Friday, March 16, 2018

Leaving a legacy

Looking southwest towards Central Park South from Fifth Avenue. 10:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, March 16, 2018. It was sunny and surprisingly cold in New York, with temperatures in the high 30s, although it got milder by early evening.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day in New York. I know it is St. Patrick’s Day everywhere else too, but I’ve lived in other towns and cities in my life and I’ve never seen a St. Paddy’s Day like New York’s. I should add that is not one of my great regrets in life. My father was 100% Irish whose parents came over in the late 1880s. They lived in Brooklyn. They were Irish Catholics although I never saw him go to church until what became the end of his life when he was in very bad health.

My father was born in 1900 in a house on a street near the river that has long since been eliminated by a roadway. Although I have a photo of the house which I got years ago from the Hall of Records. He had what I identify as an Irish American Brooklyn accent. It wasn’t the brogue we are familiar with, nor was it thick or broad. But there were certain words and expressions that clearly came from that time and place among the Irish. Because in those days of the 19th and 20th century right up to the 1950s, the different nationalities were still very apparent among those New Yorkers. They stuck together.

For example, taking my hand to cross a street when I was a kid, he’d say: “here, gimme your paddy.” Or for face, he might say, “lemme see your map” for face. Avenue was pronounced Aven-ya.  He also had a terrible Irish temper. I never thought of it that way. I only thought of it as scary when I was a child, and pathetic when I was older. At this stage of my life I only see it as his suffering. I have something closely resembling my father’s temper but it is entirely controllable. I am fortunate to not have his suffering.

The Irish are very emotional as well as bombastic in their taking ways. But they indeed have their charm and a deeply sensitive brilliance. A childhood friend reminded me not long ago that I used say such terrible things about my father but she thought he was such a nice man, always kind and polite. That was what used to be called a Street Angel and House Devil.
St. Patrick's Day Parade in Union Square, c. 1874.
He never celebrated the day, however, or demonstrated the green. It gave him pleasure to hear someone talk about it, and could make him laugh at the thought of it because in memory he could relate. But he actually loathed the drunkenness. The Irish drunkenness. He never talked about it. Ever. The only thing that annoyed him – and it would bring out his raging Irish temper way, was when someone didn’t believe Columbia was Irish. His response corrected that mistake that so deeply offended.

I personally never related to the Irish business or the others. I was always an American in my mind, and so was everyone else I knew.  So when the parade passes by this morning – off in the distance, about five or six city blocks from my apartment, I probably won’t even hear it. It’s a nuisance for getting around and difficult to cross town, and afterwards a lot of the neighborhoods are filled with those a-wearin-o-the-green. And drinking it too. On the Upper East Side where there remain a few of the old fashioned neighborhoods of five and six story walk-up apartment houses. But it’s a parade day and a lot of people love them, and for a lot of good reasons underneath it all.
Marchers in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue, 1909.
Meanwhile, this past week. I was at Michael’s for the Wednesday lunch. The place was full up and the energy level was pure Noo Yawk, an energy that under the right circumstances is pure serene excitement. I was with Brooke Hayward and Alex Hitz. Alex was heading down to Atlanta  to spend a week testing his recipes for a new cookbook with a hundred or more recipes for hosting parties. He does this in the facilities of a friend down there (he’s an Atlanta boy himself) who runs a large catering concern. He said a lot of cookbooks don’t always “test” their recipes before going to print. Not good.

Patricia Bosworth with her new book, Dreamer With a Thousand Thrills: The Rediscovered Photographs of Tom Palumbo. Click to order.
The joint was jumpin’. At the round table in the window Betsy Perry  was hosting a lunch for her friend Patricia Bosworth who has just published a new book the cover of which you can see in the photo. Among the guests were Rex Reed, Erica Jong, Diane Clehane.

When I Googled Patty, as her friends call her, to check on her bibliography, I saw she has the same birthday as Barbra Streisand. Both girls are very industrious and not inclined to quit no matter what they say. Patty also has an enthusiastic personality. She likes life, to the hilt. She wrote a wonderful biography of Montgomery Clift a number of years ago.

Patty’s father, when she was a kid, was a famous Hollywood lawyer named Bartley Crum. I used to read his name in the Broadway and Hollywood columns in the Mirror and the News when I was a kid dreaming of life in New York and Hollywood. Bartley Crum. Patricia Bosworth has also written a memoir about a girl who’s lived. And loved it.

