Friday, March 16, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Iris Apfel and Bergdorf Goodman Celebrate "Accidental Icon"

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Bergdorf Goodman held a cocktail party on March 15, 2018 to celebrate fashion legend Iris Apfel's book "Accidental Icon." One thing that everyone in fashion knows - if you are a super celebrity at the age of 96 it is certainly not an accident. Apfel was born Iris Barrel in Astoria Queens the daughter of Samuel and Sadye Barrel-who owned a fashion boutique and glass-and-mirror business. She studied art history at New York University and attended art school at the University of Wisconsin.

Entrance to the boutique
Photo: Lieba Nesis
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Iris worked for Women's Wear Daily as a young woman and for interior designer Elinor Johnson.  She married her husband Carl Apfel in 1948 and they launched the textile firm "Old World Weavers" which they ran unit 1992.  The couple traveled throughout the world where Iris began buying and collecting artisanal clothing to wear to high-society parties. (Read our extensive Masters of Fashion interview with Iris Apfel at her home back in 2006 conducted by Marilyn Kirschner)

Apfel with her Gucci Barbie and book
Photo: Lieba Nesis

In 2005, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented an exhibition about her style entitled: "Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel. Apfel has become notorious for her large dark rimmed glasses and even started her own eyewear line which can be purchased on the Home Shopping Network. Tonight's event contained more than a few fashion icons including: Linda Fargo, Amy Fine Collins, Tommy and Dee Hilfiger, Nicky Rothschild, Stacey Bender, Freddie Leiba and Christie Brinkley.

Linda Fargo in vintage Marc Jacobs and Iris Apfel owl brooch
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

Linda was smashing in a black turban and black-and-white Marc Jacobs outfit paired with old Manolo boots. Fargo absolutely adores Apfel which was evident by her omnipresent smile. Fargo is undoubtedly one of the most powerful women in fashion and I am confident her career longevity will match that of Apfel. Fargo says she admires the "way Iris thinks and dresses because every choice comes from within." Linda met Apfel 15 years ago when she showed up with husband Carl at a lecture Linda was giving on fashion and asked Linda to help with her upcoming exhibit at the Met.

Mike Haldeman, Ranjana Khan and James Aguiar
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Fargo has a couple of people whose fashion she admires including of course Iris, Ranjana Khan, Giovanna Battaglia and Caroline Issa. Fargo said Apfel was a self proclaimed geriatric starlet who didn't achieve fame until she reached 83 years old with her Costume Institute exhibit.

Brian Clements, Melanie Allegra and Linda Fargo
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Fargo said it was remarkable how broad and democratic Apfel's fan base was especially in the youth oriented fashion market. Linda spent 5 months collaborating with Apfel on the windows and pop-up Bergdorf shop which include borrowed pieces from the Apfel collection from the Peabody Museum.

Stacey Bendet for Alice + Olivia skirt as homage to Iris
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Bergdorf had bracelets and t-shirts made based on her collection and expressions Apfel loves including "you have to be interested to be interesting" and "I don't have any rules because I'd be breaking them." Linda even introduced Apfel to Stacy Bendet from Alice and Olivia who designed a skirt with Apfel's picture. There were jackets and dresses made by Ralph Rucci and Naeem Khan-Fargo's go-to designer-which were inspired by Apfel with tags utilizing her favorite axioms such as "more is more less is a bore."

Fashion on display
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Fargo said that Apfel proves that there is no age when you have to stop wearing denim or any other clothing category. It is unfathomable that the 96-year-old Apfel was involved in the picking of colors and nearly every other aspect of the pop-up as she continues to design, model, speak and travel admitting this is to keep her sanity after losing her husband three years ago at the age of 101.

Christie Brinkley
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Apfel is a very private person who stays off of social media and her book contains funny stories and anecdotes about her various jobs, likes and dislikes, as well as secrets as to how to maintain a long and happy marriage.

Dee and Tommy Hilfiger
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

Mattel has even modeled a one-of-a-kind green Gucci-clad Barbie after Apfel because of her long-spanning career. Ranjana Khan, Naeem's wife, said she loves Apfel because she is such a straight shooter and teaches women how to celebrate themselves without getting work done.

