Vol. 1 No. 1

Welcome to the latest incarnation of The Symposium as we approach our 25th year in print, on and off line. The smokestack above is from our luggage ticket on Cunard’s Mauritania, from Naples to New York, in the summer of 1963. We always try to look fore and aft at the same time.

On a freezing winter morning we walked to 61 W. Superior to the Poetry Foundation’s new home, a suave glass box paying homage to MoMA. We inquired if the 35,000 volume library contained any books of our friend the late G.E. Murray but alas were turned away for it was “poem time” for two infants in carriages and one toddler who, given her tender years, probably cared not for Pablo Neruda or W.B. Yeats. In New York we observed that the Whitney and other cultural destinations had become a place for young mothers to bring their strollers.

Poetry Foundation-interior

Inside the library

When a charitable event has “raised $50,000 dollars” for a cause does it mean gross or net? The Martha Stewart event at the Orrington in Evanston for the American Cancer Society was said to have grossed 60K and netted 18K. The amount of money the charities actually receive varies from 5% to 50%. Always keep your eye on the bottom line. Susan G. Komen charity in 2011 spent 15% for research to find a cure for breast cancer, 43% for education, 18% on admin and fundraising. Some question the small % for research. Reuters reporters Sharon Begley and Janet Roberts are on the case.

Madame Stewart did not indulge in any book signing. She is probably amortizing the rate of return on her original signatures for future collectors.


E.M. Forster autographs

By the way we have original hand written notes and signatures from E.M. Forster, John Updike, Bloomsburyiana, if anyone interested please contact us at the email below.

We always go to Charity Navigator, GiveWell.com, Guide Star, Charity Watch to view what groups merit our support. Nicholas Kristoff, none other than, has written a Giving Guide noting that the Feed the Children foundation spent $65 for administrative costs for every $100 raised. Another poverty czardom. In other words less than a fourth goes to the children.

One should shoot for the record of ConcernWorldwide with 95% given directly to the causes it supports. This is a dandy group of committed women. There is a luncheon on the 24th of this month at the Fairmont honoring Jacqueline Novogratz founder of the Acumen Fund, and Loyola’s Diane Geraghty. Call 312-431-8400.

Take the rubberband off the wad!!!! In the United States foundations hold investment assets of $600 billion but donate less than $50 billion each year. Harvard Business Review suggests unlocking those assets.


Tom Parish - Finestre

One would think Chelsea Clinton, given her advantages and connections, could think of something more significant to do than being a talking head, reading news someone else writes – Chris Cuomo, Ron Reagan (remember that strange bird?). We call them anchors or reporters; in the UK they are the more accurate “news readers.”

Top Shop and that other place with all the sewing machines in the windows on MichAve – the wily Brits trying to put something over on us again. Impossible to spend a nanosecond in the stores the “musical offerings” are so loud and grating (hey check acceptable OSHA guidelines for decibel counts!!!) so cannot report on the shmatte. It is not necessary to be assaulted during shopping: Always a soothing and intelligent experience in Crate & Barrel for a shopper. Why doesn’t the rag trade realize this?

Controversial CEO of Arcadia Group which owns Top Shop Philip Green appeared, to much bowing and scraping, in Chicago for the opening. (One remembers when David Radler and Conrad Black were treated like princes of the realm here). He lives in Monaco and has been accused of corporate tax avoidance and using child labor; in December there was a sit-in at Green’s flagship Top Shop in London and in Brighton where protestors actually glued themselves to the windows. Remember when Conrad Black and David Ratner were treated like visiting dignitaries here in the Windy city?

After many a summer we had occasion to pop in to RL next to the flagship store, a wee claustrophobic but with excellent lighting and we still smile at the faux Ivy League heritage décor of shoppe and eatery. Ralph must have had some serious culture envy comme un enfant.

Mother Lucy always reminded us: “Darling in New York we LOVE art.” Well we do too. Way back last Spring Tom Parish held a most gorgeous show of Venetian paintings at Gruen Gallery, consisting of street scenes of his spiritual home where he lives half the year. He grew up here and was professor of Painting at Wayne State University in Detroit for 35 years.

Tom O'Gorman and Adams Umbach

Tom O'Gorman and Adam Umbach

Two art exhibitions at Kiki’s on Franklin were orchestrated by Tom O’Gorman, one of this own colorful impasto paintings of illuminati and scenes d’Irlandaise, sponsored by the Irish Fellowship Society of Chicago, and the other of young artist Adam Umbach. His works are decorative, elegant and unpretentious. Tom’s reputation as a Cholly Knickerbocker tastemaker attracted large crowds including Cynthia Olson, Jonathon Wells, Rosie O’Neill, Steve Zick, and the man with the wonderful moniker Ed Schimmelpfennig amongst many others.

A l’autre cote those of Francine Turk in her show BADASS — bourgeois chic, very large impressions of previous bad boys like Jimi Hendrix, positively Tintorettoesque compared with the embroidered pillowcases at MoniqueMeloche that sell for thousands and thousands. We were informed they were conceptual pieces that had to be sold only in pairs. For gullible collectors of art fair fare.

Too bad we can’t see the Tate’s Gerhard Richter retro to remind us what great art is capable of.  Or the Kiefer retro also in London at White Cube. Prescient Lew Manilow was one of the first to collect his works; this fellow has a great eye.

Leonardo’s “Virgin and Child With Saint Anne” at the Louvre has been controversially cleaned of the patina of the ages and brightened to enhance primary colors for parochial 21st century tastes. We never have liked the un-shellacking of the Sistine Chapel.

