Sunday, May 8, 2011

Gay Talese at his table at Elaines?

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NEW YORK — Everyone went to Elaine's – and now they'll have nowhere to go.

For regulars still mourning the death of Elaine Kaufman in December, the news that her namesake restaurant in Manhattan was closing on Thursday has been a double blow. They gathered one last time at the place where they ate so-so food while rubbing shoulders with the likes of Michael Caine and Woody Allen. And then they will be cast adrift.

"Half the people in this room are never going to see one another again," said legendary writer Gay Talese, who added that Elaine's had created a circle of people, many of whom had nothing in common besides the place itself.

"This is saying goodbye to one another," Talese said.

"I don't know what many of us will do," said TV broadcaster Rikki Klieman, who was introduced to Elaine's by her husband, Bill Bratton, a former New York City police commissioner and Los Angeles police chief. "I guess we'll just have to stay home."

Bratton held court in the packed room at "Jack Maple's table." Maple was the architect of CompStat, the system the New York Police Department uses to track crime. He sketched it out on a napkin at the table in 1994, Bratton said.

"You're going to hear the term bittersweet a lot tonight," Bratton said. "There will be plenty of stories told at these tables tonight and few more made."

Elaine's was synonymous with plugged-in New York for the better part of five decades. "And they were all impressed with your Halston dress and the people that you knew at Elaine's," Billy Joel sang. The restaurant inspired books titled "Everyone Comes to Elaine's" and "Last Call at Elaine's."

For the regulars, Elaine's was more than a scene. It was a family, a club without dues, a dinner party with a glittering guest list.

Ruth Westheimer, better known as sexpert Dr. Ruth, described the night as sitting shiva for the bar. Shiva is a Jewish bereavement custom.

"She went out of her way for people she liked," Westheimer said of Elaine.

Loren Korevec played the piano at the bar from 1987 to 1999.

"It's a kind of mourning – this is never going to happen again anywhere," he said as he greeted old friends including former longtime bartender Tommy Carney, 71, who had just arrived from New Jersey.

"It was so comfortable for us because we were on the inside," said Kathryn Altman, who started going to Elaine's in the 1970s when her late husband, film director Robert Altman, was riding high after "MASH." "It was like a club."

The club was not limited to boldface names. Dana Carey, who is director of event sponsorships for a trade publication, started going to Elaine's as a young woman nearly 30 years ago.

"I knew that every Thursday I could walk in as a single person and I would know about a third to half the restaurant," Carey said. "And everybody was always, `Come sit with us, come sit with us.' There was no other place like it, where you would see an actor, a writer, a neurosurgeon and a former Mets baseball star, all sitting together, and the only common denominator was that they were an Elaine's regular."

Kaufman died at 81 after running Elaine's for 48 years. Longtime manager Diane Becker inherited the restaurant and tried to keep it open before announcing May 17 that it would close for good on Thursday.

"This is one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make," Becker said in a statement. "But the truth is, There is no Elaine's without Elaine."

The regulars said Kaufman's uncanny ability to introduce guests to the fellow guest they would most want to meet made it difficult to imagine the restaurant without her.

"If you were sitting alone, she would introduce you to somebody interesting," said Harry Benson, a Scotland-born photographer who arrived in America with the Beatles in 1964 and is currently shooting for Vanity Fair. "A detective who was working on the Son of Sam case. She never put you with some dreary person."

The food was not the selling point.

Allen, who shot the first scene of "Manhattan" at Elaine's, said through a spokeswoman that he was not available for an interview. But he told New York magazine at a screening of his latest movie "Midnight in Paris" that he went to Elaine's every night for decades "despite the unrelenting bad food." He added that "everybody went for conversation and meeting people and chatting, and that was the success of the place."

The decor was indifferent as well. The dark-paneled walls at Elaine's were festooned with the framed covers of books by authors who ate and drank there.

Celebrities like Allen knew that Elaine's was one place where no one would bother them. And there were plenty of celebrities.

"Catherine Deneuve used to go there when she was in town," Benson said. "Willie Nelson. Clint Eastwood. A lot of unlikely people."

Carey said she met her best friend, mystery writer Carol Higgins Clark, at Elaine's. She also met mystery writer Stuart Woods, whose protagonist is always having dinner at Elaine's.

