Saturday, October 26, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"'Wow, he’s handsome,' one dinner guest said, peering over a throng of photographers. 'He’s going to be our president in, like, 30 years,' another gushed.  The event, last Monday at the American Museum of Natural History, was a benefit for the Blue Card, which aids Holocaust survivors, and the object of the room’s collective kvelling was Ronan Farrow, the 25-year-old lawyer, diplomat, author, boy genius, offspring of two celebrities (though which two is an open question), possessor of alabaster good looks and, as of this month, the latest talent to join MSNBC, where he will host a weekday show starting in January. Like a styled valedictorian, Mr. Farrow worked his way through the well wishers, his corn-colored hair lightly tousled. Though he already has the résumé of someone twice his age, in the last year Mr. Farrow has come into his own as a public figure, appearing on Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list and applying his spiky Twitter commentary to everything from politics ('Leadership in America just turned into a pumpkin') to pop culture ('Miley Cyrus is basically our generation’s Simone de Beauvoir'). Mr. Farrow was there to receive an award for his humanitarian efforts, along with his mother, the actress Mia Farrow, who observed the hoopla from a corner, illuminated by the glow of the Hayden Planetarium. 'I’m very proud of him,' Ms. Farrow said, cradling a glass of red wine. Dressed in dark-blue velvet, she was talking with Kati Marton, the widow of the ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, an early mentor of Mr. Farrow." (NYTimes)

"If, according to a Viennese wit, psychoanalysis is the disease that calls itself the cure, then Steve Cohen’s deal with the US government is the highway robbery that calls itself justice. Cohen is a bald Wall Street hedgie whose $18-billion fund, SAC, has scored Madoff-like returns the last twenty-odd years. He is a secretive kind of guy whose first wife blew the whistle on him because of his lack of generosity toward her. (Funny how cheap guys never learn. Always be nice to your ex.) Out of the 18 billion big ones Cohen manages, nine are his own. He piled them up during these last twenty years along with some very serious art—expensive, that is—the sort of collection a vulgarian such as him is expected to own. Cohen’s company’s name is SAC, and the government has charged eleven of his former employees with insider trading. Six of the eleven have pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Cohen himself is negotiating with the feds, which is the point of my story. I remember when serious bankers speaking off the record and telling me when I complained about their returns to my investments, that if I wanted an SAC type of performance I should look elsewhere: 'We know he’s insider trading, and we know how he’s doing it, and one day the feds might wake up,' or words to that effect. Cohen returned 30 percent annually to his investors, piling up his billions along with hundreds of works of art, buying and selling the latter for tax reasons as he could defer his tax liability by exchanging one piece for another. (This is what art has become.) He has very smart lawyers, which the government doesn’t, who are willing and ready to go the long route. Aggressive district attorneys with political ambitions fear long trials and uncertain results. Forcing Cohen to settle gets their names in the papers and their political futures bright. So Cohen keeps seven billion, so what? So plenty, says Taki." (Taki)

"Will black voters come out for Terry McAuliffe? In an election that polls show is his to lose, one of the last hurdles between the Democrat and the Virginia governorship is making sure African-American voters don’t stay home without President Barack Obama on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Turning out party loyalists is critical for candidates of either party in any off-year election, when voter interest tails off dramatically. Republican Ken Cuccinelli has staked what slim chance he has left of an upset on firing up the GOP base. But the challenge is particularly pronounced for McAuliffe and blacks, who make up about a fifth of the electorate and are often the difference between victory and defeat for a Democrat running statewide in the commonwealth. Turning out party loyalists is critical for candidates of either party in any off-year election, when voter interest tails off dramatically. Republican Ken Cuccinelli has staked what slim chance he has left of an upset on firing up the GOP base. But the challenge is particularly pronounced for McAuliffe and blacks, who make up about a fifth of the electorate and are often the difference between victory and defeat for a Democrat running statewide in the commonwealth." (Politico)

"The other night I went down to the Chelsea Hotel to have dinner with artist Michele Zalopany. What a shock I had seeing the Chelsea in its current state of construction/destruction. It made me very sad. I first went to the Chelsea in 1982 to have dinner with composer Virgil Thomson and his intimate friend — the artist and art critic Maurice Grosser. The Kansas City, Missouri native Virgil, and Huntsville, Alabama-born Maurice, had met and become lovers after they met at Harvard in the 1920s. They were part of an amazing group then at Harvard that went on to shape cultural life in America for decades to come including MOMA founding director Alfred H. Barr, New York City Ballet’s Lincoln Kirstein, the Wadsworth Atheneum’s visionary director A. Everett “Chick” Austin, architect Philip Johnson to name but a few. By the time I met them, Maurice, then in his 80s, was living on Morton Street in the Village with his decades younger lover Paul Sanfacon. Virgil moved into the Chelsea just after returning from Paris when the Second World War began in 1939.He had just given up his longtime Paris apartment on the Quai Voltaire when I first met him. It was a memorable dinner that began with drinks in Virgil’s art-filled living room with many paintings by Maurice as well as their many other artist friends including Christian Bérard, Pavel Tchelitchew, Marcel Duchamp, Florine Stettheimer, Eugene Berman and his brother who was known as Leonid." (NYSocialDiary)

