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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is pictured. | AP Photo

"Mitt Romney decided last weekend that he would not run for president a third time in 2016. But even minutes before his Friday announcement, several of his former top aides were held in suspense, some as convinced he was in as others were adamant he was out. All week, the 2012 GOP nominee looked and sounded like a candidate. On a Sunday night conference call with advisers, Romney talked through the steps he was taking toward getting in. On a campaign-style trip to Mississippi, he stopped by a barbeque joint, gladhanding customers, before taking jabs at Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during a speech at a state university. All the while, he and his wife Ann were praying as they came to terms with the choice to recede from the national political scene. There was no one moment or factor that changed the Republican’s mind, according to interviews with more than a dozen people who have been in touch with Romney since he announced to a group of donors early this month that he was seriously interested in a 2016 bid. It was, by all accounts, a gradual process.
A clear-eyed Romney approached the deliberations like the former Bain Capital executive he is, encouraged by the warm response he got on the campaign trail in 2014 but fully aware of the difficult path forward and the indignities that come with running for president. The return of jokes and columns about Romney putting his dog Seamus on the roof of a car during a decades-ago family vacation exasperated him, for example. In more candid moments of self-doubt, he worried that he might not wind up being the party’s best hope of beating Hillary Clinton – and thought about the stigma that would come with losing two national elections in a row. 'Today indicates a strong level of self-awareness,' said someone who has worked for Romney in a senior role. 'He did a gut check, and it just wasn’t there,' said another. 'It’s not like in 2012 where you have to run to save the country from these clowns,' a third person said, referring to the less-than-stellar GOP field four years ago. 'There are serious people in this race.' 'When you make the decision to run for president, you really have to want it with every fiber of your being,' added a fourth person, one of his closest confidantes. 'And Mitt thought it was time to let new leaders emerge from the field and carry the banner forward. It was a form of duty that he felt to his party.'" (Politico)

"There was a love fest going on inside the publicist Kari Feinstein’s Sundance Style Lounge. Like the dozens of gifting suites that popped up along Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival last week, this one was filled with freebies: leather boots, knitted hats, portable cellphone chargers and, perhaps most outlandishly, a three-night, all-expenses-paid trip to Aruba, valued at $10,000. Justine Ezarik struggled to take it all in. 'It’s always so weird: They’re like, ‘No, it’s O.K., you can keep it,’ and I’m like, ‘Are you sure?’ ' she said, eyes bright and voice bubbly as she bounced from booth to booth. Ms. Ezarik, 30, is better known as iJustine, an Internet personality and avid gamer who has more than seven million fans across YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. (What made her famous: a 2007 video about her 300-page iPhone bill.) A tweet or hashtag from her could mean hundreds of new followers for a brand and — here’s where the love fest comes in — she’s happy to oblige. 'I love products, and I love sharing if I love something,' she said. 'Like, you can probably guarantee that it’s going to be posted, especially if I love it.' Imagine Jennifer Aniston saying that. For more than a decade, gifting suites have been a fixture at Sundance and other celebrity-filled events as a way for public relations firms and their clients to get brands in the hands of the famous. Celebrities have been known to walk away with tens of thousands of dollars of free stuff, from leather handbags to bottled water. Now these swag suites, formerly accessible to A-list Hollywood stars (and, sometimes, D-list reality show ones), actively court social media personalities and their followers. These Instagrammers, Viners, YouTubers, vloggers and bloggers appeal to brands by posting photos of their products, tagging them with the appropriate hashtags like #MooseOnTheLoose (for the Canadian clothing brand Moose Knuckles) and integrating the swag — to use a favorite word — in an 'authentic' way." (NYT)

John and Jana Scarpa with Mary and Mark Freitas

"The 2015 Policemen's Ball, the Palm Beach Police Foundation's annual fundraiser, met a million dollar milestone, breaking its previous fund raising records.  Secret Agent 007, aka James Bond, and a cast of heroes, villains and vixens recently descended on Mar-a-Lago, replete with signature Bond elements that were cleverly incorporated by event designer, Tom Mathieu, who set the scene for the gala that paid tribute to Palm Beach Police Department's men and women in blue and its civilian employees. Mary and Mark Freitas served as the Dinner Chairmen, and Annie and Michael Falk served as Honorary Chairmen, all for the second year.  More than 600 supporters, friends, police officers and employees from the Palm Beach Police Department, along with Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio and nearly all Palm Beach Town Council members, attended and were entertained by the  popular dance band, Soul Survivor." (NYSD)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

The new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, is not a stranger to the danger Iran poses to his country
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud looks on as he attends 12th summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on February 6, 2013, in Cairo. (Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/Getty Images).

