AVENUE March | April 2021

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Fact from fiction

ETHAN HAWKE


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CONTENTS MARCH–APRIL 2021 VOL.44 NO.2 FEATURES 44

MAKE IT THERE

For generations, New York’s glittering promise has beckoned to both filmmakers and their audiences, writes James Sanders. 52

ROYAL FAMILY

Twenty years after Wes Anderson released The Royal Tenenbaums, Julie Salamon reevaluates the classic New York film. 58

MOVIE STAR HIGH

Lights, camera, education! Lisa Marsh goes backstage at New York’s Professional Children’s School. 64

SCENE STEALERS

Head-turning jewelry pieces that are ready for their close-up. 72

RICH CREEK

Covid-fleeing New Yorkers are moving upstate in record numbers, reports Matthew Phillp, with sometimes hilarious results.

X MAN Writer and actor Ethan Hawke, photographed at home in New York for Avenue by Richard Phibbs.

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VERNISSAGE Avenue’s insider preview of all that’s new and noteworthy. BY HORACIO SILVA

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BUY CURIOUS

Kids’ accessories, home theater essentials, and colorful menswear for spring. BY HORACIO SILVA

CULTURE REALITY WRITES

DESIGNING WOMAN Clo Cohen, T. Anthony’s new president and creative director, photographed for Avenue by Nick Mele.

Ethan Hawke talks about his revealing new novel. BY TOM SHONE

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SPRING’S NEW CROP

Must-reads from Kazuo Ishiguro, Kate Summerscale, Zibby Owens, and Viet Thanh Nguyen.

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TREASURES OF THE EAST This year’s Asia Week New York is not to be missed.

LIVING 76

How do you improve on a heritage luxury brand already beloved by movie stars, royalty, and pop icons? Ask Clo Cohen, T. Anthony’s new president and creative director. BY BEN WIDDICOMBE

BY ANGELA M.H. SCHUSTER

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KENNY SCHACHTER IS SHOCKED The art world insider and provocateur discusses Bitcoin, Instagram, and the transformation of the industry. BY ANGELA M.H. SCHUSTER

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YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE Tiffany & Co. “Colors of Nature” ring in platinum and 18-karat yellow gold with a ruby of more than 6 carats and diamonds, and vessel in 18-karat yellow gold. COVER: Illustration by Petra Eriksson 12

CLIMBING THE WALLS

Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi, the filmmaking duo behind the death-defying Free Solo, on their forthcoming films.

GOING PLACES

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Owney Madden and Roy Radin are two rogues connected by the legendary Cotton Club. BY ARIA DARCELLA 94

BY JOSHUA DAVID STEIN

ON THE AVE.

The Avenue set chills in New York and stays warm in Palm Beach.

SOHO SO GOOD

This downtown neighborhood is New York’s spiritual home of bourgeois-bohemian bonhomie.

NOTORIOUS NEW YORKERS

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SOCIAL SKILLS

What will fragile first-class flyers do, now that emotional support animals have been banned? BY BOB MORRIS

BY ANGELA M.H. SCHUSTER

Visit our website at avenuemagazine.com

CLO COHEN PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK MELE; TIFFANY & CO. “COLORS OF NATURE” COLLECTION COURTESY OF TIFFANY & CO.

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AVENUE MAGAZINE | MARCH—APRIL 2021

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Cinema here can be no doubt that New York—although it may play bridesmaid to Los Angeles in terms of its importance to the national film industry—is the most cinematic city on earth. Because filmmakers are drawn here to tell stories, audiences also want to come here to live their lives, creating stories of their own. Alongside art and literature, movies help create the great virtuous circle that keeps New York City spiraling upward. That’s why we dedicated this issue of Avenue to cinema. In these pages, you’ll meet the people who transform our city into magic on the screen—from the Broadway playwrights who lend their skills to Hollywood, to the crews on the street, and the folks who buy the tickets that keep the whole enterprise afloat. We hear from experts like James Sanders, who dissects how, over the last century, directors have interpreted a Manhattan vision of fine living. Julie Salamon takes a look at Wes Anderson’s masterpiece (and only New York–set film), The Royal Tenenbaums, on its twentieth anniversary. Ethan Hawke speaks to us about his third novel, which depicts the life of a film star who some may find familiar. And you’ll meet the death-defying filmmakers who won an Academy Award for their nail-biting documentary, Free Solo. Finally, will nobody pity the industry awards voters, whose annual gravy train of schmoozing and VIP access has been thoroughly derailed by the pandemic? Please grab a bag of popcorn and enjoy. Warmly, BEN WIDDICOMBE

Editor-in-Chief 14

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AVENUE MAGAZINE | MARCH—APRIL 2021

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Ben Widdicombe CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Courtney Gooch

AMANDA BAEZA (Social Skills, page 96), the daughter of a Chilean father and a Portuguese mother, grew up in Valparaiso and is now based in Lisbon, where she graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in Bon Appétit, Forge, and Netflix’s magazine, Queue, among other publications, and she is a regular illustrator for Avenue’s Social Skills column. “This issue of Avenue gave me a lot of witty elements to play with,” she says. “I was particularly drawn to the made-up dog breed, the Germ Pit. It was a delight to draw!” JAMES SANDERS (Make It There, page 44) is an architect, filmmaker, and author who is known for his seminal work Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies (Knopf), and for cowriting, with Ric Burns, the Emmy Award–winning eight-part PBS series New York: A Documentary Film. For our cinema issue he writes about such landmark New York movies as Holiday and How to Marry a Millionaire. “It was a delight to reenter the ‘dream city’ of movie New York for Avenue, a publication with which I have enjoyed a long and happy association,” he says. He is currently producing two new episodes of the New York documentary series with Burns, to be broadcast this fall. JULIE SALAMON (Royal Family, page 52) is an author, critic, reporter, and storyteller. The Devil’s Candy, her masterful, behind-the-scenes tale of the making of a Hollywood fiasco, was written while she was at the Wall Street Journal. For Avenue, she wrote about the only film Wes Anderson has ever set in New York City. “It was so much fun to revisit The Royal Tenenbaums, which led to an at-home Wes Anderson film festival—no red carpet required.” She lives in lower Manhattan with her husband, Bill Abrams, and their two children, Roxie and Eli, and has just completed Unlikely Friends, a memoir about her Appalachian childhood, for Audible Original, slated for release this spring. LUIS MAZÓN (Vernissage, page 18) is an illustrator and animator who grew up in the Basque country of Spain and now lives in Barcelona. His work spans sports, culture, politics, and travel, and has been published in the New York Times, New York magazine, Wallpaper, and the Swiss periodical Republik. “I really enjoyed illustrating for Avenue,” he says. “It’s nice to have a great art direction but also the freedom to express myself. It’s great to illustrate culture.” 16

DEPUTY & MANAGING EDITOR

Angela M.H. Schuster FEATURES DIRECTOR

Heather Hodson PHOTOGRAPHY DIRECTOR

Catherine G. Talese PRODUCTION DIRECTOR

Jessica Lee STYLE EDITOR

Horacio Silva DIGITAL FASHION EDITOR

Aria Darcella ART ASSISTANT

Daniela G. Maldonado LONDON EDITOR

Catherine St Germans PARIS EDITOR

Clémence von Mueffling CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

Liesl Schillinger, Katrina Brooker, Gigi Mortimer, Tracy Bross CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Anders Overgaard, Mitchell Feinberg, Richard Kern, Landon Nordeman, Rainer Hosch, Johnny Miller, Martin Vallin, Nick Mele © 2021 by Cohen Media Publications LLC AVENUE MAGAZINE 750 LEXINGTON AVENUE 16TH FLOOR NEW YORK, NY 10022 EDITORIAL@AVENUEMAGAZINE.COM

MEMBER OF ALLIANCE FOR AUDITED MEDIA

PUBLISHER

Spencer Sharp COHEN MEDIA PUBLICATIONS LLC CHAIRMAN

Charles S. Cohen

RICHARD PHIBBS BY MAX DWORKIN; AMANDA BAEZA COURTESY OF THE ARTIST; JAMES SANDERS BY NATALIE HOLT; JULIE SALAMON BY SARA KRULWICH; LUIS MAZÓN BY FRANCISCA TORRES

RICHARD PHIBBS (Reality Writes, page 28) was raised in Calgary, Alberta, before moving to New York, where he studied at Parsons School of Design. He has since gone on to photograph such icons as Meryl Streep, Beyoncé, and Rafael Nadal, and his fine art photography is in the private collections of Michael Eisner, Bill Clinton, and Francis Ford Coppola, to name a few. For Avenue he photographed Ethan Hawke, but from a separate location, as befits the times. “It was an interesting experience. Even though you’re shooting remotely, you still have to get in the zone and give it your all. By the end I was sweating as usual, even though I was sitting on my couch the whole time in my apartment.”

AVENUE MAGAZINE | MARCH—APRIL 2021

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Moonlight in Burbank

HOLLYWOOD OR BUST Many successful Broadway playwrights, like Jeremy O. Harris, have found writing for the screen to be a lucrative sideline.

Illustrations by Luis Mazón

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roadway might be dark, but its leading playwrights have always been adept at stepping beyond the stage during lean times. Such moonlighting is sometimes kept under wraps—as revealed in Hermione Lee’s recent Tom Stoppard biography, in which the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead writer confesses to having secretly penned the script for Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade under the pseudonym Barry Watson. Though less hush-hush, in recent years Matthew Lopez, the award-winning Latinx writer of The Inheritance, has written for The Newsroom and more recently on the upcoming drama Dr Q. Katori Hall, the writer behind Our Lady of Kibeho and the jukebox musical Tina, recently adapted her play Pussy Valley into a television show for Starz. And Tracy Letts, who won the Pulitzer in 2008 for August: Osage County, has adapted a screenplay for the upcoming feature film The Woman in the Window, starring Amy Adams. So it should surprise no one that Broadway’s hottest new playwright, Jeremy O. Harris, whose provocative Slave Play received a record 12 nominations at the 2020 Tony Awards, has also turned his attention to West Coast writers’ rooms. Harris, who recently signed a development deal with HBO and is a coproducer on Euphoria, is currently adapting the sci-fi epic The New World

by Aleš Kot for Warner Bros. and has cowritten the script for the new A24 film Zola, directed by Janicza Bravo. (The plot, which he has compared to a latter-day retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, is based on a viral 2015 Twitter thread by a former exotic dancer about a road trip that descends into a fateful weekend of sex and murder.) “Since first embarking on a theater career I’ve known that TV/film would most likely be the only space where I could build a livelihood for myself, like many other playwrights before me,” Harris has said. According to Mark Harris, whose new biography, Mike Nichols: A Life, reflects on the late director’s knack for toggling between Broadway and Hollywood, there are two different kinds of models for today’s playwrights looking to do the same. “There are certainly young writers in New York who from the very beginning have it in mind that they would like to write for film and television,” he tells Avenue. “Sometimes you see those plays and think, ‘Oh yeah, this person isn’t really interested in being a playwright.’ But in the case of someone like Jeremy, a once-in-a-generation born playwright who is clearly interested in continuing to work as one, the idea that he’s now working in movies means he can write in many forms. There is no fear of him leaving the theater.” On behalf of everyone who writes for (or just enjoys going to) live Broadway theater: Thanks for the checks, Hollywood. —horacio silva MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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VERNISSAGE

An Oscar in Every Pot

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ot only is winter weather almost unknown in Los Angeles, its name barely appears on the calendar. Real Angelenos know the four seasons in their city are spring, summer, fall, and awards. In a city acutely attuned to status and hierarchy, awards voters occupy a unique position of leverage. These sometimes motley members of trade associations pass unnoticed for most of the year. But in the industry prize– giving months, suddenly every studio chief wants to shake their hand and make the case why their director, star, or film deserves to clutch the biggest prize of all, an Academy Award. Except this year, of course. Not only have the Oscars been delayed until April 25, the latest date since the ceremony was first broadcast on television in 1953, but the gravy train to get there has been derailed—eliminating many of the perks that have made being an awards voter so attractive. “Historically, it’s very similar to political campaigning,” says Stu Zakim, who is both an Academy member and a longtime publicist for awards campaigns. “It’s about pressing the flesh with the voters.” While every group has different rules about accepting largesse from awards hopefuls, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is among the strictest. Now that even free screener

DVDs have gone away—it’s almost all streaming links, these days—the main perk for Academy members was being invited to meet the top tier talent who were lobbying for prizes. “No matter how long you have been in the business, you’re still starstruck once in a while,” says Zakim. The appeal was “being able to have that face-to-face conversation with [someone like] Martin Scorsese, or better yet the meals, where we are all at the table with the screenwriter, the director, and the talent—and their only agenda was to convince us to vote for their movie.” But this year, all campaigning is remote— which some believe will level the playing field between big studios and independent filmmakers. “I think that smaller films will benefit,” says Darin Pfeiffer, a New York–based awards consultant. “Pre-virus, it could cost half a million dollars or more for a campaign. The postage and shipping of DVDs alone was a couple hundred thousand. Then there’s the ‘for your consideration’ ads, and a lunch at whatever restaurant was at least $25,000 to $30,000.” But while many will be cheering for the underdogs this campaign season, some voters are still wistful for the way it used to be done. “It’s sad that this year it’s gone to ‘Here’s the link, and here’s when we’re doing a Zoom call with the talent,’” says Zakim. “I mean, really?” —ben widdicombe

AVENUE MAGAZINE | MARCH—APRIL 2021

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Admit One

J

ake Perlin loves cats and cinema— even if, a year into working from home, his cats might be having second thoughts about him. A cineaste’s cineaste—the artistic and programming director of Metrograph, the downtown art house, this fall he will publish a translation of conversations between Marguerite Duras and Jean-Luc Godard—the prolonged closure of the city’s movie theaters has been especially hard on him. “I miss everything about them,” Perlin said recently on the phone from his Harlem apartment. “I remember being able to see Ford vs. Ferrari at 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday on 86th Street, and it just felt so great.” Like the rest of the movie-loving public, with the closure of everything from multiplexes to independent venues like Metrograph, the Quad, and the Landmark chain, he has made do in the last year with streaming, but has developed cabin fever. His purist’s desire for the communal viewing experience has led him to take increasingly desperate measures, such as a 240-mile round trip to a Pennsylvania drive-in to see a 35mm screening of The Warriors. “I don’t necessarily need to see The Warriors again,” he said, “but just the experience was necessary and a lot of fun.” Nonetheless, Perlin remains remarkably bullish about the future of public cinemas—even as streaming platforms have spread from computers to televisions, phones, tablets, and even watches. “No matter what’s been thrown at it, the industry has always responded by providing audiences with something that they couldn’t duplicate at home,” he said. “When movies started to be broadcast on television, theaters developed Vista Vision and CinemaScope and Dolby sound—new things that they figured would set it apart from what could be had at home.”

Schadenfreude-minded traditionalists might also take solace that some flashy new services disrupt nothing but themselves. Note the ill-fated Quibi, which exploded on the launchpad, taking billions of its investors’ dollars with it. “People will always want to go to movies,” Perlin said. “The question is which types of films will they go and see. Certain audiences will always want to see the newest blockbuster immediately in a theater.” Now, if only someone would make a decent movie about cats.—hs

Everything’s a Production

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he entertainment industry has taken a battering recently, but it hasn’t all been gloom and doom. As anyone who has walked the streets lately can attest, shooting in New York City—from film and television to the daily stream of paparazzi shots of Katie Holmes—continues unchecked. “Film production has been a bright spot of the reopening of the city,” says Anne del Castillo, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s

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Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), which is responsible for the issuing of location permits. “It’s the one thing that has actually been able to come back strong, in terms of crews being able to continue working.” Filming wasn’t originally slated to resume until Phase 4 of the city’s reopening, but partly because of the strict protocols put in place, the state okayed the recommencement as early as last July, with limitations on cast and crew size. As a result, the city’s major studios and sound stages report they are full—despite production costs having ballooned by around 30 percent. More than 40 film and television crews—from stalwarts such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and new hits like The Flight Attendant, to movies such as the indie comedy Shiva Baby and the Sylvia Caminer– directed thriller Follow Her—have been lured back to the streets of New York like so many extras around a craft services table. (By comparison, there were more than 80 productions in the city last year, and MOME issued about 1,000 permits a month to shoot outside on public property, versus the 559 permits that were issue in October.) But while most crews are still drawn to the city’s iconic locations, social distancing restrictions and increased demand for outdoor spaces mean they are getting more creative about where they shoot. “In the past certain neighborhoods with tiny streets were popular, but not so much right now that you want to avoid people on top of one another,” says Castillo, adding that these teams are also addressing the pandemic in their scripts. “They’re not shying away from referring to Covid or showing outdoor dining in scenes,” she says. “They’re definitely addressing the elephant in the room.” Can’t wait to see how The Flight Attendant depicts vaccine riots.—hs

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“Sometimes you look back fondly on the most hurtful times of your life, because you felt alive, you felt like you were growing.”

