Sunday, November 19, 2017

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

The Sexiest and Un-Sexiest Men Of 2017

I am sitting here dumbfounded as I read this month's "People's Sexiest Man Alive" issue. While last year I lamented the predictability of a Dwayne Johnson cover and found 2015's David Beckham plain boring this year's choice was downright inexplicable. Anxiously anticipating this monumental double issue yearly special I was sadly disappointed by Editorial Director Jess Cagle's introduction where he calls this "the annual ritual of silliness."

All the years I wrote analytical articles dissecting this pivotal decision were torn to shreds by the head of the magazine. Hey Jess if it's so silly why print it? Jess then goes on to talk about the fact that "every day another famous man is being exposed as a sexual predator"- can we just call him "Jess the Downer." He then claims this issue celebrates men "who do good as well as look good"- if that's the case where's the Pope in this issue? You forgot to include Sully or all the cops and heroes who save people for little money on a daily basis. I am just curious as to what good Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent and Ryan Gosling do-aside from making a lot of money and having nice abs.

Jess then says, "Blake Shelton is sexy because he's sweet the kind of guy who would pull over and fix your flat tire; a guy who says he tries, every day, to put the woman he loves on a pedestal." This statement is wrong in so many ways. First of all he should have called the issue the "Sexiest guy who will fix your flat tire" not the "Sexiest Man Alive". Moreover, Blake may say he loves to put his woman on a pedestal but he has a pretty nasty divorce with Miranda Lambert under his cowboy belt - why don't we ask Miranda what she thought of him when he was flirting with young contestants on "The Voice" while being married.

I did learn from a television interview that the reason Gosling has not been chosen as a cover boy is because he has refused to be interviewed and photographed for the pictorial. Shelton might have been tenth on the list but the only one willing to appear on the cover - a bit of a consolation. I was actually coming to terms with the Blake Shelton choice as he's got a nice head of hair and has lost some weight over the years. I even began fantasizing about him picking me up on his horse for a date in the wild countryside with his cute Southern accent - that is until I read his cringe worthy interview. "Do you ever walk around the house without any clothes,?" the People interviewer inquired. Shelton answered, "I wouldn't want my dog to see me naked. It's like half-melted vanilla ice cream with little hairs stuck to it. That's what I look like naked."

Wow! If that isn't cause to revoke the "Sexiest Man Title" I am not sure what is. What happened to George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt - even Mel Gibson is looking sexy right now - okay maybe not. The inside of the issue is not much better with a whole section I found both corny and confusing entitled "studies have shown that pets make guys substantially sexier" and then pairing Jimmy Fallon with his dog Gary, Wiz Khalifa with his pet Max, Scott Eastwood with lab Fred and Bobby Flay with cat Nacho. I am baffled as to whether these men and their pets are included in the list of Sexiest Men or if it's just a suggestion to men as to how to increase their sexy quotient. Maybe People should have a "Sexiest Pet Alive" issue as an addendum - that would be fun.

The section on sexy newsmen which includes Anderson Cooper, Willie Geist, Jake Tapper and Shepard Smith left me going "Really"- did we have to go there. Next People revealed from a public poll what celeb feature "set pulses racing" with Andy Cohen's hair being the first item chosen -interesting choice of words considering Kathy Griffin accused him of offering her cocaine. Sorry Barack's smile is cute and Kit Harington's butt is nice but my pulse hasn't skipped a beat. The last item I will take issue with is the page "Sexy at Every Age" which includes James Corden, Aaron Paul, Sam Smith, Stanley Tucci and Matthew Modine - no commentary needed. In fact the sexiest man in the whole issue was the model advertising HIV drug Truvada - he is an absolute stunner. While last year I picked the men I thought were sexiest this year there were so many men behaving badly I will include an "The Un-Sexiest Men Alive" list.

