Friday, August 28, 2009

Drawback: No potential Wms./Wms. Final

Roger Federer and Serena Williams at the 2009 US Open Draw Presentation at The Times Center. Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images North America.

“I’D like to see an American win, but if [James] Blake or [Andy] Roddick can’t make it, I expect [Roger] Federer will win.”
And would Hizzoner like to see Serena [Williams] win?
“Yes.”
Over Venus?
Pause … “I’m like their father: ‘The winner is gonna be named Williams’.”

It could happen, but not because of a Williams/Williams U.S. Open final. David Dinkins, former New York City mayor and tennis fan/player/advocate and others at The Times Center this afternoon got the sad news when highlights of the U.S. Open draw were aired live on ESPN.

The sisters can’t meet in the final because they are on the same side of the draw (player matches). But they can meet No. 1 seed and world No. 1 Dinara Safina of Russia or No. 5 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, her countrywoman Ana Ivanovic (No 11). And a passel of other Russians: Elena Dementieva (No. 4), Svetlana Kuznetsova (6) and a re-emerging Maria Sharapova (29). If the sisters fail to reach the final, any number of players could be the culprit: unretired/ unseeded/unbowed Kim Clijsters (Belgium), 14th ranked Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli and her countrywoman Amelie Mauresmo (17).

Good news on the men’s side: There can be a Federer-Rafael Nadal final. Actually, most tennis fans would probably rather see Federer play the former No.1/No.2 and current No.3 Spaniard over Roddick (No. 5) whom he can’t meet in the final anyway. Their faceoff would happen in the semifinal because, like the Wmses., they are on the same side of the draw. Number 1 ranked Federer could meet the Aussie Lleyton Hewitt (31 ) in the third round, James Blake (21) of the United States in the fourth round and Serbian Novak Djokovic (No. 4) in the semifinal. In the final, Federer (or Hewitt/Blake/ Djokovic/German Tommy Haas [20]) could meet any of the following players: of late, the great Scot Andy Murray (No.2 ), the red-hot Argentine No. 6, Juan Martin del Potro, Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7) and Gael Monfils (13), Tomas Berdych (17) of the Czech Republic.

There are myriad potential matchups, all based on who advances and who falls. It’s an exciting draw on both sides, which ESPN’s show didn’t capture. The anticipation level came nowhere close to March Madness as promised by SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendry, though Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez did their best. I wonder though, could that be put down to the fact that the “draw” was already done by the time of the broadcast, eliminating the natural element of surprise, which may have informed the commentary? In fact, as PM and MJ were talking about the contests, drawsheets were being distributed in the auditorium at The Times Center.

The U.S. Open (31 Aug.-13 September) will be aired live on ESPN2. For official news (including the entire 128-player draw on the women’s and men’s side), from soup to nuts, do visit http://www.usopen.org/en_US/index.html.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If Woodstock Jumped Off From a Castle ...



Sir Ivan, above, opened his home to a few friends for Castlestock, his 40th anniversay homage to Woodstock. Photos by Benjamin Pasteur.

WATER MILL, Southampton (22 Aug. 2009) – IMPOSING wrought iron gates part like a draw bridge, the kind of gates that surround estates, especially in Boris Karloff and Vincent Price films. Immediately visible are turrets. There, over to the right, a screen projects a concert. Glistening beneath it is water from a pond. Farther along on the left is a walkway lined with giant daisies.

Welcome to the modest castle of Sir Ivan, whom Yours Truly met a couple of months ago (Refer to http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2009/06/going-native.html).

In progress is Castlestock, SI’s 40th anniversary Woodstock party. SI loves a theme party (and to party) and seems to have given vent to his imagination. Spread neatly around the grounds (neat grass, not mud) are floral sheets. On the sheets are flower necklaces, arranged just so. Print and tie-dyed pillows sit on sofas and divans dotting the landscape. Torches are aflame here and there. Prancing about are nymphs wearing very little. High-end vodka (among other spirits) and chilled Moët & Chandon (Brut Imperial) are in unlimited supply, plastic cups notwithstanding. Is that techno? It’s certainly not Richie Havens or Joan Baez or Joe Cocker (that's what the projector is for), though later SI teased the crowd with a number from his latest album. There is no acid being dropped – at least not in the open, no joints being passed. No cigarettes either – at least not in the open.

