Friday, November 18, 2016

David Monn's Joyful "Art of Celebrating" Book and Party



David Monn decorated the extraordinary Rose Reading Room with red-fringed lampshades for a New York Public Library Lions gala (images from the book courtesy of David Monn). 

A beautiful party can offer an enchanting escape from daily life, and to be able to organize a wonderful party is a gift. Events planner David Monn is well known in New York for the parties he has designed including benefits for the New York Public Library and Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala and a White House state dinner. Now he has produced his first book, The Art of Celebrating, a hefty, over-sized 400 page tome published by Vendome Press that features 26 of his events, and he recently hosted a wonderous book party at the New York Public Library to celebrate its publication (more about that affair below).



David grew up in the town of Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, and he writes in his book about arriving in New York unable to afford college so he educated himself by observing the beauty of the city. After working in interior design and the jewelry business, he started his events planning business in 2004 and quickly got some big commissions. Now his company with 25 employees plans weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, parties and galas.
For another Literary Lions gala, David Monn transformed the McGraw Rotunda into a forest with hanging lanterns –


At the Metropolitan Museum, a Costume Institute evening in honor of Chanel found David creating a French formal garden with defining boxwood and hedges in the Charles Englehard Court of the American wing. Fragrant gardenias made up the centerpieces, and the facade of the First American Bank, built in 1822, was dramatically lit at the rear  –



In Baltimore at a wedding rehearsal dinner held in the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, David asked artists to recreate Monet's dreamy water lily paints for a romantic backdrop. Pretty ranuculus flowers on the tables repeated the paintings' pastels –


Farther abroad, David designed a birthday party in the Palazzo Pisani Moretta in Venice. Cocktails were served in the Grand Salon whose walls are covered in their original fabric –


To mark the book's publication, David hosted a party this week at the New York Public Library. As TD and I approached the Library's majestic entrance on Fifth Avenue, we saw that elegant, tall, white candles in glass globes lined the steps of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building to announce the party –


Inside, the Gottesman Exhibition Hall was decorated with faux apple trees which were strung with white lights that looked like flowers –


The scent of jasmine filled the air. Impressionistic Monet water lily-like murals were hung here too, lining the walls over chic seating areas brought in for the party –


There were four bars, which was convenient and nice not to have a long wait at a bar. And there were delicious food stands everywhere one looked offering oysters and shrimp, eggplant parmigiana, wonderful pigs in a blanket, sliced jambon serrano ham –



The event moved out into the vaulted Astor Hall. David gave his remarks and thanks, and then on the opposite stairway singer Lisa Fischer performed a soaring rendition of "I Dream in Color" –


The Abyssinian Baptist Church Cathedral Choir from Harlem sang some gloriously uplifting gospel music which was especially moving to me after the upsetting and sad political news of the week –


Yours truly with Mr. Monn –

When finally we peeled ourselves away to leave and return to the world outside, a band from Elan Artists was performing Prince's powerful "Purple Rain." The event was a magical moment of beauty, which the world can really use right now. That's what I call a book party.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sense & Sensibility at The Gym at Judson



Watch this video trailer to get a taste of this lively Sense & Sensibility.

Recently my friend Elliott and I enjoyed the Off-Broadway production of Sense & Sensibility that has been created by the innovative Bedlam theater company and is on the boards at The Gym at Judson Memorial Church, which is the theater space in the church that TD and I attend. Though I have not read the Jane Austen book, I am a big fan of the 1995 movie that starred Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, and was directed by Ang Lee, so I was looking forward to seeing this show about the romantic plight of the Dashwood sisters who suddenly find their fortunes diminished.

Though the book is set in the refined and proper English Regency period, this adaptation, written by Kate Hamill who also stars as Marianne Dashwood, is a zippy and energetic romp through the 1811 literary classic. The Bedlam theater company is renowned for it's fresh, new productions that dissolve the wall between actors and audience, creating an intimacy and immediacy that draws the viewers in. The show is very inventively staged with furniture on wheels so tables and chairs and parts of the scenery whiz and spin by. Elliott and I sat in the front row and I had to pull in my feet so that my toes didn't get run over as furniture sped past. Some actors play several parts and laugh-out-loud humor leads to quiet, moving moments. In this clever production, the buttoned-up English classic is infused with a modern, airy, breathlessness that is irresistibly entertaining.     
You can get your tickets here – this amusing escapade is up until November 20. 



