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Beginning of Thanksgiving Week in New York

Smoking along Fifth. 3:00PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012. Soon the trees will be bare, it’ll get colder, maybe even snow. On Thursday, millions of Americans will be around a table with family and with friends, celebrating a holiday the meaning of which needs to be revived more than ever. Many will be alone also.

It was cold in New York yesterday, but not too. And grey. That time of the year is upon us. Many New Yorkers have already begun their (very) long holiday weekend. When schools let out on Wednesday, the long weekend begins. The city will feel like a Sunday until the race begins again the following Monday.
The Christmas decorations along Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue are just about in place. Next Wednesday at Rockefeller Center, the tree – an 80-foot-tall Norway spruce from Mount Olive Township in New Jersey – will be up and decorated and lighted. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of people will be on hand for the moment. This year is the 80th anniversary of the tradition.

The project of building Rockefeller Center was developed at the top of the great building boom of the Roaring Twenties, in 1928. After the 1929 stock market crash, however, and because of the crash, John D. Rockefeller Jr. – the son of the richest man in the world – considered scrapping the plans. But ironically, in 1930, the year they broke ground, the family patriarch, John D, Sr., then in his 91st year, a man who had watched every penny he ever earned with laser-like focus all his life, agreed to self-finance it.  At the time, it was the largest private building project on Earth, and was completed in 1939 with an eventual cost of $250 million.

In 1931, they put up the first tree, a celebration of a holiday, and a celebration of hope for many New Yorkers. For many who witness the lighting next week, whether consciously or not, it will symbolize that beacon – again, needed now more than ever.
On Christmas Eve 1931, with the nation mired in the Great Depression, a group of construction workers erected a 20-ft. tree on the muddy site of what would become one of the city's greatest architectural and commercial monuments. Two years later, a Rockefeller Center publicist organized the first official tree-lighting ceremony. Courtesy of Time Magazine.
Last night at the British Consulate-General on East 51st Street, Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra of Kent attended a reception for the NGO Sightsavers, to launch its new $1 million River Blindness Elimination Appeal for Africa. More than 50 guests attended, including many prominent business people.

The funds raised will be used to prevent more than 7 million people in West Africa from going blind from the Neglected Tropical Disease river blindness. 120 million are at risk of river blindness, which robs individuals of their sight and causes a lifetime of disability and suffering,

Princess Alexandra of Kent, the Honorable Lady Ogilvy at the American Associates of the Royal Academy dinner here in New York two years ago, with Kitty Ockenden, former head of the Associates.
HRH Princess Alexandra, Kathleen Hearst, and Sir Nicholas Grimshaw at the American Associates of the Royal Academy Trust's annual dinner dance in 2009.
Adrian Poffley, President of Sightsavers (USA) said that “This disease of neglected people could – and should – be consigned to medical history.”

Princess Alexandra, who is a first cousin of The Queen, is President of Sightsavers, delivered the best wishes for The Appeal from Her Majesty who has been Patron of Sightsavers for more than six decades.

There are 39 million blind people in the world. Eighty percent of all blindness can be prevented or cured. Since its founding, Sightsavers has supported 216 million treatments for blinding and potentially blinding conditions, and have carried out more than 7.8 million operations to restore sight.

River blindness (Onchocerciasis) is endemic in 37 countries, 30 of which are in Africa and account for more than 99 per cent of cases. 37 million people are infected.

More than 300,000 have gone blind. For as little as 11 cents Sightsavers is able to protect someone against river blindness for an entire year by providing them with the tablets 'Mectizan'® (ivermectin)* which are donated by Merck & Co., Inc.

In 2011 Sightsavers helped to protect more than 24 million people across Africa from by distributing Mectizan® tablets. Sightsavers is the leading NGO supporting river blindness in Africa – working in 13 countries (Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Mali, Guinea and Guinea Bissau)

On a lighter note, ten days ago, Laura and Jim Freeman threw open the doors of their art and antiques-filled Turtle Bay townhouse (the enclave once home to Katharine Hepburn and still to Stephen Sondheim among others) for a drinks party to celebrate the recent marriage of Steven Stolman and Rich Wilkie. Stolman, no stranger to these pages, the designer-retailer is now president of Scalamandre, the great decorative textiles house. Wilkie, who hails from Milwaukee, seems to be adjusting to the wicked ways of Manhattan.