"'I always get nervous for public speaking,' said Zoe Kazan at Prada’s flagship in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, which had been transformed into a provisional theater on Wednesday night. 'I’m not a natural public speaker.' The actress, joined by literary luminaries Jonathan Ames, Jay McInerney, Gary Shteyngart and actor Anthony Mackie, was one of the chosen speakers tasked with reading excerpts of the winning entries from Prada Journal’s literary contest. The writing competition, launched last April in conjunction with Italian publishing giant Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, received more than 1,300 entries in over 29 languages, with 13 runners-up and five winners — Mattia Conti, Leisl Egan, Angel Mario Fernández, Sarah Harris Wallman and Peng Yang — four of whom were flown in especially for the event (and all of whom will receive cash prizes and their work published in upcoming digital and print booklets). The event was billed, loosely tying in an optical theme: 'What are the realities that our eyes give back to us? And how are these realities filtered through lenses?' Kazan, supported by bestie Mamie Gummer and beau Paul Dano, has been flying back and forth from Boston while working on her new HBO miniseries 'Olive Kitteridge.' ... Other well-heeled guests — including Giovanna Battaglia, Zani Gugelmann, Mia Moretti, Jennifer Fisher, Genevieve Jones, Sofia Sanchez Barrenechea, Jessica Joffe and Michael Avedon — toed carefully down the store’s perilously steep staircase, a task even more challenging in the dark ... For his part, Ames regaled the crowd with a childhood bullying story. 'My friends and I would get attacked on the playground by more normal people,' he said, before loudly imitating a set of calls they would use to each other for help. 'By the way, I’ve never worn such beautiful clothing before,' he continued. 'I want to thank you, Prada, for this suit. The thread count alone — it feels very therapeutic. I feel like an NBA player — it’s like, ‘Oh, this is why they’re so into clothing.’ It’s sort of caressing me.' Conti, 24, whose story was read by McInerney, said in his broken English that it was his first time to the U.S. from Lecco, Italy." (WWD)

"There is no shortage of billionaires -- the Koch brothers, Carl Icahn, Dan Loeb and, yes, Mike Bloomberg, to name a handful -- who are willing to use their vast wealth to push a particular political agenda or to advocate for a specific social reform. That’s hardly a revelation.  Then there’s Tom Steyer, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. arbitrager who was mentored by Robert Rubin and eventually formed the San Francisco hedge fund Farallon Capital Management. Since then, Steyer has made a bloody fortune. He has never spoken publicly about how he raked it in at Farallon. Nor has he talked on the record about his years at Goldman. (He didn’t respond to my interview requests when I was writing a book about Goldman in 2011.)  But now that he has departed Farallon to become a political activist -- some say he is considering a run for the U.S. Senate or the governorship of California -- he is everywhere. Last month, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza wrote a lengthy profile of Steyer. This month, Bloomberg Markets magazine explained why Steyer has teamed up with Henry Paulson, like Rubin a former Treasury secretary and Goldman chairman, as well as with Bloomberg, the outgoing New York City mayor and the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, to commission a study about the economic consequences of failing to curb carbon emissions. On Oct. 1, at a benefit for the North Country School and Camp Treetops in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Steyer and Bill McKibben, his fellow environmental activist, led a panel discussion on their efforts to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline. That is the controversial pipeline that would transport crude from the oil sands in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Steyer, the billionaire, and McKibben, the Middlebury College professor, founder of and longtime political activist, make an odd couple, for sure. But their message about the economic consequences of climate change has sufficient resonance to cut through the thicket of today’s political discord. Steyer dismissed 'as baloney' his opponents’ argument that reducing dependence on fossil fuels will result in short-run job losses. If we change our energy consumption 'so that we are actually on a sustainable path from an energy standpoint, it will be one of the great challenges we’ve ever taken on, and it will also be one of the great job creators,' he said. He pointed out that Keystone would create a mere 3,500 jobs during the two-year construction phase and then only 35 permanent jobs. 'That’s just a mindboggling low number, and this is supposed to be a jobs program,' Steyer said. 'If we wanted to go out and do the kind of energy-saving in commercial buildings that we need to do, that we are inevitably going to do,' that would create between 1.5 million and 2 million jobs. Repairing natural gas pipelines, some of which are made out of wood, would add 1 million to 2 million more jobs, he said. 'And they’re going to be American jobs.' The purpose of the Steyer-Paulson-Bloomberg study, Steyer said, is to debunk the argument that doing nothing about climate change has no economic consequences." (Bloomberg)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Has Sontag dated? Born in New York in 1933, she was strongly associated with the 1960s counterculture and its more anarchistic aftermath in the 1970s, and this interview combines two meetings that took place in 1978. She was then at the height of her media presence as the empress of intellectual earnestness, and her interviewer Jonathan Cott was one of the founders of Rolling Stone magazine, then at the height of its status as the world’s hippest journal. So this book had all the makings of a period piece.On closer examination something else started to kick in. Sontag’s photo on the cover for a start: coolly beautiful and stylish, an energy in mesmeric repose. It had been taken inside Sontag’s penthouse on Riverside Drive, location of the second interview in New York. The first interview had been done five months previously in her Paris flat—which was located not in Belleville or the Latin Quarter but in the top-drawer 16th arrondissement. This blue stocking, it turns out, was also rich and chic and I’d never quite seen her in that light before ...What first put Sontag on the map was her collection of essays Against Interpretation (1966), in which she took the attitude of her mentor Roland Barthes in ignoring barriers between high and low or popular culture, introducing that attitude to an Anglo-American audience with a bravura of her own. It was a heady mix because high culture at that time was intensely rarefied, while popular culture, with the rock revolution, was emerging from corporate clutches into something very ambitious of its own, and the two somehow met on the great highway to the future. So Sontag’s warmth, playfulness, and generosity of spirit ('I’m all for deviants') should come as no surprise, and yet they do ..." (Takimag)

