Care, kindness and class

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The cherry trees in full effect in Central Park.

Friday, April 5, 2024. Mainly just overcast most of the day, yesterday in New York, with some rain off and on. It’s cold but more chilly than freezing, and it was always predicted for today what we’ve been having for the past week.

You may have already seen George Gurley’s series of articles we’re running this week (Part II is up today), inspired by Tom Wolfe and the recent documentary on Wolfe’s life entitled Radical Wolfe.

I still have not seen the film, yet I have become more and more curious having read George Gurley’s series of articles based on his friendship with the author. I hadn’t read all of his books like George, but the famous best-sellers are on my bookshelves along with one of his last.

I’ve also known his daughter Alexandra who is outgoing and charming, which always  gave me a sense of the man, the father; a combination of care and kindness.

In 2017, we were both honored at the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s annual Dinner at the Plaza. In addition to Mr. Wolfe and myself, the list also included Frank Stella, Tom Wolfe, Robert A.M. Stern, Sydie Lansing, Marica and Jan Vilcek, Patsy and Jeff Tarr — what a crew to be sailing with, and in the end what a good moment for all.

The 2017 class of Living Landmarks: Tom Wolfe, Suydam (Sydie) Lansing, Robert A.M. Stern, David Patrick Columbia, Jeff and Patsy Tarr, Marica and Jan Vilcek, and Frank Stella. As you can see from the picture, I was almost (but not quite) embarrassed to be included in this class. Photo: Cutty McGill.

At the dinner ,which was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza, I was seated at a table next to Tom Wolfe’s. I did not have the opportunity to congratulate him, especially because it was a table of 10 including his wife and family and friends; and the laughter was so frequent that you’d be almost rude to interrupt with a hello. Besides, I didn’t know the man personally.

Now I do, having read George’s memoir-ish descriptions of a most remarkable, brilliant, clever and witty, sensitive, and kind man — aside from his Great Talent. The memory George provides for the reader is also a reminder that somewhere within all of us is a reminder of the best of us.

Peter Gelb and Barbara Tober.

Meanwhile, back in little ole New York, as quiet as it seems many times especially on weekends and around holidays, there is still a lot of activity, some of which we are able to share and report on.

Over at The Metropolitan Opera, for instance, Peter Gelb, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, welcomed more than 60 friends of Barbara Tober for a behind-the-scenes tour.

While we don’t have a performance to offer to you today,” Mr. Gelb offered the guests, “you’re in for a treat … a tour of what many consider to be the most famous opera stage in the world.

“It’s the stage where Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, and José Carreras, otherwise known as the three tenors, had some of their greatest triumphs,” shared Gelb. Guests saw costumes, props, and backdrops, visited the backstage inner workings, and stood on the iconic stage.

The occasion was a prequel to the upcoming On Stage at the Met Gala which will occur on May 20th, where they will honor Barbara’s steadfast and ardent support of the company, and for her towering achievements as a philanthropist and patron of the arts.”

“Our audience gets to trade places with our stars by dining on stage with the gold leaf ceiling, red velvet seats, and glimmering Swarovski crystal chandeliers as their backdrop,” Mr. Gelb continued.

“Some of our most popular singers will regale you with some of your favorite arias. Most importantly, we will be honoring Barbara, who recently endowed the historic Lobmeyer chandeliers that we’re standing under. Barbara’s generous gift was in honor of her husband, the late and great Donald Gibbs Tober, who loved The Met so much.”

The Met’s Lobmeyer chandeliers, which were endowed in honor of Donald Gibbs Tober.

That is true. The Tobers have appeared on these pages many times as longtime residents and business people in New York. Aside from their work, however, they went out to events – especially where there was an orchestra and they could dance the night away. Donald left us in his tenth decade. Barbara, who turned 90 (on her last birthday), is going on sixty. An active sixty, that is.

Barbara thanked Mr. Gelb, offering, “I’ve been coming to the opera since I was 8. I remember the old Met building downtown, too. Life is opera — passions, love and hate, all the emotions. Sometimes it’s Grand Opera. And truly Grand Opera is this Met theater, which we all love.”

