Alive with the lights

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Rock Center. 10:00 PM. Photo: JH

Wednesday, December 5, 2018. It was a sunny day in New York yesterday, with temperatures at 50 by midday and dropping down into the colder by four in the afternoon. We’re running the photo I took of the East River on Sunday midday when it was much warmer (mid- to upper-50s) and the fog almost totally obliterated the view of the riverside. I’m still amazed as I’ve rarely seen that intensity.


The view, yesterday at noon looking east to the lighthouse on the tip of Roosevelt Island, and north to the RFK Bridge.
This past Sunday, same time, same spot, same view.
Sunset on East End Avenue, 4:49 p.m. EST. From this vantage point, as a cavedweller, it can only be seen reflecting on the walls the new Robert A. M. Stern co-op building on the corner of East 80th, and facing the FDR Drive and river.

The Night. It was an overcoat night, to be on the safe side, after our recent fair weather. I went down to Verdura where Frances Schultz and the Landrigans were hosting in its beautiful rooms overlooking the Park on the Fifth and 59th Street corner. It was a book signing party for Tom Dittmer, husband of our hostess. The avenue at that hour was alive with the lights of the holidays coming up.


Fifth Avenue and 59th Street last night at 6:30, looking south with the star over the junction of Fifth and 57th with flags unfurled over Bergdorf’s on the right and the lights of Tiffany like a great big wonderful cake, and the red, white and blue spire of the Empire State 25 blocks south.
A window of Bergdorf’s Men, a silver spacesuit, perfect for holiday high flying.
The entrance to Verdura, the Jerome Zerbe photo of Mona (Mrs. Harrison) Williams whom Cole Porter once referred to in one of his lyrics as ” … the best-dressed woman in town …” and a friend and client of Fulco Verdura.

I’ve known Tom for quite a few years although I’ve never really known him. New York and my life in it, is like that. He and I have been at the same dinner tables, galas, restaurants, wherever, along with many others just like us. I did know about his business background because if you follow the financial world you’d know about his immense success. The book is called “Talkin’ BIG: How An Iowa Farm Boy Beat The Odds To Found and Lead One of the World’s Largest Brokerage Firms.”


The author inscribing a copy of his book.

Let’s stop there for a minute. A book about a guy from Iowa, small town, real Midwest, no pretense, just work, who after college and didn’t know what he wanted to do. Okay, so? So, someone, a family member I think, got hold of the boy out of college and pointed. Tom followed the direction and (not over night; he was a kid too) he became hugely, legendarily successful.

So what do I care? Well, it’s wouldn’t be the next book on my long list, but: it looks like a book for people in business who know the territory and get it. And he is the man who knows what and how in the markets — that everyone knows about him. So if you’re interested in this sort of story, there’s always something to learn.


L to R.: The author and his wife and hostess, Frances Schultz.; Click to order Talkin’ Big.

I’m thinking this until I heard a bit of his recollections to guests who gathered around in one of the elegant — and elegantly lit ateliers at Verdura — about where he came from and how he got there, American-style, all the way…

Long story short: when I got home last night, without intention, I opened it up and started to read. The table of contents has what looks like dozens of chapters (and it’s not a thick volume). That immediately made me more curious. Of course you’ve gotta keep the chapters interesting; that’s the catch. I had that experience with Jane Stanton Hitchcock’s upcoming “Bluff.” She got me on page 2 (which was the end of the chapter) and kept me to the end in a marathon read.

So, seeing that there were so many chapters, I started to read the first chapter of Tom Dittmer’s book. The author, so thoroughly Midwest American in attitude, reminded me of Will Rogers (whom I only saw on film) whose wit characterized that world.


In one of the Verdura ateliers, recounting the first fresh out of college days.

Modesty plays a big part in it. You could almost think it’s false modesty because the guy is major in his field. But it’s not. It is Midwest American Farmboy Land and so off-handedly presented (you can read it or don’t), you go with him. And it’ll read fast, I promise. Great pub date too, as you should think about gifting it to anyone, especially those men and women young and maybe interested in a similar path in that world. It carries its own secrets of success to share.

The first chapter spells it out and draws you in. Iowa farm family stories. That’s where the boy came from. The nitty gritty; Man against Mother Nature. Even if the subject doesn’t interest you, the author will, underlining that world from which he came.


On my way out, The famous Verdura cuff bracelet that Fulco designed for his then employer, Coco Chanel.
I went across the avenue to get a couple of photos of the Bergdorf holiday windows which are always works of art both fascinating and awesome.

On the southeast corner of the Avenue, Mr. Tiffany’s emporium in the 21st Century. “Square cut or pear shape, those rocks don’t lose their shape … Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” cooed and crowed Carol Channing in the immortal musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
As I was crossing from Fifth over to Madison to catch a cab, this man in front of me got out of his car. He was wearing a very elaborate suit in an intriguing pattern, along with red suede shoes and the red fez. At first I thought he might have been part of a window, an actor for hire. But then he took the coat he had on his arm and swung it around over his shoulder (it was getting more than chilly). It was mink or sable — I’m not well-versed; and it wasn’t some prop. New York New York!

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