Among the well-wishers, Liz Haveles, Joe McConnell and Denise Johnston, Somers Farkas, Sylvester and Gillian Miniter, Bob Dowling, Chris and Grace Meigher, Jack Bochonok, Jack and Judy Hadlock, Dennis and Gail Karr, David and Melanie Holland, Tiffany Moller, Tana Dye, Patrick Murphy and Anthony Selvitella, Maribeth and Ellen Welsh, Jamie Figg, Kenneth Wyse, Allison Wagner, Bryan Colwell, Alicia Bythewood, Tom Shaffer, Jamie Drake and scores more just like ‘em.
The happy couple: Rich Wilkie and Steven Stolman.
Stolman with Dino Rivera and Michel Witmer.
Steven with Janice Langrall. And Rick Sabag.
With Ken Wyse and James LaForce.
With Melanie Holland. And Somers Farkas.
Holiday shopping around town. Last Wednesday night, Helen Yarmak and Fortuna co-founders Seth Holehouse and Anna Lin a private cocktail party at the furrier’s showroom in the Crown Building for more than a hundred, including Janna Bullock, Mai Hallingby and designer Patricia Field. Guests perused the $2 million in stunning antique, contemporary and estate jewelry and designs that will put up for sale at Fortuna’s Fall Fine Jewels Auction on November 29th. 

Fortuna’s Jewelry Director and co-founder Yoram Saidian assisted guests in trying on the pieces from design houses such as Cartier, David Webb, Tiffany & Co., Hermes and many others. Laura Lofaro Freeman, Dr. Laura Torrado, Michele Gerber Klein and Alison Minton were among those who could not resist the rare 29.56 carat colored diamond ring. Then the dazzling 8.94 ct Edwardian diamond ring caught the eye of many men, including collector Michel Witmer.
$2 million in antique, contemporary and estate jewelry and designs will be up for sale at Fortuna’s Fall Fine Jewels Auction on November 29th.
The highlight of the sale is a spectacular and rare 29.56ct Natural Fancy Brown-Yellow, VVS2 pear-shaped diamond, Est. $500,000-$600,000.
To assist Hurricane Sandy victims, Ms. Yarmak added a pair of diamond and gold tulip earrings to the auction, the Buyer’s Premium of which will donated to relief efforts. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds from sales of her furs at the event benefited the Couture Council.

More than 400 antique, contemporary and estate jewelry pieces will be up for bidding at Fortuna's showroom at 608 5th Avenue on November 29th, as well as by phone, through absentee bids or online at: www.fortunaauction.com
Montgomery Frazier, Sandy Byle, and Ben Mindich.
Helen Yarmak, Jocelyn Yap, and Elena Moussa.
Anna Antonova and Cass Almendral. Laura Lofaro Freeman and Diane Herdling.
Michel Witmer and Sydney Masters.
Kathleen Giordano and Dawne Marie Grannum. Alison Minton.
Micky Boardman, Christian Freedom, and Montgomery Frazier.
Catching up in the city of commerce: Wednesday, November 8thm Patty Findlay held a launch celebration of PF Global ARTists at one of Manhattan’s most famous private residences from the wild and crazy ‘70s: 101 East 63rd Street: the home of the world’s most famous fashion designer of the moment, Halston.

It was here where the Studio 54 crowd gathered before and after almost nightly for their partying ways. It was here that the now legendary Tiffany jewelry designer Elsa Perretti took off the $50,000 sable that Halston had given her and threw it into burning fireplace as a response to how she felt about an unknown insult he made to her. It was here where Liza and Andy and Truman et al gathered for their multitudes of atomic age bacchanalia, where rock-n-roll was here to stay. Until ... it wasn’t.
Hunt Slonem with host Patty Findlay (right).
Host Bonnie Pfeifer Evans, The Corcoran Group (right).
The spacious and minimal Paul Rudolph designed townhouse with its celebrity provenance, right around the corner from 583 Park Avenue, was last the private New York residence of Gunter Sachs. Before Sachs and Halston, it was owned by Fiat’s Gianni Agnelli.

Lined with original photographs of international luminaries of all stripes who visited this residence now on the market for $38 million was an apt backdrop to mark Findlay’s new artistic alliance.  A good way to get a look at this fabled townhouse.
Gunter Sachs wall of images.
PF Global ARTists is a new artist management company representing international artists, photographers, painters and sculptors. The evening was hosted by Findlay and Bonnie Pfeifer Evans, widow of Charles Evans, along with Christopher Makos and Hunt Slonem and a slew of international art personalities basking in the nostalgia evoked by this house and its glory days of Halston and Gunter Sachs.
 

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