The party people are dressed the way they imagined they dressed at Woodstock. Interestingly enough, many are too young to have been there. What am I saying – many weren’t yet born and wouldn’t be for some time! There isn’t any talk about war (Iraq/Afghanistan) and human/civil rights (quality affordable health care, ON DEMAND, like HBO). I do, however, talk about the merits of good skin and botox to a marriage-minded, potentially heartbroken young dermatologist with a thriving business. He promises to send me some product.

A music company executive and several others to whom I speak aren’t having the time of their lives because access to the castle is forbidden. At the “Who Wants to be a Superhero” bash back in ’07 party, they had the run of the place. Tonight, everybody’s kept outside. She and others aren’t fazed, when I point out, that perhaps they aren’t allowed inside because, like Woodstock, Castlestock is an outdoor party. The vibe at Castlestock: ‘tis the night’s It party – at a castle, in the Hamptons. Translation: More free food and booze and, free transport via luxury coaches; don’t get it twisted.

This is not your mother’s or grandfather’s Woodstock. It’s an idealized/stylized/sanitized version. Not necessarily a bad thing, not necessarily a good thing. It is, however, a fundraiser for SI’s very worthy charity, the Peaceman Foundation. The PF is dedicated to removing from the face of earth (and Mars if necessary) post-traumatic stress disorder and hate crimes. Peace. Out.

Learn more about Sir Ivan and his pursuits at http://www.sirivanmusic.com/flash.html

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Palaver of a Baad Mutha – Shut Yo Mouth

Melvin Van Peeples (left) with actors, Daralyn Jay and Anthony Chisolm outside Cinema Village after the premiere of "Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchy Footed Mutha." Photo by Yours Truly.


MELVIN Van Peeples as Ex-Doofus and narrator, in reflecting on his colorful life, is recalling the circumstances of his birth – which sound suspiciously like a cock-and-bull story – but that’s the gospel truth, according to his mother, he insists.

My running buddy, Daralyn Jay, who appears in “Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchy Footed Mutha,” later disclosed that she was initially wary because she didn’t know where “Confessions” was going, all the while thinking it may not be going to a good place. Me, too. In fact, I’d begun to tune out MVP’s words and focus on his get-up: a gray pinstripe suit, mint green pinstripe shirt, pink ascot and mean brim. In the opening moments of “Confessions,” he may be rambling, but he is sharp (as a tack) doing so.

We needn’t have worried, for in his own good time MVP tells his story. Actually, there are myriad stories in “Confessions”: a coming-of-age-tale; a story of a knucklehead who learns his lessons early, courtesy of life’s brass knuckles; a story of determination; a story about setting and achieving goals; a story about pursuing and living one’s dreams; a story about the power of love – for a profession/calling and, for a woman.

“Confessions,” which will no doubt be compared with 1971’s seminal and angry (understandably so) “Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song,” is based on MVP’s forthcoming graphic novel of the same name. While in the credits, it is noted that "Confessions" is also based on MVP’s Broadway turn, “Waltz of the Stork,” he dismissed that notion during a Q&A after the premiere Friday night – his birthday … uh hum … No. 47.

Its origins, notwithstanding, “Confessions” takes you places. After that opening ramble the scene quickly cuts (some mighty fine editing here and throughout) to his life as a poor Chicago boy who has wanderlust and a desire for a better life, preferably in a paradise. In double-quick fashion the youngster/runway hits the road. His journey takes him to the cab of a cargo truck, the Hudson River, high seas, a number of paradises, West Africa and Harlem. It’s combination cartoon/fantasia, with overtones of “Alice in Wonderland” propelled by a blues, jazz, opera, gospel soundtrack. Whereas, the autobiographical “Sweetback” was defiant and angry, “Confessions,” less so, is satiric and surreal. In fact, it has an engaging purity and universal themes that everybody can embrace – even The Man.

