Thursday, January 26, 2017

Taking chances

Squirreling along Fifth Avenue. Photo: JH.
Thursday, January 26, 2017. A sunny day, yesterday in New York, after two and a half days of rain (not complaining; we need all we can get). The temperature also rose to the high 40s, and it was fair weather all the way. The weatherman says signs of winter return tomorrow for the weekend.

The great Mary Tyler Moore died on Wednesday after what was clearly a long battle with ill-health including diabetes with its encroaching debilitations. Born in Brooklyn she grew up in Los Angeles from the time she was a child and got her first bit on tv on “The Eddie Fisher Show” in 1957. In the next couple of years, she made appearances in small parts on several popular shows including the George Burns Show and 77 Sunset Strip,Bachelor Father, The Millionaire, Hawaiian Eye, and then ... in 1961 she was hired to play the wife on the Dick Van Dyke Show. She was 25 years old and she became a very successful television star.
Mary Tyler Moore on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."
When the Van Dyke Show wrapped up in 1966, the successful television star Mary came to New York to star on Broadway in a musical – in which she was cast as the leading character Holly Golightly,which was the original title of the show before it was changed back to its literary origins, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

I had that part time job working with the headwaiter Jimmy Molenski at Sardi’s that year. Just a kid myself (although a little younger than Mary TM), Sardi’s was the hub of the Broadway Theatre world. The stars, the producers, directors, the press, the angels, family and fans -- all came through its door every night except Sunday. And the “buzz” on the street that was Broadway was first buzzed in those maroon rooms with its walls covered with the famous Sardi’s caricatures of Broadway stars going back decades.

1966 was also the last year of glory for Truman Capote whose fame and wealth and notoriety went into the stratosphere with his new book “In Cold Blood” and his now almost immortal dinner dance, the “Black and White Ball” at the Plaza. Plus, David Merrick was producing a musical based on Capote’s best-selling Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Merrick was the hottest and most publicized producer on Broadway, often having two or three shows running. The cast for “Breakfast…” was also starring another tv star, Doctor Kildare, Richard Chamberlain, plus Sally Kellerman and Larry Kert. The book was by the ever-prolific and successful Abe Burrows, with music and lyrics by Bob Merrill who wrote the lyrics to Streisand’s star-making “Funny Girl.” Burrows was the original director although there were so many re-writes and script changes, almost on a daily basis that Burrows left and Edward Albee was hired to re-write the entire script.
Mary Tyler Moore as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Out-of-town previews in Philadelphia before coming to Broadway, were a disaster. Stories were flying in Sardi’s that it was a disaster. And that Moore wasn’t up to it; that tv actress from the Coast was no Merman, or Martin, Channing or Streisand. Not up to it Not up to “the stage” was the inference about the girl from the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” A tv-series actress from Hollywood? Wuddaya expect? 

Nevertheless, it didn’t close in Philly, Boston or Baltimo’, which is often what happened to a bomb, but arrived for its previews beginning on December 12, 1966, at the Majestic Theater. Just a few doors down at Sardi’s, however, according to the boys bellied up to the bar, the real problem was: it’s a mess. It was four hours long, and at one point during a scene with Moore onstage lying on a bed, a scrim fell down on her, almost injuring her.
With Richard Chamberlain in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
People said it was an omen, and it turned out they were right: Merrick closed the show after the fourth preview. He took out an ad in the dailies, as he famously did in publicizing his shows, announcing that he was shutting down the show “rather than subject the drama critics and the public to an excruciatingly boring evening.”

In the eyes of the Broadway crowd Mary Tyler Moore’s career was over. She returned to California, which was her home and where she had a son, and for the next three years her career lay dormant. However, she met Grant Tinker sometime in the 1960s and before the decade was over they were in a relationship.
Mary Tyler Moore and Grant Tinker.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the beginning of a long and hugely successful career as a comedian, actress, philanthropist, as well as full partner with Tinker – whom she had married and later divorced more than ten years later. Their business partnership made both of them rich. At the time of her divorce from Tinker in 1981, it was said that Mary Tyler Moore was the richest woman in Hollywood.
I don’t know when she moved to New York full time with her husband (no. 3) Dr. Robert Levine whom she married a little more than a year after her divorce. I met and saw her a few times in the 1990s at Alice Mason’s legendary dinner parties. She was such a familiar face that speaking to her required one to forget about the famous personality and listen to the conversation.

Mary Tyler Moore in 1993.
A very nice woman, I especially remember one night in the early 2000s waiting for the elevator at Alice’s when I heard a couple entering the building and coming down the corridor. The woman was very upset with the man, and making her point in that plaintive tone that all America knew as Mary Tyler Moore.