Monday, October 3, 2016

A Boehlert Wedding at a Vanderbilt Camp



Great Camp Sagamore on Sagamore Lake (click on photos to enlarge)
A couple weeks ago TD and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of Maggie Boehlert, who is the daughter of my cousin Peter, and her beau Adam Blossom. Peter and I are the same age and he was my childhood pal. Growing up, we usually spent a week or more in the summer and the week between Christmas and New Year's together, and we laughed nonstop. This wedding weekend was held at Great Camp Sagamore on Sagamore Lake in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, and TD and I had a wonderful time.

In a rented car we zipped up the New York State Thruway and then the Northway to Lake George where we then drove west into the Adirondack Park for about an hour and half to arrive ultimately at Great Camp Sagamore near Raquette Lake. It was a fascinating place to visit. Camp Sagamore was originally built in 1897 by William West Durant, who designed and built camps in the Great Adirondack Style using native materials like logs and cut stone. Durant was forced to sell due to financial problems, and businessman and sportsman Alfred Vanderbilt (pictured below) purchased the property in 1901. Returning from England in 1915 aboard the Lusitania, Alfred was among the 1,198 killed when the ocean liner was sunk by a German submarine. Alfred's widow Margaret, his second wife and heiress to the Bromo-Seltzer fortune, carried on, expanding the property and entertaining the leading lights of Hollywood, Broadway and Washington, D.C. at the camp in the woods.


The Vanderbilts used the camp until the 1950s. It eventually became a non-profit and today Great Camp Sagamore is used for educational purposes as a place where visitors can explore Adirondack culture and nature. 
When we arrived we checked in. I loved our big room in the Lodge, which the literature said was the Vanderbilt master bedroom.


It had wonderful camp furniture made out of logs and branches, and the old-fashioned patterned wallpaper featured deer in the woods. A big fireplace was made out of locally-cut granite.


New York City was boiling hot when we left but up in the Adirondacks the air was cool and Sagamore Lake so quiet and serene.  

On Saturday we had fun visiting with my cousins and meeting other friends and family members. TD and I walked around the grounds which was dotted with cottages, a blacksmith shop, school house and carriage house, as well as a real bowling alley.


In the morning we took a guided canoe tour of the lake. At one point we passed an overgrown steep incline down to the water which we were told had been a winter snow sledding hill; somewhere in the camp was a photograph of guest Gary Cooper sledding down the steep hill to the lake. Later in the day we had a refreshing swim in the lake out to the raft.


On Saturday night at last it was time for the main event. We all gathered in the boat house on the edge of the lake and Maggie processed in on the arms of her mother and father to marry Adam. Afterwords, Maggie and Adam in the center gathered for a photo with my cousin Peter and his wife Lorie on the right and sister Dottie and her husband Bryce on the left - Good looking group, no? Congrats to the newlyweds!


Guests filed into the Dining Hall where we sat at great long tables decorated with white country flowers. The delicious family-style dinner was catered by Sisters Bistro, a restaurant in nearby Old Forge.


After dinner we headed up to the Play House (yes, the Vanderbilts had a Play House) for locally-made ice cream sandwiches. Peter and Maggie had a father-daughter dance together.


And then the DJ let loose with some rowdy rock 'n roll for dancing late into the night.
The next morning we stirred to fortify ourselves with breakfast in the
Dining Hall overlooking the peaceful lake.


Soon it was time to be on our way. We said goodbyes and left on Sunday with tales of the Vanderbilts and memories of Maggie as a beautiful bride –


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Breakfast Talk On the Changing Fashion Industry



The discussion at Skylark with, from left to right, Ariel Foxman, Ron Frasch and Gary Wassner.
Instagram influencers, e-commerce, see-now, buy-now collections – the world of fashion, like the world of media, is going through seismic changes, and these disruptions and more were discussed over breakfast recently at the swanky Skylark lounge located 30 floors over Manhattan in the center of the Garment District. The marketing communications agency LaForce organizes Tuesdays at The Skylark, a program series where leaders in fashion, technology and business network and connect, and discuss trends, topics and insights, so I found myself recently perched there enjoying breakfast and coffee and listening to an interesting discussion about fashion in flux.

