Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Creature of Habit

The last of the Central Park foliage. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017.  Sunny, fair weather yesterday in New York both day and night, from the low 50s to the high 40s. With December just a day away, the Christmas lights and decorations are out in the lobbies, shops and restaurants and the season is about to begin. 

The charity galas will lessen in number (there are two major ones tomorrow – The Lenox Hill Neighborhood House at the Metropolitan Club and the annual Fall Gala for the American Museum of Natural History at the museum.

I went down to lunch at Michael’s with Emilia Saint Amand who is a longtime friend.  We get together for lunch or dinner maybe a half dozen times a year and the conversation continues as if we’d left it the day before.

A Creature of Habit. Yesterday at Michael’s was especially notable because of a detail having to do with this writer. Around 1:30 when everyone was heavily into their conversations and luncheons, Steve Millington, the restaurant’s General Manager and maître d’, clinked on a champagne glass and got the entire front room – maybe the back – to be silent for a moment. And the following happened (captured by Michael's Manager Danny DiVella):
It was a little bit on the embarrassing side. The reservations computer evidently keeps stats on the clientele, like number of times a guest visits. That’s how they knew the number. It sounds shocking at first but then over a period of two decades it’s probably not uncommon.

I’ve been going to Michael’s since 1997 when I started working as editor of Avenue magazine, which was started and owned by Judy Price.  The first couple of times I went to lunch with her, she took me to Michael’s. Its lure was that it was what we now call a media restaurant. Twenty years ago it was referred to as a publishing restaurant – a lot of editors, agents, publishers of books, magazines, the arts, etc. – were frequent clientele. Coincidentally Judy and I were seated back-to-back yesterday (you can see her in the video). I also liked the feel of the place. The light and art reminds me of LA which is another major draw for me.
Steve Millington raising his glass to DPC who is sitting there thinking what he could have done with the money he spent there — like, buy a house!
Millington, nevertheless, makes it all worth it and with his kind and affectionate words, who can resist.
After my introduction, I lunched there occasionally, but when I started the NYSD with JH (who was back then my assistant at Avenue), I consciously decided to lunch at Michael’s more frequently so that I could get to know the lay of the land that might/could provide stories or ideas for the Diary. I also had another motivation. I knew that if I were there often enough people who also frequented would ask who that tall slim drink of water was. A kind of self-publicizing to get my name around.
I don't know why Emilia is applauding (that's Judy Price behind me), but the ubiquitous Paige Peterson happened to be at the next table with her ready camera and she got into the act and so ...
I don't know why the hell I'm holding up my glass of champagne. Paige probably told me to.
I am by no means a publicity hound but New York does require your self-identification in order to move things along and on up. There are many ways to acquire it. Networking is one of them. I’m fortunate in friendship but not a comfortable “networker.” Also, it was sheer chance that the table I was given early on — and where I always sit to this day — which is on the edge of the bar area — gives me a view not only of the entire front room but also everyone coming and going. After all these years, I like to go there if only to be there, have the delicious lunch, talk to Steve and his staff and enjoy the comfort of the place.
This is how Millington feels when someone comes 1500 times to his domain. Don't kid yourself, it's all about him currying favor with his boss out there in Santa Monica who loves all this stuff. They can't help it; they're restaurateurs through and through.
It also plays out in my imagination, that of the boy back in New England who as a kid started reading the columns in the News and the Mirror that his New York native father got every day. In those golden days of seven dailies; the tabloid press with their Broadway and Society columns, the columnist often had one particular place where he or she broke bread daily.  For Winchell it was the Stork. For Dorothy Kilgallen it was PJ Clarke’s, in the thick of it daily passing parade, New York style. It’s the village we all live in.

Betsy Gotbaum and Peter Lewis last night at Shirley Lord's.
Last night, in another part of the village, our hostess Shirley Lord had a dinner for twenty at one table in honor of her friends, those newlyweds, Betsy Gotbaum and Peter Lewis, which we covered last September (Fear and Love, 10.25.17). Shirley loves to entertain as well as be entertained. As a journalist herself, as well as having been married to Abe Rosenthal, her dining room is often host to members of the media as well as writers and prominent New Yorkers in related fields. There is always conversation that moves around and all over the table. The food is delicious and perfectly served.

The newlyweds are both individually pleasant, friendly people who have quick access to laughter. Long time friends, together under their new set of circumstances, they’re sort of like a couple of kids enjoying it. So just before they were leaving I asked if I could take a photo of them. You can see what I mean.

Just to remind. This coming Saturday, December 2, is the 31st annual Miracle on Madison. Shops marked with bright red balloons will be giving 20% of their profits to Memorial Sloan Kettering. Society board members, wearing red scarves, will be out in full force, working as ambassadors.

There will be Caring Canines, Xmas carolers, a photo booth, face painters, and surprises in the stores, like cider and cookies. Shoppers can prepare for the holidays and help fight cancer.

They can also ask for phone purchases to be rung up on Saturday. This is really a wonderful way to start the holidays! 

Contact DPC here.