As the title character in “Confessions,” MVP plays himself at various ages (from pre-pubescence to grown-ass man), even managing to do some credible and palatable love scenes, though the scene showing him in the last throes of teendom trying to woe the ladies falls flat. It is supposed to be funny, but is as clumsy and awkward as he is as a would-be Casanova. And Stephanie Weeks as Rita, the love of his life, is leaden. She and MVP have zero chemistry. Though she has a great face (but distractingly bad skin; is it a metaphor for life as a bumpy road?), her doe-eyed innocence and goodness don’t seem real. It's not enough to explain the power she has over MVP's character. Indeed, her acting shows, and it isn’t pretty. The blame, however, should be placed as much at the feet of MVP as SW.

Still, MVP seems to have brought all of his prodigious talents to bear in this film. His credits: director, editor, composer, producer. And writer: On the Doofus teen’s first night in Gotham, he sleeps on a park bench to save money. A prostitute offers “some thrills”; later a pimp rolls up to offer “some pills.” Pity that’s the only line Yours Truly can remember, but trust me, there are many bons mots.

“Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchy Footed Mutha,” is showing at the Cinema Village, 22 E. 12th St., Greenwich Village (New York). It will begin to open at select cites (including Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami) around the country starting on 11 Sept.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

(The September) ‘Issue’ of the Devil


Anna Wintour is examining photos from a shoot. An assistant/junior editor is standing next to her. She’s now in AW’s way. AW says, “excuse me” in what could be perceived as a curt tone.

To an uncomfortable-looking Oscar de la Renta, AW opines about a white belted jacket and brown dress ensemble from his latest collection, “I personally would not put this one in the show. The other things you showed us are more exciting. “

“Do we really feel that this is the most important message to put in the September issue?” AW’s question to two junior editors is earnest, but her expression is contemptuous.

These are not scenes from the sequel to “The Devil Wears Prada.” It is “The September Issue,” R.J. Cutler’s (“The War Room/“American High”) behind-the-scenes look at the production of Vogue’s most important issue of the year. The documentary, about the making of the 2007 issue, featuring cover girl Sienna Miller (the biggest ever at 840 pages and nearly five pounds) won the Grand Jury Prize for Excellence in Cinematography at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

It had a star-studded premiere last night at MOMA, where in attendance were many fashion industry heavy-hitters and A-list designers, including a stunning and youthful-looking Vera Wang, who ducked out of the after-party after she was given to know in answer to her query that AW had left the building. The audience laughed during the aforementioned scenes and many others. The sometimes knowing, nervous laughter evoked the ghost of “TDWP” (the film and book), which is widely believed to be about AW, though no one in the fashion business will dare admit it publicly. But if one is of the mind that Miranda Priestly is AW, then “TDWP” is a good primer for “TSI.”

If nothing else, the documentary makes clear the scope and reach of AW’s influence. There she is in Paris giving her stamp of approval to Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld and back home plucking Thakoon Panichgul from obscurity and making him a star. He’s in awe of Anna the Great, likening her, not to a Madonna but the Madonna. And she is described as the Pope of fashion and the most powerful woman in America. Step aside Oprah, Hillary, Michelle and Martha.

In remarks before the screening, RJC thanked AW for giving him so much access to her. It would have been more apt to thank her for giving him access to her staff, including Fashion Editor Grace Coddington, who is a natural in front of the camera and deserves a show of her own, not “Saving Grace,” because Holly Hunter has a lock on that title. We also see snippets of Editor-at-large, Andre Leon Talley, probably the most recognizable face at Vogue next to AW. He’s a serious man who is portrayed as a court jester, and not because he is over the top in the tennis court scene. Does RJC have a beef with the big man whom AW ordered to drop some pounds. (There is an amusing irony in his job title and weighty edict.)

