Sarasota and South

March 25, 2012

On Sarasota Bay

The gigantic oaks on Sarasota Bay spewed unprecedented yellow clouds of pollen, months early. Worst allergy season and hottest March on record. What’s happening? We laughed at Al Gore, maybe because he was Al Gore, but is this global warming or is it just the usual cyclical weather changes since recorded time? No one seems to know.

Perennial sunshine in perpetually blue skies, endless blue water under arching white bridges linking island after island, pink and peach stucco buildings, yellow hibiscus and yellow butterflies. A month in Florida promised heaven. Island fever. Must move here pronto. The tropics, land of millions of cranes, osprey, bald eagles, pelicans, an infinite variety of sea gulls, vultures, yes them too, roseate spoonbills, massing outside one’s window. 

Florida, land of beautiful flowers, has lured the white man since the 16th century. The Seminole and Colusa have never forgiven us. Five hundred years after Ponce de Leon set foot the primordial swampland has almost 20 million residents, quadrupled in numbers since 1960. Over 2/3rds were not born here. Then there are the 80 million tourists every year, so at any one time about 27 million people inhabit the 4th most populous state which ranks 26th in size. The bloody place is crowded.

LA caliber traffic jams, oceans of trailer parks, revolting monotonous strip malls with all the usual big box suspects, and development after development, gated community after gated community, golf course after golf course. The ultimate development is Lakewood Ranch near Sarasota a master planned community, a new suburb wholly created from scratch since 1995 with everything included– schools, polo grounds, hospitals, 20 churches, recreational “wilderness” areas, the Ritz Carlton golf course and a downtown like a movie set.

Irresistible urge to re-read Brave New World , the bizarre vision of a writer horrified at commercialism and planned communities. Aldous Huxley’s turgid black comedy of a soma-drugged society didn’t age well however and failed to be anything but a curiosity from the 1930s.

Speaking of communities, if you know of a child anywhere from 8 to 18 who does not fit into the academic mold and who has some athletic talent look into the IMG Academies in Bradenton which combines academics with sports. Beautiful campus and facilities for tennis, (the Willliams sisters were students) baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and of course golf, golf, now the focus of neuroscientists.

Quick tour of crowded Cancun-like Siesta Key voted #1 best beach in the world and only one of five in Florida allowing booze though that is soon to change after a drunk driver killed a local. Big local news item as was the trial of two Brits murdered last year when they strayed into the Newtown projects in Sarasota.

The Gulf Coast attracts Midwesterners, working class Brits escaping their roots and joining cricket clubs, Ontarians, and now thousands of Czechs. This area was settled in the 18th century by Scots but it was the indefatigable social engine Berthe Palmer who put it on the map creating a land development company and extending the railroad to Sarasota and Venice. But the real reason to visit is the Ringling Museum of Art.

John Ringling brought his circus here for winter headquarters in 1927 and built a Venetian Gothic mansion Ca’D’ Zan on 66 acres of Asian banyan trees and rose gardens. He bequeathed to the city of Sarasota a truly grand museum with a staggering collection of great Western European paintings, Titian, Veronese, even the rare Piero di Cosimo’s The Building of a Palace. French, Flemish, Rubens and more Rubens including 75 engravings, English masters, Lawrence and Reynolds, a Breughel and El Greco for God’s sake, five early Duchamps which were a revelation (he couldn’t really paint which is probably why he chose the other absurdist path) and the Astor mansion’s salon and library. When the Age of Innocence homes were being torn down in the 20s John Ringling bought their contents as well.

St. Armand’s Circle, once tony now T-shirt shoppes and Aussies selling blue “surrealistic” glossy paintings and Kilwins ice cream. It has undergone a startling change since 2007 when we were last here. The Age of Optimism and Plenty has passed. Empty storefronts signal the new reality.

Fifth annual Chill Out on Palm Avenue in Sarasota could have been Rush Street … tanned guys in pony tails and Hawaiian shirts, not the sockless loafers and Pink shirts of the Palm Beach uniform (Wilbur Ross should put his socks on and wear dark suits). And the girls in ubiquitous S&M bondage stilettos, with black tights and décolleté. No pastel Lily Pulitzer look anyway.

Florida has prairie, marshes, wetlands, a fabulous and unique ecosystem. At the Myakka River State Park a few miles down the road, a refuge. True wilderness or as much as one can expect today with scores of black alligators and blue herons, sand hill cranes and white egrets; when we pass by in the tour boat powered by a 1975 Cadillac engine on the freshwater lake one lone gator scout swam out to assess the danger, hissing and rattling. We didn’t see any of the wisely covert 2,000 resident feral hogs or the bobcats, wild turkeys and foxes but were warned that 300 local black vultures love rubber and might eat our tires. These fat fellows arrived after a massive fish kill two years ago and decided to stay, so stuffed with fish they could not fly away. Myakka River was only three feet deep in this drought year, and can rise to 15 in normal times.