"My mother would do whatever she had to do to keep a roof over our heads. That often meant sleeping with someone that she really didn’t care for. That was just the way it was. By then, I was going to public school and that was a nightmare. I was a pudgy kid, very shy, almost effeminate-shy, and I spoke with a lisp. Sometimes my mother would be passed out from drinking the night before and wouldn’t walk me to school. It was then that the kids would always hit me and kick me. We would go to school and these people would pick on us, then we would go home and they’d pull out guns and rob us for whatever little change we had. That was hard-core, young kids robbing us right in our own apartment building.Having to wear glasses in the first grade was a real turning point in my life. My mother had me tested, and it turned out I was nearsighted, so she made me get glasses. They were so bad. One day I was leaving school at lunchtime to go home and I had some meatballs from the cafeteria wrapped up in aluminum to keep them hot. This guy came up to me and said, 'Hey, you got any money?' I said, 'No.' He started picking my pockets and searching me, and he tried to take my fucking meatballs. I was resisting, going, 'No, no, no!' I would let the bullies take my money, but I never let them take my food. I was hunched over like a human shield, protecting my meatballs. So he started hitting me in the head and then took my glasses and put them down the gas tank of a truck. I ran home, but he didn’t get my meatballs. I still feel like a coward to this day because of that bullying. That’s a wild feeling, being that helpless. You never ever forget that feeling. That was the last day I went to school. I was 7 years old, and I just never went back to class." (Mike Tyson)

"We’ll save our Republican friends a recitation of all the damage they did to themselves during the recent battle over the government shutdown and the debt limit. Anyone who can read a poll knows what happened. The shutdown kerfuffle has led to a significant improvement in the national political climate for Democrats. The House generic ballot, a national poll that measures whether those surveyed prefer a Democratic or Republican candidate in their local U.S. House race, was generally close over the summer, which was great news for Republicans: According to the Crystal Ball’s Alan Abramowitz, these generic ballot surveys will have to show a double-digit lead for the Democrats around Labor Day next year for them to get within striking distance of picking up the House. But since the shutdown, Democrats are getting closer to the kind of numbers that would put the House in play. The last nine generic ballot surveys listed on HuffPost Pollster as of Wednesday morning read as follows: D+8, D+8, D+7, D+6, D+7, D+10, D+8, D+4 and D+5 — that’s an average lead of seven points.If the numbers look similar close to Election Day next year, Democrats would be poised for significant gains in the House, and the generic ballot would also indirectly indicate a national sentiment for retained Democratic control of the Senate.That said, the election is a long ways away, and Democrats would have to net 17 seats to win a majority in the House. Another polling average, RealClearPolitics, shows Democrats with a six percentage point lead in the generic ballot. That’s not all that much different than the 5.5 point edge Democrats held in the RCP average on this exact date four years ago. Of course, back then the Democratic arrow was pointing down — that lead was gone by December 2009. Now the Democratic arrow might be pointing up, and the GOP will start to hit the panic button if their numbers stay so poor.Republicans hope that Americans have short memories and begin to focus on things that will help their candidates in 2014: Namely, continued sloppiness in the Obamacare rollout, a weak economy (shown again by mediocre unemployment numbers released Tuesday) and a president with a middling approval rating (Obama’s approval right now, which is mired in the mid-40s, isn’t much different than it was right before the 2010 Republican congressional wipeout). However, we’re far from sure that the Republican hopes are warranted: After all, if one argues that voter anger over the shutdown will fade, doesn’t it also stand to reason that anger over Obamacare website snafus will also fade in the 12 months before the election?As we take a look at the Senate and the House, we’ve found positive developments for Democrats in both places." (Sabato)

"The last couple of days have been jammed with events. On Tuesday night in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza, The World Monuments Fund held its 26th annual Hadrian Awards to Roberto Hernandez Ramirez in recognition of his dedication to the preservation of Mexico’s cultural patrimony.  The Hadrian Award is presented annually by the WMF since 1988 and honors international leaders whose patronage has greatly encriched the appreciation and conservation of art and architecture around the world. Sr. Hernandez was a co-founder of Acciones y Valores de Mexico (Accival) – one of the most important investment banks in Mexico – 42 years ago, and is Chairman of the Board. In 1991 he became Chairman of Banco Nacional de Mexico (Banamex), Mexico’s leading commercial bank, thus founding Grupo Financiero Banamex-Accival where he served as CEO and Chairman of the Board from 1997 to 2001. Currently besides being on the board of the bank, he holds offices in several cultural and philanthropic organizations involved in education and the arts. Sr. Hernandez is also a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York." (NYSocialDiary)

