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Room for debate

5:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, October 4, 2012.  Grey and damp, growing humid by late afternoon and rain predicted but not quite forthcoming.

Traffic was heavy. My cab driver told me it was heavy in midtown because of the theater matinees. I never heard that one before but it makes sense.

Wednesday, the Michael’s lunch. The place was abuzz. PR lady Lisa Linden and Steve Alschuler with Marcy Sims, daughter of the one, the only Sy Syms purveyor of the bargain sartorial in New York; Diane Clehane with Nico and Ward Landrigan of Verdura; Dana McBride; David Sanford and Lewis Stein; Tom Goodman and Jack Kliger CEO of Alpha Media (Maxim); while at a nearby table Mrs. Kliger (Amy Griggs Kliger) with Jaclyn Hirschhaut; Paul Moskowitz and Eric Trump; Jim Brodsky of Sharp Communications; Dennis Basso with Leba Sedaka (Neil is in London, giving a concert at the Royal Albert Hall); Alexandre Chemia;  Don Epstein, Mo Rocca; Barry Frey; Brett Hansen; Jared Keller; Fern Mallis; Wednesday Martin, Jackie Cantor; Shelly Palmer, Walter Sabo; Betsy Perry, Hugh Freund lunching with their cousin Will Schwalbe; Adam Platzner; Ava Roosevelt and Larry Kaiser; Mitch Rosenthal of Phoenix House, Peter Ezersky; David Zinczenko of Rodale publishing, and EVP/Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health; Scott Donaton, Chris Meigher of Quest; Ed Adler; mega-agent Boaty Boatwright; Nikki Haskell; Joan Gelman and literary publicist Lynn Goldberg, Star Jones; Leonard Lauder; Steve Mosko; producer Diane Sokolow; Bob Berney, Adam Miller; Charlie Rose; Ellyn Shook; Eileen Guggenheim.

Alex Hitz and Tracy Snyder. Click to order or buy immediately at Archivia at 72nd and Lex..
Last night over at Archivia, there was a BIG booksigning party for Alex Hitz and his “My Beverly Hills Kitchen With a French Twist,” just published by Knopf. Millions know him from his appearances on QVC and now on HSN with his Beverly Hills Kitchen luxury gourmet food line.

An Atlanta boy where he first learned Southern cooking and its mysteries from Dorothy Williams, the family cook whom he credits with having taught him not only cooking but also more about the world. After college and graduate studies, he continued his culinary education at Peter Kump’s Cooking School in New York and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, later becoming co-owner of the successful The Patio by the River in Atlanta.

Alex has been a full time New Yorker for about as long as I’ve been writing the New York Social Diary. However, several years ago he built a house way up top of Sunset Plaza in West Hollywood, and now he divides his time between here and Los Angeles. It was there in his new house with its space and light and fabulous views of the city that he began entertaining frequently (as is the lifestyle of Los Angeles), using his culinary expertise. Out of the pleasure and success of that experience, somewhere along the line, he got the idea of putting his talents to work on a larger scale that has led to the publication of this book.

Knopf is putting a big promotion behind this book whose first printing is over 100,000. Tomorrow Alex leaves on a five week tour as well as television and radio across the country. He goes first for a two day stint in Birmingham, Alabama where he’ll have a book signing, television, press and radio interviews, and a demonstration. From there he goes to a week in Atlanta where there will be all kinds of celebration for the local boy who went off to the big city.

If last night is any indication of this venture, this could be a big one: they sold 200 books in the two-hour cocktail party and drew as many visitors, some of whom bought two or three copies for friends.
The scene inside Archivia.
Carolyne Roehm and Aileen Mehle.
Susan Gutfreund, Carolyne Roehm, and Katherine Bryan Mezzacappa.
Mark Gilbertson, Sandy Golinkin, and Pierre Durand.
Gayle Atkins, Mai Harrison, and Charles Atkins.
Jefftey Podolsky and Jamie Creel.
Afterwards Annette Tapert Allen gave a buffet dinner for some friends of Alex and hers at her Fifth Avenue apartment. The buffet, Alex’s recipes – a chicken dish, a mushroom tart, greens, followed by lemon tarts and two different chocolate brownies. This was all consumed by most of the guests who were sitting in the Allen library or the master bedroom, watching the Presidential debates.

There was no talking  while the candidates made their points. That detail was interesting because I rarely go to any event where the television program isn’t the center and yet people never stop talking over it. Not last night.

What was the sentiment about it in the room? You know, I couldn’t tell. Carolyne Roehm was the only one who sitting stockingfooted  on the floor leaning against the bed, looking up at the TV, made exclamatory remarks in some responses to what she was hearing. But even then, I couldn’t tell. This was unusual.
Annette Tapert. Dennis Basso explains it ...
Susan Fales-Hill and Peter Bacanovic.
Watching the debate.
I was reminded of the Presidential debates in 1996 (I think the last one that I’d seen before last night’s). I was visiting friends in Northeast Harbor, Maine. People were up there for the long Columbus Day weekend. One night my host and hostess and their houseguests were invited to supper at the house of a very prominent Republican (and conservative) man and his family.

This man’s politics were well known to his friends and family and probably his neighbors. A second or third generation summer resident of Northeast, everyone knew some of the family members belonged to the John Birch Society.

There were about 20 guests all seated at one large table in the large dining room, in the great big old shingled house that sat on the waterfront by the harbor. There was no political conversation at dinner, just family, neighbors and guest conversations. When it came time to view the debates, we all moved into a small room that might have been called a den in this big old house.

The television was set on one side of the room mounted on the seat of a folding chair which was set on the top of a desk. This was so everyone in the room would have a good view. It was a classic Rube Goldberg construction with extension cords hooked onto door hinges and behind couches, etc.

A very homey affair for these devoted Down Mainers. The master of the house took his seat in the middle of an old couch and soon was surrounded by the rest of us. The show began and the room was quiet with our host having set the tone: serious.

The debate began. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Dole. Everyone watched with no expression, not wanting to accidentally annoy or insult our host. After the first round of the debate just when the men were silent, a sign fell out from the bottom of the chair on which the TV was sitting. A big while sheet of paper, printed with a black magic marker, it read: CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT.

For a moment, everyone was dumfounded. That sign, in this house?  Then our host, sitting back, hands folded over his belly, stopped, looked, and then started to laugh, as did everyone else. One of the sons had set the sign up, pinned underneath the chair with some kind of release contraption when he pulled on a string that ran along the extension cord.

It still makes me laugh to think of it because our host was a reverent Republican conservative -- a no-nonsense man of material means generously distributed in that direction. He was also of the Old School, the patriarch, and quite comfortable with it. Bill Clinton was anathema to this man’s kind and sensibilities. I won’t say Clinton was hated in that household because they didn’t seem like hateful people, but he sure wasn’t well thought of, or respected. And far from the upstanding man that was the personal style of our host.  

Yet in the middle of this most serious political event, in this most politically serious household, a son of this man had the temerity and the sense of humor to play this gag on his pop, and make him laugh about it. The truth in that family that night is also the real truth of political opinion in a two party system, as it has been practiced in the past. You are allowed to have one. And so it was last night at Annette Tapert’s dinner for Alex Hitz.
The little Ivy leaguers at the ready at Ralph Lauren.
 

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© 2013 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com