Saturday, April 28, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

"Schindler's List" Astounds 25 Years Later

Liam Neeson, Embeth Davidtz, Steven Spielberg, Ben Kingsley and Caroline Goodall
Photo: Getty Images

Sitting through masterpiece "Schindler's List" 25 years later was just as painful. The Tribeca Film Festival screened the 3 hour 15 minute movie at The Beacon Theatre to a sold-out crowd of 2,900 on Thursday April 26th. The travesty of the Holocaust is almost inconceivable as Steven Spielberg and Liam Neeson take us on an unbearable and unforgettable journey. The conclusion was accompanied by a panel led by former film critic for the "New York Times", Janet Maslin, who was joined by Steven Spielberg and cast members Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz, and Caroline Goodall. While Maslin was a brilliant film and book critic her skills as an interviewer were less impressive. Her voice was barely audible and she waited 18 minutes to even ask a question to the film's protagonist, Liam Neeson, leading the audience to clap when she finally addressed him. Ralph Fiennes and scriptwriter Steven Zaillian were unfortunate no-shows but were referenced continually during the panel.

In an unfortunate interview given to the "New York Times" in 1994 Fiennes said "he felt a kind of sympathy" for his demonic character Amon Goeth and "in the end he became an extension of his own self and he liked him"-something Maslin never mentioned. Thankfully, Spielberg understood the gravity of the movie and was highly emotional when he described what it was like to see it with an audience 25 years later. Spielberg remarked that for the first time he noticed the long lingering look Emily Schindler gave her husband's grave at the end of the movie which she had never visited and was "blindsided" by it. Similarly, Ben Kingsley remarked that every memory of the film was "indelible and in our shared DNA." Spielberg said The Academy Award he received was not a celebration because of the subject matter and the impact it had on all who participated.

He remembered pleading with the audience at the Awards to teach this story in schools through the 52,000 accounts Spielberg recorded through the Shoah Foundation. Spielberg denied that Mel Gibson was to be cast in the lead but Scorsese as a director was a possibility. Maslin failed to follow up on this interesting admission. Maslin noted that Spielberg's mentor Sid Sheinberg at Universal suggested in 1982 that he ought to make the book "Schindler's Ark" into a movie. Spielberg said when he got to the end of the book he said to Sid, "I just don't know how to make this movie." Maslin recalls 1993 as the year where Spielberg had the great one-two punch of "Jurassic Park" and "Schindler's List".

Spielberg remembers it differently saying that when he read the best draft of Steve Zaillian's script he knew he had to shoot “Schindler” in Poland during the Winter and was required to return home to California two to three times a week to approve T-Rex shots. Spielberg felt "tremendous anger" that he had to go from what the audience experienced in "Schindler's List" to dinosaurs chasing Jeeps in "Jurassic Park"- joking that his anger subsided in June when he received the big box office receipts.

Neeson said "Schindler's List was a job" not his state of mind because he was falling in love with his wife at the time, who he said had passed away, and he felt unworthy of the part. Neeson recalled finishing his play "Anna Christie" on a Sunday, flying to Poland Monday, and appearing at Auschwitz on Wednesday. Joining him in Auschwitz was co-producer and survivor Branko Lustig who pointed out one of the huts he had lived in at which point Neeson said it then hit him "f-in hard." He said every day with Spielberg and Kingsley was a master class and an extraordinary experience. Neeson discussed partying with some of the survivors of the Holocaust the night before they shot the scene at Schindler's grave and at times appeared out of sync with the gravity of the subject matter frequently joking about drinking pints of Guinness.

Contrastingly, Spielberg recounted experiencing nightmares three quarters of the way through the film that people wouldn't believe the movie because of his reputation as a maker of Science Fiction. Consequently, he added the ending of survivors placing rocks on the grave of Schindler "in a desperate attempt to certify that what he had done was credible." Spielberg felt this was a performance driven motion picture that was all about the banality of evil. Spielberg recalled Ben Kingsley throwing a man to the ground in Poland who mimed a noose around a neck to Jewish cast mate Michael Schneider; and seeing swastikas painted on walls to taunt the cast. Kingsley said he had the temerity to ask Steven what his dramatic function was and Steven responded "witness" with Kingsley replying "conscience" as they both shook hands.

Embeth Davidtz, looking sharp in a tight fitted lace dress, said Ralph's brilliant performance was a revelation but once he was off the set he had a grand old time being the wild child of the bunch. While others may have found levity during the filming, Spielberg said the scenes where the women were naked were "the most traumatic of his career" and recalled two Israeli actresses who had nervous breakdowns and couldn't shoot for three days. Robin Williams knew what he was going through and would call Steven once a week and do 15 minutes of standup hanging up on the loudest laugh without ever saying goodbye.

Neeson recalled that in the 55 movies he has worked on he has never seen a director like Spielberg who worked without a storyboard and was so nervous because he felt it was a "story he had to tell" recalling Spielberg running with a camera being an "exciting, dangerous and unforgettable" time. The Polish Jews depicted in the film were mostly Israeli actors and the German actors were mostly German or Austrian with Spielberg commenting how hard it was to converse with the uniformed German actors; he didn't warm up to them until they shared a Seder in Poland during Passover. Spielberg conceded that this movie is his greatest accomplishment since that time - a sentiment most of the audience members agreed with.

- Lieba Nesis

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

Lunch with British Parliament Artist in Residence Mary Branson

Mary Branson & Diane Clehane
Click images for full size view

Judging by the decibel level in the dining room at Michael’s today, the movers and shakers in the front room had plenty to talk about. We certainly did at my table. I was joined today by British artist Mary Branson thanks to British Heritage Travel’s CEO Jack Kliger and his wife, Amy Griggs Kliger, who thought I’d be interested in hearing about Mary’s groundbreaking work, New Dawn, a contemporary light sculpture and memorial of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain. The first contemporary artwork to become a permanent exhibit in the Houses of Parliament, New Dawn hangs above the passage used by suffragists as they fought for women's rights. As just about everyone who knows me knows, I’m an unabashed anglophile, so jumped at the chance to learn about this intriguing artist and her work.

Last night, Mary spoke at the Borough of Manhattan Community College downtown at an event sponsored by British Heritage Travel and BMCC Women’s Resource Center where she talked about the fascinating, untold stories of the suffragettes and suffragists (Yes, there’s a difference) who, one hundred years ago, fought and sacrificed so women in Britain and America could vote and how her discoveries about them informed New Dawn. (In case you didn’t know women got the right to vote in Britain in 1918. It happened two years later in the states.) Mary is headed back to England tomorrow after her visit to the states which also included lecture stops at the International Churchill Society in Washington, D.C. and the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York. In October, she’ll be part of a private tour of Parliament for travelers on British Heritage Travel’s “Cross the Atlantic” cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2 when it docks in London.