Ruda Dauphin, the U.S. representative of France's Deauville American Film Festival, said she brought people by to show them off to Kaufman and to show Kaufman off to them.

"I brought in Buzz Aldrin," she said. "From the moon to Elaine's. He loved it."

Klieman said that Kaufman would tell her, "I think you might want to stay tonight" when she was expecting a Jack Nicholson or a James Gandolfini.

Her husband, Bratton, said the clientele spanned the range of New York life from writers and actors to the occasional mobster.

"The cast of characters could best be described as sort of a Damon Runyon crew," he said.

Many of the regulars have been returning to Elaine's every night since the closing was announced and planned to be there Thursday.

"Everybody changed their plans in order to be there," Klieman said.

They will exchange numbers and make plans to keep in touch, but it won't be the same.

"Everybody will eventually find a new place to go but we won't all find a new place together," Carey said. "We'll all gravitate to different places."

There may be speeches. There will surely be tears.

"It's like losing Elaine twice: first herself, then the living room where she conducted her nightly salon," Woods, the mystery writer, said in an email. "It was a club where the public were allowed to pay to watch the members dine, and the members liked that."


Talese House Ocean City

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Gay Talese, Famed Ocean City Writer, Has Packed Up and Left the Island
By Kevin C. Shelly

His wife's purchase of a country home led to his decision to sell the century-old Ocean City house they’d owned since 1967, when they bought it for $37,000. It sold for $1.6 million.

Gay Talese reluctantly but resignedly left the island that spawned him Friday.

Accompanying moving trucks, the famed 79-year-old writer and his wife, noted publisher Nan A. Talese, 77, are headed to a country home in Connecticut -- a home she bought without his knowledge.

After the purchase, she waited a month to tell him.

As he said of his wife earlier in the week, “she has her will,” reminding me that Nan had forced the issue of marriage on him at the start of their long relationship.

His eldest daughter, painter Pamela Talese, laughed when I mentioned her father’s comment to her Friday.

“There is no movement, no accommodation from Gay Talese. He hasn’t changed direction for as long as I’ve known him,” said Pamela, who spent summers in Ocean City. Her mother had wanted to move for years, she said, and the buy forced the issue.

Pamela says each summer she was watched over by a nanny while her father worked a set schedule writing in a sequestered third floor office in the Ocean City home and her mother worked during the week in New York publishing houses, coming to Ocean City for weekends.

Unable to justify maintaining three homes -- the couple has lived in a brownstone on the Upper East Side since they married more than 50 years ago -- Talese struggled for months to come to terms with his wife’s decision.

Nan's purchase of a country home set in motion his decision to sell the century-old Ocean City house they’d owned since 1967, when they bought it for $37,000.

Eventually, he listed his Ocean City home for sale, but wanted no sign, no open house, no special marketing effort. Even with his home for sale, he was not quite ready to cut ties to the city that shaped him as a journalist and safe-harbored him as a writer.

I’ve know Gay for 29 years, but I learned of the sale second-hand. So I wrote him
-- the surest way of engaging him, though he has begun using email.

Several notes came to me last winter, including a trademark post card he’d fashioned from a shirt cardboard. The letters discussed his emotional struggle with going through with the sale. He didn’t want to have a story written about the possible sale until the home sold because he simply was not ready.

On April 13, I called Gay and informed him that the buyers he’d selected -- he chose the buyer’s he’d verbally committed to first, not the highest offer -- had agreed to buy the house.

The couple buying the home, with a long family history in Ocean City, paid $1.6 million, $200,000 under the asking price. They plan to rehabilitate the home and move into it, a process they think could take a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A closing is set for June 10, though the agreement could come sooner, according to the buyers, who have asked not to be identified until the sale is complete.

Gay was still clearly conflicted by the sale when I spoke to him at the E. Atlantic Boulevard residence Thursday amid packing and preparing to have dinner with the buyers.
He talked of how crowded Ocean City is now, how bad the parking has become, the wear on his wife caused by traveling to and from Manhattan on the jammed Garden State Parkway and the mess caused by reconstruction on the Route 52 causeway.