"Since the start of the Arab Spring in 2010, Saudi Arabia has been hedging. Actually, deferring is the word. The Saudis have deferred to American leadership in places like Syria, Egypt, and Yemen, though they have repeatedly been shocked by that leadership. They may not be willing to defer much longer. King Abdullah, now departed, had a long history with the United States. He was remembered as 'a dear friend and partner' of the first President Bush, who praised him and their alliance against Saddam’s Iraq in a statement released on Thursday. Abdullah had been Crown Prince and commander of the National Guard when the Kingdom made its crucial, history-altering decision to ask America for assistance during the first Gulf War. Deserts Shield and Storm followed, and the US-Saudi security partnership was soldiered into the emerging post-Cold War order. It was also an anti-Iran order, by implication or design. And the basic element of that Brave New Middle East was that America leads. The Saudis can pay, fuel, feed, and in some cases fight, but America leads.
The new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, is not a stranger to the danger Iran poses to his country. He became Defense Minister at the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, during a particularly infelicitous half-decade to be involved in his country’s security issues. He’s also 79, with the reputation of a diplomat, so it may well be that his last lessons are less significant than his first ones, as governor of Riyadh. We should hope so. Because it’s not clear that he is willing to defer endlessly to American leadership; the last five years, surely, have made it very much not clear that deferring works. It hasn’t worked in Yemen, where the President just quit under the guns of a Shiite militia, and it certainly hasn’t worked in Egypt, Lebanon, or Syria. In fact, the only positive thing to say about the Syrian debacle is that no major Sunni state has thrown in with the radical Islamic opposition. Qatar flirted with them, in its coquettish, neutralist way, but nobody’s gone over whole hog. Which is fortunate, particularly since those states are locked into a mortal struggle with Iran and absolutely committed to Assad’s removal. One of the great strategic risks of Inherent Resolve, the campaign against ISIS, was that was Saudi Arabia and its partners would grow tired of the US prevaricating about Assad and Iran and take matters into their own hands." (Observer)

"One success of the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Programme became public in 1999, after agents trained by Mr Navarro noticed the curious non-verbal cues of a Russian diplomat. A probe led to the discovery of a bug at the State Department. Nearly all federal security agencies now study body language, says Mr Navarro. For example, since 2009 a Pentagon think-tank called the Office of Net Assessment has spent roughly $300,000 a year on interpreting the body language of foreign leaders, says Valerie Henderson, a spokeswoman. The Body Leads Project has subjected Osama bin Laden and a dozen leaders of potentially hostile nations to what it calls 'movement-pattern analysis'. It takes a good 20 hours to understand 30 minutes of video, says Martha Davis, a former consultant to an American defence contractor. It is not as simple as seeing that someone is fidgeting and concluding that he is lying. Rather, the trick is to spot statements that deserve extra scrutiny, such as a denial made while shaking one’s head a moment longer than usual, she says. Critics caution that movements can be rehearsed to mislead. But involuntary 'micro-expressions'—which may last no longer than 1/25th of a second—often reveal concealed emotions, says Paul Ekman of the Paul Ekman Group, a body-language consultancy in California. His clients include the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism division, intelligence agencies and special forces who may need, he says, to know whether the captured survivors of a firefight are telling the truth when interrogated. Each micro-expression’s meaning isn’t always clear, however. The face of a man about to detonate a suicide-belt resembles that of a man who fears he has left home with the stove on, Mr Ekman says." (Economist)

