CITIZENS vs. CELEBRITIES: A Challenge to Chris Brown to Box For Charity

I saw it all happen
from across the road
It’d been happening for over a year
With her black eyes sunken,
and her soul so blue
He’d taken her apart with fear

He hurts the one he loves when
he’s the one in pain
He’s out drinking all night,
no knows where he’s been
He lies to the others,
and puts himself high on the shelf
Man if you’re so great do it yourself…

…be a real man
be a real man
-A Real Man by John McIntosh (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada)

I, Christopher London, lawyer, writer and society photographer, propose, in the spirit and tradition of Celebrity Death Match, Citizens vs. Celebrities in 3 Round Boxing Matches, live on Pay Per View with proceeds to go to victims of domestic violence, abuse and the homeless. This challenge is issued directly to R&B Singer Chris Brown who recently received a questionably lenient sentence for a serious crime, even though allegedly there was a history of violence in his relationship with singer Rihanna. Celebrity culture is out of control in America. Justice is not always fairly served. The sentences doled out do not jibe with the reality of ordinary citizens. We can change all that beginning today, right now by making celebrities answer to their general public, their fan base etc.

Two NFL Players received prison sentences, Michael Vick for torturing dogs who upon release from prison for serving his sentence has been reinstated by the NFL, the other Plaxico Burress who recently agreed to a plea bargain to serve to two years in prison for shooting himself in the leg, who probably deserves to be laughed at rather than do jail time. While I think that locking up Plaxico Burress for two years may be excessive, especially since by shooting himself in the leg (literally and figuratively) the only person he harmed was himself, he was, however, carrying a concealed weapon into a nightclub in New York City. Gun laws may be draconian but perhaps Mayor Mike had a reason to speak out on this issue, to insure that our metropolis did not deteriorate into a scene out of Boys in the Hood. And unlike some folks I do not have a problem with Michael Vick’s reinstatement by Roger Goodell as Michael did his time and now has a chance to redeem himself, after forfeiting such great promise. What bothers me most, however, is that recently R&B Singer, Chris Brown who beat the hell out of a woman, another human being, a singer by the name of Rihanna, and apparently threatened to kill her received a sentence of probation and community service. Come again?

MEN WHO HIT WOMEN ARE NOT MEN by any standard. That is something that Chris Brown obviously does not understand and likely will not be made to understand with the sentence he received. What kinds of lessons are we teaching our children with this form of justice? Our children will see that if you are famous and wealthy and you smack women around, even threaten to kill them, it is ok if she is a bitch, a pain in the ass or inconveniences you sufficiently that you have to go all Muhammad Ali on her and all that will happen to you is that you may have to do some community service. What kind of message are we sending? I suspect more women will be abused as a result. Allowing Chris Brown to roam free means that more men will take liberties with women. In effect we are treating women as some drug that hypnotizes men and therefore if men lose it, its ok, it’s not their fault. The saddest thing a child can see or hear about is that the woman who nurtured, raised and gave birth to him is or was under attack. How safe is a world if the very person who brought you into it can be treated like garbage by another individual and then in turn by our society and its levers of justice? But you get my point. So you say, oh the woman is crazy, she was dysfunctional, she lied, she cheated on you, she took your money, she is no role model–WHATEVER!—-Your solution bro, the only solution actually is to run as far a way as possible from that woman, not to strike her repeately and threaten to kill her. A REAL MAN RUNS AWAY LIKE A BIG SISSY FROM A CRAZY WOMAN. That’s right. That’s the protocol. So listen Chris, you don’t run it, you run away. Even pretty boys can appear dangerous coming at a woman with their fists flying in a scattered flurry of rage. Women were not trained to do the rope a dope, even if you ain’t no Muhammad Ali, although truth be told you do resemble a young Cassius Clay. One can only wonder if a more monster like football player engaged in the same behavior as Chris Brown whether they would have received the same sentence. Do we have a different standard for pretty boys like Chris Brown who themselves have feminine features? Or is it something more, Chris Brown is a music and entertainment industry commodity, bringing him down, costs some other folks some big coin.