But he also spoke of how his career as a writer of books -- he’d begun as a journalist, writing about sports and features, first for the Ocean City Sentinel Ledger and The Press of Atlantic City before college, eventually taking a job at the New York Times -- had taken shape here.

He also spoke of the pleasure he’d gotten from spending summers at the shore with daughters Pamela and Catherine, and spending time with his late mother, Catherine Talese. His mother's home was a few minutes away, also in the Gardens section of the city.

We also talked of the the book he is at work on: his relationship with his wife.
Nan, who usually absents herself when Gay is interviewed, mixed in more than usual Thursday. She rolled her eyes and smiled when I asked about the topic of the planned book.

“I married a writer, and I trust his writing. But he knows nothing about marriage. I’ll be surprised when I read it,” she said.

As we spoke, neighbors stopped by to ask if it was true that the house was sold, to recall old times, to ask about the Talese’s grown daughters.

As the talk wound down, Gay handed me a signed copy of Unto the Sons, a book set largely in Ocean City.

He gave me the book, in part, because he was working on the galley proofs for the book when I first met him.

But he also gave it to me because it was one fewer thing that he needed to worry about taking with him -- or leaving behind.

A full account of my interview with Gay Talese will appear in the July edition of New Jersey Monthly.

For more information on Talese:

Gay and Nan Talese in Ocean City

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Where a Literary Couple Catch their breath Down the Shore
Julia Lawler - NYTimes Travel Section - August 3, 2007

See: Slide Show
Ocean City

GAY TALESE never learned to swim and only occasionally ventures onto the beach. The wind makes it impossible for him to read the newspaper and, he said, during a recent visit to his second home in Ocean City, N.J., “I’m not going to sit on the sand swatting flies.”

Yet for the last 40 years, Mr. Talese, a writer, and his wife, Nan, a Manhattan book editor, have spent weekends and summers there, in the town where he was born, tucked into a rambling red-shingled Victorian they own that sits just one block from the ocean.

Unlike the Hamptons or Litchfield, Conn., where many of the couple’s Manhattan friends seek refuge, Ocean City has long been a getaway for middle-class Philadelphians.

The Taleses like it because it’s the antithesis of the Manhattan literary whirl. So, don’t ask for a whole-wheat roll at the hoagie shop, or a chic mixed drink when you’re dining out. Ocean City has been dry since its beginnings as a Methodist retreat in 1879. Night life? Choose between the kiddie rides on the boardwalk or star-gazing on the beach.

“It’s a great contrast to New York,” said Mr. Talese, who is 75, as he conducted a tour around town, pointing out the building on Asbury Avenue where his mother owned a dress shop, his father ran a tailoring business and the family lived in an upstairs apartment.

Large parts of many of his books, including “The Kingdom and the Power”; “Thy Neighbor’s Wife”; “Unto the Sons,” a family reminiscence that’s largely set in Ocean City; and his latest, “A Writer’s Life,” were written in the third-floor office of his Ocean City Victorian.

“Nobody bothers me here,” he said. “I much prefer it in winter. It’s empty, and you can see the sky. It’s light, and cheerful.”

Built in 1902, the house sits on a tree-lined street in one of the resort town’s most desirable neighborhoods, the Gardens. As in most houses of its kind at the shore, the first floor is raised above street level to take advantage of sea breezes, with a wraparound porch, white wicker furniture and a green-and-white-striped awning. Although the original view from the front porch favored dunes stretching all the way to the Atlantic, by the time the Taleses arrived there were already houses across the street. Five years ago, those were torn down and replaced by town houses, which still did nothing to revive the old sea view.

If you squint, though, you can still see a bit of ocean from a wide window seat in the second-floor master bedroom. Mrs. Talese, who is publisher of Nan A. Talese/Doubleday books (her writers include Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan), likes to read there in the afternoons after her morning swim and some weeding in the garden. “It’s marvelous with the sun on your skin,” she said.

The house has seven bedrooms, four on the second floor and three on the third, one of which is Mr. Talese’s office. The three bathrooms on the second and third floors contain original claw-foot tubs, each painted to coordinate with the wall color.

Their purchase of the house came about almost by accident. The couple rented it for the summer in 1967 when their older daughter, Pamela, was a toddler, and their younger daughter, Catherine, was a newborn. They were planning to rent it again the next summer when they discovered that another family was considering buying it to live in year-round.

