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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

MSNBC Screening: Just Eat It





Just Eat It - A food waste story (Official Trailer)



Tom Colicchio was just announced as MSNBC's first food correspondent. And he, and MSNBC invited us to an event for their first food documentary Just Eat It. You can imagine how delicious that sounded. And so we trudged out on a rainy Monday night to ... no reception. Brian Flood of TVNewser put it best:


"MSNBC invited us to an advanced screening of the film Just Eat It, followed by a conversation moderated by celebrity restaurateur and MSNBC food correspondent Tom Colicchio. The foodie in me envisioned piles of the famous Crispy Bacon from Craft, or at least mounds of the Duck Pastrami Pot-Au-Feu from Colicchio & Sons.



"It took about 30 seconds upon arrival to realize there would be no bacon. No tables filled with fancy cured meat. Not a snack in the entire place. See, Just Eat It actually promotes quite the opposite. It’s a film that details how much food is wasted in America each year."


True that.  My growling stomach aside, the documentary was quite astonishing. Some stats: 40% of US food ends up in landfills. 4% of oil produced in the US goes towards producing food that is wasted. Americans throw out the equivalent of $165 billion in food annually.


Filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer decided to spend 6 months without buying groceries at supermarkets in the traditional manner. It is amazing, as the documentary proceeds, how easy it is to find food if you are crafty enough. It is also amazing how much food -- perfectly good food -- is tossed out that is perfectly edible. There is even an "ugly fruit" campaign for fruits and vegetables that are not perfect and thus cannot be sold at supermarkets.






Just Eat It makes its debut on MSNBC tonight 10 PM EST. Watch it for Earth Day.

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres





The Daily Breeze newsroom celebrates Pulitzer Prize win by Rob Kuznia, Rebecca Kimitch and Frank Suraci for Centinela Valley School District corruption. 
Photo by Robert Casillas / Daily Breeze
Robert Casillas


"'Oh shit!' Rob Kuznia shouted at his desk on Monday afternoon, startling his colleagues in the public relations department of the Shoah Foundation. Kuznia, the son of a middle school teacher-dad and a medical technician-mom, grew up in the quiet farming community of Grand Forks, North Dakota, on the banks of the Red River, steeped in the sort of prairie values of non-histrionics and personal modesty celebrated in the movie Fargo. So it was very much out of character for the low-key, polite and soft-spoken Kuznia to be shrieking into his cell phone at his cubicle, and then rushing crazily out of the cramped office space that he shares with five co-workers. ;I sit right next him,' said Josh Grossberg, Kuznia’s boss at the foundation office on the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles. 'He did scream, and all of a sudden he ran out of the room, I think to call his girlfriend. We all started Googling, and there it was. When he came back he was just glowing—and in a bit of a daze.'Eight months earlier, Kuznia, 38, had left journalism, probably for good, giving up his reporting job at The Daily Breeze in nearby Torrance for the much better-paying PR job, writing press releases and pitching stories on behalf of the educational foundation started by Steven Spielberg and dedicated to memorializing the Holocaust and other episodes of genocide. Kuznia and his longtime girlfriend, freelance web designer Alta Peterson, could barely make ends meet in expensive LA on their combined incomes, let alone his mid-five figure salary at the financially struggling newspaper. 'I could pay the rent, but I really couldn’t do much more than that,' Kuznia told The Daily Beast. 'Savings was kind of non-existent, and buying a house was a pipe dream.' He was pushing 40, working extreme hours at a very demanding job, and living paycheck to paycheck. “I could make my rent, but it was difficult,” he said. 'It was getting to the point of being scary.' Now, suddenly, Kuznia learned that he, Daily Breeze reporter Rebecca Kimitch and editor Frank Suraci had won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest award." (TheDailyBeast)


The Same Old New Republic


"Sunday evening, The New Republic published its latest cover story, 'The Ghost of Cornel West.' Written by Black Public Intellectual™ Michael Eric Dyson, the 5,000-word essay thoroughly castigates Cornel West, the well-known Princeton professor and social critic who believes himself to be a prophet. Dyson, who is also a prominent professor with a penchant for performative affectations, was once a disciple of West’s teachings. Dyson will be the first to tell you that he has love for West; early on he refers to him as 'the most exciting black American scholar ever.' But that was a long time ago, and despite both men becoming star intellectuals, it appears to be time for Dyson to take his once mentor and friend to task. Publicly. In The New Republic. (It’s like when a young James Baldwin, not yet the “conscience of America” and star author he would later transform into, attempted to take down Richard Wright—the man he once called 'the greatest black writer in the world'—in his review of Native Son, Wright’s most famous novel.) If you are wondering why such an essay—though, really, “essay” is too nice; this is an attempt to fully ether West’s legacy—appears in the pages of the New New Republic, it is because The 100-Year-Old Magazine of Things White People Think is doing what it has done many times throughout its storied past: treating blackness as a thing to be picked apart. Only this time, they had another black man do the bidding.Here is Ta-Nehisi Coates, in December, on the magazine’s complicated history with race coverage ." (Gawker)


