Sunday, January 28, 2018

An Abundant Life - Elegant Style

I've been working in public relations and marketing for many years with artists and designers and restaurateurs, and though New York City can be a beautiful playground, I've never been one to follow the crowd. A friend who knows me well calls me a curator, and at this point I've begun to agree - I know what I like and I have always been able to pick out what is the best and the brightest in a city that is filled with so much glitter that it can be hard sometimes to really know.

When I first met Gaetano Castaldo, I knew I was meeting someone special. I had been invited to Aperitivo Tuesdays, a weekly event he hosts at PHD Terrace at Dream Midtown, and after I'd RSVP'd, he sent me a personal message to follow up and say that he was happy that I would be there and that when I arrived I could text him and he would come down to the ground floor to meet me. If there's anything I like it's personal service - when someone treats me with that kind of care and respect it's pleasantly surprising, and when I arrived and texted him and he really did come down to meet me, I was charmed by his genuinely friendly and courteous manners. A native of Naples, he has a sense of that gentlemanly quality that sadly can be lacking even in men who have been brought up in good families and have gone to the best schools - I grew up with three older brothers who were as tough as they come, and I've gotten so used to being treated like one of the boys that I don't mind it, but I'm old fashioned enough that it's refreshingly pleasant to meet a man who holds the door for you and makes sure you are comfortable when you arrive.

Aperitivo Tuesdays is a very special evening that is not to be missed if you like lovely rooftop lounges, sparkling prosecco, delicious light bites and cocktails and charming company. A regular occurrence in Italy, there is really nothing quite like Aperitivo in New York City unless you're lucky enough to meet Gaetano Castaldo and visit with him at the weekly event he graciously and expertly hosts - our happy hours are so often in dark bars and focused just on the cocktails or watching the game or the news on a wide screen TV. In Italy, Aperitivo is a time for relaxing with friends, connecting for business in a casual environment, or just enjoying a beautiful time after work. There is food and friendship, collegiality and cocktails, a lovely place and lovely music to begin the evening before dinner. Gaetano is a perfect host, meeting and greeting and introducing people, going to the lobby from the Penthouse and back again to bring people upstairs and help them feel at home. PHD Terrace is a lovely place that is made all the lovelier by the environment Gaetano creates every week - I've gone to many clubs and events in my years in Manhattan and there is a very special feeling at Aperitivo Tuesdays that is elegant, glamourous and comfortable. You feel safe and relaxed and well taken care of, and as the live music plays and tasty hors d'oeuvres are passed, Campari and Aperol, Prosecco and cocktails are poured, the sun that sets over Manhattan has a special glow Italian style.

Over the months since I first met Gaetano, I've gone to as many Aperitivo Tuesdays as I can, though my schedule is busy and I can't be there as often as I'd like. It's such a perfect way to enjoy a Tuesday evening, and with the perfect host who is an expert in public relations bringing everything so beautifully together, it couldn't be any better.

Gaetano Castaldo Presents Aperitivo Tuesdays
PHD Terrace At Dream Midtown
210 West 55th Street
New York City

Photographs Courtesy Of Gaetano Castaldo
Photographs Taken By Chris Lavado And Alex Barbuto

Presented By Gaetano Castaldo


Jannie Susan

Sunday, January 21, 2018

An Abundant Life - Lyrical Beauty

My grandmother was a flapper, and over the years as I was growing up she would send me jewelry and accessories she had worn, writing notes in her well loved script that described the places she'd worn them and tips on how I could wear them now. One memorable costume necklace and earring set that she sent me when I was still a child had the suggestion that "you can wear it as a necklace, or I used to sometimes wear it on my head, with the larger bead in the middle, like Cleopatra." My mother has one of her dresses from that time, a parrot colored golden silk sheath that she wore with a feather tipped headband, so beautiful that I would frame it and hang it on a wall if my mother ever passes it down to me.

I've always been a fan of art deco style and art, and so when the wonderful Richard Skipper, the amazing performer, writer and Broadway and Cabaret historian who I've written about in these pages before, sent me an email that he was producing an evening with a discussion about Erté by the marvelous art deco Artist, Designer and Erté Historian Stephan, I wrote back that I'd always been a fan of Erté and that I had a print of his that I had gotten last year from another wonderful friend, the always impeccable Rolando Iglesias of Modern Retro Finds who I've also written about here in the past. Richard asked if I'd be interested in speaking with Stephan and when I said I'd love to write about him, I found myself being connected to a lovely person who had such captivating stories that I could have spoken to him for a lifetime. If I included everything we spoke about here, and everything I asked him and wanted to ask him, I could go on for days. I'll share a little of what I've learned, but just a taste - if you're in town when Stephan is here, you can go see him in person and hear all the wonderfulness for yourself.

