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Middlefork Savannah



July 15, 2013

O Frabjous Day! Calloo Callay! Summertime and a long walk on July 4th in the Middle Fork Savannah grasslands of Lake County, the weather glorious, the livin’ easy. Unlike forests, savannahs have no dark tree canopies and speckled light shines on the prairie flowers.

Our joy was marred however by a jailed bird at a ramshackle zoo at Elawa Farms where the spectacular redwing hawk perched alone behind bars, so forlorn so forlorn. Remember the redwing hawks Pale Male and Lola who flew free from Mary Tyler Moore’s apartment building across from Central Park?

Met an old friend from the 60s, Barry Schutz, Visiting Scholar of African Studies at Stanford, at The James on Ontario. We laughed about old times in England, at the University of Lancaster, and the blowhard blogger Glenn Greenwald, the puppet master in the Snowden fiasco, obviously trying hard to make a BIG NAME for himself.

The James

The James has hazardous looking garbage littering the lobby but a bellboy said that it was ART. Maybe the MCA should take a look.

Friends and family of Fred Gohl bid adieu at a mass at Holy Name and a celebration of his life at The Arts Club in a touching tribute to a swell fellow organized by his wife Susan.

Louis XIV’s chef Francois Vatel killed himself when the seafood arrived late for a banquet at the Chateau de Chantilly. Today we have sadsack television cooks like Paula Deen or Martha Stewart who refuse to disappear.

“What I want for dinner is a bass fished in Lake Huron in 1920.” William Burroughs.

Self-styled Citizen of the World Orson Welles, a Kenosha, Wisconsin lad, gave hilarious interviews, just published, roasting old chestnuts like the libidinous Grace Kelly on the prowl in H’wood. He found Bette Davis and Woody Allen too ugly to look at, called Wolfgang Puck “a terrible little man” and refused to meet Richard Burton after he married the cosmic joke Taylor. ”The Godfather was the glorification of a bunch of bums who never existed”.

Renoir by Tissot

In Chicago for the unfortunate production of Private Lives Burton called his ex-wife “as coy as a fat owl”. Worth repeating it is so comical.

Speaking of owls the funniest book review we have ever read could just be Dwight Garner’s in the NYT of Terry Eagleton’s Across the Pond which “hauls out that taxidermied owl Alexis de Tocqueville” (will the guilty please rise). Eagleton gives Garner “that most queasy of literary sensations: that of encountering a writer who isn’t as charming as he thinks he is.” (remind you of someone you know?) as he runs the gamut of Brit vs. Yank clichés.

Cynthia Olson, The Best Brit in Town, invited us to the Sustaining Fellows of the Art Institute lecture by curator Gloria Grooms who described the exhibition we all were to see, Passion for Fashion, a real crowd pleaser combining actual 19th century dresses with contemporary Impressionist paintings. Over 800 guests retired to the Piano garden’s Versailles- length great hall for an extravagant buffet but most fun was dinner with Cynthia and Tom Gorman, the real estate guru. At RL we spotted Jocelyn Stoller and Mike Segal with Steve Lombardo and beaucoup d’autres.

Fashion as fashion strictly a middle class urban phenome, depending on advertising to sell shmatte. We prefer the comfortable “rural” Empire style as in Jane Austen or David’s Mme. Recamier. Shopkeeper’s wives submitted to wasp waisted, slope shouldered, tight bodiced, voluminous skirts that kept them in inside the house with all that mass produced Biedermeier furniture (the IKEA of the time).


Did you happen to catch Peregrine Cavendish’s tour of Chatsworth? Nice but no Castle Howard. The duke said that there is no more English aristocracy but gave his son the estate in the last gasp of primogeniture, only providing something or other for his daughters. The next Duke of Devonshire title is a photographer who goes by the name Bill Burlington.

Jolly Posh the English food shop on Montrose sells the usual Heinz beans and Branston Pickle but could spiff the place up a bit. You don’t have to be that English after all.

Oxford donnish sex symbol 49 year old Niall Ferguson has a new book The Great Degeneration , how over regulation is ruining the West along with the education system which perpetuates a mandarin class. He apparently wants socialism and capitalism at the same time. Niall, darling, don’t let the fool’s gold of popular publishing waste any more of your time.

Tom' O' Gorman's Plein Air exhibit

Aren’t these Big Concept books always a bore anyway — and off the mark? We recently read David Halberstam’s  American Century published in 1991 where he tapped Japan as the next super power with no mention of China.

Best Boring Rag that Used to be Somewhat Readable: The Chicago Reader.

Women should never ever be photographed standing next to Gwyneth Paltrow—they invariably look dumpy and short not to mention ungroomed. The ubiquitous actress was recently bestowed a “Renaissance” Award at the Siskel Theatre.

A previously beautiful TV “anchor” as seen in a recent online column is now a candidate for the Meg Ryan Funny Face award. And no the 86 year old Queen of England should not lose 20 pounds and get all dolled up as has been suggested by some in Chicago, Illinois.

Renaud Hendricks’ Belgian Bakery on Walton charges a few extra pence for buttery croissants but they are worth it.


You are invited to join Lydia De Chakov and Symposia on the First Thursdays of the month at noon at the Shanghai in the Peninsula. This week we were joined by dress designer and fine artist Yolanda Lorente and Tom O’Gorman who will be exhibiting his paintings at O’Brien’s in August with Adam Umbach.

We chatted with Tom and Joan Cusack, unforgettable as “Cyn” in Working Girl, at Judy Maxwell’s, her shoppe that is an artwork in itself, with Edwardian jewelry, antique nightgowns, paintings by Dorian Allsworthy. Unfortunately they have to vacate the premises on State by August 31s. This little strip of street has been a mess for years.

Golfer Sharon MacGregor visiting from Chandler AZ met old friends like Diane Angstrom, Ron Luccicione, and Jack Reynolds at the East Bank Club. Joey remained at home in the west but we drank to the health of this most psychically brilliant African grey who roams uncaged.

Middlefork Savannah

We counted four policeman on every corner of Michigan Avenue one recent Saturday night, presumably so Dubuquers can feel assured they won’t be assaulted by packs of teenagers. Some have blamed the paucity of shoppers in Bloomies as well as Water Tower on fear but it has more to do with monotony of goods offered in a Coachified World.

Sur La Table is now at 900 Michigan but is no Williams Sonoma, so cluttered, and let’s face it you don’t need 97.5% of these kitchen gadgets. Anyway the Kitchen, Cooking, Chef Craze is OVER! Finito! Kaput!

In 1972 Angela Davis was found not guilty by 12 white jurors on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the death of Judge Haley killed by guns registered in her name.

Go rent Gosford Park written by Julian Fellowes a bracing antidote to the saccharine Downton Abbey .

Peggy Noonan versus Maureen Dowd. Both are annoyingly predictable. Column writers a thing of the past anyway. Shake up the mix a bit.

Pauvre Ami

The UK offshore tax shelters are Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, the British Virgin Island, Cayman (you knew that) and Bermuda.

Bill Ayers memoir Fugitive Days came across our desk recently – what a naïve dumbbell this guy was – and he’s a university teacher?

” I let out a ghastly laugh when I thought of anyone saying over my battered corpse, He died doing what he loved.” Paul Theroux





Lit Fest


June 15, 2013

At the Belmont Stakes who was high-fiving it in the Palace Malice winner’s circle right next to trainer Todd Fletcher but…..Jerry Berliant…. on Live TV. What was once a huge joke is now very sinister and gate crashing is no longer funny.