More Mailer

"One of those self important, so called pundits once asked Norman Mailer if fascism was coming to America. The pompous one had once worked for Time magazine, so Norman answered him with a pun. 'It’s going to be a Luce sort of fascism.' Mailer was always unpredictable and hard to pin down where ideology was concerned. I once introduced him to a beautiful Israeli woman who immediately asked him why he had never visited Israel. 'Because they don’t all look like you,' said a smiling Norman. Although Jewish, Mailer was not a fan of right wing Israel. He particularly disliked Israeli extremists and was poignant when discussing the plight of the Palestinians. He referred to his politics as being of the radical conservative persuasion, but kept an open mind, something quite rare in the lofty intellectual circles in which he mixed. He was a good friend of William Buckley and had all sorts of nicknames for Pat Buckley, whom he adored and teased mercilessly.Dinners at the Mailer house in Brooklyn were terrific affairs because of the mix. Sometimes it was just Norris and Norman, my wife and I, and Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show and other memorable works of small town America. One time Abe Rosenthal, then executive editor of the Times, complained to Norman that he couldn’t sit at the same dinner table with me because of the rude things I had written about him. (I only said that if he made love as badly as he wrote, I felt awfully sorry for his wife.) Norman moved me from Abe’s table and placed me next to him. If anything, it was a lesson in manners for Abie baby. Mailer’s feuds, of course, were Homeric in scope and intensity. He famously punched Gore Vidal in Kay Graham’s house in Washington, and had crazed feminists shouting their heads off during televised debates. I always thought he made fools out of female polemicists like Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan, but then I never followed the debates. Anyone who had paid most of his hard earned money to alimony for five wives could not possibly have been a male chauvinist.
" (Taki)


Brooke Garber Neidich and Laurie Tisch


"This past Tuesday night, the Whitney Museum of American Art hosted its Inaugural Dinner and First Look, a black tie gala for 400 of the museum’s top donors and permanent collection artists to fĂȘte its new home, designed by architect Renzo Piano, in the Meatpacking District. The evening heralded the Museum’s public opening on May 1, 2015. Upon arrival to this historic event, which was sponsored by Sotheby’s and designed by Bronson Van Wyck, guests were treated to wines and spirits by Dom PĂ©rignon and Moet Hennessy USAas well as a special preview of the museum’s first exhibition in its new home, America Is Hard to See. With over 600 works by some 400 artists spanning from 1900s to current day, the exhibition presents an unprecedented selection of works from the Whitney’s renowned permanent collection." (NYSD)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

MacAfrica's Tribeca Soiree


Our Man in the field.

Last night, the notorious NYC nightclub Provocateur was producer Phil Cohen's The Road With In. The film opens 4/17/2015 at AMC Theatres. "It is like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest if the (patients) had escaped," is how supermodel emeritus Carol Alt described the film, which stars Kyra Sedgwick, Zoe Kravitz and Dev Patel. Phil Cohen gave tantalizing details about first meeting director Gren Wells, only to add, "and that's all I'm going to tell you unless you buy a ticket." Can I quote you on that? "Yes," both he and Carol Alt said in near-sultry unison. Provocateur, provocative.

Over by the bar was Nick Loeb, who had a rough day in the New York tabloids. I wanted to ask him about it but he said, "I don't talk to press." Understandable. Later in the evening as the crowd gobbled up the amazing hors d'oeuvres prepared by celebrity chef Diane Dimeo before they got to our table, Loeb gave my date some pizza. Even in the midst of a tabloid storm Nick Loeb is a gentleman. Ivy Silberstein, who threw the party, mingled about in glorious triumph.

Also in attendance: Elisa Jordana, Emily Gordon, Hash Halper, Andrea Beecher and Randy Jones of the Village People.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres







Walter Chrysler on the cover of Time, April 20, 1925.



"In any spare moment, I’m still reading Donald Miller’sSupreme City; How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America” (Simon & Schuster) as I’ve reported here before. It’s one of those books where every time I close it, I can’t stop thinking about the characters.Yesterday I read about Walter P. Chrysler and the building of the Chrysler building. This was the end of the 1920s. They were beginning to build skyscrapers. Fred French, Frederick Brown, Irwin Chanin, Emory Roth, Benjamin Winter. Every new building had to be taller than the one before. (So you see, our current obsession with height is nothing new.) The story is a tale of the tycoon and his architect. Move over Ayn Rand. Chrysler put up the money himself, and followed the building from conception to design to construction to occupancy. When the Chrysler building was completed, it was the tallest building in the world. (Until the following year when the Empire State Building went up.) From his office, he could look down on the General Motors Building!" (NYSD)



Dinesh D’Souza on the beach near his home, in La Jolla, California, in March. Photograph by Patrick Ecclesine.
Photograph by Patrick Ecclesine.