The Five Un-Sexiest Men of 2017:

1. Harvey Weinstein - this 65 year-old lecher comes in first place with over 80 women accusing him of some type of sexual assault. Harvey apparently drew up a list of over 100 people to discover what they knew about his sexual misconduct and if they intended to go public. Poor Harvey went from Hollywood mogul to near fugitive within weeks. Even A-listers Gwyneth and Angelina joined the dozens of women claiming harassment. It seems the only women Harvey didn't accost were Meryl Streep and Judi Dench. Even Harvey’s magnificent wife Georgina Chapman filed for divorce due to his "unforgivable actions." Goldman Sachs recently wrote down the value of their stake in the Weinstein Company to zero. Hey Harvey you recently said everyone deserves a second chance but I am not sure you fall into that category - your best second chance might be heading to Brazil before the police get hold of you.

2. Larry David - the only thing less sexy then appearing on SNL to joke about sexual harassment in your monologue is a 70-year-old joking on SNL about picking up women in a concentration camp. This is beyond bad taste and exemplifies a desperate desire to gain attention. Only one woman has been brave enough to marry this misogynist. Isn't being a billionaire good enough for you Mr. David? I hope this puts an end to your career. By the way, please retire the Bernie Sanders imitation he is no longer a candidate and it gets old just like you.

3. Al Franken - Senator Al of Minnesota has been caught red handed - if pictures tell a thousand words than I need say nothing more.

4. Louis C.K. - masturbating in front of women when you look like Louis is akin to inflicting Chinese torture. Moreover, while this man acknowledged doing so he never apologized and said he would be "listening more." Thankfully, his new movie "I Love You Daddy," which makes light of incest has been pulled from distribution - some things just aren't funny. This man lost his manager, publicist, network and streaming service. I am hopeful he and his creepy red beard will fade into the sunset.

5. Kevin Spacey - this man was never a looker but making passes at dozens of boys and men is deplorable. While this two time Oscar winner has enormous talent his sexual appetite and ego are similarly oversized. How this 58-year-old was allowed to continually abuse subordinates is a mystery. Sorry Kevin the "Cards" have turned against you this year.

Ending Thanksgiving on a positive note I would like to choose The Five Sexiest Men of 2017:

1. Nick Bateman: This 30-year-old 6' 4" inch Instagram star with 6.7 million followers is also a martial artist, winning four world titles, and an actor. Hailing from Burlington, Ontario this brunette from Canada has abs made of steel and a chest that is Herculean. I met him this year at The Harper's Bazaar Icon Party and he was humble and kind. Nick frequently posts about his mother's brave battle with cancer and doesn't take himself too seriously. This man has a "huge" career on the horizon.

2. Tristan Thompson: This 26-year-old may be known as Khloe's better half but this tall glass of water is an accomplished ball player having helped the Cavaliers win an NBA championship in 2016. He is handsome and discreet and continues to prove he is the perfect boyfriend. He and Khloe Kardashian are expecting a baby and I hope this 6' 9" hottie enjoys impending fatherhood

3. Rob Thomas: Nothing is sexier than a man who stands by his magnificent ailing wife. This 45-year-old is one of the most talented musicians on the planet - excelling in singing, songwriting and producing. He and his wife Marisol continue to bravely confront her battle with Lyme disease - hats off to Mr. Thomas.

4. Alex Rodriguez: Talk about a resurrection this 42-year-old former player for the New York Yankees went from oblivion to superstardom after hooking up with J.Lo. They continue to be the hottest couple on the planet and are one of the few to appear jointly on the cover of Vanity Fair. Alex is now a TV Personality on Shark Tank, Fox Sports 1 and The ABC News network. Alex seems to be the perfect boyfriend and father and I am predicting an imminent wedding.

5. Brad Pitt: While he may no longer have the chiseled abs or perfectly smooth face this man acted nobly during his brutal divorce and Hollywood took notice by giving him a well deserved standing ovation at the 2016 Golden Globe Awards.& In May 2017 he gave an intimately personal GQ interview in which he confessed to being an alcoholic-this was brave beyond words. Angelina might not want him but there are thousands of others who do. Hoping the future turns brighter for this devoted dad!

