Getting by with a little help from his friends

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Harry Benson, front and center, sitting below his portrait of Beatles composing #3, Paris 1964.

Thursday, February 8, 2024. Another nice sunny day, yesterday in New York. And more promised for today and the next couple. Maybe. We live in a world like the weather: you never quite know. But the sunny days do bring us the light, always fresh and new.

I had dinner last night at Sette Mezzo with Gigi and Harry Benson and an old friend of theirs, Caterine Milinaire Cushing. I may have met her once, introduced, long ago; although. If so, it was very brief.  Because the woman I met at table last night is quite memorable as a person, a smart person, and talented person. And she has led a creative life in the fashion and magazine business over the years beginning in London where she by chance met Diana Vreeland just at the moment Vreeland was beginning her editorship of Vogue. That assignment was only one of many in the magazine world of art and fashion. She lives in Newport, Rhode Island where she married an American, Frederick Ames Cushing.

Caterine Milinaire by Avedon.

The subject at table of the four of us centered around Harry and Caterine’s experiences in the magazine business. Editors and publishers – names I never knew – provoked laughter. Any criticism provoked laughter, both serious, but as a combo. A point of view, I realize, that only comes as one of the gifts of Father Time.

What provoked the general conversation though was Tuesday night’s screening of the documentary on Harry at the Museum of Arts and Design followed by dinner upstairs. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the idea of Barbara Tober, who with her late husband Donald are great supporters of the museum from its founding. Barbara along with Chris and Grace Meigher and I were “hosts,” although that seemed like Barbara’s personal message.

Screenings and dinners and openings and charity affairs are everyday in New York. But this one carried some sentiment from a wide variety of types — politicians, actors, artists, kings, princesses, presidents – and some monsters too — not for a term or a special occasion but for an entire lifetime.

Caterine Milinaire, fellow Newport resident Sam Bolton, and Gigi Benson at Tuesday night’s screening and dinner at MAD.

Harry, who’s turning 95 in December doesn’t look like he’s half his age, but he has a mind and sensibility that remains half his age. An adult who reaches maturity emotionally. And still there. Listening to him and Caterine talking about different individuals and their habits and their results were enlightening. Mind you, there were no complaints from either. More, there was laughter.

It also happened that yesterday I heard from my friend Schulenberg out in California. I’d told him about my upcoming dinner that night and mentioned Caterine, thinking he might have known her because he too was part of the fashion and magazine worlds.

He sent me this photograph that Caterine took of him in Central Park back in 1961. There is a message in orange written on it to him. He sent his regards.

Caterine’s photograph of Bob Schulenberg in Central Park, 1961. On it she inscribed: “A mon ami Choux Lin Bergue, au souvenir d’une belle journée de printemps sans trop de soileil or caprice/whim/fantasy but just me, Mi Lin air.”

Tuesday night’s screening and dinner at the Museum of Art and Design were ultimately a social portrait. The 200 or so guests (all captured by Patrick McMullan) were many who’ve worked with Harry in his vast array of subjects both here and there and everywhere. So there was the energy of a reunion and reminder of something important, even historical at times, and ultimately the result of this man’s extraordinary talent in capturing a moment significant no matter how common. The truth of it is: he actually saw it and caught for the camera and your eye. Every picture tells a story.

That was the vibe both from the audience at the screening, and then at the table in the museum’s restaurant (Robert) with its fabulous views of Columbus Circle, Broadway and Central Park West at night with all the lights of city life. It brought out a very good vibe in the guests. People were very comfortable with their table partners and the entire room, almost like a family affair. And the main reaction was a warm pleasure of something good and worthwhile in the air.

Gigi Benson and Barbara Tober toasting Harry.

Harry and Barbara Tober.
Wilbur Ross, Hilary Geary Ross, and Christopher Forbes.
Topsy Taylor, Diana Feldman, Gigi Benson, Barbara Tober, Edwina Sandys, and Janis Turk Daniels.
L. to r.: Daniel Chain, Barbara Tober, and Tinu Naija; Friederike Biggs.
Tom Roush, LaVon Kellner, and Gigi Benson.
L. to r.: Edwina Sandys and Jonathan Delano; Ruben Toledo and Chiara Clemente.
Paul and Ursula Striker.
L. to r.: Taki Wise and Etheleen Staley; Robert and Blaine Caravaggi.
Anthony Haden-Guest.
L. to r.: Elbrun Kimmelman; Alison and Leonard Stern.
Amanda Meigher Mariner and Ted Mariner, with Grace and Chris Meigher.
David Friend, Nancy Paulsen, Chris Whipple, and Cary Whipple.
L. to r.: LaVon Kellner, Barbara Tober, and Christopher Mason; John Bratten and Millie Martini Bratten.
Elizabeth Topp and Lisa Vita.
Michele and Marty Cohen.
Susan White and Amy Fine Collins.
Peggy Siegal and Stuart Sundlun.
Brenda LaGrange Johnson, Gigi Benson, and Howard Johnson.
Margot Dougherty, Harry Benson, and Stanley Zareff.
Eleanora Kennedy and Harry Benson.
Sharon King Hoge and Nancy King.
Christopher Forbes and David Patrick Columbia.
Margot Dougherty, David Friend, and M.C. Marden.
L. to r.: Meredith Schott and Oli Coleman; Dina and Walter Bernard.
Tim Rodgers, Matthew Heftler, and Dr. Brian Saltzman.
William Haseltine, Maria Eugenia Maury, Christopher Forbes, and Angela Harold.
John and Eileen Otto.
Reuel Golden, Harry Benson, and Emma Golden.
Daisy Prince and Amy Fine Collins.
Muffie Potter Aston.
Grace Meigher and Dr. Sherrell Aston.
Afsaneh Akhtari and Tim Rodgers.
Luz Miranda and Luis A. Miranda Jr.
Eames Yates and Pam Taylor Yates.
Linda Buckley, Daniel Shasha, Gigi Benson, and Dan Daniels.
Mary Hilliard and Chris Meigher.
Danielle and Jeffrey Hirsch.
Amy Fine Collins and Stefano Tonchi.
Adriana Echevarria, Liz Cohen Hausman, and Michelle Mazzola.
Greg Grimes, Tinu Naiha, Jonathan Marder, and Gigi Benson.

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