“I said to Gay, ‘Buy it,’ ” Mrs. Talese recalled. They were renting an apartment in an Upper East Side brownstone, a building they would buy many years later, and had little money to spare. But it didn’t deter her. “It was on the spur of the moment,” she said. “He’s cautious. He wants to be unfettered. But I like real estate.”

It turned out to be a wise investment. The house cost $32,000, including the adjoining lot. Mr. Talese said he recently had offers of $1 million to $1.4 million.

Although the two considered buying a place in the Hamptons or Connecticut in the 1970s to be able to spend more time with friends, they decided it would be too much like their social life in New York.

“It’s a place to be away,” Mrs. Talese said. “When we come down, we just stay at home.”

One of the first major changes they made was to winterize the house so Mr. Talese could write there year-round. A deck was added on the back, and bookshelves were added to in the dining and living rooms. And a pantry wall in the kitchen was demolished to open up the space.

Mr. Talese’s third-floor office is set up so that he rarely has to leave. There is a bed that he sleeps in when he’s in Ocean City alone; an ancient IBM Selectric with a grimy plastic cover; and a five-year-old Power Macintosh, which is not connected to the Internet. (Mr. Talese does not engage in e-mail and prefers to hand-deliver his manuscripts to his editors). To reduce the glare from a skylight, Mr. Talese has put together a plastic foam canopy that swoops over his U-shaped desk like a sail on a blustery day. Mrs. Talese calls it “the suspension bridge.”

Slide Show
Ocean City
His summer routine is to write in the morning, play tennis in the afternoon, then maybe watch a game on the 36-inch Sony Trinitron with DirecTV service that he has set up in his office. His tastes run from the Yankees to Japanese skiing.

At the other end of the hall is a room that doubles as a home gym (Mr. Talese lifts weights, and Mrs. Talese uses a videotape for Pilates) and a guest room for visiting writers. The novelist William Kennedy and Mr. Talese’s cousin, Nick Pileggi, are among those who have stayed and worked there for extended periods.

The house is strictly a kick-off-your-shoes-and-stay-awhile place, even though Mr. Talese continues his habit of dressing formally — even in the heat of summer.

“There’s nothing spiffy about this place,” Mr. Talese said one 90-degree day earlier this summer, looking natty in a long-sleeve, pink linen shirt with contrasting white collar, cufflinks, tan pants, a yellow-and-green neck scarf, white belt and brown shoes. Outdoors, he covered his silver hair with a straw fedora and, by early evening when the sun had lost its edge, slipped on a beige jacket with a yellow silk handkerchief tucked in the pocket.

Memories are what seem to count most in the Taleses’ Ocean City home. In the living room, the surface of an old baby grand piano with yellowing keys that once belonged to Mr. Talese’s parents is crowded with family photos and pictures of him with his writing peers — John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, William Styron, Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller. In one baby photo, the Taleses’ daughter Catherine, now a photo editor in New York, sits on the lap of the legendary Random House editor Bennett Cerf.

Journalist pals, like the late David Halberstam, have always been frequent guests. Pamela Talese remembers her father and his writing cronies lined up on the front porch in their chairs in the mornings, each with his own copy of The New York Times.

Growing up, the Talese children remember old-fashioned summers of swimming, biking and baseball games in the yard. But they also had chores. Each morning they would buy their father a glazed doughnut, leave it outside his office door, then return at 11 a.m. with a plate of poached eggs. After reserving a tennis court for her father in the afternoon, Pamela would bring him a hoagie sandwich and half a beer at 3 p.m. while he watched a ballgame on TV. “Then he would go back and write,” she said.

Although the Talese children have long been on their own, they say they still love visiting the Ocean City house. Once there, they fall into the old routine — padding around in bare feet and taking daily dips in the ocean with their mother, who’s an avid swimmer. On a rare day, they might even catch a glimpse of their father on the beach in a long-sleeve shirt, straw hat, neck scarf and swim trunks, struggling with a newspaper and swatting flies.

Gay Talese at the Bar

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Old Ocean City High School Arch


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All that's left of the Old Ocean City High School is the arch that was supposed to have been destroyed with the rest of the place but was saved and eventually let stand.