I am in my mid 40’s, old, tired, not in the greatest shape right now, have bad eyesight, have no prior experience or training in the ring or in any martial art so, unlike the martial arts expert who challenged him previously, this would be a safe bet for Chris Brown. But he should know, I have seen all of the ROCKY movies (several times), have Brooklyn blood and know that with three months of training at Gleasons Gym I would have the eye of the tiger, only thing is that I would also require the right to wear contact lenses (so I can see). I am for real, willing to take a punch, risk physical harm to myself and go the distance so that women in America don’t have to. A society that does not protect its women from abuse and battery is no longer a civilized society. And perhaps in the process I will reveal the INNER GIRL inside the THUG. I will even wear the title photographer around my neck. Everyone knows that some celebrities like to hit photographers, or at least the papparazzi (of which I am not one). Oh wait, they usually get a surrogate to hit the photographer. But you get my point.

I promise to KNOCKOUT CHRIS BROWN COLD. Maybe Chris Brown would find it easier to beat up an old man than a woman? I will agree that we can even play his music during the bout, I hear that is just his speed. Is there a promoter out there that can put this together? As a photographer, I am willing to wear NIKON (or perhaps even CANON) trunks. In exchange for their logo placement, and sponsorship, said camera maker would donate a prize to the charity of the winner’s choice, in a sum to be agreed upon before the bout.

This is an opportunity for Chris Brown to man up, make himself an example and give back. And there is always the chance I get my butt kicked but I am willing to take that chance so more women do not have to. Perhaps Iron Mike Tyson can referee and Annie Liebovitz could be the official event photographer, although I think that this could be better documented by Donna Ferrato. If it is a massive success everyone wins, with a portion of proceeds also going to Annie’s financial problems. What about Sylvester Stallone in London’s corner? Just asking.

The only way to cleanse and detoxify yourself for the wrongs committed within a community is to seek healing and salvation through assisting that community in its battle against the type of crimes you committed, not through dodging justice and promising you will not do it again. Moreover, from a pragmatic entertainment business standpoint, absent the willingness to submit to this type of detoxification, Mr. Brown, I dare say that your career will suffer, rumor is that you are on the verge of getting dropped by Jive Records, and you will forever be known as the man who battered a woman and basically got away with it, the O.J. Simpson of pop if you will. You can’t just run it. My proposal offers redemption, catharsis, charity and entertainment all wrapped into one. Reality TV at its finest.

LINKS
-Abuse Aware
-Domestic Abuse Awareness
-Click to Empower
-Safe Horizon
-Sanctuary for Families
-New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
-National Domestic Violence Hotline
-National Network to End Domestic Violence
-Chris Brown
-Rhianna
-Gleason’s Gym

The Progressive Voice: Teddy Kennedy

For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die. -Ted Kennedy, 1980 Democratic National Convention Address

The conscience of a nation passed this evening and I am beside myself. As my father once stated so eloquently:

You will never see a more beautiful politician than John F. Kennedy You will never hear a more eloquent politician than Robert F. Kennedy You will, however, never see a more determined politician than Teddy Kennedy.

To live in the shadows of great men is humbling. To eclipse them through the sheer force of one’s will, determination and passion to insure that we as a people never forget about society’s forgotten is my friends the greatest accomplishment of them all. Ted Kennedy stood for justice and compassion, always, for those who often received neither and in his unwavering determination and discipline he eclipsed those who came before him. I can relate to the challenge on some level. In my family I have had to maneuver and make my way despite the talents, vision and beauty of my brothers who are in many respects far greater than mine. Each and every one of my brothers have gifts that I do not, qualities and character that I do not. This is the Kennedy Legacy best embodied and exemplified by the spirit of Senator Edward M. (”Teddy”) Kennedy. Champion of the underdogs.

An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest senator of our time. His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws, and reflected in millions of lives,” Barack Obama, President of the United States.

As I sit here with tears in my eyes reminded by my father who has passed, why I should forever keep my eye on you and what you have done, I choose to ignore your detractors, those who may choose to highlight aspects of your rather imperfect life, your flaws and mistakes. Yet, I can only imagine that it was the character of your soul that made you devote your life to the people that mattered, those without a voice and those without political leverage. You could have compromised and perhaps become President. You could have sold your soul and become John McCain, but the honor of your life is that you never forgot about the little people, regardless of how tempting it was to do so. I am humbled by your submission of service to the most forgotten in our society. And for that reason, my tears are not for naught. We live in a world where we celebrate the ridiculous. Sir, I choose to never forget your spirit and service towards those least able to protect themselves in our society. Perhaps the reason why there are broken hearts over your passing all over America is because, as Vice President Biden stated: “The unique thing about Teddy was he was never about him. It was always about you. It was never about him.”

