Thursday, November 2, 2017

A night among Living Landmarks

Host Paul Binder (front row, right) with his year’s class of "Living Landmarks": Tom Wolfe, Suydam (Sydie) Lansing, Robert A.M. Stern, David Patrick Columbia, Jeff and Patsy Tarr, Marica and Jan Vilcek, and Frank Stella. Photo: Cutty McGill.
Thursday, November 2, 2017.  Fair and fall-ish, yesterday in New York temperatures in the low to mid-60s and feeling colder. Well, it is November. It’s not so much that it’s bleak, but it’s like it has no personality.  I always wish it would snow after the leaves have completely fallen — because we’re on our way there now — just to liven things up visually.

However, things being as they are in the world, it’s important to keep your gratitudes in mind as much as you can make yourself.

I was an honoree last night at the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s “Living Landmarks” dinner at the Plaza.  Readers may recall my writing about the evening over the years. It’s a very nice evening and it brings out a good cross section of New Yorkers who are involved in city life.  The program is simple. Dinner, awards-time with speeches (very short) by the honorees and that’s it and out by 9:45 – 10 p.m.
Living Landmarks Jeff and Patsy Tarr and DPC.
Marjorie Reed Gordon and Patricia Falkenberg.
Peter and Colette Harron with friends.
Peter Pennoyer and Paul Beirne.
Michael Kovner and Mark Gilbertson
This year was a very interesting group: Frank Stella, Tom Wolfe, Robert A.M. Stern, Patsy and Jeff Tarr, Suydam (Sydie) Lansing, Marica and Jan Vilcek, and this writer.

These are all people whom I regard as exceptional in their works, and in the way they conduct their lives as New Yorkers. They give New York that dose of dignity that makes it the city that people dream about in their curiosity. I know I did back in the early days of my life; it is no accident that I found my way professionally here.

It is a fund-raising evening. The lure is the “Living Landmarks” and over the years there have been scores of them – many of them very famous to the world, many famous to the various professions and New Yorkers.  New York is an environment of interesting people, people you learn from, people who can inspire and aspire. That’s the magnet. The New York Landmarks Conservancy works hard at keeping the soul of the city (its architectural history) from the obliteration of the present progress.
The cocktail reception ...
Moving from cocktails to dinner ...
Seated for dinner at 8 PM sharp.
Last night's Honorary Co-Chairs were Veronica and Ray Kelly. The Host for the evening was Paul Binder. Liz Smith is the Host Emeritus (and for years kept the ball rolling even with a few songs with Peter Duchin accompanying her at his piano). Peter was there too on stage with his orchestra and his fabulous vocalist/guitarist Roberta Fabiano.

I actually sang a couple of bars with Peter and Roberta when they played Cole Porter’s “You’ve Got That Thing (that crazy thing; the thing that makes birds forget to sing), yes you’ve got that thing ...”  Whenever I see them, and they see me, Roberta breaks out in that song because she knows I like it. I’ve always kinda wanted to get up on that stage and sing it with her and Peter although I would never have asked, so tonight I had a brief chance.
The Living Landmarks on the big screen.
DPC accepting his Living Landmark award.
Living Landmarks Patsy and Jeff Tarr.
Living Landmarks Marica and Jan Vilcek.
Living Landmark Robert A.M. Stern.
Living Landmark Tom Wolfe.
Living Landmark Frank Stella.
The way the program works is Paul Binder brings the room together and introduces each honoree. This happens after the main course is served and finished. After he introduces them, the honoree goes up on stage, gets his or her award, and is photographed center stage. Then the honoree goes over to the podium and gives a presumably two-minute speech.

I hate giving speeches. I love talking. Ask me a question about something I have some knowledge of and I can go on and on. But the idea of just standing there and telling you… ... makes me very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I’m a big boy (although still that child) and I know that I have to behave otherwise, and so I manage too. JH video’d it (I didn’t know he was going to, and so he’s running it at the end of this Diary).
JH videoing my speech ...
However, fears and dramas aside, I am deeply gratified to have shared a podium with so many extraordinary people, people worth your admiration and inspiration about what’s possible with us humans. We have a dearth of that in our national conversation in these treacherous times. Admiration and Inspiration, two valuable strains of thought for all of us.

It turned out to be a super evening for the Conservancy. They sold out, with more than 500 attending the dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza. They raised $1.2 million in the evening.

It was an evening that had occupied my day after an early morning appointment with my favorite physical therapist Peggy Brill. By 1 p.m. I still hadn’t put the “speech” down in print. I hadn’t organized it. I was nervous the way you’re nervous in school when the term paper you’re supposed to turn in tomorrow hasn’t set one work to paper. I had thought about it (nervously of course) over the past couple of weeks. Fortunately I’ve had enough experience to know that eventually I’d get something down. And I did, testing it bit by bit over the phone with JH who is an excellent impartial critic.

In the end it worked, and I had the private pleasure of knowing I somehow got it together. Whew! Here it is ...

Contact DPC here.