"It was seven P.M., and Dinesh D’Souza—political pundit, writer, documentary-film maker, and onetime wunderkind of the intellectual elite—was dining in his new haunt: the Subway sandwich shop in National City, San Diego, a downtrodden Latino neighborhood about 20 miles from the Mexican border. He ordered his usual: six-inch whole-wheat sub with tuna salad and provolone. The girl making it was one step ahead of him. 'He’s one of my randoms,' she said affectionately. Indeed, in his glasses, striped sweater over a polo shirt, and clean sneakers, D’Souza looked as if he were heading for a start-up rollout event instead of a community confinement center a few minutes away, where he is serving an eight-month sentence during nighttime hours. The rest of his evening would look something like this: He would check in to the confinement center at 7:57 P.M., three minutes before his 8 P.M. curfew. Certain that the Obama administration is waiting for him to slip up, he wouldn’t risk being late, which is why he eats near the facility and not at his home, 20 miles away in La Jolla, where he is free to spend the day (though he may not leave the confines of San Diego County). Upon entering the center’s fluorescent-lit, low-ceilinged building, situated across from a pungent recycling dump, he would be given a Breathalyzer test and patted down. He would join about 90 other residents, mostly Latino. After using one of the stalls of his communal bathroom, he would enter the open-plan sleeping quarters and climb onto a top bunk, above a 400-pound guy who, 'when he moves, the whole bunk bed shakes.' He would do his best to focus on his book and to block out the conversation. 'I’ll be on my bed. I’ll hear four guys discussing the tits on the woman at Los Tacos. It will go on and on and on. I’m just powerless to move.'" (VanityFair)










"Sudan’s presidential and parliamentary elections take place as opposition figures rot in jail and the government’s campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ makes it dangerous, if not impossible, for millions to vote. Newspapers are routinely confiscated and peaceful protest is crushed with unhesitating brutality. Respectable international election-monitoring organisations are unlikely to be present, because few conditions for a credible election exist. Nevertheless, after the 13-15 April poll, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) will claim to have a legitimate mandate. The result will be recognised by Sudan’s supporters within the Arab League and the African Union (AU) and by its business and military partners, such as Iran, China and Russia. Officials in the US, the UK and the EU will likely wait until afterwards to express any doubts about its validity, ostensibly because they do not wish to damage the unlikely possibility that there might be a meaningful national dialogue about the future of Sudan—their concerns will attract little attention. The international community supported Sudan’s 2010 election with generous financial contributions, voter-education programmes and expensive monitoring missions. It gave the ruling NCP the benefit of the doubt, ignoring the wider context of the poll. That context has been thoroughly documented over the years by groups like Freedom House, which awarded the Islamist regime the lowest ranking. Transparency International considers Sudan the third most corrupt nation, adding weight to doubts about the independence of its national election commission and polling officials. Amnesty International has catalogued the violent repression of peaceful protest and the routine arrest and torture of opposition politicians, activists and lawyers." (OpenDemocracy)






Douglas Kennedy meets with GOP consultant


"Douglas Kennedy branded his former brother-in-law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a “bully” in Michael Shnayerson’s March book 'The Contender' — adding Cuomo did not fit into the Kennedy clan when married to Kerry Kennedy. So spies’ eyebrows were raised this week when they saw Douglas at a Pleasantville diner in Westchester County deep 'in conversation' with GOP political strategist William F. B. O’Reilly. A nephew of conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr., as well as of former conservative New York Sen. James L. Buckley, O’Reilly’s a top consultant to Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate who took on Cuomo in 2014. O’Reilly was 'assiduously taking notes at the sit-down' with Kennedy, our spy said. Astorino’s expected to challenge Cuomo in a 2018 rematch, should Cuomo decide to seek a third term. Astorino won 41 percent of the vote in his loss to Cuomo." (P6)


JH and DPC. I can't recall exactly what I was talking about at the moment this photo was taken...




"Last Wednesday JH and I did a Q&A session at a 'breakfast' for members of the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. JH did the Q’s and Yours Truly did the A’s. I’m always nervous about giving a 'speech' but I’ve found that if someone has the questions, Guess Who always has an answer? Usually the discussion is some aspect of social history in New York. The morning event was principally about the history of the Park. Jeff started the ball rolling by reading an excerpt from the Diaries of George Templeton Strong  written in 1859. Mr. Strong was a lawyer here in New York, a member of what was then regarded as 'Society'. Strong and another New Yorker (once mayor), Philip Hone are the two great diarists of 19th century New York. The entry Jeff read before the guests was about a carriage ride Strong took on June 11, 1859 from the center of the city – which was downtown, up to 71st and Fifth Avenue to see 'the Central Park' which was still in development ... Most impressive to me were not Strong’s details about what it looked like then, but his 'vision' of a place existing almost a century into the future, taking into consideration of generations to come. We no longer live in a world given to such long term vision for the good of the community. Although, it should be recognized that the founders et al of the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy, and the Conservancy itself are demonstrating that 'vision' of George Templeton Strong in their dedication and alacrity in keeping the Park beautifully cared for. One area of subject we did not cover at length but nevertheless remains interesting was the Central Park Casino. The Casino was built originally as the 'Ladies Refreshment Salon' in the 19th century -- a restaurant in the park. It was meant originally for ladies visiting the park, for ice-skating, for example, who were unaccompanied (unaccompanied women theretofore never dined out or took tea in a public place without a male escort until the 1890s when Caroline Astor, by then The Mrs. Astor, dined out with other women -- and no men -- at Sherry’s). That was ground breaking." (NYSD)


