The “power” people

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The cherry blossoms along Park Avenue just a few days ago. By now, they have shed their flowers which have been replaced by green leaves. Photo: JH.

Friday, April 30, 2021. “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November, All the rest have thirty-one except February …” I think I learned that in the first grade (back when we were taught to read, thank God). And I still repeat it to myself all these many years later because otherwise I might forget! 

We have had two nice days in New York with the temps over the 70 and no humidity and no breezes. Maybe it’s the experience of the past year in New York, but the City looks especially beautiful this Springtime. And it does something for the people on the streets. You can see it in their walk.

The last of the Cherry blossoms on Park Avenue.

This past Wednesday I went to Michael’s for the second time in almost a year. They opened last week on Wednesday. Michael’s was part of my re-education when I returned to New York from Los Angeles after almost twenty years, and I was learning about having a closer look at the city and its people. 

In 1997, I was hired by Judy Price to be the Editor-in-Chief of Avenue, a local, highly successful monthly that Mrs. Price, an alumni of a Time-Life training started herself and ran for more than 25 years. It was Judy who took me for the first time to Michael’s, which was her favorite luncheon spot. Because… as she explained, it was well-known as a meeting place for members of the media and publishing sets, as well as financial people whose Wall Street offices were midtown.

The standing view from DPC’s table at Michael’s. Soon-to-be full up!

I had first heard of Michael’s in Los Angeles where its chef-owner Michael McCarty first opened a restaurant out there in the early ’80s. From the start it had a reputation of being so exclusive that they had an unlisted telephone number. Of course, in L.A. (i.e. Hollywood), an unlisted number was something you had to have if you were somebody. I wasn’t, and besides that it was known as a high-end eatery hosting the stars and the swells around them, and it was “expensive.” And I was a poor, struggling writer.

However, I did know people who went there and they all raved about the food. Although one friend of mine, who took his wife there to celebrate an anniversary, complained about the prices. He was especially miffed by his raspberry cream dessert: $2.95! I understood, at the time. This was in 1982.

Michael’s chef-owner Michael McCarty in his Malibu kitchen holding a glass of his Pinot Noir.

Their “unlisted” phone number turned out to be an accident made by Pacific Tel which put the Reservation line in the ladies room, and the ladies room line at the front door. This was the “unlisted” number that became a prize to all those moguls and their willing slaves. Michael’s still resides in Santa Monica and I think it re-opened last week. But my focus is of course on my relationship with New York. 

I learned back then from Judy Price that Wednesdays were the big day guest-wise at Michael’s in New York. How that was determined, I don’t know. But in order to familiarize myself with the scene I was newly inhabiting, I made a point of reserving a table on Wednesdays.  And I wasn’t disappointed. 

All restaurants that deal with “power” people have their sections which are favored by the “almighty” and Michael’s is no exception. And also practical – the tables near the front of the restaurant and the windows on the street are very popular with those who know. It is also true that the back part of the restaurant overlooks a little garden of the building that it’s located in —  and that section is also popular with a certain group. 

As it happened, when I was a newcomer my table was not quite that well located. But I had the good luck to be seated in the entrance area across from the bar, overlooking the main room. Which is where I’ve remained for the past 24 years. And gladly: I get to see everyone coming and going. In full flourish.

Which takes me to this photograph of these women which was taken this past Wednesday at their table outside in front of Michael’s restaurant. I don’t know all of them but I am familiar with all of them for two reasons: They have been meeting at Michael’s (on Wednesdays and maybe other days at times) for years, altogether as they are now, and they are all well known, respected, and even celebrated in their fields. In other words: an impressive group. And steady friends.

They are from l. to r.: Ellen Futter (standing), Jurate Kazickas, Anna Quindlan, Linda Fairstein (standing behind), Esther Newberg, Lynn Sherr, and Faye Wattleton.  And that’s Michael’s GM Steve Millington who loves his job.

I know all of these ladies/women/girls by sight because I’ve seen them for years (although they don’t look it) meeting at the big round table in the window (which is behind them in the photo) inside. I know some of them personally in varying degrees. But I’ve observed them coming and going and congregating,  and I’m always aware that they are all working girls: They don’t look like the popular idea of Power Women, but they all are, each and every one, powerful in their fields of interest.

With my natural curiosity I always wonder what they talk about. There’s so much experience of life and legend at that one table that I wonder who talks about their amazing lives. I’ll never know, and it’s none of my business but I do know from my years of observation that they are all very serious women in their work. And what they have in common is that they are all individuals who have friends to meet for lunch. At Michael’s.

After lunch at Michael’s (with Gillian Miniter), we walked up Fifth Avenue since it was a beautiful day. This Bulgari entrance speaks to us: a power where the source is beauty.

And then, right across 57th Street on the corner is Van Cleef & Arpels, and they too are on the wavelength to delight.
Life imitating art.

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