We certainly see the Starbucks-swilling AW in no such moments. Most of what we see, however, does little to erase the image of her (exaggerated, no doubt) as Miranda Priestly, illustrated starkly in one scene in which she leaves the door to her home wide open as she departs for the office. Of course, she has a maid who no doubt closed the door, but was AW aware of how that might be perceived? Did she just not give a damn?

Her incessant, “no,” “no,” “no,” “no” to photo spread after photo spread and her putting her imprimataur on designers' collection is more behavior that gives credence to the Miranda Priestly myth. This, though, belittles her and her job title. But with the limitations of film, it is difficult to make interesting and compelling the myriad responsibilities of the job. AW does try to show a softer side of herself by recalling that her father (a high-level newspaper man) is responsible for her career choice. “He said, ‘Well you want to be editor of Vogue, of course,’ so that was it, it was decided,” she reveals, while revealing nothing (she does have nice arms, though, that I am told are a product of daily tennis-playing).

Fashionistas, wannabes and those (journalists included) unfamiliar with the magazine production process will find the film fascinating and illuminating. Desiree Gruber, executive producer of “Project Runway” (which premieres tonight on Lifetime), summed up the sentiments of her spouse, Kyle MacLachlan, Sean Combs and others with whom I spoke.

“I thought it was great. I loved it,” DG said. “If you haven’t seen it I think it really makes a difference who you see it with. Tonight’s audience understood and got the joke, and I saw it the first time with a Hollywood audience (at Sundance) who did not get the joke exactly, so it was a lot more fun to see it with people who were in on the joke and understood the nuances."

While Yours Truly was not as bullish on “TSI” as DG& Co. – and that is only because I have worked on the production side` and understand the process – I give RJC good marks for capturing the plodding, monotonous and often frustrating production process and making it somewhat interesting. Of course, he was helped by characers like GC, who a Vogue staffer informed me, initially hated the cameras. One would never know. RJC also made good use of the fashion footage and chose his music wisely. Still for me, it had no “wow” moments. Though humorous at times, "TSI" failed to capture my imagination. But again, these are sentiments of one overly and cynically familiar with the subject matter, so do consider the source.

“The September Issue ” opens 28 Aug. in New York and on 11 Sept. in Los Angeles and some other cities.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Bailout Plan Foodies Can Appreciate


Diners at Morimoto await the start of the show. Photo by David Mehr, Courtesy of NYC & Company.

In the mood for lunch and a show? For only $24.07? Until Labor Day (7 Sept.), catch the production at Morimoto, the Meatpacking District haunt named after one of those uber-cooks from “Iron Chef America.” While you won’t get a rendition of Duck, Duck, Duck, there will be Angry Chicken.

Sensing that foodies need a bailout plan, too, NYC & Company has extended NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2009, which was initially set to end 31 July.

“NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2009 remains our largest dining promotion to date, and we are pleased to extend the program with an unprecedented number of participating eateries,” said NYC & Company CEO George Fertitta. “New York City residents and visitors are encouraged to experience the more than 200 restaurants across the City through the rest of the summer season at a price that won’t break the bank.”

The deal is the same: $24.07 three-course prix-fixe lunches and $35 three-course prix-fixe dinners (excluding Saturdays, beverage, tax and gratuity).

Not a high price to pay at 21 Club where as of January, men no longer are required to wear ties at dinner. But those not wearing dinner jackets (at any meal) won’t be admitted to experience asparagus terrine, green tea-rubbed pork chop green and crème brulée w/key lime sablé in a joint with both a storied and sordid history, not to mention all of those famous customers, including sitting presidents since FDR (except George W. Bush, and thus far, the hardworking Barack Obama).

Head’s Up: 21 Club will be closed for summer vacation 17 Aug.- 8 Sept. It will re-open 9 Sept. and resume the restaurant week promotion through 31 October. For more information about “NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2009,” including special offers, the list of participating restaurants and selected menus, call 311 and/or visit www.nycgo.com/restaurantweek.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Styling and Profiling in the Moss Garden

The crowd, above, in the garden at the Upper East Side townhouse of Charlotte Moss. Below, Michelle Harper illustrating that one can strike a balance without symmetry. Photos by Patrick McMullan and Shaun Mader/Patrick McMullan Company.