Landed Fortunes



"A recent development in America among the superrich, is the benign disinheritance, as practiced by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others of their ilk. All I can say is I sure hope so. Gates and Buffett are worth close to one hundred billion between them, both are rather nerdy and totally uninteresting, and have made disproportionate amounts of money compared to those who work for them. When they announce they will leave no money to their children it’s a bluff and a publicity stunt. Even one fiftieth of their fortune, will make their children billionaires, so who do they think they’re kidding? Nowadays the worst behaved kind are those spoiled children of modern celebrities, young people who were brought up by maids – not strict Prussian nannies like yours truly – the Paris Hilton type, you get my drift. The Hiltons were always hayseeds, Beverly Hillbillies, but unlike the fictional ones, with pretensions. Inheriting money can be great fun, but in fiction it always seems to involve bitterness and gloom. That’s because writers hate those of us who earned it the old fashioned way. Unearned wealth is corrupting, according to the scribes, but I remember well people like the Guests and the Cushings, and the Vanderbilts who had great wealth but even greater manners. Ditto in England, where the upper classes are known for their easy manners and charm. Add countries like France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain and Portugal and you see why in the good old days life was worth living. One lived among one’s equals and didn’t have to deal with the Kardashian types who seem to be all over the place today. An English friend I haven’t seen since our bachelor days, Roddy Campbell, recently wailed over the waste of £250,000 of school fees for his two daughters. Both of them have become leading models, so the old Etonian dad – tight as hell with his purse strings – now says their education was a waste of his money. I’m not so sure. The girls at least will have their education to fall back on when that old bore – time – forces them off the cakewalk. My son, who is a painter living and working in Paris, never worries about money and gave most of his to his ex-wife, whom he married and had two children with when he was 25. My daughter, on the other hand, worries about money, and earns a lot as an interior designer and editor of Takimag." (Taki)











Down with Modernism, up with Mozart

"End of season is always bittersweet, the melting snows a bit like autumn leaves, but the days are longer and soon spring will chase any remaining winter blues away. The Eagle Club’s closing is a perennial festive day, with speeches by our president Urs Hodler, an almost teary goodbye to our very own Pino – seating us and feeding us for 44 years – and the Taki Cup awards, the last two years won by my son J.T. in record time. 34 minutes to conquer the highest mountain of Gstaad. (Only five minutes slower was Charlotte Cotton, an amazing feat for a young woman.) It was a hell of a good season, plenty of snow, some fun parties, and my forthcoming move to the top of a mountain and away from the madding crowd. Actually the best I reserved for last, the two greatest operas by the greatest ever, shown in the arts channel and watched by me while downing some very good Haut Brion. I know it sounds impossible, but even a perfect opera like Don Giovanni improves with good red. As does the second greatest, Figaro. As Paul Johnson wrote in his Mozart book, 'it is difficult to produce Figaro badly, it is not, alas, impossible, and I believe the Don has been massacred even in Prague. The two versions I watched on the telly were as good as it gets. Teddy Tahu Rhodes is a terrific Don, the Kiwi baritone towering over his rivals, and when he prepares to run through Masetto, or Don Ottavio, it looks terribly uneven. And in the lighthearted Figaro, he amuses and delights. I grew up on Don Giovannis, Cesare Siepi, Franco Corelli, Ruggero Raimondi and so on. Teddy Tahu Rhodes is a heroic Don who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s certainly one of the best looking. When Mozart first presented Figaro, he was overwhelmed by the reaction. The emperor even banned excessive applause, so he could hit the sack early. Figaro is a happy opera but the version I saw was a bawdy one. Cherubino is always sticking his hand between Rosina’s legs, and the count strokes Susanna’s breasts at every opportunity. When Don Giovanni first appeared, following Figaro, in 1787, it was felt to be a tragedy, but Wolfie knew what he was doing. It’s an opera buffa that makes a moral point by sending the Don to hell at the end. I’ve always loved the scene, 'Repent, No, Repent, No, well then go to hell.' One should repent for one’s sins, but seduction is no sin, at least not in Mozart’s, Da Ponte’s, nor in my eyes. Favorite line by the Don, 'If you’re faithful to one, you’re cheating on the rest.'  Here’s Paul Johnson on these two great operas: 'Figaro is an essay on happiness and how it may be attained by forgiveness and reconciliation. Giovanni makes a moral point: that wicked behavior must be punished…..' Mozart was a good Catholic, so the Don had to go. Nevertheless I love the Don. Errol Flynn once played him in a lousy film, but the casting was perfect." (Taki)

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



Click to order "Supreme City."


