Tuesday, December 06, 2016

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

UJA Wall Street Dinner Raises Record-breaking $28 Million

Packed Hilton ballroom
All photos Lieba Nesis
Click images for full size views

UJA held its annual Wall Street dinner at the Hilton with cocktails beginning at 5:00 PM. This year there were over 2,000 attendees with tickets selling out weeks in advance with the crowd excitedly anticipating the appearance of superstar Michael Douglas. Other illustrious awardees included Jeffrey Solomon, President of the Cowen Group, who received the Alan C. Greenberg Young Leadership Award, and Jeffrey Aronson, Managing Principal of Centerbridge Partners, who was given the Gustave Levy Award.

left to right Bruce Richards, David Moore, Honoree Jeffrey Solomon, Michael Douglas, honoree Jeffrey Aronson, John Paulson, Eric Goldstein, Jeffrey Schoenfeld, David Wassong and John Shapiro

As an attendee of this event for decades, this year was the most exceptional due to the enthusiasm of the crowd and the large showing of business titans including: Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, John Paulson, President of Paulson and Co., Leon Wagner, Chairman and CEO of LW Partners, Daniel Och, CEO of Och-Ziff Management Capital, James Tisch, CEO of Loews Corporation, and more than 70 other industry leaders sitting on the Dais. Let's put it this way, Edmond Safra, President of EMS Capital, and David Wassong, Co-Head of Soros Private Equity Fund, didn't even qualify for the front row of the stage.

UJA Eric Goldstein with actor Michael Douglas

This illustrious group controls more money than the GDP of many countries and contained numerous legends in the financial industry.  CEO of UJA, Eric Goldstein, who was a former partner at Paul, Weiss LLP, has taken UJA to stratospheric heights with his kind demeanor and meticulous management. Speaking of efficiency, the delightful cocktail hour, which featured hors d'oeuvres, was actually dinner, with guests heading to the dining room for dessert and speeches.

Alexandra Lebenthal, CEO of Lebenthal Holdings in Dolce and Gabbana

Alexandra Lebenthal, CEO of Lebenthal Holdings LLC, looked fashionably professional in a Dolce and Gabbana dress and short blonde pixie cut, and started the evening highlighting UJA' s success, which was celebrating its 100th year. Alexandra, is an accomplished and beautiful financier, and her laid back demeanor belies her magnificent work ethic in the world of business and philanthropy. Alexandra has pushed hard to raise the number of women on stage from 3 to 18 and tonight she was glowing with pride at this immense achievement.

CEO of Goldman Sachs LLoyd Blankfein with UJA CEO Eric Goldstein

When I proceeded to photograph Lloyd Blankfein, he pleaded with me to wait until he had finished his hot dog-I got the picture with his mouth full but will not print it. As Robert Kapito, Chair of the UJA Board, recounted UJA's success in helping Holocaust survivors and indigent Jewish children, he joked that tonight was a perfect night to make a restaurant reservation since 2,000 Wall streeters were in this hall.

Michael Douglas in conversation with Jill Smith

It was now time for the main event, which was the appearance of two-time Academy Award winner Michael Douglas whose involvement in Judaism has grown stronger and more public, and whose Gordon Gekko Wall Street character has remained the most famous business protagonist in Hollywood history. Michael Douglas tried a new format, whereby he held a conversation with Jill Smith, Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation, while seated on a chair in the corner. Thankfully, my seat was nearby, so I was able to hear his riveting interview. Michael first asked the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to his father Kirk, who was turning 100, and would be watching this night live-streamed on the Internet. Michael, looked healthy and alert, despite his 2010 battle with throat cancer.

Jill notified Michael, that his father Kirk, who was raised Orthodox, had spoken to UJA in 1955 with Michael commenting that his father consistently amazed him. Douglas went on to express his ambivalence at receiving the 2015 Genesis Prize from Benjamin Netanyahu, for people who embody the character of the Jewish people through commitment to Jewish values, as Michael's mother was a non-jew and according to Jewish law he was not jewish. Michael said 70 percent of the Jewish community in America had intermarried resulting in him trying to raise awareness on interfaith issues.

