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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres
















"As everyone who has ever joined a club knows, Pugs is the world’s most exclusive one, its 19 members varying from German nobility and Greek and Danish royalty to the British upper classes, Indian nobility, and American and Greek aristocracy. Plus Sir Bob Geldof and Roger Taylor, of pop music royalty. Club rules forbid membership to exceed 21, hence a titanic struggle is taking place as I write to fill our last two spots.Last week in London the annual Pugs lunch took place and I flew over for it from New York despite running a temperature and suffering from the flu. Mind you, it was worth it. Everyone wore the sky blue and white striped necktie of the club, evoking a gentler time when men wore uniforms and marched in step.  At one head of the table sat Sir Christopher Lee, our oldest member, who at age 92 has two films and three recordings out this year alone. At the other end were Sir Bob Geldof and club commodore Tim Hoare. I sat between Count Leopold Bismarck and Prince Nikolaos of Greece, who had flown in from the birthplace of electrolysis especially for the meeting. His older brother, Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, opened the proceedings by suggesting we leave the voting for new members part for last—the prince is a very nice man who does not like blackballing people—but his suggestion was unanimously rejected. Even before the first course, but after numerous bottles of wine had been consumed, we dealt with a plethora of proposals for membership, a most pleasant business. For starters, Charles Saatchi received 19 blackballs out of nineteen, which means his name can never come up again. Following was Edward St Aubyn, who received 22 blackballs, which according to club rules needed an open explanation. I was the one that had to stand and explain why there were more blackballs than members voting. The reason was that St Aubyn had blackened his father’s name by writing that his old man had buggered him silly, all in order to exorcize his demons and gain fame and fortune, and patricide is a real no-no among Pugs members. So there was a second vote on St Aubyn and this time he got twenty-five blackballs ... After that particularly nice interlude, lunch was served and then once again we had to vote, this time for the Pugs’ dream date. But before nominations were heard, Prince Heinrich von Furstenberg warned members that Arpad Busson’s dalliance with one of the Kardashian women could bring the club’s impeccable name and ranking into disrepute. Busson strenuously denied any contact, but the more he denied it, the less he was believed by his fellow Pugs. The dream girl we finally agreed on for 2014 was Kristin Scott Thomas, although in the secret ballot there was one vote for a Kardashian, the handwriting being rather familiar to me as that of Arpad Busson, with the same misspellings. (Mine vot ees fer …) But it could have been a jokester among us trying to blacken a poor Swiss boy’s chances with Kristin." (Taki)








1383209 10151618351062352 738381471 n 2 Jared Paul Stern in Exile








"ON WEEKENDS, THE WAYFARER CAFE IS THE SOCIAL hub of Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, Maine. Locals wait for tables on the porch, while career waitresses shuttle plates of biscuits and sausage gravy across the floorboards. A vintage photograph of presidents 41 and 43 hangs as a nod to the nearby Bush family compound. One customer who doesn’t have to wait is Jared Paul Stern. In white Levi’s, a shawl-collar navy cardigan and narrow-brimmed Panama hat, he is the most dapper man in the place. Mr. Stern  consulted on the design of The Wayfarer, which recently renovated under new owners. He points out the wooden counter he suggested, the lighting, the card he designed; he even sourced the Bush picture. Until last summer, he operated an antiques store out of a barn in this tiny village, that is, between freelance writing and his steady job editing Urban Daddy’s auto blog, Driven. It’s a very different life from the one he had eight years ago, when Mr. Stern was picked up by the scruff of his neck and thrown out of New York City. Then a New York Post gossip writer, he was accused of trying to extort $220,000 out of billionaire Ron Burkle in exchange for favorable coverage in the Page Six column. Along with the Jayson Blair incident at The New York Times, it was the biggest New York newspaper scandal in decades. Although a freelancer, Mr. Stern was the top lieutenant of former Page Six boss Richard Johnson. His name would appear at the top of the column when Mr. Johnson was away.Mr. Stern was taken by surprise on the day in April 2006, when The Daily News called, seeking comment on the extortion allegations. Rattled, he left to meet with his lawyer just as Mr. Johnson was summoned by the Post’s editor in chief. The two haven’t seen each other since.It was the front-page story on The Daily News for days. The Times pushed the story forward, the Today show tried to book Mr. Stern, jokes about him made it into The New Yorker and the Post’s troubles became the subject of a David Letterman Top Ten list. The whole country—except for the Post—was laughing along.But he was never charged with a crime, and he maintains his innocence to this day. 'I definitely got drawn into talking about some shit with Burkle that I shouldn’t have,' Mr. Stern says. He admits he sought the money but insists it was a legitimate investment in his side project, a range of preppy, faux-edgy polo shirts and accessories called Skull & Bones." (Observer)




