, 1994, a young Jewish student, Ari Halberstam, was murdered in a terrorist attack on the Brooklyn Bridge. The Jewish Children's Museum was dedicated to perpetuate his memory and legacy and to become a beacon that helps prevent such bias and hate in the future.

The Jewish Children's Museum, going on 11 years, gives children of all backgrounds the opportunity to explore innovative exhibits and experience the rich history and traditions of the Jewish people.
Jason Hirsch and Rudy Giuliani.
Rudy Giuliani accepting the Ari Halberstam Award from Devorah Halberstam and Michael Mukasey.
And last Thursday night at the Joyce Theatre, Angel Corella held a reception for the First Position Club of Youth America Grand Prix before Pennsylvania Ballet's sold-out show. He singled out YAGP board member Judith M. Hoffman for special praise for her long-standing support to dancers.

Guests included Barbara Brandt, Lisa Cashin, Beverley D'Anne, Linda Fell, Caroline Hyman, Linda Morse, Ben Rodriguez-Cubenas, and Yolanda Santos.
Angel Corella addressing guests at the YAGP reception at the Joyce, including Elizabeth Camp, Maggie Brush, George Vanderploeg, Lucille Corrier, Sarah Frank,  Pennsylvania Ballet's Jane Camp, Joyce Theater's Lila Ziegler, Beverly D'Anne, Shelley Limmer, and Stephen Limmer.
YAGP is the worlds largest student ballet scholarship competition. With the name taken from the award-winning documentary, First Position, YAGP's First Position Club provides members an exclusive "Behind the Scenes" view into the world of dance. Members can choose events from the YAGP Behind-the-Scenes Series where they interact and share intimate experiences with the artists, directors, educators, and other celebrated leaders of the dance community.
Maria Santos, Yolanda Santos de Garza, Angel Corella, Judith Hoffman, and Laure Vienot-Tronche.
Howard Paley and Angel Corella Allegra Kent.
Linda K. Morse.
Lisa Cashin and Caroline Howard Hyman.
Beverly D'Anne and Blair Hartley. Judith Hoffman and Charles Askegard.
Ray Araujo and Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas.
Dan Brownstein.
Scene from Keep. Choreography by Matthew Neenan, music by Alexander Borodin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, costume design by Martha Chamberlain, lighting design by Christopher Frey.
Scene from Grace Action. Choreography by Nicolo Fonte, music by Philip Glass, costume design by Martha Chamberlain, lighting design by Brad Fields.
 

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