The old Ocean City High School was designed by Vivian Smith, a local architect who also designed the Ocean City Hall, the Ocean City Music Pier, Ventnor City Hall and other significant Jersey Shore buildings that stand out for their unique beauty.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Grace and Ranier at Monaco

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Grace and Kate

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Grace Kelly and Kate Middleton

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Desingers and commentators have been pointing out the similarities in the gowns worn by Britain's Duchess of Cambridge in Apri of 2011 and Princess Grace of Monaco in April of 1956. (Credit: Getty Images)

(CBS) Before her wedding to Prince William, Kate Middleton was said to have admired the wedding gown worn by film actress Grace Kelly when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco in April of 1956.

The Sarah Burton-designed lace and satin gown that Middleton herself wore when she married Prince William on Friday, April 29, 2011, had some similarities to that Grace Kelly classic design.

Both gowns have the sleeves and shoulders covered with lace that ends in a tight bodice and then flows into a full skirt with long train. Both brides wore embroidered veils.

The similarity was not lost on many commentators and onlookers. Several designers have called it a modern twist on the Grace Kelly gown. Tim Gunn, of "Project Runway" fame, also acknowledged the resemblance but said Middleton's low-cut neckline gave it a modern look.


During the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it was repeatedly pointed out that America has no royalty, other than the symbolic royality often bestowed on the Kennedy family.

But America does have royality, in Prince Albert and Princess Caroline and Stephanie of Monaco, the son and daughters of Princess Grace, the former Grace Kelly of Philadelpia and Ocean City, NJ.

Of course we know Grace from her time in Ocean City, where her father built the Spanish Revival style home on the north west corner of 28th street in 1929, the year Grace was born. Grace Kelly spent parts of every summer of her life in Ocean City, except her last one.

Grace played on the beach in front of her house, and her father later built another brick house across the street on the beach, where members of the Kelly family lived into the 1990s. The last Kelly resident, Grace's younger sister Lizanne, recently passed away in Florida.

As they grew up, they often hung out at the Flander's pool, where Lizanne met her future husband Don Levine, a lifeguard.

Grace had her sweet sixteen party at the Seaview Country Club, where her father was partners with Sonny Fraser, the son of the former golf pro and State legislator who brought the first legal gambling to South Jersey by establishing the Atlantic City Race Track.

As a teenager, like other young girls in Ocean City, Grace worked as a waitress at the Chatterbox on 9th Street, where some of the old timers still remember her.

After her success as an actress on Broadway and in the movies, she met and married Prince Ranier of Monaco, who also visited Ocean City to ask John B. Kelly for the hand of his daughter.

John B. leased an ocean liner to take all of his family and friends from Philadelphia to Monaco for what was called "the Wedding of the Century," and one not matched until the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana.

Also See: The Princess Next Door. (Atlantic City Magazine)

Posted on Apr 29, 2011 3:04 PM by Kim Grundy

Kate Middleton’s wedding dress reminds us of another beautiful royal wedding gown -- Grace Kelly's beautiful gown. The Princess of Monaco had a similar design and silhouette when she married Prince Rainier.
Grace Kelly’s wedding dress has been given the honor of being one of the most copied wedding gowns in history -- and Kate Middleton may be one of them!

Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956 and wore a wedding dress designed by MGM costume designer Helen Rose. Kate Middleton’s dress was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.

Both dresses have beautiful and feminine lace sleeves and a fitted satin bodice. The bodice of Kate’s gown was from English lace and French Chantilly lace that was sewn onto an ivory silk tulle, while Princess Grace’s gown was made from rose point silk needle lace and tulle. Both dresses have a full skirt and long flowing veils.

Both dresses contain a row of satin buttons, however, Kate’s were in the back whereas Grace had hers in the front. Kate’s v-neckline gave her dress a more modern look compared to Grace Kelly’s high neckline.

Designers have taken note of the similarities, with Mark Badgley of Badgley Mischka calling it a "classic Grace Kelly look."

"A combination just in between 1956 Grace Kelly and 1947 Queen Elizabeth dress," said Christian Lacroix. "I love the modest veil with the Queen Mother’s '30s scroll tiara and balanced volume of the whole gown."

Another similarity between the two worth noting: Both Kate Middleton and Grace Kelly were commoners that married into royalty.