New Dawn light installation

In preparation for our interview, I watched a video about New Dawn on Mary’s website ( and was struck by its quietly commanding beauty and even more impressed by the fascinating story behind the art. In March 2014, when Mary became Artist in Residence at the Houses of Parliament. Dr. Mari Takayanagi, a senior archivist at the Parliamentary Archives and co-creator and project manager of Vote 100, a celebration of 100 years of the Parliamentary vote for some women and all men in 2018, took her through the archives. Mary was astonished by what she discovered. “Everyone knows, or thinks they know, the story of the suffragettes. People know about Emmeline Pankhurst; that what the movie [2015’s Suffragette starring Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep] was about,” she told me. “I thought [the story of getting the vote] was all about the suffragettes, but there were loads of suffrage organizations. One of the biggest was the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. There were 10,000 suffragettes and 100,000 suffragists, but they never get talked about.”

The suffrage movement in Britain spans 52 years from 1866 until 1918. Mary learned that the suffragists, led by Millicent Fawcett beginning in 1866, believed in petitioning, lobbying and marching in contrast to the more militant methods of suffragettes. “I felt very much aligned to the suffragists. I don’t think I’d have been able to go get involved in a bloody protest,” she said. But both factions played a part in winning the vote. “It all kind of came together. You couldn’t have one without the other.”

When Mary was brought to the Act Room where every act of Parliament for the past 500 years is kept, the images of the scrolls “stayed with me” during her six months of research sparking the beginnings of the creation of New Dawn and ultimately becoming the heart and soul of its design. “I wanted to see who, in the records of the Sergeant at Arms [Parliament security], was protesting and where.” In digging into the archives, Mary was also surprised by her own reactions to her discoveries. “I thought I’d get excited about seeing the well-known names [on the lists] but what was most exciting was seeing how many ordinary women were protesting and getting arrested. I wanted to make an artwork that celebrated those women.”

And that she did. New Dawn is massive in scale to reflect the size of the suffrage campaign. The hand-blown circular glass scrolls that make up its dawning sun  reflect the many individuals who were involved in the movement and their ever-lasting contribution to modern democracy. The glass scrolls are mounted on a portcullis structure – the principal emblem of Parliament. Mary told me the colors of the lights represent the different suffrage organizations that all had their own signature colors used on banners and buttons during marches. “I didn’t know how big this was,” said Mary who told me there were 16,500 petitions filed with nearly 4 million signatures over the course of the movement. “I really needed to make a statement piece, not something that would be put in the corner somewhere.”

Mary said she was immediately drawn to historic Westminster Hall, the oldest part of Parliament and a large “overlooked” space above the entrance to St Stephen’s Hall. It was also, she learned, the site of numerous demonstrations where thousands of protesters came to Parliament to fight for women’s right to the vote. “I wanted to puncture the building with a strong female energy through light.” She was “surprised” and thrilled when her proposal to install New Dawn in the space was approved.

In June 2016 New Dawn was revealed 150 years to the day that the first mass petition calling for women’s votes in the House of Commons. Mary explained the installation’s 168 glass scrolls are backlit and linked to the tides of the Thames River which is programmed using specially developed software. “The intensity of the light ebbs and flows based on the tides,” she said. Mary was inspired by the imagery she found on historical posters from the period which often included renderings of a sunrise and drawings of tides and waves of water symbolically bringing change.” The result is a visually stunning and emotionally arresting work that literally puts viewers in the footsteps of the hundreds of thousands of women and men who fought for women’s right to the vote.

Mary told me when the lords of both houses approved her design, they joking requested that her installation be designed to “last 400 years” but Mary went beyond that working with a team of lighting designers, engineers and technology consultants (including her husband Mat Clark) to create a system where the art can remain the same but the technology can be removed and replaced with new innovations that are sure to come over the course of time. “The people who fought for this and were very brave to take [this issue] on, deserve to be remembered,” said Mary. Seeing New Dawn, you will never forget them.

I was so taken with Mary’s story about the creation of New Dawn, I barely had time to ask her how she came to work as an artist with light. I was surprised to learn she didn’t a full-time artist until she was in her thirties. After a decade working as a stewardess for British Airways, she went back to school and got her first class honors degree in Fine Art from the Surrey Institute in 2002 followed by an MA in Art and Space at Kingston University in 2004. “It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.”

When I told Mary the mission of the suffragists and suffragettes to fight for equal rights is not unlike that of women all over the world who touched off a seismic cultural movement with Women’s March in 2017, she concurred. “What really struck me is women one hundred years ago are very much the same as we are now days,” she said as we finished our coffee. As I stood at the corner of 55th and Fifth trying (in vain) to hail a cab in this afternoon’s monsoon, I felt hopeful thinking about how women, when we band together, can prevail. But I also remembered the words of poet George Santayana - - "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Seen & Heard Around the Room

Broadway benefactress Fran Weissler and Mickey Ateyeh on Table Two … Faye Wattleton on Three …GIII’s Morris Goldfarb on Four … New York Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon on Five … Frank McCourt and Michael Eisner on Six … Long time no see! Bisila Bokoko on Eight.

And there’s more...

Producer Joan Gelman and Nancy Haberman on Table Eleven … Lisa Dallos with a squadron of suits on Twelve … Tom Rogers, who I met when he came over to heap praise on last week’s lunch date, Gretchen Carlson ( LINK TO COLUMN HERE), on Fourteen with Hank RatnerJim Casella on Fifteen and United Stations Radio’s Nick Verbitsky at his usual perch, Table Sixteen … Matt Rich on Twenty-One … Actress Leesa Rowland on Twenty-Six ... Stuart Synder on Eighty-One.

Finally, we just have to ask – Who was that elegant, silver-haired woman in the red suit and matching hat? On her way out the door, she smiled knowingly in our direction and we were dazzled. Evidently, it’s a big week for hats.

See you next week!

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

New York City Mission Society Champions for Children Gala

The scene
All photos Laurel Marcus - click images for full size views

Spring gala season is upon us -- you can feel the electricity in the air.  NewYorkers just want to put on their festive dress and do the "Snoopy Happy Dance" to celebrate the end of the interminable winter.  Last night I attended the New York City Mission Society's Champions for Children Gala at the Mandarin Oriental where, despite the confluence of the TIME 100 Gala taking place simultaneously at Lincoln Center, was nonetheless sold out.

Cathy Hughes

For more than 200 years, the Mission Society has been instrumental in fighting the war on poverty with programs and services for underserved communities citing 10,394 people served with up to 91% of their Learning to Work program graduating high school compared to 41% citywide. Students from their GRIOT music program (100% if which can read and play an instrument) were in attendance, jamming away to summon attendees in to dinner.