God bless you Senator Edward M. Kennedy. I have never met you, nor can my words match the eloquence of our local New York leaders who paid tribute to you today, but know that to me and my kin, you will always be simply Teddy, a man among men, a humble man, a great man, a man never to be forgotten. And finally as aptly stated by Patricia Duff:

The Common Good would like to acknowledge the passing of an American political icon, Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Senator Kennedy was best known as one of the most influential, outspoken and effective proponents of progressive causes. Always at the center of any important national debate, Senator Kennedy often championed values also shared by The Common Good,“ fairness, tolerance, justice and compassion, and a willingness to work with both his friends and his political opponents to find common ground.

Ted Kennedy will never be defined by a single event or tragedy;his life’s work averted many other tragedies. So, while the progressive voice may have dimmed with Kennedy’s passing, the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans and because of that hope rises again and the dream lives on but there is still work to be done. We must never forget that for the dream to live on we cannot and shall not count exclusively on the voice of one man, one family or any small group of individuals. As much as we may honor and revere leaders like Ted Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy and Paul Wellstone for their contributions, the movement lives on and shall depend on the many never ending individual acts of responsible engaged citizens.

SEE ALSO
-Ted Kennedy.org: Memorial Site
-Daily Kos: Sen. Ted Kennedy Has Passed Away
-NY Times (Obituary): Edward M. Kennedy, Senate Stalwart, Dies
-RFK Center For Justice & Human Rights
-Moveon.org: The Dream Shall Never Die
-The Huffington Post: Ted Kennedy Big News Page
-Boston.com: Ted Kennedy. A Life in Politics
-Boston.com: Edward M. Kennedy 1932-2009
-Vanity Fair:The Making of a Senator
-Wikipedia: Ted Kennedy
-President Obama: “Kennedy the greatest Senator of our time.”
-Robert Reich’s blog: Ted Kennedy
-NNDB Profile
-NY Times: Networks Schedule Tributes to Kennedy

Why Jill Zarin is More of a New Yorker than Sarah Jessica Parker

NY Post Writer, Danica Lo’s tongue in cheek attempt to define a New Yorker in her piece You’re a New Yorker If, reads like a Press Release off the desk of Sarah Jessica Parker’s publicist. Coming from someone who covers New York’s Fashion beat, it almost makes sense that she would highlight Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex & the City fame. But in all candor it does not even pass the smell test. Danica Lo’s “insight” is more analogous to Ray Bari Pizza than it is Lombardi’s or Grimaldi’s. And if you are a “Real” New Yorker, you know what I am talking about, even if your favorite joint is Connie’s Pizza in Sheepshead Bay.

Her piece is cute, almost funny. But all I can say is sorry babe, Sarah Jessica Parker is but a “caricature” of a New Yorker. Although in fairness to her and Sex & the City, also a caricature of New York created by Darren Starr (a non New Yorker who learned his craft in Hollywood) based on a column by Observer columnist/party girl, Candace Bushnell, who was raised in surburban affluence in Connecticut, has led to increased tourism for the city even if it has created a distorted reality of what the lives of New Yorkers are actually like. Mostly, it has led to the willingness of many out of town idiots to plunk down $15-20 for Cosmo like cocktails at trendy upscale lounges, wax on about their shoe fetishes, crass lifestyle, including openly referring to the guys that they may have given a BJ to the previous evening. Mostly, it was like an infomercial for certain brands that led to increased materialism and narcissism and a cultural acceptance of that as the norm, whereas the average real New Yorker would sooner hit the Bull & Bear. As aptly stated by my friend, also a lawyer/photographer Erika Andresen:

Sex and the City made everyone growing up anywhere but New York City believe this is how New Yorker’s act and then they come here and act that way because that’s what they think is right. And now New York has become a caricature of itself. This is no longer my New York and it breaks my heart.

