Looking back, looking forward
|September 26, 2001. Photo: JH.
|Friday, September 21, 2012. Tomorrow is the first day of autumn. Yesterday felt like an early autumn day with temperatures in the low 60s, and thick grey clouds rolling in and moving on, as if maybe we’d get a little rain. It was a perfect day for New Yorkers – time for a jacket maybe, a sweater, at least for the little ones. It’s that time of year when you’re ready for a change, ready to put on something warm.
I went down to Michael’s to have a long planned lunch with Alexandra Wolfe whom I met several years ago when she interviewed me for an article she was writing in the Observer. I can’t remember what the article was about but we became friends immediately (she laughed at all my wisecrdacks). These days she has, among other projects, a column in Departures. She loves her editor Richard David Story. Everybody who knows him loves him. Yesterday Alexandra, who turned 32 on August 30, told me she worries that she’s getting old.
Hahahahahahaha. The only thing Alexandra had to worry about yesterday was whether or not it was going to rain before lunch was over, as she didn’t bring her umbrella.
|DPC and Alexandra Wolfe at Michael's.
Yesterday morning I got an email from Susan Magazine the director of New Yorkers for Children reporting that Tuesday night’s gala raised more than $1.35 million including more than $200,000 that Jamie Niven of Sotheby’s raised in auction.
I was reminded of a conversation at table that night with Geoffrey Bradfield who was recalling the NYFC gala just 11 years ago.
It was a few nights after the 9/11 WTC catastrophe. Many New Yorkers were still reeling from this great national trauma and were wary about going out. Many, however, elected to make the effort for the NYFC.
Geoffrey himself had planned a big dinner that same week for 50 or 60 friends to celebrate his 25th anniversary on becoming a citizen of New York and the United States of America. After 9/11 he thought he should call it off under the circumstances.
However, others had advised him to go ahead with it, to get people back into the spirit of getting out there and getting on with things. Geoffrey had told me this story at the NYFC gala that night 11 years ago. This past Tuesday night he reminded me of a Diary I wrote about the conversation we had about it onthat night 11 years ago.
NYSD too, had been publishing a lot of Diaries on the aftermath of that terrible day, to the point where one reader was provoked to cast a different vote for our editorial. So with Geoffrey’s story and our reader’s message, we took a different turn. Here is that Diary, written for 9/26/01, exactly a year after Jeff Hirsch and I started the NYSD.
Letter from a reader in Florence, Italy:
I only wanted to give you my thoughts on today's piece:
The Monday Before 2 Weeks Later
David, since I feel so highly of you, I only thought to give you some
positive feedback. I think that maybe, as of late, your pieces are starting
to depress me! (You seem to be dwelling a little bit too much on what
happened in new york 2 weeks ago!)
Of course it's a shame! and a horror! But are you, or will you, continue
this ... 3 weeks ... one day after ... stuff?????
It is becoming depressing, to me, that you seem to be dwelling just
a bit too much on this!! Please ... take my critique for what it is a
critique I'm almost afraid to open your column tomorrow!!!
We are all frightened David ... but, please, do not dwell in the
A worried reader in Italy!
— being happy is more important than anything else
|Since TK was a reader of NYSD since it started at this time last year,
gaining instant credibility with his flattery, I responded thusly:
I agree with you, and it is a problem that I have not solved. The
problem is ... well, where do we start? ... It's all around us. And so
I think to myself: do I portray the City as I am experiencing it
or do I try to look the other way? Or, how to I look at it and beyond
I went to lunch at Cipriani's
today. Harry Cipriani's in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. I took a couple of pictures of the vista
from that part of town, looking south toward the Empire State and
west toward the Plaza Hotel and 9 West 57th Street behind it. It was mild
for a late September noontime, and the sky was mainly overcast, as if
there would be a torrential shower. But instead it was just what New Yorkers
call a shpritzing.
||Looking south on Fifth Avenue and 60th Street.
I haven't been to Cipriani's in a while, maybe months. I have to wait
until I'm invited, if you catch my drift. It's always a scene, however,
and always fun. It's some of the best look-see dining entertainment in
all of New York. And I say that with pleasure.
The tables are set quite low so that if you're tall like me, your knees
touch the underside. And when everyone walks by, no matter their height,
they look so tall. And commanding. There are always a good number of men
of a certain age forty and on up, sometimes waaaay up there
looking well-tailored, well-fed and well-fixed. They could be bankers,
tycoons or con men, and I don't doubt that there is an ample sample of
all, and even more at Cipriani's, for it's the center of the international
jet set world of G5s, 200 ft. motor yachts and $30,000 watches. The women
are always fashionable in one way or another. Older and well dressed and
well accessorized, or younger (forty-five and under, sometimes waaaay under) and voluptuous and well toned (not to mention the perfunctory well
A very Euro feeling. The captains are all in tuxedo and black tie, the
waiters in fresh starched white jackets, and Hassan, the headwaiter, is
nothing short of impeccable. Hassan is one of the best-dressed men in
New York, without exaggeration. He's of the old school of headwaiters
stylish, immaculate, charming and laser-focused. He changes his
suit all Italian custom-made twice a day. As well as the
shirt and tie of course, too. If he knows you, he will tell you a joke
and tell you about the restaurants he's dined in and the hotels he's stayed
across the world. Epicurean in his travels, he lives in Queens with his
beautiful wife and on weekends when he's off, he hits Jack-in-the-Box,
Wendy's, Domino's Pizza.