St. Petersburg along the restored lakefront still rather patrician with the 1924 Vinoy Hotel a vestige of Old Florida before the Depression when Florida collapsed not to revive until the post War years. And then there’s the new Dali Museum. Yes however incongruous the city bid for the honor to house the Morse Reynolds collection of the strangely awful paintings of the surrealist poseur. We happily forewent the $25 admission fee and strayed around the grounds and lobby– would pay that much not to look at Dali. The HOK + Beck Group located the building above the flood plane with reinforced 18” thick concrete walls protecting the contents from Category 5 hurricanes and 165mph winds.

March is Seagrass Awareness Month in Florida. Like everything else from the world before man, it is in danger of disappearing– like the white sands of Venice which are eroding at a record rate. My God the Mexican iguanas are eating the leaves the Miami Blue butterflies lay their eggs on. Those damned Burmese pythons, pets released into the swamps are devouring many species in the Everglades and beyond.

Florida being invaded by alien species is nothing new of course but it is always threatened, mostly as we know from utterly mindless development of recent decades. Now late in the day many in the state are trying to manage the wilderness that remains.

Fifth Avenue Naples, our first time, very art-glassy and Italian bistro-y. Manicured concrete, manicured greenery, manicured everything. A bit like Oak Brook or Naperville with fine weather, though must say just a cursory glance since we quickly drove through it, anxious to board the Everglades Excursion bus at the docks for a long tour to the largest national park in the country. For some reason we remembered from our youth glass bottomed boats and clear blue waters with gorgeous fish but maybe we were thinking about the Caribbean and it got mixed up in the forge of memory.

Clear blue waters is the farthest thing from the muddy brown rivers and streams meandering in an infinite maze, a labyrinth in a million acres. If you got lost in the mangroves your body would be found years later half eaten by alligators or panthers or wild boar or whatever else are in this true wilderness.

A local lad acting and sounding like a Cajun cowboy (they overdo the Central Casting role a bit to impress the slickers) took us on an hour’s 30 mph joyride in a rickety plastic skiff through the narrow maze screeching through the shallow waters. He seemed to enjoy our terror but we gave him the requested tip anyway. Back on the bus through the dry prairie grasses we visited the Big Cypress Swamp with a few little alligators, and as it Myakka with the other animals hiding from view. Everglades City which was as bleak as can be imagined. The other Florida. Poor non coastal Florida of the past, a village after gas warfare or the A bomb. The driver said that 2/3rd of the men in the town had been involved in the drug trade and were arrested when the Feds cleaned things up a few years ago.

Sanibel rather Malthusian. The Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge takes up half of the island thanks to the Pulitzer cartoonist foreseeing the future from the 1930s preserved the northern half of the island for a bird refuge and created a moat and drawbridge to keep the visitors away. We rented a bicycle under the 90 degree sun and braved heatstroke until we fell off in Ding’s preserve and lost our camera. That was it – no Captiva to see Rauschenberg’s fish shack and 35 acre estate. Next time, maybe.

We read Barbara Rinella was Cleopatra in Bonita Springs, and that Leslie Hindman sponsored a lecture series at the Von Liebing Art Center on art appraisals. RED is all over the place, the play of the season temporarily replacing Hello Dolly; some Noel Coward always trotted out in southwest Florida, there are opera and symphonies and Charo, Lucie Arnaz, Debbie Reynolds, Tony Bennett and some of the Opryland commercial confections. (Shocker to see that place on the ride home).

Back at the rented manse on Sarasota Bay we discovered several 1959 American Horizon collections. PG Wodehouse’s “My World and What Happened To It” about the scourge of second sons, knuts, “a group of ornamental young men whom the ravens fed.” Such divine affectation from Long Island. Loved George Plimpton’s interview with Hemingway in 1958 Havana with the writer’s irritated replies and annoyed disdain at the exhausting and unanswerable questions. Hem always wrote at first light (he quotes himself amusingly) till he reached about 500 words then spent the rest of the day being a celebrity with famous friends and disdaining tourists.

On the 1,200 mile drive back to Chicago stayed the night in run down Chattanooga, Tennessee one place that hasn’t changed in 50 years and probably should have though entre nous it was rather refreshing after the rich dessert of Florida.