Reality Writes Now 50, Gen X heartthrob Ethan Hawke is enjoying growing acclaim as an author. He speaks with Tom Shone about his third novel, featuring a fictional actor with a familiar biography

TAPPED IN Ethan Hawke, the actor and novelist, keeps a bathtub near his desk in Brooklyn, naturally.

Photography by Richard Phibbs for Avenue

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“A

s a person of notoriety, you have a leg up on other writers, as far as selling books is concerned,” says Ethan Hawke via Zoom from his office in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill, talking about his third novel, A Bright Ray of Darkness, with disarming candor. He knows that as a celebrity-turned-author the cries of “dilettante” are all but assured. Moreover, the book concerns a thirtytwo-year-old actor named William Harding who, after being vilified by the tabloids for cheating on his wife, checks himself into a no-star hotel and rallies his spirits with a performance as Hotspur in Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Sound familiar? But before you can say, “Hey, doesn’t that sound like that Ethan Hawke fella?” both book and author have beaten you to the punch. Hawke’s spell in the tabloid inferno is what gives the book its heat. “Everything in the book is about understanding that sometimes you have to play the role of the bad guy,” says Hawke, 50. “We all want to be good, especially actors. You usually go into acting because some part of you wants to relate to the audience and be accepted by them. If you don't allow yourself to have a shadow self, you’re out of balance. So understanding the shadow self is a big part of the novel.” Hawke’s shadow self has had something of a renaissance of late, in Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, playing an eco-radical priest, and Showtime’s seven-part The Good Lord Bird, where he played abolitionist John Brown with gnarled, fulminous intensity. Since Hawke became the face of Gen X at 23, his gaunt features have acquired a few crags and creases, his trademark goatee now longer and tufted with white, adding a seasoning of wisdom to his long, soulful riffs on the importance of keeping the faith and your personal flame intact. Hawke has always been a great persuader (remember him talking Julie Delpy into getting off the train with him in Before Sunrise?), and in A Bright Ray of Darkness, he lends his skills of exhortation to an array of sharply drawn secondary characters—the play’s director; one of William’s costars; a coke-snorting

movie star buddy; his mother—all of whom deliver a series of come-to-Jesus pep talks to rally William’s spirits as he drags himself to rehearsals bleary-eyed from the coke binges and hookups of the night before. It’s a book of sinners and inspirational riffs, a great gift for a friend who’s just had their world turned upside down. “In a lot of ways, the other characters are ‘me now’ talking to ‘me then,’” says Hawke, who first hit upon the idea for the book after a dinner with his German publisher in 2002. The reviews of his second novel, Ash Wednesday, were good, but they often called his hero the ‘Ethan Hawke character,’ even though he had pushed himself to write about a soldier facing fatherhood, and then split the book’s point of view with said protagonist’s girlfriend, he complained to his publisher. “They still thought I was writing about [his now former wife] Uma Thurman. People were just picking this book up because I was in Reality Bites.” His publisher, an éminence grise of the German literary world who had published Gabriel García Márquez and knew Kurt Vonnegut, responded, “Well, do something with it. Let them pick it up for that reason. Give them the MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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PEN PALS The actor at his writing desk, guarded by the family dog. Opposite page: Hawke in a book-filled corner of his home.

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“I’m burned out. But in a minute, I’m going to go home and have lunch with my kids, and that part I really like.”

meal they think they want, just make it better. It would take Don DeLillo 20 years of research to write what you already know about acting.” The advice hit Hawke right between the eyes. “I thought, what if I gave myself permission to write about an actor?” he says. “My joke to myself was I can do for the actor what Melville did for the whaler—a great novel about acting.” That there aren’t that many even good novels about stage actors—Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1900), James Baldwin’s Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968), and Philip Roth’s The Humbling (2009) come to mind—is perhaps surprising. The thrill of performance and the freedom offered by masks are resonant themes even for nonactors, although the fabric of our lives doesn’t gather itself into transformative tests of mind, body, and spirit every day of the week. (Only on the F train at weekends.) Hawke’s marriage to Uma Thurman disintegrated in 2003 amid reports of his affair with a Canadian model (not, as it has been sometimes misreported, with the couple’s nanny, Ryan Shawhughes, whom he would later marry.) After the divorce, he holed up in the post-punk rot of the Chelsea Hotel and returned to the theater, playing a sleazy actor in Hurlyburly, and—yes—Hotspur in a production of Henry IV, pouring all his anger into the role of

Shakespeare’s vainglorious knight. Some of the black electricity from that time also found its way into the final installment of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, Before Midnight. The book gnawed at him over the years, on planes or in hotel rooms; reading James McBride’s 2013 National Book Award–winning novel The Good Lord Bird, he felt so “jealous that somebody had written something so beautiful and wise” that, after filming completed on his adaptation, he felt galvanized to start work again on his own book, although he still isn’t sure he wants his kids—Maya (22) and Levon (19) from his marriage to Thurman, Clementine (12) and Indiana (9) from his marriage to Ryan—to read it. “The dad in me wonders if I should publish it at all. It’s like, if my father was a painter and he felt he needed to paint really personal pictures of himself naked or something like that, I respect his right to do that, but I’m not sure I would want to hang one on my wall—you know what I mean? This one is so personal to me, and I harbor secret hope that other people will enjoy it and that it has value in the world, but it does deal with sexuality and drugs, and a lot of my personal wounds that I don’t feel are relevant to my role as a dad... It’s strange how memory works, isn’t it? That sometimes you look back fondly on the most hurtful times of your life

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“I’m usually home for six weeks, gone for six, gone for three, gone for a weekend...this has been a wild year for me.”

WELL SUITED The author relaxes in style.

because you felt alive, you felt like you were growing. It’s mysterious to me how I can romanticize some of the most painful parts of my life. I think it’s how we heal. I was really turned-on taking Shakespeare on, too. When you think of acting, that’s what you think of, Shakespeare. And so I wanted to kind of kiss that on the mouth.” Hawke can’t wait for theaters to reopen and school to return full-time. He’s been home-schooling his youngest at the home he shares with Ryan in Boerum Hill, but wonders what gaps they’re going to have in their education. “I’m burned out,” he says. “But in a minute, I’m going to go home and have lunch with my kids, and that part I really like. Most days we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner together—for a year. I’m usually home for six weeks, gone for six, gone for three, gone for a weekend... this has been a wild year for me.” With Hawke’s performance in The Good Lord Bird picking up a Golden Globe nomination, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. If some young indie filmmaker were to adapt A Bright Ray of Darkness for the screen, what advice would he give the actor playing the Ethan Hawke role? Too late, I realize I should have said “William Harding,” but Hawke doesn’t seem to mind. “I was thinking about that word ‘grace’ a lot recently and about what its definition is. And to me, its definition is the ability to accept change, to accept things as they are. And the only time that William has that is acting. So the more that he’s acting, the more he can rebuild himself. And so, I would encourage the actor to be at a tabula rasa place, a zero point, a state of absolute emptiness.” A Bright Ray of Darkness is published by Knopf. 32

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By turns coolly observational and heartbreakingly tender, it is an aching meditation on what it means to be human and to love. The ploddingly slow plot, such as it is, will be dismissed by some as having been written by algorithm, and in less capable hands it might have resembled the highly stylized techno-determinist musings of recent Hollywood movies about artificial intelligence such as Her and Ex Machina. But no one combines melancholic realism and dystopian fantasy like Ishiguro. What emerges from protagonist Klara’s effort to escape loneliness and forge meaningful relationships is nothing short of the perfect novel for our alienated times. horacio silva

the suburban poltergeist’s violent invasion of the Fielding home takes a Freudian turn that leads him to a darker place that marries trauma to revenge and social isolation. It’s a taut, stunning examination of cultural fear, and how the internalized sensibilities of the day can run amok and overtake the line between what is real and what is not. elissa altman

Books Spring’s new crop of must-reads include a meditation on love, a prewar “haunting,” and an anthology of quarantine comfort essays

MOMS DON’T HAVE TIME TO Edited by Zibby Owens (Skyhorse Publishing)

THE HAUNTING OF ALMA FIELDING by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Press)

KLARA AND THE SUN by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf)

Kazuo Ishiguro’s highly anticipated latest is his first release since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. The author of The Remains of the Day and Booker Prize winner does not disappoint with this poignant allegory that serves as a companion piece of sorts to Never Let Me Go, his 2005 masterpiece about a boarding school for cloned children. Set in the near future, and written in his signature firstperson voice, it tells the comingof-age story of a solar-powered robot (admittedly an emotionally and observationally plugged-in Artificial Friend), who longs to be adopted from the department store that she has called home. 34

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,/One need not be a house;/ The brain has corridors surpassing/ Material place. Emily Dickinson’s lines are brought to mind for this reader by Kate Summerscale’s brilliant, genre-busting exploration of the sometimes violent, generally creepy poltergeist “haunting” of the otherwise tidy 1938 suburban London life and home of Alma Fielding. In The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Summerscale’s bestselling true tale of a child murder in England in 1860, it is Mr. Whicher, one of Scotland Yard’s first detectives, who steps into the domestic vortex; in The Haunting, it is the renowned HungarianJewish refugee ghost hunter for the Institute for Psychical Research, Nandor Fodor. Working on the eve of a new world war—Britain is about to be pitched headlong into a violent maelstrom that will reach its shores and flatten its cities a mere quarter century after killing a generation of its young men in the first—Fodor’s investigation of

Even before the pandemic, Zibby Owens, the creator and host of the influential literary podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, was a force to be reckoned with, hosting myriad author events from her Upper East Side home as she championed books about the female experience. When lockdown arrived, “the Great Connector,” as the author Laura Zigman calls Owens, launched an online magazine, We Found Time, and galvanized her formidable network of bestselling and award-winning female (and some male) authors to pen brilliant musings on all the things women, especially moms (and especially during a pandemic) don’t have time to do, like read, work out, eat, or have sex. Now published as the anthology Moms Don’t Have Time To, subjects of the pieces range from fighting the maternal instinct to protect (Suzanne Falter’s “After My Daughter Died, My Son Took Up Rock Climbing”), to a rumination on absentee motherhood (Deborah Burns’s “My Mother and Me: An Unrequited Love Story”), and a meditation on the ebb and flow of a marriage (William Dameron’s “Yes, But Not Now”). Humorous, joyful, poignant, and unflinching, Moms Don’t Have Time To contains an immensity of emotions that can hit the reader hard in the solar plexus. heather hodson

THE COMMITTED by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press)

With his latest release, author Viet Thanh Nguyen continues his welcome barrage on our literary senses, stretching the written word’s capacity to tell stories in ways only he can. The upcoming sequel to The Sympathizer, the brilliant and darkly comedic novel that won him the Pulitzer Prize in 2016, The Committed follows its unnamed protagonist, newly re-refugeed from his native Communist Revolution–era Vietnam, as he struggles to begin life again in the streets of Paris. This time, it’s not battles between political parties that he’s entangled in, but between drug-dealing gangs. And as much as he hopes for a clean slate, he carries the ghosts of his past with him. The Committed is packed with much of the same deeply philosophical, personal reflections of the first book in the series, interlaced with a narrative that is never boring. Nguyen’s talent is in using the main character’s inner dialogue to not only drive the arresting story forward, but also as a vehicle for his increasingly daring writing style. He approaches the themes in this book—the traumatic effects of colonialism, racism, addiction, emptiness, love—with both sensitivity and brutal honesty. As with its predecessor, The Committed will leave any reader spiritually satiated. mark libatique

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Treasures of the East on the Upper East Side Asia Week New York offers an abundance of rarities for the discerning collector, writes Angela M.H. Schuster

LUBOSHEZ GONG SHAPIRO BRONZES: COURTESY CHRISTIE'S; JADE BRUSH POT: COURTESY SOTHEBY’S

O

ptimism is running so high among the more than two dozen galleries and auction houses participating in Asia Week New York this March that Nicolas Chow, the dapper Hong Kong–based worldwide head and chair for Chinese works of art at Sotheby’s, positively has a song in his heart. “Historically, when it comes to the market demand, there’s been so much focus on Ming and Qing porcelains,” he says. “What we are seeing now is that buyers who’ve been active in those areas for years are expanding their horizons with a decided preference for older works—early Song ceramics, ancient bronzes, and archaic jades.” Chow would know, having gaveled in some of the most expensive Chinese works ever sold at auction, including the Northern Song Dynasty Ru Guanyao brush washer, which fetched a record $37.7 million in October 2017. That sale topped his previous record of $36.3 million for the Meiyintang “Chicken Cup” in 2014. Paying for the cup with an American Express card, Shanghai buyer Liu Yiqian created quite the stir when he celebrated its acquisition by taking a sip of tea from the Ming Dynasty treasure. In sizing up the current market, Chow tells Avenue, “The participation of Chinese buyers had been curtailed in the past few years, even before the pandemic, due to an ongoing trade war with the US and the Chinese government’s efforts to control foreign exchange.” Yet, he says, he is upbeat about the upcoming Asia Week sales in New York, as the demand from American collectors remains strong, particularly for the rarest works at the upper end of the market. Among the highlights offered by Sotheby’s is an exceptional white and russet jade brush pot from the Qianlong period, which hits the block on March 17 in a dedicated sale of works from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. It carries an estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million.

CHINESE MASTERWORKS A 3,200-year-old Late Shang wine vessel hits the block at Christie’s, tagged at $4–$6 million. Below: An 18th-century jade brush pot from the reign of Qianlong carries an estimate of $1–$1.5 million at Sotheby's.

Also of note is a diminutive blue and white Ming Dynasty “Yongle” bowl, one of only five known of its type. It is tagged at $300,000 to $500,000 and also goes under the gavel on March 17. At Christie’s, five early Chinese ritual bronzes from the Daniel Shapiro Collection hit the block on March 18. Leading the dedicated sale is the “Luboshez Gong,” an important Late Shang bronze ritual wine vessel dated to the 13th to 12th centuries BC. Cast in the form of a hybrid creature—half pouncing tiger and half standing owl—the ornate figurative bronze carries an estimate of $4 million to $6 million. The 27-strong roster of international galleries participating in Asia Week New York, via a blend of by-appointment exhibitions and online viewing rooms, includes Upper East Side stalwart Eric Zetterquist, who is presenting a pale-toned Southern Song Dynasty (AD 1127–1279) Qingbai vase with a sculpted dragon. Price upon request. Asia Week New York runs March 11 through 20. asiaweeknewyork.com MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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Kenny Schachter Is Shocked Blockchain trades, virtual reality, and a juicy multimilliondollar scandal: the art world insider and provocateur tells Angela M.H. Schuster what he’s excited about now

KENNY SCHACHTER: PHOTOGRAPH BY LEON CHEW

WORK AND PLAY Kenny Schachter in his London home office, where he is surrounded by collector cars and art.

W

hen it comes to the art world, Kenny Schachter—the New York and London-based polymath, curator, artist, and power collector—has seen it all. But even he has been impressed with its ability to adapt during the last year of unprecedented challenges. “For me, one of the most shocking transformations during the tragedy of Covid, which is still firmly with us, has been the adaptation of the art world, which has been acclimating to technology like there was no tomorrow,” observes Schachter on a Zoom call from his London living room, the Chelsea digs a study, at least from our camera lens, in monochromatic restraint, although we know he has rooms and rooms of art spilling forth. In any other business, he says, “this would

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THE FUTURE IS NOW Metanoia, a digital piece created by the crypto artist Pak, is being offered in an edition of one on the blockchain marketplace SuperRare.