Fashion on display
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

She held Iris's 92nd birthday and Carl's 99th birthday at her and Naeem's house. She said Naeem was disappointed he couldn't attend the event because he was busy building a school and an atelier in Miami-she loves Miami because it is the South America of the United States.

Colorfully attired guests
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

During the evening, the crowd was clamoring to get photos with Apfel despite the sign that said no photos were allowed. The indomitable Apfel posed continuously until the hour of 9:00 PM - a time when most of her contemporaries are home sleeping.

- Lieba Nesis

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

A Conversation With Patricia Bosworth: A New Book, Rex Reed & Vanity Fair

Diane Clehane and Patricia Bosworth
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 No matter what else is going on in the world, I can rely on spending at least two fun-filled hours each week deep in conversation with some of the world’s most fascinating people. I’m now on my twelfth (!) year of lunching with the famous and fabulous at Michael’s and I have to tell you, it never gets old for me.

Especially on days like today. I knew I would be meeting the accomplished and award-winning journalist Patricia Bosworth to talk about her latest book, Dreamer With a Thousand Thrills (powerHouse Books) at a luncheon hosted by my good friend Betsy Perry, but I had no idea I’d be part of a group that included other best-selling authors and respected editors as well as my favorite film critic of all time. (Can you guess who? Much more on all that later.)

I arrived a few minutes before the appointed hour so I could chat with Patricia before the rest of group started to file in. I found Patricia at Table One (where else?) raring to go. I knew she was a contributing editor at Vanity Fair so I had to ask her what she thought about the changing of the guard now that Graydon Carter has departed and Radhika Jones is at the top of the masthead. “I think she’ll do a great job. She’ll bring a women’s point of view which is timely and something I think it needs.”

Patricia is the prolific author of many books including two memoirs, Anything Your Little Heart Desires: An American Family Story which told the story of her family and the Hollywood Blacklist and her latest, The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan, which was released in paperback by HarperCollins in January. She’s also written biographies on Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda and photographer Diane Arbus which inspired the 2006 film Fur which starred Nicole Kidman. Patricia also had a career as an actress (She played opposite Audrey Hepburn in a Nun’s Story!) I could go on, but you get the picture.

Patricia’s new book is something entirely different from her other work. It’s a massive love letter to her late husband, photographer Tom Palumbo, which includes over 250 photographs that haven’t been seen in decades that she personally selected out of literally thousands of images. Patricia told me it took her ten years to complete the book (which is understandable given her other projects), but in talking to her, it was clear she adored every minute she spent on it. “I wanted it to be a tribute to my husband’s work and life,” she said. “I wanted to immortalize him.”

If you don’t know Tom Palumbo’s name, you most certainly know his work. “He was one of the definitive photographers of the fifties and sixties,” Patricia told me. “His work is a reflection of that time. He began with Avedon when they both worked for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. He was an up and coming photographer.”

Patricia met Tom in 1954 when she was a John Robert Powers model. “I heard he was fun to work with,” she said. “And our worlds collided.” At the time, Tom was married to his muse, Anne St. Marie, the subject of some of his most arresting work and, not surprisingly, strongly represented in the new book. “She was gorgeous,” said Patricia as we lingered on an image of Anne perched on a rock overlooking the sea seemingly unaware of the group of nude men nearby.

She told me her husband also shot scores of advertisements for Bonwit Teller, Best & Co. and Peck and Peck. If you’re sighing at the memory of these totems of a bygone era right about now, you’re not alone.

Gloria Vanderbilt
Photo by Tom Palumbo

When I told Patricia I recognized the close-up shot of Gloria Vanderbilt that’s in the book she said, “You’ve probably seen it on the cover of Town & Country.” As she turned the pages, I told her I loved Tom’s fashion work. “He documented that beautiful, elegant world. It was a different time." I’ll say.

As Patricia took me through the book, I was struck by the breadth of Tom’s work from editorial and advertising. His work comprised iconic shots of the fashionable women of the fifties in mid-century tableaux to his black and white celebrity portraiture including his arresting images of jazz legends like Miles Davis (who he met through his friend Jack Kerouac) and mesmerizing shots of a very young Jane Fonda. “He did these on his off-hours, He is work was very personal. He loved photographing artists,” said Patricia. “His studio faced the studio of Betty Comden and Adolph Green and he would listen to this wonderful music. That’s how he was first introduced to them, and then he photographed them.” Music and musicians played an important part in Tom’s work. “He did albums covers for Capitol Records for Johnny Mathis and Nat King Cole. He loved it.”