THE star of the FIT Museum’s Annual Couture Council Summer Party last night was personal style. One got the impresssion that folks – the authentic fashionistas – dressed themselves. No surprise. They KNOW fashion.

They are not movie stars overdone by a retinue of minions in threads and baubles borrowed from A-list designers. After all, they (i.e., CeCe Cord Yigal Azrouël Amy Fine Collins Valerie Steele Hamish Bowles) ARE fashion.

Rosemary Ponzo showed off in flapper style a leaner version of herself, which she attained by “lifting men,” she deadpanned. The designer and Renaissance woman was a goddess in a black sleeveless shift that she “had made” once upon a time. It looked to be silk and was adorned with sequins, buttons and paillettes in silver, gold, white and orange. The appliques were fancifully arranged in teardrop and floral patterns. On RP’s head tiled like a gangster lean was Saturn, that is a Saturn-ringed hat topped with a shock (or two) of orange boa feathers.

Also dressed as a goddess, perhaps one of Egyptian/Greek extraction, was stylist to stars Lauren Solomon. She was turned out in a white Adam Lippes dress with empire waist and dolman sleeves (which was reminiscent of a number from the 2008 collection of rising-star Mexican designer Christian Cota, also in attendance and looking rather like an Adonis/GQ cover model/young George Hamilton in Downy-white low-rider pants and a simple, sexy silkish print shirt in taupe). LS accented the dress with a bronze vintage snakeskin Judith Leiber belt and bronze bangles galore from India and Couture Couture.

Meanwhile, on earth was pixieish Michelle Harper doing an interesting turn as a 21st century Audrey Hepburn. The businesswoman’s (luxury cosmetics) main tool was a top that Yours Truly can only describe as a multi-dimensional study in asymmetry. Consider: it was black, except for the gray right sleeve; said right sleeve was long on the arm, whereas the left arm was less a sleeve; the right side had a bodice, no (bo)dice for the left side – ditto for the floral applique on the right shoulder; the left side was a halter top; on the right, the bottom of the top stopped with a built-in belt at the natural waistline, meanwhile the left side ended where the thigh began and was accented with a puckering of fabric in a floral shape. Also on the thing somewhere was what looked to be a square, plastic panel. As I said, it was a multi-dimensional study. No doubt to prevent sensory overload, MH wisely decided on a gray skirt in silk. In her hand, she held a red Birkin/Birkinesque bag that was a shade or two darker than her lipstick, which complemented her pale-as-a-vampire complexion. And did I overhear her tell someone she was wearing Dries van Noten pumps?

Speaking of DVN, the Couture Council will honor the Belgian design titan with its 2009 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion at its fourth such benefit luncheon on 9 September at Cipriani 42 Street.

The CC is a group that is passionate about fashion in general and the FIT Museum in particular. They are the likes of council chairs Yaz Hernandez (preternaturally pretty in a pink silk toga-style dress with impressive draping), Liz Peek, Sarah Wolfe, and “just a council member” and agile check-writer Randall Ian Stempler (smart in a gently quilted baby blue pinstripe suit, pink shirt and pink print [or was it black?] tie with black shoes).

These good people merge their time, talents and tony UES townhouses (designer Charlotte Moss) to raise $$$$ to ensure that the museum remains viable and relevant. The party at chez CM is the event that jump starts the CC’s $$$$-raising machine, ending with the September lunch, which the CC describes as “the first event” of New York Fashion Week (10-17 Sept.).

Learn more about the FIT, FIT Museum and the Couture Council at www.fitnyc.edu/
 
Creative Commons License
VEVLYN'S PEN: The Wright take on life by Vevlyn Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at vevlynspen.blogspot.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at vevlyn@yahoo.com.