Erin McCabe, William C. Thompson Jr. and Elsie McCabe Thompson

The gala celebrated the organization's president Elsie McCabe Thompson, paid tribute to  Director Emeritus/Actress Dina Merrill Hartley who died last year, and bestowed awards on LTC Francis W. Kairson, Jr. (Director Emeritus, who wore an impressive array of "chest candy"), Mannie Jackson (Philanthropist, businessman, author, documentary producer, former professional basketball play and former owner of the Harlem Globetrotters), and Cathy Hughes, Founder and Chairperson, Urban One, Inc. (the largest African-American owned and operated, broadcast company in the nation) who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bill Ritter

The plan to launch the Minisink Charter School located in Central Harlem was announced as an exciting new chapter, one in which the organization hopes to "shape even grander outcomes for our children." As always Bill Ritter, Co-Anchor of WABC-TV served as M.C., this year expressing his concern that perhaps due to the upcoming tax cuts which will be felt in 2018, many in the audience would not have the ability to donate to this good cause. Everybody's got the right to their (political) opinion but I personally don't agree that the tax reorganization affects this level of philanthropy -- sorry Bill.

Jean Shafiroff, Randi Schatz, and Katrina Peebles

During the cocktail hour the philanthropic and the well heeled and equally well dressed took their turns in front of the Step and Repeat for their photo op before the somewhat thinned out media presence (at least from what I remember last year) -- again, maybe the TIME 100 had something to do with that. Gala Co-Chairs Jean Shafiroff (in a stunning B. Michael geometric Pop Art strapless floral gown) gave remarks at the dinner while Katrina Peebles looking very sleek in black and pink, introduced the award presentations. Everyone spoke of what an important function the Mission Society serves along with the importance of donations in order to "level the playing field" in a world of have and have-nots. Other honorees included BNY Mellon and IFF International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc.

Victor dE Souza, and Tanja Dreiding Wallace

Back to the fashion on display, I would crown Designer Victor dE Souza king for his amazing tiered, beaded and embroidered woodland inspired gown and brocade cape ensemble, worn beautifully by Tanja Dreiding Wallace who says she owns about 12 of Victor's amazing creations. He recently made the most incredible crystal embellished mask/headdress for the Save Venice gala last Friday night, which was also worn to perfection by Ms. Shafiroff. The extra tall plume at the top not only gave her stature but, according to the designer, special wire had to be sourced at the hardware store in order to lend support to the feather, reminding me of the "Unconventional Materials" challenges on Project Runway.

From left: Natalie Ross, Lucia Hwong Gordon and Susan Fales-Hill.

Unfortunately for those itching to get their boogie on, but fortunately for the Mission Society, an auction by Hugh Hildesley, Vice President of Sotheby's (which raised $55,000) along with a myriad of speeches by presenters and honorees severely cut into the entertainment portion of the evening. By the time Alex Donner & His Orchestra launched into Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" to lure partiers out to the dance floor, many of the crowd (including me) were well past their bedtime.

As I headed out into a steady drizzle, not a taxi in sight for what seemed like an eternity, I cursed the TIME 100 Gala for the unwelcome addition of rain on the soles of my previously unworn (and still un-danced in) shoes.

- Laurel Marcus

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

Publicolor's 2018 Stir, Splatter + Roll Gala

Honorees Philip Glass and Chris Ward
Click images for full size views

Photo: Annie Watt

What could be better than a colorful event that combines fashion, art, and design, and is all for a good cause? On Monday evening Publicolor held its 22nd annual fundraising benefit, Stir, Splatter + Roll, arguably one of the most colorful, high spirited and unique events on the calendar. Honored for their longtime support of Publicolor and its programs were Chris Ward - AECOM VP and CEO, Metro New York, and former Executive Director of Port Authority - and boundary-breaking composer, Philip Glass, who received the Catalyst for Change Award.

Ruth Lande Shuman and Jeffrey Banks
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner 

The not-for-profit organization was founded in 1996 by the uber creative Ruth Lande Shuman and from the start, its mission has been to fight poverty by aggressively addressing the alarming dropout rate and low levels of educational attainment and youth employment in New York and to “engage students in their education, targeting the most undeserved communities and under performing schools with the most seriously disadvantaged middle and high school students in New York City”.

Publicolor students
Courtesy Publicolor

Using the power of color, collaboration and community the organization helps to engage at risk students in their education by teaching them painting and life skills. In fact, their motto is: “From Paint Can to College - Publicolor students don’t drop out”. Central to the mission is the beautification and revitalization of public and civic spaces and while the venue for this event had long been the Martin Luther King Jr. High School on Amsterdam Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets, which is a ‘publicolored’ school of course, for the past several years, the location has been the Metropolitan Pavilion on west 18th Street.

Color table settings
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

The loft like space with high ceilings was literally bathed in color down to the colorful cocktails, which guests, including artist Chuck Close, Knoll’s Liz Needle, Designer Gerard Yosca, Pratt’s Bruce Hanna, Interior Designer Vincente Wolf, Architect Robert Siegal (of Gwathmey Siegel), Publisher Jane Lahrs, Paul Binder (founder of Big Apple Circus), Joan Hornig, Paul Haigh, Takaaki Matsumoto, and former model Barbara Flood could enjoy while painting alongside some of the city’s leading artists architects, and fashion designers (Nicole Miller and Milly’s Michele Smith) in one of the approximately 20 painting stations set up (Tyvek jumpsuits were provided).

Painting station
Photo Marilyn Kirschner

Art was all around, and there was a live auction that included a Chuck Close portrait and a graphic painting by Michael Hambouz, the Brooklyn based multimedia artist. Over $200,000 was raised last night but the live auction ends on Wednesday morning so that number will obviously be higher.

Jeffrey Banks, a huge supporter of Publicolor and a past honoree (2013), reprieved his role as Master of Ceremonies for the festive gala dinner for the third time. One delightful treat was the live performance by Philip Glass.

Tziporah Salamon and Marilyn Kirschner

The dress code for the evening was “colorful festive attire” and there were a few women who obviously took this to heart. It was a perfect excuse for me to wear my vintage fuchsia satin Yves Saint Laurent trousers. Tziporah Salamon, known for her colorful eccentric dress, and a study in green, is another woman similarly inspired by a good theme.

Leckie Roberts
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner 

Leckie Roberts, a style influencer and blogger (  looked wonderful in a leggy three tiered orange dress which she told me was $76 and purchased on As someone who loves a bargain, I delighted in hearing that. No you don’t need to spend a fortune to look fabulous.

Anna Handy
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

As for a bargain, nothing could beat Publicolor’s Manager of Strategic Initiatives, Anna Handy. Her paint splattered dress could not have been more perfect given the art themed evening. It reminded me of a group of paint splattered dresses on the Oscar de la Renta spring 2018 line but hers was a mere $17, scored on (I am a believer that you can buy anything on Amazon!).