Schachter is also convinced that the art world is ripe for exploitation on the big screen. “With all of the money involved, the art world is so easy to hate upon,” he says. “People love to see a car crash, and there have been a few spectacular car crashes as of late.” Among the most spectacular downfalls has been that of dealer Inigo Philbrick, the 33-yearold onetime art world darling who was on the lam in Vanuatu, wanted on fraud and identity theft charges, when he was arrested this past June. “Once in custody, the FBI flew him in a nice private plane, which he was quite accustomed to traveling in, but without the same catering service he had grown used to. They flew him to Guam and then onto the United States. Since then, he’s been in jail in Brooklyn, probably with Ghislaine Maxwell, awaiting trial for stealing somewhere between $20 and $100 million—$2 million of which was mine,” Schachter says. “I wrote a story for New York magazine last March…since his arrest, there’s been a lot of interest in buying the rights to that story. It's like a buddy movie of a guy who starts out good and goes bad—the kind of story arc that Hollywood is attracted to.”

“With all of the money involved, the art world is so easy to hate upon.” Kenny Schachter

METANOIA: COURTESY OF PAK

be old news.” For the art world, however, such an abrupt fast-forward has been a heavy lift, given how “ridiculously backward-leaning the industry has been for centuries.” The auction houses, he says, have taken the lead in modernizing, with Sotheby’s having an edge over its competitors. This he attributes to its 2019 acquisition by Patrick Drahi, a French-Israeli billionaire businessman with a background in telecommunications, who has forcefully pushed the 277-year-old behemoth into the digital sphere—an undertaking not unlike trying to turn the Titanic to avoid an iceberg. “By the time the pandemic hit, the house was well positioned to heighten the production value of its online auctions, seamlessly flicking from a salesroom in one country to one in another in real time in an exciting way. The audience for one sale topped a million people, which was unprecedented.” Buyers are also becoming comfortable parting with increasing sums of money for works purchased online, sight unseen. “I also love the fact that Instagram, which was never intended to be a tool for the fine art world, has played such a big part in this digital revolution, with artists working every corner of the globe now able to communicate directly with the richest collectors and curators from major institutions, bypassing the gallery system altogether,” Schachter tells Avenue. As gatekeepers and power brokers, galleries are known for “explaining things in a very erudite, if not pompous, fashion, in a very kind of pseudo-intellectual way, in a very exclusionary environment” that appeals only to rich people—“mostly rich white people. Now people from all economic stripes, from every class of society and every social, political, and economic background are able to access the same people on a very simple-to-use medium.” For the first time, he says, “social media has brought a breakdown of the hierarchy of the art world, greatly expanding the audience for art and making it far easier to access and digest. In spite of itself and its pretense, the art world has become something far more mainstream.” Beyond social media, Schachter predicts that blockchain technology will have a deep impact on how prints and multiples are bought and sold. “Take Bitcoin, for instance. It is a token, like a dollar bill, that is fungible, meaning a one-dollar bill or one Bitcoin is indistinguishable from another one,” he explains. “When you peg it to an art piece, however, it becomes a non-fungible token (NFT) associated with one specific work of art or a specific numbered piece in an edition.” As this technology becomes more assimilated, he says, it will take over the whole trading of prints and multiples, and even virtual-reality pieces, which will become more collectible as VR technology advances away from the need for clumsy headsets and more into the app-based hologram space. “This is not just some prognostication for decades from now, I’m talking about now,” he contends, citing this past December’s sale of a suite of works by the artist “Pak” on the Ethereum blockchain for more than a million dollars. (Like Banksy, Pak’s identity is a closely guarded secret; some have suggested the artist may not even be a real person, but an AI algorithm built by engineers.) AVENUE MAGAZINE | MARCH—APRIL 2021

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“The Patagonia project is so important to us— spreading the word about the importance of conservation and protecting our wild places.” Jimmy Chin

Climbing the Walls Two years ago, Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi won an Oscar for a death-defying climbing documentary. Next up: films about conservation in Patagonia and a Thai soccer team trapped deep in a cave, writes Angela M.H. Schuster

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ife has been a whirlwind for husbandand-wife filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth “Chai” Vasarhelyi since winning the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Their film, Free Solo, chronicled climber Alex Honnold’s ropeless, nail-biting ascent of El Capitan, a 3,000-foot sheer granite mass that towers over Yosemite Valley. It was a feat matched by the mental and physical strength of Chin and his climber crew, who had to master the monolith while keeping the cameras rolling. Today, when not on location, the couple and their two children split their time between New York City and Jackson Hole. Their western lodge, boasting sweeping views of the Teton Range, befits the home of adventurers, filled with mountaineering gear; camera equipment; books; talismans from travels to the Himalaya and Karakorum; a film-editing studio, and an indoor climbing gym.

“We’ve been spending most of our time in Wyoming since the beginning of Covid, trying to take advantage of the special time with our kids because they are learning at home,” says Vasarhelyi, 43. “Had we been quarantining in our Upper East Side apartment, Jimmy would literally be climbing the walls.” The son of immigrants from China, Chin, 47, grew up in Minnesota, studying the violin and classical Chinese calligraphy. “Naturally, my parents, both librarians, were quite traditional in that they expected me to become a doctor, a lawyer, or a businessman. But then I discovered the mountains and photography,” he says. Chin began his career as a National Geographic photographer and in 2004 summited Everest, becoming part of the first American ski descent from its peak two years later. Vasarhelyi, the daughter of a Hungarian father and a Hong Kong Chinese mother, was raised on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where she attended the Brearley School before heading to Princeton. She has been staying connected with the city through recent work, including Pas de Deux, an online miniseries produced in partnership with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and Chanel. “I am absolutely passionate about ballet, having studied at the School of American Ballet for a number of years,” Vasarhelyi says. “I am also on the board of ABT. For the series, we paired principal dancers and soloists with other creatives, including chef Marcus Samuelsson, singer/songwriter Alicia Keys, and artists Kat Sullivan and Chloe Wise. Chanel provided all of these beautiful clothes for them to wear as they engaged in dialogue.” A love for ballet runs in the family. “Our daughter Marina, who is seven, has been attending ABT and one of the great joys of my pre-Covid life was dropping her off for class and seeing Misty Copeland rehearsing in the studio,” Vasarhelyi says. “While Jimmy and I are very much tied to the outdoors, we find it impossible for us to leave New York and its vibrant connection to culture.”

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MOUNT MERU, INDIA: PHOTOGRAPH BY JIMMY CHIN; JIMMY CHIN AND CHAI VASARHELYI: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC/CHRIS FIGENSHAU; NEXT SPREAD: COURTESY OF FREE SOLO

OSCAR-WINNING PARTNERSHIP Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi on location in Yosemite National Park during the filming of Free Solo; opposite: Mount Meru, its summiting the subject of Meru, their first joint film project. MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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ilmmaking brought Vasarhelyi and Chin together, first creatively, and then personally. “Jimmy and I met in 2012, at a creative conference in Tahoe, where he was giving a talk. Not long after that, he sent me some of the footage he had shot during his first ascent of the ‘Shark’s Fin’ route on Meru in the Indian Himalaya,” Vasarhelyi recalls. “Chai didn’t respond for what seemed like months,” Chin interjects. “I am not sure it was months,” Vasarhelyi counters, “but I was in Senegal, covering the presidential elections there for a film I was working on, Incorruptible. So much of my work has been in the sociopolitical realm. When I got home and finally took a look at Jimmy’s footage, I was really struck because it was so different from anything I’d seen before.” And that, she says, is where all began. “We became friends and I agreed to help him shape the film. Only later did we become romantically involved while making Meru, which we finished in 2015.” By the time Meru premiered, the two were married, had two-year-old Marina, and a son, James, on the way. The film grossed $2.3 million and was shortlisted for an Oscar; hoping to build on its success, they approached Alex Honnold as a potential subject. “We just thought of him as this fascinating character with such mental fortitude,” Vasarhelyi says. “Early on, Alex came to visit me in New York on what I call a filmmaking date just to see if we got along. While he was staying at our apartment—Jimmy happened to be out of town—Alex casually blurted out, ‘Well I’m going to free solo El Cap.’ Not being a climber myself, I didn’t comprehend what that might entail. When Jimmy came home, I told him and his jaw just dropped. He said, ‘You're kidding me, we can’t make that movie.’ Knowing the risks involved, we faced a real ethical question and were haunted by the possibility that our presence might put Alex at even greater risk if he undertook the climb. As Jimmy put it, ‘What if he just fell through the frame to his death? Could we live with that?’ So it took us quite some time of self-reflection and speaking to Alex to figure out how we could make it, if we could make it.” Free Solo—which grossed $29.3 million and won a BAFTA and an Oscar—succeeds not only as an account of Honnold’s accomplishment, but also his complex and sometimes conflicted

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MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE Alex Honnold and Jimmy Chin atop El Capitan during the filming of Free Solo.

personal story, including his relationship with outdoor lifestyle coach Sanni McCandless. “Jimmy and I lived through them falling in love—I saw it as much of a love story as a story of adventure,” says Vasarhelyi of the pair, who married in September. “Because of the Covid crisis, we, like so many others, were unable to attend their wedding. We made a ten-minute movie for them that told the story of their relationship in little snippets…the things they said about each other on set.”

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ree Solo’s success brought Vasarhelyi and Chin considerable acclaim. Now, despite travel limitations, they are busier than ever, with two films and two television series in the works for National Geographic. “One of the films is about [American conservationist] Kris Tompkins and the amazing work she has done, setting aside vast swaths of protected land in Patagonia—places she calls Master Landscapes in the southern cone of South America, in Chile and Argentina,” Vasarhelyi says. “She and her late husband, Doug, who founded The North Face, have played an outsize role in the environmental movement since the beginning, along with Patagonia [clothing brand] founder Yvon Chouinard. Jimmy has known them for a very long time, so this is an intensely personal project for us.” The second film, which will be released this fall, documents the 12 teenage members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their 25-year-old coach, who became trapped in a cave in Thailand in 2018, attracting worldwide media attention. Nine days would pass before divers found the group and were able to devise a plan to get them out. “They were on what was to have been a little after-practice adventure when the cave suddenly flooded with the early onset of monsoon rains, trapping them more than two kilometers inside,” Vasarhelyi says. “We have been working with the Thai navy SEALs and the British and Australian cave divers who carried out the daring rescue, which entailed sedating the kids for transport.” “So much about what the divers in this extraordinary rescue were able to accomplish was about being aware of and in control of their mental state,” adds Chin. “I’ve always been attracted to people who push not just physical boundaries, but mental ones as well, which is why I have gravitated toward such ambitious projects.”

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“What if he just fell through the frame to his death? Could we live with that?” Jimmy Chin

“With Free Solo,” he says, “one of our big challenges was to convey the scale of El Capitan to audiences—so that they could fully understand what Alex did, and to be able to comprehend just the sheer physical size and scope of the climb. With the Thai cave project, we have a similar challenge in communicating what the actual physical cave is like to viewers—the length of it, how crazily narrow sections of it are; the currents in the water. Both are situations where you’re trying to contextualize this massive natural formation in a way that viewers can really grasp how difficult what all of these people did truly was.” Beyond the films, the couple is developing two television shows for National Geographic—one, Into the Unknown, that examines fear and fear management, and the other, Photographer, which focuses on famed photographers, leaning into their personal stories and understanding their vision of the world. “Our pilot episode,” says Vasarhelyi, “features the wildlife photographers Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier, and their extraordinary relationship.” “In the end,” Chin says, “we want to make projects that tell a great story and entertain, but also that truly matter and have deeper meaning. That’s why something like the Patagonia project is so important to us—spreading the word about the importance of conservation and protecting our wild places. But authenticity is also something that is really crucial. I meet so many interesting people who are pushing all kinds of different boundaries, and it really fires me up to see someone living that kind of honest, authentic life. We love being able to share those stories with the world.” MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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Make It Th

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There ACROSS THE SEA OF TIME, 1955: © SONY PICTURES CLASSICS/PHOTOFEST

GUTTER CREDITS TKTKTKTKTKTKTKTK;

FOR GENER ATIONS, NEW YORK’S GLIT TERING PROMISE HAS BECKONED TO BOTH FILMMAKERS AND THEIR AUDIENCES. JAMES S ANDERS EXAMINES HOW TEN DECADES OF MOVIES HAVE DEPICTED THE HIGH LIFE OF OUR CIT Y AND ITS RESIDENTS.

F MAKE MINE A MANHATTAN New York’s skyline has exerted a magnetic pull for as long as movies have been made.

or nearly a century, New York has enjoyed a kind of fictive counterpart, a place of the imagination brought to life on screen: a “dream city” of the mov ies, in fac t , which has mesmerized and enchanted generations of audiences. Like its real-life model, movie New York is a place of many sides—from the “mean streets” of its tougher districts to the glittering lights and signs of Broadway—but it is arguably the city’s glamorous upper social echelons that, over time, have exercised the strongest and most abiding appeal for moviegoers. MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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DEPICTIONS OF THE CITY’S MOST AFFLUENT AND SUCCESSFUL INHABITANTS CARRY TO A LOGICAL CONCLUSION THE PROMISE OF NEW YORK ITSELF.

FIFTH AVENUE, JOHN JACOB ASTOR MANSION: GRANGER HISTORICAL PICTURE ARCHIVE/ALAMY; HOLIDAY: © COLUMBIA PICTURES/PHOTOFEST

WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? Fifth Avenue’s “Millionaire’s Row” in 1900, anchored by freestanding mansions such as Mrs. William Astor’s Renaissance palazzo, in the foreground. Below: Cary Grant first glimpses the Seton mansion in Holiday (1938).

The reasons seem obvious enough. Depictions of the city’s most affluent and successful inhabitants carry to a logical conclusion the promise of New York itself, dedicated as nowhere else to the values of worldly achievement and advancement. Then, too, movies focused on the city’s elite offer of “insider” glimpses of a remote and exclusive sphere, otherwise unavailable to ordinary folk. Above all, filmic visions of this rarefied social circle provide a kind of apotheosis of the movie city itself—a place of almost infinite aspiration and desire, transporting audiences for a few hours to a world they might otherwise only dream of. And though that world might be reflected, in the movie city, in refined modes of speech or manners, or in stylish fashions and costume, it comes to life above all in the extraordinary settings its inhabitants called “home.” A look at these domestic environments, on-screen and off, offers a tour of New York’s changing architectural styles, its evolving social structures, and, in the end, the story of the city itself. Fascination with New York “society,” to be sure, predated the rise of motion pictures. In the early 20th century, Sunday newspaper supplements deployed a breakthrough process, the “rotogravure”—allowing actual photographs, rather than hand-drawn lithographs, to appear in newsprint—to feed the public’s voracious appetite with tantalizing glimpses of the city’s upper classes at play: debutante parties in lavish midtown ballrooms, garden parties and polo matches on Long Island estates, promenaders sporting top hats and bonnets in Fifth Avenue’s Easter Parade (where, Irving Berlin’s lyric promised, “the photographers might snap us/And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure”). But the arrival of talking pictures in the late 1920s supercharged the public’s obsession with the elaborate lifestyles and settings of New York society—which by then had reached a pinnacle of grandeur and scale never equaled, before or since.