"Raining as I write this late Tuesday night. Wet and cold; Spring cold, but the kind you half-don’t mind and half-think get on with it Ma Nature. I never left the house, getting edit in order and also preparing for a breakfast  this morning at the Lotus Club where the  Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy are having a breakfast and I am the 'speaker' (read: entertainment) and JH is the interviewer.  The subject is Central Park. Obviously. But from the point of view of this reporter under the guise of social chronicler or vice versa. Coincidentally, speaking of Central Park, I’ve been reading a new book called 'Supreme City; How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth To Modern America.' I’d half-looked at it more than once in the bookstore but didn’t bite. Then I saw it for a third time at the bookstall in front of Zabar's on the weekend and thought what-the-hell.It’s a history I’m ready. Although that doesn’t mean I’ll remain for the ride. Good cover, style-wise. But the title led me to believe it would be academic somehow. The guy who wrote it, Donald Miller is a professor at Lafayette. A professor writing a history of New York, now that’s interesting. And he’s not even of New York. That’s more interesting too. It’s also 700 pages and I’m slow. And the print is not big which to me means it will take even longer.  So how could I get through a history under those circumstances having very little spare time for pleasure reading as it is. But I got it, brought it home, opened it for a look and was hooked. This one is Very Good. And it’s in Technicolor. And it doesn’t upset you about the state of the world we’re all living in. In fact, it gives you pause for thought about It All." (NYSD)





"As has been the case almost every four years since the early 1970s, and much like Charlie Brown to Lucy’s football, the political media is waiting expectantly for an electoral swing. 'Cracks Appear in Democratic-Jewish Alliance Over Iran Deal, Netanyahu,' the Wall Street Journal announced over the weekend. 'G.O.P.’s Israel Support Deepens as Political Contributions Shift,' the New York Times added. The problem is that we’ve been reading this headline for the better part of half a century. 'The Jewish Vote' (1972). 'Anti-Semitism Issue Worries Party' (1984). 'Bush and Dukakis Are Engaging in Early Battle Over the Jewish Vote' (1988). 'G.O.P. Courts Jews With Eye to Future' (1992). 'Kemp Lines Up Solidly Behind Netanyahu' (1996). 'Republicans Go After Jewish Vote' (2012).
The question is not so much why American Jewish support for Democrats dips from 80 percent to 60 percent in certain election cycles. Instead, the question is: Why are American Jews still white America’s most liberal voting bloc, well over a century since most of their immigrant ancestors set shore on Ellis Island?  Between 1880 and 1940, the number of Jews living in the United States grew from roughly 250,000 to over 4 million, but in proportional terms, Jews never comprised more than four percent of the population. Despite their relatively small numbers, Jews played an outsized role in the 20th century American political culture. Social scientists agree that American Jews have been an unusually loyal, if small, segment of the liberal coalition since the 1930s, and indeed, there is a wealth of data in support of this observation. In the turbulent political atmosphere of the post-World War II era, Jewish liberalism manifested itself in a tolerance of political dissent, strong support of social welfare measures, faith in internationalism, and a commitment to dismantling legal and social barriers based on race, religion or ethnicity. What historians don’t agree on are the causes of American Jewish liberalism. By one account, Jews have long venerated such qualities as learning, non-asceticism and charity, which translate in contemporary terms to liberalism. (That argument has holes in it, as the Orthodox Jews then and now tended to register a more conservative position on the political spectrum, a fact that militates against a correlation between traditional religious culture and liberalism.) Others have traced the roots of Jewish liberalism to the French Revolution, which aligned Jewish destiny with the forces of liberalism by granting Jews full rights associated with citizenship. Others, still, argue that Eastern European Jews who immigrated to the United States imported a distinct brand of East European radicalism—one mostly unrelated to Western liberalism—and that the radical politics of the working-class, largely impoverished immigrant ghetto transmuted over several generations into a moderate, liberal outlook. Still others have claimed that Jewish liberalism in its post-war context was largely a matter of self-interest, particularly as it pertained to campaigns against discrimination and prejudice." (Politico)