Katherine Subasic
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

That being said, the coolest most inventive woman in the room was Katherine Subasic. She joked that the pants she was wearing were from Yeezy’s last collection but she actually took one of the Tyvek jumpsuits being given out last night for painting, put them on half way and tied them around her waist - so I guess you can say they are an original “Katherine Subasic for Publicolor” creation. In any case,  she wore it convincingly and it looked great with her slouchy plaid TOV Los Angeles blazer and her protective boot covers that looked straight off the recent runways. I was not surprised to hear that the recent law school graduate wants to work in the field of art law.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, April 23, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Save Venice Holds Star-Studded Ball at Pierre

The room
Photo: Lieba Nesis -click images for full size views

The invitation read: "Un Ballo in Maschera 2018: Splendori dell'Oriente"-having no clue what that meant I did know I was in for a spectacular evening as guests were exhorted to wear opulent black tie and masks. The "Save Venice Ball" an annual extravaganza at the Pierre Hotel is a fashion prelude to the Costume Institute Gala.

The table
Photo: Lieba Nesis

I had never attended and was excitedly anticipating what was in store as I pored over pictures from prior years with guests dressed in lavish gowns wearing masks reminiscent of "Dangerous Liaisons. The April 20th shindig began with a cocktail party at 7:30 PM where guests included Costume Institute regulars: Derek Blasberg, Lauren Santo Domingo, Fabiola Beracasa, Sienna Miller, and dozens of socialites.

Lieba Nesis and Tatiana Cancro in Oscar

The evening which is usually sponsored by Dolce and Gabbana was spearheaded by Oscar de la Renta and Pomellato with many guests wearing the designer while others opted for Rochas, Gucci, Valentino, Erdem, Dolce, and Naeem. This was a crowd where it was nearly impossible to stand out as knockout after knockout walked by in dazzling attire. When you are competing with the likes of Princess Marie Chantal of Greece and Princess Deena Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia you best bring out your "A" game or just stay home.

Cassandra Johnson, Chairman Fred Ilchman and Jean Shafiroff

As the cocktail hour proceeded, there was a palpable electricity in the air and I found myself nearly gasping at the illustrious attendees. Some of those who achieved fashion preeminence were Tatiana Cancro in a magnificent white and pink frothy Oscar concoction which she purchased that afternoon at the Madison Avenue atelier; Jennifer Creel in a perfect Valentino white gown: Sienna Miller in a gold Erdem; Rebecca Krantz in a pink Oscar; Jean Shafiroff in a floral Oscar: and Toni Garrn in Mugler.

Lieba Nesis and Di Mondo

Fashion muse Di Mondo wore an extraordinary mask comprised of eyes designed by his talented partner hatmaker Eric Javitz. Another fashion luminary Derek Blasberg deserves plaudits for his smashing three-piece Dolce suit Deep in conversation with billionaire art dealer Alberto Mugrabi the entire evening Blasberg, a writer for Vanity Fair, continues to transcend stratospheres with a Rolodex that would make Rihanna blush. This evening actresses Robin Wright and Sienna Miller danced around him as Moda Operandi founder Lauren Santo Domingo sat nearby. Whenever, I see Derek there are at least two celebrities two feet away vying for his attention.

Lauren Santo Domingo, Derek Blasberg, and Sienna Miller

Tonight many of Derek's friends were in the room including Todd Meister, Jessica Joffe and Alicia Silverstone (that was an assumption). I was not sure what "Save Venice" does so I asked Chairman Frederick Ilchman who told me the organization was started 25 years ago and aims to restore hundreds of works of art and architecture in Venice, Italy.

Lydia Fenet in Wes Gordon

Ilchman told me that tonight's event contained 440 people and was nearly sold out at the price of $1,500 per ticket. What he likes most about the evening is the diversity in ages with attendees ranging from 20 to 90 years old. Moreover, I told him this was not your typical New York gala crowd with many attendees venturing out from their townhouses on the Upper East Side or the palazzos in Venice for this annual happening.

Sandra Kuhl and Joe Fichera
Photo: Lieba Nesis

As the guests ate their meat roasts or fish alternative they were able to socialize without lengthy speeches or live auctions. When the meal concluded, DJ Ruckus began spinning songs with nearly every attendee running to the dance floor. I was surprised at how long the guests stayed with the room still packed at midnight. Afterwards guests headed to the "Pool Room" for an after-party hosted by Pomellato with drinks and a DJ continuing the festivities. However, most of the guests had headed home "saving" themselves for the upcoming gala season which looks to be more dazzling than ever.

- Lieba Nesis

Sunday, April 22, 2018

New York Fashion Cool-Aid® by Laurel Marcus

Fashion Law Institute's 8th Annual Symposium Explores "Fashion Influence"

The Audience
Photo: Laurel Marcus - click images for full size views

Last Friday aka Weed Day no doubt saw lots of people under the influence – it was only fitting that Fashion Law Institute’s 8th Annual Symposium had those who attended under the “Fashion Influence.” Director and Founder of Fordham’s nonprofit Fashion Law Institute Professor Susan Scafidi and Attorney and Associate Director Jeff Trexler each opened the day long program by welcoming students, alumni and other attendees with their own special brand of humor and charm, posing the question of whether social media types such as Kylie Jenner are taking over the lawyer’s jobs. (Funny, I remember Jenner coming under fire for potentially appropriating L.A. makeup artist Vlada Haggerty’s imagery for her famous Lip Kit packaging.)

 Professor Susan Scafidi in a suit by Stella McCartney, and the gold pumps are from Christian Louboutin's graffiti tag collaboration with a street artist.
Photo: Laurel Marcus

As always there were five sessions each with a panel of experts plus lunch and end of the day cocktails on this busy and informative day. I will briefly highlight each of the panels for the layperson – some subjects are easier to grasp than others to be sure.

L to R: Jeff Trexler, David French,  Stephanie Cegielski,  Tara Donaldson and  Stan Sherwood
Panel photos courtesy Fashion Law Institute

First up: Money Makes the World Go ‘Round which posed the endlessly fascinating question of how to collect sales tax on online purchases. Last Tuesday a case known as South Dakota V. Wayfair came before the courts to possibly overturn the 1992 SCOTUS Quill (pre e-commerce) ruling that a retailer must have a physical presence in a state in order to collect tax. Currently it is up to the individual states with New York one of the first to enact a tax on online purchases. Congress has been looking at this but hasn’t yet resolved whether to set a new standard for taxation. Technically it’s an honor system where consumers are supposed to pay local sales tax on online purchases voluntarily but that rarely if ever happens.

Tariff wars particularly with China (the largest supplier of textiles and apparel to the U.S. by far) were discussed and one panelist likened it to a “really messed up volleyball game” for the fashion industry as it affects both manufacturing machinery and apparel.  “It could upset the whole industry or it could just go away,” said Tara Donaldson of Sourcing Journal. Stan Sherwood of Sherwood Associates mentioned the 2017 tax cuts which brought American companies from a 35% to a 21% tax rate.“It’s a really big deal. I’ve never seen such a large tax bill in my entire professional career in international tax. Moderator Jeff Trexler showed a humorous SNL parody commercial about the proposed B.A.T. (Border Adjustment Tax) presented as an OxiClean commercial.