Illustration by James Ferguson of Zhang Lei©James Ferg


"It is a glorious spring Sunday, the day before commencement at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Among the many alumni returning to the campus is billionaire Chinese financier Zhang Lei, 41, who is a familiar figure here. In 2010 he announced a gift of the propitious amount of $8,888,888 to Yale School of Management, the largest donation made to the business school from one of its graduates. In the world beyond Yale, however, Zhang is little known. Yet he runs a $13bn fund in China, Hillhouse Capital, which has a focus on investing in Chinese internet entrepreneurs and start-ups. The fund is named after an avenue in New Haven that’s a block from where the Yale investment office used to be located. This office, which manages the university’s $20bn endowment, is where Zhang got his start in finance as a student intern.It is tempting to compare Zhang with the US financial entrepreneurs of the 1970s and 1980s who started the now-public buyout firms, such as KKR or Blackstone, although he rejects such parallels. Zhang built his investment firm by being among the first to back Chinese mainland internet entrepreneurs, among them Tencent’s founder and chief executive, Pony Ma. Tencent, along with Jack Ma’s Alibaba, is one of the most valuable internet companies in China. It is more accurate, perhaps, to liken him to Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists.We’ve arranged to meet at a table in the sun outside Nica’s Market, a grocery and deli a short walk from the campus – and one of the few places open for lunch on a Sunday. Zhang, in dark jeans and a dark polo shirt with long sleeves and black trim, blends in among the passing students.
As I sit down he tells me he will change into a tuxedo later to attend a reception honouring David Swensen, who has been chief investment officer for the Yale endowment since 1985. Swensen has been something of a mentor to Zhang since 1999, when Zhang took Swensen’s class at the Yale School of Management and won a coveted internship at the investment office. I am amazed and pleased that Zhang has agreed to meet me – I have been asking for a long time and this is his first major interview in English. I ask why he avoids the limelight. He replies by reciting a Taoist saying in Chinese about how fragrant 'peach and plum trees do not speak yet the world finds a path to them' by way of explanation – and writes the characters in my notebook." (FT)


Edward Lewis poses for a portrait at the 2014 ESSENCE Black Men In Hollywood Dinner at a private residence in Beverly Hills.
Photo Credit: Kwaku Alston


"It was a night to remember as socialites gathered last night at The Cecil Harlem to celebrate The Man From ESSENCE, a new business biography of how Edward Lewis and three other men successfully built America’s #1 magazine for Black women in 1969. 'Here we are 40 years later and Ed not only made things happen, but he’s the last man standing,” said Richard Parsons, former chairman and CEO of Time Warner. 'That’s a function of grit, perseverance, character, resilience, integrity, hardwork and a little bit of luck.' Ed Lewis not only served as CEO and publisher of ESSENCE Magazine, but he also spearheaded ESSENCE Festival that celebrates its 25th year next month." (Essence)





"Since it opened to the public in 1822, the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis has been one of those quiet gems, set in a 17th-century classical townhouse in the center of this patrician city and frequented by lovers of Dutch Golden Age painting. But when it closed for a renovation and expansion two years ago, and a selection from its collection went on tour, Mauritshuis gained an instant celebrity it had never had before. Wherever the paintings went, millions of people followed, enduring long lines to see two works in particular: Vermeer’s doe-eyed 'Girl With a Pearl Earring' (circa 1665), which has become one of the most famous paintings in Western art, and Carel Fabritius’s 'The Goldfinch' (1654), a mere slip of a work — about 13 inches by 9 inches — but a giant hit because of Donna Tartt’s best seller of the same title. Also in that show was a sampling of works by Rembrandt and Rubens, Hals and Steen, but they were just the icing on top." (NYT)




Bill Clinton on May 14 in Washington



"Every year companies make all kinds of promises at the Clinton Global Initiative—and every year Bill Clinton himself checks in with a few to see how they’re doing.So the former president spent a couple of hours on Friday at the Brooklyn headquarters of West Elm. The furniture company had pledged to spend $35 million on handcrafted goods over two years, assuring that the money would go directly to the artisans. It had purchased nearly that amount in just one year. Hence, the visit. Jim Brett, president of West Elm, led Clinton through a specially created showroom of some of the handcrafted products. 'Consciousness is important to our shareholders,' Brett said. 'We committed to ‘consciousness’ 17 quarters ago, and we’ve had record earnings for those 17 quarters.' West Elm, which is owned by Williams-Sonoma (WSM), has 58 stores and net revenue in 2013 of $531 million. Clinton was wearing a crisp suit and his made-in-Detroit Shinola watch. He was cheery and encouraging, and he really liked a yellow ceramic bird made by potters in the Philippines (available next month for $29). The item prompted the former president to remark that geothermal sources provide 24 percent of the electricity in the Philippines. After the devastating typhoon there, Clinton has been contemplating reliable energy distribution. 'I’ve thought a lot about what to do since there will be more climate interruptions,' he assured everyone. 'I have no answers, but I’m thinking about it.'Clinton spoke with some of the business owners who had come from India, Peru, Guatemala, and Haiti. He was very keen on prospects for Central America. 'The potential is phenomenal and almost untapped,' he said. 'Central America is waiting to explode. They could double their income.' The challenge there and elsewhere, Clinton said, was 'creating opportunities far away from the prosperity centers.' He was particularly intrigued by the display of fair trade rugs from India." (BusinessWeek)


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