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SUSAN LENOX (HER FALL AND RISE): © MGM/PHOTOFEST

FOR THE GLAMOROUS DENIZENS OF THE “DREAM CITY” OF MOVIE NEW YORK, THE LOFTY REACHES OF THE SKYLINE SEEMED TO BE A KIND OF NATURAL HOME. This spectacular efflorescence, in fact, had been nearly a century in the making, a social and stylistic evolution that was itself neatly captured in two landmark Hollywood films, each providing a retrospective view of the New York elite at an earlier, more nascent stage of its development. Adapted from Henry James’s novel Washington Square, and set in the young merchant city of 1850s New York, the 1949 film The Heiress plays out nearly all of its intense and passionate story of wealthy Dr. Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), his daughter Catherine (Olivia de Havilland), and a handsome if suspect suitor (Montgomery Clift), in and around the doctor’s Greek Revival townhouse on Washington Square North. Constructing their sets at Paramount studios in Hollywood, the filmmakers found it necessary to scale up the dimensions of an actual Washington Square row house by a full 25%, recognizing that even the most prosperous New Yorkers of the day lived in sedate brick-and-stone structures that would not have looked especially “rich” to contemporary audiences. Such architectural sobriety remained the rule among Knickerbocker families as late as the 1880s, the period of Life with Father—the highly popular 1947 film starring William Powell and Irene Dunne (along with a teenage Elizabeth Taylor), based on Clarence Day, Jr.’s 1930s stories in The New Yorker about his Victorian upbringing. Though the Day family household is, by our standards, a fairly elaborate operation—with half a dozen Irish servants scampering up and down the backstairs—the row house itself remains somber in style and relatively unassuming in scale, a dour, narrow brownstone affair sitting on a quiet residential stretch of Madison Avenue and 47th Street. But all that would soon change, as the rise of a national corporate culture in New York in the 1890s brought with it an influx of the nation’s richest and most powerful businessmen from across the United States, who, converging on a single stretch of Fifth Avenue north of 50th Street—“Millionaire’s Row”—transformed it into a spectacular, two-mile-long series of marble-fronted mansions, castles, and palaces, more majestic and opulent than any rival street in Europe.

Although the movie city gravitated to these imposing residences almost from the start, the two most memorable filmic explorations of their palatial dimensions came only near the end of their reign, in the late 1930s, when the avenue’s classical piles had begun to be widely regarded as dinosaurs, as outdated monuments whose extravagance, architectural grandeur, and stratified social structure—with dozens of servants supporting a single privileged family—seemed not grand but stultifying to the “modern” sons and (especially) daughters who had grown up in them. “Don’t expect simplicity here,” Linda Seton (Katharine Hepburn), the “black sheep” of the superrich Seton family, warns an iconoclastic newcomer named Johnny Case (Cary Grant) near the start of Holiday (1938). “Just think of our Fifth Avenue frontage.” Before the film is over, Linda, with Johnny’s help, will break down the barriers of architecture and social class upon which the great mansion is built, and find her destiny beyond its pillars.

SATIN WORSHIP Greta Garbo on the terrace of her Manhattan penthouse in the 1931 film, Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise).

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In My Man Godfrey (1936), the dizzy but adorable heiress Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) follows a similar trajectory, her path paved by a valet named Godfrey (William Powell), who is perhaps not quite what he seems, and her escape made from a Fifth Avenue mansion which offers not the decorum of the Seton home but a screechy menagerie, filled with unappealing family members and bizarre hangers-on. In truth, the day of the mansion had passed, replaced in the public mind with a new kind of upscale New York residence, as closely linked with the modern city as the classical mansion had been with the Gilded Age: the penthouse apartment. Once reserved for mechanical equipment and custodians’ quarters, the one-story structures that sat atop the city’s residential towers had been transformed by the 1920s into some of the most dramatic settings to be found in high-rise Manhattan, with views stretching out in all directions and a lush landscape of plantings lining their setback terraces—the carefree indoor-outdoor way 48

of life of a country estate, twelve stories in the sky. Inspired by accounts of the fashionable penthouse parties given by the magazine publisher Condé Nast and others, feature films leapt at the romantic possibilities of these spectacular Art Deco environments, where impossibly sleek and stylish New Yorkers played out a dreamy fantasy of modern urban life—from elegant single women like Greta Garbo in Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931) to the energetic bachelor Douglas Fairbanks in Reaching for the Moon (1930), whose butler, Edward Everett Horton, sketches out the opportunities for a special evening to come. “Moonlight and love,” he predicts. “One of the advantages of a penthouse, if I may say so.” For the glamorous denizens of the “dream city” of movie New York, the lofty reaches of the skyline seemed to be a kind of natural home, where they might spend not only their days but also their evenings—in the immense, dazzling rooftop nightclubs favored (in films such as 1936’s Swing Time) by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

“WHERE WOULD YOU BE MORE LIKELY TO MEET A RICH MAN?” LAUREN BACALL ASKS HER SKEPTICAL ROOMMATES, BETTY GRABLE AND MARILYN MONROE. “IN A WALKUP ON AMSTERDAM AVENUE, OR IN A JOINT LIKE THIS?”

HOLIDAY: © COLUMBIA PICTURES/ALAMY; ADAM’S RIB: PHOTO 12/ALAMY

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Henry Kolker, Doris Nolan, and Katharine Hepburn in the library of the Seton mansion in Holiday. Below right: Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in their duplex in Adam’s Rib (1949). Opposite page: Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall inaugurate their penthouse terrace with a bottle of champagne in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953); and Cary Grant outside the New York Athletic Club en déshabillé in That Touch of Mink (1962).

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HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE: SNAP/ENTERTAINMENT PICTURES/ALAMY; THAT TOUCH OF MINK: © UNIVERSAL/PHOTOFEST

So strong was the association of the penthouse apartment with the aspirational myth of New York that it easily survived World War II and was still driving the story lines of such 1950s Hollywood films as How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), in which three struggling Manhattan career women pool their resources to rent a Sutton Place penthouse, the object being matrimony. “Where would you be more likely to meet a rich man?” Lauren Bacall asks her skeptical flatmates, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. “In a walk-up on Amsterdam Avenue, or in a joint like this?” But the war had truly brought with it a great leveling, and in the postwar era filmic renditions of upper-class New York homes grew distinctly less flamboyant. The Beekman Place duplex that is home to married lawyers Adam and Amanda Bonner (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) in Adam’s Rib (1949) is certainly grand enough— with elegant reception rooms downstairs and a well-appointed bedroom and dressing suite above—but is placed discreetly within an oth-

erwise sedate apartment house, the very model of the understated way of life that characterized the city’s upper classes in the postwar decades, on-screen and off. In these years, it was only Manhattan’s handsome, successful bachelors— always a favorite subject of Hollywood—who were generally allowed to romp through wildly extravagant quarters, such as Dean Martin’s palatial East River–facing apartment in Bells Are Ringing (1960) or Frank Sinatra’s equally stylish “pad” in The Tender Trap (1955). In That Touch of Mink (1962), millionaire Cary Grant invites Doris Day up into the unfinished steel skeleton of a new apartment tower to plan out another such lavish spread, to occupy the building’s entire floor. Indeed, by the 1970s, when relatively few New York families could still afford the sizable fulltime staffs who once serviced the city’s larger residences, such homes could seem to be something of an albatross—especially for wives who were now given responsibility for maintaining such quarters, more or less by themselves. The

titular character of Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970), played by Carrie Snodgress, is plainly overwhelmed by the demands of the outsize Central Park West apartment her social-climbing husband (Richard Benjamin) has insisted they live in; we see her scrambling exhaustedly from one end of the place to the other, Scotch in hand, simply to get her family through the day. Even the sophisticated art dealers Flan and Ouisa Kittredge (Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing)—in Six Degrees of Separation (1993), based on John Guare’s play—sometimes seem at odds with the old-fashioned propriety of their Fifth Avenue apartment; when a mysterious yet friendly-seeming stranger (Will Smith) proposes to whip up an evening meal, they are delighted if a bit surprised to use their formal dining room for, of all things, dining. (By film’s end, Ouisa follows the well-worn path of Linda Seton and Irene Bullock, and, inspired by Smith—who is definitely not what he seems—liberates herself from the apartment’s lavish but stifling confines.) MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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Then, in the 1980s, the high-end New York home made a largely unexpected return, both on-screen and off—propelled largely by the Reagan-era torrent of capital, much of it generated and spent in the city. Whatever its flaws, the film version of Tom Wolfe’s epic fictive account of the era, The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), perfectly captured the aggressive rebirth of the grandiose Manhattan home—this time a rambling Park Avenue duplex, laid out by the production designer Richard Sylbert, complete with a sweeping two-story stair hall linking the floors. Similarly grand domestic settings, also generated by the city’s newfound wealth, enveloped viewers of Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street and its 2010 sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. As it turned out, however, the 1980s influx of Wall Street money was merely a precursor to the 50

stunning renaissance taking hold across the entire city in the late 1990s, when the startling drop in crime and increase in public order restored New York’s former status as the irresistible magnet for ambitious newcomers, especially the young, from across the country and around the world. As the lure of the metropolis radiated outward—thanks largely to films themselves—the “dream city” of an earlier era began to glow again in the minds of people everywhere, propelled by a vision of the unbounded possibilities and aspirational lifestyle of its most successful inhabitants. One by one, the familiar models of high-end residential life in New York—rendered for nearly a century in feature films—were reborn in contemporary guise. The classic Manhattan row house, whose subdued exterior often gives little hint of the splendor within, made its formidable reap-

pearance in such films as The Devil Wears Prada (2006), where the impeccably detailed Upper East Side townhouse of icy magazine editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) proves a minefield for her neophyte assistant, Andrea (Anne Hathaway). The HBO mini-series The Undoing (2020), meanwhile, treated audiences to two updates of the stratospheric New York domicile. The eye-popping home of the Nicole Kidman character’s remote, domineering father, Franklin Reinhardt (Donald Sutherland)—a sprawling penthouse whose high-ceilinged drawing rooms, wood-paneled library, and park-facing terrace are actually a composite of two real Fifth Avenue apartments and a studio set—drew the most viewer attention. But it was another residence, visible early in the series—an immense, artfilled apartment in one of the thousand-foot-tall “supertowers” springing up across Manhattan— that reflected most accurately the latest evolution of the city’s domestic landscape: an apartment so high in the air that the skyline shrinks to the scale of a miniature, with glass-walled interiors so expansive that they can easily accommodate a couple hundred guests for a private-school fundraiser. (The scene was in fact filmed in an event space atop 1 World Trade Center.) In a knowing gesture, the actual hosts of the party, the Spencers, are nowhere to be found—a sly reference to the absentee owners of many supertower units, who have purchased their slice of the sky as financial investments rather than a place to live. But nowhere was the city’s newfound 21st-century lure presented more explicitly—or ardently—than in Sex & the City, whose six television seasons powerfully reignited New York’s sense of excitement, of possibility, of aspiration. During the show’s run on the small screen, its producers restrained themselves—somewhat— by situating its four main characters in apartments that, if generous by the standards of actual New York working women, remained plausibly limited in scale. But when the franchise begat a

THE UNDOING: COURTESY HBO/NIKO TAVERNISE; WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS: © 20TH CENTURY-FOX/PHOTOFEST

LIVING ON THE EDGE Nicole Kidman on the balcony of her father’s stratospheric Manhattan domicile in The Undoing (2020); below: Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, and Michael Douglas in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010).

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SEX AND THE CITY: © HBO/PHOTOFEST; SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION: ALLSTAR PICTURE LIBRARY LTD./ALAMY

NEW YORK STORY Donald Sutherland, Stockard Channing, and Will Smith in Six Degrees of Separation (1993).

GIRLS ON FILM Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Kim Cattrall in the first film adaptation of Sex and the City (2008).

SARAH JESSICA PARKER, ALL BUT OVERWHELMED BY HER GOOD FORTUNE, SWOONS, “OH MY GOD, I HAVE DIED AND GONE TO REAL ESTATE HEAVEN.”

2008 feature film, the moviemakers lost not a minute in expanding the canvas dramatically to reassert every myth of a dazzling cinematic New York. In its very opening, the show’s heroine, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), seemingly settled on the arm of her wealthy boyfriend, “Mr. Big” (Chris Noth), makes her way through the dignified canopied entrance and into the elevator of one of the great stone-fronted apartment houses on the great residential boulevard of New York: Fifth Avenue. Soon enough they rise into a spectacular palazzo penthouse in the air, the sun pouring in onto its fine plaster detailing and polished hardwood floors. “So this is where they keep the light,” Big observes, while Carrie, all but overwhelmed by her good fortune, swoons, “Oh my God, I have died and gone to real estate heaven.” After nearly a century, the highest aspi-

rations of the “dream city” of the movies never seemed more vibrant—or dreamier. Seen from today’s perspective, of course, these films all prompt the same poignant concern: Can the glamorous New York of the imagination survive or even prosper in the aftermath of a catastrophic pandemic that, with cruel precision, has seemed to undermine the very premise of New York and places like it, built on density, concentration, and the constant gathering and intermingling of peoples? Though New York’s current moment may seem grim indeed, it would surely be an error to discount the enduring power of this filmic city of aspiration and desire, this mythic setting in which Carrie, standing in the French doorway of her Manhattan dream house, can imagine herself, at least for a moment, as the woman who might announce, “Hello, I live here…” MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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ROYAL FAMILY

UPTOWN FUNK Luke Wilson as Richie Tenenbaum and Gwyneth Paltrow as Margot Tenenbaum.

TWENTY YEARS AFTER WES ANDERSON RELEASED THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, JULIE SALAMON REEVALUATES HIS ONLY FILM SET IN NEW YORK AS FOUNDATIONAL TO THE DIRECTOR’S COCKEYED VISION

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he f i rs t t i me I s aw The Royal Tenenbaums was not long after its premiere at the New York Film Festival, three weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. It was billed as a bittersweet comedy about a dysfunctional family of geniuses whose promise had faded. Its young director, Wes Anderson, was fresh off the success of his second movie, Rushmore. Once again, Anderson wrote the script in collaboration with Owen Wilson, another upand-coming young talent and a friend from the University of Texas in Austin, where they met in a playwriting class. At the time I was dealing with the unsettling reality of raising two young children a mile from Ground Zero. An amusing film seemed like the perfect antidote to the fear that had settled over Manhattan. Besides, in those post 9/11 days, we New Yorkers were encouraged to go out to movies and restaurants, to demonstrate our grit and resilience. Yet, sitting in a theater watching the movie, I felt removed from what was happening onscreen. The studied brilliance of Anderson’s craftsman-

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ship just didn’t connect—or maybe it connected too well. All I absorbed was the underlying theme of loss. The movie’s mannered charm—its impassive insouciance, its silliness, even its brilliant design—felt distant and yet unbearably sad. Its twentieth anniversary finds New York once again under siege, in the grip of a worldwide pandemic. Revisiting the film now, The Royal Tenenbaums elicits my appreciation without resistance. Maybe because we’ve all been living inside our heads, the movie’s literary affect, its quirks and oddities, feels in sync with the weirdness of life in quarantine. Its melancholic off-kilter vision of New York feels oddly normal, seen at a time when reality itself has been knocked sideways. How fitting to have the film’s storybook narration delivered with deadpan edginess by Alec Baldwin, the actor we now associate as the comic stand-in for our disgraced ex-president. How strangely delightful to see Gwyneth Paltrow, avatar of Goop Health, as Margot Tenenbaum, staring at the world with unblinking intensity through eyes ringed with thick smudgy liner, smoking unfiltered Sweet Afton cigarettes, an extinct Irish brand. But then, it’s no surprise that movies strike us differently at different times in our lives. As Oscar Wilde said, “All criticism is a form of

autobiography.” The same can be said for filmmaking. I began to wonder: Where did The Royal Tenenbaums fit into the trajectory of Wes Anderson’s oeuvre, currently consisting of nine feature films (with another about to be released) and several shorts? While Anderson’s talent was evident from the start, it was The Royal Tenenbaums that established the director’s visual imprint, the style that illustrates a persistent hope for fairy-tale endings despite the understanding that reality can be grim indeed. Frame after frame is stuffed with whimsical oddities and eccentric characters whose manner could easily be replicated in a cartoon. (As would happen later, with Anderson’s marvelous stop-motion film adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s novel, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and the heart-wrenching Isle of Dogs.) Anderson has become the object of cultish fascination, both for his works and his public persona. Over time, he has come to look like a character he might have created for one of his films, a lanky beanpole dressed in patterned shirts, neckties, and too-small jackets, usually corduroy or tweed, all presented in a distinctive color palette, even at 51 looking like a gawky adolescent boy wearing his big brother’s hand-me-downs.