"Over the years, I’ve heard my father described as a Lothario, a drinker, a gambler, a man’s man, more interested in killing big game than in making movies. It is true that he was extravagant and opinionated. But Dad was complicated, self-educated for the most part, inquisitive, and well read. Not only women but men of all ages fell in love with my father, with that strange loyalty and forbearance men reserve for one another. They were drawn to his wisdom, his humor, his magnanimous power; they considered him a lion, a leader, the pirate they wished they had the audacity to be. Although there were few who commanded his attention, Dad liked to admire other men, and he had a firm regard for artists, athletes, the titled, the very rich, and the very talented. Most of all, he loved characters, people who made him laugh and wonder about life. Dad always said he wanted to be a painter but was never going to be great at it, which was why he became a director. He was born in Nevada, Missouri, on August 5, 1906, the only child of Rhea Gore and Walter Huston. Rhea’s mother, Adelia, had married a prospector, John Gore, who started up several newspapers from Kansas to New York. A cowboy, a settler, a saloon owner, a judge, a professional gambler, and a confirmed alcoholic, he once won the town of Nevada in a poker game. Dad’s father was, of course, an actor, and in 1947, Dad directed Walter in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, for which they both won Academy Awards. My mother, Enrica Georgia Soma, had been a ballet dancer before Tony and I were born. She was five feet eight and finely made. She had translucent skin, dark hair to her shoulders parted in the middle, and the expression of a Renaissance Madonna, a look both wise and naïve. She had a small waist, full hips and strong legs, graceful arms, delicate wrists, and beautiful hands with long, tapering fingers. To this day, my mother’s face is the loveliest in my memory—her high cheekbones and wide forehead; the arc of her eyebrows over her eyes, gray blue as slate; her mouth in repose, the lips curving in a half-smile. To her friends, she was Ricki. She was the daughter of a self-proclaimed yogi, Tony Soma, who owned an Italian restaurant called Tony’s Wife, on West 52nd Street, in New York. Ricki’s mother, Angelica Fantoni, who had been an opera singer in Milan, died of pneumonia when my mother was four. That broke Grandpa’s heart. But he took a second wife, Dorothy Fraser, whom we called Nana, a pleasant, no-nonsense woman who raised my mother under a strict regime. Grandpa was dictatorial and prone to aphorisms such as 'There’s no intelligence without the tongue!' and 'Through the knowledge of me, I wish to share my happiness with you!'" (VanityFair)

"Riding in the cab on my way home from lunch. The cabbie and I got started on the weather ... Coming through the park on to 72nd Street, passing the house that now belongs to the Emir of Qatar (the Sloane mansion), the cabbie said people only care about money nowadays; that’s all they worry about. There’s a lotta people with a lotta money in this city, he told me. Once, last year he had a man who left his backpack in the back seat of this taxi. It had a half a million dollars in cash in it. Really? Yes, the guy was on his phone, he paid his fare and got outta the cab and walked away talking on his phone. The next fare who got in told the cabbie: someone left their backpack in the back seat. The new fare passed it through the divider window to the cabbie in the front seat, without bothering to open it. Neither did the cabbie.Fortunately the guy who left it in the cab had his receipt from the ride, and when he suddenly realized what he had done just a few minutes later, he called 311. They got in touch with the cabbie right away. He still hadn’t looked inside. Then he did, and there it was – packs, stacks of hundreds. All hundreds. A half a million bucks. The guy who left it was very relieved and happy. He said it was all the money he had in the world. He said he was in the diamond business although the cabbie didn’t know if he should believe him or not. He gave the cabbie two hundred bucks reward. A half million will get you a couple hundred. If you’re honest." (NYSocialDiary)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"James Baker, who served in the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, called Republicans the losers in the debate that shut down the U.S. government for 16 days.
'My party, the Republican Party, I think, was a loser,' Baker said. 'But I also think that the president and the Democratic Party was a loser because the world saw us in disarray. It really saw a failure of governance.' Baker, Treasury secretary under Reagan and secretary of state under Bush, said on CNN’s 'Fareed Zakaria GPS' that Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who was a leader of the fight to defund Obamacare in the debate over the fiscal 2014 budget and raising the amount the U.S. can borrow, hurt the Republican party. 'Was he wrong on this most recent episode, in my view? Yes,' Baker said on the program, scheduled for broadcast tomorrow. 'It hurt us. It didn’t gain us anything. We kicked the can just three months down the road. We didn’t accomplish anything.' Democrats and Republicans reached a deal Oct. 16 to open the government. The agreement funds the government through Jan. 15, 2014, and suspends the debt limit through Feb. 7." (Bloomberg)

"Kenan Thompson’s claim that 'Saturday Night Live' has no black female cast members because qualified black female comedians just aren’t out there has prompted a lot of much-needed discussion — it’s also an opportunity to look back at the show’s history. While 'SNL' has had only four black women cast members in the 38-year history of the show, the success of 'SNL' alums like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph make it easy to forget that, once upon a time, 'SNL' used to have issues with women overall. In her memoir 'Bossypants,' Tina Fey recounts an incident that happened during her first week as an 'SNL' writer. Sylvester Stallone was the guest host, and the writers had planned a Rocky-themed monologue. According to Fey’s account, instead of casting Cheri Oteri to play the part of Rocky’s wife Adrian, someone decided it would be funnier to put Chris Kattan in a dress. Fey refers to that decision as 'kind of bullshit.' ... Fey’s assertion that 'nobody' would have thought 'a dude in drag' was funnier than any of 'SNL’s' female cast is odd, considering that, for years, the job of playing black women on 'SNL' fell to its black male cast members like Thompson and Tracy Morgan. While Maya Rudolph did impersonations of glamorous black celebrities like Whitney Houston and (as guest host) Beyoncé, Thompson has portrayed a host of recurring black female characters like Virginiaca Hastings, all hewing to the overweight, loud-mouthed, sassy Sapphire stereotype. Thompson’s black female celebrity impersonations include Aretha Franklin, Serena Williams, Mo’Nique, Chaka Khan and Patti LaBelle. Fey’s statement about putting an end to dudes in a dress on 'SNL' is true only if Thompson didn’t count as a dude in drag, or if the black female characters he played didn’t count as women." (Salon)