"Catching up; out on the other Coast, in LA last Thursday night our friends at Doyle New York hosted a launch party of their new Beverly Hills office at the Peninsula. Doyle’s Chairman and CEO Kathleen Doyle, and the firm’s new Director of California Operations Nan Summerfield, greeted more than 300 guests including Gwyneth Paltrow and celebrity interior designers Mary McDonald, Nathan Turner, David Netto and Hutton Wilkinson. Also joining in the festivities were Kimm and Alessandro Uzielli, Diane Deshong, Lionel Ephraim, Jeffrey Herr, Greg Rivera, Andy Milonakis and contemporary artists Gregory Siff, Bert Rodriguez and David Cook." (NYSD)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Burning vehicles near the village of Ghajar, on the Israeli border with Lebanon, after a missile attack on an Israeli military convoy by Hezbollah. Credit Maruf Khatib/Reuters

"Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a missile attack Wednesday on a military convoy in a disputed area along the Lebanese border, Israel said, in the most serious flare-up in the area in years. Hezbollah claimed responsibility. The attack raised the risk of a further escalation between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group that is one of Israel’s most tenacious enemies. The two sides lobbed rockets and artillery at each other for hours afterward. Hezbollah, which had vowed to avenge a deadly Israeli strike on its fighters earlier this month, said in a statement that its Quneitra Martyrs Brigade had carried out the missile strike at 11:35 a.m. The attack was the latest in a string of recent events along Israel’s northern frontiers that have sharply escalated tensions between Israel and Hezbollah after a prolonged period of relative calm since the last war between them in 2006. About an hour after the initial attack on the convoy, several mortar shells were fired at Israeli military positions in the border area and on Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, without causing injury." (NYT)

David Koch, executive vice president of chemical technology for Koch Industries Inc. is pictured. | Getty

"The Koch brothers’ conservative network is still debating whether it will spend any of its massive $889 million budget in the Republican presidential primaries, but the prospect of choosing a GOP nominee loomed over the network’s just-concluded donor conference in the California desert. In an informal straw poll of some conference donors, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came out ahead of four other would-be GOP presidential candidates who had been invited, according to an attendee familiar with the results. The poll was conducted by Frank Luntz, a veteran GOP pollster, during a break-out session of the conference, which wrapped up Tuesday after a long weekend of presentations and discussions at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — who received the least enthusiastic response from donors during a Sunday night forum of prospective candidates that also featured Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — finished last in Luntz’s poll, the source told POLITICO. The poll is by no means a definitive assessment of the feelings of the hundreds of wealthy business leaders who comprise the vaunted network created by billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. But it does provide an early glimpse into the leanings of a pool of megadonors who are being hotly courted by the field of would-be candidates, and whose checkbooks could go a long way toward determining who emerges with the GOP nomination — regardless of whether the Koch network decides to formally back a candidate." (POLITICO)

"On graduation, many members of America’s future elite will head for the law firms, banks and consultancies where starting salaries are highest. Lauren Rivera of Kellogg School of Management interviewed 120 people charged with hiring in these sectors for a forthcoming book. She found that though they did not set out to recruit students from wealthy backgrounds, the companies had a penchant for graduates who had been to well-known universities and played varsity sports (lacrosse correlates with success particularly well). The result was a graduate intake that included people with skin of every shade but rarely anyone with parents who worked blue-collar jobs. 'When we are asked to identify merit,' explains Ms Rivera, 'we tend to find people like ourselves.' Something similar has happened in corner offices of America’s biggest companies. As computing power has increased and clerical jobs have been automated, the distance between the shop floor and executive positions has increased. It was never common for people to start at the bottom and work their way to the top. Now it is close to impossible. Research by Nitin Nohria, the dean of Harvard Business School, and his colleagues has shown how in the second half of the 20th century a corporate elite where family networks and religion mattered most was replaced by one whose members required an MBA or similar qualification from a business school. This makes the managers better qualified. It also means they are the product of a serial filtering that has winnowed their numbers at school, college and work before they get their MBAs. More than 50 years ago Michael Young warned that the incipient meritocracy to which he had given a name could be as narrow and pernicious, in its way, as aristocracies of old." (TheEconomist)

Courtney Love reveals heroin use during pregnancy

"'KURT COBAIN: Montage of Heck' is the first family-authorized documentary about the life of late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, taking audiences inside the mind of the talented and troubled musician. 'In 2007 got a call from Courtney [Love, his wife] who wanted a film that went beyond the music. The journey started there. But I made this for Frances [Bean Cobain, the couple’s daughter]. She gave me the keys to go and make the film,' director Brett Morgen told FOX411. 'If you come to the movie thinking that you are going to see the story of Nirvana, you are only going to be sorely disappointed. This is the Kurt Cobain story.' Bean, 22, served as executive producer on the film, offering up very personal Super 8 footage of her early months being raised by rock-star parents devoted to their daughter while struggling with drug addiction. At one point in the film, Love admits that she used heroin while pregnant. 'I used it once, then stopped,' Love said. 'I knew she would be fine.'" (PageSix)

Barbara at Swifty's after being presented her birthday cake, with Stephen Holden looking on.