As one who was born and raised in three boroughs, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, my belief is that you would be hard pressed to find actual New Yorkers, outside the fashionista quadrant and those who work at Vogue who could relate to or who would consider Sarah Jessica Parker a New Yorker. Now Sarah Jessica Parker, who played Candace Bushnell’s alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw on TV and the big screen, is reportedly worth $100 Million dollars. This is far more than Bushnell who was raised in Connecticut in suburban affluence before writing the column for the Observer that in essence launched her career and who is in essence the art behind the life of Sarah Jessica Parker. Parker’s career frankly would not be where it is absent Ms. Bushnell. Ironic that art does not mimic life, life mimics art and becomes more lucrative than the art behind it. There is more money in playing Candace Bushnell than in being Candace Bushnell. Now if that is not a mind phuck, I do not know what is.  But then again you would have to go to Brooklyn to find Amy Sohn who is more of a real New Yorker or one with a real grasp of the feminine perspective in this town.  So in short, if your life and persona are largely derivative, I hardly see, regardless of how good an actress you might be, how that makes one “authentic.” Me thinks that Sara Jessica Parker owes Ms. Bushnell a royalty fee for her life. The self appointed fashion icon even launched her own clothing line.

But then actually, one can simplify all of this drama by recognizing and accepting that Jill Zarin, “The Real Housewife from New York”, originally a Long Island Girl is actually more of a New Yorker than all of the above. And for accuracy’s sake, Cynthia Nixon, who plays lawyer Miranda Hobbes on Sex & the City and who lives in Brooklyn, performs on Broadway and actually uses her celebrity for responsible activism, is also actually more of a New Yorker than Sara Jessica Parker. Ms. Nixon was born here in New York City but truth be told is perhaps not as promotable a brand for New York’s fashion industry as is Sarah Jessica Parker. Cynthia may make you think more, Sarah will help you sell more clothes. While one can understand the rationale from a branding standpoint to push forth the notion of a certain individual(s) being quintessential New Yorkers, real New Yorkers recognize who the other real New Yorkers are. Perpetuating fiction may help you sell some more schmatte to unsuspecting out of towner’s, who want to do all they can to “be so New York”, but let’s be clear, it is not going to fool anyone here.

In that regard, my advice to the fashion industry in New York is to stop trying to recapture or repackage Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City or holding up and glorifying Sarah Jessica Parker as some icon worth emulating. While she is presumably a fine citizen, the incessant sale of that caricature of an individual in a caricature of our town is not some mystical brand, instead it rings hollow to real New Yorkers, many whom in truth can likely identify more with so called reality stars, the girl next door who probably genuinely had to work it to break through the media bubble to achieve independent success. In that regard, Whitney Port of The Hills and The City fame, who has already to date had an interesting career, working as a publicist with the People’s Revolution, modeling and designing her own clothing line, is more New York than Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City or Sarah Jessica Parker. Her seemingly glamorous rise with bumps in the road is something that women in all five boroughs can more easily relate to.

Out of the Darkness: Insight & Evolution

Man looks into the Abyss, and there’s nothin’ staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character, and that’s what keeps him out of the Abyss. –Lou Manheim, Wall Street (1987)

It has become clear to me in these historically unsettling times that many around us, in our personal, professional and family lives may find themselves hurting, feeling sad, alone with a heavy heart, suffering from anxiety or depression. My advice is as follows.

It is out of the darkness, solitude and in those moments that we find ourselves most alone that we shall gain some tremendous insight and perspective to what is truly meaningful in life. As stated by Henry David Thoreau: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. … It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.”

It is during the journey through the long dark night of the soul that we evolve and become more spiritually inclined. Pain and suffering do serve a rather profound purpose in life. I know all too well from first hand experience. Several years back, it took walking in another man’s shoes, feeling the misery and pain of failure, loss and destructive addictive behavior and overcoming it to make me realize that it was that “crazy person” next to me that was simply one of god’s little green apples trying to tutor and enlighten me. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” And my salvation was in learning how to make the most of seemingly crazy ideas. Through this learning experience, I began to see the world around me and the people in it quite differently. That time helped me evolve to where I am now, with greater emotional security, clarity and perspective, even though my station in life is every bit if not more precarious than others who may be suffering at present.