We attended several streets fairs this cold dull month.  Midsommerfest in Andersonville was awash in Gay Marriage and Adopt Dogs stalls, Division was more sophisticated but rain forced us inside to eat muffins, and those Art Fairs in Old Town, well, were The Same as the last 20 years.

The Guerilla Truck Fair on Fulton staged for NEOCON featured rented U-Haul- It and Ryder trucks with “independent” (i.e. amateur) furniture designers and artisans therein.  Morton Sinoway should really jury it next year.

Printer’s Row LitFest … you need to get there an hour before the tatterdemalion book lovers swoop down. Prices a bit higher this year but we did buy Warhol’s memoirs from the 60s, Popism. The sublime simpleton role was just an act of a clever marketing man. Of Capote’s Black and White party at the Plaza he wrote it had “the densest concentration of celebs in the history of the world”. Did not know Cecil Beaton was part of The Factory crowd.

Have you been following the messy Warhol authentication controversy? An exposé published in the New York Review of Books is yet another chapter in dubious “art world” shenanigans– what is and what is not real? If you own one you may never know since the Warhol Authentication Board flew the coop in 2011.

And how about that Trotter lawsuit filed by Bekim and Ilir Frrokaj (are they Albanian?) who paid $46,200 for a bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti then was told it was fake. Quelle idiots!

We once drank a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem 1928 sauterne and it was perfectly ghastly.

Peter Nolan’s best-selling book about the Chicago mayoral election Campaign!  (the one in 1983) was featured at the Amika Press table in Printer’s Row.  It tells the story how the white vote was split between Byrne and Daley and Harold Washington won. Soon after the Council Wars began when the “29” under the direction of the Two Eddies blocked reform legislation by the mayor.

Who died and left Bacci Connors Park to the Argo Tea company? This is no kiosk like Whispers in the Viagra Triangle but a mammoth space- consuming Bogarting affair which is plain ugly.

Memo to Field Museum: we know you’re 110 million in debt but just maybeeeeee that static attendance could be the prohibitive cost of entry. And just maybeeeeeeeee it could be the pain of parking….and maybeeeeeeee it could be the ancient exhibits everyone in the Milky Way has already seen.

Wrapports LLC unwisely let Sun Times’ Terry Savage go, she who writes one of the best financial columns in the country. If you’re smart sign up for her emailed newsletter which never disappoints with smarter than smart and not always PC advice.

We visited The Clare where retired surgeons and their wives can afford to live. In the lobby Joyce Saxon was waiting for Joey Streeto and Jane Field was about to take Buckley for a walk. You can rent now as well as buy which makes sense unless The Children Waiting in the Wings think otherwise.

Do not read the (Manchester) Guardian, even online, anymore after their complicity in the espionage of that Snowden creep. Brits should know these are the same traitorous activities as Kim Philby’s or Anthony Blunt’s and others who sold secrets to the Soviets.

Today, however, even uneducated morons can be spies. Neither Snowden nor Bradley Manning has a college degree or academic training in computer science yet both were able to navigate computer networks and smuggle classified files. Saw We Sell Secrets the Wiki leaks film a harrowing tale about misogynist psychopath Assange. Hope he’s driving the Ecuadorians crazy.

How much do nonprofit executives earn? How about half a million or better per year. Before you make that donation you should check it out at Crain’s.

Barbara Brenner founder of Breast Cancer Action passed away recently. She was among the first to question the “pinkwashing” of America, not Victoria’s Secret, but the retro pink marketing “movement”. Her group Think Before You Pink urged consumers to look out where their money was actually going before donations to cancer research.

The current exhibition of Treasures of Faith, manuscripts and books from the Newberry’s collection, but so dark it is impossible to actually see them. Recently we were told by a menacing Cerberus at the gate to remove our sweater and securely lock it away before heading upstairs. We left.

Cynthia Olsen in London saw Helen Mirren in Audience and said it was absolutely thrilling theatre. The country is shaken about the ghoulish murder in London of a British soldier by enemies residing inside the moated walls. The Barbarians are no longer at the gate – they are here.

When Rock Hudson was asked why he dropped out of psychoanalysis he said about his shrink, “He just sits back and never says a word.”


At RL’s front table painters Tom O’Gorman and Adam Umbach greeted friends and talked art. We joined them and said howdy to Cookie Cohen in a Blackhawk  jersey, Bunky Cushing, Megan McKinney and Mamie Walton. The week before we had lunch here, like a regular Michael’s, with Yolanda Lorente and Helen Schubert with tables full of ladies who lunch.Ladies Who Lunch– Isn’t that so 80s? Maybe 70s? Like “power lunching”?

Gibson’s definitely needs a dress code. On a recent visit for dinner it was shocking to see tables of loud sloppy men in T-shirts. In the old days Steve Lombardo wouldn’t have permitted that shabby deportment.

They also need to read the recently translated Galateo by Giovanni Della Casa, a 17th century handbook of polite behavior including rules for table manners. Has anyone else noticed that even the most manicured looking people grasp their cutlery like weapons? Verboten also is talking about one’s dreams or bragging about children.

 CS’ Travel & Leisure and other magazines should take a tip from Financial Times that acknowledges travel writers’ comped services thusly: “John Doe was a guest of Mars Hotel and Tsunami Airways.”  That they do not is odd.

The richest man in England is Gerald Grosvenor the 6th Duke of Westminster who allegedly uses the same hooker service as Eliot Spitzer. While we’re on it make your application to Robin Birley’s  5 Hertford Street Club the UK’s most exclusive.

The new book The Unwinding about America today claims Oprah has magical thinking, promoting the myth that positive thoughts lead to fame and fortune. George Packer also takes potshots at elitists who nag the poor to eat expensive organics but he lets Elizabeth Warren, who lied about being American Indian, off the hook.

S Spring 2013

For a huge laugh read Tatler’s “The Horror of Skiing” by Annabel Rivkin about striving nouveaus learning to “ski” at 45, a variation of the Instant- “Hey I Made It”-  Horsewoman syndrome.

Once more with feeling: Thomas Dyja’s book on Chicago which started the Shteir Wars reminds us how homogenized the city has become from the days when 620 N.Michigan, the converted fish warehouse, was the center of the art scene with Walter Kelly, Kelvyn Lilley, Susan Mongerson (now Wunderlich) and Sonia Zaks. And there was a bedraggled Woolworth’s down the street with hot dogs and chartreuse relish.




Lascaux Caves


May 17, 2013

The Old Friends Luncheon at the Racquet hosted by Susan Wunderlich, now living in California, and Genny Plamonden was a tableau of The Right Stuff Lake Forest style. Here’s an on the spot photo; Susan is in the middle. Judy Bross, Vicki Jackson, Maureen Smith, Helen Applegate, Sugar Rautbord and Faye Peck were also there.

We made a quick trip to our alma mater the University of Wisconsin in Madison which New Yorkers used to attend en masse. The object was to consult a tome only available in the whole USA at the Memorial Library in Madison, our old refuge from football games. The little city on the lakes never changes too much; we saw it from Greeks to Revolutionaries to well whatever it is today with its shabby student look. We prefer the pleated skirts and matching sweater sets to the teeny shorts and tight tank tops of today’s “coeds”, or the unshaven rather slovenly young men who in our day wore Brooks Brother to class. The Rathskeller is now a Laptopia and there is silence where once there was debate and conversation.

