Monday, June 20, 2016

Weekend Wonderment

A Father's Day moment on Park Avenue. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, June 20, 2016. Warm, bright, sunny summer weekend in New York.

Quiet weekend. I had dinner on Friday night at Sette Mezzo with JH and his wife Danielle as well as my old friend Philip Carlson, long time talent agent who has written a book for actors about “getting work” and building a career. It’s called “Breaking and Entering: Getting Caught in the Act.”

Phil and I met in the mid-'60s when we were both pursuing a career as actors. I had the good sense to drop out of my personal pursuit early in the game, although Philip -- who starred in a hit show off-Broadway and later to moved to Hollywood under contract to Universal and then even later in to agenting -- is an authentic pro. 

He was the first agent to sign Philip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Liev Schreiber, Claire Danes, Idris Elba, Kyra Sedgwick, Adrien Grenier and Paul Giamatti. He’s also at different times represented Viola Davis, Kathy Bates, Brian Dennehy, and W.H. Macy among many and gifted others.

I haven’t seen the galleys yet although some of his clients have and there are raves. Liev Schreiber put it succinctly: “I was so fortunate to have found Philip when I did. I can’t imagine a better introduction to the world of acting and the business of getting there.

Billy Crudup expressed it with “A great and resonant canyon of thanks to Philip Carlson for his invaluable work with a generation of young talent – including me.” Kyra Sedgwick said, “He saw more in me than I saw in myself.”

I’ll tell you more about it when it’s published in September.

Show business was in the air over the weekend. I happen to be in the middle of Michael Riedel’s wonderful book “Razzle Dazzle; the Battle for Broadway” (Simon & Schuster, publishers) which I’ll tell you more about when I’m finished. Also Sette Mezzo on Friday night had a couple of legends dining together and obviously enjoying (much laughter) their conversation: Stephen Sondheim and stage and film producer Scott Rudin.

Saturday and Sunday in the park with DPC. Other than Friday night din, I stayed close to home on this lovely weekend, taking advantage of the park down the block with its esplanade – perfect for walking the dogs – and the mighty river running alongside it. Here's what I saw ...
The East River looking northeast where it divides into the Harlem River to the northwest which meets the Hudson and the channel connecting to the Long Island Sound – under the RFK/Triboro Bridge and the railroad (arched) bridge just beyond. The river is a salt water tidal estuary, not actually a river, but a connection between the  Upper New York Bay to the south with the Long Island Sound (under the bridges in this view). It moves north and south with the tides. Before alterations in the late 18th through the late 19th century, the river was in many places too shallow with a with a very rocky bed for large boats to transverse in the area (where the boat in the photo is heading) known as Hell Gate.

In the last quarter of the 19th century, after the Civil War, Congress charged the Army Corps of Engineers under the supervision of Colonel James Newton to clear Hell Gate of the rocky sea bed that made navigation iffy or even impossible for many boats. In 1885, a 9 acre area known as Flood Rock was blown up removing 8000 cubic yards of  rock. The explosion, which was a major public event, with the blast  “set off” by Newton’s daughter with many prominent New Yorkers in attendance, was the largest man-made explosion ever until the exploding of the atomic bomb six decades later.
A full oil tanker moving up river toward the Sound, with Queens in the background.
A couple of jet-skiers making their way down river. 12:30 p.m.
A bicyclist riding down the Esplanade (where 86th Street begins at the foot of the Park at East End Avenue) is taking in a woman sunbathing and taking a selfie on the left  (pillar) by the concentric stone steps that lead to the avenue.
The sunbather taking another selfie.
And another.
Another sunbather on the opposite (pillar) either taking a selfie or checking her messages. Saturday, the New York Post published an article by Maureen Callahan on how “Our cellphones are killing us.” According to the Center of Disease Control, 8 people are killed and 1161 are injured each day by distracted driving while taking selfies or texting or driven into by someone doing the same. It is the leading cause of teenage deaths. Bellevue Hospital claims that 10 percent of all ER visits are cell-phone related. Americans check their cell phones 8 billion times a day. Yes, billion. The average user checks his or her phone 46 times a day. A Baylor study found the average female college student spends ten hours a day on the phone.  Bye-bye real life and everything that goes with it including walking safely down or across a busy street and/or keeping your infants and toddlers’ prams and strollers out of harm’s way (and even death), or communicating with your voice.
Beautiful flora and fauna. In the background (on the right) you can see the grey fence that surrounds the mayor's house, Gracie Mansion (barely visible through the trees).
Mother of Mother Nature’s beauty gracing the park.
And more ...
Sunbathers on the lawns.
The little dogs’ run ...
This guy has major washboard abs on full (and no doubt proud) display. I caught this shot of him doing an exercise where he has his right foot on a ball and extending his arms to touch it. Looks easy but watching the actual act, you can tell it ain't.
More flora and fauna, all nurtured by the devoted Carl Schurz Park volunteers from the neighborhood who can be seen there daily weeding, planting, and keeping everything fresh and in shape.
A guy taking sun while kibitzing on his cell phone (it looked like a business call).
Looking up at 120 East End Avenue (on the left) on the northeast corner of 85th Street (across from the Park), and 130 East End next door (to the right), both of which have spectacular views of the entire area across to Queens and Long Island.
Vincent Astor began a-building 120 East End Avenue in 1927 on land that his great-great grandfather John Jacob Astor I owned a century before.  Building 120 was inspired by a luxury building boom on East End Avenue that ended with the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  Before that time, as Avenue B, it was mainly a street of tenements, and below 84th Street, factories.

130 East 80th Street (The Vincent Astor House), today.
In 1927, he also built himself a townhouse on 130 East 80th Street (now the home of the New York Junior League) for himself and his first wife Helen Huntington (later Hull). 120 was completed in 1931 although Astor remained at the East 80th Street house until 1940 when he divorced his wife Helen and married Mary (Minnie) Cushing, the elder sister of Betsey Whitney and Babe Paley.

With his new bride, who had been his mistress for several years until her mother, Mrs. Harvey Cushing persuaded (or “shamed”?) him into making her daughter respectable, he moved to the penthouse of 120. After his divorce from Minnie Astor in 1953, and his marriage to Brooke Russell Kuser Marshall, he lived there until his death in 1959.

Mr. Astor also built two apartment luxury buildings around the corner at 520 and 530 East 86th Street, both still standing. He also negotiated with Alexander Bing who built 130 East End to make a narrow park between the two buildings, which remains today.
The Circle Line heading north, making its always-on-time passing of the neighborhood early yesterday afternoon.

Contact DPC here.