ON BEING KIPTON CRONKITE: The Painful Price of Pursuing the Fame Game & Social Climbing in New York

Socialite Olivia Palermo with Kipton Cronkite

Socialite Olivia Palermo with Kipton Cronkite at Milk Gallery in the Meatpacking District of New York City for a Private Holiday Soiree to Benefit Operation Smile on December 6, 2006

People are talking about last week’s story on New York Post’s Page Six entitled “He’s A Cronkite In Claim Only”. The story referenced Kipton Art founder, Kipton Cronkite or is it James K. Cronkhite who also happens to be Director of Investments at Bank of America’sAlternative Investment Advisors Group. The story struck a nerve with many. Some are effusively supportive of Kipton, many less so and still others seem to be refraining from on the record commentary. If you are Kipton, you can only hope that the story broke as many in Society are more focused on the Madoff scandal, the relative state of their own finances, the American economy at large or distracted by Fashion Week, The Oscars or Baseball’s steroid scandal.

The New York Post Page Six story was timely and in fact newsworthy given that Kipton is working in the investment community at a leading global financial institution at a time when the American economy is in crisis and fraud is rampant. Some purporting to defend Kipton deflected this story as frivolous and left derogatory comments about Walter Cronkite, his son Chip Cronkite and Walter’s long time girlfriend, Joanna Simon on the comments section under the story. Defenders of Kipton would, however, be well advised not to attack the good name of the real Mr. Cronkite or members of his inner circle for merely disavowing any genealogical tie or family relationship with the man known locally as Kipton Cronkite. Likewise, I have nothing bad to personally say about the always well coiffed gentleman known as Kipton as he has always been nothing but polite to me, invited me to his parties etc. and the truth is I never personally heard him say or represent that he was related to Walter Cronkite. But then again, it never occurred to me to ask. I simply knew him as KIPTON, the entrepreneur behind KIPTON ART.

The social and philanthropic media from Vanity Fair, New York Social Diary, Quest, however, promoted Kipton’s genealogical ties to American news legend Walter Cronkite, hence making the question of the relation newsworthy for Page Six or the New York Times for that matter. And as we all know or should know social and society media get their information from a source, likely a publicist or representative close to the individual. The fabrication, distortion or misrepresentation of Kipton’s relationship with Walter Cronkite was never corrected. Instead it just got watered down over time as Kipton Cronkite’s relative social celebrity grew from Walter Cronkite’s grandson to…a distant relation. While I do not think that Kipton necessarily deserves to have his platform mocked as it has been with the current joke making the rounds– KIPTON ART Presents a Double Feature: The Talented Mr. Ripley and Six Degrees of Separation, his stratospheric social climb, with New York’s elite institutions and individuals makes him at least somewhat worthy of the title, The Talented Mr. Kipton.

I am only Chris London (Christopher Dwight Mejia London), basically nobody significant, yet it has bothered me when enormously when in this age of incessant social networking, someone passed themselves off as a very close personal friend of mine to network with someone I know. Once I learned of this, I made a point of telling that person that they are not my friend and I do not know them. Accordingly, one might expect if you were Walter Cronkite, who is one of the most respected names in modern American life, that you and members of your family and inner circle might have a slight issue with people trading on your good name, especially if said individual was working in the investment community in wealth management at a prestigious financial institution at a time when the economy is in crisis, fraud is widespread and those in positions of trust are being exposed for being something different than they presented themselves to society.

We are living in strange and uncertain times, people and things are not always what they seem to be. Bernie Madoff was a respected member of the Jewish and Wall Street business community and a veritable pillar of Manhattan and Palm Beach Society, and yet his ponzi scheme turned out to make him one of the biggest scam artists since the man Charles Ponzi himself. Truth is that so many in society leverage off someone or something. There are many who are still running their “famegame” on the fumes of having partied with Andy Warhol or being BFF’s with Paris Hilton.

The perception that Kipton was a Cronkite, of the Walter Cronkites, one of the most trusted names in News, an American legend, without question gave Kipton an air of respectability and perhaps opened doors to high society, charity & museum boards and circles of affluence in New York and beyond and made him quite chummy with the editor of New York Social Diary and the publishers of Quest Magazine who in essence promoted and extended his social celebrity. But, I suspect that many who would invest with him because of the Cronkite name now may be less inclined to do so because they know that there was something not right about trading off someone’s name and brand.

Society is a funny thing. Many look for an angle, a perch from which to launch their social standing. Artistes, creative’s, painters, literary types and designers have that platform regardless of their financial ancestry….and it does not hurt them if they are not from affluent or famous families.  Many in Society do it to gain an air of respectability or credibility etc. One might even argue that the representation, affiliation or working with members of the creative community is also somewhat of a calling card which many a “society publicist” has used such relationships to open other doors. Kipton is not the only one. That much is clear. Many social poseurs who have no gift or talent who are also of more moderate means often “pose” as trust-fundafarian’s who mysteriously got cut off, rather than just admitting they are regular people without much money. It’s so much less dramatic but suggests a sense of belonging, having come from a certain class, even if one no longer has the financial trappings associated with that life.

As I always joke, I may cover Manhattan Society, but I am 100% Bridge & Tunnel, have no trust fund to speak of and my ancestors came to Brooklyn on the D Train and Queens on the 7 Train and we all traveled through bridges and tunnels my whole life. My mom grew up in Chelsea when the composition of the neighborhood was more working class and less trendy/gay; my grandparents, who worked for the phone company and the railroad could still afford to live there and send my mother to school.

EPILOGUE: Reports that have followed this blog in February 2009

-Vanity Fair by Jamie Johnson (April 21, 2009), Kipton Cronkite and the Art of Name Enhancement
-NY Post (April 11, 2009), Artsy Cronkite’s Ratings Dip:  story focuses on Kipton’s exit from his position at Bank of America.
-NY Post (November 18, 2010), Real Estate agent Laurence Kaiser marries Kipton Cronkite
-AVENUEInsider (November 18, 2010), Kipton Cronkite’s Husband Is Also His Boss Man
-LeRoy’s Pink Fist: Kipton Cronkite: reporting Kipton’s wedding to Park Avenue Real Estate broker Laurence Kaiser
-Scallywag & Vagabond (November 22, 2010), The Scandal surrounding Kipton Cronkite escalates
-Observer (July 13, 2010), Kipton Cronkite, Walter Cronkite’s 97th Cousin, Joining Broker Ranks
-Elle Culture by Genevieve Bahrenburg (October 6, 2010) ART ANGEL