- Lieba Nesis

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

FGI "Tastemakers" Presents Norma Kamali & Anna Sui at 21 Club

Anne Fulenwider, Anna Sui & Norma Kamali
Photos courtesy of FGI - click images for full size views

Question: What could be better than starting off your day with a breakfast at the 21 Club? Answer: When that breakfast is part of the "Tastemakers" series hosted by Fashion Group International featuring a conversation between two living legend fashion designers: Norma Kamali and Anna Sui. Throw in yogurt parfait, and clearly, my morning couldn't get any better.

Both FGI President Margaret Hayes and moderator Anne Fulenwider, EIC of Marie Claire, introduced Kamali and Sui as "two fiercely independent women," while Fulenwider went on to point out that the two have "quite different aesthetics and visions yet are similar in history and heritage." After thanking sponsors Macy's and Interparfums, Fulenwider turned attention to Norma Kamali who she attributed with the kickoff of the activewear trend as well as "the development of a parachute coat that became the precursor to the puffer that we see everywhere." Of Sui, Fulenwider spoke of her rock & roll aesthetic and mentioned her recent solo show at the London Textile Museum -- the first ever for an American designer.

It was a love fest between the two designers with Sui remarking that she had once moved to be near the Norma Kamali boutique. Fulenwider pointed out that both designers are daughters of immigrants -- Kamali of Lebanese and Basque descent, Sui of Chinese descent whose parents met while studying in Paris. Both were raised in families that expressed the importance of working hard and excelling in their chosen professions.

Norma Kamali, Anna Sui and Anne Fulenwider

Here are some highlights of the questions posed by Fulenwider to Kamali and Sui:

Anne Fulenwider -- "How did you earn your first dollar?"
Norma Kamali -- "It was working in my stepfather's candy store. I arranged all the candy bars by color and size. It was an obsessive kind of behavior. I also learned how to sell and how to make a New York City egg cream except that I was lactose intolerant so I couldn't drink them. I wanted to be a painter so I had to work to buy paint supplies and take classes. I went to FIT for fashion illustration because I thought that was a more certain way to make money than to be a fashion designer." She also told the story of her first job interview when the male interviewer had no interest in seeing her portfolio, only her rear view, and how that solidified her resolve to start her own company. Interestingly, I know she's been telling this story forever but it's now extremely timely with the subject of harassment arising everywhere.
Anna Sui -- "I worked at a dry cleaner and I loved it because there were some women who had designer clothes from Courreges and I was obsessed. In 1981 I became a started my line by accident and it was in Macy's and Bloomingdale's since those were the fashion stores at the time. By the late '80s I was in Barney's. Steven Meisel was my friend who took me to Paris for fashion week. On our way to a show we stopped at the Ritz to pick up Madonna. She was wearing a coat but when we got to the show she told me she had a surprise for me. She took it off and underneath she was wearing an Anna Sui dress!"

On their fashion breakthroughs Sui said: "It was the height of Chanel, Versace -- it was daunting to compete. The models like Linda and Naomi were generally in head to toe runway until suddenly it changed -- they were starting to imitate street style. I gave Linda a dress and when she went to Paris all the models wanted Anna Sui dresses." For Kamali the eureka moment came on a camping trip in the early '70s. "We used to go camping near The Narrows Bay, NY and canoe down the Delaware River. It was freezing and I had to use the bathroom so I unzipped and wrapped my sleeping bag around me and thought 'this is a great coat!'" She explained how she uses the NASA principle of cold and warm air exchange rather than down fill for warmth but remains true to the original pattern.