Old Friends

We did manage to get to the Field Museum for The Lascaux Caves and the best part was the all room recreating the interior of the actual caves. Rather wonderful  and thought provoking. It was a wet day and we had to park half mile away to avoid the $$$$$$$$$ parking lot and the museum mainly foreigners. We had a chance to look at Soldier Field from the front steps – Good Heavens – who approved that renovation?

Tom O’Gorman’s paintings get better with each exhibit at Kiki’s. The 18th century Dublin Georgian houses are rendered in vibrant impasto. Always un plaisir to see Cynthia Olson an aficionado of Julian Fellows and the only other person we know who’s read his uproarious masterpiece Past Perfect.


Friends gathered on Cinco de Mayo on Hutchinson for Joe Winjum’s birthday party, the start of a weekend of festivities. Jonathon Wells made a walloping sangria and Mexican pot roast, enjoyed by Kim Gleeson, Sharon LePere, Tom Cooney, Richard Dormer, Heather Jane Johnston and beaucoup d’autres.

We feel obliged to “weigh in” on Rachel Shteir’s NYTimes book review Chicago Manuals in the April 21st issue in which she says Chicago suffers from “bloviating boosterism.” Well let’s face it – it’s true. We have for decades hurled a barb or two at the persistent Our Town syndrome, Sherwood Andersony small town pride as in whenever persons with a reputation that exceeds the Greater SMSA appears in print they always are preceded by the inevitable Our Town’s Harrison Ford or Our Town’s Saul Bellow or Our Town’s Michelle Obama.

Yolanda Lorente

Shteir’s daring review of a boostering new book about Chicago, no party line here, The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja caused quite a bloviating stir. The NYT gave Our Town’s Scott Turow a chance to review the book too and he objected to the title which he thinks patronizing and then wrote yet another encomium to his hometown. (We immediately thought of The Mosquito Coast). Anyway the usual Fabulous Architecture and black Blues music are the ultimate cultural connections in the Dyja book which throws in Hugh Hefner and Burr Tillstroom. whom we had the grand pleasure of knowing a bit, Nelson Algren, the Daleys, and a full shopping list of all the usual suspects of 20th century Chicago nonpolitical history. We think this Booster Book makes Chicago look even more provincial which Our Town’s Scott Turow would obviously not agree with.

Besides who needs boosterism today when New York is the Third World of Tacky Stars. The New York of our youth when it was the sophisticated capitol of the universe is gone with the wind. The Met Gala is now the preserve of RAP stars, ball players and soap opera persons. Jane Wrightsman or Jackie O where art thou? Let’s face it a paradigm shift has occurred in the past ten years and it is now officially The 21st Century.

Tom O'G

We did love it that the Number One golfer Tiger Woods got looped playing the role of the reluctant boyfriend forced to accompany his girl, the Number One skier Lindsay Vonn, to a BLACK TIE. Haven’t we all been there? Well Arpad Busson says no more galas. He has scrapped Ark’s annual multimillion moneymaker as being an inefficient way to raise money. Smaller fundraisers are usually more effective anyway.

The International Antiques Fair at the Mart was really staggeringly beautiful but alas the opening night party for Rehab Institute was poorly attended though we did see King Harris, Lisa Malkin, Jim Kinney and Brian White. When the elevators opened after the VIP reception the masses swooped in.

The Dutch monarchy called “publicly subsidized performance art” of mind boggling absurdity did replace one puppet with another last week when the Queen stepped down in favor if her son, but we don’t recommend it for the Brits. In the first place they more than pay their own way and make money for the republic….and the entertainment value priceless as in the Greenwich CT’s English Speaking Union bloviating over Prince Harry the least likeable of the royals.   He takes the heat for his brother and like Pippa feeds the crazed press some Cheerios, poor sods.

At the Fair

Have you read Paul Theroux’s latest travel book The Last Train to Zona Verde? The lovably sourball 70 year old traveled alone on foot from Cape Town to Angola and the picture more excoriating than Dark Safari. A poor continent getting more miserable by the hour due partly to the mammoth increase in population. When Westerners go on safari it is not Africa they see but an animal theme park not reality. While you’re at it read V.S. Naipaul’s’ Mask of Africa another frightening book which makes us renew our vow to never go east of Vienna or south of Gibraltar.

We don’t want to pick on the President at this sensitive time but did you know he removed the bust of Churchill in the White House? Kennedy had it placed there when he granted the great warrior honorary American citizenship. That Churchill shared the prevailing opinions of his time regarding the East etc. seems to have eluded the administration which does not appear to know much about history.

The Art Business can make you quite ill. Another mass Black Tulip inflation of prices in the latest Christie’s sale. Thus a bland Barnett Newman sold at auction for 43 Million. Then again we were always wary of the so called ”conceptual art movement” of the 80s. Even Sol Le Witt …well never mind.


Howzabout the money laundering and gambling operation masquerading as the Helly Nahmad Gallery in the Carlyle? Huge bidders at Sotheby’s and Christie’s the family is now the FBI’s domain. One always had the suspicion that many art businesses were excuses for tax write offs or other illegal activities.

See portrait painter Eric Fishl has now focused his East Hampton ambition on writing..…as in a new memoir Bad Boy. The Unsinkable Mary Boone probably cooked up that idea to get even more name recognition.


Fair Warning! Just when you thought Hollywood couldn’t get any worse! Would some Structuralist please deconstruct the difference between the suave Redford Gatsby and the ghastly Luhrman Gatsby, the beautiful pastel version versus the dark electronic games version. DeCaprio’s squeaky voice and bartender ambiance always ruin a movie since you cannot suspend your disbelief. Kewpie Doll Carey Whatever looks like Daisy’s maid not a Long Island deb.


Lord Chesterfield’s Letters



April 21, 2013


We delayed writing because we had nothing to write about. Think Waugh in Abyssinia or Greene in Macau. Well in the absence of some thing new or some place new we’ll have to settle for more opinions.

F. Scott Fitzgerald lamented 75 years ago that the radio had the power to clutter the mind of his daughter Scotty, creating a bird’s nest of confusion. He also foresaw the future of a child who  “may live in a communist state or marry a girl from Mars or sit under an electric fan in the North Pole.”1926.

A Daughter’s Tale is the new memoir of Mary Soames the youngest child of Winston Churchill and the only one to escape the curse of a busy, famous father. Why were his children such a disaster? Diana committed suicide, Randolph and Sarah both died young of alcoholism. The common thread was the almost total absence of their mother Clementine; throughout the book Winston’s wife never seems to have been around her children in their formative years, preferring five month cruises or accompanying her husband on the world stage. A mother is usually the measure of the family as we all know.

This book could be a prequel to Downton Abbey revealing how glorious a privileged Edwardian childhood was –at least on the surface. Birth advantages are as you know 90% of our lives. Oh dear! So much for all the claptrap promoted about dreaming your way to the top even if you’re poor and illiterate. Inane.

The Company You Keep showing at the eerie time warp Century Landmark is the usual slowww ponderous Redford offering but lacking the visual beauty of his other films. What happened to his eye?  The story about Weathermen Underground radicals in old age is evocative enough but the script is a real clunker and RR looks so old. Julie Christie   has The Mask and Puffy Lips Look.

