Friday, May 26, 2017

Modern American womanhood

A view of the Whitney Museum of American Art from the 3rd floor terrace of the Standard Hotel. 9:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, May 26, 2017. Woke up to a very wet early morning yesterday, on the cooler side with the winds dancing through the newly green branches of the trees, glossing the leaves, washing the sidewalks and the roadways. It was the beginning of the long holiday weekend for some. In my neighborhood you could see the exodus beginning to take shape -- all in the rain which subsided from a heavy misting by early afternoon into an almost foggy evening. By midnight the torrential rains (and thunder) returned with greater winds. I love holiday weekends in New York. After the exodus the city relaxes into its old self.

I went to lunch at Sette Mezzo with Susan Silver. Susan has recently published a memoir called “Hot Pants In Hollywood.”  For those who are not old enough to remember, Hot Pants were very short shorts that were made in luxurious fabrics such as velvets and silks. They were “hot” fashion in 1970-71, the mini- taken to its ultimate, and were often worn with sleek dress boots.
Susan Silver at her book party for “Hot Pants In Hollywood" held late last month at Michael's.
They turned out to be a fad, but a very important one, coming on the heels of the Women’s Liberation Movement. And, in Hollywood, which was where the author was working, all the coolest and hippest stars wore them to dressy parties. Knowing Susan — whom I met in the mid-'70s, here in New York, through our mutual friend Beth DeWoody — Susan wore hot pants too. In Hollywood.

Born and brought up in Milwaukee, she went to Northwestern, but knew early on she wanted to be a writer, having started writing “poetry” when she was still a child. She also wanted to live in Hollywood. This was not an unusual dream for many of us born in that era of the last half of the last century. Hollywood was still known as the Dream Factory and not a few of us wanted to live there and work there.

Susan Silver wirth Mary Tyler Moore.
Susan’s parents objected to the distance since she was an only child. Nevertheless she had an uncle who lived there (and was very important in the industry as a writer and producer – Cy Howard) who was willing to look after her safety, and so she was allowed.

When she was finished with school and committed to remaining, she signed up to become a movie extra. That entailed classic Hollywood experiences with stars such as Steve McQueen and Elvis, which add spice to her tale of pursuing her dreams. From there she took a job in production of a new TV show called “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” — one of the most popular variety shows of the late ‘60s which brought stardom to Lily Tomlin and Goldie Hawn.

From there doors opened and Susan was now certain that she could write comedy. Women writing sitcoms and comedy were new and few in the industry, but by the early ‘70s she had written her first three episodes for the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” From there, in the next decade, by 1980, she was one of the most prolific comedy sitcom writers, as well as screenwriter of Movie-of-the-Weeks.

Click to order Hot Pants in Hollywood.
By the 1980s, Susan was one of the most productive and successful television writers in the business. She’d also prospered to the point where she decided to take a break and pursue some other interests. That was when she rented out her house in Sherman Oaks and acquired a Fifth Avenue apartment where she still lives today.

Her stories about Hollywood are true and demonstrate the nature of life in that community of make believe and make-believin’. But aside from the glitz and the glamour and funny peculiarities of life in Lotusland, this is really the story about a liberated American woman who made a life and a career out of what could have been only a dream. She tells it in her contemporary wit as a humorist and screenwriter, always providing the bits that can make you laugh. But beyond that, her life has been a treatise to modern American womanhood, something any woman (and many men) can admire for her pluck, her stamina, and her unflagging optimism. Which probably comes from her relationship with her father who adored her. She adored him, too.

Another productive and successful woman, Ruth Lande Shuman started the non-profit Publicolor in 1996 with a mission to improve the lives of neglected NYC public school students, teachers, and communities. Shocked by the failing test scores of low-income students’, as well as the high drop-out rates, not to mention the deteriorated, dreary often prison-like facilities of most schools in low-income neighborhoods, she could see how this negatively affected the performance of both teachers and students, she had an idea. She started the Paint Club program. 
Ruth Lande Shuman this past Monday night at Publicolor's Stir, Splatter + Roll Gala.
She began by organizing these struggling students to paint their schools’ interiors so they’d be warm, welcoming and visually stimulating.  From that she created a multi-day multi-year continuum of project-based learning programs for students to empower hundred of their students to be successful in school, work, and life.  

21 years later, Publicolor has painted 227 middle and high schools, 214 community sites and playgrounds, awarded 256 students multi-year college scholarships (132 scholarships this year alone), and worked with 23,000 volunteers. And been recognized twice at the White House with national awards.
Aaron Green, Scott Patton, Suzanne Tick, Ruth Lande Shuman, Len Ferro, and Diane Martel
This past Monday night at the Metropolitan Pavilion, Publicolor celebrated their Stir, Splatter + Roll Gala and raised nearly $1.3 million. They honored longtime board member and now board chair emeritus Deven Parekh and his wife, Monika, for their invaluable leadership and their steadfast generosity, and Barbara and Donald Tober in recognition of all their work to advance design and education in NYC. 
Jeffrey Banks, Donald Tober, Ruth Lande Shuman, Chancellor Carmen Farina, Barbara Tober, and Monika and Devan Parekh
A posthumous award was given to the distinguished design consultant and founding board member of Publicolor Jeffrey J. Osborne. A special Catalysts for Change Award was presented to the architects Diller Scofidio & Renfro for their incredible work changing the landscape of NYC with Elizabeth Diller accepting the award.  Tarkett North America presented a check of $157,799.85 to Ruth, for the non-profit's Summer Design StudioThe three companies, Antron Fiber, Suzanne Tick Inc., and Tandus Centiva, annually donate proceeds from education flooring sales to Publicolor's Summer Design Studio program." 

The evening closed with a rousing rendition of Marvin Gaye's Ain't No Mountain High Enough by dozens of Publicolor students accompanied by JaLessa Beavers, bringing the crowd to their feet.
Joan Hornig.
Nicole Miller.
Milly's Michelle Smith.
Frederick Doner and Michele Oka Doner.
James "Great Neck" Richman and Elissa Richman Jeffrey Banks and Gordon Caplan
Barbara Flood and Tony Bechara.
Boo Grace.
More senses. This past Sunday night, Joanna and Brian Fisher hosted a dinner for a small group of Trustees of the American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet to celebrate the bass-baritone Davone Tines — America's young sensation deemed a "... singer of immense power and fervor ..." by The Los Angeles Times and a "... charismatic, full-voiced bass-baritone ..." by The New York Times — who just turned 30.

In the intimate setting of the Fishers' home, Davone spoke at length about the new production to be presented at the Paris Opera in January 2018, "Only the sound remains," by Kaija Saariaho (L'amour de Loin) and Peter Sellars before performing two beautiful extracts by Kaija Saariaho and Handel. After a delicious four-course dinner Davone and his artist friends improvised a last piece for the delight of all assembled.
Laure Vienot-Tronche, Joshua Banbury, Olivia Flatto, Hal Witt, Joanna Fisher, Jamie Danner, Davone Tines, Jonathan Rondinelli, and Brian Fisher.

Photos: Annie Watt (Publicolor)

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