Gone with the Wind

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The view of the Hudson River from Hudson National Golf Club in Croton-on-Hudson.

Quiet here in New York as everyone heads into the annual summer holiday weekend; so just to remind we’re running a Diary from this time of the year 15 years ago. Different times, different energy!

This is probably the quietest time of the year for the New York social scene. If they’re going to be out of town, this is the time. The charity galas have come to a complete stop. All the fund raisers are now out in the Hamptons or on someone’s drawing boards for the fall. Many of the familiar faces who see the familiar faces are in Aspen, St. Tropez, Newport, South, East West and Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Watch Hill, Northeast Harbor, etc. The rest of us are here in sweltering ole Manhattan and the only way you’ll see any of what’s left of those familiar faces is to go out to eat.

Roundup. Tuesday night at Swifty’s. I’m sitting near the door (with my digital handy of course). In come Jim Zirin and Marlene Hess with another couple. Jim introduced us: Mr. Rooney (Paul), Katherine who will become Mrs. Rooney next Monday when they’re married by Federal Judge John Keenan.

Marlene Hess, Katherine and Paul Rooney, and Jim Zirin at Swifty’s.

Mr. Rooney is an old friend of Mr. Zirin. Mr. Zirin’s wife Marlene (Hess) is a college classmate (Mills) of Katherine soon-to-be-Mrs. Rooney. As a matter of fact, Katherine and Paul met through the Zirin-Hesses last October, and, as it was explained to me, it was a coup de foudre. Which, as some of us know, happens from time to time, and boy, when it does, watch out. Congratulations and best wishes.

Amy Rosenbloom and Jon Tisch.

Yesterday at lunch it was Michael’s. Handy digital still in my pocket. I get there and there’s a long table in the middle of the diningroom which about ten or twelve (and a couple of empty seats). I see Joan Rivers and Matt Lauer sitting next to each other. And Jonathan Tisch at one end of the table sitting next to Ann Curry.

So I go over and ask what’s up? They’re all there to celebrate the birthday of Amy Rosenbloom. She hadn’t arrived yet. Mrs. Rosenbloom is an important producer at the “Today Show.” So. Joan tells me they’re giving her a birthday surprise. A few minutes later, she comes in, takes one look, puts her hands to her head. OMG! Yesterday was not actually Amy’s birthday. That’s a week from this Saturday, July 21.

Michael’s was jumping on its if-it’s- Wednesday,-it-must-be-media-day. Jeff Greenfield, Michael Kramer and Jerry Della Femina were the only three of the usually six or seven men who’ve been lunching together for the past 25 years. One of the original group missing: Joel Siegel who passed away from colon cancer two weeks ago. Also at tables: Barbara Cirkva and Arie Kopelman, major Hillary fundraiser Alan Patricof and the brilliant former head of the World Bank, Jim Wolfensohn, Linda Janklow and Casey Ribicoff; Peter Price, Alice Mason, Deepak Chopra and son and Bob Friedman, Steven Stolman and Signe Bergstrom, Jolie Hunt of IBM and Courtney Dolan of the FT. A lotta talking taking the decibels up to a new level of Noo-Yawk-Yakking.

Ann Curry, Jim Bell, and Joan Rivers a/k/a Tiny.
Joan Rivers and Matt Lauer.
Marc Victor, Amy Rosenblum, and Don Nash.
Susan Krakower and Jon Tisch.
Matt Lauer, Debbie Kosofsky, and Brian Balthazar.
Noah Oppenheim and Lauren Bellman.

Last night right after the rains refrained, I went down to the newly re-opened Harry Cipriani’s at 59th and Fifth (it re-opened almost two months ago, May 17th) for dinner with artist Rachel Hovnanian, her mother in from Houston, Peg Lee, and her old pal Mark Gilbertson, who’s just in from the Valentino party in Rome (and no matter how many pictures we’d run of that weekend, there are dozens and dozens more we haven’t got to or haven’t seen).

Silvio Berlusconi and Valentino Garavani at VALENTINO’S 45th Anniversary: “TEMPLE of VENUS” in Rome, Italy ©Patrick McMullan.

I hadn’t been to “Chips” since it re-opened and was surprised to see 1. a fabulous new room, enlarged (25 more tables), beautifully paneled and 2. a mad-house of familiar New York faces: Princess Beatrice, whose gram is Queen of England and father is Prince Andrew and ma is the irrepressible duchess, Fergie; “High Rise, Low Down” co-authoress Denise LeFrak and John Colicchio (Mr. and Mrs.), Dixon and Arianna Boardman with Bill Acquavella, Fred and Sharon Klingenstein, Joanne and Roberto de Guardiola, Chris and Grace Meigher, Fred Krimendahl and Emilia Saint-Amand, George Soros and a very pretty dinner companion; Francesca Stanfill and Richard Ney, Somers Farkas with Elaine SargentJon Tisch and his betrothed (they marry in October) Lizzie Rudnick with Ivanka Trump and dozens more of this clamoring crowd which always reminds you that New York’s New York and not like any other.

