In the Pursuit of Ambition

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A Checker Taxi sighting. Photo: JH.

Monday, January 30, 2023. A dreary weekend in New York just passed; grey skies, cool (but not cold) temps in the low 50s by day, 40s by night; still snowless.

But no matter the weather, in New York there are always points of change particularly with women who have made their way and their reputations here. The inspiration for this diary began with a photo I saw yesterday in the New York Post of Bianca Jagger.

Bianca Jagger with her much-talked-about doo/@biancajagger

The Post obviously ran it for the same reason I looked at it. Because it radically changed the image of one of the most photographed women for the last half century, to suddenly (to these eyes anyway) make a real change that deems her new image unrecognizable.

Her new coiffure also reminded me of the now legendary uber-social figure Jayne Wrightsman who is remembered (in stone) for her and her husband’s 18th century French furniture collection now in residence at the Metropolitan Museum. Mrs. W. was also one who made transformative image changes in her own life when in her 20s when she met Mr. Wrightsman — but that’s another story.

For Bianca Jagger it looks almost as if it changed her personality. Not that it did, but she no longer represents or suggests any image of a “rocker’s” first wife that we’ve been looking at for the past forty years. Youth is gone but substance is established.

For me, this weekend was about the women. I received an email yesterday from Yanna Avis who is in Cambodia, with photographs of the hotel where she is staying. Yanna is also a New Yorker, a Parisian by upbringing, but of Italian descent. She began her life pursuing an acting career. And later established herself as a chanteuse. Somewhere along the line she married Warren Avis, the tycoon who founded the famous rent-a-car business that bears his name. She moved here for her husband, but continues to pursue her career.

Yanna Avis
The chanteuse arrives at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor.

Gale Hayman.

Then, this past Thursday, I was a guest at a small dinner hosted by Gale Hayman and her husband Dr. Richard Bockman at La Goulue. Gale, as you may know, is an international beauty consultant with products to match her work. Back when Bianca Jagger was the first wife of Mick Jagger, Gail was married to a Beverly Hills fashion retailer and created the fragrance Giorgio, which was an enormous blockbuster in its day. Fragrances remain very important in her current business.

Guests at the table were Marc Rosen — who coincidentally is about to market a new fragrance for which he designed the concept and the bottle; Peggy Siegal, the super-press agent for Hollywood films — most recently involved in the marketing of photographer/ filmmaker Bruce Weber’s brilliant documentary of Paolo Di Paolo the Italian photographer.

Gal pals Peggy Siegal and Candace Bushnell. Photos: Patrick McMullan

Then also at table was Candace Bushnell, the author/journalist who once wrote a popular column in the New York Observer. She later adapted that into a best-selling book which was the basis for the huge hit series Sex and the City. But you know all that. She is now preparing for her fascinating one woman show this Spring for her second year at the Café Carlyle where Bobby Short performed for years. The Café is a very smart and intimate restaurant/club that features topflight musical and theatrical entertainment. It’s the ultimate class act for top performers.

I didn’t think of it at the time, but this past week I had the pleasure of being surrounded by all of this engaging, talented personality. All of these women, including Ms. Jagger, came to New York with their dreams, to make their way in the world pursuing the subjects of personal interest. And all were enormously successful in the pursuits of their ambition.

Conversation with any of the above is always engaging and informative. It’s all natural ambition, fresh and unadorned. Curiosity and ambition. I mention the word twice because socially it is often regarded as a negative trait especially for women. And at the same time, a gift.  It is very important in all our lives. And these personalities, with their personalities, talents, and vibes made my day.

It also made me think of the social Women of the first half of the 20th century. Also New York women with the unadorned ambition, entirely self-created personalities, like movie stars, but social stars — Babe Paley and CZ Guest. Artists really; social artists who always looked GOOD.

Babe Paley photographed by Horst P. Horst.

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