The cult is hardly an exclusive club. Many of his movies have done well financially [The Grand Budapest Hotel is the top example, earning $172.9 million worldwide], meaning considerable numbers of people have watched them. But it is still a rarefied one. While fans (including me) treasure this cockeyed genius who finds beauty and humor amid existential crises, others can find his films too precious, too trapped inside the hothouse of their creator’s idiosyncratic brain. A.O. Scott of the New York Times had liked Rushmore but found The Royal Tenenbaums annoying. “Like the songs and the reiterated portrait-style shots, the witty costumes and gorgeous interiors become suffocating, and the whole enterprise begins to feel more arch than artful, a gilded lily that spoils its perfection by insisting on it,” he wrote. Later, however, the critic succumbed to Anderson’s charms. “As a sometime grumbler and longtime fan, I found myself not only charmed and touched but also moved to a new level of respect,” he wrote in his review of The Grand Budapest Hotel. He hasn’t been alone in his evolving admiration. Anderson’s scores on Rotten Tomatoes— where audiences weigh in along with critics— have steadily increased over the years. MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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LIP SERVICE Paltrow keeps an eye on Anjelica Huston as Etheline Tenenbaum.

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hen The Royal Tenenbaums was released, Anderson had just emerged as a promising creative force to be reckoned with. In their mid-twenties, he and Wilson had pitched a goofy script to James L. Brooks (whose credits include the classic TV series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and The Simpsons, plus successful movies including Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News) that became Bottle Rocket. The 1996 independent film starring Wilson and his brother Luke didn’t quite ignite, but it did bring its 26-year-old director to the notice of executives at Disney’s Touchstone Pictures. Three years later the studio released Rushmore, Anderson’s breakthrough comedy, about an oddball overachiever who sees the world through a different lens than almost everyone else. Critics praised the film and audiences went to see it. Anderson attracted the attention of East Coast tastemakers, charming interviewers with his cinematic erudition and his cultivated blend of wide-eyed chutzpah and preppie courtliness. He appeared on PBS’s Charlie Rose show, back when that was considered a coup. 54

Shortly after Rushmore’s opening, he told the New York Times about his intense desire to win the approval of Pauline Kael, the legendary film critic for The New Yorker, even though it was seven years after she had retired. Being an Anderson anecdote, the story is ironic and self-consciously self-deprecating. “I genuinely don’t know what to make of this movie,’’ Kael told the puppyish 28-year-old, after he screened it for her at a theater near her home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Also: “Wes Anderson is a terrible name for a movie director.” But nobody ever said that after The Royal Tenenbaums, the hit which clarified the signature look that became associated with his work. Equally important, from a career-building point of view, it was a box office hit relative to its cost. Not quite Harry Potter, but a more than respectable return on investment. “Apart from his gifts of visualization, Anderson’s determination to get his own way— his relentless tenacity—marks him conclusively as a born picture-maker,” wrote Peter Bogdanovich in his introduction to the published script of

“He had the whole film finished in his head before he started.” GWYNETH PALTROW

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TRUNK SHOW Director Wes Anderson rides along with Owen Wilson, as Eli Cash, and Paltrow. MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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The Royal Tenenbaums. “This is not a question of ego either, but rather an essential character trait in a field where 300 different opinions and 500 alternative possibilities have to be dealt with quickly and efficiently.” That assessment was echoed by people who worked with him right from the beginning. The husband-and-wife team of David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco did the production design for Wes Anderson’s first three movies. They had been in the business more than 15 years and had worked with many directors, including Quentin Tarantino, when they were hired for Bottle Rocket. From the get-go, they understood that this young director, more than any they had worked with (including Tarantino), had very specific ideas about how he wanted things to look like. On the first two films, the director created his own storyboards, with sketches he drew himself. By the time he made Tenenbaums, the planning became more sophisticated. Eric Chase Anderson, the director’s brother and frequent collaborator, created scene-by scene storyboards as precise as a blueprint. And the script, again coauthored by the director with Owen Wilson, contained remarkably detailed stage directions— the color of someone’s pajamas, the design of wrapping paper on a present, the type size on a magazine article. “Wes was careful to tell us as much as he could about what each thing should look like,” Sandy Reynolds-Wasco told me. “When we first read the script, it became sort of a no-brainer because at least 50% of every page is just descriptions.” In the same way that the designers were expected to fulfill the director’s precise vision, the actors were chosen to play parts Anderson had written for them. “He had the whole film finished in his head before he started,” Gwyneth Paltrow told an interviewer. “It’s almost like it’s an animated film, and you just fold yourself into the character and inhabit this world.” Anderson reinforces 56

this idea visually by having actors stare directly at the camera from the middle of the frame, as though silently asking that elemental question: Why am I here? So even though Anderson took pains to find great locations in New York while making The Royal Tenenbaums, the New York he wanted to show had to match that city inside his head. His aesthetic was influenced by a friend and later a frequent collaborator, Hugo Guinness, a blueblood British expat and artist who lives in Brooklyn with his painter wife, Elliott Puckette, and their two daughters. Guinness’s actual house proved to be too narrow to accommodate a film crew, but the director found a suitable alternative on Convent Avenue in Hamilton Heights, in a turn-of-the-twentieth-century redbrick fortress of gables, dormers and spires. The house “kinda has a storybook quality to it,” Anderson said at the time, and he also liked that it was on an unusually small block: “There’s a dead end there, so you can’t see any further than a short distance.” There would also be no soaring establishment shots of the glittering city, nor gritty streetscapes. To underscore his intention, he designed the film as a storybook unfolding, complete with chapter headings and Alec Baldwin’s narration. “We were not hiding the fact that we were in New York, but we were not specifically in New York,” explained David Wasco. The design team created license plates and street signs; the director purposefully avoided having iconic images like the Statue of Liberty sneak into the frame. “We were doing a Wes Anderson take on New York, meaning it’s done in a kind of a magical way.” The Wascos knew from working with the director before that his New York City would more likely be found in old films and New Yorker covers and sophisticated children’s books like Eloise than in guidebooks. He talked about The Magnificent Ambersons by Orson Welles and told them to look at Juliet of the Spirits, Italian director Federico

Fellini’s first color film, described by the New York Times critic in 1965 as a “gorgeous, sometimes garish immersion in a rainbow palette [that] invites you to contemplate the symbolic vibration of every hue in its teeming, overcrowded canvas.” Fellini’s colors captivated Anderson, but there were less obvious elements that interested him as well. “Sometimes it was for silly little details,” recalled David Wasco. “Like he wanted us to look at the curtains in a window in one scene.” In subsequent years, the locales changed and the artistry deepened, but the sensibility has remained constant. Anderson would go underwater for The Life Aquatic, to India for The Darjeeling Limited, to the fictional Eastern European country Zubrowka (filmed in Germany and the Czech Republic) for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Sometimes he skipped reality altogether, creating the exquisite, animated universes of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs. Anderson’s next film, The French Dispatch, takes place in the fictional French city of Ennuisur-Blasé. Starring Wes Anderson stalwarts including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman, as well as heartthrob Timothée Chalamet, the new film follows three stories from U.S. expatriates working for a make-believe weekly journal whose aesthetic is modeled on— quelle surprise!—The New Yorker. The movie, the director’s tenth feature, had been scheduled for 2020 but was delayed like so much else. Perhaps appropriately, its debut this year will coincide with the twentieth anniversary of The Royal Tenenbaums, a neat bookend for evaluating the director’s trajectory. In the trailer for French Dispatch, immediately recognizable as an Anderson film, Murray, playing the magazine’s editor, instructs a writer, “Just try to make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose.” Intentional or not, the instruction sounds like an inside joke, coming from a writer-director who tries to leave so little to chance.

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS: ALL PHOTOGRAPHS ALAMY

Its melancholic off-kilter vision of New York feels oddly normal, seen at a time when reality itself had been knocked sideways.

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ALL STAR CAST Clockwise from above: Anderson calling the shots; Bill Murray as Raleigh St. Clair; Grant Rosenmeyer as Ari Tenenbaum, Ben Stiller as Chas Tenenbaum and Jonah Meyerson as Uzi Tenenbaum; Wilson, Paltrow, and Stiller with Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum; Amedeo Turturro as young Richie.

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Movie Star High PCS ENTRANCE 1956: PCS ARCHIVES

LIGHTS, CAMER A, EDUCATION! LIS A MARSH GOES BACKSTAGE AT MANHAT TAN ’S PROFESSIONAL CHILDREN ’S SCHOOL, ONE OF THE MOST EXCLUSIVE SCHOOLS IN THE CIT Y THAT INVENTED EXCLUSIVIT Y

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SAVED BY THE BELL Students exiting the former premises of the Professional Children’s School in 1956. MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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The antiquated phone booths, also from the 1950s, are retained for tradition—having been disconnected from service many years ago. In the days before mobile phones, students would rush to the lobby at lunchtime and after school to check in with agents and parents about auditions, callbacks, and even endorsement deals. “At lunchtime, we would all run down to stand in line [for a booth],” recalls the stylist and former actress Sasha Charnin Morrison (’82). “When it was time to get your situation about what your afternoon was going to be like, the line was intense.” “It’s the first thing our alums do when they come to visit,” Dawson says of the booths. “They talk about how much time they spent there.” PCS has long enjoyed a unique mystique in the rarefied world of New York’s prep schools, with its child stars and their idiosyncratic schedules. But behind the plain frontage are scenes played out across any high school in the city—corridors filled with students rushing to math or Spanish class; student council campaigns and school mu-

CLASS CLOWN Elliott Gould once came to school wearing only a bathing suit, snorkel, and flippers.

BEST HEIR Cornelia Guest, then an equestrian competitor, loved her time at the school.

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“I COMMEND MY MOTHER FOR SENDING ME THERE. IT WAS THE GREATEST GIFT MY PARENTS EVER GAVE ME.” CORNELIA GUEST

sical rehearsals; SAT prep and prom night. Like any other high school, PCS contains a teenage microcosm, although surprisingly without the Darwinian social stratification. “From the minute I walked in, it was great,” Charnin Morrison tells Avenue. “It was a full high school experience,” minus the pressure to be part of a clique. “The John Hughes thing, where you separate all of the people into groups?” she says, referring to the auteur of ’80s teen angst, whose films include The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. “I don’t really remember that happening. There were theater kids or dancers or skaters— sometimes those kids only sat with those kids. But mostly, we all mixed together.” As the daughter of Martin Charnin, a lyricist, writer, and director best known for Annie, Charnin Morrison was no stranger to show business. When not appearing in her father’s hit Broadway show— whose cast kept PCS full of fellow “orphans,” including Sarah Jessica Parker—she performed regularly in cabaret reviews and music videos. She ended up at PCS after her original school, the Little Red Schoolhouse, couldn’t keep up with her show business–related absences. Attending PCS in the 1980s meant rubbing shoulders with many big names from the time. “Diane Lane was there for a while. And Glen Scarpelli from One Day at a Time,” Charnin Morrison recalls. Also Anthony Michael Hall, Anthony “Carlo” Imperato (from the Fame television show), and Phoebe Cates, the era’s “It girl” for teenagers growing up on the Upper East Side. “I was in class with Phoebe Cates,” Charnin Morrison recalls. “She was the first person I ever saw wear a Benetton sweater. It was a yellow V-neck, and I had to go to Benetton and buy every color. She was so frigging cool. She had a Cartier watch, and she was the first person in my life that I’d seen wear a camel sweater.”

MOST TALENTED Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote for the school musicals, is one of only two people to win a PEGOT (the Pulitzer Prize, plus an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award).

ELLIOTT GOULD: UNITED ARTISTS/GETTY IMAGES; CORNELIA GUEST: RON GALELLA COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES; MARVIN HAMLISCH: PCS ARCHIVES

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ot every high school foyer is decorated with headshots of students who happen to be movie stars, still has the wooden phone booths they once used to take calls from their high-powered agents, or is infiltrated by the occasional teenage gossip reporter. But the Professional Children’s School—whose bustling pupils come and go during the day to Juilliard, the School of American Ballet, Hollywood casting calls, Broadway theaters, and various elite sports facilities—offers a very different kind of experience. Behind its unassuming entrance, tucked around the corner from Lincoln Center on Manhattan’s West Side, this private school caters to the most exclusive demographic in New York City. Its approximately 185 students, who pay around $50,000 in annual tuition, are all currently working in (or in training for) high-stakes industries like entertainment, dance, fashion, and elite athletics. Distance learning was practically invented at PCS, where students prize flexibility above all, and might need to travel for a modeling gig or spend a semester on location for a movie. Just a sampling of its world-famous alumni over the last century include Uma Thurman, Beverly Sills, Carrie Fisher, Rita Moreno, Yo-Yo Ma, Dick Van Patten, Vera Wang, Milton Berle, Giancarlo Esposito, Cosby kids Tempestt Bledsoe and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Christian Slater, Carol Kane, Ida Lupino, Sidney Lumet, Tuesday Weld, Sandra Dee…and Tara Reid. The headshots, a tradition since the 1950s, feature any current student who wants their photo posted, explains Dr. James Dawson, the head of school since 1995. “Many of the well-known kids don’t put theirs up [over privacy concerns]. New kids like putting them up,” says Dawson, who was previously head of the upper school at Spence. “It’s funny to see the adorable headshot, versus the kid who shows up for an eight a.m. class.”

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BEST ACTRESS Leslie Uggams attended the school on her way to winning Tony and Daytime Emmy awards.

CHRISTOPHER WALKEN AND CLASSMATES: PCS ARCHIVES

HAM SANDWICH Christopher Walken was a star of the school plays.

“MY PARENTS THOUGHT THAT I MIGHT HAVE AN INTEREST IN SHOW BUSINESS. IT WAS NOT WHAT I HAD IN MIND, BUT NONETHELESS, THEY BROUGHT ME TO THE PROFESSIONAL CHILDREN’S SCHOOL.” ELLIOTT GOULD

Sadly, it was not a long-lived classroom friendship. “She left school to go do Paradise with Willie Aames and she never came back. Her career was more important, and her movies were starting to take off, like Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” But she was not the only alpha girl in the PCS ecosystem. “Cornelia Guest was in my math class. At that point, she was not yet the ‘Deb of the Decade,’ she was a horsewoman,” Charnin Morrison says. The daughter of C.Z. Guest, Cornelia would go on to tabloid fame as a glamorous fixture of the Warhol-era nightlife circuit, but back then she was a serious equestrian competitor. “She would walk in with this full-length fur, a turtleneck with dolphins on it, and a Louis Vuitton tote bag. She couldn’t have cared less about what was going on.” Guest herself puts it somewhat differently. “I was so grateful I got to go to PCS,” she tells Avenue. “I was riding. I was in and out, compet-

ing and traveling, and when I could go to school, I would.” Guest had transferred to PCS after a disastrous stint at the Foxcroft School in Virginia. “I hated every second of it. I hated being at boarding school, and I hated being away from home,” she says. “I remember crying and begging my mother. ‘Are you really leaving me here? How could you do this to me?’ Once she realized I was so miserable, she took me out and found PCS.” “I was so disciplined,” Guest adds. “I was up at four o’clock every morning, riding and caring for my horses. I was driving myself to horse shows. You learn an incredible independence. You learn to think. You learn to make judgments, to fall and to get up. I think that is so important. You’ve got to fall to figure life out. You discovered so much about the world and about yourself at PCS. Had you been stuck to a tight, little curriculum, you never would.” MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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he Children’s Professional School was founded in 1914 by the devoted theatergoers Jane Harris Hall and Jean Greer Robinson. At the time, Broadway’s child actors often had a lax education, or remained illiterate, because their work schedule conflicted with school hours. The New York Times reported that the two women, visiting a friend backstage at Daddy Long Legs, were shocked to discover children from the cast betting on card games. PCS enrolled 100 students in its first year, and was an instant hit.

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SCARLETT JOHANSSON: THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

BEST SMILE The gossip on teenage Scarlett Johansson is that she was “quiet and nice.”