Her husband’s response, if there was one, was not audible. But she was. However, as they reached the elevator and me in sight, as you might imagine, the “discussion” stopped short, and everyone was in a polite “good evening.” It couldn’t have been a more perfect scene in a “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

She was gracious and focused in conversation. I was not aware of all the physical issues she was dealing with. The Twin Towers bombing on 9/11 frightened her and she and Dr. Levine sold their Fifth Avenue co-op (where the famous bird hatched) and moved upstate, away from the city.

I never saw her again, after that. She worked very hard most of her life. She had great rewards of fame and fortune but there was another side of sadness to the story including her deteriorating and painful health issues and the early death of her troubled son. She leaves the audience that loved her and those who have yet to know her but will love her in the future, as Mary whom everybody loved, for good reason.
This year, The Society Memorial Sloan Kettering is celebrating 70 years of service. The SMSKCC is one of the first organizations I became familiar with when I started writing this Diary back in the early '90s. I was impressed by the commitment of the volunteers who operate this organization so effectively and continuously. Many of its members are prominent in other philanthropic and cultural organizations in the city, but the SMSKCC demands a serious commitment to time and attention if you want to belong.

On Tuesday, February 7th, SMSKCC, along with Chairs Robyn Joseph, Meredith Melling, Marcie Pantzer, and Gillian Hearst Simonds, will be hosting its Winter Luncheon at The Rainbow Room.

JH and I had lunch last week at Michael’s with Karen Klopp and Hilary Dick to discuss their website What2WearWhere.com, when the luncheon came up. 
Hilary and Karen at Michael's.
I’m no fashion stylist, but long ago before I launched a career as I writer, I owned a couple of boutiques in Westchester and Fairfield Counties where we sold off-price designer sportswear.

I happened into the business by chance and knew nothing about it, but I learned quickly about how women chose their clothes – something I’d never thought about. I was surprised to learn that many have serious uncertainties about their choices and don’t find making selections easily because of their own feelings about the way they’d like to look. Karen and Hilary, both of whom are always well dressed, started their site to offer ideas about assisting.

They told us that W2WW always checks out the NYSD Calendar to see what events are coming up that they can write about. W2WW is a destination digial boutique that assists today’s busy women dress for all of life’s events and travel, offering up some great style and shopping tips -- the kinds of ensembles that are comfortable and appropriate for the events which are eventually seen on the NYSD Party Pictures.
The stylish chairs at last year's SMKSCC Winter Lunch: Eleanor Ylvisaker, Lavinia Branca Snyder, Virginia Tomenson, Sarah Rutson, Cynthia Nixon, Claudia Overstrom, and Meredith Melling.
This year 's SMKSCC Winter Lunch is being sponsored by Net-a-Porter, which is donating 20% of all sales to the SMKSCC from January 2nd through February 7th.

Karen and Hilary shopped the retail site and, Hilary reported, they ended up choosing the same Anna Sui floral dress to wear. They were amused as they definitely have their own take on how to accessorize their choices. Hilary, for example,  added an Alaia studded belt and simple leather clutch. And “these beautiful pink earrings” by Larkspur Hawk were just the right feminine touch. Finally, whichever way you accessorize your dress, Karen and Hilary agree that black pumps will have you on the right step.
Hilary’s Look:

1. Anna Sui Lace-Trimmed Printed Crepe Mini Dress;  $475
2. Aquazzura Matilde Lace-Up Suede Pumps; $695
3. Harris Wharf London Belted Felt Coat; $755
4. Saint Laurent Oversized Round-Frame Sunglasses;  $415
5. Larkspur & Hawk Quartz Earrings; $500
6. Alaia Vivienne Laser-Cut Leather Pouch;  $1,300
7. Alaia Studded Belt; $970
Yes, they fell in love with the same Anna Sui dress Karen confirmed because “ the print is so upbeat for February, the shortest month that can feel long and dreary.  The Miu Mui Crystal earrings lend a bit a sparkle, while Aurelie Bidermann’s Lace Cuff and Mansur Gavriel’s bag adds to the classic styling.”  Karen admitted, “For me, nothing but Christian Louboutin Pumps will do. Ditto Le Specs Shades which are so well priced.  I wrap the package in Vanessa Stewart’s Coat and head out to brave the storm from a morning meeting, to luncheon, and well into the evening. And wouldn’t it be perfect for a romantic Valentine’s Day rendezvous with a certain special someone?”
Karen's Look:

1. Anna Sui Lace-Trimmed Printed Crepe Mini Dress;  $475
2. Christian Louboutin Suede Pumps; $675
3. Vanessa Seward Wrap Coat; $790
4. Miu Miu Crystal Clips; $380
5. Le Specs Cateye Sunglasses; $70
6. Mansur Gavriel Leather Tote; $825
7. Aurelie Bidermann Lace Cuff; $665
 

Contact DPC here.