A no-snow day

Chrysler Building through a tree with sparrow. 3:20 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011. A no-snow day except for a rush of flurries in the morning that ended as quickly as it started.

I went down to the Plaza to lunch with Susan Magrino at the Palm Court. Susan is a highly successful public relations executive who is one of those people in the city who has her finger on the pulse. I don’t doubt that she works very hard because the public relations business is always demanding and challenging. But Susan is one of those people with a cool but sunny disposish, as if there is time for everything and everybody.
The Palm Court in the Plaza.
I’ve known her and worked with her for years although only yesterday I learned that she started out professionally after college working in publishing for Crown. She had wanted to be an editor but somehow (how, I do not know) migrated into publicity and public relations where she has made a name for herself.

Somewhere along the line she worked closely with Martha Stewart as Martha was developing and growing her media empire. I don’t know if Martha is still a client but I am certain that Susan remains a trusted and loyal colleague.

Tom Cruise at the Palm Court (not yesterday).
I’d never been to the Palm Court to lunch or to tea although I’ve been there for cocktail parties. It has been a tradition in New York for more than a century. The hotel has gone through a restoration as well as transformation over the past few years. It went from an 805-room hotel to a 282-room establishment with 102 luxurious suites. The rest of the hotel, as is now well known, is made up of deluxe condominiums.

Much of the hotel’s interior as well as exterior is landmarked and so, with refurbishment, restoration or no, much couldn’t be changed. The Palm Court is one of those places and it’s stately and elegant in its Edwardian atmosphere. In the latter years before the change, the area – which is just inside the entrance lobby – was practically abandoned. Not anymore.

Shane Krige,
the hotel’s General Manager, told me yesterday that during the holiday season, the Palm Court had a waiting list throughout the days. It’s a perfect stopping off place not only for hotel visitors but for the shopping (Bergdorf’s is right across the street, not to mention the boutiques in the hotel – including Douglas Hannant’s and the very successful food hall which is modeled on the one in Harrods).
DPC at the Palm Court.
Recently, the King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz moved in briefly with his entourage while recovering from surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital. The king and his party occupied several dozen rooms and suites. The Saudis travel in large groups and besides King Abdullah’s immediate entourage there were dozens of others occupying scores of suites and hotel rooms throughout the city. While the king was staying at the Plaza, many heads of state paid courtesy calls. President Obama, I was told, was expected but his visit was suddenly canceled because of the shootings in Tucson.

The Saudis are not the only VIPs who have taken up temporary residence at the Plaza. Movie stars such as John Travolta and rock stars, as well as many prominent national and international business people have once again taken to calling the Plaza their home away from home.
Douglas Hannant and Fred Anderson's new fragrance.
Among those lunching at the Palm Court yesterday were designer Douglas Hannant and his partner Fred Anderson who were hosting a lunch for several women including Pamela Gross, Muffie Potter Aston, Alexandra Lebenthal, Jill Fairchild and Valesca Guerrand-Hermes. The girls were invited for a “fragrance-testing” of Doug’s new (and first) fragrance, developed in association with Robert Piguet (of Fracas fame). It’s a gorgeous fragrance with the hint of the classic about it.

Doug and Fred are heading down to Palm Beach at the end of the week to launch the perfume at Neiman’s. It will be sold throughout the Neiman’s chain and here in New York at Saks.

After lunch, on my way over to Madison Avenue to catch a cab, I passed the General Sherman statue on 60th and Fifth where a small crowd was watching this ...
The man was holding two long sticks which he would dip into a red pail and then, holding them apart and straight up, a large bubble would develop. Like the kind you blew through a ring when you were a kid. And, like when you were a kid, it was fascinating ... except ... as you can see, he produced VERY large bubbles. Usually it would be one giant egg-shaped bubble although at one point he created three in a row floating south towards 59th Street.
Meanwhile, on the sidewalk right by the roadside, there was an incredibly talented percussionist creating rhythms with two sticks, some pails, and pans that was supplying the atmosphere with an excitement that had passers-by suddenly marching in step as they crossed the road.

It was a grey, damp and slushy day, as you can see but the square around the Sherman statue was rife with the curious, delighted and fascinated.

These two short blocks – the Sherman statue and the Pulitzer Fountain across the way from the Plaza are often venues for very talented dancers, musicians and artists who are literally working for pass-the-hat. It was a very cold afternoon and uncomfortable in that way, but these artists were lifting everyone’s spirits and picking up a buck or a piece of change here and there, earning a little (too little) keep for their efforts.
A street percussionist creating rhythms with two sticks, some pails, and pans.
Then last night I went down to Kenny Lane’s beautiful duplex apartment on Park Avenue South (see NYSD House) where he was hosting a small birthday dinner for Barbie Bancroft. Kenny, Barbie, Tommy Bancroft, Wendy Vanderbilt, Katherine Bryan and Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera.

Cozy and elegant, with an excellent menu served with wine and champagne and conversation, including talk about the very popular PBS series of Julian Fellowes's “Downton Abbey” which runs on Sunday nights at 9 pm on WNET here in New York. The last of the first series of four airs next Sunday.
Kenny Lane and Barbara Bancroft with and without flash, but always flashy ...
Although, as it was pointed out to me in an email yesterday from my friend Barry Parnell in Palm Springs, there was a scene in this past Sunday’s about a flower show in which a prize is awarded for the best roses.

This particular scene was completely lifted by Fellowes from the 1942 William Wyler-directed MGM classic Mrs. Miniver starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, moment-by-moment if not quite line-for-line with only the names of the characters (and the actors playing them) changed.
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