There are also quite a few shots of the photographer himself in the book. “He loved selfies,” laughed Patricia. “He took selfies almost every day.”

Patricia has been getting publicity all over the place including Britain (in the Telegraph) and Spain (Spanish Vogue) which makes sense because it’s an international release whose official publication date was yesterday. There’s also a swanky party tomorrow night at the Staley-Wise Gallery downtown which is exhibiting Tom’s work.

While we’d been chatting, the rest of the guests had arrived – and what a group it turned out to be. In addition to our hostess Betsy. consultant Jo Baslow, and publicist Madison Morales who are responsible for promoting the book, the group was a literary Who’s Who. In attendance: Town & Country’s Elizabeth Angell, Amanda Vaill, biographer best known for Everybody Was So Young (about F. Scott Fitzgerald) who is currently working on a biography of Alexander Hamilton’s women, Shelley Wanger, an editor at Knopf Pantheon who edits Joan Didions and is Joan Bennett’s daughter, art critic Deborah Solomon whose latest book is a biography of Norman Rockwell and the legendary Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying and more recently, Fear of Dying.

When we all sat down there was one seat still empty. Before I could wonder who we were waiting for, none other than Rex Reed arrived at the table. “Am I the only man?” he laughed. Even though he’s spent the last three weeks battling bronchitis, he proved more than up to the task. Patricia leaned over and told me, “I’ve known Rex forever. I gave him his start as a film critic at Holiday magazine!” Later, after lunch had been cleared and we played musical chairs so people could chat, I asked Rex about it. “I’d forgotten about that!” he called across the table to Patricia.

I told Rex that his movie reviews in The Daily News way, way back when had inspired me to want to write about film and actors and we had a very interesting conversation about his amazing career (perhaps the subject of another ‘Lunch’) and the death of the much beloved New York Observer. Rex worked for the salmon-colored weekly for decades (“Peter Kaplan was a great editor!”) and his film reviews were must-reads not only for his criticisms, but for his brilliant turn of a phrase. He’s still reviewing films for, but has a new “sideline” doing a cabaret show where he sings (Ted Firth is the musical director) and shares anecdotes about the stars he has known (and that’s pretty much everyone in Hollywood from Alice Faye on down the list) at The Beach Café. His latest three-night run at the popular Upper East Side haunt three weeks ago was “jam packed” (Patricia went and loved it) and such a success he’s been asked back. “Who knew?” he said as he sipped his tea.

Before I left, I wanted to ask Patricia about the curious title of Tom’s book. “It’s lyrics from a Frank Sinatra song,” she explained. “Tom revered him. He even tried to dress like him.” Did he ever get the chance to photograph him, I asked? “No,” said Patricia. I’d say Old Blue Eyes missed out on something special.

Betsy Perry, Diane Clehane and Rex Reed

Scene & Heard Around the Room

What where they talking about? Kate Betts and Bill McCuddy on Table Two … Candy Pratts Price and Manolo Blahnik’s George Malkemus on Three … Attorney Bob Barnett and CBS News president David Rhodes on Four … John Sykes on Five … Andrew Stein on Six … Judy Price on Seven … New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia, Alex Hitz and Brooke Hayward on Table Eight.

Moving On … PR maven Chris Taylor and Jennifer Gould-Keil on Fourteen … Peter Price on Fifteen  ... Hunter Millington (yes, Steve’s brother on Sixteen) … Judy Licht on Twenty … and Lewis Latham on Twenty-seven. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

School of American Ballet Holds Winter Gala at Lincoln Center

The Young Dancers
All photos Lieba Nesis
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The School of American Ballet (SAB) held its annual Winter Ball at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center on March 8, 2018 with cocktails beginning at 7 PM. SAB, the official yet independent training academy of New York City Ballet, was established in 1934 by legendary choreographer George Balanchine and philanthropist Lincoln Kirstein. Located at Lincoln Center, SAB trains almost 1,000 youth ages 6 to 19 annually (with more than 3,000 auditioning per year), and provides $2 million in financial aid to 46% of the student body.