What are some of the hurdles these designers have faced? Kamali told the story about Halston's assistant stealing her bathing suit design which ended up attributed to Halston on the cover of Time Magazine. Kamali was actually remarkably Zen after the initial upset. "Other people will profit from what you've done but I always had another idea and maybe they don't." She let him off the hook after he floated a parachute down on her head from the balcony of Halston's duplex apartment giving her the idea to use parachute fabric.

Sui spoke about the pressures of doing a collection every season. "You have to come up with a concept, build the colors, fabrics etc. Then there's the challenge of the show and the reviews. We used to run to the newsstand early in the morning to buy all the papers to see what they thought. Now you get it more quickly on your phone." She also spoke of the challenges in building and keeping important industry relationships. "People change jobs and move around more," she added.

AF--"What are the last three purchases on your credit card?" Without hesitation Sui admitted they were shoes and clothing. Surprising no one, Kamali listed hers as "wellness, wellness, wellness" adding that "healthy is beautiful" and "when you are 72 you have to exercise every day."
AF--- "What gives you the greatest joy?"
NK -- Making women feel beautiful and giving other people joy.
AS-- Family, friends, work.
AF -- "Do you have a secret talent?"
AS-- Shopping! I know where to find anything.
NK -- I have no secrets."
AF -- "Any vices?"
NK-- Not knowing how to say 'no' to projects that there's no time for (to which her assistant in the audience nodded her head in the affirmative).
AS -- Shopping! When I'm traveling I'm always looking for a half hour to find a flea market."
AF -- "Karaoke favorites?"
NK -- Etta James, the blues.
AS -- I'm the worst singer -- I don't do Karaoke.
AF -- "What of the role of fame in fashion?"
AS-- I'm very private. I don't talk about my friends and private life.
NK-- I love being behind the scenes. I'd rather take your photo than you take mine. However I need to share my info with women -- it's my role now.
AF --  "What's on your nightstand?"
AS -- A book that I'm pretending to read and the remotes. My last binge was 'Stranger Things 2.'
NK -- A playground ball so I can do exercises in bed while I answer emails. I'm not a TV person...'Schitt's Creek' was my last binge watch.
AF -- "Any invention that you'd like to have?"
NK -- A driverless car. I'm not afraid after some of the rides I've taken with New York City cab drivers.
AS -- My nephew is a programmer and he's working on this app that coordinates dinner dates between you and your friends.
After a brief discussion about how the fashion industry is broken and should shift to sell clothing in season thereby thwarting some of the knock-offs seen at H&M and Zara (at least according to Kamali), the designers were given the choice of answering either "I wish that..." or "In another life..."
AS -- In another life I would be a rock star who has no schedule to make an album or tour as opposed to a fashion designer with a rigid schedule.
NK -- I wish that we could stop the objectification of women (and gay men). Objectification wears away at our self esteem and the secrets are devastating to our character and our worth. By sharing stories you cleanse and encourage others to do the same.

Writers note: if you go on there are videos of various women in the spirit of #MeToo, doing just that.

- Laurel Marcus

Friday, November 17, 2017

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

The Inside Story on Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

Diane Clehane & Sarah Cooper
Click images for full size views

For six seasons, the first commanding notes of Downton Abbey’s sweeping musical score elicited a downright Pavlovian response among the beloved series’ faithful fans. Sunday nights were certainly sacrosanct at my house when, for one blissful hour, I was transported across the pond to the post-Edwardian era and into the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their devoted servants who lived in a grandly iconic English country house.

I experienced that feeling again – and then some – earlier this week when I got a private behind the scenes tour of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition which opens to the public this Saturday. Fans of the show are sure to love this first-ever fully immersive multi-media experience set inside the world of Carnival Films’ award-winning global phenomenon. [Carnival Films is a division of NBCUniversal International Studios and one of the UK’s leading drama specialists] The exhibition space at 218 W 57th Street (between Broadway and Seventh Avenue) is positively stunning and recreates the world of Downton down to the smallest detail.

