Schulenberg’s Page: Only in New York!

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The scene at Joe Allen's, August 19th, 1976.

August, 1976: On the 11th, the Republican Party platform voted to not endorse the Equal Rights Amendment for Women during the Republican Convention. First Lady Betty Ford was stunned, furious and appalled. Days later, Ronald Reagan was nominated but President Ford won the nomination for President!

And I met Beth Rudin and Jim DeWoody at Willy’s on Second Avenue a few blocks down from my apartment. Just as we were finishing, a very drunk man caused enough of a scene that the management called for the police to come and take care of the situation!

I had introduced Beth and Jim and they were now spending a lot of time together.

Rick Mendez had graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara where he had been a friend of Beth’s. Beth had introduced me to Rick to help me with my fabric jewelry project. Though studying dance at the Martha Graham School Rick could sew anything! He told me he’d learned how to sew by making costumes with a theater group although he initially was fascinated watching his grandmother sewing and making clothing!

I didn’t know how to sew and had rather accidentally made the first fabric bracelet out of a bandanna. I thought of gluing jewels onto it as a gift for my friend, Barbra Streisand. I thought it would appeal to her love of high/low style — the idea of something ordinary being transformed into something extra-ordinary — an idea we both shared!

Before I could add the jewels to the bandanna, a friend who was a jewelry designer visited me in my apartment. Upon seeing it, she took me and the bandanna-bagel to her sales rep who thought it was a marketable idea.

Barbra never got the original bracelet, but I was in a rush to get it out into the world before someone else did!

And Rick was going to figure out how to make them!

I met with him at the Empire Diner and we planned a strategy.

I walked him back to Chelsea to his apartment and went home feeling a bit more confident about everything.

I had taken to riding my bicycle everywhere. It cleared my mind and even gave me new ideas as I saw the city in a different way. I was riding through Central Park and while watching a juggler, struck up a conversation with a young guy who told me his name was Adrian Benepe and that he was going to school in Vermont at Middlebury College. He was very enthusiastic about almost everything and since young people in Manhattan tend to be somewhat blasé about life in general I was impressed!

Noting that I was riding a bicycle he told me how much he loved the park and how great it was to be able to bike ride as if it were in the country.

He saw my sketchbook and asked if I were an artist and shared that his father Barry Benepe was also an artist. He also said that his father was trying to close the park to major traffic and had just opened a farmers’ market on Second Avenue at 59th Street. We could have talked for hours but I had to go.

Years later I learned that his father had also conceived the Union Square Greenmarket and other urban farmers’ markets.

Much later I learned that he himself, Adrian, had become the Parks Commissioner for New York City and was the longest to serve in that position since Robert Moses!

After Adrian’s retirement in 2012 he oversaw the partnership that led to The High Line Park and The Brooklyn Bridge Park! In 2020 he became the CEO and President of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and has been called “A visionary horticultural leader”!

A recent photo of Barry and Adrian Benepe with current NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver (left) and Polly Trottenberg, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

How appropriate that I met him in Central Park! New York really was like a village and every resident still has at least one thing in common with another!

While making my rounds in midtown another one act play was taking place in front of Grand Central Station.

Just like with most of them it appears that I’ve arrived during the second act of the drama with no idea what happened in the first act. Of course, I would also not know what the third act would offer or even if there would even be a third act! God only knows how many dramas were playing out on other sidewalks in other locations! I couldn’t wait to find out as I was meeting someone at Martell’s on Third Avenue.

And that evening Mary Milton and I went to dinner at Joe Allen’s.

My old friend Carlos Clarens whom I’d known in Paris stopped by quickly to have a drink and meet Mary, but he was there for such a short time I didn’t get to draw him!

And the next day was more running around on appointments that now included fashion editors and buyers as well as art directors! It was getting busier than ever! Meanwhile Rick was actively making necklaces for an order for the boutique, Sharon Bovaird!

For a break I met Bill Rilling for dinner in Chinatown. I hadn’t gotten to see him much since he, Gary Van Kirk, and I stopped spending weekends at our rented tenant house on Connie Bartel’s New Jersey farm, Greentrees, on the Delaware River.

So much had taken place since I’d seen him and I told him all the details of the fabric jewelry project. After dinner we went to have dessert on the terrace of the Riviera on Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village.

It was a warm Friday night and the Village was in full swing! It was great to just relax and enjoy the experience!

It was a break from a week that had been hectic and Sunday would be a day that I’d be making fabric bracelets and necklaces with the fabric that I’d hunted down during that same hectic week!

And then there’d be another busy week waiting for me!

What was I getting myself into?

I had lunch with Katrina “Muffin” Wood who was the jewelry designer that started me out on this journey. I told her about all the things that were happening and (laughing) that I wasn’t sure if I should thank her or be angry with her! She totally understood, having been there.

And the next day I saw Jessica Robinson and Peter Rogers.

Peter had an advertising agency and had invented famous advertising phrases that were familiar to just about everyone! The most famous one was probably “What Becomes a Legend most?”

So it was another week with more people.

And more counsel and encouragement from Muffin.

Rick and I needed it.

Really needed it!

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