Schulenberg’s Page: Life in the Big Town

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Brasserie Lipp for Marie Claire magazine, Paris, 1969.

February, 1977: President Jimmy Carter hit the headlines talking from the White House about energy conservation and seemingly, more important than his conservation message was the fact that he wore a cardigan sweater!

It wasn’t a scandal but some people seemed to be upset about it!

Lisa Miller met me for a quick lunch at O’Melia’s on Second Avenue. She was a friend of a friend and had just moved to New York from California and had a million questions about her new city. I told her that Californians seemed to have a lot of luck in Manhattan — and especially blondes!

I told her that she certainly had nothing to worry about!

And the next day I went down to Mary Milton’s apartment. We went for a quiet dinner and I brought her some new samples of fabric jewelry.

I’d read some information about electroplating and realized that the inexpensive “napkin holder” turbo-seashells could be electroplated silver or even gold making them resemble very expensive items!

I’d used them previously in their beautiful natural state (right) and was thinking that if they were electroplated it would be a whole new look. And much more dressy!

Mary was delighted with the new versions and added them to what was growing to become a large collection!

The electroplated ones resembled gold or silver shell sculptures added to the silk necklaces! They were eventually sold to Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus by our sales rep Laura Kruger.

My friend Joyce MacDowell arrived in town for another of her business trips as a buyer for I. Magnin in San Francisco. I’d known her since I was in high school and in spite of San Francisco’s recent 1960s reputation for hippies, drugs, and rock n’ roll Joyce had maintained a previous classic San Francisco look — one that was spare, elegant and very chic! But she was the head buyer for the most elegant women’s clothing store on the west coast at the time so it was no surprise!

I’d just completed a job for Psychology Today and Joyce had invited me to dinner at J.G. Melon which was wonderful as the Psychology job wasn’t a perfect fit for me.

I’d also had a meeting at Fortune magazine in the Time Life Building on Sixth Avenue! They wanted to send me to Chicago to stay in The Drake Hotel and illustrate an article on the hotel’s legendary Cape Cod Room.

I learned later that the hotel was owned by the family of Betsy Drake who’d been married to Cary Grant!

The Cape Cod Room at the Drake Hotel.

Visit, stay in a luxury hotel, dine, draw and get paid a lot to do it! A dream job!

And my brother Richard arrived in Manhattan on a business trip to work at Columbia Records for whom he was the head of Business Affairs for the West Coast. He was a lawyer and that meant he oversaw artists’ contracts and other legalities. He told me that he’d been the person to okay the copyrights for all the characters on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

I was impressed!

So Rich and I met David (DPC) at Dorrian’s Red Hand near my apartment.

They had their own history as David had been advising him about some business affairs!

I’d been in touch with Marilyn Lewis ever since staying with her in her house outside of Washington D.C. where she was opening the first Hamburger Hamlet outside of Los Angeles! She gave me her Chicago number and told me that her home there was right next to the hotel! As we spoke on the phone she asked me to look out of my hotel window and she’d go out onto her terrace to see if she could spot me.

I did, she did, and as we chatted we waved at each other. I invited her to lunch in the Cape Cod Room and included her anonymously in the illustration!

So after that quick trip I was back in Manhattan and still peeking into the lives of others!

Craig Simpson had moved back to California after living in New York but he was visiting his old haunts where in 1961 he and I had shot the first real studio shots of Barbra.

Craig Simpson and friends at one of his old watering holes.
Barbara Streisand photographed by Craig Simpson.

And I met David (DPC) at O’Melia’s again.

With so many people coming into the city it was a welcome respite from my illustration deadlines and jewelry making! There were a lot of orders for the metallic-looking electroplated shells necklaces and Laura Kruger was quite happy about that. She was so respected in the field that I was still thrilled that she was working with us!

A couple days later, Paul Hecht was appearing on Broadway in George Bernard Shaw’s comedy, Caesar and Cleopatra at The Palace Theater. Mary and I, who were friends of Paul’s, went to the opening night.

With Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar and Elizabeth Ashley as Cleopatra it had promise to be an exciting opening! It was good to see that Paul’s billing said he was “also starring”!

After greeting and praising Paul after the performance we went to Sardi’s for a late supper. Mary was wearing a beautiful black silk off-the-shoulder dress (that I’d designed and Ric had made) with a stole made of an exotic Far Eastern Fabric multi-colored striped silk and a lot of fabric jewelry made of the same stuff. She really was gorgeous!

And something amusing occurred at an intermission. By coincidence, there had been a lot of hoopla about the French Collections that had appeared just that day and there was one featured dress by Balmain that had appeared in the Times. It was a ringer for the one Mary was wearing!

One very well dressed woman almost suffered a whiplash when she spotted Mary wearing what she perceived was the dress that had just made an appearance in Paris!

The necklace Mary wore was one I’d just made and it was in the shape of a trident with fabric fantasy flowers of the same fabric at the end of each arm of the trident. When worn, it was meant to be wrapped somewhat like a cravat with the end result being a bouquet of fabric flowers at the throat!

Laura Kruger sold some to Neiman Marcus and I saw them advertised in an illustrated ad in The New Yorker!

That then was life in the Big Town!

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