Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lions and Landmarks

Looking north along Fifth Avenue during Sunday's NYC Marathon. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017. Not a cold day, but grey and damp enough to darken the pavement and the roads. Temperatures in the low 60s, descending into the 40s by late night, with rain predicted for today.

Last night was the annual Library Lions black tie dinner at the New York Public Library. The event was held in the Stephen Schwarzman Building with cocktails beginning at 7 in the Edna Barnes Salomon Room followed by dinner in the Deborah, Jonathan F. P. Samuel Priest, and Adam Rose Main Reading Room.
Entering the Stephen Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library for last night's Library Lions 2017 dinner. The arch led to the elevators to the third floor.
Margo Langenberg and Sharon Bush. Joan Hardy Clark.
The entire building is a blessed monument, built in 1897 through 1911, designed by Carrere & Hastings, considered one of the great Beaux-Arts architects in New York at the turn of the century from 19th to 20th. Vermont marble and brick all the way through. The two stone lions (Tennessee marble) guarding the entrance, sculpted by Edward Clark Potter, were originally called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, referring to the two 19th century landowners who were major benefactors in establishing the New York Public. They are now called “Patience” and “Fortitude,” renamed by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia for the qualities demonstrated by New Yorkers during the Great Depression. Imagine, a politician who acknowledged his constituency for their patience and forbearance.

Cocktails and dinner held in these monumental rooms and it is a great pleasure just to be present in the architects’ achievement. These rooms are, of course, study/reading rooms, majestic and an oasis of quiet focus by day. Anthony Marx, the NYPB’s CEO, pointed out in his welcoming speech that this building is a sanctuary filled with all kinds of treasures for all of us to partake. We are all “small” within these halls, and it acknowledges our humility while present. We can’t help it; that was Carrere & Hastings’ magic.
Lynn Wyatt taking it all in while waiting to take her seat at the ttable.
Kathy and Billy Rayner's table.
Guests moved into the Main Reading Room for dinner a little after 8 o’clock. I got there about quarter to, got myself a cocktail and stood in the doorway overlooking the Main room’s entrance. I saw many familiar faces in the crowd (and it was a crowd – there were several hundred guests). I tend to like to stand by myself and watch. People are always in an up-mood at these “Lions” dinners. The evening is grand and also reverent, bringing out the best in any of us at least for the duration.

It takes some time to get everyone seated because the guests amble and love talking to people passing by to their tables. The Library is one of the rarified institutions in terms of gathering endowment, and it brings out a lot of the heavy hitters as well as the prominent socials and distinguished professions – finance, law, education, etc.

I ran into Caroline Weber who was carrying a purse with a woven cover of Caroline's famous and fascinating book.
As people were finally taking their seats, Norm Lewis appeared on small stage, and accompanied by a pianist sang a Rodgers & Hammerstein love song. Lewis as you may know has a beautiful baritone. The guests talked non-stop to each other throughout his performance. He nevertheless carried through like a trouper and was excellent. This kind of sea of palaver is commonplace at most of these big events once people are seated: they can’t wait to talk. Although it is true that at the Library Lions dinners, the guests are often very interesting and have lots to share, so it’s understandable, and inviting.

After Norm Lewis, Evan Chesler, Chairman of the Board of the NYPL greeted the guests, followed by Mr. Marx who reported on the upcoming construction and how this year has been their best fundraising year ever. After that, we were shown a video about each of this year’s Lions.

Then the 2017 Lions were called out by name and appeared on stage where they were presented their beribboned medal: Tom Brokaw, Michael Chabon, Carla Hayden, Colson Whitehead and Robert Wilson. Once everyone was honored, they stood for their official photograph, and dinner was served.
The official photograph of the honorees and Evan Chesler (left) and Anthony Marx (far right) — Bob Wilson, Colson Whitehead, Carla Hayden, Michael Chabon, and Tom Brokaw.
Excellent menu: Gravlox with Sauce; Celerie Remoulade; Beef Bourguignon with Onions, Carrots, Mushrooms and Turnips, Brussel Sprouts Roasted Butternut Squash. I was a guest of Billy and Kathy Rayner. Among the guests at the table were Tom and Sheila Wolfe. Kathy acquired Tom Wolfe’s papers and donated them to the Library a few years ago. I was lucky to be seated between two interesting women, Lisa Vreeland and Sheila Wolfe. Lisa has finished her new documentary on Cecil Beaton and it will be screened here in New York for the first time on Sunday. Her next project will be on Truman Capote. And Mrs. Wolfe is a very active listener, able to keep herself into a conversation with someone who talks as much as I do (when you or I get me going).

This was a dinner of conversations and all of the long tables were rife with talk; always a great pleasure. After dinner, coffee and desserts were served in the Main Gallery entrance hall on the first floor. I skipped dessert to get back here and get these words down. And that was it. A wonderful in New York.
Waiting on the eastern side of the avenue afterwards for a taxi and looking up at the Empire State.
The view of the great Carrere & Hastings monument to learning and literature, from the same corner. 10 PM.
Also, as you may recall, the main event for this writer last week was the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s annual “Living Landmarks” dinner at which I was among the honored. I’m still beyond flattered, considering the company I was keeping. Here are some photos of the honorees and guests that night.
Sydie Lansing and Bernadette Castro
Patricia Falkenberg and Larry Leeds
Margo Langenberg and Marjorie Reed Gordon
Elizabeth Stribling and Guy Robinson
Richard Lewisohn and Jackie Weld Drake
Barbara Taylor Bradford, OBE and Robert Bradford
Julio Peterson
Bonnie Engelbardt Lautenberg and Steve Leber
David Patrick Columbia and Peg Breen
Lloyd Zuckerberg and Charlotte Triefus Chris Coyne and Jennie Tarr Coyne
Patricia Falkenberg, Sue Feld, Marjorie Reed Gordon, and Margo Langenberg
Robert A.M. Stern and Larry Leeds
Sue and Stuart Feld
Frank Stella
Marica and Jan Vilcek
David Patrick Columbia and Paul Binder
Tom Wolfe
Robert A.M. Stern, Marica and Jan Vilcek, Frank Stella. Tom Wolfe, Suydam (Sydie) Lansing, Jeff and Patsy Tarr, David Patrick Columbia, and Paul Binder

Photographs by Noel Sutherland & Ben Hider (Landmarks)

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