L to R: Jeff Trexler, Craig Fleishman, Meryl Bernstein.  David French, Kenya Wiley, Kathryne Badura,and Denning Rodriguez

Next up: Fashion TECHtonics which dealt with interactive tech, data analytics and a whole discussion on the ethos and expectations of privacy versus being actively marketed to via the internet of things such as those in your home including Amazon Echo or Alexa. Craig Fleishman of Rebecca Minkoff, a fashion brand known for using tech in its stores with RFID tags on clothing and Smart Mirrors enabling sales staff to know what you brought into the dressing room, spoke of these eavesdroppers and recording devices soaking up private conversations in your home.

“Gmail scrapes your personal data and figures out what to sell you. If you have a iPhone 10 it uses facial recognition software to unlock. It’s only a matter of time until you walk into Neiman Marcus or into the mall and the mall knows you’re there. They will soon be able to track your eyeballs, putting an item in front of you before you even know you want it.” Meryl Bernstein, an IP attorney at Hogan Lovelis further suggested that this “frankly scary technology” includes Artificial Intelligence (AI) to collect data on consumers. “Do we have to notify customers to use this data?” The EU has a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a compliance organization endorsing a “right to be forgotten” – will Congress enact something like that in the U.S.? Kenya Wiley of the Fashion Innovation Alliance spoke of “Fashion Tech 2.0” involving AI in companies such as Stitch Fix which involve human and machine intelligence. Kathryne Badura of Marcolin defined “Blockchain” a word often bandied about as an “open source digital ledger which keeps an almost immutable record of what has happened not just in cryptocurrency or bitcoin, enabling supply chains to be tracked. “ Denny Rodriguez of Holland Knight spoke of blockchain in enabling his abilities to track items through customs especially when he gets that “3 AM phone call (from a designer client) saying my product is stuck in customs and I need it for a 9 AM show.”

Most frightening moment of the day: did you know that digital avatar influencers are replacing human ones? Some companies are actually buying their own “virtual models” to promote their brands.  According to Fleishman “technology is getting ahead of us. Congress is a generation behind the industry – they’re just learning to use computers,” and “the level of data available to brands and marketers would scare you.” Trexler wrapped up the panel: “Google’s slogan used to be ‘Don’t be evil;’ it should evolve to ‘Don’t be creepy.”  I’m doubly creeped out during the break when upon checking my phone I see an article on the impact of CGI or AI influencers . Although my phone was off I feel like the timing is suspect – were they spying on me?

L to R: Doreen Small,   Kristina Romanova,  Antoniette Costa,  Wendy Levene and Grace Sacro

After a nice lunch (billed as “Munchies”) of salads, chicken and steak (“but don’t worry about the brownies. We are after all, in a law school”) we returned to the obligatory #MeToo , #TimesUp session as it applies to the fashion industry in “Refashioning Rights.” Grace Sacro, NYC Commission on Human Rights detailed the new bills since 1975, (which marked the first hearing on sexual harassment) passed in NYC as well as in New York State. Much of the rest of the session revolved around the Humans of Fashion Foundation app created by Antoinette Costa, a singer and performer and Kristina Romanova, a model. This app, currently in Beta version and set to launch soon, is for dealing with harassment, misconduct and abuse in the fashion industry. It offers  people matching service for those looking to connect with the appropriate specialist, be it a therapist or lawyer.

Romanova came here from Russia as a 16-year-old (eight years ago) and didn’t know how to handle photographers wanting to shoot her topless. Responding to Karl Lagerfeld who recently said “If you don’t want your underwear adjusted go join a convent,” Kristina says she “has no words. We’re still being treated as mannequins not human beings.” A huge response for the app at Milan Fashion Week as well as a Cosmopolitan article about a young fashion designer who donated her Bat Mitzvah proceeds to the upstart app, have encouraged the twosome to soldier on.

L to R: Ali Grace Marquart,  Daniel Bellizio,  Baptiste' Ellard,  Mary Kate Brennan, Sigrid Neilson and Jeff Carvalho, via Skype

Next was Street Smart, a panel on the emergence of Streetwear as a major trend with established high-end brands such as Gucci or Louis Vuitton now going the way of Dapper Dan, with a tribute or even a bona fide collaboration. Designer and Visual Artist Baptiste’ Ellard, showed off his awesome creation -- a Louis Vuitton boombox suitcase (he even demo-ed it) and spoke of his love for his craft.  “My mom was a LV head. I would cut her bags out and glue them to my Air Force Ones. Everyone was going crazy over them in my high school,” although he admits that his mom was not jazzed about having her bags destroyed. “At the time these were known as ‘bootleg goods,’” he continued. “Nowadays they’re collaborating with artists and bringing them into the fold. Back in the day, streetwear was down here and high fashion was up here. They (the hallmark brands) didn’t want anything to do with you.” Moderator Ali Grace Marquart asked Ellard how these brands can find the right artist to do an authentic collaboration with. “Have the artist come to you. We’re doing it for the love not just for the dollar. When me and my friends were in high school we just did it to be cool – it was just a part of who we were,” he said.

Social media really pushed streetwear brands to the forefront resulting in designers such as Kim Jones becoming Creative Director at Dior Homme and Virgil Abloh of Off-White becoming menswear designer at Louis Vuitton. Another example is Demna Gvasalia designing for both luxe streetwear brand Vetements as well as high fashion Balenciaga. Graffiti art versus fine art including Gucci Ghost, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol was also discussed as well as deals with trademark and copyright license and the rights clearance process. Interestingly, counterfeiting of streetwear can be seen online more so than on Canal Street with websites such as third-party merchants and Chinese- based  counterfeiters  Alibaba, Wish and DHGate being as evasive as possible. Jeff Carvalho of Highsnobiety commented that “you used to have sell street fashion on the street before social media – it was different in different cities. Now it’s been leveled out – you see the same stuff everywhere.”

 L to R: Robin Gruber, Lisa Keith, Lauren Sherman, and Susan Scafidi

The last session of the day “Intellectual Property and the Court of Public Opinion,” hosted by none other than Professor Scafidi (author of the famous blog Counterfeit Chic), would thrill anyone who follows the Instagram account @DietPrada, which calls out the rampant copying in the industry. “Even 15 years ago we didn’t have social media. If brands wanted to bring (copying) to the attention of the public-- which many designers didn’t—you had to place an ad in the paper,” she said as a slide of the 2002 Kaisik Wong “inspired” Balenciaga vest by Nicolas Ghesquiere flashed on the screen – a near exact copy of the 1973 Wong creation.