It all starts with those buttery Cipriani rolls …

If you’ve never been to Cipriani’s – here or in Venice – it’s a phenomenal business that always seems to be crowded with a group of heavy on the international, tycoons, the slicker salesmen of the corporate kind, duchesses, dowagers and leggy blondes ready for the race, society ladies and rockers in bespoke suits. The noise level could compete with any Heavy Metal concert (far more mellifluous however), and it’s about as close as you (as an American) are going to get to a European atmosphere on any given night in New York.

The tables are set very low (my knees touch) which gives everyone passing by the impression of height and gazing down, and they are small, a squeeze, adding to the intimacy about the room. The waiters are pros, elegant, charming and maybe Italian?  The menu is the Cipriani brand of Italian. A bowl of pasta for $39.95, the typical price of an entrée, although if you have to ask, as JP Morgan was once said to have said, “you can’t afford it.” (So go with somebody who can).

… and ends with dessert — preferably the vanilla meringue cake.

A lot of the clientele have been goin’ to Cipriani’s for years and years. They closed down on this spot a couple of years ago, for what was said to be renovations. There were lurking suspicions that it was a restaurant without a location. Or, doomed. You know how these things go with New York and its rents where real estate owners have decided they want the moon and the stars and a matching security deposit. But lo, but no, finally in the middle of last May, Harry Cipriani re-opened their doors again for business. And whatta business they must be doing.

Only In New York: Going out the door, there were four guys in their shirtsleeves peering in the window. One of them (the guy in the picture, second from the left, Michael Berger), was very outgoing and says to me as I walk by: “What is this place?” I tell him it’s a very fancy Italian international restaurant. Not cheap, I say.  “That’s okay,” he says. “I can afford it. I make a million bucks a year.” I don’t know if he’s putting me on or not except this is New York and the guy’s got one of those funny/out front New York personalities.

“A million a year, huh?” I say, impressed. “I bet you make a million a year,” he says to me. “Uh-uh,” I answer, “I’m a poor writer.” “What do you write?” he wants to know. “The New York Social Diary,” I answer. “Oh wow!” he says, “I read that. Where do you get all those pictures?:” We take ‘a lot of them,” I say Michael Berger NYSD-reader, now a man after my own heart. “So what do you do?” I  ask. “Hedge funds,” he says, continuing: “They got anything in there for me?”

Mendy Rosen, Michael Berger (daily NYSD reader), Barry Stein, and Izzy Spritz.

“Well, whatta ya like?” I ask. “Well you know I’m kosher,” he says. “No kidding, I’m kosher too,” I say. “Where’s yer yarmulke?” another one of the guys, Barry Stein, asks. “I left it at home,” I answer. He takes his off and puts it on my head, “there, now you have one.”

So then Berger wants to know more about the food. “I had the curried chicken with rice,” I tell him. And some vegetables. And the tomatoes and mozzarella.” And I gave them a rundown of the menu that I’d noticed. Then he asked if they could go in there. “Probably not without a jacket,” I answered remembering watching Mr. Cipriani turn away men in shorts and men in baseball caps in Venice last month. I don’t know what the dress code is for Cipriani although their clientele looks like they patronize the best Italian tailors at all times. “Oh yeah, we know,” he says about the dress code. “Can I just walk in otherwise?” he asks. “No, you gotta call, make sure they’ve got room. It’s busy in there.”

Then, I asked the guys to line up so that I could take a picture of them standing in front of Cipriani’s for New York Social Diary.

Sergio Vacca and Hassan El Garrahy.

As a matter of fact, speaking of attire at Cipriani, going out the door, I stopped to get a shot of the two men who daily direct the Passing Parade called Harry Cipriani, both well turned out as you can see. Sergio Vacca and Hassan El Garrahy. Hassan and Sergio to you and me and the clamoring crowd.

Hassan is a front-runner for Most Elegant and Best Dressed Man in New York. He always looks like this. Perfecto. Except once I saw him walking down the street with a pretty woman and I didn’t recognize him. He was wearing jeans.

Hassan has something like 69 bespoke suits (no exaggeration) and god knows how many ties and shirts (and shoes and socks). I think he changes twice a day – one for the lunch crowd and one for the evening. That is the style of Cipriani, of their food, their service, their sleek wood paneling and the rich, the chic and the shameless who are practically beating down the doors to get in.

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