"He came from a wealthy background but was always in trouble. His parents were not particularly religious, but nevertheless they insisted that little Jimmy (Toback)  read the Torah scroll and grow up to be a good Jewish boy. You can imagine their horror when they found naked pictures of Hedy Lamarr and Brigitte Bardot among the holy pages—the former in Ecstasy, the latter in Contempt. He was given a hiding and taken to all sorts of rabbis to have his evil side exhorted, but soon after young Jimmy did it again, this time with a real disgusting picture of two girls together billing and cooing like there was no tomorrow. 'What are we going to do with him?' wailed his mother while holding him with his pants down and swinging as hard as she could. And it got worse. All Jimmy thought about was sports and girls—not in that order—and there was nothing his parents could do about it but pray and cry a bit every evening. Not his grandfather, however. He was a schmatte business king, with clothing chain stores around the Noo Yawk area and an eye for the ladies. He used to take young Jimmy Toback to Longchamps on Madison Avenue, and when the bill would come he would take out a roll Frank Costello would have envied and slowly peel away twenty-dollar bills and pay. He lived at 50 E. 79th St.—in the penthouse, naturally. One day the grandfather took young Jimmy into a vaulted room that was filled to the brim with dollar bills of all denominations. There were hundreds, fifties, twenties, tens, and fives, even small ones with George Washington’s pictures on them. Jim had never seen such naked wealth, and he stood there taking it all in for quite a while until his grandfather patted him in the head and told him that one day all that would be his. 'Yippee!' cried the little boy and ran out, probably to go buy more dirty pictures. But it was not to be. A couple of years later, his grandfather died suddenly and his father and uncle went immediately to the vault room. Jimmy heard the screams and rushed there. The room was totally empty. Both his father and his uncle—the General—had tears in their eyes. 'Who could have taken it?' asked his uncle to no one in particular. 'You’re the only one who had a key,' yelled Jimmy as his uncle turned and began to beat him rather hard." (Taki)

"This week was the annual Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. Among the participants: Disney-ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney; Judy Woodruff of PBS; Norah O’Donnell and Lesley Stahl of CBS News; Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC; Chelsea Clinton and Dr. Nancy Snyderman of NBC News; Becky Quick of CNBC; Fox News panelist Nina Easton and CNN political consultant Hilary Rosen." (TVNewser)

"I had lunch at Michael’s with Ginny Mancini, speaking of Southern California. Ginny is a native Los Angeleno and in her days of sun drenched youth, she worked as a singer -- in radio, recordings and with the bands. It was only natural that she’d meet a musician, fall in love and marry him. That’s what happened when she met Henry. The Mancinis were a very popular couple on the Hollywood scene when I lived out there. Straddling the film establishment with the hip and the music industry and everybody in between. They were very friendly welcoming people. When I met them they were living in a house they built in Holmby Hills on the corner of Delfern and Baroda that Ginny built. I think Kelsey Grammer is the current resident (Ginny sold it in the mid-'90s after Henry died). Their style of entertaining was definitely Hollywood glamorous, yet comfortable. And all movieland came to call from the legends to the newer stars as well as the moguls and the directors, etc. " (NYSocialDiary)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"What is a dictator, or an authoritarian? I'll bet you think you know. But perhaps you don't. Sure, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong were dictators. So were Saddam Hussein and both Hafez and Bashar al Assad. But in many cases the situation is not that simple and stark. In many cases the reality -- and the morality -- of the situation is far more complex. Deng Xiaoping was a dictator, right? After all, he was the Communist Party boss of China from 1978 to 1992. He was not elected. He ruled through fear. He approved the massacre of protesters at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. But he also led China in the direction of a market economy that raised the standard of living and the degree of personal freedoms for more people in a shorter period of time than perhaps ever before in recorded economic history. For that achievement, one could arguably rate Deng as one of the greatest men of the 20th century, on par with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. So is it fair to put Deng in the same category as Saddam Hussein, or even Hosni Mubarak, the leader of Egypt, whose sterile rule did little to prepare his people for a more open society? After all, none of the three men were ever elected. And they all ruled through fear. So why not put them all in the same category? Or what about Lee Kuan Yew and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali? During the early phases of Lee's rule in Singapore he certainly behaved in an authoritarian style, as did Ben Ali throughout his entire rule in Tunisia. So don't they both deserve to be called authoritarians? Yet Lee raised the standard of living and quality of life in Singapore from the equivalent of some of the poorest African countries in the 1960s to that of the wealthiest countries in the West by the early 1990s. He also instituted meritocracy, good governance, and world-class urban planning. Lee's two-volume memoir reads like the pages in Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Ben Ali, by contrast, was merely a security service thug who combined brutality and extreme levels of corruption, and whose rule was largely absent of reform. Like Mubarak, he offered stability but little else." (STRATFOR)