While many artists and writers create their greatest works from channeling melancholy and the infinite sadness lurking in their soul, let there be no doubt, it is a place which we must evolve past. And whenever possible we must strive to guide those we love to evolve past this, because to intensely focus on that which is painful and depressing, will, after a while, deplete all of your constructive energy. That state of mind is not a place you want to live full time. The life of a broken, dispirited artist is in my estimation, highly over rated even if it seems like a “dramatic” existence.

To live in a dark cold place too long will drive one mad. So it is in these times where we all may face challenges, the significance of which we are not necessarily prepared for, I say reach for the sunshine and reach for the light with every ounce of your soul. It is a much healthier place to live and ultimately necessary to survive! And whenever possible, try to remind and bolster those around you that you see slipping into the abyss, to reach for the light. And when they may need medical help or shelter try to be resourceful. Now more than ever we need to rekindle our sense of community. A smile, a warm hand, some simple friendly guidance, a hug or just spending some time may save a soul. So if you were to ask me Am I my brother’s keeper? The answer is yes,I am my brother’s keeper. There is a divine purpose for all of this:

Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.

We are not alone.

RESOURCES:

Mental Health
-Mental Health Association of NYC
-NYU Langone Medical Center
-New York Presbyterian
-Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance
-The Samaritans of NYC: Suicide Prevention Hotline: 212-673-3000

Transitional Services
-Transitional Services Links Guide
-JBFCS
-Catholic Charities of New York
-Coalition For The Homeless
-Common Ground
-Women In Need

Addiction
-New York Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers & Programs
-Alcoholism Council of New York
-Capo by the Sea (California Inpatient Rehab Treatment Center)

INSIDE Social Life Magazine: The Business of Society & Defending Devorah Rose

This past week the New York Observer ran a piece entitled Society-Mag Smackdown which featured a rather long winded dissertation by New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia which was critical of the so called upstarts who according to him really are not part of “Society” at least as he knows it. Mr. Columbia’s quotes in the Observer’s Society-Mag Smackdown piece are referenced below.

Quest and Avenue, Mr. Columbia asserts, are the authentic society magazines because they are put together by members of the world they cover. The Meighers, for example, are part of the New York and Palm Beach Society,” said Mr. Columbia, who himself grew up middle-class in Massachusetts. “Elizabeth and Georgina grew up in New York and went to private schools here. All their friends belong to this world.“With the great bubble of prosperity, you had all these aspirants to that world,” Mr. Columbia continued. “But since they are not part of it, they’ve actually created their own world—a satellite world which they call society, which it absolutely is not.”

And as to the future of the other magazines, Mr. Columbia goes on:

“They’re trying to create a hierarchy based on publicity, which is something that follows hierarchy—it doesn’t precede it.” “They’ll be wiped out,” said Mr. Columbia. He was sinking his teeth into the buttered corn. “They’re almost all going to go.”

There is so much oddly wrong and disturbing about the above statements of David Patrick Columbia that it is almost hard to know where to begin. Ironic that the magazines that Mr. Columbia has himself been affiliated with, Avenue & Quest, are the only original/authentic society publications. Perhaps maybe he has heard of Town & Country Magazine published by the Hearst Corporation under its present title since 1925 but originally founded in 1846?

For the record: Town & Country is the Original Society Magazine. Long before anyone knew of David Patrick Columbia, Avenue which was founded in 1976 or Quest, the magazine founded by the caring and lovely Heather Cohane, most across America were well aware of Town & Country Magazine. A personal aside, the first time my images from a Riverkeeper fundraiser appeared in the pages of Town & Country in a full two page spread, I received emails and phone calls from friends I had lost touch with decade or more ago.

