Fresh Air, Fresh Fashion, and a Fresh Set of Eyes

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Charlotte Bonstrom, Ann Yawney, Barbara Glatt, Christl Meszkat, Isolde O’Hanlon, Nicky Grant, Amanda Holmen, Ann Grimm, Raya Knight, Lisa Arnold, Marybeth Mullen, Susan Cocke, Noreen Donovan, and Madeline Hurt Elghanayan at Southampton Fresh Air Home's 32nd annual Decorators-Designers-Dealers Sale and Auction Benefit Gala.

Jordan Roth is Creative Director and largest individual stockholder of Ambassador Theater Group Entertainment (which merged with his Jujamcyn Broadway theaters). He produced the revival of“Angels in America,” serves on five charitable boards, boasts degrees from Princeton and Columbia. And he does it all in heels. Long skirts, long nails and tasteful make-up are his signature. He’s walked haute couture runways, made best dressed lists, been spotlighted in Vogue and the New York Times and is a Met Gala staple.

Jordan Roth, Michael Sylvan Robinson
Jordan Roth and Michael Sylvan Robinson in front of Identity Is … at MAD.

He resists labels, defies definitions — making him a perfect fit for the Museum of Arts and Design. MAD kicked off their Pride Exhibit by honoring him with a museum tour that began with his Met costume and ended with a luncheon at Robert on the top-floor of MAD hosted by Chair Emerita Barbara Tober and Executive Director Tim Rodgers.

Jordan’s coat of many colors, Identity Is … — designed by Michael Sylvan Robinson for Roth to wear at the 2021 Met Gala  greets visitors in the Barbara Tober Grand Atrium. It stood, as sculpture, on a platform, with its sewn pastiche of queer imagery and texts repeated on the walls. (Somewhere in all that detail was a lost safety pin they were still trying to find.)

Curator Barbara Paris Gifford led a conversation with Roth and Robinson.

The coat design started, Jordan said, with a “kind of mission statement” about what he was “working through.” He didn’t expect his words to be repeated on the garment.  But, Robinson  “lovingly, embroidered and sequined and beaded” them.

Currently on view in the Museum’s lobby, Identity Is…, created for Jordan Roth to wear at The Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute Gala in 2021.

“As my words should always be,” Roth deadpanned.

What it’s like to wear art? Gifford wondered.  “I love this question,” replied Jordan, “We’re so conditioned to think of art as only that which is framed or put on a pedestal.  But some art has sleeves, some art is worn, some art is hung on the ear or neck.  What you all do here at MAD, is help us by giving curatorial rigor and contextualization, literally lifting things up on pedestal, so that we can see … (what) we don’t always understand as art. So thanks for that.”

Barbara Paris Gifford, Elissa Auther, Barbara Tober, Jordan Roth, Richie Jackson 3968098
Barbara Paris Gifford, Elissa Auther, Barbara Tober, Jordan Roth, and Richie Jackson.

Then we moved upstairs to “OUT of the Jewelry Box,” much of it on loan from The Porter Price Collection, wearable art from the queer perspective. “This collection is the first of its kind in this gallery,” MAD Curator Elissa Auther told us, “worn and given by two gay men, Ron Porter and Joe Price.”

The  Museum has “never gone down a typical path,” Director Tim Rodgers told the room. “We have always been inspired by people who have been on the edges, who have questioned the art … challenged us in unexpected ways. And that is at the very heart of all queer communities.”

Upstairs at the “OUT of the Jewelry Box” exhibition.

Guests included MAD Board Chair Michele Cohen, Bjorn Amelan and Bill Jones, Frederick Anderson, Mickey Boardman, Louis Bofferding, Randall Bourscheidt, Ron Chereskin, Dan Clay (A.K.A Carrie Dragshaw), Jamie deRoy, Kelly Graham and Will Fleming, Alvin Hall, David Hochberg, Tony Ingrao, Richie Jackson, Paolo Martino and Frank Riti, Bob Morris, Michael Musto, Tinu Naija, Wang Newton, Cheryl Riley, Scott Rothkopf, Sophie Sumner, Bronson Van Wyck.