The school first opened in the theater district, relocated to an office building at 61st and Broadway, and in 1956 found its own premises on West 60th Street, its current location. Early students at PCS came from Broadway, but also vaudeville and the silent movies that were produced in northern Manhattan, New Jersey, and Staten Island. Academy Award nominee Elliott Gould (’55) came to the school as a song-and-dance performer. “In 1951, I played the Palace Theater for the first anniversary of the return of vaudeville. I sang and danced in someone’s act, and it seemed to be a really special job,” he tells Avenue. “My parents thought that I might have an interest in show business. It was not what I had in mind, but nonetheless, they brought me to the Professional Children’s School,” starting in eighth grade. Gould attended school in the Broadway office building, which led to many entertaining moments. “Senior Day” at PCS meant the pending graduates could wear anything they wanted. “I thought it was really outrageous to be in this office building dressed like a frogman,” recalls Gould, who dressed in a bathing suit, snorkel and flippers. “I had to have been one of the most, if not the most, bold and daring.” The actor would often be able to tell when classmates were in certain shows. “There was a production of Peter Pan that came to town starring Jean Arthur and Boris Karloff. All of the children in the show had orange hair. I was aware that I had classmates in that show because of the orange hair,” he recalls. Gould’s time at PCS introduced him to a long list of people who went on to become boldface names. He is part of a group of alums who have stayed in touch, including the late Warren Berlinger and actor-agent-producer Michael Mann (’59). “I spent a great deal of time in the school,” says Mann, who was a child star on Broadway, appearing in Two’s Company with Bette Davis when he was nine. “Because of the plethora of talent that went there, we used to do performances,” even though the school’s focus was education, not performing arts, he recalls. “Marvin Hamlisch would write these lyrics and everyone would do something… These were people who were getting paid handsomely to appear on Broadway, on television, and on the road. We would do these in-house performances with all this amazing talent.” Mann continues: “Christopher Walken, Leslie Uggams, Lorin Hollander…in my junior year, there were only three boys in the class, me, Josh White Jr.—his father was the greatest folk singer that ever lived at the time—and Patrick Adiarte, who starred in The King and I…the Shirelles went there… We had quite a crew.” Some families boast multiple branches of PCS alumni. The former child actor Kit Culkin attended, as did his sister, actor Bonnie Bedelia, and his children, Macaulay, Rory, Quinn, and Kieran. For others, PCS is where lifelong friends were made. When Mann last produced a play in New York in 2012, Innocent Flesh, his school chums turned out in force for its off-Broadway opening, including former classmates Brooke Adams, Hamlisch, and, in a rare public outing, Walken.

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SARAH JESSICA PARKER: LYNN GOLDSMITH/CORBIS/VCG/GETTY IMAGES; PHOEBE CATES: DAVID MCGOUGH/DMI/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES; MACAULAY CULKIN: PCS ARCHIVES

PCS HAS LONG ENJOYED A UNIQUE MYSTIQUE IN THE RAREFIED WORLD OF NEW YORK’S PREP SCHOOLS, WITH ITS CHILD STARS AND THEIR IDIOSYNCRATIC SCHEDULES.

CHILDREN AND ANIMALS Clockwise from above: Broadway’s Annie kept PCS stocked with stage “orphans,” including Sarah Jessica Parker; classmates remember ’80s “It-girl” Phoebe Cates as “so friggin’ cool”; Macaulay Culkin attended the school, as did his father, aunt, and three of his siblings.

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ith such talent roaming the halls, when the trend for reality television shows set in Manhattan private schools began in the 2000s, it was only a matter of time before PCS hit the small screens. Ally Hilfiger (’03), daughter of the designer Tommy Hilfiger, produced a feature film while a PCS student, called Proud. That piqued MTV’s interest, and they asked her to create a show for the network. “I pitched ideas I thought would show Americans different cultures or situations,” she tells Avenue. With the project approved, she prepared to shoot the pilot. “I had kids from my school and other private school kids lined up to be a part of it…we did it and did ridiculously exaggerated things to pump up the show,” she says of the project that ultimately became Rich Girls. “People said it was a good idea. The school said it was a great opportunity. They even allowed us to film part of the prom and graduation. They were very supportive.” But in a surprising twist, it turned out that letting reality show cameras through the school gates wasn’t such a great idea.

“We do like to cooperate with the kids, allowing in film crews they’re working with,” Dawson says now. But that project “went off the rails,” he adds. “The show evolved over time and became unkind. Our support waned to the point when we said, ‘We cannot help you any further.’” The experience also soured for Hilfiger. “The show did not align with my integrity,” she says. Rich Girls ended after just one season, and torpedoed her friendship with costar and schoolmate Jaime Gleicher. Prior to producing the show, however, Hilfiger’s time at PCS was idyllic. “I was friends with everybody. It was very creative and there were a lot of musicians like Jack Antonoff,” she says. “We’d hang out and work on music.” His girlfriend at the time, Scarlett Johansson, meanwhile, “was in the grade above me. She was quiet and nice.” With all that star power attending over the years, it’s miraculous that more stories of teen antics haven’t trickled out—although there have been some. “There was once a student who was taking pictures and giving them to press agencies [and] telling stories out of school. Kids worried about others selling access to them,” Dawson

recalls. “We realized this was happening fairly quickly and by October this student was dismissed.” Other breaches have included people posing as representatives from Children’s Services to dig for information. Once, someone posed as the school’s “chef” (a position it does not have), to spill gossip on Macaulay Culkin to an entertainment television show. “There can be a shady side to people,” Dawson laments. For the most part, however, PCS’s alumni cherish it as a place of shared dreams and artistic endeavors, and the crucible of lifelong friendships. “It was a real potpourri of very interesting people,” recalls Michael Mann. “I think we all felt we were in a very special bubble.” For Cornelia Guest, PCS was the happiest of times. “The teachers were interested in what we were doing. I think they viewed us as peers because we all had careers. Being around that, most kids were so happy that everyone was pulling for everyone else.” She pauses. “I commend my mother for sending me there. It was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.” MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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Who wore it best? Rudolph Valentino embraces his feminine side in a Verdura diamond, platinum, and 18-karat gold “Lily” bracelet originally designed for Marlene Dietrich. $83,500; verdura.com

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Scene Stealers STAR JEWELRY PIECES THAT ARE READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UP

RUDOLPH VALENTINO: SCHERL/SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG PHOTO/ALAMY; LUPE VELEZ: MAYER/PICTORIAL PRESS LTD/ALAMY

BY HORACIO SILVA AND CATHERINE G. TALESE, PHOTO-COLLAGES BY MARTIN VALLIN

Shine bright like a diamond: Lupe Vélez, aka the “Mexican Spitfire,” dazzles in a Tiffany & Co. “Soleste” ring with fancy pink diamonds and a 4.13-carat white diamond. $423,000; tiffany.com MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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“My eyes are up here!” Jean Harlow is no dumb blonde in Kwiat’s Colombian-emerald earrings with oval and double-halo platinum pear drops. $30,000; kwiat.com

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JEAN HARLOW: ALBUM/ALAMY; W.C. FIELDS: PICTURELUX/THE HOLLYWOOD ARCHIVE/ALAMY

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance…” The cantankerous W.C. Fields puts the “chic” in “chickadee” in Chanel metal, strass, and resin pearl earrings. $800; chanel.com

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CAROLE LOMBARD: WOLF TRACER ARCHIVE/PHOTO 12/ALAMY; DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS: TCD/PROD.DB/ALAMY

Role reversal: Carole Lombard, the queen of screwball comedy, looks seriously chic against a Mauboussin vintage 1950s Mughal-influenced multi-gem necklace set in gold. $68,000; alvr.com

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Stars behind bars: The Prisoner of Zenda’s Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is locked tight in a Hermès “Chaîne d’ancre Punk” silver cuff. $3,250; hermes.com

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Director’s cut: Ben-Hur filmmaker William Wyler would have approved of the epic proportions of David Webb’s multi-gem, 18-karat gold and platinum “Grand Girandole” earrings. $585,000; davidwebb.com 70

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WILLIAM WYLER: ALBUM/ALAMY; DOOLEY WILSON: MASHETER MOVIE ARCHIVE/ALAMY. ALL JEWELRY PHOTOGRAPHY PROVIDED COURTESY OF THE DESIGN HOUSE

“Play it again, Sam!” Dooley Wilson’s star turn in Casablanca gets better as time goes by, as does this Van Cleef & Arpels “Bouton d’Or” ring featuring chrysoprase, onyx, and diamonds set in 18-karat yellow gold. $18,100; vancleefarpels.com

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Rich Creek COVID-FLEEING NEW YORKERS ARE MOVING UPSTATE IN RECORD NUMBERS, WRITES MATTHEW PHILLP. BUT WHEN THESE NEWCOMERS CAN’T ADJUST THEIR BIG CITY EXPECTATIONS TO SIMPLE COUNTRY LIVING, HILARITY ENSUES ILLUSTRATIONS BY CELYN BRAZIER

“P

ut it this way,” explains realtor Erin Flaherty, “there’s a two-to-threeyear waiting list to have contractors break ground on a swimming pool in Woodstock right now.” Sitting by the fishpond in her Woodstock backyard, the Halter Associates Realty agent marvels at the current property boom in the upstate counties nearest to New York City, which is unlike anything in living memory. According to the National Association of Realtors, Ulster County saw a second quarter increase of 17.6 percent in home prices between 2019 and 2020, the highest increase in any US metropolitan region; neighboring Dutchess and Putnam Counties saw a boost of 6 percent. “There are almost no rentals available either,” Flaherty says. “Scoring a desirable house upstate is like winning the lottery—and it’s a lottery you pay a lot of money to enter.” When Covid measures effectively shut down life in the five boroughs last year, many New York City residents made a snap decision to try full-time rural living. As a result, small towns are now bursting at the seams with New Yorkers in search of the simple life. The result has been scenes playing out like real-life versions of (depending on your generational frame of reference) Green Acres or Schitt’s Creek, with cashed-up city slickers confronted by pared-down country amenities that don’t always satisfy their metropolitan expectations. “Most restaurants up here don’t deliver,” says one frustrated Ulster restaurateur. “That hasn’t stopped the calls from people who want us to

deliver dishes that we don’t even make. One lady called the other night at closing, she wanted a platter of unseasoned, skinless, grilled chicken breasts. When I said we couldn’t help, she berated me for wasting the time she’d spent explaining her order. I wanted to say, ‘Calm down, it’s just dinner!’” Of course, upstate towns like Woodstock, Saugerties, Hudson, Phoenicia, and Rhinebeck have been popular escapes for New Yorkers for decades. The region has a robust cultural legacy— including the legendary three-day “Aquarian Exposition” of 1969, known around the world simply as Woodstock—that reaches back a century. Since 1903, the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild has attracted countless artists, among them Bob Dylan, sculptor Eva Hesse, painter Philip Guston, and the Broadway legend Helen Hayes, whose namesake hospital in West Haverstraw is still in operation. For this reason, along with its bucolic charms, the region is a magnet for the most successful among the city’s creative class. Iman and her late husband, David Bowie, purchased a 50acre Woodstock compound in 2011—on whose grounds the singer’s ashes were reportedly scattered following his 2016 death. From the Hollywood crowd, the actors Paul Rudd and Jeffrey Dean Morgan own Samuel’s Sweet Shop in Rhinebeck. Amanda Seyfried, Michelle Williams, and Blake Lively and her husband, Ryan Reynolds, all have homes upstate, as does the photographer Terry Richardson. Flaherty, a former Harper’s Bazaar executive editor who owns homes on Manhattan’s East MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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Side and in Woodstock, has lived upstate fulltime for two years. She says it’s now common to list a property midweek and by the weekend have hundreds of interested buyers lined up, with cash offers submitted almost immediately—many wanting to buy the staging furniture as well. “Woodstock is the new Hamptons, except it’s not played out,” she says. “People who move here tend to be creative and passionate about getting involved in the community. This has always been a Subaru and VW van town. And now, all of a sudden, it’s Beemers and Rangers. Covid pushed the migration rate to Hamptons level. People now pay one hundred to two hundred thousand dollars over asking price.”

David. “But it’s been intense a few times.” “On one trip, I was doing a quick k-turn on the main street in Woodstock and some woman yelled at me and called me a [expletive]!” says Lauren. “It wouldn’t have shocked me if that happened in the city, but upstate? I feel like she didn’t like that I was driving a Porsche.” Carter Edwards, programs director at Mount Tremper Arts, a nearby dance and performance center, and his husband, Joshua Lyon, a writer and editor, have owned a bungalow in the hamlet of Shady since 2012. They split their time between Ulster Country and a Brooklyn loft until last summer, when they moved upstate full-time. “We’d been making the transition gradually,”

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avid and Lauren (who requested their surnames be withheld), both New York executives, live in a two-bedroom duplex in the West Village. Until quarantine, they hadn’t considered upstate as a viable destination, preferring the Hamptons instead. “I’d started noticing ‘#UpstateNewYork’ in my feed, and the photos were just so beautiful,” says Lauren. “I’m a total hippie at heart and David’s favorite band is the Rolling Stones, so we were immediately into it.” “And, with Covid on the rise, upstate seemed like a safer place to live,” David adds. “I wasn’t so worried about myself, but Lauren was feeling anxious and the city was dead anyway.” But while shopping around New Paltz for their ideal house—something not too far from town with four bedrooms, a kitchen with an Aga, and a large yard for their French bulldog—the couple has had some hair-raising experiences. “We’re not afraid of a little real estate competition,” says

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“There is a definite influx of people who don’t get it.” SAMARA NAEYMI, RESIDENT

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“This has always been a Subaru and VW van town. And now, all of a sudden, it’s Beemers and Rangers.” ERIN FLAHERTY, REALTOR

says Edwards, sitting by a fire pit in their treelined backyard. “I’ve talked to people up here over the years, and that seems to have been the trend for decades. You get a weekend house and, over time, it becomes your home and eventually you move or retire here. Josh and I were already doing that, but the pandemic accelerated it. I think if you move here from the city without acclimating, it can be a bit of a culture shock.” Indeed, Edwards first noticed the tension between Woodstock residents and new arrivals mounting last summer, exacerbated by Covid restrictions. “It was significantly more crowded than it normally is. No one was going to the bars, of course, but they were outdoors a lot and everybody had descended on Big Deep,” he says, referring to a popular local swimming hole surrounded by walking trails. Concerned about infection rates, local authorities put up signs declaring the area closed. When that was ignored, the area was cordoned off with police tape, which also failed to stop large groups of people swimming. “Everyone decided that the rules didn’t apply to them,” says Edwards. “Locals got territorial, and weekenders saw a quaint swimming hole and just went, ‘Of course it’s fine for me to walk nearby.’ It became a real point of conflict.” Woodstock Fire Department chief Kevin Peters has been a firefighter and resident of Woodstock for more than 40 years. He says the influx of unprepared visitors and new residents has brought an increase in avoidable alarm calls. “Airbnbs should provide detailed instructions on how to operate a wood fireplace and chimney,” he says. “It’s also clear people just aren’t taught the right way to use a CO2 alarm.” Locals trade stories about the most ridiculous 911 calls that have been made by clueless newcomers, some expecting emergency services to respond if their child has a mild rash or their small dog is unsettled by local wildlife. As someone who has divided his time between upstate and Brooklyn since 2014, I can also

attest to the recent uptick in NYC-style agita. The days of driving along Woodstock’s main street, Mill Hill Road, without fearing a collision came to an end last summer—and not just because of Porsches making k-turns. Now, unfamiliar drivers regularly charge through stop signs from side streets, causing honking traffic to screech to a halt. The other day, I also made the mistake of accidentally cutting in front of a Lululemon-clad woman pushing a $1,500 champagne-black Mima Xari stroller outside the local bakery, Bread Alone. To be fair, she was practicing social distancing, so it was a little unclear if she was in line. But when I stepped in front of her, she hit me with the kind of broadside I would normally associate with the passive-aggressive yoga moms of Tribeca or Park Slope. “If you want to cut in line in front of an 18-month-old who hasn’t had breakfast yet, then by all means make that decision,” she said. Taken aback, it took me a moment to realize I wasn’t in a midtown Starbucks.