Here are a few lovely vignettes in Stephan's own words:

"Where I grew up in Orange County, California, we only had one professional theater at the time. It was called Melodyland and was a theater in the round. So I grew up seeing shows that had no scenery at all. Then came the opening of the Shubert Theater in Century City and I was taken to see the original production of "FOLLIES". I had never experienced anything like that before. The sets and costumes amazed and thrilled me. I also experienced my first catharsis when the curtain came down. I was literally shaking in my seat. I said to myself that if I could make other people feel what I felt at that moment, I'd be a happy man. So I started to learn about  theater design, especially those designs of the time of the Follies, mainly the 1920's and 30's. It was soon after that I found myself in a book shop near where I was living in Long Beach and I came across the first book written about the designer Erté by theater historian, Charles Spencer. It was a deja vu moment for me as I was seeing these fantastic images for the first time yet they seemed so familiar. A definite connection had been made.

"Several years later, a dear friend who was working in a library came across a thick volume that listed all living artists around the world AND their addresses. On a lark, he looked up Erté and found his address which he then turned over to me. Erté was scheduled to appear at a local gallery for his 87th birthday. I wrote to Erté and told him about myself, and to my surprise he wrote back saying that he was looking forward to meeting me. The gallery was packed with people that night but we did manage to talk and I showed him some of my designs. He said, "Let me give you some advice. I want you to continue but try to come up with some new ideas. Don't do the same thing that we artists have been doing for years like 'The Four Seasons'.  Well, I took him at his word and did some very interesting suites of paintings like the the Neopolitan Suite, the Scheherazade Suite and the Times Of The Day.

"After moving to San Francisco, I became involved with the Art Deco Society of California. Almost immediately, they named me as their Artist-In-Residence and I have had that title since 1984. A few years later, I had the privilege of seeing Miss Yma Sumac perform. I had been a fan of hers for many years so I did a painting for her as a gift which I presented to her after the concert. She liked it very much as did her Manager who commissioned me to design all new costumes for her. She explained to me the kinds of things she liked to wear and I went home and started sketching. I met her in L.A. and out of the 9 or 10 sketches that I did, she chose five designs. When I returned home, I started work on the color renderings. I returned to L.A. with my friend, Mark Jones, who was a brilliant couturier. Mark made many gowns for the ladies of the Art Deco Society and knew all about the history of the clothing of that era. We met with Miss Sumac and she approved of my color choices and materials. Mark took measurements in his notebook and we returned home. The sad news came in two waves. First, Miss Sumac was unable to find a producer willing to back the show that she wanted to do and worst of all, my friend, Mark, passed away. Yma Sumac did return to San Francisco for another concert which I attended and I went to see her at an autograph session at a record store the next day. She remembered me and we had a nice talk. She signed a record album for me and all the costume designs that I did for her."

And from Richard Skipper's Press Release and Announcement:

Romain de Tirtoff became known as Erté (based on the French pronunciation of his initials RT) when he moved to Paris and became a Fashion Designer for the House of Poiret. He became a design star for the Folies Bergère and other French music halls which brought him to Broadway to design the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, seven productions of the George White Scandals, and to the newly formed studios of MGM in 1925. He had already became famous in the U.S. from designing covers and fashions for Harper's Bazaar magazine from 1915 to 1936. He designed for the greatest stars of the day from Mata Hari to Joan Crawford, from Lillian Gish to Anna Pavlova. And he did it all; costumes, sets, jewelry, interior design, fashions, limited edition prints, objets d'art, sculpture. He died at the age of 97 in 1990 and was still working up to the end doing sets and costumes for a Broadway bound musical revue called "Star Dust". It has been estimated that he did over 20,000 different designs.

Stephan will take you on a journey through the life of one of the greatest fashion and theatrical designers of all time. Using Erté's own art, very rare photos and his unique sense of humor, Stephan's talk is less of a lecture and more of an entertainment that has delighted audiences on three continents. Through Q and A, we shall see how Erté has influenced Stephan's own design style through his fashions, costumes, jewelry and graphic designs. You will also learn how seeing one musical in particular changed the course of Stephan's life and set him on a path that even he could have never conceived.