And Joel Grey. “Jordan is my neighbor,” Grey told me. “I’ve known him forever.  His mother (Darryl Roth) is a wonderful producer. And I produced The Normal Heart for her.” Ever ask for the proverbial cuppa sugar? Grey replied, “If I did, he’d come through for me. He’s very sweet, very kind and very neighborly.”

Joel Grey and Jamie deRoy.
L. to r.: Jordan Roth, Daryl Roth, and Richie Jackson; Michele Cohen and Tim Rodgers.
Bronson Van Wyck, Barbara Tober; Bjorn Amelan, Nicole Herrington, Bill T. Jones, Michael Paulson
L. to r.: Bronson Van Wyck and Barbara Tober; Bjorn Amelan, Nicole Herrington, Bill T. Jones, and Michael Paulson.
Barbara Tober, Bill T. Jones, Bjorn Amelan, Cheryl R. Riley 3968267
Barbara Tober, Bill T. Jones, Bjorn Amelan, and Cheryl R. Riley.
Thomas Knapp, Randy Bourscheidt; Will Fleming and Kelly Graham
L. to r.: Thomas Knapp and Randy Bourscheidt; Will Fleming and Kelly Graham.
Tinu Naija, George Wayne, Frederick Anderson, Bob Morris 3968187
Tinu Naija, George Wayne, Frederick Anderson, and Bob Morris.
Bill T. Jones, Tinu Naija, Bjorn Amelan; Dan Clay, Sophie Sumner
L. to r.: Bill T. Jones, Tinu Naija, and Bjorn Amelan; Dan Clay and Sophie Sumner.
Barbara Tober, Louis Bofferding 3968214
Barbara Tober and Louis Bofferding.
L. to r.: Wang Newton and Valeria Moraga; Tinu Niaja and Avalon Ashley Bellos.
Barbara Paris Gifford, Kate White, Levi Higgs 3968287
Barbara Paris Gifford, Kate White, and Levi Higgs.
Ruth Fierberg, Jamie de Roy
Ruth Fierberg and Jamie de Roy.

Design was also on the table — literally — at the Fresh Air Southampton Fresh Air Home Decorators-Designers-Dealers (D-D-D) Sale and Auction Benefit Gala. Gold encrusted Lenox china, Saint-Louis crystal, silver platters — all at a song. The main event: decorator curated furniture, designers’ overstock and estate cast offs.  No room at home? Shop the auction.

There’s always a line to get in. Blink and bargains are gone. It’s the only cocktail party that starts off unsocial. “Later!” Is how Aida (Janice Soprano) Turturro greets me year after year. “Gotta shop!” Two shopping hours later, she danced around to a favorite song, then collapsed on an outdoor couch with a sold sign on it.

All on three hours sleep. She wrapped a series on Hulu with Ellen Pompeo, took the red eye from LA, went to her Westchester house, then drove out to Southampton. She barely made it. “I’ve been going for 23 years,” Aida said, “It’s a wonderful event.”

Decorator curated furniture, designers’ overstock, estate cast offs, and more …

Shopping for bargains. All for a good cause.
Aida Turturro and Carol Ann Sandoval; Enrico Bruni, Andrea Karambelas, and Mary Snow.
L. to r.: Carolann Sandoval and 23-year D-D-D Sale and Auction Benefit Gala veteran Aida Turturro; Enrico Bruni, Andrea Karambelas, and Mary Snow.

For a wonderful charity. Founded in 1901, it offers camp and a year round community to physically disabled children. “80% of the children who attend our program are in wheelchairs,” Executive Director Tom Naro told me. “We teach them independence and make the world accessible for them.  There’s swimming in the camp pool. But, we also do trips for skiing, rock climbing, golf, any activity that we can adapt for them.”

“We’re not just for the summer anymore,” Board President and an Event Design Chairman Ann Yawney told me of their new status.  “During the year, we now have a couple of weekends a month for activities here or in the city. We take them to  farms, to art exhibits, museums, theater, baseball and football games. They really, really enjoy it.”

