Serving Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby, Century City, Trousdale, Brentwood, Westwood

George Christy 09-11-2009

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Decisiveness is her strength, her weakness is her children, and her wish is for a better tennis backhand.  This is Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue for twenty years, being interviewed on R. J. Cutler’s documentary, The September Issue, which was Vogue’s 2007 biggest issue ever, reaching thirteen million readers, and weighing over four pounds with 840 pages (727 are ad pages!).  Let’s call the film, The Voyeurs Issue, as Cutler weaves us through the behind-the-scenes shenanigans.  But this long day’s journey into the arduous months of creating this extraordinary tome may beguile fashionistas and fashion freaks, although it borders, at times,  on tedium. 

Fortunately, the Welsh-born creative director Grace Coddington, a Victoriana portrait with her massive red hair, spares us some longueurs with her chilly comments and witty insights.  She makes no bones about disagreements with Anna, who confides that Grace is remarkable.  One suspects that without Grace’s imaginative moxie, where would Vogue be?  Grace gives Anna full credit for being ahead of the celebrity culture, and choosing celebrities, early on, for Vogue’s covers. 

But do we really give a fig about Anna requesting that Sienna Miller’s neck be photoshopped for Mario Testino’s cover photograph?   Still, one sympathizes with Neiman Marcus chief Burt Tansky admonishing Anna to address the situation of late deliveries, and possibly wring a few designers’ necks.  Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta, Jean Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent’s Stefano Pilati are given short shrift with meaningless cameos, but their models do dress up the liturgical pacing.   The exuberant and delightful editor-at-large, Andre Leon Talley, registers as a zero.

Anna’s daughter Bee Shaffer reveals that fashion doesn’t interest her, that “there’s more to life than fashion, which is weird.”  Bee’s goal was a career in law, but recently changed to theater.   Anna’s is a teen model’s body, her charm-on-camera factor is down pat, although her voice is flat.  Her lips are cute, sexy and kissable, but that slick pageboy hairstyle becomes, in Eartha Kitt’s phrasing of a lyric, “monotone-eee-ous” during the film’s 88 minutes.  Oh, well, it’s her signature, without a hair ever out of place.

A better documentary about fashion is Matt Tyrnauer’s Valentino:  The Last Emperor.  Couturier Valentino Garavani and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti’s fiery Italian personalities contribute a lively and more glamorous portrait of life behind the seams, next to Anna’s cool British reserve.  

Is Anna an ice princess, as some say?  Who knows, and does it matter?  No. Hers is an unerring and civilized eye for what Vogue readers like and want, and she delivers time and again, opening a door into a fantasyscape of dress-up.  Along with stunning portraits and topical features about style, health, politics, food, etc.  No easy task, month after month.  Hats off to her!

Maybe one day we’ll come upon another Vogue photo that became legendary during my college youth.  Richard Avedon posed the model Dovima in a Dior ballgown alongside two playful elephants at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris.   Fashion empress Diana Vreeland named her Dovima after the first letters of her baptismal name, Dorothy Virginia Mary.  Her surname was Juba, and she later sold cosmetics, then worked as a hostess at the Two Guys Pizzeria in Fort Lauderdale.

Everybody’s favorite block party in Los Angeles commences this weekend, with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson as guest hosts on September 11, 12 and 13 during the 11th annual L.A. Greek Fest on the Grand Plaza of the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral at Normandie and Pico.  “They come from far and wide to experience the Greek hospitality, our dozens of booths serving family-prepared specialties that you’ll want to take home,” says the Very Reverend Father John Bakas, dean of the Cathedral. 

The Athenian songbird Anna Vissi is flying to California for a major Saturday night performance, and Annette Bening will be there over the weekend to talk about starring in the Euripides tragedy, Medea, at UCLA this month.   The merry crowds partake of live music, dancing, raffles, a sports bar, as Greek-Americans party with Grecophiles.  On Friday night, admission’s free for everyone, and on Saturday and Sunday, admission is $5 for adults, with youngsters under 12 admitted without charge all weekend long. For more details, call (323) 734-2424.

The clever invitation designed by Joni Moisant Weyl, the wife of art enthusiast and founding partner in the prestigious 50-year-old Gemini G.E.L. gallery on Melrose Avenue, informed that husband Sid Felsen is celebrating his 85th birthday.  At Pane e Vino, more than 250 friends and associates congratulated best-dressed Sid with his signature hat, and Joni, in a nod to Sid’s collection of hats, strung dozens from the ceiling. 

The Who and the Who of artists and collectors and dealers gathered cheek-by-jowl over drinks.   Who wasn’t there would be easier to report.  We caught up with  Sid’s Gemini founding partner Stan Grinstein and wife Elyse, daughters Ann and Ellen Grinstein, Berta and Frank Gehry, Guy Dill, Laddie Dill, Chuck Arnoldi, John Baldessari, Kim and Michael McCarty of Michael’s, Lenny and Bernie Greenberg, LA Louver’s Elizabeth and Peter Goulds, Barbara Lazaroff and John Hanwell, LACMA’s Michael Govan, Times critic Christopher Knight, Chris Burden, Joe Goode, Margo Leavin, Bruce Nauman, Henry Hopkins.  Years ago, Pane e Vino’s Rod Dyer and I were the first to check out Jitlada and other Thai dining rooms, and we predicted Thai cuisine would be the next big thing.  And it was.

A soft summer night with a full moon drew standing ovations from the smartly dressed crowd for Mikhail (Micha) Nicolaievich Baryshnikov and his partner Ana Laguna during their contemporary dance program that launched the Broad Stage’s second season in Santa Monica.  An al fresco dinner, prepared by Mary Micucci of Along Came Mary, was served in the plaza for the gala’s 499 guests, the seating maximum for the Broad Stage, elegantly designed by Renzo Zecchetto Architects of Santa Monica.   A rewarding civic enticement, the Broad Stage is a dream come true for Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad.  With free parking!

The youngest applicant to pass the CPA exam in his native state of Michigan, Eli founded two Fortune 500 companies, the real estate behemoth Kaufman & Broad, and SunAmerica, the financial service arm now owned by AIG.  He and wife Edythe are passionate collectors of contemporary art, which graces the walls of the Broad Stage lobby, and their $60 million gift funded the Eli Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA.  Eli tells the Wall Street Journal that he’s not in the “check-writing charity business, but in the venture philanthropy business,” wanting to see results, having given millions for health research and art.  Their Broad Foundation will be giving away $2.1 billion, with his philosophy, as noted by the Journal, being similar to Andrew Carnegie’s:  “Who dies with wealth, dies in shame.”

Eli and Edye and their Broad Stage director Dale Franzen welcomed David Mamet and wife Rebecca Pidgeon, Dick Riordan, Don Cheadle and mate Bridgid Coulter with their youngsters, Twilight’s Ashley Greene, Ali McGraw, Ginny Mancini with Jay Weston, Gena Rowlands with Robert Forest, Nancy Daly, novelists Judith Krantz and Lisa See, Dan Franzen, who represents Placido Domingo (scheduled to conduct a zarzuela evening next spring at the Broad).    In November, the Broad welcomes Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for twelve not-to-be-missed comic performances of Love’s Labour Lost.  For more events, log in to

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