Birthday days and Oprah ways

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Conservatory Water on ice in Central Park. 2:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Thursday, February 28, 2019. Cold cold yesterday in New York. Snow was predicted but moved on northwards without a flurry of a hello. In the 20s by late afternoon and into the night. Fifth Avenue between 71 Street and 79th Street have been closed to traffic all this week because the strong winds have blown the scaffolding off buildings in the area just across from the Park. Closing off those eight blocks in the middle of Manhattan created constant, near-gridlocks in the daylight hours. I don’t know if this is a first, but like those winds, it is very rare. And dangerous.

However, it’s now three weeks until the first day of Spring. Although ten days until Daylight Savings – always a change to build a dream on.

DPC with the birthday girl Dominique Kirby and Kathy Sloane last night at Sette Mezzo.

Birthday days. I have a number of friends and relatives with birthdays the winter months of the year. It’s an interesting coincidence for this boy who was more mid-summer. Last night was one of them for my friend Dominique Kirby, who recently moved to New York after living more than 25 years in London where she was mother of two — a daughter and a son.

When I was first living in Los Angeles on my voyage into a writer’s life, while acclimating myself to the challenge, in the beginning I got temp jobs (as a typist). The money wasn’t much but it was money. And the experience (which included the L.A. attitude) was imaginative. Two experiences stand out in memory. In one talent agency, I got to know a young woman (a girl really, to these older eyes) who liked that I came from New York where she visited a number of times with her boyfriend.

The boyfriend wasn’t really a boyfriend but a much older man (in his sixties) who was married and was the head of a major beverage corporation. It was a kind of sightseeing adventure. From her description, I envision a man of some girth. He liked to go to New York to go shopping, and she would go with him – and buy anything her heart desired. Because he liked women’s clothes. To wear. He liked style and quality and even designer dresses.

She didn’t tell me if he’d “try” things on at Bergdorf Goodman or Saks, but she made the purchase for whatever he chose. Back at the hotel, he’d get up in his new fashions and go out with her to dinner or the theatre. He wasn’t interested in sex with her, or gender changing, or in being involved with other men under those circumstances. He just got off on the thrill (for him anyway) of luxuriating in the sensual quality and beauty of women’s garments; his secret pleasure.

The girl who told me all this loved it because she was getting to come to the city, first class hotels, Broadway, “nice restaurants,” and an unlimited credit card to amuse herself.

Another temp assignment I had was typing (90 words per min) at an advertising company that was in the Beetleboards business. Volkswagens dolled up with a specific advertisement. They were very popular around LA at the time. The company originated in Montreal. Their offices were in a large 2-story early 20th century house on Sunset Boulevard just east of Crescent Heights.

My office was on the first floor, and besides its entry, one wall was a large double sliding heavy wooden door that obviously opened to another room – probably originally the living room. On the other side of the door was an office of a woman whom I never met but often heard on the phone having business conversations. She spoke with confidence, kindly, courteously but also with authority. I figured she was one of the major executives of the company. The kind who are no-nonsense efficient and in charge. I never met her or saw her, however.

Months after I’d gone on to other assignments, I was at a party one night over in Hollywood when young woman, very friendly, came over to me and said, “Hello David …”

I had no idea who she was. At first I thought I’d met her but didn’t remember her, although I knew that wasn’t possible. I would have remembered her. Finally I asked her how we met. She laughed and told me that we worked at Beetleboards together. I told her that I didn’t remember meeting anybody who worked there. She laughed again. “That’s because we never did meet,” she said, adding, “my office was next to the office you were working in. You used to come to the office with your dog.”

I don’t remember the dog part, but it sounds right. Her name was Dominique Langlois. The year was 1979. We got to know each other. At one point she and I were housemates for a spell. In the mid-80s she went on to New York on business and then onto marriage and London and motherhood. And over all those years, we kept in touch, and developed a long term friendship. Yesterday was Dominique’s birthday and we celebrated it at dinner at Sette Mezzo with Kathy Sloane who was the broker on the apartment Dominique bought here on the Upper East Side.