"Nevertheless, early afternoon, I went to a luncheon that Lisa Schiff gave for our friend Barbara Carroll, the jazz pianist who turned 90 on Sunday. It was a complete surprise. Barbara thought she was having lunch with just Lisa, and because of the weather she wasn’t certain she’d be able to make it. There were eight of us including the birthday girl and her husband Mark Stroock and Stephen Holden, the music, theatre and film critic for the New York Times, Ann Dewey, Lisa Schiff’s sister; Marti Stevens, Joy Ingham, and Deborah Grace Winer, the artistic director of the 92nd Street Y’s Lyrics and Lyricists program. The last to arrive was Barbara’s husband because he went along with the 'story' that Barbara was having a lunch with just Lisa, so he had to wait until she left the apartment before he could leave. Barbara and I have been friends for thirty years. We met through another Lisa – Lisa Drew – who was the editor on the book I wrote for Debbie Reynolds. Lisa had come out to California to work on editing the manuscript with me and Debbie. Barbara, coincidentally at the time was playing a gig at the old Westwood Marquis Hotel and Lisa and I went to see her. She was a girl from Worcester, Massachusetts, Barbara Carole Coopersmith who first came to New York in the late 1940s to pursue a career as a jazz pianist.  She’d begun her classical piano training at age eight but by the time she was in high school she wanted to be a jazz pianist. She attended the New England Conservatory.  As a kid her idols were Nat Cole, Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. By the time she was fifteen she  formed her own trio which played at school dances, an enterprise that gave her enough money to study at the Conservatory." (NYSD)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, the 53-year-old half-brother of 67-year-old ruler Sheikh Khalifa, and the son of the country’s founder, has been de facto ruler for about five years.                      
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates,

"When the Saudi king was laid to rest on Friday, two aging Gulf leaders were notably absent from the funeral—the heads of the United Arab Emirates and the sultanate of Oman. With both men reported to be ailing, the prospect of their deaths could inject more instability into the Middle East at a time when Yemen—home to al Qaeda’s most dangerous offshoot—is in political upheaval and the extremist group Islamic State remains in control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. Amid the turmoil of the past few years, each Gulf country has been carving out its own distinct foreign-policy path.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, and Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said weren’t in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Friday for the funeral of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud. Both rulers are ill and have had surgery in the past year, as did Kuwait’s 85-year-old ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, according to government news agencies and local media reports. The U.A.E., Kuwait and Oman are all strong allies of the U.S. Oman has mediated in nuclear talks between the U.S. and Iran. The U.A.E., alongside four other Arab countries, has helped the American-led international coalition carry out airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State targets in recent months. 'Succession issues in the region are being handled even more carefully than before because of the upheavals going on,' said Andrew Hammond, a Middle East policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. President Barack Obama ’s decision to fly to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to pay respects to the royal family—cutting short a visit to India—reflects global concerns about succession, Mr. Hammond added. In a bid to project stability, Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, on Friday appointed his 55-year-old nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as deputy crown prince, putting him second in line to the throne. It was the first time that a grandson of the country’s founder—who had 36 sons—was added to the line of succession. The appointment has quieted speculation and concerns that choosing a successor from the royal family’s younger generation could usher in a power struggle between the grandsons of the founder." (WSJ)

