Monday, July 11, 2022. Did you know that 7/11 is considered a lucky number combination. I know only because I learned years ago that the Columbia Pictures Building, on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, was constructed during the heyday of Columbia Pictures Studio owned majorly by a man named Harry Cohn — one of the original moguls of the great age — because it was a lucky number. It’s now the Coca-Cola Building.
Welcome to the second week in July. The weather for the past few days in New York has been lovely. Very warm and sunny but not sweltering and occasionally with breezes and sometimes/rarely a shower to cool the air. And sensational cloud formations that are beautiful and dramatic — adding some “spice” to an otherwise quiet summer weekend in the city.
A friend sent me a photograph of Maria Callas and Marilyn Monroe. It was taken the night of JFK’s birthday party at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962. Fans may recognize the Monroe gown as it was worn by Kim Kardashian to the fairly recent Met Gala.
Marilyn, as you may know, took the stage to sing “Happy Birthday” to the President who was sitting in the first row below. The world watched with amused, curious joy at the sight as well as the knowledge that the President was an “active” man sexually, and as well as the rumors at the time that he was having an affair with the nation’s sex symbol.
As fate would have it, both individuals came to early tragic, murderous endings. Monroe died three months later and our President was murdered 13 months later.
Ironically Maria Callas, long time a mistress of Aristotle Onassis, was, within a year of the birthday occasion, cast aside by Mr. Onassis for Jacqueline Kennedy and (firstly) her sister Lee Radziwill. Lee told me at the end of her life that Maria was the only woman she knew who actually died of a broken heart. She added, “Ari died of a broken heart, and not because of my sister.” “Because of Maria?” I asked. “Yes,” she answered.
And then we have Ghislaine. There’s nothing I can write about her. I never knew her and only know what the public knows. Except I’d met her socially. She was perfectly nice and pleasant, and not pushy or cool. The rest remains a mystery, a woman of our time now.
Over the last 22 years, we’ve turned out literally thousands of Diaries on this web site. The number astounds me because our focus, JH’s and mine, is always on tomorrow — the one day that is the only day for the NYSD.
The quieter days of summer are often a challenge; the city is quieter than at any other time of the year. If I’m not in the middle of some well-populated social event, I often get my inspiration for the Diary from the dinner table.
A popular topic of discussion these days (conversation at the dinner table) is Fashion. It’s a topic that you can discuss with just about anybody and not arouse some kind of resentment or sharp disagreement with the wrong word/subject spoken. Fashion, however, is a phenomenon that always involves all of us — whether we know it or not. It also reflects the current times we live in.
Women’s fashion is more topical because women naturally encourage the artistry and present it. But’s it’s a two way street; fashion. Some say today there is no fashion. Everyone is just wearing whatever is most comfortable; or they don’t really care what they look like (while carrying the weight of their world on their shoulders). Skirts can be long to the ankle, or hotpants short. Flesh is now very often the state of the fashion: the face and the boobs. Oh, and the derriere if it’s too big (or not big enough) — and if it’s not, you can always change that, as many do.
Exposing of the Flesh is not new. It was about a century ago that the woman’s costume changed radically— skirt hems rising from below the ankle rose to well above the knee in the era of Prohibition in the Roaring Twenties, or what F. Scott Fitzgerald named the Jazz Age. That was the fashion although in a few years the Depression that followed tempered it. Except for those who were well-fixed and social, and had the time and the money to engage.
In these challenging times, fashion has taken a backseat in public expression. “The hell with it” seems to be the decision for a lot of us. With men, the dress down began with the necktie. Many men who always wore it with shirt, jacket and trousers, now don’t bother. The result is: casual. Relaxed. It turns out the necktie had been the final touch for the man’s look; the “accessory” not unlike the women’s necklace, pearl or otherwise. Although now sometimes the most casual men even wear differing versions of the necklace.
The subject aroused my curiosity about the “changing” styles and how they develop. JH found a collection of party pictures taken about only 15 years ago at a reception for the Parisian designer Christian Lacroix and the opening of boutique of his work here on East 57th Street. M. Lacroix’s shop is no longer extant.
It was on a Thursday night that the French couturier came to New York for the official opening. Lacroix hired Vanessa von Bismarck to handle the opening and the dinner following that.
I got to the shop with my camera about 7:30 (it was from 6 to 8). The champagne was flowing. I’m an alien shopper; I practically don’t know what I’m looking at. So I asked Somers Farkas about it. I learned she loves Christian Lacroix, and she loves his bold colors.
Somers and Jonathan had arrived a few minutes after me. And then Blaine Trump came in looking like a movie star in a (Michael Kors) white dress that explained everything Blaine and simple. Then Muffie Potter Aston came in and took one look at Blaine and told her how she’d ordered that dress and then forgot about it and then went back a few months later and they couldn’t find it.
But she was gonna get it, and especially after seeing Blaine in it. Then Dana Hammond came in with Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos. “I’m her escort tonight,” Dana said of Dayssi. “Or she’s mine.” Dana’s Dr. Patrick opted out. It was a fashion dinner.
Right after the group shot(s), Blaine Trump offered me a ride down to the Gramercy Park Hotel where the dinner was scheduled for the Rooftop Garden.
We were one of the first there. Besides M. Lacroix. He and Blaine had a reunion. He’d made something for her a number of years before when he made his debut in America. They are old friends. The designer has a ready smile but also seems like one of those people who just gets on with it. The wild part is in the clothes, not in the man.
We close with one of the greatest women I ever met and knew here in New York. A woman of fashion, a founding member of the Best Dressed List, circa 1940. Dorothy Hart Hearst Paley Hirshon. A California girl, first married to a son of William Randolph Hearst who was cuckolded by William Paley whom she later divorced when he left her for Babe Cushing Mortimer, and Dorothy later married a Wall Street investor Walter Hirshon.
Dorothy was a beauty and a smart one. Back in the early 1940s when she was in her early 30s, she and a black reverend from a Harlem church went around to all the hospitals in New York to press them to integrate the medical staffs what had long been separated by race. They continued until they found a first hospital that agreed. After that all followed. Dorothy also back then launched the first daycare facility in Harlem. During those years she had also been very involved in the New School as well as its drama school, and the special college for the European Jewish professors who were escaping the Nazi takeover of the German government.
She knew all the Presidents from Roosevelt right through to Clinton (whom she met but did not know). A fashionable lady who’d left her first husband for number two who had a lot of women on the outside and finally fell under the spell of Babe Mortimer who made an effort to break up his marriage and succeeded. Paley had been Dorothy’s weak spot many times in their 16-year marriage, and always her disappointment.
This photo was taken when she was 85 in a new house she’d built for herself five years before when she was 80. Andhow about those legs!!?? Although she’d occasionally observe: “getting old ain’t for sissies.” She died there just two weeks before her 90th birthday. She’d driven her car to the market to pick up something for a dinner party she was having that night at her house in Glen Cove. At a stoplight she put on the brakes for the light, and she had a heart attack. She died. I’ll never forget Dorothy She was a pleasure to know (and learn from).