With all due respect to Mr. Columbia who has built a great body of work in documenting a a couple of decades of New York history, or at least the social meanderings of certain select folks among the well heeled classes of New Yorkers, unique in its own right, but not everyone share’s in his motivations and not everyone is a social climber or aspiring to what is largely a gay construct in terms of what constitutes “Society” by his definition or in his estimation. Often the most photographed are elegant ladies, designers and the social gays of New York’s fashionable elite. Powerful men of business and industry often remain, understandbly outside the purview of the cocktail circuit cameras, with a few notebable exceptions. Argubably his more exclusive definition of “Society” which amounts to “we are society, you are not” is based upon as he states “hierarchy rather than publicity.” But what is wrong with that statement is that this world has swimming about in it society publicists such as R Couri Hay of R Couri Hay Creative Public Relations, Harriet Weintraub and other image makers and image guru’s who assist and counsel their clients how to make the right steps to move up the proverbial hierachical chain as well as journalists who are themselves socialites and who write about their friends and lovers. In essence, it is the buying into that hierarchy and the notion of its existence, that gets many affluent folks to procure assistance to move up and get recognized as part of this hierarchy. It would be disengenuous for Mr. Columbia to posture that he is unaware of it, or that he has not participated in the advancement of folks up his hierarchical food chain, in a more intimate and local, but behind the scenes fame game. Buying into the hierarchy is an essence a business of its own, a quiet business but nonetheless a business.

Furthermore, on a personal aside, to those who might cheer on the demise of any Society publication, as the editor of another magazine and blog, Mr. Columbia should try to remember one noteable thing, and that is our cultural and charitable institutions benefit enormously from the alternate perspectives and press focus on the philanthropic activities of their patrons. So, in the words of Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along?” May we celebrate the success of Avenue, Quest, Niche Media, LLC, Social Life Magazine, Hearst Publications and the numerous blogs that shine their light on society, philanthropy and social and cultural life in New York City, the Hamptons and beyond? Admittedly, I read the NY Times, NY Observer, Cityfile, NY Post’s Page Six, The Daily News, Mr. Columbia’s NYSD, and often take a look see at the perspective of the younger set on GuestofaGuest.com, as well as Tia Walker’s The Quest for “it” blog and Uptown Magazine, maybe even periodically check who is gaming the fame on FameGame.com. And, while I write for Social Life Magazine and formerly also wrote the NY Society column for Prestige Magazine in Asia, I regularly read Jason Binn’s & Cristina Cuomo’s creations when I am out East. I do not consider reading Hamptons or Gotham Magazine any conflict of interest. My sense is perhaps that the drama that ensues between the publications and their editorial staff and leadership is the increasing competition for content which is “unique”. Contrast that with the agenda of publicists who feed content to ALL the publications, who are angling for as much tasteful event coverage as possible and you can begin to understand the source of competition. Or as in the case of Joan Jedell of HamptonSheet, outright disdain: “Social Life doesn’t interest me,” Ms. Jedell said, “because it’s like, ‘Who are these people?’ Only Gawker seemed to have a sense humor about this whole ridiculous mess. And Joan for the record, I am that guy you elbowed to the gutt at a recent charity event while I was trying to do my job. ;-)

May all New Yorkers who are currently doing their thing in publishing whether for Society publications, newspapers or blogs survive another economic cycle or two. Competitors are we? I think not. Yo-Hoo does not compete with Coca Cola and Pepsi does not compete with Cakebread Cellars. We all drink from different cups with varying perspectives. May we all continue to do so. Laugh at the social drama, cause really thats all it is. I read all of you and intend to continue to do so. May you all be similarly inspired and challenged as I have and continue to work at creating a better, more interesting product to read.

Authentic vs. Aspirational

Does it really matter who has the “authentic” Society Magazine and/or who is covering affluence vs. society or who is doing so from an aspirational perspective vs. an establishment or shall I say, inbred perspective?

True power and wealth (wealth of the soul from the power within or financial wealth) does not have to aspire to anything. They have it. As for me and my motivations, Mr. Columbia could not be any more wrong. Personally, I never aspired to be part of any world other than the world I am living in. Before I started ManhattanSociety.com, in the 1990’s I served on the Benefit Committee of The Fresh Air Fund and their fundraisers were among the few I attended as patron/guest and committee member, usually with a girl friend or a girlfriend or as one of the three amigos (an inside joke and perhaps the people I am referring to will get it.) While photos were often taken of certain “key attendees”, the only person who ever took my picture and those of my guest was one of my friends. We noticed the so called “society photographers” but it just did not register that it was significant in any way to be photographed. We were clueless perhaps and simply thrilled that we sold out our tables and got all of our friends to purchase tickets in support of The Fresh Air Fund.