Cliff Dwellers

Margaret Thatcher is still stirring up controversy in death. We left England just when she became PM but think she had many right ideas like taking on the unions that had become potentates. They did their job after the grotesque excesses of the Industrial Revolution and bravo to their memory; we do wish that demeaning movie of her last years portraying her dementia had never been made. Ghoulish Hollywood. Simon Schama wrote a fine encomium in the FT and notes her inadvertent ecologism by forcing coal mining to move out of Britain to wreck the earth in foreign lands.

There is little doubt she was treated a tad differently because she was a woman, which must gall Hillary since America still hasn’t stepped up to the gender plate for the Big Job.

Who (ill) advised FLOTUS to do another cover of Vogue? She looks pretty enough but remember the Desiree Rogers flap? Her fashionable posing in MAGS was not  help her career. We know the fashion industry is big biz but it never ultimately helps women — only financial independence does. And why bother to be even more attractive to men? They only want us to look like putains

Spotlight Days

Roger Ebert was heavily promoted by the Sun Times as having a Pulitzer. Well so have many of our friends and acquaintances but they were never so lionized. Brilliant Thea Flaum started the juggernaut with that public TV show with Gene Siskel.

Advertising affects every word that appears in print, actual print, these days. At least the quid pro quo is out on the table, honestly, in the open. When we were at Spotlight in the 90s it was all a hidden agenda, a pretense of objectivity.

We saw Maria Tallchief dance Swan Lake many times in our youth and what a thrill to meet her years later in Chicago. Here is a photo of the board of the School of Chicago Ballet when we were involved with fundraising. We once introduced Maria to actor Tom Selleck (Magnum PI) – she thought he was delightful and handsome and he had never heard of her.


Bob Irsay's Wedding

Crain’s reports it costs 16K to obtain a seat on the comme il faut Joffrey Board. In olden days there was no upfront ante for boards as there is today just a willingness to work hard and perhaps co-chair an event.

Madewell is a new clothing store on Rush where the old Starbucks was once far more happily situated. Unfortunately all the clothing sizes are for preteens. So over to Brooks Brothers for some ladies’ shirts –you would think buyers would know that women who can afford the prices just might be a bit larger than the Wallisites. No Sale!

In 1950 the population of the United States was 127 million; in 2013 it is 315 million. Along with automation one doesn’t have to look far to see why there are no jobs. A radical paradigm shift in thinking is necessary to address this problem.

Cannot believe Argo won the top prize, rather more like a made- for- TV movie with so many of the plot items were borrowed from better flics like No Way Out.

Beautiful Augusta

What did you think of Hilary Mantel’s comments on Kate Middleton as a plastic clothes hanger with a personality formed by a committee? Classic bitchy academic barbs.

Maureen Dowd must have an army of stringers to churn out all those columns each week. She is always always politically correct and predictable and tres verbose; we prefer plain writing that gets to the point without too much overt cleverness, which is considered so middle class in England.

It was always good sport to decide what was U (as in upper) and non-U in Old Blimey, obsessed with class which you can never ever escape because an indelible accent tells the whole story. Even Brits in America are branded by the Tyranny of Voice and Vowels. No Way Out.

After lunch at the Cliff Dwellers which was jumping and still lively with the best views in the city, we popped across the street to the Art Institute. It was almost empty. Picasso in Chicago a yawn. Where are the blockbusters of years past? The museum scene so moribund these days. They have priced themselves out of the market.

Mary and Jonathon

We are however most anxious to see the Lascaux caves at the Field Museum but rue the hassle not to mention the cost of parking on the “campus” (speak about ill-advised ideas) which with the entrance fee and the cost of lunch makes it a C-note day.

We were at RL twice in one week, for lunch which is still a crowded people – watching carnival and at dinner which was –ahem- decidedly not. Prices high, “Amish” chicken tiny, excellent wine, salad drowning in dressing, and service swell enough. New York Noise.

Remember Hans Williman the GM of the old Four Seasons who created the number one hotel in the entire world? Well ain’t no more.—waiting for friends in the lobby we noted crumb filled tables and inordinately loud RAP music; when we suggested Debussy might be more the ticket no action took place so off to the Peninsula.

RIP to Pat Derby (a descendant of Percy B. Shelley) who said “I was born in love with all elephants”. Her book The Lady and the Tiger is a plea against keeping animals in captivity. Next time you’re at a zoo think about the fact they should be converted into managed game parks.

Did you read Lean In the pseudo-feminist opinions of an unconscionably privileged woman (whose family friend was the president of Harvard, not bad for a jump start!). We prefer Camille Paglia or Germaine Greer to burnish our consciousness every now and then. A propos of which we agree with Helen Schubert that Diane Sawyer did the best round the clock reporting of the Boston Marathon disaster. But alas she’s getting older and there are reports the network wants her out! Ladies get out your placards.




Oliver Stone and Lincoln


October 15, 2012


Charity Watch

According to Bloomberg Markets, Americans give $300 billion a year to charities and over ¾ never reaches its destinations but rather lines the pockets of telemarketing armies, those irritating paid telephone solicitors. The American Cancer Society enlisted InfoC for ten years to raise $5.3 million and apparently nothing, not one penny, went to fund cancer research or help patients. Who else uses InfoC? American Heart Assoc, American Lung Assoc, MS, and many others of course.

The controversy over how charities value noncash gifts such as medicine continues to attract attention!  Drugs and other noncash items can mislead the public into assuming a nonprofit is doing more to help the needy than it actually is and can give inaccurate impressions of its revenue and overhead. The IRS slapped Food for the Hungry with a $50,000 fine for overvaluing the medicines it distributes overseas.


Kimberly and Vonita, Service Club Honorees

These problems usually occur with huge national charities which act like corporations or dense bureaucracies and what we used to call “poverty czars”   and not  local ones. One such local charity is exemplary. The Service Club is celebrating past Gala chairs on November 2nd at the Ritz, appropriately called With Gratitude.

Le Shopping

We popped in to Tiffany’s to buy the usual crystal decanter or porcelain coupe for a wedding present and were dismayed that it has turned into yet another  jewelry store (we have enough of those on Oak) with decidedly unpolished salesgirls which would have been unthinkable under Steiner or Christ.

Well we found something suitable in Neiman’s for John Scher and Betsy Stover who were married last week in a gorgeous transparent tent with the October sunset shining thorough in Lincolnshire. Rabbi Ted Gluck led the guests in singing It Had to be You before the vows. Cheryl and Monty Scher threw a lively celebration party at the Marriott and we danced like St. Vitus to Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan.

John and Betsy Scher

Memorandum to clothing buyers: thiMk about it darlings, why do the small sizes pile up? Because no one but Southeast Asians can wear them! Why not stock sizes American women can wear? It is all so tiresome and makes shopping a nightmare if you are over 50. Those ladies who can afford Brooks Brothers or Escada cannot squeeze into them and all the larger “styles” are in maroon and brown and look like grotesque garbage sacks.

In a recent interview for WSJ Ian Schrager, a fellow Brooklynite, says his favorite restaurants are Peter Luger, Nobu and 15 East. He loves the ballet and hates hotels and eateries with white gloves and epaulets.



