What’s it like in New York?

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Looking up from 55th Street and Sixth Avenue. Photo: JH. 7:00 PM.

Friday, March 6, 2020. Yesterday was another nice day in New York with temps in the low 50s and the Sun shining bright. Just to look at it all the citylife surrounding us, you’d never know that millions and millions are worried to some degree, or a greater one, of this viral predicament that threatens all of us, at least in our heads (and eyes). 

People have asked me “what’s it like in New York?” Maybe it’s a wee bit quieter. The stories in print and on the tube can lead you to believe it’s a state of hysteria in the supermarkets. Maybe. I was at Zabar’s yesterday afternoon. It was rather quiet (for Zabar’s) with a few of cash register aisles closed. I was in a Morton Williams the day before and it was also quiet. I don’t doubt that people are worried and even panicking, but so far it’s not quite as panicking as what we see and read in the media. In New York, that is.

With Paige, post-Sette.

I was at Sette Mezzo for dinner last night with Paige Peterson who is making a book out of her NYSD article “Growing Up Belvedere.” It’s a sweet story if you haven’t read it; a kind of all-American dream story. But the sweetest part is the “growing up” part, which will remind you of your own growing up be it in Belvedere or the Bronx.

There’s always an ideal side to it, whether it was bad or ok. Belvedere, however, had the makings, and the mentality of the people of that time/era, and it is a sweet story. Of what’s possible.

As I was saying, I was at Sette with Paige, and the place was packed and just as miked up as it usually is on any night. That is not a measure of the impact of the news, obviously, but it is an indication of how (some) people are handling the international “news.”

Yesterday was the birthday of our friend Blair Sabol.

Blair, as you know, writes a column “No Holds Barred” (and she means it, baby) every week or two or three, and she is very popular with her audience. I used to read her when she had a column in the Village Voice back in the mid-1970s. It was called “Outside Fashion” which was a play on a Eugenia Sheppard’s column at the time called “Inside Fashion.”  Eugenia was the empress of fashion columnists, the last word for all the high mucky-mucks. Blair was … well, Blair.

Blair all jazzed up.

I don’t know if I read her every week but I did read the Voice often and I came upon her piece called “How To Get Waited on in Bloomingdale’s.” This was about 1976, and Bloomingdale’s in those days was a highly magnetic marketing mecca on the Upper East Side. It covered (and still does) a whole block between 59th and 60th on Lex and Third, and a lot of people, especially women, went there almost every day. 

It was the last word in all kinds of items from fashion down to home decorating, men and women. Everyone remembers it with fondness. It was mobbed – literally lots of the time, and the big complaint was HOW do you get waited on because it’s so mobbed with people shopping (buying). 

I knew this because I had a wife who went there several times a week and couldn’t help herself; she loved it. She had good reason too: Bloomie’s was an always changing show of the best and the latest and with style. In Blair’s piece, she mentioned how different people she knew (and the reading public knew) managed to get attention from the staff. The only one I will never forget was “how” Tiger Morse got waited on.

Tiger Morse was a very well known local  Warhol-related character of the day. She was, in retrospect, a very interesting woman, a successfully designer by profession, who had a rather short life which she lived to the extreme (at times). She was a woman who had a talent for getting attention — and in business she was very successful at it. In play, she was — well — playing. 

The way she got waited on at Bloomingdale’s, according to Blair, was to: get dressed up in a fringed-up cowgirl outfit with the short skirt and belt and hat and boots, with gun and holster, and jump up on a counter and yell: “Where the fukks the manager??!!” 

Loudly. It still cracks me up just thinking about it.

Blair and Harry Benson posing for their “Paparazzi Shock” photo reaction!

I never met Blair in those days. Although I had heard of her through my friend Schulenberg who did know her. She was a girl from an interesting family in Philadelphia — mother, father, brother, all were creative, clear-thinking, and successful with their work and interests. Blair was living in the family apartment at the Carlyle back in those days. Schulenberg used to tell me we should meet. We never did.

About ten years ago, I was surprised to get an email from her about something she’d read in the NYSD. I was delighted and flattered to hear from her, and immediately asked her about herself: where, what…? And where was she writing? She wasn’t; she’d stopped a few years before and was living on her family’s property in Scottsdale.

So I asked her to write for us (I was thinking of Tiger Morse, yes). She was briefly hesitant but liked the idea that she could write whatever she wanted — which is why she picked the column title. And so it was, and is, and yesterday was another day she added to her life. So, Happy Birthday Blair (belated, alas) and here’s to many more No Holds Barred. Your audience awaits with fine anticipation.

Before we go, I want to remind: today we are re-running a fascinating piece we ran ten years ago, by Augustus Mayhew: Oil Swells: The Standard Oil Crowd in Palm Beach. It’s a great historical piece on the history of that town and its people. I quote from the opening:

“Money-mad, money-mad! Sane in every other way, but money-mad,” so said Marc Hanna, the Senator from Ohio in 1904, characterizing John D. Rockefeller in Ida M. Tarbell’s magazine expose series of the man. This is a good story and brilliantly told by Mr. Mayhew, and in his eye for fascinating detail about real people. Enjoy!

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