I was joined at Michael’s today by Sarah Cooper, chief operating officer of NBCUniversal International Studios, and Denise Bassett, SVP of Corporate Communications, who gave me the inside story of the incredible amount of work that went into creating what is sure to be one of the most talked about exhibitions in recent memory. Based in London, Sarah is in town to kick-off the exhibition with a series of events culminating with Friday night’s gala at the space with series’ stars Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary), Allen Leech (Tom Branson), Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) and Sophie McShera (Daisy Mason).

The series, which aired on PBS’ Masterpiece, attracted an impressive 26 million viewers in its final season, is seen in over 250 territories around the world. “We were keenly aware that Downton has a fan base like no other program,” said Sarah. I ventured that the show’s stateside fans must be among the most passionate and she agreed. “The show’s popularity in the US reached a scale that told us the fans were passionate to experience the show in the round.”

The fans’ enduring affection for Downton is “a tribute to the characters Julian [Fellowes, the show’s writer and creator] and Gareth [Neame, executive producer] created and speaks to their creative genius,” said Sarah. The show’s “charming” cast of actors have always been very accessible to their fans and very supportive of the show. I’ve gone to many a panel discussion where every last one of them stayed until every fan had the chance to get a photo and briefly chat with them. Many of the actors came ‘back to Downton’ and got into again character to do all new material that was created especially for the exhibition. “There was this sense of the band is back together,” said Sarah. “They were all happy to be part of this family again.”

The presence of the actors and the grand scale of the series is deeply felt throughout the museum-quality exhibition in many ways. Visitors could easily spend hours poring over more than 1,000 items from the show beautifully staged on three floors ranging from an extensive selection of costumes and jewelry worn by Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Hugh Bonneville and Dame Maggie Smith to some of the series most recognizable sets. I don’t want to spoil the fun and give too much away, so I’ll just tell you this --- Visitors can walk through Downton Abbey above and below stairs and explore Mrs. Patmore’s bustling kitchen, the servants’ hall – with the bell board and Lady Mary’s bedroom -- all recreated to look just as they were on the series. There’s even an exact replica of the Crawley’s dining room that looks as if the family is about sit down to entertain in the grand style as was their custom. It is a truly dazzling set piece among a whole host of ‘wow’ moments.

“We were very keen to ensure the people at the heart of the show was part of the creative process,” said Sarah. Emmy-winning production designer Donal Woods, Anna Robbins, costume designer on seasons five and six and executive producer Liz Trubridge were all very involved in the creation of the exhibition.  “It was a deeply collaborative process,” said Sarah.

The Dowager Countess

No detail was too small in recreating the world of Downton. Anna Robbins posed the female mannequins just as a lady of the period would stand and gesture, explained Sarah. The result is when you look at certain mannequins, you can literally see the characters come to life before your eyes. Lady Mary lives! The same precision was applied to the set decoration. “There’s a certain shade of Downton green,” explained Sarah in describing the color used in the house and was needed for the exhibition. “We knew we had to get it exactly right.” To that end, after lunch, Sarah was going off to do two final sound and light checks. “The lighting is key – especially with the costumes,” she explained. “All the sound levels have to be right. The ambient music has to be at different levels at different parts of the exhibition. All of this affects the overall experience. After we have people come through, we’ll be looking at them again.” Carson would be so proud.

Lady Mary Costume

And the exhibition isn’t just for fans of the show. In addition to revisiting the characters and the costumes, Downton Abbey: The Exhibition also offers a fascinating look at all aspects of the period in which the Carnival Films’ series was set. The events and social issues from World War I to the Roaring Twenties are woven seamlessly into the exhibition with an insightful and comprehensive look at British society, culture and fashion. “This is such an interesting period,” said Sarah. “We wanted to tell the story from an art and design standpoint as well and capitalize on the differences between characters,” explained Sarah. “The Dowager Countess was quite Victorian versus Sybil who was very much a Bohemian and Edith who was slightly Bloomsbury, very artistic and became this independent woman with a career.”