John and Zoe at Volo

“Dined” at the Brauhaus on Lincoln with John, Zoe and JR; unfortunately it has become far too crowded and noisy to enjoy in October…..or any other time for that matter. We love the schmaltz and zithers but pas encore. Then we popped into Volo’s Orientalized garden on a cool night for some good expensivo vino.

It’s about time Anthony Bourdain retires from the little screen. His program has become a predictable bore and all the bad boy pose sounds false. In 2003 we met his handsome self at the James Beard awards in NY (when we were nominated for writing) and he was authentic not the buffoon television created.



Congratulations to TCW on its 30th anniversary. It has always taken the high road without being smarmy and its longevity proof of its successful formula. Where were you 30 years ago? We were working in Artemisia on Hubbard Street where all the avant-gardish were and where Al Friedman was just starting out in real estate.

Hideous neologism: Glamping, presumably for Glamor Camping. Just when one wanted to escape designer soap, spas, infinity pools and (disgusting) foie gras croutons for truffle soup they go ahead and stick them in Zambia and Tanzania game reserves. No thanks.

We’ll spend discretionary income in Africa only when ivory is truly banned and there is serious legislation to stop poaching and slaughter of the Big 5. Over 25,000 elephant were murdered last year.

Megan McKinney’s book The Magnificent Medills,  America’s Royal Family of Journalism During a Century of Turbulent Splendor was recently awarded the 2012 Spear’s Book Award for Family History of the Year. Spear’s is one of Europe’s preeminent wealth management brands and has rewarded books that distinguish themselves as the best in several categories.


The photogenic golfer Luke Donald appears everywhere in print these days because he lives in a Chicago suburb and not the UK. Ahem.

The Ryder Cup’s corny (the cows were enough) painted golf balls are still lingering around the malls and avenues here. Friends who attended never saw a live golfer and had to wait hours to get into the Pro shops for souvenirs.


Sitters and Runners

We love hotel lobbies; our mother Lucy would sit in them for hours smoking Chesterfields and drinking Oolong, or if after 5, gin Martinis. This was of course the age when only Jackie Kennedy could afford good wine. Now everyone in the United States has a niece or granddaughter who’s a sommelier.

The favorite lobby of the time was the “Fountain Blue” in Miami. Here in Chicago the Peninsula is cold and uninviting; the Ritz used to be wonderful now is blahsville; the Four Seasons never disappoints and we have a special feeling for the homely old Marriott on Michigan with its ghastly décor, hundreds of seats and total anonymity.

Huff Puff

Those brave seekers, all 45,000 of them, who ran, or walked, the Chicago Marathon are an enigma since most looked to be suffering in some sort of Cotton Matherish Puritan ether. Not so the East Africans however who have millennia of Masai blood in their veins.


Oh Boy. What worries John Bogle, Vanguard’s founder? “ the coming train wreck in the financial system”. A 401K was never meant to be a retirement plan as is now touted and soon 70% of Americans will rely on Social Security to live. We are on SocSec and it’s just enough to buy a couple of dinners out. One couldn’t live for a week on it.

One suspicions that the clever Romney’s 47% “blooper” was all staged. We were after all awfully shocked to learn the percentage of those who do not pay taxes is half the bloody population and sure you were too. Of course don’t watch debates outside the Oxford Union but caught Biden looking like Walter Matthauish in crazy old man mode.

Here’s a fine quote from Wait for Me by Deborah Mitford:  Eddy the Duke of Devonshire told his son Andrew, her husband, who was running for some office or other: “There is something you should ram home and you cannot repeat it too often. No government has any money of its own, the only money it has to spend is what it gets from you and me in taxes.”

Cannot resist gossip from this delightful book regarding Wallis Simpson who’s housekeeper revealed that she would only employ blondes at the Chateau de la Croe; the footmen, housemaids, the kitchen workers were all fair haired. Then again she and former HRH rather did like Hitler which makes their continuing popularity completely incomprehensible.

 Hugh Clayton Lowther, 8th Earl of Lonsdale  has been married three times which creates rather a sticky wicket in the dynastic game. With his first wife he has one adopted son born by artificial insemination, who thus does not stand in succession to his father’s titles. Ahem. The Hereditary Peerage Association, explains the procedure of entering one’s name on the Peerage Roll : “A child born as a result of egg, sperm or embryo donation is incapable of succeeding to a peerage.” Yoicks


Au Revoir


We are truly saddened at the passing of Joe Boden who we were lucky enough to know. Joe was a B-17 fighter pilot in the War and a true hero.

Writer and journalist JeAnne Ingersoll, a witty, classy and original gal. With her highly skilled journalist talents she created  accurate, factually important news releases and information.

Dorothy Fuller who we worked for briefly at AIBI; she wanted to go to Dubai to promote Chicago fashion. Another grand dame gone.

Lionized historian Eric Hobsbaum, who we often met at economic history conferences years ago when Socialism was all the Rage has joined Trotsky and Lenin in the sky; unfortunately he rationalized Communism and defended the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Academics are so out of touch.



Facebook is such a bore — all pretty skies and fancy sandwiches though we’re a sucker for the cute animals –and the BIRDS.  Twitter is too evanescent for people with things to actually do in the world– just for pollsters and stat guys

Ultimate Hilarious Snobbism: those who won’t join the Daughters of the American Revolution but salivate at becoming a Colonial Dame because to join one’s ancestor had to have been mayor or senator or dog catcher.


Wadsworth Wetlands

September 21, 2012

A little late due to Comcast router problems which held us up for a week.


Expo Chicago thrust the city back on to the serious international art map. Suave, sophisticated and easy to negotiate with dashing interior design and the subtle lighting it was mercifully free of gimmick and garbage that masqueraded as art in ArtChicago Tony Karman dodged trendy landmines and created a gorgeous global event. Evocative representational art exceeded the decorative wall covering of most abstraction.

The large scale photography breathtaking and loved Brian Bess’ use of video HD monitors behind wall mounted, framed pictures. The sketchy catalogue gives little idea of the scope of the talent. Chicago artists like Ellen Lanyon and Paschke seemed surprisingly provincial, too much “affect” if you know what we mean.  And though Douglas Dawson is our favorite gallery in the city, the18th and 19th century sculpture and artifacts a tad incongruous, as in this precious Japanese hare.


We made on our annual pilgrimage to Walworth, Wisconsin riding the back roads from to Union to Marengo, Huntley, lovely downtown Harvard, Illinois, crossing the state line to Sandy’s Upscale Consignment Shop which ain’t so upscale anymore. Gather the Lake Geneva ladies not unloading their wares much anymore. Along the way we observed the devastation of the hot summer in mile after mile after sad mile of scorched unpicked corn.

Trump is one of the great comical characters of all time like Shakespeare’s Falstaff or Tilleulenspiegel and whatever folkish character his Swedish forbears had. His inflated, imperial style evident in the extreme hotel/ tower which has the monumental intimidating scale of  Berlin or Dusseldorf between the wars.

Susan,Ed and Hazel

Tres Seizieme Arrondissment. Susan and Fred Gohl’s apartment was designed by John Regas and believe us the Duchesses of Windsor or Devonshire would feel right at home here with its haute European style. A late summer soiree included Ann Gerber, Barrington horse people,(remember Flying Dutchman Farm?)  Mamie Walton, Cynthia Olsen, Father Ken Velo, Cookie Cohen, Lynda Silverman listening to Cole on the Steinway and enjoying the views from one of the endless number of balconies.

