Monday, June 15, 2020. Beautiful late Spring weekend in New York. We went into it with temps in the low 80s and sunny, to the low 70s on Sunday, also with lots of Sun. The trees are now in full bloom, still very fresh and green, and Sunday’s skies were the bluest of blue with an occasional little white cloud smiling by now and then.
That was the good news. The city is waking up. Even this past weekend – when things are ordinarily quieter — it seemed busier. It is a lifting of weight for all of us. The openings are occurring in stages. I don’t know what I’m talking about when I write that; I’m simply repeating what I’ve heard. The restaurants will open after the barbers open. Why? You need to get your hair cut before you go out to dinner? What do I know?
I had the great good fortune on Sunday to be visited by Lyudmilla who’s been giving me a haircut for the past almost 20 years. (And she doesn’t look a day older.) I last saw her the first week in March. She came to my apartment yesterday morning. One of the things I like about her is that she’s quick and thorough. I never had a visiting haircutter before. It has its convenient aspect although I still like going out to the shop — seeing the world and feeling like I’m back in it.
Today we were granted the privilege of a selection of the work of Mary Hilliard, the distinguished fashion/social photographer. Mary would be a little embarrassed by my description of her talent, but it is true. She has an eye for elegance that satisfies the viewer’s curiosity. Part of it is her personality. It’s sunny and kindly but serious, and she gets what her subjects are trying to do with their fashions. Furthermore she likes the subject.
All of these photos were taken at the New York Public Library black tie events between 1987 and 2009. Several were taken at the Library’s annual Library Lions Dinner which is always held in November and is one of the most prestigious of the annual fund-raising gala dinners in New York. Others were taken at a variety of dinners the Library hosts annually.
The actual Library Lions are in fact those leonine sculptures by sculptor Edward Clark Potter, so named Patience and Fortitude, in the 1930s by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, placed at the ready on either side of the entry steps of the majestic Beaux-Arts building since its opening on more than a century ago, on May 23, 1911.
The dinner is the largest annual event that the Library hosts. It’s a glittering affair. Brooke Astor was a devoted supporter and attended many of the evenings, having been honored herself. When she’d arrive and see Mary’s camera at work, she’d be sure to ask Mary to wait until she’d checked her wrap so that you could see her resplendence in pearls, diamonds, and emeralds. In a very real way, that visual describes the sense of the evening. The gold, of course, are/were the writers and artists being honored for their work. All of the glamour portended was ultimately a tribute to them.
The evening begins with cocktails, of course, and then on to the Reading Room for the brilliant dinner for several hundred. The grandeur of the room and what it represents and reflects, along with the visuals and the personalities all about, make it unique as a public dinner.
You will see some very familiar faces in Mary’s work, including a number of those who have since left us. You can be sure they were all very glad to be there, and very glad to support the New York Public Library.