Archive for March, 2013

Flashback: H. L. Mencken on America’s (God-awful) Aristocracy

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In The Yale Review in 1920, Baltimore’s H.L. Mencken (at right) took on the notion of an American aristocracy, the utter failure of the plutocratic class to live up to any aristocratic ideal, and the role of the press in propping up the plutocracy. This passage is long, but well worth revisiting, as ninety-three years later, it’s both funny and frightening how much it still applies. “The most salient characteristic of [a genuine aristocracy],” Mencken wrote, “is its interior security, and the chief visible evidence of that security is the freedom that goes with it–not only freedom in act, the … Continue reading

Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown

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Extell’s West 57th Street condo-hotel One57, home of Hurricane Sandy’s dangling boom of doom, has been an (un-)favorite of Gripepad’s since its damn-the-context design was first revealed. The Towering Infernal was in the news again yesterday, when London’s Telegraph revealed that the latest Chinese buyer in the building had gone into contract on a $6.5 million unit for a two-year old in anticipation of the child’s enrollment in college sixteen or so years from now. As I noted in Newsweek earlier this year, realty insiders have already nicknamed the building Chinatown. But with China’s new leadership cracking down on the … Continue reading

Met Museum flak calls critics a “nuisance,” AP listens anyway

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Institutions are run by individuals who sometimes fail to live up to what’s best about them. In an AP story making the rounds today about the latest class-action lawsuit accusing the leaders of the august Metropolitan Museum of Art of cowing and gouging visitors and violating the terms of its lease, MMA spokesman Harold Holzer (referred to as the Met’s Minister of Propaganda by one rogue curator) shows its administration’s thin skin when faced with insufficient reverence, calling the suit an “insupportable nuisance.” History repeats itself. Holzer criticized Rogues’ Gallery, too, calling it “highly misleading,” but failed to point out … Continue reading

Down memory lane to Miller Huggins Field

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I’m all ears in the photo accompanying my sister Jane’s article in tomorrow’s NY Times sports section on our father Milton Gross and our years skipping school to accompany him to spring training in St. Petersburg. But just to be clear, with all due respect to the late Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals (with whom we’re pictured), I was (and remain) a Yankees fan. And yes, that me and the Mick, but the rookie Mel Stottlemeyer was pitching batting practice that day, so he wouldn’t let me into the cage.

Flying Zweig at $120 Million?

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Super stock picker Martin Zweig’s last interview before his death in February appeared in my Avenue Unreal Estate column in June 2012 about three ballrooms-turned-penthouses on the southern rim of Central Park. Today, Jennifer Gould Keil at the Post reports a rumor that his widow Barbara Zweig is about to list his Pierre Hotel penthouse for $120 million, which would be a record-setting price. When he bought it for $20 million in 1999, he told me, “I thought it was under-priced.” Let’s see how high the market will fly now.

Bowie’s Back

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David Bowie’s return this week reminded me of the last lines of a profile I wrote long ago of his friend and collaborator Brian Eno, and a comment Eno made on his work with Bowie on the albums Low and Heroes. It’s applicable to just about any creative endeavor. “We’d go to the studio, work for hours on end, and then come back and find ourselves sitting in the kitchen at 6:00 AM too tired to make anything to eat,” Eno said. “What Bowie would do was tie a napkin ’round his throat and break a couple raw eggs into … Continue reading

Spring Cleaning: Archive Update

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I’ve at last updated the Selected Articles archive, and added stories written since late 2011 for Newsweek, Departures, The Daily Beast and Travel & Leisure and columns for the New York Post’s Alexa Luxe Living, Avenue and Crain’s New York Business.