Say No to Ivory

Say No to Ivory

Decades ago we threw into an incinerator at 130 Rue de Rennes, our ivory beads and earrings – and we suggest you do the same now. Hide the netsuke too. Elephants such as remain on the stressed planet do not deserve to die for jewelry or billiard balls. By the by, we met with a development staffer of IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and offered to help raise funds but seems you can’t event VOLUNTEER these days without connections.

An Honorable Englishman is about the life and times of the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, providing an insight into the tiny claustrophobic world of academic infighting. Hitler forgeries aside you have to love a man who writes, “Hunting is the pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable.” That game preserve in Texas featured on 60 Minutes where you can slaughter endangered species should be shut down immediately.  Save us from the Lone Star state.

Rob Brickner,Kay Whitfield,Sarah Beardsley,and Ted Tetzlaff

Rob Brickner,Kay Whitfield,Sarah Beardsley,and Ted Tetzlaff

Megan McKinney worked for years on the Magnificent Medills which was praised on the front page of the New York Times Book Review by Joseph Epstein. You don’t get any bigger than that –anywhere.If you haven’t bought this history of early Chicago  journalism -do! Megan held a soiree at the Casino to introduce the book on November 11th.  Here is a photo by Bob Carl.

Movies are characteristically deeply stupid but we did find an exception with George Clooney’s campy performance in the revenge film Descendants much the best of the recent lot.  The J. Edgar biopic suffered from bad makeup and bad casting (DiCaprio is never believable) and The Help was, well, we’ve seen it all before though Viola Davis superb.

John “UnRoyko” Kass already sees another mayoral Daley on the horizon – viz. Nora D. Conroy.  Mon Dieu!

Do you adore Julian Fellowe’s snobby soap opera Downton Abbey which like Upstairs Downstairs is a drame bourgeois  revealing we cannot get enough of perceived privileged life –in our pared down pizza waitress and plumber world today. Do pick up David Cannadine’s Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy.

Wish I could report that I saw RED at the Goodman, but couldn’t afford it so bought John Logan’s script instead and amazed at the artistic license about Mark Rothko’s life. But the playwright did capture the essence of his obsession and at least it ain’t yet another “kitchen sink” drama, you know those dreary brown sets with everyone screaming about hurt feelings. (Jane Fonda showed up on irritating Piers Morgan’s program –Larrrrrrrry come baaaaaaaaaack– as usual talking about Henry and her filial pain. Get a new script!!!)

We do indeed miss the Fitzpatrick Hotel where the Affinia on Superior now sparely stands? Philanthropic bachelor John Fitzpatrick, the CEO of the Fitzpatrick Hotel Group of North America recently went on the Irish program Secret Millionaire and went undercover to discover what charities are the most worthy. Good show, John.

Town & Country has turned the corner with some less P.C. offerings such as Nina Griscom’s defense of smoking, a sly rebuke at efforts at Orwellian or Huxleyan social control. In case you haven’t noticed these guys had it right in the 1930s. We see that Ms. Griscom spent the hols on Tom (Refco) Dittmer’s Rancho LaZaca in Santa Ynez.

Au revoir to Charlie Trotter. Grace a Sheila King some years ago we got to see the master at work in his kitchen with Alain Ducasse (and his tall, blond girlfriend lurking behind every pot) . We will never forget the two men hunched like WW II generals over a red wine sauce in this kitchen of military precision, cleanliness and the grape seed oil. Trotter never overdid the media blitzkrieging that affects chefs today. Gourmetmania sooooo passé today anyway; a tomato is a tomato is a tomato.

Sherrill Bodine at the Palm Court

Sherrill Bodine at the Palm Court

The Palm Court at the Drake, old Chicago, now just a memory despite all the crustless sandwiches and lukewarm tea. En route we always pass through the Coq D’Or and each time the numbers at the bar drinking those executive martinis fewer and fewer. On this particular evening Sherrill Bodine was signing her latest book which attracted romance novelist readers young and old. We always enjoy seeing Warren and Hazel Barr and John and Myra Reilly from the enduring charitable set. We also had the pleasure of meeting Ellen Wesley and Lisa Adelstein.

See the Shedd has added another free day; one of these issues we’ll talk about the cost of entry into the Big Five, which prevents us from popping in and can only imagine how prohibitive it is to families and those who could benefit the most. In recent decades this city turned into an elitist enclave and lost much of its character and humanity. Don’t confuse elitism with snobbism, which is a synonym for standards.

2011 Chicago Ski and Snowboard Ball

2011 Chicago Ski and Snowboard Ball

Here are some photos from the 2011 Chicago Ski and Snowboard Ball which was a blast. Our Olympic team receives zero dollars from the government for their courageous efforts and are 100% supported by the efforts of the USSA and private sector funding. Co-chairs of the successful gala with the most gorgeous floral arrangements were John and Jacqui Bucksbaum and Brian and Julie Simmons.

Vanity Fair proclaims from on high the 50, or is it 100?, New Establishment 2011 “Powers That Be” and two locals are on the list, Hall of Famer Oprah of course and Andrew Mason. Does anyone think Groupon $$$$ effective? Do you love the Yelp/sommelier brouhaha apparently based on overbooking by the discount ticket group?

We don’t want to make this column too eschatological but must note the passing of Marshall Rosenthal (who wrote the television news for those readers) and a stalwart at Old Riccardo’s,   Jay Miller of the ACLU and Christopher Hitchens whom a friend from Oxford emails “You Yanks are much impressed by posh boys from the UK who drink and talk a lot”. Peut-etre Robert!

Guess the Address

Guess the Address

Guess the Address: first one to guess correctly can promote the charity of their choice including logo on this humble site.

A bientot

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply