This, that, and them of the New York life

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Making our way back into town. 4:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Monday, January 9, 2023. A very mild early winter weekend in New York. I can’t say I minded it. It is easier to get around and nice not to bundle from head to toe to cross the street. I’ve lived in New York (in the 1960s) when the snow first came in mid-to-early November and accumulated for the next four months.

… It  was possible in this wonderful city, for that boy – for any of its millions – to have a decent chance to scale the walls and achieve what they wished. Money, rank or an imposing name counted for nothing. The only credential the city asked was the boldness to dream. For those who did unlocked its gates and its treasures, never caring who they were or where they came from.

— Moss Hart from his memoir Act One

The words above are from a message on the sidewalk on 80th Street and Broadway on a Saturday afternoon in the late Spring a few years ago. There was an artist who scribed several messages about our life on this planet and those who inhabit it, all in chalk of different colors. I was always on my way to Zabar’s across the street on Broadway and 80th, but stopped to read them. I’d leave with some of the wisdom in that thought and it would, however briefly, change the mood of my afternoon to be thinking of higher thoughts.

I was never a photographer — nor am I today. I wasn’t one of those kids who were fascinated with the camera and what it could do and never left it. Harry Benson told me that about the time he was seven or so, and gifted with a camera, he’s seen the whole world and the history of last three quarters of a century through and with it.

Speaking of the great Harry Benson, this is one of boy’s first photographs taken when he was not yet 7 years old at the Calder Park Zoo in Glasgow (which Harry’s father founded).

I got into picture taking when we started the NYSD and I knew it could be to our advantage to have our own photos. JH, on the other hand is the real McCoy, which came to fruition with the launching of the NYSD. He has a natural eye for beauty. And so developed this large catalogue or supply or reminders of another time and place and even the pleasure and pride of life itself. 

Going through some of them, I was reminded that it’s a catalogue, a record of a time, a moment in New York at the beginning of a New Century, and we’ve been lucky to have our eyes on some of it to record.

Here’s one of Andre Leon Talley at the table next to mine at Michael’s, with Melania Trump. This was taken in the summer of 2008.

Mr. Talley was the larger-than-life former Vogue editor and an enormously talented man; an artist really who could interpret it to fashion. He often had that table next to mine and so he was not unfamiliar with me, but he was not friendly. I’m sure mine wasn’t an especial experience with him. His memoir told his story,  and frankly the good ones explain the individual. Andre’s mother turned him over to her mother who lived in Georgia while she lived with Andre’s father in Washington, D.C. So he was essentially abandoned in infancy —abandonment which any child would naturally conclude and proceed carefully in his life. His longtime relationship with Anna Wintour must have provided him with real self-worth. It also provided him — while it lasted — with a sense of achievement and the pleasure of his work.

Melania was also a frequent  luncheon client at Michael’s. And coincidentally she was also often seated at that same table next to mine. I came to know her. Her intelligence and natural grace matches her beauty. Although I don’t know him personally, I’ve always thought his marital choices reflected a fairly straight and narrow sensibility about family and life, and a good one.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jill Krementz, David Patrick ColumbiaYes, that’s Kurt Vonegut, me, and Jill Krementz — some of whose now almost classic work has graced the NYSD pages. Back in the day when Vonnegut was alive and kicking they often hosted cocktail parties with a guest list that was distinguished and not infrequently famous — particularly in the words and the art. This photo was taken when I was in my late 50s, early 60s, and well aware of my good fortune at journalism of celebrity. I was also gratefully impressed. That’s New York also. 

Jill and Kurt’s parties had much more of the artists’ flavor to it than many private parties. Intellectuals, best-selling writers/ actors/photographers, contemporary New York cultural. And  almost down home friendly.

Growing up in New England, the Robin Redbreast was the first bird I learned the name of when I was about four or five.  They were abundant back then (up there). I rarely ever see them in New York, but one late Spring morning I happened to look out onto my terrace and there she was with what looks like something for the newly arrivals. This is all my imagination of course, but beautiful.