"Capote toted his register with him everywhere, canvassing friends for suggestions. A garrulous creature disinclined to make a secret of either his professional activities or his private life, he twittered constantly about his work in progress. The graphic artist Gray Foy remembers Capote revealing his plan soon after its inception to Leo Lerman, the late Condé Nast editor. Lerman anxiously inquired, "When is it going to be?" Capote reassured him, 'Don't worry, you'll be invited!' Others were taunted with the refrain "Well, maybe you'll be invited and maybe you won't." During the summer of 1966, Mary 'Piedy' Gimbel Lumet—a former United Artists employee who was helping Capote with a TV project about prisoners on death row, produced by Leland Hayward—accompanied him, her country neighbor, on a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. 'He kept telling me he was going to invite everybody. I was very disappointed when I finally realized that the Bridgehampton postman wasn't going to be there.' As the list took shape, Capote set the date (November 28, the Monday after Thanksgiving), the time (10 o'clock), the place (the Plaza Hotel's Grand Ballroom), and the theme. Inspired by My Fair Lady's breathtaking Ascot scene, costumed by Cecil Beaton entirely in black and white, he would restrict his guests' attire to this most severe of palettes. This decision, he felt, would bring at least visual unity to a convocation of people as different, says former Harper's Bazaar fashion editor D. D. Ryan, 'as chalk and cheese." Capote explained, "I want the party to be united the way you make a painting.' Furthermore, all guests would be required to wear masks, and the ladies to carry fans. (Capote allowed only this last rule to be bent.) "I haven't been to a masked ball since I was a child," he said. "That's why I wanted to give one." The masks, according to his scenario, would free guests to dance and mingle as they pleased. At midnight the disguises would be removed. 'It was complete autocratic hosting,' recalls D. D. Ryan. Capote's despotism extended to asking a number of friends to host pre-ball dinners." (VanityFair)

"The Wednesday lunch at Michael’s. A lotta women holding forth on this day. At the table next to mine, Debbie Bancroft was celebrating her birthday one day early (the girl’s always in a rush) with pals Leslie Klotz, Tiffany Dubin, Patricia Duff, and Laurie Durning Waters. Debbie now over 45 and to prove it, the “cake” was fresh fruit. The aforementioned friends really are that – the real truth about the birthday girl – she makes friends and keeps them. We’ve been faithful friends for about twenty years. Our secret: see each other very infrequently…and by accident ... Over on Table One, Robert Zimmerman, known in Washington as a political commentator and consultant was lunching withCaroline Hirsch, Christine Kuehbeck, Maureen Reidy, Allison Stern and Nancy Silverman. Ms. Reidy is the very very pretty young marketing director of the Paley Center. Before that she worked for The Donald running theMiss Universe business. And what were they talking about? I don’t know but someone in that mix had a plan that interested the others, that’s the way the cake bakes. Across the way CNN’s Felicia Taylor was holding forth, as at separate tables were: Star Jones, Beth DozoretzFox 5’s Rosanna Scotto, Lynn White and Penny Crone." (NYSocialDiary)

"It was wall-to-wall mavens and moguls at Michael’s today with EICs of those swanky design books (Architectural DigestHouse Beautiful and Veranda) holding court in one corner of the dining room (I guess living well really is the best revenge), while the usual bold-faced names and social swans exchanged air kisses in the other ... (Table) 1. Marketing man and political commentator Robert Zimmerman presiding over a table of glam power gals  Allison Stern, Caroline Hirsch, Christine Kuehbeck, Nancy Silvermanand Maureen Reidy. (Table) 2. Patricia Duff, Debbie Bancroft and Tiffany Dubin (Table) 3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong and Dave Zinczenko (Table) 4. Agent Boaty Boatwright (Table) 5. Esther Newberg (Table) 6. Dr. Gerald Imber, Jeff Greenfield, Andy Bergman and Jerry Della Femina (Table) 7. DuJour‘s boisterous Jason Binn who told us he was with “some hard working folks” from Versace (Table) 8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia and Rosina Rucci ( sister of designerRalph Rucci who heads up the house’s PR effort) (Table) 9. Star Jones" (FishbowlNY)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Political analysts trying to explain the current standoff in Washington are quick to point to redistricting as helping to foster ideological extremism in Congress. Representatives have been skillfully gerrymandered into safe districts of like minds where they can do as they please, listening only to reflections of their own thinking without fear of political consequence. But given that politics in its current form is threatening to produce a crisis that threatens to create financial mayhem on a global scale — while striking one more blow against claims of American 'greatness' — perhaps something more complicated than sketching out voting districts is at play. The polarized political map is now accompanied by a media ecosystem that is equally gerrymandered into districts of self-reinforcing discourse. Justice Scalia and millions of news consumers select and assemble a worldview from sources that may please them, but rarely challenge them. As I flipped through cable channels over the last week, the government shutdown was viewed through remarkably different prisms. What was a 'needless and destructive shutdown' on MSNBC became a low-impact and therapeutic 'slim-down' over at Fox News. But cable blowhardism would not be such a good business if there hadn’t been a kind of personal redistricting of news coverage by the citizenry. Data from Pew Research Center for the People and the Press on trends in news consumption released last year suggests people are assembling along separate media streams where they find mostly what they want to hear, and little else." (David Carr)