The evolution of ManhattanSociety.com and my interest from the perspective of a social documentarian was to document and understand how the engines of social life and philanthropy worked in my hometown, especially after 9/11 when the humanitarian acts of responsible engaged citizens caught my attention. During the course of my exploration, I was pulled into covering more and more of this world of so called “Affluence” and/or “High Society” by Society publicists and then ultimately the development and fundraising personnel of major New York charities and cultural institutions. With workman like efficiency I have always tried and continue to document the people, places and things in a tasteful fashion. To be candid, as I got more proficient at doing it, the rewards were strangely mixed. Often my reward for doing a good job which may have included obtaining better editorial quality shots then the so called competition, was the occassional put down, having my work misappropriated and miscredited, including on New York Social Diary and other places and then made to feel like I somehow did not belong, was not one of them and not a part of this world and then was oddly removed from certain lists or disinvited to certain events. The thing is I never tried to climb any social ladder, never thought I was particularly special, sadly, but the subtle and not so subtle reminders from select people were a reminder that perhaps I might have been better off had I stayed in Brooklyn and not ventured into this pursuit. Within society there are certain unspoken protocols but there is also an under current of certain folks operating with a different agenda entirely in which there are attempts to diminish the political capital and relative social standing and stature of others, if it hits up against their branding or business interests in this circuit. A generous spirit is sometimes insufficient and often leads to exploitation.

So, who am I? I am a New Yorker by birth, born and raised in Queens (at Jamaica Hospital) and Brooklyn and briefly in Manhattan to an American mom born in Chelsea of Italian, German and Austrian descent and a Colombian born father of Spanish descent. I attended public schools in New York City and attended Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. I practiced law with leading New York and Boston law firms, including Weil Gotshal & Manges, in the 1980’s and 1990’s before leaving private practice for a career in Executive Search which literally tanked shortly after 9/11. At present, I am a working class professional guy who works as a legal consultant by day while trying to save a few bucks for a rainy day. My brothers mean the world to me. Being a friend and resource to my family is the most important thing in my life. I love them with every ounce of my soul and think of them as the greatest gift that my mother and father, rest his soul, ever gave to me. I buy my own groceries, cook my own meals, do my own laundry. Right now, I am a single guy living a rather simple life, with few passions other than reading the classics, listening to NPR, reading alternative news to compare it with mainstream media, buying camera equipment and listening to Radiohead, The Cure, Sara McLachlan, Tori Amos, Andrea Bocelli and Sinatra. My one heathenly indulgence is a bi-monthly cleaning lady so that my humble abode does not deteriorate to the point of being uninhabitable, due to my Oscar Madison like tendencies, including wearing my New York Mets hat indoors, when it comes to daily apartment maintenance. I like Mike Bloomberg but also understand the merits to Bill Thompson’s candidacy. While that has nothing to do with this discussion, hopefully this gives you a flavor for my mindset.

The Case of Devorah Rose

So why do I still do this, in terms of ManhattanSociety.com? Part of the reason I continue to do this is that often I get to have a great conversation with a leading philanthropist, a CEO, one of America’s greatest lawyers in David Boies, photographing history, meeting a Kennedy, a Cuomo, Bloomberg or Rudy Giuliani. Interesting, successful people fascinate me regardless of their politics. Covering the world of philanthropy and meaningful social and cultural life has afforded me these opportunities to see up close the people who create and weave the fabric of our society. To be candid, pop cultural celebrities are far less an interest of mine, so you will rarely if ever see me at a movie premiere red carpet. Perhaps I do it because of the frequent reminders, thank you’s from members of benefit committee’s, board members and kindness from development directors and public relations personnel at major NY charities that they appreciate my efforts and work at ManhattanSociety.com to highlight and draw new patrons to their causes. Many appreciate further my column in Social Life Magazine which helps extend the reach of their charities to those who might become future patrons. My inspiration this year ironically came from a variety of sources, including my own often contentious relations with those who edit and publish my column. Truth is often that those that challenge you make you better. That Justin Mitchell and Devorah Rose have given me this platform and also pulled in some talented creative people like Alexis Dahan and visionary fashion stylist Naila Chbib to package what it is I do in the overall context of what they do, has been an honor, one that I have not always respected or appreciated until I saw Cityfile’s: Life’s a Bitch for Devorah Rose piece.