Everglades City

Sunset on the Bay






Issue #2



The Chicago Auto Show in the stunning West Building of McCormick Place had the usual acres of new cars (they all look alike) polished by an army of car dusters and festooned with ectomorphic models. A few electric cars, however homely, caught our eye as we looked back wistfully to Bucky Fuller’s 1933 Dymaxion electric car. We all know we have had the technology for 80 years but then again we’ve also had the oil behemoths.

Electric battery charging

The car dealers decided the dress code had to be tuxedos and fancy dresses at First Look for Charity so we forewent the plaisir. FYI – Most black ties in 2012 permit dark suits and ties or black turtle necks and blue blazers. Even at the press luncheon there was a dress code; we were among a group of journalists unceremoniously turned away by a zoot – suited Economics Club ticket collector who apparently didn’t like Hermes scarves or Faconnable sweaters. Donna Falcone has replaced Grace Barry as the new president of the club.

Jacqueline Novogratz, who was on the cover on December’s Forbes. received the annual Humanitarian Award from Women of Concern at a luncheon at the Fairmont to benefit their worldwide education programs. She is the financial wizard and founder of the Acumen Fund that invests in East Africa and South Asia; her book Blue Sweater is an inspiring memoir that will brighten your March day. Over 600 supporters of Concern Chicago bid on schools, teachers, uniforms and pencils in a live auction by Christie’s exec the entertaining Steve Zick. Energetic TV newsreader Kathy Brock was the MC.

Joe, Yon, Jonathon, Kristine at CONCERN

The Museum of Contemporary Art is a bargain considering the cost of admission to the other Big 5 or is it Big 6 museums–($10 entry and $7 for seniors and Free Tuesdays). We admire the proportions and Bauhausian style of the Koolhaas structure but the cladding is too dark and somber, very Weimar, for a cavernous urban setting. A soupcon of color would have been nice.

The current exhibition at the museum and This Will Have Been, Art, Love Politics etcetera in the 80s, should have added in New York since, with a European exception or two, that’s where all art apparently took place. The most moving artobjects comment on the AIDS crisis.


Chicago art at the time was very vibrant especially in sculpture but you wouldn’t know it from Boston curator Ms.Molesworth. Paschke beat the poseur Schnabel hands down but we didn’t have circus masters Mary Booth and Leo Castelli to promote local art! Hoim Steinbach’s 1986 Untitled from the permanent collection of the MCA is in the exhibition which was an unfortunate choice it is so Old Town Art Fair.

An art critic in the New York Times opined that 85% of art is bad art. Today Art is Anything Goes; there are no standards because no credible critics, no Goncourt’s. Damien Hirst who glued diamonds on a skull thinks that “anything done super well is art.Dumb as he is,

Steinbach, Untitled 1986

Christo will have to wait until 2015 to put up schmatte on the Arkansas River. The orange banners in Central Park brought tourist dollars to the city but came and went. Poof! Ephemera has no place after the seismic, tectonic, paradigm and every other kind of shift in life after 2008. Ars longa vita brevis not here.

Pablo Eisenberg in The Nation takes issue with the globally minded Gates and the Walton foundations, mega funds ruled by individual families that are not publicly accountable as if they are forces outside of government. Well guys we may have licked malaria in these 50 States but we still have the Arapaho and the Shoshone, 14,000 strong, on Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming who need our help and not just the casino panacea. It’s a less exciting trip to the western US than Africa or Asia but the need as great right here. Period.

Chillllllllling quote from Charles Grant the Director of the Center for European Reform, “Germany is the unquestioned leader of Europe.” France is subordinate; England has “no influence at all”. Oh well, dear old Prince Charles helped save a Scottish manse Dumfries Castle in Ayrshire which is featured on the cover of AD. If you wonder who has the means to buy these properties think invisible inherited wealth, those grandees who think that “publicity is invariably demeaning and worthless” because “they don’t see the need to stand out in a crowd.” (Baron Kitchener-Fellowes)

Is it just us or is it a tad dispiriting to read about a conference called Women of the World; like Women in Molecular Biology, Women in Business, Women in Anything Else it sounds like Dogs of the Yukon or NatGeo’s Animal of the Year, reminding us we’re still in the “them” category. Why not a Men of the World Conference! Or the 50 Most Influential MEN in the World?

Did you know there is a gal right here in Inverness, Illinois, Suzanne Nance, who has conquered the Seven Summits of the world? And she did so quietly without all the espresso machines and Out of Thin Air tragedy of Sandy Pitt on the mountain that refused to become fashionable.

Fashion tapping encore into the imaginary country house P.G. Wodehouse look. (The 1066 blokes call it the Instant Horsewomen Syndrome– as in when the greengrocer’s daughter (0r Carolyn Roehm) mounts a steed and proclaims herself an equestrian.) For those of us who have actually stayed at these houses we know there is cold water, rusty bathtubs, stodgy food and pervasive Duke for a Day attitude.