Which speaking of birthdays and the winter months, the birthday of my favorite aunt growing up was Valentine’s Day, February 14th. This year I had the privilege of spending with JH and his wife Danielle who was celebrating her birthday on that day. We also dined at Sette Mezzo.

Danielle Hirsch blowing out her birthday candles.

Also yesterday down on Union Square our friend Blaine Caravaggi was in her stall “Off the Wheat/ Sweets and Eats” (“Deliciously Indulgent”) selling her Pound Cakes, Flourless Chocolate Cheese Biscuits, Macaroons, Keto Bread, and Cookies & Bars:

Many New Yorkers know Blaine from her husband Robert’s restaurant “Swifty’s,” still very much missed by many of its clientele. After Swifty’s closed, the Caravaggis moved fulltime to their house upstate where the enterprising Blaine took the food business one step further: the product. Yum!

Here is Blaine in the summertime …
And here she is yesterday afternoon in Union Square … brrrr …

This past Tuesday, Agnes Gund ‘56 and Oprah Winfrey, longtime supporters of Miss Porter’s School came together at Sotheby’s to celebrate “By Women, For Tomorrow’s Women” – an auction which features exclusively Contemporary women artists. The works will be auctioned to support financial aid that enables emerging female leaders to attend Miss Porter’s and go on to shape a changing world. The OWLAG Board is chaired by Miss Porter’s Head of School Dr. Katherine Windsor.

Between opening and closing remarks by Sotheby’s Charlotte Van Dercook and Saara Pritchard, Gund and Winfrey spoke, further empowering the audience. At a time when more than ever, institutions are reconsidering their collections’ diversity. Winfrey stressed the importance of an individual reassessing his or her own collecting tendencies. “Over the years I bought a lot of wonderful art, but I never thought about was it by a woman or a man – I just thought, I like it. And now my whole perspective has changed, and so I am going to consciously be looking for women by women. So if we all do that, then this will be a big success.”

Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Katherine Windsor, and Agnes Gund

Works by more than 25 artists are being donated to the auction, including a major abstract painting by Carmen Herrera, Blanco y Verde of 1966-67, the most important work by the artist ever to appear at auction. Pieces by the following artists will also be including Ghada Amer, Alice Aycock, Cecily Brown, Mariana Cook, Jay DeFeo, Liz Glynn, Katharina Grosse, Jane Hammond, Carmen Herrera, Jenny Holzer, Roni Horn, Chantal Joffe, Louise Lawler, Vera Lutter, Beatriz Milhazes, Mariko Mori, Sarah Morris, Catherine Opie, Dorothea Rockburne, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Cindy Sherman, Jean Shin, Kiki Smith, and Carrie Mae Weems.

Charlotte Van Dercook

Founded in 1843, Miss Porter’s is an all-girls private college preparatory school in Farmington, Connecticut. Each year, the school educates more than 300 boarding and day students, and provides more than $4M in need-based financial aid support.

For more information on the auction and ways to participate, visit For more information on Miss Porter’s School, please visit

L to R.: Dr. Katherine Windsor, Agnes Gund, and Oprah Winfrey; Mila Atmof and Peggy Preheim
Susan Zhang, Roni Horn, and Dr. Sunnie Evers
Dr. Anna Swinbourne, Dr. Sunnie Evers, Agnes Gund, Dr. Katherine Windsor, and Saara Pritchard
L to R.: Katherine Bradford and Josie Merck; Alfia Ducard and Erica Doyle
Christina Lewis Halpern and Daniel Halpern
L to R.: Chloe Lin, Morgan Shannon Smith, and Erica Doyle; JiaJia Fei
Dr. Anna Swinbourne, Dr. Sunnie Evers, Agnes Gund, Dr. Katherine Windsor, and Jill Spalding

Ben Rosser/ (Oprah)

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