Vanessa Lawrence in Oscar and Jill Kargman in Chanel

Students come from all over the country to attend this preeminent institution with over 40% self-identified as students of color. The evenings chairs were Renata Garcia, Joyce Giuffra and Elizabeth Gosnell Miller with honorary chair Julia Koch a no-show. The glamorous ball which has taken place for the past 13 years is a celebration of the students and faculty at SAB. However, there was a noticeable component missing from this electric evening and that was the presence of former Artistic Director Peter Martins.

Coco and Arie Kopelman with Alexis Mintz

Martins was forced to retire after 30-years of service due to questionable behavior and a replacement for this superstar genius will be difficult ,if not impossible, to find. The charisma and expertise of Martins who was a choreographer, mentor and administrator as well as being one of the most respected Balanchine dancers of his generation, gave SAB an undeniable gravitas. As SAB searches for a new director the school remains in limbo.

Vanessa Lawrence, Jill Kargman, Amanda Brotman and Caroline Lagerfelt

This evening contained 350 prominent guests who came to pay tribute to the students including: Indre Rockefeller, Geoffrey Bradfield, Michael and Tara Rockefeller, Margo Langenberg, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Jennifer Creel, Jill and Harry Kargman, the Kopelman family, Amanda Brotman, and many others.

Jean Shafiroff

Some of my favorite fashion choices were Indre Rockefeller in a black-and-white Herrera, Jean Shafiroff in a floral Zac Posen, and Jill Kargman in an off-white Chanel with a Marc Jacobs skirt flowing underneath.

Chairman of Board Barbara Vogelstein

Another beautifully dressed attendee was Master of Ceremonies and CBS anchor, Tanya Rivero Warren, who wore a silver sequined gown. She said as a former SAB student herself she remembers her Russian dance teacher telling the girls, "you must always be a ballerina even on the street because your fans expect a ballerina."

Arieh Bates and Heidi Magnussen

Warren said this was her teacher's admonition to students to put their best foot forward in whatever they were doing. Rivero also urged attendees to donate to the Toe Shoe Fund since professional dancers run through one pair every night which cost $100 each-proving an exorbitant cost for underpaid dancers.

Front: Executive Director Carrie Hinrichs; Back left to right: Renna Taher, Amanda Brotman, Joyce Giuffra, Renata Garcia, Stephanie Sharp, Kylie Van Hoek and Elisabeth Miller

Newly appointed Executive Director Carrie Hinrichs took to the stage to thank Peter Martins for his incredible artistic achievements over the past 30 years while noting that 98% of the dancers from New York City Ballet are former SAB alumni. Hinrichs asked the alumni to stand up and excitedly announced that more than $900,000 had been raised.

Choreographer Alec Knight and Alexa Maxwel

The highlight of this evening, besides from the pink and purple hued room with tutus hanging from the ceiling, was the young dancers performance which was choreographed by 21-year-old Australian Alec Knight.

The dancers

Knight praised the dancers whom he referred to as "unsung heroes" for leaving their homes at the age of 17 to come dance. He also thanked Peter Martins for believing in him even though he was on the other side of the world.

Michael and Tara Rockefeller

Knight who later told me that he missed Martins presence said ultimately what made SAB special was the dancers. He called Peter his "biggest inspiration" and said Martins meant a lot to him.

Ashley Bouder

Principal dancer, Ashley Bouder, reiterated this sentiment by acknowledging that without Peter something tangible was missing; yet she remained confident that new opportunities and visions would be available for the Company.

Harry Kargman and Will Kopelman

Indeed the performance of the students was riveting as young girls and boys danced their hearts out with the expertise of veterans. There was a modern element to their dance routines as the intrepid dancers moved with a notable alacrity to the jazzy music-even incorporating some vogue-like movements.

Margo Langenberg and Geoffrey Bradfield

As the evening concluded, dancers headed to the dance floor to cheer each other and join hands in a symbol of unity and triumph that was infectious. Soon after the crowd danced to the tunes of Michael Jackson, Bruno Mars and Madonna as a double dessert of sorbet and chocolate cake was served-a savory conclusion to a Monday night evening.

- Lieba Nesis