Devorah Rose has brought the spotlight to herself, by throwing herself into the mix of the culture of Reality TV via her appearances on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City and NYC Prep. And while I have had many contentious battles with Devorah and often resented her fame dance and wondered how it could benefit anyone other than herself, the truth is that maybe none of you would ever be reading my column in Social Life Magazine or be aware of it or who I am. This year the magazine is elegant, tasteful with a degree of thoughtful introspection about the times we are living in, with of course a healthy degree of silly self indulgence in the ridiculous aspects of our social culture, which is truly tongue in cheek. Let’s be honest, people are most often reading all of these magazines while they are laying at the beach or by a pool. If you have not checked it out, you really should get a subscription.

And while I fully understand and appreciate that when you pursue the famegame and put yourself squarely in the public eye, you will certainly take some hits, it is worth reminding some folks that Ms. Rose has extended the reach of the publication without the likes of any Little Big Man, a publishing conglomerate, a sugar daddy or even having Big Papa in her corner writing checks to support this indulgence. This Barnard College grad and current MFA candidate at Columbia University in the context of parlaying her own fame, has assisted in extending the brand of the other creatives involved in Social Life Magazine, including enabling my own passion which was to have a platform in a magazine in my hometown. While she has been labeled a professional partygoer, my observations of Ms. Rose, while often similarly critical, of note is that she is rarely if ever seen inebriated or partying like a drunkard or running around double fisted with alcoholic beverage as some social journalists do at cocktail parties. Devorah Rose is always rather “working it”, admittedly in a style much different than my own, but I will gladly eat some humble pie for my private and public dismissal of her as irrelevant. She is not. To denigrate her as a professional partygoer without doing so to the rest of the folks in the social publishing realm is frankly hypocritical, and after all, let’s get real, it’s just Social Life, a necessary diversion from the grind of real life and work.

Notably, Tinsley Mortimer, the designer and socialite who DPC has waxed on prophetically a number of times and who has appeared in nearly every Society publication from New York to Palm Beach to Asia and through some social engineering that I was actually involved with at one point, Tinsley served as a cover model for a publication I was formerly affiliated with, Prestige Magazine (before I was gratuitously cut out of the process and dismissed prior to their launch in the U.S. by current NY Editor in Chief, Rhonda Palmer which taught me a huge lesson about assisting opportunistic people in their business ventures in publishing, although maybe its more than ironic that Prestige Magazine lost its publisher in NY after the launch) and then also did a rather elaborate photo shoot for and was a Social Life Magazine Cover Model. Arguably, this really served as a stepping stone to her wider launch into pop cultural relevance outside of the more intimate corridors of New York Society. Now outside the big island of Manhattan Society circles the few socialites who register with the general public at large are Tinsley Mortimer and Olivia Palermo.

To quote activist Jane Jacobs, “I do not know who this celebrity called Jane Jacobs is. It’s not me. You either do your work or you’re a celebrity; I’d rather do my work.” That is the approach that I prefer to take. But I respect in this modern era, some others play by a different set of rules, many of which I do not always appreciate initially or understand. My hero’s are folks like Jacobs, Mario Cuomo, RFK with his son, RFK, Jr., making some serious legacy building headway to follow in that regard, Senator Paul Wellstone, Conservative Barry Goldwater (who my friends at Parcbench.com like to refer to as the original hipster) and Tom Seaver for his determination, grit, professionalism as well as his ability to engage in thoughtful introspection. While I have numerous journalistic hero’s and those who I aspired to be like, rest assured none were social or society editors, but folks like Jimmy Breslin and Mike Lupica would be at the top of those lists. Speaking truth to power is to me the greatest and most admirable quality in a journalist, which truthfully is getting increasingly difficult to do without ramifications, in these odd times. The voices of Mae Brussell, Michael Ruppert and Aaron Russo resonate with me. So oddly, focusing on the odd business of who and who is not “society” seems itself strangely irrelevant. Let those believe what they want to believe about the cocoon that they operate in. This is a rather strange world indeed. All I am left to wonder is whether President Obama will call for a conference and gather all the players from the recent Society-Mag Smackdown for a beer at the White House.