Other examples including an Iris Apfel for HSN toucan brooch (2011) which knocked off Hanna Bernard, a Brother Vellies fur sandal which Zara copied (2016), and of course, famously, Dapper Dan’s “Gucci” balloon sleeved jacket knocked off by Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele who ironically used “Louis Vuitton” monogram as his tribute (2017). Social media was all aflutter over those cases however you could hear crickets when a group of Ecuadorian artists claimed that Loewe copied their design on a sweater last year. This begs the question which started the day: Are lawyers obsolete? Can social media assume the role of policing these copyists?

Robin Gruber, Vice President – Global Brand Protection at Chanel – spoke off the record about how Chanel takes its IP seriously -- actually going after counterfeit sites by buying their domain names and flipping them to educate the public against counterfeiting – effectively using the internet to get back at them for using the internet in criminal ways. This has set off an international debate over blocking sites and whether it violates free speech. Chanel also dislikes resellers and can’t have a brand ambassador (such as J.Lo) associating with them as she did with What Comes Around Goes Around. Lisa Keith of Steve Madden remarked that she can see both sides since she’s previously worked as an enforcer and now as a defender. “There must be underlying IP involved. Just because you post two (similar) photos together doesn’t mean it's IP infringement. There’s a more nuanced perspective and many facets to the story,” she added. Gruber agreed that all brands have crossed the lines at what time or another since they draw inspiration from each other, and to beware of a mob mentality.

According to Lauren Sherman a writer at Business of Fashion, in her former life at, she used to call out these copyists. “DietPrada has taken over Fashionistas role,” she added. “They generally have a valid point. It’s a constant push and pull between legal and PR – often the interaction is not what you might think. Copying hurts both sides.” Keith at Steve Madden is always ready with a helping hand (or foot as the case may be). “They come by my office to show me samples. I wear a sample size,” she laughs. So, what should be done if an item is questionable – Professor Scafidi asks would they take it to the lawyers or to the media? Unsurprisingly Gruber and Keith voted for the lawyers while Sherman said “I’d take it to DietPrada and Susan Scafidi!”

Photo: Laurel Marcus

The cocktail reception and signature pink cocktail followed cheekily titled: “Under the Influence,” a condition many seemed to welcome after another successful Fashion Law Institute symposium. For more information about The Fashion Law Institute contact Susan at .

- Laurel Marcus

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

The Fashion Group International’s Ready-To-Wear Trend Presentation for Fall/Winter 2018

Angelique Serrano, Erica Russo, Megan Hayes, Alex Badia and Ken Downing
click image for full size view - photo courtesy FGI

The Fashion Group International ( held their Ready-to-Wear Trend Presentations for Fall/ Winter 2018 this past Friday. The event was sponsored by Ecco Domani, MAC Cosmetics, LIM College, Donna Karan supported by Urban Zen Foundation, The Kors Le Pere Foundation, and Hearst Magazines, which explains the venue: the Hearst Tower Screening Room. As always, the audio visual presentation, was edited and narrated by Fashion Group’s Creative Director Marylou Luther, who does a superb job of highlighting the best of the best and singling out the most important trends from the runways of New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Even though we have all seen the collections, putting it together this way and at this time, with its focus on the most important and salable trends, ideas, and best bets of the season, allows us to see it from a different perspective and with a little more perspective. Her slides are fabulous and she certainly has a unique way with words which makes it both informative and entertaining.

At the end, Marylou summed it all up with her list of “Best Bets”, those items most likely to translate successfully from the runway to reality this season:Coats (the trench, the belted coat); Capes; Blankets; Ponchos; Jackets (particularly the longer jacket); Skirts (the mini, the high rise pencil); Pants (cigarette pants, the pleated pant); Sweaters (the cable; the oversized sweater); New Day, New Night (day for night, night for day dressing); Leather and Shearling; The scarf (particularly the long scarf); Belts; Bags (the logo bag, the belt bag); Shoes (the chunky sneaker, the pointy toed pump) Boots (the Western boot, the lace-up boot); Hats (the wide brimmed hat); Jewelry (statement necklaces and earrings).

She also pointed out that fashion is always looking to the future, for The Next Big Thing and these are the designers who are destined for stardom: Marine Serre, Matthew Adams Dolan, Marina Moscone, Matty Bovan and Richard Quinn (Queen Elizabeth 11 went to his show.)

The noontime showing had the added benefit of the panel discussion that followed (there was an encore at 2 p.m. that played out via a taped version of the live event). The panelists were Alex Badia, Style Director, men’s and women’s, WWD; Megan Hayes, Editorial Director, Moda Operandi; Erica Russo, Bloomingdale’s Operating Vice President and Fashion Director of accessories and cosmetics; Angelique Serrano, Beauty Director, InStyle Magazine. The Special Guest Moderator was Ken Downing, Senior Vice President and Fashion Director, Neiman Marcus.

Marylou observed that nobody sees more designer offerings in one season, no one chats with more front rowers, no one talks with more designers backstage, and no one has more direct contact with consumers of luxury merchandise than the singularly informed Ken Downing. He is “connected and has connections” and has many ideas about the fashion show system, particularly as it applies to New York Fashion Week. Right after he exclaimed “What a BIG season! Big ideas, big shoulders, big hair; it’s all about the 80’s”, he wasted no time asking the panelists to weigh in on how to stay relevant, the relevancy of the fashion shows, and the proposed changes to the Fashion Calendar.