The breakfast was moderated by Ariel Foxman, the former editor-in-chief of InStyle magazine, who asked smart questions of Ron Frasch, formerly the president of Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman and now a partner at the private equity firm Castanea, and Gary Wassner, president of Hildun which finances young designers and has worked with Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger and Alexander Wang. At the retail level, the panel noted that while shopping online is convenient, e-commerce has a high rate of returned merchandise. In stores, personal service is very important, and both Frasch and Wassner observed that the new Saks Fifth Avenue at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan has successfully created a compellingly curated merchandise presentation rather than a traditional department store scheme. Fast fashion, offered by the likes of H & M and Zara, has opened up new trends to more people, and made men and women more sensitive to what they wear at a younger age.

Criticism fell on the fashion delivery calendar, which illogically dictates that heavy fall clothes are delivered into stores in August at the height of summer heat. Some August deliveries are now beginning to move to the more appropriate month of September. The panel also had doubts about brands that don't clearly define themselves. Said Gary Wassner, "If you launch a brand, you have to think who are you? What do you represent? What is your story? Most brands don't think about that."

Rosemary Feitelberg from Women's Wear Daily, who reviewed my book How I Look, asked the panel what they were most encouraged about for the future of fashion. "That we are talking about this," replied Ron Frasch. "Appropriate delivery at the appropriate time is very exciting. Now we are listening to the consumer." Gary Wassner was optimistic about "the abundance of talent we have in New York City. It's now possible for young brands to emerge sooner via social media."

Friday, August 26, 2016

In the Summer Swim



The view from the beach house in Connecticut (click on photos to enlarge).
TD and I have had a wonderful summer and have been able to get out of town a lot on the weekends. We used to go to visit my parents in Guilford, Connecticut, taking the train out of Grand Central Station on a Friday night after a week of work. But my mother has passed away and my father has moved to Colorado and the family house was sold so TD and I have gotten creative regarding getting out of town in the summer. Also, we have lovely invitations!

TD and I both like to be near the water, specifically salt water. Ted grew up in Atlantic City and so he spent his childhood on the beach, and my family took summer vacations on the Jersey Shore on Long Beach Island, which is where my great aunt Margie, who lived in Philadelphia, had a summer beach house. We drove to the Jersey Shore from upstate New York, six of us in the station wagon, and there I was introduced to the ocean and the soothing, calming sound of the waves.

Then in college I spent two summers on the island of Martha's Vineyard where I was very close to the ocean. I especially liked the "up island" end of Martha's Vineyard, previously called Gay Head and now called the Indian name Aquinnah, which is very wild and free and feels like the end of the earth to me. I recently came across this photo of my family on the beach there. This is from around 1985 - clockwise from the top, Eric, me, Cynthia, my mother, my father, and Thom.


I love to swim in the ocean and float along. When I'm in the ocean drifting I feel like I'm detached from the earth and earthly concerns and in the care of something greater, floating along in my life on my adventures and all is well. The water is a spiritual place for me.

One weekend in July, Ted's cousins the Pero's invited us to the Jersey Shore for the weekend and we went to the Ocean City beach, which is huge and wide. We spent a fun week there a couple years ago. It's packed with people as far as the eye can see having fun at the beach -


Another weekend, we took a ferry to the Sandy Hook National Park beach in New Jersey. On the boat ride back, this is the view as you return to Manhattan. New York City sparkles - it's like approaching the Emerald City.


Our friends Gary and David invited us for a weekend to their home in Fire Island, Pines -


With the ferries coming and going in and out of the harbor, carrying passengers to and from, the Pines really is a special place -


Southampton was the destination one weekend when we were hosted by my brother Thom and his family. We arrived on Friday afternoon and went promptly to the beach where neighbors had set up camp with billowing umbrellas and sheets for shade. I thought the arrangement looked very "Gerald and Sara Murphy in the South of France."