The Paul McGrath Memorial at Riccardo’s brought back memories to many from the Jane Byrne era when Paul was chief of staff and Noreen McBride the decorum chief. A wild and woolly time with Jose’s very stiff drinks and free leftover lasagna verde consumed in view of the sepulchrous Ivan Abright painting of Mrs. Bloch. If you lasted long enough you could boogie to Clarence Peterson’s clarinet or argue with Don Rose about capitalism. Today 437 Restaurant on this hallowed space is homogenized, pasterurized, denatured, declawed like everything else in 2012.

Yon and Cheri

When did the world become a copy of the world we know? When did it become inauthentic? Well, friends, it’s called commercialism, raiding the past to sell something we don’t really need or probably even want.

The Astor Street al fresco street pahty was a faintest reflection of others, with numbers significantly down and one noting who was not there rather than who was. No Hermans and Malkins, no Leslie and Bill and no sightings of any aldermen. We always however enjoy saying bi annual howdee do to George Weeks, John Valentine, Bill Daley,  and those circling the bounteous table of Heather Johnston, this year’s host also Kimberly Gleeson.

We did spy Shia Kapos interviewing Police Chief Garry McCarthy surrounded by les flics and looking dour. We still don’t fully comprehend why every morning we read of murders and shootings galore in Chicago. Surely something can be done though there’d be the usual caterwauling about police state and such.

Chief McCarthy and Ms.Kapos

The Newberry’s 125th  Anniversary exhibition is worth a look even if you cannot actually read books or see the maps in the dark rooms; we can plop things down on Mars but cannot invent a light that will not damage paper? If you squinted and looked hard enough you could read the Dill Pickle Club’s “Night in Bohemia” program booklet, which took place on October 16, 1916 with Chicago’s “radical elite” including Darrow and Sandberg attending. (Do we have any more of these? Doubt it). Or the 1588 map of the USA which ends right on the Florida /Georgia border or the 1692 French contract for beaver pelts from Michilimachinac. If you have any historically important documents give them to the Newberry for posterity.

How to ruin a Farmer’s Market. Allow some street person to stand on the corner of Division and State with the largest imaginable boom box amped up to loudest count and massacre the classical music station while the too- polite vegetable eaters gamely endure it and the local shrugs as says it’s just fine because he’s got a permit.

At Expo

Pleasant  surprise to find an idyll in Vernon Hills Illinois namely Opa Estatoria – you know dolmades and mousakka on the banks of a river. Do go, a restaurant is after all 80 percent ambiance. Celebrating a seventh decade on planet earth we dined at Mon Ami Gabi  where so many tables were jammed onto the patio outdoors we could actually hear strangers chewing.  The food French such a relief from ubiquitous Italian which is basically so peasanty.

At a First Thursday lunch at the Peninsula we met witty Doreen Rogers board member of the Juvenile Protection Association which helps at risk vulnerable school children through counseling and therapy. Love Shanghai but the waitstaff too solicitous buzzing around with questions and the continuous filling of water glasses.

Schneider Family

En route to Kenosha Country Club (OK so it’s not Greenwich CT) over Labor Day the motorway passed by the endless Wadsworth Wetlands Preserve in Lake County. Before restoration work began in 1983, the land had been drained for farmland, mined for sand and gravel and then abandoned and most of the original wetlands  destroyed. Today, prairies have been restored, and the wetlands are again functioning to provide flood control and improve water quality. Worth a visit.

Errant Thoughts

When did the “Mother” universally become the childishly familiar “Mom”? The first lady calls herself Mom- in- Chief  recalling that ghastly character four years ago calling herself Soccer Mom.

We also loathe the word “amazing” which has replaced “awesome” in everyone’s increasingly limited vocabulary. And the ubiquitous “arguably” when you don’t have the conviction of what you are saying.  It either is or it isn’t. Wait a minute — when did “way” become a substitute for “very”?  To say something is way this or that is to….well never mind.

Canoe Birch, Harvard

You’ve got to read Nell Casey’s article in T&C, Me, A Love Story about those who’s egos are bigger than their talent as in that overbearing Huffington woman, (Mother would say she has “too many genes”)  or artist Julian Schnabel or the Loonies Gaga and Lohan.  BTW lucky Texan Dr.Phil. had a hilarious exchange with Dina Lohan who appeared to be a tad medicated and made fun of his shoes and tie. That’s good TV.

Now that the above glossy had the article on the Chicago Rockefeller, ChiMag quickens up the pace and ordains that her novel a Number One Must Read. Decidedly NOT the way to establish a literary reputation.

We spent what seems like a lifetime hating the National Review but today we must admit we like the prose and attitude, the sophisticated writing of an actual educated adult. As in “John Lennon’s juvenile paean to debonair nihilism, recently featured at the closing ceremonies of the XXX Olympiad,,,” .or Helen Gurley Brown’s many facelifts that ultimately left her “mummified.”

Who, one wonders, is the intended audience for the SunTimes SPLASH feature? So low brow it has everyone raising their’s in disbelief. The news is something someone doesn’t want published but in this case no one would care it is so blandly innocuous.

Books and Blokes

Goodbye East End Summer

It’s Time the British royals rethink their ridiculous anachronistic Pax Britannica ceremonies. The poor souls in the Firm will never get a rest no matter how many lawsuits are out there. The time is right now to put in place the Scandinavian model of “monarchy” (even the word is bizarre).

The Journals of novelist Anthony Powell (has anyone actually ever read Dance to the Music of Time?) are surprisingly replete with many I knew or met such as Rosamund (real name “Peggy”) Bernier at the old and much missed Arts Club when she lectured on Proust for two hours, never drawing a breath.

Powell wonderfully catty — Nancy Mitford a self conscious bore, Waugh a relentless and shameless social climber like so poor people were and are, Debo the current Duchess of Devonshire much the nicest of the lot. She is still extant and recently collected some essays into a new anthology All in One Basket. She said she buys her clothing at agricultural shows though no doubt lets out the seams of the old Mainbocher for special occasions. Love it when the aristos try to be democratic.


A propos of which we just saw the usual preposterous Hollywood drivel The Duchess ( of the same Devonshire clan) set in 18th century and completely ruined by the spastic untalented Kiera Knightly who was only ever good as a Cockney teenager in Bend it Like Beckham.

 Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is an exotic memoir of living with a dysfunctional , often drunk (English) mother in Africa in the 70s. Charming though we still recommend Elspeth Huxley’s books for a take on the earlier period which has an abiding allure for us.





Conrad Black

September 1, 2012


Patriotic Kid in Montauk

Welcome back to Conrad Black and his hyperbolic, incendiary prose as in The Republicans can end 15 years of stupidity in this country (Financial Times) an historical overview of why we are in the doldrums now…..outsourcing of our jobs, encouraging illegal immigrants to swell the demographic ranks and take what jobs remain, “and inundating the world with trillions of dollars of worthless real estate backed debt.” He’s hard on both parties as it should be.

Television is still inexcusably ghastly, the worst being the daytime garbage that feeds the poor people not able to find work, as in Rachael Ray, the former Lake George, NY waitress who, stupid though she is, valiantly tries to ask questions of people with actual brains. Sad. And know it’s not PC to knock the FAMOUS from Chicago but the Nate Berkus show has not gotten any better however long one has waited.