Screenshot 2015-01-26 12.45.46
Economist Intelligence Unit, BBC

"It may seem ironic that Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's extreme right Front National, rooted for the extreme left Syriza in yesterday's Greek election and rejoiced at its landslide victory. Yet there's nothing unusual about it: Syriza, Front National and other European anti-establishment parties are partners in a political revolution that appears to be about to sweep the continent, giving back the original meaning to political terms such as 'left' and 'right' -- and helping Russian President Vladimir Putin in the process. For much of the post-World War II era, European nations have been ruled by two-party systems, in which a center-right and a center-left political force alternated at the helm. In France, it was the Gaullist center-right party (now known as the UMP) and the socialists, in Germany the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), in the U.K. the Conservative and Labor parties, in Spain the People's Party and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, and in Greece New Democracy and the socialist PASOK. As they fought their increasingly ritual political battles, they came to be almost identical in their policies -- at least as far as voters were concerned. Francois Hollande's socialist government is now so pro-business, its reform proposals are wholeheartedly backed by the national employers' association. Angela Merkel's CDU evidently feels quite comfortable in a coalition with SPD. When the Labor party last ruled in the U.K., it was almost indistinguishable politically from the Conservatives.  In these countries and throughout Europe, the convergence of centrist parties into a kind of colorless sludge has led to huge decreases in party membership" (Bloomberg)

"LAST Thursday, Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly for the past 20 years, was arrested and charged with mail and wire fraud, extortion and receiving bribes. According to Preet Bharara, the federal prosecutor who brought the charges, the once seemingly untouchable Mr. Silver took millions of dollars for legal work he did not do. In exchange, he used his official power to steer business to a law firm that specialized in getting tax breaks for real estate developers, and he directed state funds to a doctor who referred cases to another law firm that paid Mr. Silver fees. Albany is reeling, but fighting the kind of corruption that plagues not only New York State but the whole nation isn’t just about getting cuffs on the right guy. As with the recent conviction of the former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for receiving improper gifts and loans, a fixation on plain graft misses the more pernicious poison that has entered our system. Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy." (ZephyrTeachout)

Sen. Rand Paul Speaks To The Detroit Economic Club
Sen. Rand Paul speaks with the news media after delivering a speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Dec. 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.

"Foreign policy fissures were on full display among three likely GOP presidential hopefuls at the first unofficial forum of the 2016 cycle. Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) took the stage late Sunday evening at the California winter meeting of Freedom Partners, a conservative, free-market group aligned with Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch.During the 90-minute debate-style panel, moderated by ABC’s Jonathan Karl, there was little difference between the trio on fiscal issues. But on questions of international relations, the senators’ disagreements were stark and often heated — underscoring the foreign policy experience the lawmakers, as opposed to the party’s governors, would bring to the 2016 conversation. Cruz and Rubio — both the sons of Cuban immigrants who fled the country’s oppressive regime — were steadfast in their opposition to President Obama’s moves to normalize relations with Cuba. But Paul didn’t back away from his support for the steps, saying it would open up opportunities for trade, and even reiterated his opposition to sanctions against Iran. Cruz, who said his father was 'imprisoned and tortured” in the country, said Obama’s deal followed a pattern in which he 'consistently alienated and abandoned our friends and appeased our enemies.' He argued that normalizing relations would “result in billions more for the Castro regime' and make it less likely that Cuba would become a Democratic ally.
Rubio said the Cuba deal was poorly negotiated, many of the dissidents that Castro agreed to free having been either free already or rearrested since. Paul, meanwhile, argued that the 50-year embargo hasn’t worked and that the U.S. has relations with countless regimes that are similarly guilty of human rights violations. In an ironic twist, it’s Paul who has accused his Republican counterparts of 'isolationism' on the issue of Cuba — a charge usually leveled at the Kentucky senator and his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Paul also split from Cruz and Rubio on Iran, where he said increasing sanctions would only lead the country to withdraw further from the international community and make it more likely that an international conflict would erupt. 'The place has been a mess for 1,000 years, you have to think about what the practical results will be of not negotiating,' he said.Rubio, meanwhile, thundered that current U.S. sanctions were doing nothing to curb Iran’s moves to enrich uranium and that at this pace, 'in five years we’re going to build the bomb for them.' 'Nothing should ever be off the table,' including the possibility of military strikes, Rubio said.
Cruz agreed, saying that Iran’s leadership was made up of 'radical Islamic nutcases' and that stopping 'the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism' required 'more stick and less carrot.' Rubio may have done the most to boost his presidential chances with his performance, even though it’s very early in the presidential testing game. The Florida senator must decide whether to run for reelection to his Senate seat or take a gamble in a growing White House field. " (TheHill)

