Category: Friends

Windswept way up the West Side

Saturday, March 8th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Friends

The arduous, detour-ridden trip up to Washington Heights almost derailed the entire evening, bringing our coterie through Herald Square, into the wine store inside Penn Station, onto the A, windblown along 168th Street, aboard an MTA shuttle bus and finally, finally to the Hudson View Gardens.

We lost one member of our party long the way, but the hardy four that made it to JD’s birthday celebration were rewarded with a spirited party among Kiwis and medical researchers, and slices of astoundingly decadent birthday cake.

Empire State Building

David Glass‘s aptly named “Ultimate Chocolate Truffle Cake” truly is like a giant bourbon-infused truffle in cake form: richly dense, it manages to pack in more dark chocolate flavor per bite than just about anything I’ve ever tasted. Locally, the cake is available at Zabar’s — by the slice, too — but for non-locals, the Bloomfield, CT factory ships nationwide. Fine Living named it among the ten best desserts available by mail order.

There’s also an “Incredible Delicious All-Natural Reduced Fat Chocolate Truffle Cake” with 77% less fat than the original version… but tonight’s was not that cake. A slim, fat-packed wedge was all we could manage before the swift, but strange cab ride home.

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Project Runway finale party!

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 | All Things, Events, Friends

Well, it wasn’t quite effortless, but in the end I made it onto the list for tonight’s Project Runway finale viewing party at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. Most who know me know that I’m a huge Project Runway junkie, so this was a big night for which I have SC to thank — both for putting the plans into motion and for rallying to the adventure, despite battling a 103 degree fever.

When would we have this opportunity again, after all?

Contestants from all four seasons of the Bravo reality series were on hand for the broadcast, which took place in the hotel’s subterranean screening room. But before the airing, there were cocktails, champagne, passed hors d’oevres, and lots of people watching. Among the constantly popping flashbulbs, I very quickly overcame my initial reluctance to snap copious photos of the festivities. It seemed that at every turn was someone I recognized from television: Ted Allen of Queer Eye and Top Chef fame, Kara Janx (Season 2), Malan Breton (Season 3), Alison Kelly (Season 3), random models scattered throughout — instantly identifiable for towering head and shoulders above everyone else…

And at the center of it all, in the press area, was tiny 21-year old finalist (and fan favorite) Christian Siriano. Hmm, interesting…

Project Runway press

Christian Siriano

Now at that point in the evening the finale had yet to air, so the season’s winner was not publicly known. We had our strong suspicions, but although several in attendance clearly had inside information, they were sworn to secrecy. SC and I had no luck wheedling the information in advance out of the The Weinstein Company producer we met at the coat check.

Tim Gunn was one of the most popular guests at the party, chatting with everyone (designers, reporters and lay people alike), and being generally charming.

Tim Gunn

Finalist Rami Kashou (below) arrived about an hour before the show, all smiles, followed last of all by Jillian Lewis, petite and beautiful in her strapless, lacy metallic minidress, and escorted by her boyfriend/business partner Lewaa Abdulkhalek.

Rami Kashou

Victorya Hong, whose new line na•be — nah-BEE, Korean for “butterfly”– launches in Fall 2008, was accompanied by her tall, bespectacled husband, and smiling more than she ever had on the show. Tim gave a dishy, refreshingly candid post-show interview in which he confirmed what a “sourpuss, a crabby apple… a sour pill” Victorya was throughout the entire PR run. (Me-ow!) Christian was considerably less harsh in his characterization of her… but he may not be the most impartial judge as we all know how he feels about Asians, generally.

[Update: Oh, snap! Victorya responds to Tim’s comments via Blogging Project Runway!]

Victorya Hong

Chris March in animal print (of course!) and a dry-eyed Ricky Lizalde in red patent cap (ditto!), with Andy Cohen, Bravo’s senior VP of Programming:

Ricky Lizalde & Chris March

I was pleasantly surprised to run into KC seated with another editor on a banquette outside the theatre. We spent a brief time catching up, and before we knew it, the 10PM hour drew nigh, and the guests were herded inside for the finale broadcast.

By the time Heidi Klum announced “This… is Project Runway!“, almost every seat in the theatre was taken: Tim, the three finalists, a couple of their models and assorted VIPs were seated on couches in the front row, facing the hovering cameras, while several of Season 4’s contestants clustered in a row near the rear. CS and I were relegated to perching on the steps along the side — total fire hazard, but at least we were in good company with PR stylist Nathaniel Hawkins behind us and, for a while, the Project RunGay Boys.

Kathleen “Sweet P” Vaughn, Jack Mackenroth (his boyfriend, Top Chef Season 3 runner-up Dale Levitski was not in attendance), Victorya, her model Jacqueline and Carmen Webber (seated):

Project Runway audience

Last year’s PR winner Jeffrey Sebelia, Santino Rice (Season 2) and Kit Pistol (Season 4) watched the broadcast with fans in Los Angeles.