Jerry Silverman with Ambassador Danny Danon

When asked about his portrayal of Gordon Gekko, Michael said that Oliver Stone's Gekko was a composite of businessmen Carl Icahn, Asher Edelman and Ivan Boesky with Douglas basing the hairdo on Pat Riley. Douglas said he often encounters inebriated Wall Streeters who come up to him and bellow, "You're the man, you are the reason I got into this business." Douglas usually retorts,"but I ended up in jail" and they respond, "Oh don't worry about that." When asked how his movie characters might be different with the advent of the digital age, Michael said the pictures he used to make, which were more character driven and akin to independent films, don't travel as well internationally-the dominant force in the movie industry; therefore, in the current marketplace they would probably be streamed on HBO or Netflix as opposed to receiving widespread distribution.

Wall Street legends left to right David Moore, John Paulson and Daniel Och

As the topic reverted back to Judaism, Michael had the crowd in stitches when he recounted his first trip to Israel in 1965 where he saw all these beautiful Yemeni girls in short skirts and decided "he had to make the world a better place." On a more serious note, Douglas spoke of his son, Dylan, befriending and spending Shabbat with Jewish kids at his private school, and subsequently telling his father he wanted to be Jewish.

Doug Braunstein, Founder of Hudson Executive Capital and Jerry Levin, CEO
of JW Levin Management Partners

After Douglas travelled to Israel for his son's Bar Mitzvah, with a subsequent vacation in Rome, Michael said Dylan was verbally attacked for wearing a Star of David necklace with Douglas confronting the man, whose wife was startled when the movie star approached. Michael said his travels with Natan Sharansky to the Stanford, Brown and UC Santa Barbara campuses to counter antisemitism was a real eye opener and anti semitism was an issue that "you should confront every second and everywhere". Michael said he enjoys when people say "oh he's Jewish?" because he was proud to be representing his father.

Honoree and Founder of Centerbridge Partners Jeff Aronson

After this incredibly moving account, the crowd was treated to the speeches of award recipients Jeffrey Solomon and Jeffrey Aronson. As relayed by their colleagues, these men are humble, love their families and contribute greatly to charitable causes. Solomon, CEO of Cowen, had over 100 Cowen employees their to show support, and took a selfie at the start of the speech joking that it took him until the age of 50 to be presented with the Young Leadership Award. Aronson, received his honor to a standing ovation and loud plaudits and hollers from the enthusiastic crowd. As the younger guests attended the after-party next door, which contained a DJ, food and gambling, I headed home with a smile as I recalled Douglas's comment that Gekko's modern day motto should be "charity is good."

- Lieba Nesis

Friday, December 02, 2016

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

Art Goes North & South

The Double Plus One
Artist Gaetanne Lavoie
Click Images for full size views

So I'm not in Miami at Art Basel -- although this is the first year that I've received countless invites to various events there -- which can only mean one thing. The whole art world happening has gotten waaay over commercialized -- not that I've risen in popularity or status. (lol)

Tu Me Manque
Artist Gaetanne Lavoie

Instead I am contenting myself with attending a few art gallery events which can be visited with a mere subway ride (who wants to get on a plane, anyway?). First stop last night was the Stricoff Gallery on West 25th Street for an exhibition of painter Gaetanne Lavoie's figurative works including what looked to be a self-portrait.

Gaetanne Lavoie
Photo: Laurel Marcus

Lavoie is a statuesque figure herself who knows her way around a pair of high waisted flowing leg trousers. I asked her to explain the thought process behind a few of her rather cryptic paintings including  "The Double Plus One" which is meant to evoke the doppelganger in literature. Lavoie explained the symbolism of a young woman (in this case it was a friend who posed for the painting) trying to mesh the different aspects -- some good and some not so good of her personality. I somehow come away with a "Single White Female" vibe but that's probably just me.