"Back at work on Thursday at Foreign Policy the focus was, of course, almost entirely on Lausanne and the impending announcement of whether there would be a nuclear deal with Iran. It was still a mystery as I slipped out to lunch. The last to arrive at the Sulgrave Club, I climbed the carpeted stairs to the pretty second floor with Sondheim and Stritch in my head: 'Here’s to the ladies who lunch,' I conjured Elaine punching out Stephen’s wise lyrics, the fierce showstopper of the incredible '70s hit, 'Company.' Wow, I thought as I emerged into a pastel salon, this is time traveling. A ladies lunch, a concept so obsolete we should have been convening in a diorama at The Smithsonian. Nonetheless, the gathering, while a relic, was as welcomed as the first warm breeze of spring, and all credit to our host, Izette Folger, who is a completely modern Sondheim character – not fitting any old mold, making her own, and breaking it, wife and mother but also an artist entrenched in the cultural scene, a party animal who can outlast her friends, the master of her own unique look, the leader of her own pack ... On Izette’s left, Aimee Lehrman recalled when we both worked together at Larry King Live. That was then. She’s on the advisory board of The Washington Ballet, and lives a philanthropic life with her husband, Robert Lehrman, who is on the board, and past chair, of the Hirshhorn (among other art museum boards). They own an acclaimed collection of contemporary and modern art, including works by Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor, Joseph Cornell. They don’t just collect, they also are students of who they collect. On Aimee’s left was Carole Feld, a former PBS executive who is now a marketing entrepreneur. She is married to David Levy, the former head of the Corcoran Gallery of Art who is now president of the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. And on around the table: Gabriela Ina Coman, Elizabeth Wilson, Elizabeth Duggal, and others, who preferred not to be mentioned, including a journalist, a gallery owner, an arts entrepreneur and a member of The Washington Ballet board who was eagerly counting down the days to the Ballet’s annual ball, which will be held this year on May 1 at the German ambassador’s residence. The Ballet always hosts the city’s best balls, and at this location, with this space and view and grounds, it should be another hit." (NYSD)






"Mariel Hemingway’s memoir 'Out Came the Sun' has some not-so-sunny memories — including her parents’ drinking and fighting and a sister’s battle with mental illness. But Libby Bonbright, Candace Bushnell, Jay McInerney, Holly Peterson and Carole Radziwill hosted a happy party for the tome at a $9 million residence at Edward Minskoff’s 37 E. 12th St. Hemingway thanked boyfriend Bobby Williams for “changing her life” during an emotional speech." (P6)








"White House Florist Ronn Payne remembers one day in 1998, after President Clinton had publicly admitted to his affair with a former White House intern, when he was coming up the service elevator with a cart to pick up old floral arrangements and saw two butlers gathered outside the West Sitting Hall listening in as the Clintons argued viciously with each other. The butlers motioned him over and put their fingers to their lips, telling him to be quiet. All of a sudden he heard the first lady bellow 'goddamn bastard!' at the president—and then he heard someone throw a heavy object across the room. The rumor among the staff was that she threw a lamp. The butlers, Payne said, were told to clean up the mess. In an interview with Barbara Walters, Mrs. Clinton made light of the story, which had made its way into the gossip columns. 'I have a pretty good arm,' she said. 'If I’d thrown a lamp at somebody, I think you would have known about it.' Payne wasn’t surprised at the outburst. 'You heard so much foul language' in the Clinton White House, he said. 'When you’re somebody’s domestic, you know what’s going on.' As a White House reporter for Bloomberg News, I traveled around the world on Air Force One and on Air Force Two—filing reports from Mongolia, Japan, Poland, France, Portugal, China and Colombia—but the most fascinating story turned out to be right in front of me every day: the men and women who take care of the first family, who share a fierce loyalty to the institution of the American presidency. In the more than 100 interviews with current and former White House staffers, senior advisers, and former first ladies and their children I conducted for my new book, The Residence, I had an unprecedented look at what it’s like for those who devote their lives to caring for the first family." (Politico)



Down with Modernism, up with Mozart

"End of season is always bittersweet, the melting snows a bit like autumn leaves, but the days are longer and soon spring will chase any remaining winter blues away. The Eagle Club’s closing is a perennial festive day, with speeches by our president Urs Hodler, an almost teary goodbye to our very own Pino – seating us and feeding us for 44 years – and the Taki Cup awards, the last two years won by my son J.T. in record time. 34 minutes to conquer the highest mountain of Gstaad. (Only five minutes slower was Charlotte Cotton, an amazing feat for a young woman.) It was a hell of a good season, plenty of snow, some fun parties, and my forthcoming move to the top of a mountain and away from the madding crowd. Actually the best I reserved for last, the two greatest operas by the greatest ever, shown in the arts channel and watched by me while downing some very good Haut Brion. I know it sounds impossible, but even a perfect opera like Don Giovanni improves with good red. As does the second greatest, Figaro. As Paul Johnson wrote in his Mozart book, 'it is difficult to produce Figaro badly, it is not, alas, impossible, and I believe the Don has been massacred even in Prague.' The two versions I watched on the telly were as good as it gets. Teddy Tahu Rhodes is a terrific Don, the Kiwi baritone towering over his rivals, and when he prepares to run through Masetto, or Don Ottavio, it looks terribly uneven. And in the lighthearted Figaro, he amuses and delights. I grew up on Don Giovannis, Cesare Siepi, Franco Corelli, Ruggero Raimondi and so on. Teddy Tahu Rhodes is a heroic Don who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s certainly one of the best looking. When Mozart first presented Figaro, he was overwhelmed by the reaction. The emperor even banned excessive applause, so he could hit the sack early. Figaro is a happy opera but the version I saw was a bawdy one. Cherubino is always sticking his hand between Rosina’s legs, and the count strokes Susanna’s breasts at every opportunity. When Don Giovanni first appeared, following Figaro, in 1787, it was felt to be a tragedy, but Wolfie knew what he was doing. It’s an opera buffa that makes a moral point by sending the Don to hell at the end." (Taki)