Here in New York City, the screening was rather lively, with much cheering from the audience for all three designers. Commercial breaks were muted, and offered everyone a good opportunity to speculate amongst themselves and to dash to the bar for refills.

The Bryant Park collections drew lots of appreciative oohs and ahhs for Christian’s, Rami’s and Jillian’s work. (Not aired: Sweet P’s and Chris’s showings before guest judge Posh at Fashion Week in early February — decoy collections which predated the broadcast of their subsequent elimination episodes.)

I will say that Bravo did a reasonable job maintaining suspense when most (including judge Michael Kors) seemed to have the winner of this contest pegged early on. And though I’d found Christian’s preening — dare I say: bitchy — affectations throughout the season pretty off-putting at times, it was rather endearing to see him humbled at the end — clearly wanting the win so much, but extremely nervous that it would slip away.

It didn’t, of course. Christian Siriano wins Project Runway Season 4! (“Hello, did you have a doubt? Come on, what up?“) Later that night when Christian was presented with that comically giant $100,000 check in front of his competitors, they seemed as a whole thrilled for him, which suggested to me that his antics didn’t generate too much ill will, and were probably exaggerated for good television.

Post-show, Tim with Kevin Christiana (whom I startled on the way into the party by inadvertently squealing his name… forgetting for a moment that this wasn’t my living room and that the contestants could, you know, hear me) and Sweet P, pretty in purple.

Kevin Christiana, Tim Gunn & Sweet P Vaughan

When we congratulated Christian’s runway model Lisa for winning the spread in Elle magazine, she thanked us sweetly and beamed in her new outfit — a one-shouldered dark blue ruffled mini-dress, created by you-know-who the night before, just for this occasion.

Season 1‘s winner Jay McCarroll, whose “homelessness” as reported in a New York magazine feature on the post-show difficulties faced by Bravo reality stars turned out to be greatly exaggerated. With Nora Caliguri (Season 1) and her sister.

Jay McCarroll

The party continued late into the night at Marquee, but CS and I headed home with our TRESemmé gift bags, having had our fill of fierceness and fabulosity for one evening.

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Celebrating citizenship

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008 | All Things, Events, Friends

At CL’s invitation, I attended my first ever naturalization ceremony this Wednesday morning. Over 350 people from 55 countries (including one active member of the U.S. Armed Forces) were sworn in as United States citizens at Stuyvesant High School’s Murray Kahn Auditorium. The event was hosted by the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Emilio T. González (himself a naturalized citizen); the keynote address was delivered by Taiwanese-born U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, who with her father Dr. James S. C. Chao, was being presented with an Outstanding American by Choice Award. According to the USICS, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, the award is designed to recognize naturalized citizens who have made significant contributions to both their community and their adopted country.

Stuyvesant’s principal Stanley Teitel (at the podium) offered the welcoming remarks.

Naturalization Ceremony

After the Honor Guard from Lt. B.R. Kimlau Chinese Memorial Post 1291 presented the colors, the Stuyvesant Concert Chorus performed a selection of patriotic songs, including “The Star Spangled Banner,” “This is My Country” and “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” a tune with lyrics drawn from Emma Lazarus‘ 1833 sonnet “The New Colossus,” whose famous lines appear on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Naturalization Ceremony

And then, the moment most had been waiting for: the ceremony itself. As the names of each country represented were read aloud, the range of nations stood as testimony to the richness of America’s variety and its continuing status as a country of immigrants.

The oath was administered solemnly, with the new citizens raising their right hands to repeat the words:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

It was all very moving. When it was done, there were smiles, tears, and cheers as the newly naturalized citizens waved miniature American flags amidst hearty applause and the flashing of cameras. Several leaped out of their chairs and hugged, and many turned to the rear auditorium where their friends and family were seated, beaming broad smiles.

Naturalization Ceremony

Two of Stuy’s own, Chinese immigrants Minglian Pan, 17, and Yimei Hu, 15, (standing far right on stage in the photo above) were naturalized that morning, and after being presented with their certificates of citizenship, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Secretary Chao (not always the most sympathetic of characters) delivered a heartfelt speech as she accepted her award as the first Asian-American woman to be appointed to a presidential cabinet. In it, she related part of the story — just one of hundreds in the room — of how her Taiwanese parents came to make their lives in the United States through struggle and hard work, driven by the desire to better the lot of their children.

Chao’s voice choked with emotion as she dedicated her award to her mother, Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, who passed away last August after a 7-year battle against lymphoma.

Naturalization Ceremony

America’s newest citizens:

Naturalization Ceremony

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