Fashion, that’s the passion, even when you think there isn’t any anymore. What fascinated me about this scene is the women’s coiffure, the ultimate chic. A lot of work and time went into it. The perfection of their hairdos is the kind you hear that hairdressers charge a small fortune to create for their customers. 

Then you take in the dress. Or non-dress; the combination of casual — the blonde in the heels, bare shoulders, ripped and torn denim cut-offs and (good) bare legs; and the brunette in the high black boots, black stockings and jacket worn over a grey cotton t-shirt; plus the blonde (facing); who’s wearing what looks like a combination of the other two costumes. All of that “casual rags” took time and thought to put together. All observed by the guy in the hat, tee shirt and black boots.

Then there’s the simple perfection from the coif, the pearls, the black and the white; classic chic of Annette de la Renta.

Annette de la Renta

I snuck this shot of the dessert at the table next to mine at Michaels’. I didn’t know the customer nor the possessor of the currency accompanying the plate. I wondered if the 100s were fake. The camera’s closeup led me to believe they weren’t. For whatever reason.

Anthony Haden-Guest, British writer/reporter/journalist, poet, art critic, witty and wry, congenial, good company and great friend to many. Here he is at a cocktail reception and exhibition at Swifty’s in 2014 for Anthony’s cartoons and Damon Johnson’s paintings. Anthony is standing in front of one of Damon’s paintings.

Here’s a shot of a party hosted by passionate art collector Beth DeWoody in the living room of her apartment overlooking the East River. Guests are enjoying company and the hors d’oeuvres, awaiting a concert by the piano of a jazz vocalist. The art in the room changes frequently as she acquires new works for her vast contemporary collection, much of which is gathered and exhibited in specific shows at her private museum The Bunker in West Palm Beach, Florida. The hostess is standing at the far right of the photo with the window in the background.

Here’s Blaine and Robert Caravaggi, Emilia Saint-Amand, and Alex Papachristidis at a reception for ARF (Animal Rescue Fund). Four especially nice people and good friends and all devoted animal lovers and supporters of the organization that rescues and places our four-legged best friends in good homes.

Blaine and Robert Caravaggi, Emilia Saint-Amand, and Alex Papachristidis

Next is a snap of Westsider Rare & Used Books on the east side of Broadway between 80th and 81st Streets and directly across the road from Zabar’s where I go every Saturday. The books are all in good condition and can assure that you’ll learn something you can use or need to know that cannot be found on your cell phone — ever. Brain-food for our hungry often-underfed brains.

The heavy traffic facing south at the end of the weekday on Park Avenue and 53rd Street at ten to seven in mid-October 2014. I don’t recall the occasion the inspired the red, blue and green lighting on the Helmsley Building, but I  just learned that since the building is designated as a landmark, none of the lighting was permitted to “compromise the building’s architectural integrity.” Thus all light sources had to remain hidden, and none could be drilled into the building’s surface.

Here’s Princess Michael of Kent at a booksigning for her (then) most recent book The Queen of Four Kingdoms. Princess Michael — besides being a member of the British Royal Family (wife of Prince Michael of Kent, a first cousin of the late Queen) — is an interior designer, art consultant and most impressively the author of seven best-selling books, both historical and fiction, mainly on the subject of royal lives.

Princess Michael of Kent

The view from an apartment tower over looking the East River and the East Side (FDR) Drive looking south to the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges and across the water to Brooklyn, taken from the terrace about 10:30 after a dinner hosted by Susan Gutfreund on a night of the full moon.  Mesmerizing and thrilling.

And finally, Nan Talese with her (fabulously talented) artist daughter Pamela at the annual Christmas party that she and her husband, best-selling author Gay Talese, hosted at their Upper East Side townhouse every year. The guest list, which frequently reached into the hundreds over the course of the evening, attracted a wide array of New Yorkers — social, business, political, theatrical and also just friends and neighbors. The beautiful Nan, who is now retired, was an editor at Doubleday of many bestselling books. She also hired Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who worked there as an editor for a number of years until her death.

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