"Last Thursday night at the Park Avenue Armory was the Opening Night Party of the Winter Antiques Show to benefit the East Side House Settlement. WAS, as some are now calling it, marks the beginning of the social season that will now extend until late May when people start preparing for summer (and many leaving the city whenever they can). The evening’s co-chairs were Lucinda Ballard, Arie Kopelman and Michael Lynch. Arie Kopelman, now retired President of Chanel US, has been at the center of producing this Opening Night for many years, and has been a hands-on contributor to its successes. The Opening Night Party Chair was Kathleen Tierney, Executive Vice President and COO of Chubb Personal Insurance. The East Side House Settlement was established 124 years ago in 1891 as a non-profit community service organization. The 'settlement houses,' of which there are several in the greater New York area, were all founded to assist newcomers (immigrants) and the poor in the neighborhoods. They are the glue to a cohesive community that moves and grows in every direction by leaps and bounds in the city called New York." (NYSD)

"David Wolkowsky’s annual party was the usual roaring success with the best of Key West from the artists and authors and poets to the elite conchs with streets named after them. And of course there are the ‘guests’ who have never received a cream colored embossed invitation in the handwritten matching envelope, but they crash the party each year. David notices everything. I, on the other hand, notice very little these days as I’m in the middle of swimming across the Atlantic Ocean, metaphorically speaking. Only two reasons are good enough for me to tear away from my current project, one being anytime David Wolkowsky calls, and the second being anytime Xperimento perform at the Green Parrot, the Ozymandias of watering holes. Another not on David’s party guest list is the new most popular personality in town. This personality has their own Facebook page and ‘friend requests’ are blowing up. This fresh personality can reliably be found outside the Green Parrot. To be precise, directly across the street. Because it is a bench, it is the bench outside the Court House Deli. This bench by day hosts coffee drinkers and newspaper readers and by night it hosts stringy strung-out hippies and snoozing drunks. Some nights it is host to me and pals with parrots, for chatting smoking drinking laughing. One local told me, 'I post on the Bench’s Facebook wall if I’m coming out, so it’s like a date!'" (Christina Oxenberg)

There’s No Justice

"I had a short chat with BBC Radio concerning the actor Jack Nicholson, whom I knew slightly during the 70s and 80s. Alas, it had to do with age, his and mine, 77 and 78 respectively. No, the man on the other side of the telephone did not ask me anything embarrassing. All he wanted to know was: Do women still come on to an oldie, or are they, as Jack Nicholson claims, a thing of the past? Well, for starters, I do not believe that Nicholson is telling the truth, that he’s now alone and fears he will die alone because women have abandoned a sinking ship. He has a sense of decorum, and knows how ridiculous a man our age sounds when talking about women, especially younger women, something Jack and Taki have in common. Jack Nicholson has been chasing beautiful women all his life and will continue to do so up to the moment the man in the white suit pays him a visit. And that goes for me also, except that his fame and celebrity status give him an unfair advantage over the poor little unknown Greek boy ... And speaking of Hollywood, the number one producer in the world swept through Gstaad like a tsunami, and I took him up to the Eagle Club, where he was a great hit. Harvey Weinstein produces the only films that are watchable nowadays. No science fiction, no flesh-eating robots, no creatures from other planets that enter earthly bodies, none of that crap. He arrived with his very pretty and very well-mannered, fashion designer English wife; five children; and his mother-in-law, Caroline. Harvey previewed The Imitation Game for us, a wonderful movie that has both its stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, plus a host of others nominated for Oscars. I hope it wins for both best actor as well as director because it truly deserves it." (Taki)

"Moving day, so great to be back in that magnificent house."