The Art Of Erté
Photographs And Notes Courtesy of Stephan

Apotheosis Scene From "Rhapsody In Blue"
From The George White Scandals
With Erté's Set And Costumes
Photo Courtesy of Gary Flannery

Costume Design Representing The North Sea
From The George White Scandals Of 1923
Photo Courtesy of SevenArts Ltd.

In July Of 1980, Erté Was Asked To Design The Sets And Costumes
For A Production of "Der Rosenkavalier"
At The Glyndebourne Opera Company In England

Erté About Age 25
Photo Courtesy of SevenArts Ltd.

Erté At Age 85
When He And His Apartment Were Featured
In A 1977 Issue Of Architectural Digest 

Erté's Costume For The Hunchback Character
In Jacques Richepin's Play "Le Minaret"
This Was The First Play For Which Erté Designed Costumes

One of Erté's Many Pen And Ink Fashion Designs
From Harper's Bazaar Magazine
Photo Courtesy of SevenArts Ltd.

A Scene From "The Hollywood Revue Of 1929"
Erté Had Designed A Sequence Called "The Ballet Of Pearls"
For A Film Called "Paris" In 1925
The Film Was Never Made But MGM Retained All Of Erté's Costumes
And Featured Them In This
The First All-Talking, All-Singing, All-Dancing Musical Extravaganza!

The May 1933 Cover For "Harper's Bazaar"
Erté Did About 240 Covers For The Magazine
From 1915-1937
Photo Courtesy of SevenArts Ltd.

Actress, Norma Shearer, Wearing An Erté Dress
For A Hollywood Sponsored Fashion Show Entitled "Her Day"
Photo Courtesy of SevenArts Ltd. 

The Art Of Stephan
Photographs, Artwork And Notes Courtesy Of The Artist

A Commissioned Piece
To Commemorate A Wedding

A Hand-Painted Envelope For A Friend's Birthday 

Another Hand-Painted Envelope

Josephine At The Folies Bergere

La Neige (The Snow) A Christmas Card

La Nouvelle
One Of Stephan's Fashion Designs

A Limited Edition Print
To Commemorate One Of The Art Deco Balls

A Metaphysical Portrait
Using Astrology, Numerology, Birth Stones And Shared Birthdays

From The Sheherazade Suite

A Poster For A Children's Musical
Based On "The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe"

October From The Suite "Seasons In Silhouette"

Opal From The Suite Of Precious Stones

The Knight Of The Rose
An Illustration For A Poster
Advertising A Local Renaissance Faire

The Queen Of Hearts

The Temptress

The Trocadero Nightclub
A Set Design For "Show Boat"

Photograph Courtesy of the Artist

Stephan Bio: 
For the past 34 years, Stephan has served as artist-in-residence for the Art Deco Society of California. He has designed magazine covers, note cards, pins and much signage for them over the years. As a freelance graphic artist, he has designed fashions, Christmas cards and sets and costumes for many plays, musicals, operas and ballets. Since moving to Newport, Oregon, Stephan has joined forces with Porthole Players as a designer and performer. His sets have included 'You Can't Take It With You', 'Sweet Charity', 'Oliver', 'Is He Dead?', 'My Fair Lady', 'Opera Comique', 'Company', 'The Producers', 'Young Frankenstein', 'Picasso at the Lapin Agile', 'Come Blow Your Horn', 'The Fantasticks' and 'The Addams Family'. As a performer, Stephan has appeared as Oscar Lindquist in 'Sweet Charity', Fagin in 'Oliver!', Col. Pickering in 'My Fair Lady', Bellomy in 'The Fantasticks', Linus in 'You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown', Bert Healy in 'Annie', Starkey the pirate in 'Peter Pan', the leading male singer in 'Side By Side By Sondheim', Fermin in 'The Phantom of the Opera', Dr. Pangloss in 'Candide', Sancho Panza in 'Man of La Mancha', Adam--Captain Sanjar--Flip, the prince, Charming in 'The Apple Tree', Franz Liebkind, the Nazi playwright in 'The Producers', and Igor in 'Young Frankenstein'. Raised on Disney sunshine, Stephan had dreams of being an animator for Walt Disney. He learned quickly that he wasn't an animator and went into the theater. His first set designs were for his high school choir's production of The Wizard of Oz. In college, he discovered the works of Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha and, more auspiciously, Erté. This had a major impact on him and the influence could be seen in his sets for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', 'The Boy Friend', 'The Matchmaker', 'Show Boat', 'The Pirates of Penzance', and 'Narnia'. Stephan also serves as Artistic Consultant for the City Center Newport Association otherwise know as Newport's Art Deco District. In August of 2009, he curated two exhibitions at the Newport Visual Arts Center to help promote the district. The Art of Deco had over 200 pieces on display in what was one of the best attended shows at the VAC. The public just couldn't get enough of the furniture, ceramics, jewelry, ephemera, clothes and art that took Stephan two years to amass. The second gallery had an exhibit of Retro Deco which showed the works of today's artists and craftspeople still working in the Art Deco style. In 2011, Stephan's art won 2nd, 3rd and 5th place in the Art Deco category of the American Art Awards. His love for the works of Erté and Art Deco have led him to become a sought after lecturer. He recently did his talk on Erte's life and art for the Ziegfeld Society in New York and the American Cinematheque in Hollywood. In the summer of 2016, he was in Paris to lecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts for the newly formed Paris Art Deco Society and last May for the 14th World Congress on Art Deco in Cleveland, Ohio.  