A Lady Red
Artist Gaetanne Lavoie

Lavoie's paintings while slightly disturbing certainly invite interpretation as in "Teddy and Uzi" -- one guest thought the theme was abuse. My take on it -- "I've got my bear and my gun so I'm good."

Teddy & Uzi
Artist Gaetanne Lavoie 

Turns out that I wasn't that far off -- "Look at how loosely she's holding the gun. Look at her face," said the Montreal born artist. I'm still not sure I understand the psychodrama here. The exhibition entitled "Made in Canada," includes two other Canadian artists and is on view until December 13.

Neil & Susan Young, Philadelphia, PA 1970
Photo Joel Bernstein

And speaking of Canada, (I'd like a show of hands on who's still moving post-election, please), I was off to points further south, (not Mexico but Soho), to visit the opening reception of Morrison Hotel Gallery's "Long May You Run: A Neil Young Retrospective" (through December 23rd). Featured works of photographers Joel Bernstein, Danny Clinch, Henry Diltz and Julie Gardner, show the famous native of Toronto aging through the six decades of his Grammy winning, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame career. At 71, does that make him Neil not so Young?

In Car debuting Pono Player
Photo by Danny Clinch

Arriving about an hour into the opening reception the crowd had already diminished possibly due to a concert at Madison Square Garden featuring Chrissie Hynde and Stevie Nicks. Julie Gardner was "in da house" to represent -- she walked me through her photos which were from Young's more recent world tours. She pointed out that she is a big fan of color and many of her photos reflect that love.

Julie Gardner with her Neil Young on the beach scarf

Gardner, a former live music film producer and studio engineer, is also the proud designer of scarves, two of which she displayed for me (after having to remove one off of the neck of Morrison Hotel Gallery owner Peter Blachley). The all-natural fabric scarves can be found on her website Obscuradesigns.net -- some have her photos emblazoned on them and others are more traditional colorful floral designs and patterns.

Neil Young, 1971
Photo by Henry Diltz

As far as the exhibition, although I am not a fan of Neil Young, I found many of the photos to be engaging, particularly the early ones from his start in Buffalo Springfield, and with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. These depict the gamut of musician experiences: onstage, backstage, in the studio, in and on his car, and with varying styles and degrees of his presence as perceived by each photographer, in color and in black and white.

Top: Neil Young, New York, NEW YORK 1970 Bottom: Neil Young, St. Petersburg , FL 1973
Photos by Joel Bernstein

One thing is for sure: his fashion choices (or lack thereof) have not changed much from the plaid flannel shirts, ripped jeans and ubiquitous pork pie hat that he favored in his youth. One photo of the seat of his jeans by Bernstein appeared on the back cover of the 1970 album "After the Gold Rush" -- the dark, moody front cover, also shot by Bernstein, is immediately recognizable to anyone of a certain age. Perhaps Springsteen was influenced as I see more than a passing resemblance to his "Born in the U.S.A." album cover.

Neil Young, Red Rocks (Day 1) 2015
Photo by Julie Gardner 

By the way, if you do find yourself going south to Art Basel, the Morrison Hotel Gallery is presenting "Parental Advisory: Explicit Images": A Hip-Hop Event and photography exhibition and sale co-hosted by Timothy White and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels from Run-DMC on Saturday at East, Miami from 7 to 10 p.m. RSVP to kiva@thepresshouse.com if you would like more info or to attend.

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Lookonline Reaches Another Milestone

The Longest Running Fashion Site on the Internet

Lookonline.com today celebrates 22 years online. Our site is the longest running fashion site on the Internet since December 1, 1994. In addition, our DFR: Daily Fashion Report blog which serves as the main news page of our site is also the first fashion blog on the Internet since February, 2002 with over 2000 posts now archived.

Publisher: Ernest Schmatolla
 Editor-in-Chief: Marilyn Kirschner

Senior Contributing Editors: 
Rhonda Erb 
Lieba Nesis
Laurel Marcus