For that is our lot

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Young and old, hand in hand. Photo: JH.

Friday, August 28, 2020.  Hot, humid, sunny day in New York. Rain was forcast for late in the day, anticipating the hurricanes that are menacing the southern tip of the country and especially the Gulf coast. 

I had dinner outside at Sette Mezzo. At 7 it was still humid heavy, although we were seated under an awning that definitely provided some cool. Dinners and wine ordered – pear salad and cannelloni wrapped in very thin slices of  zucchini and served in a tomato sauce (delicious), along with a lovely catch-up conversation with my hosts who’ve just finished up their Southampton season and installed their son in his junior year at Penn. 

Then about 8:15 p.m., seated under awnings, umbrellas and tents there were a few raindrops (rain was in the forecast by late in the afternoon but not physically foreseeable), and then … The deluge! Winds and rain and guests taking shelter whenever possible. It lasted about a half hour and then stopped. Period. Most guests gone, air cooler, dinner over and business washed away. All served up by the so-called public servants who are responsible for the massive unemployment that will now haunt the city for a long time (although not for the publicly paid “public servants” who will still sit sheltered as it quietly ruins the financial stability of thousands upon thousands of people’s lives and welfare). It could be called a joke if it weren’t so destructive to the citizens, the businesses and ultimately the life of the great city of New York.

Meanwhile, to change the subject, I got an email yesterday from my friend Jackie Rogers, the fashion designer, with a photograph of one of my favorite and much admired models, the classic fashion model Carmen Dell’Orefice.  The copy read:

Carmen in Jackie Rogers photographed by Patrick McMullan.

For A Private Appointment

What captured my attention instantly was the Patrick McMullan photograph of Carmen, elegant, serenely beautiful who celebrated her 89th birthday last June 3rd here in New York.

Carmen first went to work as a photographer’s model at age 14 in 1945! A New York girl, it was, like a lot of girls of her age, to help support her mother,  her family. 75  years later, still in this great city of New York, Carmen is working, looking more beautiful and glamorous than ever, and happy to be part of the world that is New York. Fascinating, no?

Carmen is also, I can attest, a great lady: smart, efficient, charming, curious and a good friend to many.

The other matter that intrigued me about the email was the life of Jackie Rogers. A legend on her own, Jackie came to the world’s attention long, long ago also working as a model for the now immortal Coco Chanel in Paris. That was back when her friend Carmen was wowing the New York fashion world. 

Jackie, born in Brookline, Mass., and still revealing her roots with her Boston accent, left home at 16 (or was it 14?) and eventually headed for Europe where besides her work with Chanel, she worked in films (bit parts – such as Fellini’s“8 ½”) and developed a “weakness for politicians, Italian princes, feckless royals” plus Ari (Onassis), Gianni (Agnelli) and Federico (Fellini) too — to mention only a few. She took up the Designer mode in the 1960s (or was it the ‘70s?; maybe the ’80s). About 20 years ago she opened her own shop on Lexington Avenue on  74th Street, and now has businesses in Southampton as well as Palm Beach.

Working girls Carmen Dell’Orifice and Jackie Rogers still working it.
Bob Schulenberg  just celebrated his 87th a few days ago. He’s also still working (and I wouldn’t be surprised if he can recall all 87 years).

Like her friend Carmen, she’s still a working girl; living on Park Avenue with her rescued dachsies and getting around on her bicycle. Actress Christine Baranski was quoted by reporter Stephanie Mansfield in Departures (March 2010): :When I say she’s from another era, I don’t mean passé. She is an iconic figure, in touch with another age of sophistication and sexiness.”

Jackie Rogers in Chanel on Rue Cambon. “Mlle (Coco Chanel) is screaming out the window telling me how to pose … Irving Penn was the photographer.”

Like her friend Carmen. 

What impresses me about these girls, aside from their glamorous and illustrious careers is that “age” is only a number. Work, industry and curiosity is their code, and that is as fresh as a daisy.

Carmen photographed by Lillian Bassman for Harper’s Bazaar, May 1956.

The idea reminded me that yesterday is another example, in the birthday of my longtime friend Bob Schulenberg whose “sketchbook” we have been publishing on the NYSD for almost two decades. Bob, who is now living in his home state California, turned 87, and still working. And like those girls, he can’t help it.  There is nothing better than that a man rejoicing in his work, for that is his lot in life, I read that as a kid many many years ago in the Bible …  thinking “oh no!!” But now I see, “oh YES!” and how fortunate for the worker and the rest of us.

While on the subject of progress and enlightenment, I also add another career of my friend Harry Benson, the Scotsman photographher from Edinburgh who first touched down in New York back in the early 1960s accompanying the the Beatles on their first American tour and taking photos that now reside in the class of Legends. 

Harry, who celebrated his 90th this year, still resides here in New York (and in Palm Beach with his partner and wife Gigi) and the NYSD has even had the pleasure of publishing some of his work, particularly with the columnist who is featured today on our pages: Blair Sabol. A small world is this Big Town of Glamour, Imagination, Celebrity and Genius!

Harry and Blair posing for their “Paparazzi Shock” photo reaction! Photo: JH.

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