Monday, September 25, 2023; Raining out there. Since last Friday. Sometimes heavy but four days later it’s light to pouring to sprinkling till you almost think it’s not raining. But it is. It’s not bad though. The weather is cooler. And standing out on my terrace looking at the road and the trees, lighted by then by streetlights, one can see the rains coming down steadily, and calmly. It’s a beautiful comfort (from outside but under the terrace’s roof).
Here in New York the heat doesn’t go on in our apartment buildings until it hits temps in the 50s. Outside it has been cooler but in the 60s. That was considered warm back in April. Now we’re moving into the colder temps. Although you never know; things are changing just like us human inhabitants right now. And with this rain-no-Sun-weather, the inside is much cooler too. Sweaters and warm tea helps. But it’s nice, it’s good and at least the weather’s stable and the streets are quiet.
And this past weekend on the Great Lawn of Central Park, the Global Citizen Festival held its annual mega-concert. A lotta noise and lotta headliners, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ms. Lauryn Hill, and Sofia Carson.
Paige Peterson, whose apartment on Central Park West overlooks the Park, told me over the weekend that she was watching people (she’s on a lower floor with a good view of the street) covered in plastic bags waiting to get into the festival. And that was late in the afternoon. It was evidently going on for a few more hours, or maybe all night? And it wasn’t warm.
Their collective mission, as stated, is to End Extreme Poverty NOW. A noble cause, indeed. We can only hope the money raised gets to those who really need it. That noise turned to silence on Sunday evening, however, as our Jewish brethren reflect on the past year and celebrate their holiest day, Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement.”
Let’s hope for the best. There was one night last week when I had invitations with two different events: the first being the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, and the second being a birthday dinner Katherine Bryan was hosting for herself at a tiny little restaurant called Al Vaporetto, although architecturally it’s part of the Antonucci Cafe main dining room.
This room has its own entrance just north of the restaurant. Ironically I’ve been to Antonucci many times for years and never noticed this separate dining room prepared just for this: a private party for any occasion.
I’d received the Friends of the Upper East Side invitation first, and because I live in that neighborhood and its history always fascinates, I wanted to go to see what I might learn at this special dinner. So I accepted. Then almost a week later I was invited by Katherine Bryan to a birthday dinner she was giving for herself.
Katherine is a friend and I knew it would be of interest specifically because she was the hostess. And so I sent a message of regrets to the Upper East Side Friends dinner to go to Katherine’s birthday dinner. If it were anybody else I probably wouldn’t have canceled my first invitation.
So, what was it like? The Birthday Party. You walk into a very narrow dark paneled room with a very long dining table set for 18 or 20 (I didn’t get the number). I was one of the first guests — called for 7:30 — I got there about 7:40. By 7:50, the room was full.
I’ve known Katherine for years. George Gurley, her eldest son (she has three), did a piece on me in the New York Observer many years ago. Katherine also has a house in Palm Beach and one in East Hampton but New York is really her home in her head. She grew up in Kansas City or thereabouts and went to Sarah Lawrence and became forever familiar with the East Coast, and especially New York. But then she went back home and married Mr. Gurley and had George. Divorce brought her back to the destination that has impressed her ever since. She’s married twice and had two more sons since, but her last husband died suddenly a few years ago.
You go to a birthday dinner expecting to have a nice dinner and possibly have interesting dinner partners. There are toasts and the cake and candles and cocktails for those desire. Al Vaporetto is like its papa, Antonucci. And the food is classic Venetian and always excellent.
At Katherine’s dinner, it had those qualities but also a wait staff that was very efficient. That is except for one, which I probably shouldn’t mention except she was in a moment obnoxious almost as if when-she-wanted-to be. Then she started yelling at one of the guests! And at one point she threw a tantrum and marched back to wait table at the back of the restaurant.
A plain looking women, young, red haired but basically an unkempt bush tied back with what looked like a rag. At another point she walked out of the restaurant and into the street as if maybe she’d had it. We could see this through the windows.
The next thing you knew, she came in, walked through the restaurant in a suppressed-rage about something. And into the back of house I saw her tear off her serving gloves and throw up her hands and leave (through the back door).
Nobody had EVER seen a waitress at a dinner (and it wasn’t hot dogs and cheeseburgers and fries) behave that way. I said to Katherine, “Did you see that?!”
“Yes,” she replied, “she’s always like that but she’ll be back.” Really?
So dinner continued and suddenly a woman, a singer, in a low cut strapless blue gown and a mass of reddish hair (long) entered doing a “chanteuse-you honey” happy birthday, with music accompanying, as you can see in the photos. Great voice, great performance, and at the very end, funny and sweet.
What are you thinking? Well, well, the chanteuse who was putting on the show in her low-cut, strapless ….. was the waitress.
Katherine had met her at someone else’s dinner party where she played the same role (waitress — really rude and snarly) and transformed into the chanteuse, soft and bright, and amusing and kinda funny putting it out there. It’s always a hit.
It turned a talkative birthday dinner into a good natured mystery and Bridget Balkan’s act. Actors act, and Bridget is total when she’s up to it. Very nice lady.
It was a happy birthday to Katherine Bryan.
Now, back to business. On the same night, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts held its annual 2023 Ambassador to the Upper East Side Award at the Metropolitan Club.
Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts has been one of New York’s leading preservation organizations for more than 40 years. This year the award was given to Thom Browne, the American fashion designer, and Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu curator in charge of The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The organization recognized Browne and Bolton for their contribution to preserving the majesty of the Upper East Side through the careful renovation of their home on Sutton Place, a Georgian townhome overlooking the East River designed in 1920 by Mott Schmidt for Anne Vanderbilt. This is a house with a glamorous history in relationship to its closest neighbors. Renovated with deep consideration for its provenance, they updated the property with great respect and tremendous design sense, creating an exceptional tribute to the history and aesthetic of this important building.
Andrew Bolton added: “We are thrilled to accept this award from an organization dedicated to protecting the history and culture of this part of New York City.”
Browne and Bolton purchased the house in 2019 from the estate of Drue Heinz and worked closely with designer David Kleinberg to actualize their plans for the three-year renovation; making great effort to update as needed with great consideration for the original planning.
Anna Marcum, Executive Director of Friends of the Upper East Side, said that “Thom and Andrew’s phenomenal renovation of the property exemplifies how historic preservation fortifies the Upper East Side’s sense of place. Their home beautifully illustrates how architecture, fashion, and art are intimately connected,” adding, “We are delighted to honor them with this award.”
Alina Cho and Kent Barwick served as Honorary Chairs for the dinner. Co-chairs included Amy Fine Collins, Alexandra and Philip Howard, Jill and Harry Kargman, Christian Keesee and Larry Keigwin, David Kleinberg, Ann and John Pyne, and Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch.
Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, founded in 1982, is an independent, not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the architectural legacy, livability, and sense of place of the Upper East Side. Friends has been instrumental in the designation of the neighborhood’s 131 individual landmarks and seven historic districts, encompassing a total of 1,907 protected buildings.
On a day-to-day basis, Friends serves as the eyes and ears of the neighborhood, a source of information for residents and property owners, and an active and reasoned voice in public decisions that affect the historic and cultural resources of the Upper East Side.
And a Good Night was had by all.
The rain started right after all that so everyone got home dry.