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outh of Woodstock, near Bethel, live Samara Naeymi, a voiceover artist, and her husband, Brendan Regimbal, who works for Columbia University. Last year, they purchased a 36-acre lakefront property in Sullivan County from a couple who were retiring to Mexico. “There is a definite influx of people who don’t get it,” she says. “We went for a walk recently and ran into some hipster bro with an artisanal coffee, talking loudly on his phone in the woods. Our dog bounded up to him and he panicked, dropped his coffee, and bolted in the other direction without even saying hello. Who does that in the country?” Naeymi says she wouldn’t be surprised if their home’s previous owners could see the influx of city dwellers and knew the area was no longer for them. “We’re really happy to have found this place—we’ve loved upstate New York for years,” Naeymi says. “It was odd though, because at the

time prices were going through the roof and bidding wars were everywhere. These guys had lived here since the ’80s but were so eager to sell that it was listed for $499,000 and we got it for just $530,000. We weren’t sure we’d get it given the market—it could easily have been a hundred over asking.” But the lower-than-expected closing price wasn’t all that pointed to the owners’ frantic need to get out before the crowds took over. After having in-person walk-throughs postponed several times, Naeymi and Regimbal finally entered their new property on the day they closed the sale and saw that while everything was spotlessly clean, the sellers had left all their possessions behind. Among the furniture, they found collectibles including vintage Playboy and Playgirl magazines; Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Disney memorabilia; a chest of costume jewelry brooches; a stack of faded family photographs stashed beneath a chair; and an entire room full of neatly piled wicker baskets. What really shocked Naeymi, however, were two plain envelopes, one marked “2019 Tax Returns,” and the other “Last Will and Testament.” “I haven’t opened the envelopes, but taxes and a will seem like pretty important paperwork,” she says. Clearly, the previous owners couldn’t get out fast enough. Ironically, the boom in property prices has been so lucrative for upstate residents that it has also funded movement in the opposite direction. Some sellers have taken the money and opted to move back into the city, despite the virus, where relative bargains are suddenly available. Dr. Giancarlo Poletti and his wife, Yumi Kurosawa Poletti, both musicians, moved from the Upper East Side into a three-bedroom house on 1.6 acres in Saugerties in 2008. They’d been considering selling up and buying a house elsewhere for years, but the increased interest in upstate made the decision that much easier. After putting their house on the market one morning in June, it didn’t even have time to appear online before their broker called with interest from a New York City buyer. A virtual tour was conducted via iPad at 11 a.m., and by 3 p.m. the place was sold with no contingencies. “It was the quickest sale of a property I’ve ever been involved in,” says Dr. Poletti. “We got almost $70,000 more than we’d asked for in a matter of hours. We loved living upstate in that house, but we’re glad we got out when we did.” The Polettis have since moved back to Brooklyn and have their sights on a house somewhere in Europe, but haven’t yet decided where. How the easing of Covid restrictions and the sudden population increase will impact life upstate in the long term remains to be seen, but there’s no sign interest is waning. “One of the many things that makes Woodstock cool is that it’s always been the kind of place celebrities can hang out and nobody bothers them,” says Flaherty, the realtor. “David Bowie used to go to the local deli, the Cub, regularly and no one would bat an eye. There’s never been paparazzi up here.” But now, she adds ruefully, “I wonder if that’ll change.” MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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LIVING HOW DO YOU IMPROVE ON A HERITAGE LUGGAGE BRAND ALREADY BELOVED BY MOVIE STARS, ROYALTY, AND POP ICONS? CLO COHEN, T. ANTHONY’S NEW PRESIDENT AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, TELLS BEN WIDDICOMBE SHE HAS SOME IDEAS

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICK MELE


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Going Places

ZOOM MEETING Clo Cohen is always ready to go with pieces from T. Anthony, including the classic duffle in red ($525); wheeled suiter in black and tan ($795); and boating totes in black and red ($385 each). JANUARY—FEBRUARY 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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C

lo Cohen says that she never plans an outfit. “I even wasn’t sure I would wear my wedding dress on the day,” she quips. “I go with how I feel at the moment—I’m very last-minute.” One thing she definitely knows how to do, however, is pack a bag. The longtime fashion executive, writer, sometime model, and now president and creative director of T. Anthony, the New York heritage luggage and accessories brand, comes from a family of inveterate travelers. “My father is South African, and my mother is from Ireland,” she tells Avenue. “They met in Dublin when my father was traveling around Ireland by motorbike.” Fast-forward a decade and their daughter, Clodagh Margaret Jacobs, the youngest of four children, was born in Johannesburg. Her father’s business consulting career soon took the family to Europe, however. “We lived in Cap d’Antibes for 18 months, and then he moved us to Brussels for two years and I attended a French-speaking school,” she recalls. There were also stints in Ireland and then Britain, the country she returned to after finishing high school in South Africa; she later studied at Oxford.

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DESIGNING WOMAN Cohen at her desk in Palm Beach, with a selection of cosmetics bags and eyeglass cases ($65—$115).

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T. ANTHONY FLAGSHIP STORE EXTERIOR BY ZACHARY HEADAPOHL; T. ANTHONY CARD CASES BY SAMMY IAN

IN WITH THE NEW In New York, T. Anthony opened a new flagship store on East 57th Street in November. Below: a flight of credit card cases from the new accessories range ($255 each).

As a young graduate she worked in the advertising industry, and as a model and voiceover artist. “I love singing and music and even sang at weekends in a cover band that did parties and bar mitzvahs—we sang at Fergie and Andrew’s housewarming, amongst other things,” she laughs, referring to the Duke and Duchess of York. Then she was approached by a headhunter to work in the press department of Gucci in London when Tom Ford had just debuted his first collection for the brand. “Tom Ford had just taken the helm and I never looked back,” she says wistfully. “Fashion was my thing—I had found my niche.” Working with the designer at his creative peak was an eye-opening experience for the young luxury brand professional. “I adored Tom. To me, he was the epitome of living, breathing elegance and style,” she says. “What I learned from him was simplicity in fashion. My exquisitely stylish mother had always told us, ‘When in doubt about what you are wearing, don’t add a piece, take something off, darling.’ Tom’s design ethic resonated with that.” At Gucci, Cohen was head of accessories, jewelry, watches, fragrance and sponsorship— experience that would be invaluable at every subsequent stage of her career. Indeed, after seven years at the Italian luxury house, she was approached by Tamara Mellon, who with designer Jimmy Choo cofounded the eponymous British shoe label in 1996. By 2002 she was living in New York and opening stores for the brand, as well as wrangling celebrities and managing red carpet looks for the Oscars.

“Tamara is wonderful. She taught me that fashion could be very joyful and fun—up until then I had taken it all a bit seriously, and suddenly I was handling shoes with pompoms and feathers and arranging girls’ lunches all over the US,” Cohen says. “It was such a tonic in my life.” Another significant life event also happened around this time. “I had met my future husband, Charles, in London at a dinner party given by a mutual friend, Lady Caroline Wrey. We dated from the moment I moved to New York,” she says. “We became engaged and were married in six months.” Cohen now has two boys, aged 12 and 14, as well as two older stepchildren, and the family splits their time between residences in New York City, Greenwich, West Hollywood, and

Palm Beach. With all this moving around, it’s no wonder she developed a taste for high-quality luggage—and one of the first brands that caught her eye was T. Anthony. “When I first came to New York, I lived near the store on 56th Street. As I walked past, I thought the luggage was so clean and distinctive without obvious labels. I was traveling a lot across America, opening Jimmy Choo stores, and I wanted my luggage to be very clean to reflect my design aesthetic. So, I started collecting pieces,” she says. “And when Charles and I got married, for various anniversary or birthday gifts, I would buy him pieces to start his collection.” The young fashion executive could hardly have known that, just a few years later, T. Anthony would collect her. MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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LIVING

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n 1931 Theodore Anthony Froitzheim, a young graduate of the University of Heidelberg, fled the growing turmoil in Germany for a brighter future in America. After landing in New York at the age of 18, he worked his way up to become manager of the luggage department at Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1944, businesswoman Florence Nightingale Graham tapped him to create product cases for the burgeoning cosmetics empire she founded under a pseudonym— Elizabeth Arden. Froitzheim—perhaps taking a cue from his successful client—rebranded himself as T. Anthony, and opened his first store under that name in 1946, on Madison Avenue at 66th Street. It was an immediate success, attracting influential clients including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, assuring his wares would be seen in media around the world. After that, the celebrity clientele rolled in— notably, in the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe, whose signature red luggage is still in production today. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a frequent customer starting in the 1960s—followed by Ronald and Nancy Reagan in the 1970s and ’80s. In the ’90s and beyond, Elton John traveled with so many dozens of T. Anthony cases that his caravan became an object of fascination with the tabloid press, which would publish stories based on paparazzi shots of his luggage alone. Froitzheim died while on a European cruise in 1972, earning a New York Times obituary, and control of the business eventually passed to his sonin-law, Michael Root. Over the years he declined many offers to sell the business, until receiving interest from Cohen’s husband, Charles, who also publishes Avenue magazine. “It tuned out that I was actually part of the deal, because the owner knew me as a longtime customer and knew that I loved the company,” Cohen says. “He didn’t want to sell to someone who would totally change the brand.” Root says that he feels fortunate to have worked in luxury goods for 38 years. “My goal for the succession was to find an individual who was better than I was,” he wrote in an email last year. “Someone who shared my love of the brand, who understood the T. Anthony customer and the brand’s DNA. But more important, the company needed someone with the vision, skills, and resources to the take the T. Anthony brand to a new international audience. That individual, our new president, is Clo Cohen.”

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T. ANTHONY FLIP WALLETS BY SAMMY IAN

MAMA’S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG Clockwise from right: monogram flip wallets ($295 each) in tones to match every mood; Cohen with pieces from her personal collection, including classic duffles, boating totes, a wheeled suiter—and even a T. Anthony tassel ($65); and, below, relaxing at home with classic duffle in blue ($525).

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“I WANT TO PROVIDE THE HIGHEST QUALITY PRODUCT WITH AN ETHICAL AND RESPONSIBLE PROVENANCE.” CLO COHEN

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TOTES MAGOTES The stylish T. Anthony tote, introduced by Cohen, looks as good at the beach as it is practical at home.

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oday, as president and creative director, Cohen is expanding T. Anthony’s range while preserving its greatest hits. “The DNA of the brand is the most important element to me,” she says. “I’m moving cautiously with the product, keeping the key pieces and adding where I believe our customer has needs. I want to provide the highest quality product with an ethical and responsible provenance.” That means new color options for the brand’s classic canvas luggage, as well as smaller pieces like organizing bags that fit within the luggage; cosmetics bags; luggage straps; and wallets and card cases. “I’ve also introduced a beach tote for traveling around town or to the Hamptons; we have polycarbonate for a younger traveler that is super lightweight and has a webbing design that echoes the canvas fabric that is part of our heritage collection,” she says. “I’m also working on some collaborations. In the past we created a capsule luggage collection with Vogue, and we did a leather travel bag with Jay-Z.” It helps that Cohen knows the T. Anthony customer so well. Their totes carry groceries in the morning, go on a school run each afternoon, and cart snow or beach gear on weekends. Their hard cases are just as likely to be tumbling off the roof of a Land Rover on the veldt as they are to be cosseted in the hold of a Gulfstream; their canvas duffels need to look equally stylish on a stroll along the Champs-Élysées or being thrown onto a dock in Curaçao. “Most of us daydream about traveling the globe and experiencing this beautiful world, and so how much fun is it to collect luggage pieces or grow a collection for yourself or your children or for somebody you love? The memories endure and the collection increases with the trips you take, and it all becomes part of your life’s tapestry and history. Our cases have seen every corner of this world: Africa, upstate New York, Vegas, Hawaii,” she says. “They’re like stamps in a passport—except you renew your passport, and hopefully these cases go on forever.” MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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SOHO SO GOOD 84

FLANEUR CENTRAL Fanelli Café (est. 1922) is a familiar beacon across from the Mercer Hotel (est. 1997).

SOHO: STACY WALSH ROSENSTOCK/ALAMY

NEIGHBORHOOD SPOTLIGHT

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THE DOWNTOWN NEIGHBORHOOD BELOVED BY BLUE-CHIP ARTISTS, STREET STYLE STARS, AND LUXURY SHOPPERS IS MANHATTAN’S SPIRITUAL HOME OF BOURGEOIS-BOHEMIAN BONHOMIE. JOSHUA DAVID STEIN, A SELF-DESCRIBED “RESENTFUL OUTER-BOROUGHER,” PLAYS TOURIST FOR A DAY

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COURTESY OF THE DUTCH/DAN KOCSIS

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ELSA HOSK AND TOM DALY: RAYMOND HALL/GC IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

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ew York City is a metropolis of millions and yet, to a shocking extent, its character has been shaped by the vision of one man, Robert Moses. Before they became literally concrete, most of the traffic channels that course through our city from the Bronx to the Hamptons, sluicing cataracts of cars, existed first in the mind of this farsighted but ruthless mid-century maestro of public works. Entire neighborhoods were razed or bisected to make way for his vision of an automotive-forward city. And yet, one of New York’s most iconic quarters, SoHo, is a testament to his failure. Had Moses had his way, the ten-lane Lower Manhattan Expressway would have subsumed Broome Street from the Holland Tunnel in the west to the Williamsburg Bridge in the east. It is hard to imagine that SoHo’s charm could have withstood such a bifurcation of its frontal cortex. Happily, Moses was thwarted by the remarkable urbanist Jane Jacobs, in an epic, true-life confrontation between David and Goliath. Today, Moses has a beach named after him, and is the subject of a long book—a volume essential for a particular caste of New Yorker to have in the background of their Zoom calls—but his reputation has fallen. Jacobs, on the other hand, has become the patron saint of a livable city, and SoHo has blossomed into the perfect distillation of what makes New York New York. The neighborhood, its name a portmanteau indicating its situation South of Houston, boasts extraordinary character, unexpected beauty, the admixture of grit and glitz, luxury and not, along quiet cobblestone streets in the heart of Manhattan. Once dubbed the Cast-Iron District, SoHo’s past is proudly on display. Many of the buildings are landmarked, and the windows—which once admitted light for artists like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Philip Glass, and Twyla Tharp, who began illegally moving into former manufacturing loft spaces in the 1950s—are still intact. In 1971, after years of organizing and advocacy, the SoHo Artists Association managed to convert those lofts to legal residences, arguing that the arts are a big business for New York. They were, perhaps, too successful. SoHo has now become so prized a locale that only the most successful artists, or the longest-living—Jeff Koons, Tom Sachs, Arthur Elgort—can afford a loft. Nevertheless, art and commerce, history and the cutting edge, still commingle on these charming streets.

THE DUTCH Chef Andrew Carmellini’s charming corner of comfort food opened in 2011, but the warm wooden interior, the fastidious attention to detail, and a menu that reads like the NOW That’s What I Call Music compilation of French-tinged American classics, including a famous hot chicken, served with honey butter biscuits, makes the Dutch— named after Manhattan’s European colonizers—a timeless SoHo standby.

TABLES FOR TWO Model Elsa Hosk and partner Tom Daly are some of the street-style favorites who can often be spotted in the neighborhood. Opposite: The Dutch has been a trendy staple since 2011.

TREADING UP FOUR CAST-IRON STAIRS, DOTTED WITH SMALL GLASS CIRCLES, INTO THE PLEASURE DOMES OF INTERNATIONAL LUXURY BRANDS IS SOMETHING OF A SOHO RITUAL.

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DOWNTOWN DARLINGS The Rem Koolhaas-designed Prada store made SoHo a new fashion destination when it opened in 2001. Below: baker Dominique Ansel made headlines when he invented the “cronut” in 2013.