Today Cipriani's was hopping. Over in one corner Michael Douglas and
Catherine Zeta-Jones were lunching with their wee one. In another
corner, Andrew Cuomo, one of the Democratic contenders for the
New York State gubernatorial nomination was lunching with a friend. Three
tables away, against the wall, HRH Princess Michael of Kent was
having what looked like a serious business lunch. Princess Michael is
the original entrepreneurial British royal (and now, far from the only
...). She is also a historian on matters royal and an engaging lecturer
on the subject. And then, across from us were a couple of big-maned, well-coifed
girls with long legs, short skirts, big dark glasses and cell-phones at
And then, just when we thought every table was taken, in came
a couple of dark-haired young guys with those plastic coiled phone wires
behind their ears: Secret Service. Looked as if they were checking the
place out for someone. A couple of minutes later, in comes Benjamin
Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister of Israel. Naturally everyone
pretended not to notice. (Or didn't notice there's a lot of that
|HRH Prince Michael and HRH Princess Michael of Kent
These are tables where high-powered, hardly high-brow if not low-brow
stories are passed among the diners whose degree of separation from both
the high-powered and the low-brow is often zed, or one or two away. The
gossip is repeated with gravity (and only gets laughs when it has to do
with sex if then) by men with white hair, bespoke pin-striped suits
and women with lots of hair, $500 shoes and $10,000 watches. Their news
(as often do they) comes out of London, Paris, Washington, Los Angeles,
Dallas, Palm Beach, and of course New York.
One story was about the Princess who is now among the lovelorn. Not a
royal princess, but to the world, especially the European world, it doesn't
matter. For she is glamorous, celebrated, sharp, smart, clever, and in
love. Or she was. With a swain. The swain of swains. A dream right out
of a Danielle Steele novel. Or maybe Hemingway, as hard as that might
be to believe. But true. A good guy, well-liked by all the guys; a sport.
And one with an eye with a congenital gleam; a conqueror of the (once-upon-time-called)
When they got together, several years ago, her friends all wondered "how
long will it last?" His friends didn't give it a thought. Maybe
a laugh or two, but not a thought. She was one of a long line on his profile.
But the relationship went on and although they never looked like a married
couple, they looked pretty much together. She looked better for it. She
got better looking. He, well, he was always a handsome swain. Although
you could see a touch of "the old ennui" at times. But you can
see that on the faces of a lot of people. Especially the swains. A swain-song.
Then last summer they weren't seen together at their favored spots
around New York and Europe. Oh, there were rumors. And items in the columns.
They were denied. By her. Him? No one could find him to ask.
But it turned out they were true. One night, at a big dinner party she
was giving here in New York, he excused himself from the table mid-course,
and left. Left the house. Left her life. And never returned. She probably
thought he was just going to the bathroom. But that was the end of it,
then and there.
It was a blow from which she has not yet rallied. Although the world
would never know because she's still always camera ready. She still
looks as glamorous as ever. She's still as clever and enterprising.
She's just got a very lonely heart right now.
|L. to r.: Lucia Hwong ... Countess Dagmar de Brantes and Anthony Haden-Guest ... The host ... Anthony Haden-Guest and Edwina Sandys ... Jacqueline Stone and Yogi.
|Geoffrey Bradfield gave a birthday
dinner for himself last Thursday night at the restaurant Amaranth, just
off Madison on 62nd Street. It is one of those Euro-inclined, sort of cool/hip
restaurants which when you walk by in warm weather, has a terrace of occupied
tables and chairs on the sidewalk. People drinking wine and smoking; table-hopping.
Ten, eleven at night, you see a very tanned, and shiny crowd, good-looking
men (and not so) of various ages and beautiful and chic looking women, most
often in their twenties or early thirties. You think: La Dolce Vita.
Life as a movie. It is one of the great entertainments of this people-watching
|Edwina Sandys, Lucia Hwong, Vanessa von Bismarck, and Kristina Stewart.
|Guy Hindley listening to all hands.
Anyway, Geoffrey. Bradfield is an international interior designer, decorator.
Very successful, with a large clientele of art-collectors. One of his
fortes is designing for their special interior needs. So speak. He also
has a fondness for the Grand Dinner Party.
It's a rather nice touch in
a city where people are mostly being asked to pay to dine or dine to pay.
Geoffrey just likes to have a big fancy dinner where the boys get up in
black tie and the girls get up in their latest favorite sexy li'l black
thing, or otherwise. Glasses tinkling, champagne flowing.
He'd been planning this party, however, for sometime. Because it was
not only his birthday but also his twenty-fifth anniversary in New York,
to which he came all those years ago from his native South Africa. And
he also made a great success here. He's mad about New York.
After September 11, he thought he'd cancel the whole affair. His friends
urged him to go through with it. Back and forth, back and forth. He decided
to go through with it. There must have been about eighty there. Took up
the whole place. Two long tables, decorated, as you can see, white on
white striped table clothes with silver stars sprinkled among them, and
white small scale Statue of Liberty's.
Those silvery-white balloons covering
the ceiling, with those silvery-white grosgrain ribbons hanging down and
poking you in the eye from time to time (not a problem). It was a pastiche of patriotic white-on-white. Almost as if Betsy Ross sprang from Syrie Maugham. On East 62nd Street.
In other words, it was just a lovely dinner party. People were glad to
be together, damned glad, as a matter of fact, considering the host's
generosity and imagination. Lots of laughter no one forgetting
just well needed laughter.
Which reminds me: another bit of news I heard today was about the heavy
lay-offs in the hospitality industry hotels, restaurants, banquet
facilities. The cancellations came in only hours after the WTC attack.
One after another. Killing business. Killing jobs. Putting people out
of work. Then of course the market took another slide. The airline business,
the tourism business. Thousands and thousands and thousands, tens, hundreds
of thousands of jobs are or will be affected. It's time to get back to
it. Get back to work.
|L. to r.: Vanessa von Bismarck, James Trezza, and Christian Leone ... Chappy Morris and Patricia Duff ... Eric Javits and Carlos Valverde ... Ara and Rachel Hovnanian.