The luck of the draw

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Rolling clouds above Park Avenue. 5:00 PM. Photo: JH

Thursday, October 3, 2019.  The weather for the past few days has been warm like summer but not as humid.  It’s been like Fall — in the mid-70s to the mid-80s. Yesterday it hit the low 90s for a few. However, the weatherman forecast rain in the next few days which will bring a much cooler New York. More like Fall. The days are shorter, along with it. New Yorkers now turn their headlights on around 6:15-6:30 at the latest.

There’ll be a change in the weather,
change in the sea.
From now on there’ll be a change in me…

I can’t help it; the weather often reminds me of popular songs from the last century, the so-called American Songbook. Often when I go out for the evening, I put on my late great friend Barbara Carroll’s recordings of that Songbook in her improv/jazz style. I do it for the dogs; the kind companionship of the human voice that’s calm and caring — and not Dave yelling orders. Then when I get home, I tend to keep the music on.

I’ve got several of Barbara’s albums totaling dozens of songs. On an occasional cut she sings along with her piano. I’ve listened to these songs probably thousands of times. Time has changed what I am hearing. Now, more than ever, the lyrics are messages of our feelings for life, for others. But kind and compassionate. Drama is key but love and kindness is the reward to those lyrics. I think of the creative imagination of those lyricists and composers who made them. Their attitude/point of view is currently asleep in contemporary culture. That’s nature, but the words never lose their meaning (aka advice).

Looking south along Park Avenue from 53rd Street.

New York, New York. I went to a marvelous party last night (to borrow the title of a song by Noel Coward). Mark Gilbertson gives an annual cocktail reception at the beginning of the autumn social season. Longtime NYSD readers have read about it before. 

There’s nothing new to say because it’s the same every year. About 450 of Mark’s friends and acquaintances are invited (and show up) about this time in a large reception room in one of those old New York men’s clubs.

You see many of the same guests year after year. It’s kind of like going to a class reunion. Many look forward just to seeing old friends. And then there are the new friends of the old. I like this kind of party because if nothing else you can people watch. For me people-watching is endlessly interesting and informative. You don’t even have to know them; you can just take it in. 

Because of the dynamics of New York life, large social gatherings tend to have an overall purpose, either philanthropic, religious, or financial. Mark’s party carries no weight. The dress-code is traditional: jacket and tie for the men, and a comfortable dressy-ish dress for the women. There’s nothing original or remarkable, except the nowadays rarer pleasure of getting together with a group of people for the pleasure of the company.

Mark’s always given parties as long as I’ve known him (25+ years). He likes the role of host. It’s actually the most interesting way to go to a party: if you give it, you don’t have to socialize or do anything other than keeping the drinks and hors d’oeuvres passing around. I didn’t take any photos but Cutty McGill was there and snapping away and we’ll see some of his work here tomorrow.

The crowd at Mark’s.

Yesterday was the 43rd birthday of my esteemed NYSD partner Jeff Hirsch – better known to readers as JH. It was nineteen years ago this fall that we first put together this site. It was an idea I had been considering for years but had been suddenly motivated by a turn of events, to either do it or drop it. 

At the time Jeff had come on as my assistant at Judy Price’s Avenue magazine where I was editor. The plan required my resigning at the magazine, so, out of courtesy, I told Jeff one day what I was about to do. 

He had been fresh out of college, a New York born-and-bred boy, as we all do in the beginning, embarking on a making a professional life. His response to my plan was polite if not quite indifferent. It was at that moment that it occurred to me that I knew nothing about the technology (which generally remains so) and this “kid” – he was 23 – was from the generation that grew up on digital. So I asked him if he wanted to join me in the venture. And he just as casually said: Yes. That was wisest decision or a touch of very good luck for this writer.

DPC and JH at Swifty’s, the day after leaving Avenue magazine to start up the NYSD in 2000. The enthusiasm on my face makes me laugh now.

The deal was we are 50/50 partners. The result is self-evident. From the beginning to this writing, everything visual is created by Jeff, including many of the photographs of scenes around and about the city (and wherever else he might go). He has a natural eye for beauty. It’s simply the way he sees things. In those 19 years we, along with the enormous input of our creative contributors, have turned out thousands of Diaries, guest diaries, party pictures and archival pieces, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.

All of this has been organized, designed, even frequently edited by JH for everyone including this writer. He has naturally impeccable taste as well as the rare common sense. We do see eye-to-eye on many things and rarely have any disagreement. Getting it done and out there is the overriding objective. 

My favorite part of this story is that in all the 21 years we’ve worked together, we have never worked in the same building together. 90% of our communication is by phone or digital. In fact for two people who work so closely together on a daily basis, we see each other usually about once every week or so. It’s all been a great gift in my eyes, from the birthday boy himself.

And closing the (Song)book. On September 16th, as you read here, The American Theatre Wing held its annual Gala, dubbed the “Say YES to Artists Gala,” celebrating the legacy of Jonathan Larson and the Larson Family at Cipriani 42nd Street. Nearly $1.4 million was raised in support of the Wing’s programs with an additional $100,000 raised for the Larson Legacy Fund, ensuring the Wing can continue saying “YES” to emerging musical theatre artists through the Jonathan Larson® Grants program.

Matt McCollum and Julie Larson.

We were also celebrating the Wing’s 102 years of supporting strong and fearless voices in the American Theatre.

The evening’s entertainment featured the work of composers and lyricists who have been the recipients of the Jonathan Larson Grant. The program began with a performance of “Come to Your Senses” from Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick… BOOM! sung by Krysta Rodriguez. Also participating in the performances were Norm Lewis performing “Part of a Painting” by Benj Pasek and Justin PaulNikki M. James performing “Lighten Up” by Shaina TaubHailey Kilgore performing “Pretty” by Kirsten Childs; the cast of Love in Hate Nation performing “Revolution Song” by Joe IconisBrandon Victor Dixon performing “Memory Song” by Michael R. JacksonNick BlaemireLauren MarcusAndy MientusKrysta Rodriguez, and Jason Tam performing “The Truth is a Lie” by Jonathan Larson; and culminated with original Rent cast members Daphne Rubin-Vega and Fredi Walker-Browne joining the cast in singing “Seasons of Love.”

Oren Michaels, Brisa Trinchero, and Mark Carleton.
L. to r.: Drew Cohen, Bonnie Comley, and Stewart Lane; Norm Lewis.
Rita Fucillo and Meg Fofonoff.
L. to r.: Terry Nadozzi and Dr. Pietro Marghella; William Ivey Long and Anki Leeds.
Joe Carrol, Frank DiLella, Ryan Hallett, and Mark Seeley.
Charles Revson, CeCe Black, Diana Revson, and Lee Black.
Renee Landegger and Rachel Hauck.
David Henry Hwang, William Ivey Long, Ted Chapin, Heather Hitchens, and Felix Cisneros III.
Gilman Table.

Photographs Annie Watt (ATW)

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