"Some of the news of the week from Washington again had to do with France, but this time in a happier way. After being closed for a full two years for an extensive renovation, the French reopened the Tudor-style Kalorama mansion that has been home to the nation's ambassadors since the 1930s. A member of the staff posted a photo on Facebook with the message, 'Moving day, so great to be back in that magnificent house.' The repair work was principally behind the scenes and probably won't be apparent to visitors because it focused on issues of leaks, mold and asbestos. The redone public rooms may look familiar. The happiest about the reopening may be the new French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who when he landed here in September made it clear to anyone he met that he was eager to get the work done and lay claim to the fabled home. The city's many fans of France were eager, too. During the repair project the ambassador (Francois Delattre before Araud) was exiled to Foxhall Road and a McMansion that while spacious was very low on the chic scale. Entertaining went on as usual, it just wasn't quite the same. As part of the renovation, the ambassador got spiffed up digs, too. Many aren't aware that while ambassadors to Washington typically reside in elegant and huge mansions, the part that is privately theirs – sleeping quarters, bath, sitting room, basically – is often not among the grand formal rooms, and occasionally even in the attic. No different with the French residence, though now the ambassador's apartment has been refreshed and with a kitchen and some other amenities added." (NYSD)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"President George W. Bush held his hand and walked with him through a field of flowers at the ranch in Crawford, Texas. President Barack Obama, when he first met him, performed a courtly bow. For Saudi Arabia’s aged King Abdullah, whose death was announced in Riyadh early Friday morning, physical gestures of friendship and respect were important, so even American presidents indulged him. He was one of the most powerful men in the world, after all, and he was also one of the easiest to understand.  A former U.S. ambassador to Riyadh described Abdullah as 'in many ways a throwback to that desert warrior ethos where men stand by their word, they look each other straight in the eye, they are direct, and they apply a code of honor.' Abdullah’s daughter, Princess Adelah, once told me, 'My father doesn’t have two parallel identities. What you see as a monarch and a ruler is what you see as a father. He is very straightforward, very honest, he hates injustice, and he likes truth.'  But Abdullah was doomed to disappointment. The ambassador remembers that when they were together the king would ask rhetorically, 'Where are the men of honor left in the Middle East?'  And the answer, clearly, was 'none are to be found.'  In recent years Abdullah’s traditional values and attitudes became a source of huge frustration for him. People close to the 90-something king say events seemed to overwhelm him, baffle him, infuriate him. He believed he had made a peace offer to Israel that it could not refuse, and yet it had. He could not accept the news that those who carried out the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the 'miscreants' as he called them, were sons of Saudi Arabia. But they were. He had wanted to bring stability to the Middle East, and all he saw was growing chaos." (TheDailyBeast)

Saudi Arabia's new king, Salman, shown in this Jan. 6 photo, is a veteran of the country's top leadership. (Uncredited/AP)
"When wayward Saudi princes misbehaved, they ended up in Salman’s private jail. During the 48 years he was governor of Riyadh, from 1963 to 2011, now-King Salman bin Abdul Aziz maintained a small jail on the grounds of his official palace, where he would lock up royals who ran afoul of the law. 'Who else was going to discipline a prince?' said Robert Lacey, a British author who has written extensively about the Saudi royal family. 'Salman has great authority within the family. He is beloved and feared. He is a tall, upright son of the desert.' Serious questions have been raised about the health and ability of King Salman, whose rule began upon the death of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Salman, 79, is widely believed to have significant health problems and to suffer from dementia.
'He can perform quite well for a few minutes, but then he gets muddled and goes off message,' said Simon Henderson, an authority on Saudi Arabia and succession issues at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy." (WashPo)
Entering the Park Avenue Armory last night, heading into the Winter Antiques Show in the Ward Thompson Drill Hall.
"Last night at the Park Avenue Armory was the Opening Night Party of the Winter Antiques Show to benefit the East Side House Settlement. The W-A-S as some are now calling it, marks the beginning of the social season that will now extend until late May when people start preparing for summer (and many leaving the city whenever they can). The Winter Antiques Show runs through the next two weekends ending on February 1st. This is the 61st year of the show which was launched in 1954 by the East Side House Settlement. It is always a very successful show, and that’s good because the opening night is critical to East Side House’s work in the South Bronx – which is one of the nation’s poorest Congressional Districts. The evening’s co-chairs were Lucinda Ballard, Arie Kopelman and Michael Lynch. Arie Kopelman, now retired President of Chanel US, has been at the center of producing this Opening Night for many years, and has been a hands on contributor to its successes. The Opening Night Party Chair was Kathleen Tierney, Executive Vice President and COO of Chubb Personal Insurance. The East Side House Settlement was established 124 years ago in 1891 as a non-profit community service organization. The “settlement houses,” of which there are several in the greater New York area, were all founded to assist newcomers (immigrants) and the poor in the neighborhoods. They are the glue to a cohesive community that moves and grows in every direction by leaps and bounds in the city called New York." (NYSD)