"Ben Younger's tightly focused 2000 drama Boiler Room covered a sliver of Belfort's story, but if that low-budget film was a penny stock, The Wolf of Wall Street is pure blue chip. To capture the criminal spectacle of the era, the duo aimed to make a film every bit as excessive as Belfort's ego. DiCaprio says he tried to pick up the kinds of details that might slip off the printed page: "The attitude, the lingo, the type of music he listened to, the drugs he took, how he took those drugs, the effects that it had on his mind and his psyche.' Asked for an example of this research, DiCaprio describes a large-scale scene, in which Belfort throws a wild party to celebrate his firm's success: 'We reach our monthly quota, and I make it a big celebration,' says DiCaprio. 'A gigantic marching band and a bunch of naked strippers come into the salesroom.' Production managers booked trained horses, hired scores of extras and midgets who would be dressed in Velcro suits and thrown at targets, per Belfort's memoir. Then, just days before the shoot, DiCaprio remembered something crucial from his conversations with Belfort and sought out Scorsese: 'I said, 'Jordan also mentioned that he had a chimpanzee on roller skates in a diaper that was handing out tickets to all the stockbrokers.' And Marty's like, 'That's great, how do we get a chimpanzee?' And I said, 'I don't know.' And he's like, 'All right, somebody get on it.' " (WSJ)

"The 'social life' as it exists in early 21st century New York is centered around the 'gala.' Without it, the community would be completely at odds. A benefit, a fundraiser. The gala is the Craigslist for New Yorkers on the rise, and thereabouts. I know that might sound cynical. I don’t mean to be; it is honest and sincere – the now. The 'gala' is how connections are made on a certain socio-economic strata. This is a natural response to an important aspect of New York. This is a town of ambition and ambition needs rewards. The 'social' aspect is an important part of the reward. A large part for many people. And it can be very interesting, egos aside. Nothing new here; history is written from it. All of that goes into what I am looking at and how I keep myself interested in what, like anything else, can become the same-old, same-old. One of the things I like about it is that it keeps challenging. I, as now of this late if not great age, am in the midst of the fray that is New York. And although it is more than any one man or woman could consume and comprehend at once or even ever, it’s rejuvenating, stimulating and enervating, no matter what. It was the Michael’s lunch yesterday. Wednesday. I was having lunch with my friend Tracey Jackson who has a daily blog which we’ve published. At the moment she is in the midst of writing a book with Paul Williams, the famous singer-songwriter." (NYSocialDiary)

"In the early 1990s when I was living in the heart of the East Village (which up until that time was still more often called the Lower East Side), there existed the remains of what was a bohemian world — not just in that area, but also in pockets all around the island. Two of my favorite bohemians that I came to know then in the East Village were Quentin Crisp, the 'Naked Civil Servant', who lived in a tiny squalid apartment on East Third Street, and Taylor Mead, who also lived in a tiny squalid apartment on Ludlow Street. Crisp shunned even the idea of housecleaning, explaining that he 'discovered, after five years, things don’t get any dirtier.' I got to know Crisp at first after he was the houseguest of friends of mine for a weekend in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a hilarious wit but frequently with an acid tongue — when I asked what kind of music he liked, as we sat with one of his hosts, composer James Sellars, he said without hesitation: 'I hate music.' I didn’t write down his explanation but I found a quote by him that repeats what he said to me that day: 'There’s too much music everywhere. It’s horrible stuff, the most noise conveying the least information. Kids today are violent because they have no inner life; they have no inner life because they have no thoughts; they have no thoughts because they know no words; they know no words because they never speak because the music’s too loud.' Ouch! After spending the weekend with Crisp I saw him frequently around the East Village — most mornings I spotted him, with his lavender-tinted cotton candy hair, having breakfast in an old fashioned diner on 2nd Avenue. In retrospect the East Village was already becoming gentrified with chic shops and fancier restaurants beginning to open. But Tompkins Square Park was still dicey and there was even a bar with no name that was nicknamed 'Betty Ford' because if you were drinking there (it stayed open at least to 4 a.m.) then detox was metaphorically just your next step around the corner." (NYSocialDiary)

"Libyans are among the most civilized people on Earth. When a Russian hooker (I assume) killed a Libyan Air Force officer, a mob stormed the Russian embassy seeking revenge. They failed, but not for lack of trying. This time last year another mob murdered the American ambassador and three others in a similar attack, although no Yankee gal had harmed any Libyan flyer. The civilized Libyans also did democracy proud when they captured Qaddafi. They shot him up the bum with an AK-47, dispensing with a boring trial. The bad guy that got away is Hannibal Qaddafi, who with wifey allegedly used to beat up and torture Filipino servants and intimidate the Swiss government by kidnapping Swiss citizens working in Libya and holding them on charges unknown. He slipped over to Algeria, where his ill-gotten moolah is welcome. My friend Saif Qaddafi wasn’t as lucky. He was 'detained' while fleeing the country and is held by some nice guys south of Tripoli. I call him my friend because we were introduced in New York four years ago and I mistook him for a coke dealer and politely asked if he had anything good." (Taki)

"For all of its creative highs, The Walking Dead has always been a series in flux. Launching as a cinematic, slow-burning zombie horror serial under original showrunner Frank Darabont, the drama soon evolved into, well, a lot of talk about postapocalyptic morals. Glen Mazzara took over halfway through season two and got the survivors out of their own heads and the hell away from that farm and turned the show into a nonstop battle zone: the prison vs. Woodbury, Rick vs. the Governor. In its fourth season (premiering Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC), the series undergoes another evolution that includes a bunch of new characters, a new scary (if not monstrous) threat, and yet another new showrunner: Scott Gimple, another promotion from the writers' room. Vulture spoke to series executive producer and author of The Walking Dead comics Robert Kirkman about where the show has fallen down, what he and the writers have learned along the way, and what to expect next." (Vulture)