Backstage at the Met …

Following the tour, guests celebrated the afternoon and Barbara in the Met’s Belmont Room. Guests included F. Murray Abraham, Carrie Barratt, David Beer, Mr. and Mrs. J. Truman Bidwell, Jr., CeCe Cord, Katherine Crockett, Helen Drutt-English, Maria Eugenia and Dr. William A. Haseltine, Helen Fisher and John Tierney, Susan Gutfreund, Alvin D. Hall,  Sharon King Hoge, The Honorable Brenda L. Johnson, Michele Gerber Klein, Helen Little, Christopher Mason, Chloe Misseldine, Liane Pei, Faanya Rose, Marc Rosen, Frank J. Sciame, Jr., HRH Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Lloyd P. Zuckerberg and many more.

For more information about the On Stage at The Met Gala honoring Barbara Tober, click here.

L. to r.: Carrie Rebora Barratt and Peter Olsen; Chloe Misseldine, Matthew Bird, and Jeanne Lawrence.
Katherine Crockett, Barbara Tober, Shannon Gibbons, Carrie Rebora Barratt, and Liane Pei.
L. to r.: Encarnita and Robert Quinlan; Erik Maza and Shannon Gibbons.
William Haseltine, Maria Eugenia Maury, and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia.
L. to r.: Millie Martini Bratten and John Bratten; Julie Tobey and Stephanie Stokes.
Silvia Frieser, Christopher Mason, and Katherine Crockett.
F. Murray Abraham and Barbara Tober.
Marc Rosen, F. Murray Abraham, and John Nubian.
CeCe Cord, Michele Gerber Klein, Susan Gutfreund, and Christopher Mason.
Charles Holmes and CeCe Cord.
Jeannie Lawrence, Sharon King Hoge, and CeCe Cord.
Patricia Shiah and Michele Gerber Klein.

Meanwhile down in Washington, D.C., and it ain’t political, Shafik Gabr and his stunning wife Gigi celebrated the photography of Dr. Alexander (Alec) Chester on a Tuesday evening at the private rooms of Washington​’s Four Seasons Hotel.

60 photographs were displayed on easels with Dr​. Chester signing books​ for many of the 160 guests​.

“Alec is a prominent doctor. He has been taking care of me and my family for over 30 years,” Shafik explained.

Shafik Gabr addressing the audience.

“In his office were these amazing photographs on the wall that he took. From my perspective, they reflect humanity. Alec may be a great doctor, but he is a real human being.

“In today’s world this is very important and something we should all appreciate. Because without true friends and fellowship, what happens in the world are the conflicts that we see in Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East.

“I think the message of humanity is clear in Alec’s photographs. It is something that we need very much today, more than ever. It is agonizing, what we are watching, in 2024.”

Dr. Alec Chester surrounded by his photographs.

The host then asked guests for a moment of silence “for all the civilians who have died – Palestinians, Israelis, Ukrainians, and Russians,” and then continued, “There is one thing that I think the majority of people in this room would agree with; that we need leadership at various levels. Leadership that reminds me of the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, when he took a flight from Cairo to Tel Aviv, went to the Knesset, and said to the Israelis: ‘I’m here because I don’t want to see another Israeli or Egyptian die at war.’ We need this now more than ever.”

Friends celebrating included Congressman Robert Alderholt (U.S. Representative from Alabama), H.E. Ambassador Maguy Maccario Doyle (Ambassador of Monaco to the U.S.), Ambassador Gordon Gray (Former U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia), Congressman Darrel Issa (U.S. Representative to California), Michael McCaul (U.S. Congressman from Texas), Dutch Ruppersberger (U.S. Congressman from Maryland), Ambassador Miloslav Stašek (Czech Ambassador to the U.S.), H.E. Ambassador Motaz Zahran (Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S.) as well as Malak Gabr, Susan Gutfreund, Aniko Gaal Schott, Mohamed Ramzi Ismail, and many more …

Anne Bennet and Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger.
Dr. and Mrs. Alec Chester welcoming Dr. Joel Rosenberg.
Gabr Fellows Stephanie Cate and Marielle Becker.
General David Robinson, Megan Zavertnik, and Brian Zavertnik.
Harvey Cofske and Kim Chester.
Omar Mohanna (Chair of US Egypt Council ) and Dana Marshal (President Transnational Strategy Group).
Malak Gabr, Kristi Chester, and Stella Chester.
Paul Salem, President of Middle East Institute, Shafik Gabr, and David Hamod, President US-Arab Chamber.
Gabr Fellow Jack Lincoln and Malak Gabr.
David Hamod, Rebecca Glover, and Rep Darrel Issa (R-CA).
Congressman Darrel Issa (R-CA) sharing a smile with Shafik Gabr.

Photographs by ©Patrick McMullan (Tober)

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