Oleg Cassini’s daughter dies in poverty


"Oleg Cassini’s only child, Christina, died in poverty in Paris last week — never having collected the vast majority of her inheritance from her father’s estate. Cassini, the fashion designer who dressed Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly, died in 2006, leaving an estate worth $60 million. He bequeathed $1 million to Christina, his daughter by movie star Gene Tierney. But Cassini’s widow, Marianne Nestor Cassini, the executor of the estate, which was probated in Nassau County, NY, refused to pay as Christina battled ovarian cancer. A Long Island lawyer told me last June, 'There’s an innate cruelty in it. This woman [Nestor] is running out the clock, waiting for Tina to die.' A friend of Christina said the mother of four had been in the hospital since November." (Richard Johnson)




"The new Quest is on the stands. The editorial theme is Philanthropy which plays a major role in the social life of many prominent New Yorkers. Among our features is an article by our regular contributor who writes under the nom de plume Audax about philanthropist, art and book collector, politician and businessman Carter Burden, a remarkable man who first came on the New York scene in the early 1960s when great societal changes were sweeping the world. The following excerpt of my Diary in this new issue is about Mr. Burden, and is of historical personal interest to me as you will see. Time has given me the opportunity to see what is possible in the helping of one’s neighbor, and how transformative such acts are for all involved. Carter Burden’s story, and life, is a fine, even sterling example. Born in Los Angeles in 1941, named for his father, S. Carter Burden Jr., always known as Carter, he was tall, willowy, and patrician – a word rarely used to accurately describe someone – in his comportment. He was an heir to what was the last great Vanderbilt fortune -- possessed by his great-grandmother Florence Vanderbilt Twombly. Mrs. Twombly, who was 98 when she died in 1952, was one of four daughters of William H. Vanderbilt, and the last surviving grandchild of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, founder of the family fortune. Two of Mrs. Twombly’s brothers --  Cornelius II and Willie K. Vanderbilt, were her father’s main heirs. Her husband Hamilton McKown Twombly, however, managed to increase his wife’s and his fortunes many times over, leaving her far richer than all of her other siblings including, in the end, the two eldest brothers. Carter Burden was born in Los Angeles and brought up in Beverly Hills in a house designed by Wallace Neff for stage and screen actors Frederic March and his wife Florence Eldridge (and later owned by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston). His father, after whom he was named, Shirley Carter Burden was an Easterner who had married Flobelle Fairbanks, a niece of Douglas Fairbanks the legendary movie star whose spectacular career spanned the history of the film industry, from the Silents right into the era of the Talkies. Young Carter was educated in Catholic schools including Portsmouth Priory in Rhode Island and then at Harvard where he majored in English and graduated cum laude." (NYSD)






"The Obama administration has slipped past self-imposed deadlines and minced words over red lines before. Although certainly an embarrassment for the White House, another missed deadline in the seemingly never-ending Iran nuclear negotiations — which stretched beyond the latest deadline of March 31 — may not matter much in the end. From Iran's point of view, it was a deadline to be exploited, not one to fret over. Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, had expressed misgivings about a framework agreement, insisting that the deal is not done until all core issues are resolved in a final deal. The White House imposed the March deadline to prove to Congress that enough progress was being made to hold off on sanctions. Still, a dodged deadline and a diluted progress report are unlikely to calm dissenters in Congress. Even if a bill calling for additional sanctions in the event of a violation of an agreement makes its way through Congress, it will be vetoed in the Oval Office. Congress overturning that veto is a less likely prospect.  Ironically, the U.S. congressmen vehemently threatening more sanctions are working in Iran's favor in this stage of the negotiating process. The more effort the U.S. negotiating team has to put into keeping Iran at the table, the more leverage Iran has in the talks. So, as the plethora of leaks on Monday all pointed toward the drafting of an agreement, Tehran strategically dropped a bombshell at the last minute. It said that while it would agree to reduce the number of operational centrifuges to 6,000 — going against the supreme leader's earlier demand for at least 10,000 centrifuges to remain in operation — it would pull back on an earlier concession to ship its low-enriched nuclear fuel to Russia. This is a classic negotiating tactic: One party throws up a flare, panic ensues and once all sides return to the table, any further concessions from the instigator appear that much more generous. The next three months will be filled with such twists as the window for negotiations narrows. In Iran's neighborhood, states like Saudi Arabia do not have the luxury of betting against the United States and Iran and have to prepare for the worst. The developing U.S.-Iranian relationship is what has driven Saudi Arabia into action in leading its Sunni allies against Iran across multiple fronts, with Yemen now in the spotlight. Israel may also be upset at the United States for negotiating what it considers a bad deal with Iran, but it cannot deny that the upsurge in Sunni determination to contain Iran is a good thing. For example, Sudan's recruitment into the Saudi-led alliance had been months in the making, but the end result is that Iran has lost a critical conduit to supply arms to militant groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad through supply routes that run from Port Sudan up through the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip." (STRATFOR)





