When one door closes, another (blue door) opens

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A kitty overseeing her domain on 26th/27th Street and Sixth Avenue. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023. Another sunny day, yesterday in New York, with temps in the 40s although it seems warmer, not uncomfortable with a warm jacket.

The Press Release. Last Thursday evening, November 9th, John Demsey opened his renowned blue door of his Upper East Side townhouse, hosting a cocktail party and book signing in celebration of his new oversized coffee table book, “BEHIND THE BLUE DOOR: A MAXIMALIST MANTRA.” The evening benefitted God’s Love We Deliver, a non-profit organization that is dear to John.

John Demsey and Blaine Trump.

He and co-hosts, Blaine Trump and Paul Wilmot, welcomed a goodly number of New York notables such as Candace Bushnell, Julia Koch, Michael Michele, Faye Wattleton, Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Alina Cho, Lady Liliana Cavendish, Debbie Bancroft, Erin Lazard, Faith Popcorn, Alexandra Lebenthal, Jeffrey Sharp, CeCe Cord, Dr. Lisa Airan, Ann Dexter-Jones, Keith Langham, Susan Fales-Hill, Francine LeFrak & Rick Friedberg, Omar Hernandez, Helen Schifter, and Tony Brand, among others. Even the NYC fashion elite, such as Vera Wang, Nicole Miller, Jill Stuart, Dennis Basso, Linda Fargo, Jérôme Lamaar, Kerin Rose Gold, and June Ambrose, joined the celebration. I mean, Noo York Noo York, it’s a helluva town, as Comden & Green once wrote for the Broadway show.

If you didn’t know; good to know God’s Love We Deliver cooks and home-delivers nutritious, medically tailored meals for people who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves.

Founded in 1985 as a response to the AIDS pandemic, they now serve people living with more than 200 different diagnoses. To support the health and well-being of their clients, they even provide ongoing nutrition assessment, education, and counseling, and advocate for food and nutrition support.

God’s Love is a non-sectarian organization serving individuals living with illness, and their children and caregivers. Now a community of thousands of volunteers, they’ve cooked and home-delivered more than 3.6 million medically tailored meals to nearly 13,000 individuals last year. All services are free to clients. And full of love.

For more information, visit godslovewedeliver.org.

Candace Bushnell, John Demsey, and Nicole Miller.
L. to r.: Chloe Lazard and Erin Lazard; Renee Demsey and Kim Cho.
Faye Wattleton and Susan Fales-Hill.
Michael Michele, Ann Dexter-Jones, and June Ambrose.
Etheleen Staley and John Demsey.
L. to r.: Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos and Adelina Wong Ettelson; Alina Cho and Vera Wang.
Rick Friedberg, Francine LeFrak, and John Demsey.
Paul Wilmot, Ric Pipino, and Jill Stuart.
Mirinha Halpern and John Demsey.
June Ambrose and Omar Hernandez.

Coincidentally, I had dinner with John Demsey last night at Sette Mezzo. He is famous in his world for his hosting these big wonderful, yacky cocktail and hors d’oeuvres parties in his townhouse. They are notable if for no other reason that they are always jammed with guests who all seem to be glad to be there, they stay for hours.

I have been to several of them over the years, and although I occasionally saw our host from across the room, I’d never met him or was even close enough to say hello. That was because if he were in the same room (the first two floors of the house are the center of his receptions) he was surrounded by guests and almost inaccessible because of the crowds.

That’s John on the bottom right. When he’s not surrounded by fans and friends, he’s surrounded by his eight, yes eight, dogs!

So last night was a first. It came about because a couple of weeks ago I’d read that John, who was a major executive at Estee Lauder, noted for expanding the base of their clientele famously for a number of years, had been “retired.” (He’s in his early 60s and not the “retiring” type.)

I was very surprised (suspicious is another word for my way of thinking) and immediately, after reading the official explanation in the paper, I concluded it was one of those executive actions where someone higher can end things for someone lower. I wrote something about it in the following day, and it’s often the result of personality differences that can be wrong but not righted.

A spread from Behind the Blue Door: A Maximalist Mantra. The impetus for writing this big, beautiful book was to turn John’s mind away from the disappointment and distress of being “retired” into something good and interesting and beneficial.

It so happened that John had also read the Diary that I’d written about it and sent me a note of thanks for the clarity of my assumption, and added that of all the media reporting about it, the NYSD was the only one with the real story. I responded by suggesting we make a dinner date.

Glad I did. We were at no loss for words. Outside of his parties where he’s always dressed in a sports jacket, last night he was casually turned out in a very business-like blue serge suit. At table, conversation is naturally active. Like me, he likes to talk about his experiences and his thoughts. He grew up in Cleveland, son of an executive in the steel industry and a very sophisticated mother. They traveled frequently and had friends in New York and the world of New York.

John like me, and like many New Yorkers throughout its 20th (21st ) century, came here specifically to make a life of a profession. It is what makes New York unique compared to almost any other place in the world. Any profession.

Photographs by Joe Schildhorn/BFA.com

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