The Life and Art of Erte: One Night Only at The Laurie Beechman 
January 30th 7PM

This Event is $20.00/with a $20 Food Drink minimum  
This Evening Is Being Presented by Richard Skipper 


Jannie Susan

Sunday, January 14, 2018

An Abundant Life - Deliciously Crafted

A few months ago when I was writing about the wonderful makers of Misunderstood Whiskey, I took an adventure around Hoboken to try the different specialty cocktails that a variety of talented Mixologists were making with that very special Ginger Spiced Whiskey as their inspiration. Though a few of the restaurants I'd visited before, some of them I'd never been to, and thanks to the wonderful makers of wonderful Misunderstood, I was introduced to some amazing people. One of the restaurants on my list was Grand Vin which is a favorite of mine, and when I stopped by to try the specialty cocktail they were making, I was introduced to the amazing Mike Fikaris. I had written about Grand Vin before, and had visited there for several memorable meals, but every time I had been sitting outside and enjoying the wine selection and the amazing pairings the very knowledgeable and excellent staff had suggested, and I'd never thought to try a cocktail. As soon as I met Mike and saw the skill and focus he put into his craft, I knew I had met someone very special and I asked if I could spend some time with him after I finished writing about Misunderstood Whiskey so that I could write about the marvelous world he creates inside at the bar. He connected me with Anne Marie Adducci, who creates so many of the lovely touches in design that grace the space and who also graces the events with her lovely presence, and I was on to a new adventure.

The first taste treat I had on my next visit after that wonderful Misunderstood Whiskey adventure was on a Sunday afternoon, and though he'd been working a double shift, he worked double time with admirable good cheer to share some of his expertise. Then Anne Marie invited me to the Fall Cocktail Tasting, an event that I will always remember for the beauty of presentation and taste that introduced the lucky group of us to each cocktail. I had spoken with Dan Grey, the amazing owner who had so impressed me when I first wrote about the beautiful space and place he'd created, and as part of the focus piece on Mike Fikaris, I went back again for a dinner. In the meantime I'd heard from Laura McKelvie, another of the beautiful and talented presences there, that she was in the process of starting a new business as a tranformational life coach, and she was doing some foundational research by asking a few simple questions in conversation with volunteers who were interested in helping her on the journey. I suggested that she and I could meet on the same night I had my dinner with Mike, which led to a lovely Friday evening. I sat at the bar and watched Mike create his magic, even pairing my delicious cupcake dessert with a perfect cocktail. He's so professional and modest that I have to be quick to catch him creating - if I don't have my camera ready, the most amazing drink is on the bar in front of me before I've even noticed he's making it. A busy Friday night, a double shift on a Sunday - Mike Fikaris is able to keep the entire room happy and serve everyone with perfection. And my dinner that night was as perfect as it always is when I go to Grand Vin. They had just started serving oysters that week, so I ordered a combination of six that were divine, following that with a luscious serving of scallops and my favorite braised short ribs. Laura had just been involved with completing a new wine menu of organic wines, and she shared some tastes and pairings for each course. With those lovely cocktails and delicious wines, each taste was more than special. Although I love sitting outside at Grand Vin, I'm enjoying the experience of these colder weather months now that I know there's always a perfectly magical place at the bar.

Mike Fikaris Making Magic
At Grand Vin
500 Grand Street
Hoboken, New Jersey

The Lovely Laura McKelvie
Sharing And Pairing Organic Wines


Jannie Susan