At the O'Connor's

For first time in many a year we stayed up to dwell awhile in Johnny Carson territory and found it hard to decide who was more dreadful, Leno with the evening’s guest, the repulsive, snakelike Bill Maher or smarmy, sycophantic Letterman chatting with the First Lady who was absolutely charming and very humorous. Why she would appear on such a nitwit program is ….well…….beyond us.

Here’s Newton Minow in 1961: “When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse……. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

Susie's Loft Party

We do, however, watch Africa Channel (133) not for the funny tri-lingual soaps like Isidingo, but for the news and culture reports. Africa is the new frontier and when the internecine strife settles down (it took us 500 years and two world wars in the West) it will, this may well be the land of the future. By the way, today it ain’t just safaris or tales of starvation and humanitarian aid—it’s a place to earn money in oil, gas, minerals. The Chinese are the new imperialists.


Susie Kealey has a talent for friendship and entertaining, first on Walton Street, now on Kingsbury. In her artful loft she threw a New Roof party and in the renovated Orangery enjoying Mitchell Cobey vittles were John Nelson, Allen Smart, Susie Barton, Stanley Paul, Jim Kinney and Brian White, Harriet Gulis and lots more friends and neighbors. As one ages fewer and fewer friends actually undertake the effort to entertain.

On the Roof

We have reversed our opinionated course and decided RL is really the only place to have lunch. Kind of like Michael’s in NY now mainly literary/PR types unlike the old days when Mortimer’s was king with socialites. Had lunch with Cynthia Olson, a fine animal portraitist by the by, sitting a few tables down from Table 68 where Meta Berger and Margie Korshak were engaged in conversation.

It was an unusually sociable fortnight for us, amiably topped off by dinner with  horsewoman from Naples and Chicago Susan Gohl at Quay on East Illinois. We two took that long always funny walk down memory lane (as in decades years ago) and had many laughs about those past and present. No place was smarter and more colorful than Riccardo’s.

A Fifties 12 year old

The terrace outside Gibson’s in Oak Brook was jumping on a sweltering Saturday night when KJ Reynolds was in town from Baltimore. John Pontarelli the GM accommodating as usual; we remember him from the Chop House. Rather a relief not to be in the mix, jockeying for the attention of an opposite sex or same sex or those in superior positions while one’s had several drinks and don’t remember what was said the next day.

It’s been irritatingly hot this long summer as we looked forward to a cloudy day to write. On yet another flawless afternoon we visited at the darling Beatrix Potterish- home of Lynda and Jim O’Connor in Lake Forest. We share an interest in Africana and was impressed with their library.


The Written Word

Jim Kirk editor -in -CHIEF of the New Sun Times cancelled our meeting via email at the last minute after standing us up the first time when a staffer insisted we didn’t have an appointment though one had been made three weeks before. Dahlink why would one show up with a portfolio in hand otherwise? Do we look certifiably insane? They appear disorganized and confused over there. Insulting.

KJ and Friends

At least the Tribune is trying to smarten up with the smart Printer’s row book review section. Caution: don’t make it too Midwest- oriented with annoying Our Town Boosterism for the congratulatory consensus. Think New York or London not Omaha or Normal, Illinois.

Cornelia Cochrane Churchill Guest recently had a book signing party hosted by John Demsey. Her’s is another one of those entertainment books by the very rich which gain the rapt attention of those considerably less rich with definitely with far less illustrious families. As if ye shall know them by attending a reception in a restaurant. That ole social climber Ernest Hemingway was the host of her parent’s wedding in Havana.

Avoided arts entertainment this fortnight sticking to TCN reruns like Babette’s Feast. Breathtakingly brilliant, based on Isak Dinesen’s Gothic tale with the sublime Stephane Audran. Crave films made for adults not for preteens. Speaking of preteens this is what a 12 year old looked like in the 50s – no glaring incipient cleavage or belly buttons here. Many are disturbed about the sexualization of  the littlest girls. So disgusting. Why is Gloria Steinen so quiet about this?

Airplane Spotting

The Air Show such a bore and when is the city going to stop inflating the viewing numbers? We live high up in the air a step from the drive and can see that the fewer and fewer bother to look up at the gnats in the air.


A Propose of Nothing


Spotted slim Alpana Singh outside of Hash on her cell phone detailing a recipe. We recommend her Facebook postings if you are a food- follower. Speaking of Facebook have you followed the Jonathon and Gail’s Hampton’s Classic Summer? The photos should be published in a coffee table book. Remember those?

Looking South from the 23rd Floor

Crazy Harry Fiasco. They need to get him out of the line of succession — fast. Who gives a hoot about royals in 2012? No rational person who knows it is all about marketing Britain for the masses, but and a big but they gave us the enlightened rebellious minds that created our Republic. And the language! And the literature! A few maudlin news people shed a 15 year old tear for Diana but we were never fooled by her.

The Museum of Broadcast Communications is a tribute to the hard work of Bruce Dumont. The location is awkward to say the least so the city should pick up the tab for free admission. We’re becoming the city of odd niche museums as in Poetry, etc.


World of Giving

Ken Berger the CEO of Charity Navigator laments celebrity involvement in nonprofits given their penchant for scandal and endless entourages that leach money from the causes. Ken’s also mad about expenses of charity fundraisers with those silly goody bags and endless expensive floral arrangements and….so forth. Lenny and Felicia Bernstein used to serve chili and beer and raised millions.

Lunch on Chicago Avenue

Adorable rascal Michael Musto, a fellow member of the Commentariat, writes Why I Hate Charity Events, Just write a check already, and save the gown in the Voice. Gigantic tax deductible yawns filled with self congratulations, thank yous and dull speeches where a fortune is spent on room rental, entertainment, food, promotion. He quotes Joan Rivers: “I am so bored with going to a 25 million dollar house to hear a mogul say, “Good news everyone. Tonight we’ve raised almost $12,000 .”

Power Style author Annette Tapert firmly believes one should always dress to impress, dress like it’s your last day on earth, as if you’re Marie Antoinette going to the ball not the gallows —  if only to pop in to Duane Read for a bottle of plonk. Our father would don a fedora and tie to go to the corner candy store for a pack of Parliaments.

Oh dear, we note the Public Hotel (i.e. Ambassador East/Pump) has withdrawn the welcome mat somewhat. First the Wall Street Journal was removed, then the good magazines, now there’s the occasional security guard with a cocked eye on the arriving guests. We feel uninvited to the ball.




Dame Daphne Sheldrick


August 15, 2012


Wild Thyme 1798

The Congo is the poorest country in the world but has a symphony orchestra that ebulliently plays Beethoven and Carl Orff. So inspiring!  Kinshasa the capital has ten million souls– when is Africa going to wake up and practice aggressive population control? Kenya is the neediest with the world’s highest birthrate.  There are not enough resources to sustain the population explosion that threatens to undermine the continent more than any other natural disaster. Melinda Gates is listening we know.

Did you happen to catch NBC’s segment where Chelsea Clinton visited Nairobi and Daphne Sheldrick’s baby elephant refuge? Their mothers had been slaughtered by poachers for ivory. There is no one doing better work to preserve what remains of wildlife in Africa than this naturalist. Here is a note we received last year; it is reprinted here because it shows how difficult it is to be a part of this cause. We have volunteered all over the world to help save The Big Five but as you can see it is complicated. Spread the word and the funds if you can.