PRADA

DOMINIQUE ANSEL

When Miuccia Prada hung out a shingle for her family’s fashion label at 575 Broadway, in the space formerly occupied by the Guggenheim’s downtown branch, it was certification that SoHo had officially become New York’s new luxury center. With a reported $40 million interior designed by Rem Koolhaas, the space boasted an undulating zebrawood floor called “The Wave,” and was as much a place for the cool kids to gather as it was a boutique of shoes and handbags. Soon after Prada set its stake in SoHo in 2001, an endless procession of luxury stores followed, which now includes everything from a newly designed Celine boutique and a renovated Michael Kors flagship, to Italian streetwear line Stone Island and boutique Swedish brand Acne Studios.

If the two-syllable portmanteau “cronut” doesn’t immediately conjure images of long lines stretching from Spring, north past the chain-link fence of Vesuvio Playground on Thompson, then you were not alive in 2011. Since then, the French pastry chef has continued to churn out these addictive pastries, a half croissant, half-donut chimera, with ever changing flavors. (A recent variation with pistachio cream was particularly delicious.) But, as he has written on the to-go box, just under “Home of the Cronut,” is the admonition “Don’t let the creation kill the creativity.” But even if the cronuts sell out, which they do to this day, his buttery kouign amann, a Breton pastry, still beckons.

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PRADA STORE: COURTESY OF 2X4/BRETT BEYER; COURTESY OF DOMINIQUE ANSEL/BRENT HERRIG

ART AND COMMERCE, HISTORY AND THE CUTTING EDGE, COMMINGLE ON THESE CHARMING STREETS.

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ROMAN AND WILLIAMS GUILD NY Strange as it may seem, much of SoHo’s bobo interior design aesthetic has been determined by Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, two former Hollywood set designers who together founded the firm Roman and Williams. After having designed restaurants such as the Dutch and Lafayette; retail spaces for the likes of GOOP and Nike, and hotels like the Ace and the Standard Highline, the pair opened their own block-length emporium Roman and Williams Guild NY in 2017. The space, chock-full of linen napkins, shearling pelts, copper fixtures, and an $1,850 leather log basket, also contains La Mercerie, a (very good) French restaurant run by Marie-Aude Rose, the wife of Daniel Rose, the chef at the nearby (also very good and also Roman and Williams–designed) Le Coucou.

VICTORINOX A swaggy, sexy store devoted to... Swiss Army knives? It’s true: This former firehouse on Wooster has been remastered to showcase the Swiss company’s foldable tools. Their line of performance wear is also on display, as are watches,

kitchen knives, and fragrances described as “smooth yet highly masculine.” Here you’ll find not only $430 Swiss Army Knives (with pharmaceutical spatula!) but capsule editions like the all-black Onyx collection and a FieldForce Titanium edition watch. But the boutique also stands for the almost alchemical magic of SoHo, which by its very location adds a mystique not just to knives but to goods in other nearby shops featuring mattresses (Keetsa); socks (Happy Socks), and coffee pods (Nespresso.)

BYREDO The city during summer is notoriously pungent, but in SoHo even the side streets smell like bergamot and musk. Parfumiers—like the Argentine brand Fueguia 1833; Perfumarie; Florentine house Santa Maria Novella; and MiN New York—proliferate. At Byredo, a Swedish brand whose minimalist flagship opened in 2015 on quiet Wooster Street, those scents include Rodeo, an earthy unisex parfum available exclusively at the SoHo location, as well as richly aromatic candles. These waft over Brazilian pony hair sofas (designed by Byredo’s founder, Ben Gorham) that occupy the sweet-smelling aerie.

COURTESY OF ROMAN AND WILLIAMS GUILD; COURTESY OF BYREDO/KARLA OTTO

DINE STORE The French restaurant Le Mercerie, inside Roman and Williams Guild NY; below: Swedish bags and candles at Byredo.

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FANELLI CAFÉ Fanelli’s neon sign on the corner of Prince and Mercer Streets has long been a beacon to thirsty or hungry travelers, or just a port for a soul in need of a barman’s ear. The second-oldest bar in New York, the Fanelli Café has always catered to a neighborhood crowd. First truckers and warehouse men in the first half of the 20th century, then artists in the ’70s and ’80s—many fed from early- to mid-career fame—and now a mix of tourists, regulars, and roustabouts who gather under the gaze of framed boxers for beers and a remarkably robust burger.

THE DRAWING CENTER Galleries are the crawling cacti of cultural cachet. From the Upper East Side to Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, they bring and are brought about by the presence of a creative class. SoHo, once the home of many of New York’s most daring artists, still bears traces of its heyday as an artists’ paradise. Chief among these are the 90

COURTESY OF FANELLI CAFE/NINA WESTERVELT; COURTESY OF THE DRAWING CENTER/MARTIN PARSEKIAN

CAFÉ SOCIETY Sasha Noe is the current owner of Fanelli’s, which occupies a space built in 1847. Below: The Drawing Center is one of the neighborhood’s many cultural attractions.

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SOHO’S GALLERIES ARE THE CRAWLING CACTI OF CULTURAL CACHET.

FIAT LUXE Tom Dixon’s well-lit interior.

Drawing Center, opened in 1977 by Martha Beck. Over the years, its expansive ground floor gallery has offered space to artists from architect Antoni Gaudí to, most recently, a group of formerly incarcerated artists. But perhaps the most magical gem is the Dia Art Foundation’s installation of Walter de Maria’s The New York Earth Room, 250 yards of 22-inch deep soil, filling a Wooster Street loft since 1977.

LOUIS VUITTON Treading up four cast-iron stairs, dotted with small glass circles, into the pleasure domes of international luxury brands is something of a SoHo ritual. The circles, called vault lights or deadlights, once allowed (some) light into the neighborhood’s basement factories, like those under 116 Greene Street, now a Louis Vuitton emporium. Built in 1881, the space has been occupied by Vuitton since 1998, and was redesigned by Peter Marino in 2016. Much like the Prada store a few blocks to the northeast, the Vuitton HQ is itself as much a work of art as the wares on display. Its columns boast the work of Japanese artist Shuji Mukai, a member of the Gutai (a sort of Japanese proto-Fluxus art movement) and Italian artist Giuseppe Penone, who, ironically perhaps for a luxury boutique, is a lion in the arte povera movement.

SIXTY SOHO There are 97 rooms at the Sixty SoHo hotel, each designed by London designer Tara Bernerd, but much of the action happens on the ground, second, and top floors. Working one’s way from the bottom (open to the general public) to the top (a members-only rooftop), is the vertical version of Graydon Carter’s Seven Room theory of increasingly rarefied access to influence. Perhaps the most appealing is the second-floor boîte, the Butterfly. Run by nightlife veterans Nur Khan and John McDonald, the lush interior boasts Damien Hirst’s butterfly collages—pity the lepidoptera!— cocktails like the Gatekeeper, and a late-night crowd that spills out into the SoHo streets after being thoroughly danced out by live deejays. During the warmer months, the rooftop—A60— whose entrance is guaranteed with a hard-toobtain membership card, beckons with peaceful perches on an open terrace.

COURTESY OF TOM DIXON/PEER LINDGREEN

TOM DIXON On cloudy days, SoHo still seems ablaze, thanks to the many lighting emporia that illuminate its side streets. From the architectural lighting of Milanese firm Artemide, to the Czech designer Leon Jakimič, these represent both SoHo’s past as a manufacturing hub, and its present as an intersection of art, design, and commerce. In 2018, the British designer Tom Dixon opened a 6,700-square-foot flagship, where his metallic orbs cast their light upon furry wingback chairs. Sofas, not meant to be sit upon, are arranged as if in the world’s most stylish (and brightly lit) living room. MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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NOTORIOUS NEW YORKERS

The Cotton Club: A Scandal in Two Acts The legendary jazz club links Owney Madden and Roy Radin, two very different kinds of New York rogue, who lived and died a generation apart, writes Aria Darcella

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arlem’s legendary Cotton Club, with its ebullient orchestra and packed dance floor, brings to mind Jazz Age luminaries like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, and Cab Calloway. But the name that put the club on the map—or rather the crime blotter—was Owney “The Killer” Madden: murderer, bootlegger, racketeer, and one of Prohibition-era New York’s most notorious gangsters. Madden immigrated to Hell’s Kitchen in 1902 at the age of 11, and fell in with the Gophers, its vicious Irish-American street gang. “If you were Irish and were living in the Kitchen...a Gopher was what you wanted to be, when either you hadn’t quite grown up or weren’t quite expecting to,” Michael Walsh wrote in his 2003 best-seller, And All the Saints. Madden became the gang’s leader,

and a precociously violent one at that, being implicated in six murders—although witnesses were rarely willing to come forward. In 1915 he was finally sent to prison for manslaughter, and by his parole in 1923 the Gopher Gang was all but done. But a new, more lucrative business opportunity presented itself in the meantime: bootlegging alcohol during Prohibition. And Madden would prove to be far more ambitious than his fellow mobsters. In addition to importing whiskey, he started his own breweries, and began snapping up speakeasies where he could peddle his poison. Among these establishments was a struggling venue on West 125th Street known as the Club Deluxe, which Madden purchased in partnership with gambler George “Big Frenchy” DeMange. They renovated the joint—expanding its seating capacity and giving its interior a glamorous overhaul—renaming it

SCIENCE HISTORY IMAGES/ALAMY

ROARING TRADE The Cotton Club in its original 1920s location in Harlem.

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OWNEY MADDEN: EVERETT COLLECTION HISTORICAL/ALAMY; ROY RADIN: BETTY GALELLA/RON GALELLA COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

the Cotton Club. Most importantly, Madden was able to tap the absolute best performers on the jazz circuit. Though the Cotton Club became a premier venue for Black artists, it was far from progressive. Madden barred Black audiences from entry, and frequently used racist caricatures to promote his shows. Meanwhile he was raking in a fortune. His success brought unwelcome competition, however, from the Italian mob. Madden was also under police scrutiny for the killing of Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll—a onetime hitman for Dutch Schultz and Salvatore Maranzano—who died in a barrage of bullets in 1932. (It is believed he partially funded a hit on Coll, who had once held DeMange for ransom). Rather than go out with a bang, Madden left it all behind, fleeing to Arkansas in 1935, where he lived until his death in 1965. The Cotton Club eventually fell victim to changing tastes, and closed after relocating to Midtown. But with such a wealth of characters, it’s no wonder the club made an attractive subject for filmmakers. And when the time came to turn its story into a big-budget motion picture, the production attracted a new cast of sleazy characters. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the 1984 crime drama The Cotton Club should have been a hit. The film starred Richard Gere as musician Michael “Dixie” Dwyer, while ’80s-favorite Bob Hoskins played Madden. It cost $47 million to make, but was a box-office flop, and today is remembered more for a grisly cocaine-fueled murder than for anything that happened on-screen. Despairing at Coppola’s ballooning costs, the film’s producer, Bob Evans, began seeking more investors. That’s when his limo driver told him about a wealthy woman named Karen DeLayne “Lanie” Jacobs, whom he started dating. Tall, good-looking, and casually glamorous, she was also in the cocaine business, which Evans later claimed not to know. Others alleged that he did know—and wanted to use the drug money to finance his films. Whatever the case, Jacobs introduced Evans to one of her customers, New Yorker Roy Radin, as another potential source of funds.

JAZZ HANDS Film producer Roy Radin in 1981; above left: Cotton Club proprietor Owney Madden in a 1931 mugshot.

As the son of a noted Broadway producer, Radin got his start in showbiz at 17 doing publicity for a circus. That kicked off what would become a lucrative career as a producer of vaudeville revival shows and bought him a 66-room mansion in Southampton. But it couldn’t get him the acclaim he craved, even though his ambition didn’t quite align with his talent. “What he really wanted was acceptance on Broadway and in Hollywood,” Radin’s press agent Richard Gersh told the New York Times after his death in 1983. “Basically [the shows he produced] were schlock. In fact, some of the stuff was embarrassing, it was so bad. But you couldn’t tell that to Roy. He had no taste at all.” Radin’s sketchy operation, which claimed to split ticket sales with local charities, got him investigated by the New York State attorney general. There was also an incident in 1980, when actress Melonie Haller claimed she was beaten and raped during a party at his Southampton mansion. Radin was charged with menacing Haller, as well as for possession of cocaine, LSD, and an illegal firearm, although the charges were later dropped.

That didn’t stop Evans from bringing Radin in on The Cotton Club, however. But the two cut Jacobs out of the action, instead offering her just a $50,000 finder’s fee. Jacobs, who already suspected Radin was involved with a break-in at her home during which $870,000 in cash and cocaine were stolen, was furious. In May 1983, she suggested they meet for dinner in Los Angeles, which was the pretext for a kidnapping. When Radin’s body was discovered a month later, in woods 65 miles north of the city, it had a single gunshot wound to the head. Detectives concluded Jacobs hired a hit man to commit the murder, and while Evans was implicated by the shooter, she ended up taking the rap. Meanwhile, the tabloids salivated over Evans and other Hollywood names being dragged through court over what they dubbed “the Cotton Club murder.” Ironically, Jacobs should have taken the $50,000 up front: given what a flop the movie was, she may have been the only one who got paid. “I didn’t make one dollar on the film,” Evans later grumbled to New York magazine, “and look what I got for it.” MARCH—APRIL 2021 | AVENUE MAGAZINE

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ON THE

Noma Dumezweni

THE BIG CHILL

Stylish New Yorkers showed off their winter wardrobes, enjoyed a snow day, and warmed up at the Gotham Awards.

Marc Jacobs

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Kelly Bensimon

Nicky Hilton Rothschild

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Hannah Bronfman and Brendan Fallis introduce baby Preston


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Nancy Brinker and H.E. Sheikh Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, Ambassador of the State of Qatar

Nolan and Michael Greenwald

Anka Palitz and Michel Witmer

TWO TICKETS IN PARADISE

In Palm Beach, the Society of the Four Arts opened its “Charles and Jackson Pollock” exhibit, while the Promise Fund of Florida held its Major Donor Awards and Dinner at the home of Nancy Brinker, sponsored by the Miami Cancer Institute, Baptist Health South Florida.

Amy and John Phelan

Diane and John Sculley

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Dan Ponton and Paulette Koch

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SOCIAL SKILLS

Flakes on a Plane What will fragile flyers do, now that the Department of Transportation has banned emotional support animals? Bob Morris makes the case for a compassionate exception

Dear Global Airlines, I am a licensed psychologist writing on behalf of my patient, Willow Long Reed, who has been distressed by new rules banning emotional support animals from flights. The purpose of this letter is to secure a medical exception for her Germ Pit (German shepherd/pit bull designer mix) on the basis of her prominence as a style and travel influencer. Although Ms. Reed isn’t wheelchair–bound, sight–impaired, or living with any of the physical disabilities assisted by a certified service animal, she has many existing conditions that make being accompanied by her dog therapeutically essential. First, she suffers from several serious allergies—chiefly to flying commercial, but also to turning her cell phone off, single-serve vodka bottles, the sight of polyester crew uniforms, and being told “no.” Additionally, Ms. Reed becomes emotionally triggered when exposed to boisterous children whose parents are not celebrities or socialites. This distress may not be immediately visible to untrained airline staff, owing to her medically imperative regime of Botox, Restylane, and Juvederm. Instead, it takes an expert clinician such as myself to diagnose the symptoms of each of her anxieties. These include throwing her iPad at the purser, sage burning in the bathroom, and demanding to speak to the captain (whom she will likely refer to as “the manager”) in a fake French accent. Would it not serve your airline to allow one impeccably groomed, emotionally supportive Germ Pit on the frequent flights Ms. Reed takes to Miami, Aspen, London, Paris, and Cannes? The animal is typically well-behaved and never aggressive, unless Ms. Reed is provoked by sudden intrusions into her personal space, offered an off-brand snack mix, or confronted with what she perceives as authority. In return, Ms. Reed is prepared to offer Global Airlines sponsored content placement in her TikTok and Instagram stories, as well as a YouTube unboxing video of products from your duty-free offerings, if she determines them suitably luxurious. That, of course, requires she be given special permission to keep her phone on at all times. I hope you can accommodate my patient’s special needs at this challenging time. Without the usual runway shows, red-carpet events, comped dinners, and swag bags, she, like so many of us, can use all the emotional support she can get.

Sincerely,

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