Also, among those who were in view or in sound were Steve Millington’s brother Hunter Millington; Peter Price; Andrew Stein with Nancy Ross; Christine Taylor with Jennifer Gould Keil; Susan Weber; Rosalind Whitehead; Bob Barnett with David Rhodes; Patrick Gerschel; Philippe Salomon; Steven Cash; Lewis Lapham; Adam Sansiveri; Tom Rogers; Judy Licht; Vincent Grimaldi; Brook Hazelton; John Wilson; Anthony Ames, Kate Betts; Vincent Capucci; Penny Grant; George Malkemus; Mark Pedowitz with John Sykes; Judy Price ... and lots more breaking bread as well as the restaurant sound barrier.

And then, Wednesday night was an important one. At Cipriani Wall Street, Literacy Partners hosted their annual Evening of Readings & Gala Dinner Dance raising over $1million to further its mission to end illiteracy, one adult at time.
A view of the dining court of Cipriani 55 Wall Street for the Literacy Partners annual dinner.
The table favors were children's books to take home.
Guest at table.
This was an especially special evening because Literacy Partners was created by Liz Smith, Arnold Scaasi and Parker Ladd. Liz died last November 12th. Parker died two days later. Arnold had died in August 2015. They were old friends, longtime friends who loved books and knew the immense personal value of being able to read. Somewhere one or all three of them learned that there are many people in this country — adults, that is — who cannot read and are most often too embarrassed to even admit to anyone.  The trio of Liz, Arnold and Parker raised more than $38 million over the last twenty-odd years to remedy the problem. Heroes, all.
The trio.
Wednesday night, however, basically a tribute to Liz who loomed so large that the lack of her physical presence made a deep impression on a lot of us. NBC News senior legal and investigative correspondent Cynthia McFadden hosted the evening and spoke of her late friend with the knowledge of what she would have wanted – to get on with the show.
Cynthia McFadden.
The black-tie event included a reading from actress Sarah Paulson, who read from Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Goldfinch. There was also a reading from New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz, of a passage from his much-anticipated children’s book Islandborn. Lesley Stahl presented her friend, writer, editor and literary agent Joni Evans with The Lizzie Award, which is given to an individual who exemplifies Liz Smith’s passion for the written word and her commitment to improving the lives of those who cannot read or write. Stahl called the Gala, “one of the best nights of the year.” In her remarks, Evans promised to “support Liz’s legacy as long as I’m able.”

The evening also included a tribute to Liz, introduced by her lifelong friend, Holland Taylor, who called Smith “full of wonder and wonders,” emphasizing that “reading is key to life.” Liz was a voracious reader; all the time. There were video clips of Liz in personal interviews.
Sarah Paulson.
Junot Diaz.
Lesley Stahl.
Lesley Stahl and Joni Evans embrace.
Joni Evans.
Holland Taylor.
The evening also paid tribute to the organization’s Co-Founders, Arnold and Parker. For his devoted work in literacy and philanthropy, the gala also honored Randy Falco, President & CEO of Univision Communications Inc. His award was presented by Noticiero Univision late-night edition anchor and The Fusion special correspondent Enrique Acevedo.

The grand finale of the evening was a reading by Literacy Partners student Moravet Espinoza, accompanied by her two sons and daughter while shared (she read) her powerful story of how Literacy Partners changed her life, and her children’s lives — which brought the crowd to its feet.
Randy Falco and Enrique Acevedo.
Anthony Tassi.
Moravet Espinoza with her daughter and two sons.
The Co-Chairs for the Gala were Katharine Raymond Hinton, Mike Steib, Alan Schwartz, Tonia O’Connor, Cynthia McFadden, Courtney L. Corleto, Hope Pingree, Sharon Rodriguez and Charles Williamson. 

Literacy Partners has provided critical literacy services to more than 25,000 New York City adults and their families since its inception 45 years ago. The organization now takes a dual-generation approach to education, focusing on parents of young children.  With free classes throughout the city, parents can improve their reading, writing, and English skills while learning more about child development to boost their children’s early learning and school readiness. With more than two million adult New Yorkers still struggling to read and write English at an 8th-grade level, there is much more to accomplish. Literacy Partners is raising money to expand its high-quality, community-based literacy programs that empower adults to reach their full potential as individuals, parents and citizens.

It was a wonderful evening evoking tender memories of a life well lived, and a spirit everlasting.
Sarah Paulson, Cynthia McFadden, Billy Norwich, and Holland Taylor.

Contact DPC here.