In The Magazine

Society Steps Into Spring

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Sundance Kids

Robert Redford founded the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in 1978 to celebrate American-made films. It was named after his character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which costarred Paul Newman. Directors Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Darren Aronofsky, Jim Jarmusch and David O. Russell are among those who got their big breaks here. Taking Sundance by storm this winter was Nate Parker, who followed Sylvester Stallone’s playbook for the original Rocky. Parker wrote, directed and stars in Birth of a Nation alongside Gabrielle Union, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller and Mark Boone Junior. The film, about a slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in 1831, is already garnering Oscar buzz for 2017. It sold for a festival record-breaking $17.5 million to Fox Searchlight, which also distributed the Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave. NYC attorney Christian Simonds, who represented the filmmakers, literally worked all night with the film’s sales agent Graham Taylor to finalize the deal. Simonds, who’s married to Gillian Hearst Shaw, confided, “It was beyond rewarding to see all of Nate’s hard work over the last seven years culminate in this historic deal.” More than 200 films were screened in this pictuesque ski town built in 1847, including director Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers, a horror comedy starring Johnny Depp and their daughters, Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith; and Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, a documentary produced by Katharina Otto-Bernstein about controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe that’s set to premiere in April on HBO.

Ace of Clubs

Mark Twain called the Lotos Club the “Ace of Clubs.” This literary club was founded in 1870 and is situated in an elegant Second Empire–style mansion off Fifth Avenue that was built by Margaret Vanderbilt Shepard in 1900. Other members have included Andrew Carnegie, Solomon R. Guggenheim, P. G. Wodehouse and Orson Welles. This year the club’s State Dinner, cochaired by Ellen Monk and Steven North, honored the artist Frank Stella, whose brilliant retrospective served as the opening show of the stunning new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District. Stella said, “My father said I had one responsibility, which was ‘not to be a burden on society.’ Toward that end he taught me a trade: he taught me to scrape floors, use sandpaper, varnish and paint. I was a housepainter, and through that I was able to support myself for a period of time, but the reality was that I didn’t want to be an artist, I really wanted to not be a burden on society. I was planning on becoming something else but I just wandered off and became a painter.” Others who have received the Medal of Merit include Ulysses S. Grant, Enrico Caruso, Amelia Earhart, Leonard Bernstein, Robert Frost and Yo-Yo Ma. Guests included Lotos president Michael Yon, Tony Bennett, Janna Bullock, Diana Kalman, Laura Lofaro Freeman and her husband, James Freeman, who is the chairman of the Art Committee.

The White House’s Children’s Unit

A savvy and razor-sharp Chelsea Clinton has been popping up in Park Avenue living rooms talking about her mother. She told me this story, “When I was 5 years old I wrote a letter to President Reagan: ‘Dear Mr. President, I’ve seen The Sound of Music, the Nazis don’t look like very nice people. Please don’t go to their cemetery. Sincerely, Chelsea Clinton.’ On the letter, I put my favorite rainbow heart sticker and included a whole sheet of stickers as a show of goodwill. I was deeply disappointed that he still went, but I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get a response, and I went to the mailbox literally every day for two months. I would’ve been so thrilled to get a postcard back to let me know that I had been heard. So when my dad won the election in ’92, my parents asked me what I wanted and I said, ‘I want every kid to get a response to any letter that they write to the White House.’ So, my father created the Children’s Correspondence Unit. Now, all kids’ letters get treated separately and get a more kid-friendly response than just the letter that I missed, and that’s continued under every administration. Now I’m kind of glad Reagan didn’t write back.” Chelsea said she hasn’t ruled out running for office. It feels like she’s running already, but for what?

Safari Roundup

Jill Kargman, who created and stars in Bravo’s Odd Mom Out, hosted a party with Kelly Bensimon to launch, an app created by society photographer Steve Eichner and Daniela Kirsch that automatically identifies the gilded set on the red carpet through facial recognition so there will be no more spelling names for the paparazzi. Whew! Marjorie Gubelmann, aka Mad Marge, spun for the ritzy crowd at Number 8. . . . . . During Art Basel, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis’s edgy actress daughter, Rumer Willis, helped Dancing with the Stars’ Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis launch Skoozi, a new app that allows you to speak to the stars via live video chats or have them record messages for your smartphones. . . . . . Glamorous racehorse syndicate owner Sheila Rosenblum’s filly La Verdad won the Eclipse Champion Female Sprinter Award, which is the equivalent of the Best Actress Oscar. American Pharaoh took home Horse of the Year. Shelia has retired La Verdad from racing, and the mare has been sent to Kentucky to be bred to top stallion Medaglia d’Oro. . . . . . Kati Marton and Sylvia Hemingway gave a cocktail to announce that the Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO), under the baton of maestro Iván Fischer, will give their 20th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall this season. Last year, David Allen, a music critic for the New York Times, wrote the BFO “might be the best in the world.” . . . . . Cornelia Guest, Dr. Jeffrey Moses, Liliana Cavendish, Dr. Barry Weintraub, Geoffrey Bradfield and Dr. Christopher Calapai were among the guests at the kickoff of the 20th anniversary of the American Heart Association’s Hamptons Heart Ball. The benefit, co-chaired by Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin, Nicole Noonan, Tracy Stern and Randi Schatz, will honor Jean Shafiroff in Bridgehampton on June 25.


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