Liz Smith: Celeb Photographer Harry Benson Glitters at Tiffany’s

Harry Benson

And more from our Liz: China … the next Hollywood?

“Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!”

According to his sister Mona Simpson, this is what the great Steve Jobs said in final words before his Oct. 5th death.

* * *

We feel relatively sure that Mr. Jobs wasn’t referencing this column, but doing his own astounded thing. Anyway, giving away a “Wow” is nothing to be sneezed at, even in a minor sense.

So Tiffany & Company deserves a big WOW over the party the celebrated jewelry emporium tossed the other eve at the corner of the world (57th and Fifth in New York City) Everybody who could creep, crawl or totter came out to celebrate a big new book by the master photographer Harry Benson. Titled New York, New York, this effort of Harry’s includes almost everyone who has been anyone in this city. And those still standing showed up. Tiffany’s offered the usual, plus tiny cookies resembling toy soldiers. (There was even one made to resemble the aqua marine gift box of Tiffany itself.)

The Mayor and Diana Taylor presented themselves in person, matching up to their photo in the book, which shows them sitting on the steps of their Manhattan apartment. And, I managed to have a wonderful chat with Police Chief Ray Kelly and his wife, Veronica. I asked my hero Ray if he’d run for Mayor in the future. Considering the many problems he has encountered of late, he threw back his head and laughed. As if to say, “Why would I ever want to do a thing like that?” (The night before, at the classic Veau d’Or bistro, I ran into the Deputy Mayor, one Patti Harris, and asked her the same question. Her collapse into laughter was similar to Ray’s. But I know neither of these fine public servants feels the Mayor’s job is a laughing matter.)

* * *

BACK TO the Tiffany party — Harry Benson, his wife Gigi, their two handsome daughters and assorted grandchildren glad-handed through the crowd. And if I printed a fraction of the “names” present and those reproduced in this grand slam of a book, we’d be here for ages. Suffice to say this IS the coffee table book of the year, or of the last 30 years. I believe it was the former Tiffany leader, John Loring, who said: “It’s a coffee table in its own self!”

You could ask Amazon what they are selling Harry Benson’s masterpiece for — but believe me, it’s the book of our days in little old NYC.

The list price is $85, and if you have $85 and can carry this work of art without a wheelbarrow, you’re ok. Those who already have everything and are problems for your Christmas list will be so delighted.

P.S. The women of wOw, with the exception of two of our incredible founders — CBS’ Lesley Stahl and Mary Wells Lawrence – are seen in a double page spread taken by Harry several years ago. He made us, one and all, look so great. (I guess Lesley missed it because she was on assignment for “60 Minutes” and probably Mary didn’t make it because she was off visiting her money in Geneva or tending to international projects. She is, to us, “the eternal Gypsy.”)

* * *

The Tiffany party went on into the night. When I got up to Swifty’s after, there were many of the same people crowded into Robert Caravaggi and Stephen Attoes’ super popular “comfort food” eating-greeting place.

* * *

Scotland is the home to two new denizens from the East, and it costs just over $109,000 to order these two their “groceries.” This food happens to be rare imported bamboo that is coming with Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the first pandas in 17 years to come to the Edinburgh Zoo. They are male and female and will live connected but separated from one another, except on rare occasions, in protected housing that costs over $300,000. They have caves, pools, climbing features and bullet-proof glass. Keepers hope, in time, they will mate.

There are only about 1600 pandas left alive in the wild. The Edinburgh Zoo is paying a pretty penny to China to lease these rare animals.

Meanwhile, in China itself, DreamWorks of Hollywood is setting up a branch, since China is the world’s fastest growing movie market. They are opening a new base in Shanghai in spite of the fact that China allows only 20 foreign titles a year to be seen legally. The World Trade Organization is trying to get this figure revised. “Avatar” raised almost $200 million when it got there.

Says one expert: “Hollywood has changed all the bad guys from Chinese to North Korean to make sure they can reach the Chinese market.” And director Wayne Wang remarks: “The main problem with making films for the Chinese market is that the Chinese are very ethnocentric. And they should be, because they have these 5000 years of history. It’s very difficult for them to accept anything from the outside … that doesn’t infringe on anything that deals with cultural, social or political issues.”

2 comments so far.

  1. avatar French Heart says:

    ‘Tending her $$$ in Switzerland’……LOL

    “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow!” What the great Steve Jobs said in final words before his Oct. 5th death. —–Totally believe that.

    I lived on Stanford campus–where his funeral was held at gorgeous Memorial Church. Lawyer friend lived near his house in old Palo Alto–a charming, regular, neighborhood home. Spotted he and Al Gore striding heads down engrossed in lively talk from direction of Stanford up to him home–which was w/i walking distance to the Apple Store on University Ave and Whole Foods where he’d be spotted picking out organic produce. A GREAT guy. Am such a MacHead. Am sure he’s up reorganizing Heaven. ;)

  2. avatar Frannie says:

    Was in Beijing earlier this year. Went with a team that was there to hang some Kelly’s at that American Embassy. It was a wonderful trip, albeit hot and humid, but I met some interesting Chinese. I had a chance to pull out my rusty Mandarin and found that I really needed to practice more.

    The Chinese have always been very ethno-centric. Many times as we were traveling in the van we had to be very careful about expressing our observations of the difference between a free and oppressed society. They believe they are very free but it was obvious that they are not allowed to express themselves as we are.

    I was walking in a private park (had to pay 38 cents for admittance) along the canal just outside the Forbidden City and some cops pulled up. There were two men sitting on a bench looking at the water and the police went up to one and started hitting him in the head with a club. The other man just backed off and stood there with his hands behind his back. The police proceeded to push the first guys head back over the back of the bench and press his club against it and press hard. The guy started to choke and gurgle. I was kind of shocked and was totally powerless to do anything. A Chinese jogger appeared and stopped and looked at me – kind of ashamed and shook his head and said in english “that is BAD cop. Move away now – hurt you.” I was with one of the guys on the team and we worriedly left, always checking over our shoulder to make sure they didn’t kill the guy.

    I read a Chinese paper every morning at breakfast and was amazed that they have exactly the same controversies that we do. One of the big stories was that real estate was so high people could not afford to buy homes or even small apartments. Our waiter told us that he and his family wanted to buy a one bedroom apartment and it was $900,000 US $’s. He was outraged, he felt he would never be able to buy a home for his family. They are at the top of their real estate bubble that is just about to pop. Another controversy was that the a bank run by the govt had lost $3 Trillion Yuan. They don’t know where it is. So the people were beginning to protest about govt corruption and collusion with the banks. I guess it is all coming to a head no matter where you go.