"The retirement of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last week gives Republicans something they have been lacking in the early stages of this Senate cycle: a 50-50 shot at picking up a seat currently held by a Democrat. True, Reid’s poor approval numbers meant he was going to be a target of Republicans anyway. But he’s also a proven commodity who would have had the power of incumbency. In our view, the open-seat race is now a Toss-up, as opposed to the prior rating of Leans Democratic. Democrats are only defending 10 of the 34 Senate seats that are up for election in 2016, which is a consequence of their poor performance on this map during the 2010 cycle, the last time this group of Senate seats (Class III) was contested. But of those 10 seats, three are open: In addition to Reid, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) also have already announced their retirements. Reid’s retirement is almost certainly the most costly — we still consider both the California and Maryland seats to be Safe Democratic, a rating that so far has been vindicated by the seeming lack of interest from big-name Republicans in running for either seat. California and Maryland probably will not become top-tier races in large part because both states should be comfortably won by the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, even if that person loses nationally. The same cannot necessarily be said of Nevada. True, Nevada — just like California and Maryland — has been trending the Democrats’ way, at least in presidential elections. For the first time since 1960, when John F. Kennedy narrowly carried Nevada and outperformed his national percentage of the vote, the Democratic presidential nominee (Barack Obama) did better in Nevada in 2008 than he did nationally, and he repeated the feat in 2012. Assuming a tight presidential election, one would expect the Democratic presidential nominee to be a tiny favorite to win the Silver State, and that would of course be helpful to the Democratic Senate nominee. But we don’t know that the presidential race will be close, and we don’t know how the White House nominees might affect the Senate race. Nevada did not have a Senate race in 2014, but it did in 2012, when appointed incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) barely hung on against ex-Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), despite Obama winning the state. However, Heller ran about the same as Mitt Romney in the state — Heller won 45.9% of the vote, just 0.2 points more than Romney. Berkley ran nearly eight points behind Obama as the state’s unique 'none of these candidates' option proved a more attractive option for some voters ('none' got 4.5% in the Senate race, compared to just 0.6% in the presidential), while a right-leaning Independent American candidate got 4.9%. Berkley ran a poor race — by her own admission — and she was dogged by criticism that some of her actions in office benefited her husband’s business interests. Nevada’s split decision in 2012 — a Democrat winning the presidential vote while a Republican won the Senate race — was somewhat unusual, and we shouldn’t expect that to repeat in 2012, assuming both Senate candidates are evenly matched." (Sabato)


Erica and I lunching in 2006.


"I had lunch with Erica Jong at Sette Mezzo. Erica, who is prolific, is publishing her 24th book, “Fear of Dying” (St. Martin’s Press) on September 9th.  We didn’t discuss it although I learned that it too is a novel, and whether or not it’s related to 'Fear of Flying,' her debut novel which was published forty-two years ago in 1973, the first Fear…’s main character Isadora Wing re-emerges in this new novel. She is not the main character but she knows the main character. Like life. Erica and I talked about writing. This sounds fatuous, I know, but the psychomechanics of the process – the way we think, the way we convey, and the doubts that accompany so much of the experience – are very real yet otherwise boring for anyone not involved in it. With Erica, I can “tell her everything.” She’s like that too; very open about herself and freely expresses her personal opinions with gentle matter-of-factness. It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with her, or like what she’s saying. It’s her opinion – and often well-considered. Erica and I have known each other for several years. I can’t remember how we met. We rarely see each other: she is as daily active in her work as I am in mine. Although she, like me, lives in the New York social life where one can have a lot of pleasant relationships which really are acquaintances, and often with people who are doing interesting things in their lives. And then there are the close friends whom we are at home with, like extended family." (NYSD)


Chaplin’s ‘degrading’ sex demands with teen wife


"Charlie Chaplin’s teenage wife Lita Grey described in bombshell divorce papers how the movie icon seduced her while she was underage, got her pregnant and made 'degrading' sexual demands.An original copy of the 1927 divorce papers filed by Grey has emerged, the Times of London reports.
The 50-page document, discovered in an abandoned bank in LA, includes claims that Chaplin first seduced the actress when she was 15 and he was 35. Chaplin had known Grey since she was 8, and a few years later she appeared in his movie 'The Kid.' After she became pregnant at 16 and refused his demand to have an abortion, her mother allegedly threatened to report Chaplin to police unless he married her. They wed in 1924 when she was still only 16. She also claimed Chaplin made 'revolting, degrading and offensive' sexual demands and forced her to perform acts that were illegal in California in the 1920s, which he said he had performed with 'five prominent moving-picture women' before their marriage. The shocking details helped Grey land the world’s then-largest divorce settlement of $825,000." (P6)