"On a characteristically foggy evening here, a group of predominantly single venture capitalists, tech executives, hedge-fund managers and philanthropists gathered for a cocktail party in a penultimate-floor suite at the St. Regis apartment complex. As guests ate oysters, baby lamb chops and perhaps the world’s smallest cheeseburgers, they were pitched a multiday, intellectually rigorous singles mixer to be held in January 2014 on Necker Island, Richard Branson’s 74-acre Caribbean paradise, 'curated' by Kelleher International, a long-running, high-end matchmaking service that is targeting Silicon Valley with particular vigor. Wearing an Alexander McQueen dress and towering Valentino heels as she sold the idea was the company’s 44-year-old chief executive, Amber Kelleher-Andrews. 'If we can get interesting single people and match them according to their taste, their likes, their interests and their passions, and get these 30 people on the island at a time, I can’t even imagine what would happen,' she told the group. 'Whether it’s two girls that become best friends or two guys that become business partners together, or it’s a couple that ends up falling in love, I’ve seen it at TED, I saw it at Sundance and I know it can happen at Necker.' The cost of the trip per person is still being determined, but the base fee is $45,000 (some of which is deductible because net proceeds go to Virgin Unite, Mr. Branson’s charitable foundation), not including the cost of flights and optional spa treatments. It is the luxurious but perhaps logical next step for a new breed of philanthropically minded, well-heeled singles who are already tramping around the knowledge enrichment circuit." (NYTimes)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"At a gathering on Monday night at 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan for Diana Taylor, the girlfriend of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, some of New York’s wealthiest considered a future without the billionaire in charge. There was considerable alarm about Bill de Blasio’s lead in the polls, along with his plan to raise taxes on New York’s upper echelon. 'I fear for New York City if Mr. de Blasio gets elected,' said Muffie Potter Aston. 'He just wants to tax everyone to smithereens. You have to be fair to everyone. You have programs that support all of the people of New York. But if you continue to tax what you see as the upper-income brackets, it’s still only going to be providing a small percentage of additional income.' Aston said this at the home of Christine and Stephen Schwarzman, cofounder of the Blackstone Group. Catching up near her were Barry Diller, David Koch, Barbara Walters, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his wife Victoria, Pepe and Emilia Fanjul, Colin and Elizabeth Callender and Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera. They had all turned out for the city’s first lady manqué, who had been named to the list of influential New Yorkers published annually by the society magazine Avenue. Taylor was on the cover of the A-list issue, a toast to the end of the Bloomberg years. With only three months left for the mayor in office, it was dawning on the 740 Park Avenue set that his end is near. Already the order of things seemed to be slipping ... 'I would love to support a fourth term for Mike Bloomberg. So if we can float that, you can say Muffie Potter Aston wants a fourth term for Michael Bloomberg,' she said. Her concerns about de Blasio were shared by her cohort. 'I’ve never understood why New Yorkers vote against their own interests,' said Jacqueline Weld Drake. 'New York is a city of financial entrepreneurs, of genius stock traders and bankers. It would be a smart idea to keep it that way. It’s not a city that’s going to benefit from high taxes because people who have substantial incomes have a choice. They have a choice of venues. New Jersey beckons. Florida beckons. All kinds of other states who do better at job creation. We are really biting the hand that feeds us. No question about it.'" (WWD)

"'Here it is,' Patti Astor shrieks. 'Here’s my little gallery!' Astor is standing outside a tiny basement storefront at 225 East 11th Street in New York City's East Village, where she and partner Bill Stelling opened the original FUN Gallery in 1981. That was the year after she starred in Eric Mitchell’s landmark low-budget flick Underground U.S.A. and a couple years before her turn as a reporter in Wild Style, Charlie Ahearn’s celebration of early B-boy culture that features the graffiti artists Lee Quinones and Lady Pink Fabara, as well as hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy, Astor's then-boyfriend and a future host of Yo! MTV Raps. If you've never heard of Patti Astor, it may be because she’s one of those people who should take credit for things but doesn’t. Back in the day, she was more interested in making sure the young artists she championed — graffiti masters like Dondi, Zephyr, and Futura 2000, as well as Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and Jean-Michel Basquiat — were properly respected. She's still at it some 30 years later. 'We were the first gallery to give one-man shows to graffiti artists,' says Astor, poking her head into her former gallery, where a guy is renovating the tiny space. 'Our first hit of the big time was [Fab 5 Freddy’s] show. I remember sitting in the gallery, in that tiny room, and Bruno Bischofberger drives up in a limo like a city bus. He looked like Goldfinger and had a babe on each arm. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but [sculptor] Arch Connelly, who was kind of like our art guardian, later told me that Bischofberger was the second biggest collector in the world after Count Panza.' Astor, who sounds like Roseanne Barr, cackles at how ridiculous the names sound. 'Anyway, Bischofberger dumps the babes and pulls out these index cards and starts asking me all these questions: Who is the most important person in graffiti? What do you think of Basquiat?' She snorts derisively." (Vulture)

"I had lunch with Nina Griscom our African diarist. Once upon a time Nina was among the leading young social luminaries of New York. The very young Nina was the toast of the town and Bill Blass’ muse (and great friend). Today she divides her time with her husband Leo Piraino between New York and Millbrook, and a distinctly quieter and more desirable existence. Now she likes projects and purpose." (NYSocialDiary)