Novel friendships

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Looking up from the elliptical courtyard of Bloomberg Tower. Photo: JH.

Thursday, September 23, 2021. The weather in New York has been perfect: right between Autumn and Summer. Yesterday was mostly cloudy and the temp was in the high 70s. It felt warm but not hot. And then rain later on, as it was the night before. As if Mother Nature had sent her man to freshen up the streets. But just perfect.

In the news that won’t bite or sting, my friend Pax Quigley caught this ship arriving at the Piers on the West Side, and three days later — in the evening — departing for the Caribbean. I don’t know if this was a “first” for this time but it was, like all of New York right now, it was a “resumption.”

By day …
And by night.

I had dinner the other night with Susan Magrino, who is a leading public relations guru here in New York. The date was thus. When Susan arrived at table she brought me a bottle of Whispering Angel Rose and a fresh paperback titled Magrino; First Look 2021-2022.

Susan’s First Look book.

Naturally if it’s a book, I open it. And so I did. But it was a book of stories and ads for wines and whiskeys and food and Martha and decorative items such as lamps and crystal chandeliers and island resorts and travel, real estate and linens and … you name it among the beautiful items that draw you in to look more. It took me a few minutes to realize it’s Susan’s firm’s list of clients.

We’ve known each other for years, seeing each other countless times along the way. But as it often is in this great big town, a lot of relationships that are business oriented are frequently the business; it’s nature. But I don’t recall our ever having a three-hour dinner on “where ya been?” and “how’re ya doing?” and what’d you learn? In New York, that can be a novel. And a friendship.

It turned out Susan’s been in her business just about the same time I started the Diary (thirty years ago) when she was representing Martha Stewart. Graduating from Skidmore, she got a job in public relations at Crown Publishers. Crown was just small enough that Susan’s responsibility were large in looking after the authors and their work. Then she had learned enough to leave and start her own business. Martha has been a client for 31 of those years.

So, when we sat down at table at Sette Mezzo dinner, we had those 30 years to talk about. Susan, like her dinner partner, is loaded with experiences, insights and learning. And loves it. Alas, we just got started. We decided that there’s no place like New York, Noo Yawk, no place whatsoever when it comes to the magnificent array of people who make up this amazing city.

Susan on her way to yesterday’s FIT 2021 Couture Council Luncheon.

Catching up on business; back in town. The other night Michelle Clark and Alejandra Cicognani hosted an intimate cocktail party to welcome Giovanni Visone from INTERSOS. The business here is looking after our brothers and sisters. INTERSOS is a humanitarian organization operating on the front lines of emergencies, bringing assistance to victims of armed conflicts, natural disasters and extreme exclusion with particular attention to the protection of vulnerable people.

Their humanitarian workers intervene in 19 countries around the world, such as Chad, Burkina Faso, Jordan, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon Niger, Nigeria, Libya, Central African Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen. The objective is to ensure basic needs, such as education, access to clean water and health assistance, providing first aid, food, shelter, medical assistance and basic goods.

Among those attending the cocktail were Enrica and Fabrizio Arengi Bentivoglio, Veronica Bulgari, Liliana Cavendish, Carole Radziwill, Denise Szekely, Dorotea Szekely, María Sanminiatelli, Beatrice Vincenzini, Mita Corsini & Gerry Bland, Priscilla Rattazzi, Joumana Rizk, and Tess Amodeo-Vickery.

Alejandra Cicognani, Giovanni Visone, and Carole Radziwill.

This past Monday night Peter Brown hosted a book party for his friend Paige Peterson and her neighborhood memoir of a child’s idyllic life, Growing up Belvedere-Tiburon. Readers may be familiar with Paige who occasionally does some special pieces for us. That’s how we discovered “Growing Up Belvedere.”

Click to order Growing Up Belvedere-Tiburon.

It’s Paige’s hometown, although it’s a village, so to speak. Although no one would ever think of it as a hometown. Overall it’s one of those places that is like a small town where people settle in. It’s a special island (and not really exactly an island either – but rather a peninsula off San Francisco). SF is across the water and around the bend but no more than 20 minutes away, but Belvedere is outta town. Way out. To an Easterner or a Midwesterner, it’s like San Francisco – unique and hovering over what used to be almost-paradise – but to its residents, it’s a neighborhood.

To this former small town boy, reading Paige’s book is a treat as it’s  also a history of the place with lots of great b&w photos of another time and another place when California was new to Americans. Those of us who were born and grew up in the second half of the 20th century lived a different childhood from today. And far more creative. Aside from school, you went “out to play,” basically getting introduced to life and living.

The scene at Peter Brown’s.

Growing up Belvedere is reminiscent of the pleasure and the innocence of growing up in a small town atmosphere. It was one of those places where kids went out to play everyday and engaged in all kinds of perfect activities for the little ones learning and naturally preparing to grow up and move away. Although you take your memories with you and even act them out. In Paige’s case, Belvedere sounded like it was a perfect environment for us children who came from the middle of the last century to the present.  Close, but out on the bay and in the hills surrounding still uninhabited, plus the boats.

David Kleinberg, Paige Peterson, and Katrina vanden Heuvel.
Gigi Benson and Beth DeWoody.
Susan Calhoun Moss and Anki Leeds.
Duane Hampton and Sharon Hoge.
L. to r.: Heidi Paige Geist and Imogen Lloyd Webber; Sarah Simms Rosenthal and Peter Heyword.
Anastasia Vournas, Peter Cary Peterson, Bill Uhrig, and Peter Brown.
L. to r.: Harry Benson and Peter Brown; Priscilla Rattazzi and Connie Wiley.
David Kleinberg, Sharon Levy, Dr. Jay Levy, and Katrina Vanden Heuvel.
L. to r.: Vicki Rath, David Gotz, and Judy Miller; Jesse Kornbluth and Nancy Collins.
Liza Lerner and Imogen Lloyd Webber.
Paula Silver, Stefano Hatfield, and Peter Cary Peterson.
Marsha Lasky, Sharon Levy and Connie Wiley.
L. to r.: Joe, Heidi and Kylee Geist; Paige Peterson and Peter Cary Peterson.

Last night I had dinner with Paige and her mother Connie Wiley. Dressed casually in pants with the je ne sais pas and style of CZ Guest. She still lives in Belvedere (60 years later) and made the trip out for her daughter’s book party. Connie is a rather chic woman on sight, a former tennis champion. We talked about living and growing up there where “Everybody had the most beautiful gardens,” she recalled, still in awe. Growing up Belvedere-Tiburon is not only a history but close enough to be a reminiscence of wonderful moments in our own personal pasts and beginnings.

DPC at Paige Peterson’s after dinner talking to her mother covering the territory of life as you get older (Connie is 95 and has a much older sister who is 105). I’m telling her a story about Truman Capote who died at 60. There is a laugh in there for all, even Truman, I’m sure.

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