Capturing the essence

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Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center slick with rain. 10 PM. Photo: JH.

Thursday, October 17, 2019.  Today is the birthday of our esteemed contributor/columnist Debbie Bancroft and also the birthday of our friend Judy Price who was founder and publisher of Avenue magazine. It was there that JH and I worked together before we launched the NYSD. Happy Birthday, girls, and here’s to many more!

It’s pouring outside as I write this at 8:45 p.m. (Wednesday night). It’s been promoted as a Nor’easter and from the looks of the weather map the Nor’east itself is gonna get the worst of it before the night is out although here in New York it’s wet, windy and if you’re out in it, you’ll get wet too even if it’s running from the car to the door.

Taking shelter from the rain last night on the David H. Koch Promenade to celebrate American Ballet Theatre’s annual Fall Gala honoring President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. Water, water everywhere!

We haven’t had much rain in the last couple of weeks and I’m always got my eye out for what needs it. Soon it will be washing the leaves from most of the trees in the park and we’ll be heading in to the cement/bricks/glass and stone cold sight of New York. Meanwhile it’s drenching wet out there and still very beautiful thanks to Mother Nature.

Bruce Boucher, Director at Sir John Soane’s Museum.

I got this email from Wendy Moonan, the decorative arts writer and editor who occasionally covered a sale or event for us. She didn’t ask me to share it but it took my fancy (even though I won’t be able to get there because of a previous commitment) because it’s another example of the richness of the culture that we think of as Noo Yawk. It’s also something that might interest you or someone you know …

Dear Friends,
As most of you know, Bruce Boucher, the director of the Sir John Soane Museum in London, is a great, amusing lecturer.
The meanings in the pictures of William Hogarth are worth great and amusing scrutiny. Please consider coming!!
It should be great fun. Sign up soon: it is NEXT Monday.
Hope to see you there.

Here are the details:

Monday, 21 October 2019; Soane Lecture Series Part 1:

John Soane and William Hogarth: Two Modern British Worthies
A talk by Bruce Boucher
Union Club, 101 E 69th Street, New York City
Doors open at 6pm, lecture begins at 6:30pm
Click here to purchase tickets.

Rake’s Progress III, William Hogarth. Image Courtesy of Sir John Soane’s Museum.

When John and Eliza Soane bought “A Rake’s Progress” at auction in 1802, they were participating in the rediscovery of Hogarth as a painter. 

Few of his paintings had come on the market in the previous half century, and Hogarth was chiefly known as an engraver. Over the next twenty years, Soane continued to add works by Hogarth to his collection, and “The Humours of an Election” as well as “A Rake’s Progress” are among the gems of Sir John Soane’s Museum. 

Soane equated the painter with Shakespeare in literature and Inigo Jones in architecture as seminal figures in the creation of a native school in their respective fields. In particular, Hogarth and Shakespeare were viewed by Soane as powerful creative figures, whose works defied classical norms and had to be judged by a different standard. They were members of a select pantheon of modern British worthies, in which Soane would probably have included himself.

Meanwhile, four centuries later and back in little ole New York where Hogarth and Shakespeare still apply except maybe for the costume (or maybe not even), I had dinner the other night with Nikki Haskell who divides her time between New York and L.A.

Nikki saying hello on The Nikki Haskell Show back in the ’80s

It sounds like a life of leisure although Nikki is a worker in disguise. I can see that she’s lived her charmed life that way. From the outside looking in, it even looks like a life of leisure. But Nikki is a longtime entrepreneur. In fact, thinking about her life, she makes entrepreneurship look like leisure. In other words, she’s always working it. She has to; a girl’s gotta eat. I am an admirer of that quality in her and even more I admire the way she wears it. The result is her life is interesting and she’s still on the learning curve.

Back in the 80s here in New York  — and elsewhere at times — Nikki was a “girl about town” who had a cable TV show. I didn’t know her at the time although I’d heard of the cable show but I didn’t have cable, so I never saw it. However, now, four decades later, it’s on Amazon Prime. Been there for sometime, but this past week at dinner she was telling me about the 20 latest releases of the old shows, and having access to Amazon Prime, I went and had a look.

Steve Rubell.
Robin Leach.
Anthony Quinn.

Believe it or not, back then women having nighttime “talk” shows was unheard of. Yes there was Barbara Walters and even the then up and coming Diane Sawyer, but they were principally news media; and Joan Rivers had entered the picture briefly.  But that was it. 

Because Nikki’s show was cable, the audience was limited. Believe it or not.  I learned from Nikki the other night that there are now almost 40 of her shows on Amazon Prime, and they capture the essence of the ’80s. in New York, L.A. and resort spots all over the world. (So if you’ve never been there kids, or were too young to even know about it, this is what it was looking like).

Harry Benson.
Joan Collins.
Gerry Cooney.

Nikki got around, and around to everybody. Today she is a pop-culture historian. Back then she was a young, attractive, curious and social woman. Her interests in personalities were eclectic. She followed celebrity, society, artists, actors, politicians, writers and movie stars. One of the Shows up now is about spending time with the President and Madam Marcos. Showtime has just done a documentary on Madam Marcos. Nikki had an “exclusive” with the controversial (and very social) Imelda Marcos.

There’s uncensored Studio 54 footage, one with a Peter Allen birthday party. There’s George Hamilton, Paul Anka, Calvin Klein‘s first Fashion show, Carolina Herrera’s fashion show; Joan Collins, Phyllis Diller, Eric Estrada, Pele. There’s an interview with budding real estate mogul Donald Trump about the opening of the brand new Trump Tower which was co-hosted by wife Ivana. Nikki interviewed guests attending including Roy Cohn (which also appears in the new documentary “Where is My Roy Cohn?”

Peter Allen.
Beverly Sassoon and Eric Estrada.
Polly Bergen.
LeRoy Neiman.
Arnold Scaasi and Louise Nevelson.
Michael York.
The Donald.

There’s the unique and inimitable Diana Vreeland enjoying the world and telling you why; Elsa Perretti; Prince Egon von Furstenberg who was briefly Nikki‘s cohost; Chita Rivera, Maureen Stapleton. Clive Davis. Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Rick James, Peter Sellers, Gene Kelly, Rick James and all the world surrounding them.

Diana Vreeland.
Clive Davis.
Brooke Shields.
Cornelia Guest.
Phyllis Diller.

What was an adventure of interest for an enterprising and curious young lady at the time is now, because of technology, a document of the era that preceded the era in which we live today. My favorite piece is a rare interview (at the piano) with Sammy Cahn, composer, lyricist who wrote or co-wrote dozens of  popular songs of the American songbook. Sitting on the piano bench next to him,  he charms her and you the viewer explaining how he worked and where he got his ideas. It was all a pleasure in the telling and the listening.

Sammy Cahn.

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