Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Sunny but chilly in New York yesterday. The forsythia buds are budding in the park next door. A good sign.
Stuff. Seven years ago this week, I made a brief appearance on Gossip Girl. I mention this only because in yesterday’s mail was an envelope from Warner Brothers Television. I’d got them before although this seemed thicker. But no, it was…a check. A residual check!! Really!! I think I get them every quarter (I’m not sure).
My role on the show that day was a No-Role-At-All , except I was in the story as myself, NYSD columnist in this particular segment. I took the offer when it came my way because it also meant three thousand bucks. For which, basically, all I had to do was show up on the set at 7:30 am. And now, seven years later, a check!
This one was for $29.98. Yes, that’s all. But it’s thirty bucks I wasn’t planning on; always a good luck omen. And as I said, my role was one up from a bump-on-a-log, except I was wearing a suit and tie. Did it feel ridiculous when they were shooting it? Yeah, but so what. It was a nice cast and crew. I wrote about it at the time). And all I can say is: keep those checks coming gang. You never know when it’s gonna come in handy, as they used to say. I also thought about the size of the checks coming to the regular cast. Whoa! Even more good news for them!!
Yesterday’s Diary about the house on East 74th Street that will be this year’s Kips Bay Showhouse (opening on May 1st) drew a lot of comments, but also from a couple of women I know, one who once lived,and one who lives on the same block today. Author and columnist Julie Baumgold grew up across the street from that house at Number 36, in another large townhouse (there aren’t any small ones on these Upper East blocks from Park Avenue to Fifth). And Priscilla Ullman, the interior designer and lifelong New Yorker — whom we’ve interviewed in our HOUSE section — has been living on this particular block for a number of years.
It’s always interesting to hear about neighborhoods anywhere. It lends a sense of continuity and even calm (despite the storms) in our world. Julie, for example, recalled how she used to roller skate the sidewalks when she was a kid. That was a popular activity for those of us who grew up mid-20th century. I did the same on my street up in Massachusetts. Julie, however, used to roller skate around the neighborhood with her friend Jill Clayburgh. That kind of connection is what separates New York from any small town, of course. Julie grew up to become a columnist and author, and Ms. Clayburgh…well, you get the picture.
The history of 36 that I wrote was not quite accurate I also learned. The house where the Showhouse will be, was last owned by a Chinese businessman who lived there for more than 18 years. Some time ago, he moved back to Hong Kong, which is probably why it is up for sale.
Even in New York, people know, or know about, their neighbors. There are several reasons, but the basic one is that we see each other frequently, often every day, walking or arriving or leaving our domiciles. The relationships between us rarely go beyond familiar sightings, many with names not known. But it all creates a sense of place that defines community. Nevertheless, all of these neighborhoods are in transition. To what, remains to be seen. Madison Avenue as one has seen or sees, one of the prime shopping destinations in the world, is growing wan as a result of the many empty storefronts.
This past Monday night I was invited to the premiere screening of a new film The Chaperone, starring join Elizabeth McGovern, Haley Lu Richardson, Victoria Hill, Géza Röhrig, Matt McGrath, and written by Julian Fellowes. The film was directed by Michael Engler and is based on a book by Laura Moriarty on the life Louise Brooks.
For the many who do not know who Louise Brooks is, or was, she was a great silent screen star in the 1920s, whose life story turned out to be — four or five decades later — a kind of anti-Norma Desmond, the iconic character created by Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. Brooks had a sensational career that flamed out. She was also tired of it, including the life, and walked away from it by the end of the decade. She faded into a storybook (for a movie star) obscurity here in New York. But, as this is why her story had legs; she emerged in the 1970s, also here in New York, as a writer, memoirist, and a pathfinder for women. And she became famous again as well as an independent woman, an icon of both past and present.
I wasn’t aware of the subject of the film when I got the invitation. I wanted to see whatever Julian Fellowes was writing. And, it was a Peggy Siegal screening. A Peggy Siegal screening is a Hollywood’s “own” publicity screening. Peggy is a New York figure who’s been doing what she does since the late ’80s although she really doesn’t look old enough to have started back then.
The story takes place in Wichita, Kansas in the late19-teens, early ’20s. The Louise Brooks in the story was witty early, and very talented as a dancer and performer. It takes us to the young girl’s first trip to New York where she not long after became a dancer with the Ruth St. Denis/Ted Shawn modern dance company. She’s “chaperoned” (her mother couldn’t leave Wichita because of ther obligation) by a neighbor played by Ms. McGovern. It’s in many ways, a quiet film about early 20th century middle-American life that goes to the New York — already the magnet for creative types in that day . But underneath that quiet story is a rumbling of personality, lots of hopes, dreams, fears — for both her chaperone, and this young woman who seemed to fly above it all. It is beautifully filmed and creates a visually alluring sense of New York a century ago.
The screening was held at MoMA’s Titus 1 Theater, and followed by a reception at Rainbow Room. It brought out a big crowd of 200 or 300 hundred (my guess) including the film’s director, Michael Engler (who has directed “Downton Abbey,” “30 Rock,””Six Feet Under), as well as Sir Julian and Lady (Emma) Fellowes, and Ms. McGovern and her husband, the director Simon Curtis.
In the crowd: Eric Alterman, Lynn and Bob Balaban, Richard Cohen, Virginia and Peter Duchin, Thom and Caroline Deane, John Glover, Audrey Gruss, Michael Mailer, Dayssi and Paul Kanavos, Victoria Wyman, Ara and Rachel Hovnanian, James Ivory, John and Debbie Loeffler, Roberta Amon, Victoria Amory, Jill Kargman, Christopher Mason, Santo Loquasto and John Quilty, Carol and Earl Mack, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Ivana Lowell, Jim Reginato of Vanity Fair, Daisy and Hugh Chisholm, Nan and Gay Talese, Ben Widdicombe, Haley Lu Richardson, Sally Singer, and many many others. A great night in New York.
Photographs by StarPix©2019 (Chaperone)