Dear Lucia,

Thank you for your Email which was waiting on my desk when I returned from Tsavo a day or two ago.  Regretfully, I don’t have any Mid West contacts that I could pass on to you, but take heart, it took several years for my Agent to secure a Publisher for my (much abbreviated) autobiography, due out next year.   It is kind of you to offer to help the cause, but really the only thing that one can do is to spread the word and encourage folk to support our Orphans’ Project by fostering an elephant on line.   We are not permitted to accept hands on help, even if offered voluntarily, due to Kenya’s burgeoning population and mass unemployment, but also due to safety concerns involving dangerous wildlife when walking with the elephants out in the bush.

 Best wishes.  

 Dame Daphne Sheldrick


Cycling on Kinzie

Meanwhile closer to home, in the event you have ever wondered why  writers/journalists/wordsmiths of any stripe are such critics of the status quo, whatever that status might be,  it is that they take the mandate of the Fourth Estate seriously though now it is sadly equated with Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell two massive rogue waves.

Those studying to be writers or journalists are taught in college to be the conscience of the times, objective, fair and dispassionate which is of course impossible to ask any man to be. They seem contrary because they often do not have a stake in the system so are able say things other wallets and vested interests cannot.  At least ideally.

Writers are often best when they have a personal experience to relate as in Evelyn Waugh dragging himself off the Abyssinia or Graham Greene wherever he was. Or Paul Theroux grumbling his way across the globe, so much more entertaining than that irritating chipper commentary from Bill Bryson.

This year we lost Christopher Hitchens, Alexander Cockburn, Gore Vidal, Robert Hughes all major misanthropes now in the Pantheon of Sourballs. In Chicago there is no longer much of that tradition left. John Kass has always tried to be the new Royko but never has had the wit or the comedic gift so his attacks on the mayors or Italians always come off flat and basically insulting. He bashes the politically correct stereotypical targets.

The Young Pythons

Writing about the expat writers from the UK in American exile, Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes, “Fleet Street refugees supply an antidote to U.S. journalism and its cult of suffocating respectability.” And you wonder why we have to resort to the internet to read anything worth reading?

Waters were stirred a bit here when Fleet Streeter Harold Evans tried to launch a newspaper Chicago Evening News, but when the major investors wanted control over content he bolted and married Tina Brown who falls over the bad taste edge. She brilliantly rescued Vanity Fair then flopped.  Did you see the latest cover of Newsweek? Desperate for sales, it’s in a major time warp with that supine asparagus eating fellatio (yawn) cover. Tina — sex doesn’t sell as much as it used to since it’s all over the bloody place.

Can you believe the obits about Helen Gurley Brown posing her as an advanced social thinker? Come On! Cosmopolitan has always been a deeply stupid magazine with women reduced to the role of Panting Male-Pleasers.  Hell with that noise

At the East Bank Club

Maybe we’re in the wrong! One sees the prosperity of hookers and kept women and wonder if all those books and education were to blame for our relative penury.

Hear Hear Chicago Big Two! You could afford to use more brain power and not assume the reader is a jamoke (as we used to say in the 42nd Ward.)  Perhaps you share the point of view of former president Clinton who, when asked why he used the tired metaphor “build a bridge between old and new”, responded, “Hey Junk Works!” There is a definite disconnect between political reporting and low brow cultural offerings.

The Guardian, a bright newspaper though not as bright as it was in the past, with its smart, critically aware theatre, film, art and book reviews, is claiming Britain’s Age of Decline is Officially Over because of the Olympics. Doubt it darlings.

The closing ceremony was all neon and noise and even Prince Harry looked bored. Eric Idle was downright embarrassing and the overblown tribute to John Lennon’s meek ditty Imagine. Ya gotta hand it to the Pythons however – they all tried to cash in on the Oxford undergrad drama success that the divine David Attenborough produced.  Palin tried some batty travelogues, Cleese became a broom salesman or something and funniest madcap Eric went into the movies, sort of.   Favorite line from the series…in a thick Cockney accent :“Whatcha doin luv?” “Just putting lard on the cat’s boils.”


Chicago Botanic Garden

Note from a friend, a professor, “The other day at my book sale, a

young, 25 year old guy was inspecting a photo book about JFK and asked

about others in the photos. He did not recognize the names of Bobby or

Eunice or Sarge. And he is a Ph.D. student. I explained and told

stories about seeing them at the demo convention in Chicago, visiting

with them and LBJ. He didn’t recognize that name either….so it goes.”


The Duc de Saint-Simon is the cattiest writer ever, a typical courtier toady who harbors resentment of his boss, in this case Louis XIVth. His description of Mme de Maintenon is especially delicious, reminding us of Princess Diana’s contrary personality (read Patrick Jephson much the best of the biographers)….thus “She was easily and excessively infatuated and just as easily lost interest and became disgusted and both usually without cause or reason.” Then again in a few more years she will be forgotten like LBJ or Bobby.

Made a special trip into the Loop to visit the new Target in Carson’s in a sort of memento mori mood.  The original Carson’s which opened on State Street in 1899 was a chain store too but the clothing and furniture still solid and once even stylish and today well it’s as if everything were bottom line, reduced to the lowest common denominator.  What does that tell you about the change in society? Less money to go around…and we still encourage illegal immigration!

Town and Country features an excerpt from Ashley Prentice Norton’s first novel. She is of course the daughter of Abra Wilkin and Jon Anderson, the brilliant journalist and friend from the past. The Rockefeller name still has pull in a time when there is a dearth of the upper class. T&C is on the case!

Did you know that those who went down on the Titanic were bourgeois businessmen and were frowned upon by the aristocrats in England and Europe? Consult the weighty academic tome The Decline and Fall of the English Aristocracy by David Cannadine.

Wildlife Pioneers

James Joyce helped many Jews escape from Austria and Germany during the war.  The good side of all this critical thinking/writing/ and so on is just that — there is frequently an uptick in humanity.


Never trust a TV food review! Yes, tried one of the hamburger places recommended. Lockdown – a hunk of ground beef served amidst ear splitting heavy metal noise. Once you get into the ‘hoods you’re in Alternative Land where young mothers bring infants into bars, wear tattoos and short shorts and –most horrifying– revealing halter tops when they’re enceinte. Shudder. We are old enough to remember when mothers wore flowered dresses and nylons.

Hash on State next to PJ’s. Though the location has The Curse of past failures we were optimistic about the chain’s latest effort. The food is Cracker Barrel -fattening and the Margaritas weak to extinction but it seems to be flourishing since breakfast is perhaps the last pleasure allowed in 2012.

We hear that NONE of the people in Illinois State government actually pay their gas bills’  apparently they wait for their gas to be turned off, then negotiate a payment plan, but cannily time it so it gets to a point where it becomes illegal for Peoples Gas to turn it off. Just what we hear mind you.

Please — someone enlighten us. What is the allure of fashion? As in the World of Fashion? We loathe shopping and cannot imagine how other women like to spend their time engaged in that irritating activity then dress up and parade in front of other women and the occasional disgruntled husband.  There has to be a subtext here. No doubt we’re the oddball once being voted The Worst Dressed Journalist in Chicago by Skyline. We’ve been laughing ever since.