KD (Ken Downing): Do you have any thoughts Alex?
AB (Alex Badia): No, I don’t.
KD: You never have a problem expressing yourself when I see you in the front row, he chided. Come on, express yourself, speak up!
AB: We are trying so many new things. There is a lot of confusion right now. We just need to go for the ride and suffer. Go for the ride and see what happens.
MH: (Megan Hayes): If you cover both men’s and women’s, it is a full year. Most importantly, the question that needs to be addressed is what the purpose of the shows is. Who are they for? Some designers, like Rag & Bone, are moving away from show formats. A formal show may not be relevant for some.
KD: We have to embrace change and try as many things as possible. There are different solutions. There is no one silver bullet for every brand.
ER: (Erica Russo): I personally love shows. Accessories finish the look and give clothes a new look and you best see this at a live fashion show.
AS: (Angelique Serrano): I agree. Runways are inspiring. I personally want a show. I want to be inspired. It’s a crowded market in beauty and the runways are inspiring. It brings the beauty to life.
KD: There is an emotional factor. We are all in this business because of our dedication to passion. Creating a dream is what moves fashion forward. As Marylou showed in her fabulous trend report, there are no seasons anymore. It’s all about buying clothes that have an emotional pull. It’s about that amazing piece. People don’t go into stores asking, “What’s new for fall?” They want that amazing piece.
MH: We are willing to wait for something if it’s great. What’s the point of buying something if we are content with what’s in our closets?
KD: We don’t want content women, or men for that matter! (That received a big laugh from the audience).
MH: Fashion is transformative. It enables you to dress how you feel. That is what is so exciting.  Gucci's Alessandro Michele has to be given credit for this.
KD: It’s all about the immediacy of the moment. Getting immediate satisfaction with transformative pieces that make you feel good.
ER: It sometimes surprises us that it is the crazy pieces that do well because they are transformative. 
KD: A common taste level doesn’t work anymore. The customer wants something rare and unexpected. A agree that Alessandro Michele gets the credit for this.
AS: I love that there is more individuality in the beauty market. Everything screams, “I want to be ME!”
KD: One thing we have to be proud of here in New York is the diversity on the runways. All body types, ages, ethnicities, genders, etc., are being celebrated. It’s not about perfection. It’s about being natural. Natural hair feels so right. Natural body types feel right.
AB: On shoots, there is more collaboration with models. I find myself listening to models more and more and getting their ideas on style. I often use the models’ jewelry.
KD: Imperfect feels better right now. I often mix the models own jewelry with pieces for a shooting as it makes it more believable and authentic. Sustainability is such a huge part of the conversation now.
MH: Yes, there is an increasing emphasis on the organic. It’s about education and technology. As retailers we want the customer to be inspired. It’s all about giving excellent customer service, giving the customer something that feels unique, and showing concern about the environment. It’s all about emotion.
KD: I have to credit the Millennials with the drive for sustainability. I am not a millennial but I think like one. The customer is increasingly focused on how things are produced; the packaging, how it was made, who made it, etc. It’s the whole package.
ER: Sustainability is more important than ever. It’s all about the ecosystem and the fashion industry is making that happen.
AB: We are always looking for the message. Millennials want transparency. Companies need to be super honest and super transparent. Are workers being paid well? What are the working conditions? It is all important.
KD: What about real vs. faux furs?
AB: Do you think it’s believable that Donatella is now against using real fur?
KD: I think you have to stand for something and if she believes in that, she should stand up for that.
MH: Taking a strong stand is important. Companies need to have a strong message, like Everlane (the San Francisco based company is a leader in sustainable apparel and pricing transparency).
KD: If you believe it, say it, own, it. There are still designers (some young and up and coming) who are embracing fur. As I said, if you believe it, say it, own it!
AB: Donatella is a role model now. She is changing the conversation of her brand.
KD: In the beauty industry, it is so much about organic.
AS: Beauty and wellness; this market is exploding. Transparency will be the key.
KD: Before buying anything, the customer has so much information at their fingertips.
ER: It is a 360 degree world of information now.
KD: We all need to take greater risks. As retailers, we need to make big leaps forward. Safe is not what we need now. For example, when there is a trend towards casual, the pendulum will always come back to a more dressed up look. It is always cyclical. There has been such a focus on casual dressed down streetwear for so long, but I have been pushing tailoring.
AB: The young generation is discovering this because streetwear has been such a big thing for so long.
KD: I have been pushing tailoring. I really love a power pantsuit. If you saw the fashion influencers at the recent fashion shows (Kendall, Gigi, etc.) they were all in pantsuits.
MH: I agree and this shift is exciting. I refer to this category as ‘the new daywear’. It is not just about evening wear because how many women go to big galas every night? Streetwear could mean many things. I personally want to get more dressed up than just jeans and a t shirt. But that could mean many different things.
KD: I can tell you that the ‘power shoulder’ is definitely getting the customers’ attention (and across all age groups, including women in their 60’s who have been there the first time). Angelique, what are your beauty tips for wearing a pantsuit?
AS: I like playing it down a little, making it look less serious. A good brow and tousled hair! 
KD: I agree that it’s all about the brow! What are your top three favorite shows of the season?
AS: I loved Alexander McQueen for the fantasy and the power lip and Carolina Herrera (I loved her cat prints).
ER: Gucci still inspires; I loved the theatre of it. I also loved Paco Rabanne. It had great movement and the noisiest clothes. Marc Jacobs is always ahead of the curve.
MH: I agree with Paco Rabanne, I loved the mood and the noisy clothes! Marni was imaginative, with great colors and proportions and I loved that plastic trench! Calvin Klein: I loved the layers, the mixed purposes, the no rules. Dress as you want. It was very cool!
KD: Raf Simons continues to challenge our ideas of conventional beauty. I love his approach to tailoring and his takes on the pantsuit.
AB: Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein were both such an experience. I never walked in popcorn before! And I loved Sacai’s hybrids (Chitose Abe is a master tailor) and the shoulder construction at Undercover.
KD: They all deliver on the dream that fashion promises.
After thanking the audience for their attendance, Ken thanked his panelists and ended with this thought, “We need our own talk show kids!”

- Marilyn Kirschner

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

A Conversation with Gretchen Carlson: Be Fierce, #MeToo and Miss America

Diane Clehane & Gretchen Carlson
Click image for full size view

Not being an avid viewer of Fox News, I didn’t know much about Gretchen Carlson before her landmark lawsuit filed in July 2016 against her former boss Fox News chairman Roger Ailes in which she claimed her fired her from the network for refusing to have sex with him. The former Miss America, who hosted a daily afternoon news show on the network, successfully sued Ailes for sexual harassment and retaliation, won a $20 million settlement and got a rare public apology.

Little did she know that the chain of events set off by her going public with her story would open the floodgates of women in all walks of life coming forward with their own harrowing tales of sexual harassment and lay the groundwork for the #MeToo #TimesUp movements that are reshaping every aspect of our cultural lives.

“This is not something you wish for,” said Gretchen shortly after she settled into our corner table having turned more than a few heads as she made her way through Michael’s dining room. “You don’t wake up and say, ‘I wish I was the face of sexual harassment.’”

But that’s exactly what happened. The former television news anchor who grew up in Anoka, Minnesota has reinvented herself as an activist and icon of female empowerment in a head-spinning series of events – and some incredibly prescient writing with her book, Be Fierce.

I first met Gretchen at Michael’s (where else?) in December 2016 a few months after she’d won her lawsuit when we were both invited to Joanna Coles’ annual Hearst 100 luncheon. Back then, she seemed to be hanging back a bit in the noisy restaurant filled with the media’s most accomplished women. I sensed a slight reticence when I asked her about her future plans. She told me she was writing what she described as “a playbook on dealing with sexual harassment.” Her eyes widened when I asked her if her future included TV. “Yes,” she told me she “wanted to get back into television” but, “I’ve got all these new buckets to fill in my life.”

I was struck by her transformation when I heard her speak at The Greenwich Chamber of Commerce’s Women Who Matter luncheon in November of last year. Supremely confident and composed, Gretchen stood at the podium looking out at the sell-out crowd commanding their rapt attention as she recounted the excruciating details of the two sexual assaults she experienced early in her career. “One man helped me all day, making calls to help me break into the television business. Then when we were riding in the back of his car, he was all over me and his tongue was done my throat. I didn’t realize that getting into TV meant him getting into my pants.” Some women at my table had tears in their eyes when she told another story. “In the second incident, the perpetrator took my neck in his hand and shoved my face into his crotch so hard I couldn’t breathe.”

That afternoon, I was very moved by Gretchen’s comments about how important speaking out had been for making sure our daughters would not silently endure the same attacks and humiliations – and our sons would not become men who sexual harass and assault women.

When I asked her what has surprised her most by all this, she answered without missing a beat. “I’ve been amazed by how many men have come up to me and said, ‘Thank you for doing this for my daughter.’ I realized then if that was the only benefit to come of all this then it was worth it."

That hit home especially hard when Gretchen’s then 12 year-old son Christian watched her on CNN’s Town Hall with Anita Hill and heard the staggering statistic that every 73 seconds a woman in this country is assaulted. “He looked at me and asked, ‘Is that true, Mom? And when I told him that sadly, it was he looked at me and said, ‘I want to be a part of the solution.’ I went into my husband’s office and just lost it.”

Gretchen told me about the evening in July 2016 when she had the difficult task telling her son and her 14 year-old daughter, Kaia, she had lost her job. “Mommy got fired and now I’m going to do something about it,” she said then added with a laugh, “My son asked ‘What’s going to happen to Tara? She’s our babysitter.”

Her husband, Casey Close, a sports agent, and two children left immediately after the lawsuit was filed on a previously scheduled trip to California . “It was a blessing,” she said between bites of her Hamachi appetizer. “The kids were away from the melee. I was all by myself and I had no idea what the hell was going to happen. I thought that I was going to sit home and cry. My career that I had worked so hard to build had been taken away.”

But she was about to become the accidental activist that kicked off one of the biggest cultural shifts this country has ever seen. “Women started reaching out to me almost immediately. In the beginning, I responded personally to everyone because my mid-western sense of responsibility had taught me you write thank you notes. I went from getting dozens of emails to hundreds very quickly,” she said. When the volume of correspondence spilled into “thousands” and she couldn’t write back to each person at length, Gretchen did “acknowledge” every email and note she received. “I heard from women in every profession; every socio-economic background -- waitresses and women who worked on Wall Street. I heard from oil rig operators."

That’s when it hit her. “I was standing in my office with stacks of these stories around me and that was the birth of the idea for the book.” Even more importantly, “What I thought was very personal became an epidemic in the space of one month.”

More Info/Purchase

Once she began writing, Be Fierce, morphed from the “playbook” to fight sexual harassment Gretchen had envisioned (“That’s chapter four. I tell women to tear it out and keep it in their back pocket”) into the definitive chronicle of issue.

“I never even called [her experiences] assaults before all this,” she told me between bites of her Dover sole. “It was when I was working on the book and I was interviewing Natasha Stoynoff [the People magazine reporter who has accused Donald Trump of sexual assault] and we were talking about it and she said, ‘You know that’s assault. Right?’ I thought, oh my gosh, it’s assault. My own shame and level of trauma prevented me from being able to call it what it was – assault.”

Gretchen told me exclusively that the new paperback edition of Be Fierce which will be published this fall will include new material about the tidal wave of sexual abuse cases that hit after the book’s publication. “I had to write about Weinstein,” she told me. And what of the stories involving Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer? I told her I’d spent years on the set of the Today show during the Katie Couric-Matt Lauer era and never heard or saw anything that would have indicated what was going on with Lauer behind the scenes. “That’s just it, you think you know someone, but you don’t,” she said. “I wasn’t surprised.”

Even with her “seven jobs” she is juggling (“It’s a good thing I’ve always been very organized!”) Gretchen told me she is planning a return to television without specifying if that means another full-time gig. “There’s another announcement coming in the next few weeks, but I can’t talk about that.”

She is currently a correspondent and executive producer of the Epix show, “America Divided”, produced by Norman Lear. The docuseries follows Gretchen around in real time as she works to pass a bill – The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017 – that would end forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts.

The cameras were rolling when she had to ask the bill’s original co-sponsor,  Senator Al Franken, who had just been accused of sexual harassment, to take himself off the bill. It is now co-sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Lindsey Graham. “People thought we had solved this problem [of sexual harassment] because they weren’t hearing about it,” explained Gretchen. “Because of secret arbitration and secret settlements all these women could not tell their stories. That has to end.”

She is heartened by the bill’s bipartisan support. “In this climate, you have to have that to succeed. This is an apolitical issue.” In fact, said Gretchen, “It’s not even a women’s issue – it’s a men’s issue. We have to shift the dynamic and reframe it. There is only one way to stop it from happening –men have to stop sexually harassing women. We have to educate young men in school and at home – it’s almost too late by the time they’ve entered the workforce.”

 In the midst of her non-stop schedule of speaking engagements and return to television, Gretchen's role as chairman of the board of directors of the Miss America pageant, which she won in 1989, may prove to be her most challenging job. She stepped into the role last year after a scandal erupted from the disclosure that its chief executive had written disparaging and offensive emails about former contestants. The chairman position is a volunteer position that Gretchen said takes up between 70 and 80 hours per week.

She told me she wants to make the pageant “relevant for the twenty-first century” but wouldn’t directly answer if that meant eliminating the swimsuit competition. She noted that there was something to the idea that being fit demonstrates “discipline” which is an important quality for contestants but then added, “That was always my toughest category.” Stressing the scholarship aspect of the pageant (“It paid for my last year at Stanford”), Gretchen told me, “I would not have signed on to do this unless I could make this a 100 percent empowerment and leadership organization.” She had previously held a seat on the board, but stepped down two years ago, she said, “to make time for other boards” but when pressed further, indicated she also wasn’t satisfied with how some unspecified matters were being handled.

Before we could continue, we were interrupted by media executive Tom Rogers, who came up to our table, extended his hand and introduced himself to Gretchen saying. “I wanted to thank you for all that you’re doing,” he began. “I hired Roger Ailes at CNBC and it was the biggest mistake I ever made. It took me a lot longer to get rid him than it took you.”

After lunch had been cleared, I noticed she was checking a small black notebook. She had her day’s schedule on a yellow Post-It on the inside cover. “I can’t miss my train,” she said as we hugged goodbye. She was headed back to Greenwich to do a long promised interview via FaceTime and then dive into the most important task of her growing list of jobs – being a mother. “My son has a science test tomorrow.”

Seen & Heard Around the Room

Kathie Lee Gifford looking great with a grey-haired gentleman we didn’t recognize on Table Five Anyone? …Ellen Levine and Steven Haft on Four … New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia at his usual perch on Table Eight with Alex Hitz and Brooke Hayward Judy Licht on Nine .. Dr. Robi Ludwig, who stopped by our table to say hello on Eleven … My pals Judy Twersky, Lisa Birnbach and Maurie Perl having a lively lunch on Twenty-one… And Stu Zakim with director Jyoti Singh, whose new film Yadvi, The Dignified Princess, is premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival.

See you next week!