Thomas Naro, Susan Nappa Cocke, Event Chair Madeline Hult Elghanayan, Raya Keis-Knight, and Elizabeth Manocha.
Co-chairs Madeline Hult Elghanayan and Charlotte Bonstrom, with Ann H. Yawney.
Co-chairs Madeline Hult Elghanayan and Charlotte Bonstrom, with Event Design Chairman Ann H. Yawney.
Ann H. Yawney and Jayden Lackard.

Board VP Madeline Elghanayan was event chair. Guests included Liliana Cavendish, Todd Merrill, Nikki Haskell, Irene Albright, Margaret Hedberg, Melanie and John Wambold, Maryanne Horwath and Michael Shaheen, Mary Snow, Aisha Christian, Cricket and Richard Burns, Steven Stolman and Rich Wilke, Catherine and Bryan Carey, Jean Shafiroff, Enrico Bruni, Andrea Karambelas, Larry Horton, Sheila and Joe Fuchs.

“The programs are done without regard for families’ ability to pay,” Tom continued. “Most of our children receive financial aid and 70% of the cost is underwritten by the fundraising events.”

Camp Coordinator and Senior Staff member Kiara Esteves. Kiara is a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Genetics.

He introduced me to camp alumni Kiara Esteves who has graduated into a leadership position. She’s the one in the wheelchair volunteering as a cashier year after year.  She has osteogenesis imperfecta, the genetic version of osteoporosis, commonly known as brittle bone disease.  The 30-something works full time for Fresh Air Home as camp coordinator in the summer, and this year, founded their Home Away from Home program for those who have aged out of camp.

“When my friends recommended the Fresh Air Home,” Kiara told me, “I was a very shy eight-year-old, very attached to my family, afraid of the world, afraid to advocate for myself, afraid to navigate the community that was surrounding me. From the minute I came here, it was a game changer. I learned confidence, that l was worthy of taking up space in the greater world, to take pride in that space and make opportunities for other people. I took what I was given as a camper and turned that into an alumni Home Away from Home program.  We give young adults with physical disabilities a community. We teach them confidence, how to get jobs, how to fulfill their potential, to make their dreams and aspirations real.”

It’s all about independence — everything from how to manage public transportation and public interactions  to being home alone.

Camp Coordinator and Senior Staff member Kiara sets an example. Every Monday, she leaves Brooklyn, takes the LIRR to her on site apartment at the Fresh Air Home. And pays if forward.

Lis Waterman, Ann Jeffrey, Barbara McEntee, Logan Embry, Maggie Embry
Lis Waterman, Ann Jeffrey, Barbara McEntee, Logan Embry, and Maggie Embry.
Brian Connors, Rainey Day Erwin, Noreen Haubert, John Erwin
Brian Connors, Rainey Day Erwin, Noreen Haubert, and John Erwin.
L. to r.: Lisa Crawford and Thomas Naro; Kim Seybert and Ann Keating.
George Wambold, Melanie Wambold,John Wambold
George Wambold, Melanie Wambold, and John Wambold.
Katia Oberbeck, Chris Oberbeck, Emilie Price, Susan Potto
Katia Oberbeck, Chris Oberbeck, Emilie Price, and Susan Potto.
Co-chairs Charlotte Bonstrom, Madeline Hult Elghanayan; Nancy Pearson, Nikki Haskell
L. to r.: Charlotte Bonstrom and Madeline Hult Elghanayan; Nancy Pearson and Nikki Haskell.
Maryanne Horwath, Paulo Lemgruber, and Valerie Revere.
Maryanne Horwath, Paulo Lemgruber, and Valerie Revere.
Robert Holmen, Amanda Grove Holmen, and Christina de Marval.
Irene Albright
Irene Albright (in brown).
Everett Royall and Aisha Christian.
Bryan and Catherine Carey.
Jean Shafiroff, Ann R. Grimm
Jean Shafiroff and Ann R. Grimm.
Brian Higgins, Tania Higgins, Laura Blair. Cricket Burns (seated)
Brian Higgins, Tania Higgins, and Laura Blair, with Cricket Burns (seated)
Steven Stolman.
Steven Stolman.

Photographs by Patrick McMullan (MAD); Rob Rich/ (Fresh Air Home)

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