Denise Rich was New York’s reigning Hostess with the Mostest (emphasis on Most) when, a couple of years ago, she shut down her majestic Fifth Avenue triplex (actually she sold it to David Geffen for 54 million) and relocated herself to a life in Europe–in chateaus, in schlosses, and aboard her mighty yacht The Lady Joy. (Oh, I almost forgot about her chalet in Aspen.)
But Madame Rich returns to town every October to host her lavish Angel Ball, and when she does, the town comes alive. Last Tuesday, she welcomed friends and supporters to a pre-Ball launch party at Tao, the subterranean Oriental-themed den of sin in the Maritime Hotel. Though she’s had a little back problem lately (in certain haute circles, bouncing down Alpine slopes is de rigueur), Denise rose for the occasion–she stood like a Spartan soldier for two hours and bubbled like Dom Perignon. She’s a trooper. Or is it trouper?
In the past 15 years, the Angel Ball has raised 25 million dollars for cancer treatment research, donated through the Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation. Devotion to Denise’s daughter Gabrielle, who died of leukemia, sustains their efforts.
Denise attracts the glitzeratti, a largely European gaggle these days, by giving them a glamorous gala chair (this year, it’s Lorraine Schwartz, who designs the eye-popping jewelry that A-list stars love to wear on the red carpet) and top-drawer honorees. On October 20th, at Cipriani Wall Street, they will be Yousef al-Otaiba, the handsome and brilliant Ambassador to the U.S. from the United Arab Emirates; Nascar’s Jeff Gordon; musical genius Nile Rodgers, and the mysterious Malaysian mogul and playboy, Jho Low.
If you don’t know Jho Low, you should. Only 32, he’s been a major presence on the international party scene for several years, hanging with Paris, Usher, Lindsay and Puff Daddy. I mean P. Diddy. You know, Sean Combs.
Jho has, in recent years, been on the inside of big deals, including a bid for London hotels Claridges and The Connaught. And he bought out Houston oil man Oscar Wyatt, husband of mega-socialite Lynn Wyatt. In May, Jho Low gave $ 50 million to University of Texas for cancer research.
Are you getting more interested now? Of course you are. Buy a ticket for the Angel Ball and chat up Mr. Low. He loves making new friends.
Getting back to Tao, Ivana was there, sipping Pellegrino and accepting compliments on how good she looks these days. The erstwhile Mrs. Trump, most recently Signora Rubicondi, told me, “I just sold my Palm Beach house for 16.6 million. I bought it for four”. The place is exquisite–it was built as the personal residence of Addison Mizner, the most celebrated of Spanish Colonial Revival architects in South Florida. Ivana has always had a gift for real estate: she owns one of the most valuable townhouses in the East 60s and she made a killing on her mansion in Greenwich. Plus she bought up a few maisonettes in Saint-Tropez before the prices went haywire.
Enlivening the scene at Tao were four lithe ladies, who took Polaroids of the guests posing within a red frame and presented them as party favors. Also circulating was a “magician”/prestidigitator named Mark Mitton, who did fantastic card tricks and also made objects disappear. When Ivana’s lipstick case was made to vanish, the soigne gentleman next to her leaned over and whispered, “Hold onto your watch.”
A new face, at least to me, was the charming Omar Sharif, Jr., a television actor who is the grandson of his namesake. It turns out he caused a stir two years ago when he “hesitantly confessed” in The Advocate that he is “gay and half-Jewish”, in that his mother is Jewish–“no small disclosure for an Egyptian”, he said at the time.
To which the Jerusalem Post riposted that since his mother is Jewish, that makes Sharif Jr. 100% Jewish, according to rabbinical tradition.
Which must have been, one suspects, news to Grandpa.
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The People Who Can’t Be Bought
The debut today of the Apple watch on the cover of Vogue China and its lavish celebration last month at Paris Fashion Week are not mere happenstance–they were orchestrated like a Beethoven symphony and timed like the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
The mastermind behind the magic is, according to The Guardian (10/11), “Apple design guru” Jony Ive. And he himself is profiled in the new Vogue (he uses the same tailor as the Prince of Wales; he collects Bentleys and Aston Martins) and featured in the latest Vanity Fair. Mr. Ive is, it seems, the new face of Apple, where he started in 1992 and worked closely with Steve Jobs.
Ive is apparently the conduit to couture heavies Wintour, Lagerfeld and Alaia, all of whom dutifully participated in the Paris homage to the Apple Watch. They are described by Guardian fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley rather charmingly if unconvincingly as “fashion royalty–the people who can’t be bought.”
To which some people reply, “Oh yeaaahhh? Sez who?” Maybe they weren’t directly compensated for their enthusiastic embrace of the watch, but in fashion, as in any business, there is always a quid pro quo. Remuneration takes many forms. Apple will show its appreciation.
Be that as it may, there is a relentless campaign underway to position the watch as a must-have fashion accessory, even though it might not be available for purchase before January. As an Apple shareholder, I wish them well, but it all seems rather heavy-handed. Consumers like to discover quality and style on their own, not have it shoved in their face. At least they used to.
Another problem they are discovering is that teenagers, who are early adopters and a large segment of the target market, have no history of wearing watches on their wrists–they are accustomed to telling time by their mobile devices–and are resistant to the concept of wrist machines.
On the Vanity Fair web site, Ive speaks of the hallowed tradition of elegant wristwatches. But teenagers in the 21st century don’t give a flying fig about traditions of any kind.
No matter, Apple will find a way. They always do. In the meantime, the watch is off to a fashionable start.
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The Wall Street Enquirer
One of the things we like about the WSJ is that it is getting more tabloidy every day. So when they land a Q&A with a genuine movie star, they’re not above fawning a little. Or a lot.
On Saturday (10/11), in a piece headlined “Richard Gere Disappears in New Role”, Barbara Chai gets Gere to talk about “Time Out of Mind”, screened this weekend at the NY Film Festival, in which Gere plays “a homeless man struggling to navigate the city’s social-welfare system.” [Sounds good already, doesn’t it?]
Ms. Chai opens the dialogue by saying, “The scene when your character is asking for change in Astor Place used no extras, and no one looked at you–and you’re Richard Gere!”
To which the actor replied, “It was a strange and profound experience”. (To be fair, Gere goes on to make an appealing and humble case for the film–Richard is a humble guy).
And by the way, Orbmagazine did not supply the exclamation mark at the end of Ms. Chai’s genuflection to Mr. Gere. Orb does not employ exclamation marks, except in quoted material. We view them as a crutch over-used by the verbally challenged. And we mean that!
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Cookie Mueller was a Baltimore-born actress, sculptress, seamstress, quack healer, art critic, bon vivant and unreformed beatnik who was just becoming famous in 1989 as a writer of witty autobiographical essays when she up and kicked the bucket, leaving a rent in the fabric of downtown culture that never quite mended.
For the past six years, Chloe Griffin, a Canadian woman who lives in Berlin and who never met Cookie, has been taping interviews with many of the extraordinarily talented people who did know her. She has published an oral history, “Edgewise: A Picture of Cookie Mueller” (b_books, 2014) with some intriguing photographs.
On Wednesday at 7:00, there will be a book launch and reading at Participant, Inc., 253 East Houston.
On Sunday, October 19th, same time, same location, reading from Cookie’s stories will be her son Max Mueller, her closest friend Sharon Niesp, and her loyal pals Chi Chi Valenti, Susan Lowe, Max Blagg, Patrick Fox and Richard Hell.