Finished with what Simon Schama calls the “cultural necrophilia” of Downton Abbey now that that ghastly Shirley MacLaine will be in the cast.

A new offering from the publishing world is  That Woman rehash of known facts about the Baltimore boarding house owner’s daughter and her “Oriental” sex secrets and Super Bowl Satanist Madonna drops yet another movie bomb about Wallis in WE. Eh bien at least gossip never dies! A recent offering in the genre is Mimi “The Mouth” Alford’s extremely distasteful book about her escapades a half century ago with our 35th.president.

As an antidote we tuned in to Caroline’s autumn lecture at the JFK Presidential Library announcing the release of the 1964 tapes of the conversation between Arthur Schlesinger and her mother. Jackie was a regular gal with strong opinions (she absolutely hated Wisconsin!!!!) but she also possessed an implacable moral sense of what was right and what was wrong. We shared her love of the memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon.

Sally Bedell Smith signing books at the WAC

Sally Bedell Smith the social historian was in town. We loved her catty book about man eater Pamela Harriman and her audacious one about Princess Diana, one source for our play Savage Power. Smith has now tackled the Queen (yawn) for the Diamond Jubilee and lectured after dinner at the WAC, retelling numerous anecdotes about how Elizabeth Regina is a regular Joe (how could she possibly be!!) and how her husband calls her cabbage. Nothing new the movie didn’t tell us. She gamely undertook book signing but coolly kept Chicago women at bay.

Jim O’Connor of O’Connor Communications keeps on reinventing himself, a true literary entrepreneur. His latest foray is as a mystery/romance writer in Another Man’s Treasure about a professional home organizer who discovers family secrets in a treasure trunk. Highly recommended.

Carolyn Armenta Davis and friends

Our friend Carolyn Armenta Davis entertained the audience at the Alliance Francaise with a lecture Creativity Released: Designs from Black Architects in Paris, Dakar, and Beyond, about five ateliers lead by Françoise N’Thépé from Paris, Pierre Goudiaby and AndréeDiop Depret from Dakar, Guillaume Koffi & IssaDiabeté and Francis Sossah from CôteD’Ivoire. Carolyn has traveled on seven continents with this mission to bring their achievements to light.

Chicago Mag anoints the 100 most clouty locals, few surprises but 20% are women; we calculated that half of those got where they were because of powerful families, husband, fathers. Cheers to those who made it on their own steam. By the by, we note that women who don’t work used to be called housewives; now they’re called philanthropists.

The top three Democratic campaign “bundlers” in Illinois are Fred Eychaner, Attorney Lee Miller and Bruce Heyman of Goldman Sachs who purportedly has three energy projects approved by the administration. Eychaner is the media mogul, the chairman of Newsweb Corporation and the fifth largest lifetime national donor to the DNC. In January he hosted the $38,500 per couple dinner for Obama who appointed him and Penny Pritzker trustees of the JFK Center for Performing Arts. He is also President of the Alphawood Foundation. Next-tier bundlers (such a clumsy word, sounds like bunglers) include Neil Bluhm, Mellody Hobson, John Rogers Jr., James Crown and so forth. We should probably ban all campaign contributions over a thousand dollars and give everyone a chance to run.

Heather Johnston and Kristina Schneider at Lawry's

Did you know the average nonprofit gala generates a decibel count of 90, with 65 being normal. In any event the Pump Room’s count must be way up there; it is louder than LuxBar and almost impossible to have an intelligent conversation in. We still miss the white banquettes and golden light. Old Byfield’s with the fireplace and gorgeous drapes is very inviting but is mobbed after 5 o’clock.

Why all the renovations in recent years? The lobby of the Fairmont has devolved from cheery bright pink marble to brown gloom without enough light to read a newspaper. But old Lawry’s still has the 1960s country club décor and the food to match – spinach a la bacon fat, heavily blanketed dressed Caesar, slabs of meat, waitresses in French maid costumes.

Bobby Hull sightings recall a tipsy evening spent with the soccer star and George Plimpton at a live radio show with the great Milt Rosenberg. Futilely trying to find an open kitchen after ten, Carson’s on Wells finally obliged. George was often in Chicago to visit family, to attend polo at Oak Brook or speak at Friends of Conservation events. We miss him as all the clever world does.

David Goodman turned the big 7-Oh and his wife Shari threw a surprise birthday party for him. He’s a stalwart at the East Bank Club and workout buddies bought him a Green Bay Packers jersey.

A bientot!

Surprise!!!! John, Jackand Zoe

Surprise, David!


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,, 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