TD and I took a bike ride into the village to pick up some things. With its high green hedges and majestic trees, Southampton really is a beautiful town.



One weekend we took a subway and a bus to the beach at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways at the end of Brooklyn, which we had not been to before. Another time, we took the train to Jones Beach. But the best part of the summer was when we rented a beach house in Guilford on the Long Island Sound for a week in August. We came in the back door and walked through the house to find this view of the water out the front (and at the top of this post).


It was a wonderful house and we enjoyed being there on the water so much.


The view was so beautiful that we could barely close our eyes day or night -


To take a break from the sun we drove one day to New Haven to the Yale Center for British Art, which has recently been renovated. In the Long Gallery (pictured below) on the top floor, paintings are now hung and stacked by theme - Landscapes, Portraits, etc., for a dazzling display of English art. It's a jaw-dropping room and offered the perfect combination of a heady dose of art on a sunny beach holiday. Admission is free. Do get to the Yale Center for British Art if you can -


Back on our little seaside point, we enjoyed a small community beach where neighbors of all ages came to sit in the sand and swim out to a floating raft. My brother Eric and his wife Tracy came out to visit.
At night we took walks around the neighborhood -


And tried to commit to memory the beautiful vistas


Summertime is a happy time of travels and get togethers, and I'm always a little wistful when Labor Day comes along. I hope you are have having a wonderful summer too --

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden




Surrounded by beauty in the rose garden. Photo by TD. (click on photos for larger, clearer versions)

The weekend before last, TD and I took the subway to the wonderful Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which we had not been to in a while. I remembered that June is a great time to visit when the Cranford Rose Garden is in high bloom.  I've done several posts about botanical gardens recently, which offer such bounteous natural beauty inside city limits. A theme that runs through my book is my predilection for a simple, natural country style while living in the city - combining my upstate youth with my Manhattan adulthood. Certainly city parks and botanical gardens, with their rolling green lawns and fragrant flowers, offer the epitome of this appealing combination.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is a museum of living plants, was founded in 1910 on a 39-acre section of Prospect Park. The Olmstead Brothers, who designed Central Park and the New York Botanical Garden, laid out the original site plan. Now it features more than 12,000 different kinds of plants from around the world and is comprised of all kinds of gardens including a Japanese garden and pond filled with orange koi fish, a lily collection, a daffodil hill, and a lot more.
After exiting the subway at the Eastern Parkway stop, we payed at the Garden entrance and walked through the property with our destination in mind - the blooming roses. In the Shakespeare Garden, an artist sketched some plants in the shade -



The Conservatory, built in 1917, houses many kinds of indoor gardens like a desert and a tropical garden -




In the Cherry Esplanade, visitors lounged under the trees. It looked like an Impressionist painting - 



Before we got to the rose garden, we passed this rose-covered arch which gave a taste of the pleasures to come. I love the sweeping movement of the roses clamoring over the arches. "The eye has to travel," Diana Vreeland famously said.



At last we reached the Cranford Rose Garden, which was built in 1928 and paid for by subway engineer Walter Cranford who ponied up $15,000 to create it. It features a plethora of all kinds of roses planted in beds in rows so it feels very intimate as the visitor can get up close to the blooms. You just wander up and down the rows and enjoy the beauty and the fragrance. When we visited at the end of June, some of the roses were past their peak and on their way out but the garden was still spectacular.



These lovely pink roses edged in red are called Delany Sisters - 



These huge yellow roses, called Edina, posed at the corner of a bed.



At one end of the garden, pink roses and a bank of lavender offered a dreamy combination.



I just love to wander around in this garden, up and down, back and forth. You really don't want to leave.



At last we extricated ourselves and walked down a grassy lawn. TD checked the Phillies baseball score on his phone under some shade trees. 



We exited out of a different entrance than where we came in, and noticed that the wonderful Brooklyn Museum was right next door rising above the trees.



Flowers and art in Brooklyn – a lovely corner of the world.