The costumes, all beautifully maintained, are sure to be of great interest to fashionistas everywhere. Curated by Anna Robbins, the characters’ lives are chronicled in a stunning array of many of the series’ most memorable costumes including Lady Mary’s ‘Engagement Dress’ worn in that unforgettable scene where Matthew proposes in the snow, Lady Sybil’s pantaloons which she boldly wore with an embroidered bodice and headpiece and Lady Rose’s ethereal gown and feathered headpiece worn when she was presented at court during the ‘London season. My personal favorites are the wedding dresses. Both of Lady Edith’s are on view. “They’re both so beautiful,” said Sarah. “But the second one really shows how Edith had become this very sophisticated woman who was comfortable in her own skin.” We were always #TeamEdith.

While diehard fans might not need to be reminded who wore what and when, each costume will be accompanied by a photograph of the character wearing the garment and a card explaining its significance.

Not that there’s any chance the exhibition will be anything less than a sell-out, there is plenty of promotion geared to entice visitors to the space. Sarah is meeting with concierges from the city’s top hotels to give them a first-hand look at the exhibition so they will be able to suggest a visit to guests in town for the holidays. An elaborate Downton-themed afternoon tea will be served at The Palm Court at The Plaza and special exhibition packages are available at The Whitby and the Viceroy Central Park Hotel. Downton Abbey: The Exhibition will run through January (and is open on Thanksgiving and Christmas if you’re looking for a good excuse to escape your relatives). Dates for national tour will be announced at a later date. See you there!

Lunch today at Michael's

Seen & Heard Around the Room

Mickey Ateyeh (who, you may recall, knows everyone in New York) with actor Tony Danza (who looked terrific) and Clive Davis, his husband Greg Schriefer and Tita Kahn widow and Michael Riedel of the New York Post on Table One. … Robert Zimmerman and the New York Post’s Richard Johnson on Two … In an encore of last week’s appearance Eva Mohr and Kathie Lee Gifford sipping – yes – chardonnay on Table Three … Leonard Lauder and a blonde gal (anyone?) on Four … Allen & Co.’s Stan Shuman at his regular perch on Table Five … Andrew Stein on Six … Bookseller Glenn Horowitz on Table Seven ... Publicist to the fashionable and fabulous Hamilton South on Eight.

The big doings in the dining room on Table Fourteen started before lunch even began – the ‘body men’ for Phil Murphy, the newly elected governor of New Jersey, scoped out the dining room (“Where is the men’s room?”) before Mr. Murphy arrived with his wife and daughter. Celebrating his big win, no doubt.

Moving on … The networking champion Barry Frey having not one, but two lunches in the space of two hours. First, pre-noontime tea with Tim Bleakley, CEO of the Britain-based Ocean Outdoor UK followed by a sit-down with Marshall Sonenshine. How do you do it? … Producer Beverly Camhe on Twenty-two … Long time no see! Larry Kramer, Chairman of the Board of Directors of TheStreet with Harvard Business Publishing’s Josh Macht. Nice to meet you!

And finally, a few words about Liz Smith, who passed away earlier this week. Long before I started doing this column, I did an interview with Dominick Dunne who revealed to me he was battling cancer. It was the first time he had mentioned his illness in print. He was a good friend of Liz’s and after he told me, he worried she might be mad at him for not giving her the scoop. I had never met her, but a few days after the story ran, I received an envelope in the mail with her name in the upper left corner. Inside was the interview torn from the pages of the magazine with said paragraph circled in black ink. Attached was a note from Liz which read, “Well done!” I finally got to meet her years later at Michael’s (where else?) when our mutual friend Joe Armstrong introduced us. When I thanked her for her note she said, “Oh honey, I was mad but that’s yesterday’s news.” RIP Liz.

We’ll be off next week getting ready for the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving. See you back at Michael’s in two weeks!

- Diane Clehane