Monday, January 30, 2017

Up for grabs

Sunday scene in Central Park.
Sunday, January 29, 2017. Partly sunny, and cold at 40 degrees yesterday in New York.

Working Girls. Last Wednesday night in Paris, Carmen Dell’Orefice closed the couture show for Guo Pei. She was wearing blood-red crystals and cascading lace, escorted down the catwalk by to young men. Erica Gonzales writing for Harper’s Bazaar said that she was the true runway star. Carmen has been doing this sort of thing for ... seventy-one years? Yes. She started out in the business when she was fourteen. I think she needed to do it to help her mother.
Carmen Dell’Orefice closing the show for Guo Pei in Paris.
Carmen, if you ran into her in the street, as I often do on the Upper East Side in the 70s – which is her neighborhood – doesn’t quite look what we think of her as her age – 85.

She has a youthful demeanor. Still fashion model slender, she has an energy to her gait as well as an energy to her presence. I wouldn’t refer to her as young because over the years she has added what was probably always wisdom. And she likes to work.

She lost the bulk of her hard-earned assets when Madoff closed shop, although she – who knew Mr. Madoff – was philosophical about it, never failing to mention that she’d enjoyed herself with the dividends she received during those years, so she couldn’t complain. I don’t know if she has to work since that loss, but I know she likes to work, and she likes to have fun.

As amazingly beautiful as she is in her pictures, she’s actually more beautiful when you run into her in the street.

Last night at Setto Mezzo, Danielle and Jeff Hirsch and I had dinner with another very busy working girl; same kind of can-do energy, a few decades younger but same attitude about herself and her work, Sonja Tremont Morgan of Real Housewives of New York.

Sonja and I have known each other for more than twenty years. We were introduced by our mutual friend Joy Ingham, when Sonja was the luncheon hostess at a very popular Italian restaurant San Pietro in Manhattan, well known for its great cuisine and for its tycoon clientele. I liked her right away.

She was a girl from Albany, New York who came to New York to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and to make a life for herself in the big city. And she’s done it in spades.
The May 1994 Quest article on Sonja when she was working at San Pietro, with pictures of some of the restaurant's clientele.
One of the first pieces I wrote for Quest magazine was an interview with Sonja. In the March 2017 issue of Quest I’m going to do another piece on Sonja who is now an old friend, and has made an interesting life for herself – and now for her daughter whom she adores and, like her mother, is very sharp. And beautiful. Her daughter excels in mathematics.

Jeff and Danielle joined us because Danielle is a big fan of Sonja’s. I learned from her and then from other women that Sonja is a favorite. Danielle had never met her so I thought it would be fun for her to meet the real Sonja. I don’t watch the show mainly because I never turn on the TV, but Danielle told me after dinner that she’s the same Sonja she sees on Bravo show.
DPC with Sonja Morgan, Danielle Hirsch, and Sette Mezzo's Oriente Mania.
Sonja walks the runway, too. Here she was just this past Friday night at Dressed to Kilt — A Scottish Night of Fashion & Dance — at the High Line Hotel. The evening benefited the Navy SEAL Foundation, which is committed to supporting U.S. Navy SEALS, their community and providing critical support to their families in times of illness, injury and loss.
Real Housewives of New York City's Carole Radziwill, newest addition Tinsley Mortimer, and Luann de Lesseps cheering Sonja on ...
The Wolfes are around. A couple of weeks ago, if you’re keeping track, I went to a book party for Alexandra Wolfe hosted by her mother and father Sheila and Tom Wolfe. Alexandra, who writes a weekly column of interviews for the Wall Street Journal, has just published “Valley of the Gods; A Silicon Valley Story” about one of its most interesting tech tycoons, Peter Thiel (pronounced Teel).

Mr. Thiel, who became famous in the media because of the matter of Hulk Hogan and Gawker, made his huge fortune from investments in a few major companies, beginning, I think with PayPal. He is a man with vision or in the business of cultivating his vision, and engages in many projects promoting the potential of people.
DPC with Alexandra Wolfe at Michael's.
Then last week, I received a book by Alexandra’s father, Tom Wolfe, called “The Kingdom of Speech.” I was sent the book by Tom and Diahn McGrath who are hosting a dinner benefiting PEN at their apartment in mid-February, and Mr. Wolfe is the guest of honor.

Like a lot of people, I’m a longtime reader of Tom Wolfe. I don’t want to use the word fan because it implies “pop,” and although he’s been an innovator in the literary world of “pop” in the 1960s, his novels have the weight of sharp commentary on the American scene of the last half of the 20th century.
Tom Wolfe with his wife, Sheila Berger, and their two children, Thomas and Alexandra. Photograph © by Jill Krementz; all rights reserved.
So. Yesterday morning I was having my coffee and looking over the Times at my desk, and the book was sitting there waiting to be read. I had no idea what it was about. I assumed it was a novel. I picked it up thinking I should read enough to know what it was about before the McGrath’s dinner.

Click to order “The Kingdom of Speech.”
That was about 10:30. “The Kingdom of Speech” is not a novel. Although the characters therein, like all characters in Tom Wolfe’s stories, could be in a novel. The book’s about, what the title says: SPEECH. Words. Sentences. Conversations. Words. Books. Speeches. Life.

I could not put this book down. I had no expectations and frankly very little knowledge of that which is imparted herein. It’s not long – 170 pages, and at 4:30 in the afternoon I finished it.

I think it’s the first time I've ever picked up a book and read the whole book in one sitting (I did get up to make myself some lunch to eat while reading). The human being is the only animal among us who speaks language. The story as he tells it begins with Charles Darwin (“The Origins of Specie”) and moves into a literary drama involving Darwin and several other characters, and tells us the story of the study of language.

If someone told me that they had read a book about the history (wrong word but it will do) of language and that they couldn’t stop reading it, I would probably first think, that wouldn’t be me. The secret is always in the story, of course, but the “compelling” comes through the author.

This is a book about anthropology, and the way Tom Wolfe tells the story, you keep turning the pages to find out what will happen. It could be a novel. It certainly has the characters, and they give you insight into the characters around us today.

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