Liz Smith: Get Your Facts First

“GET your facts first, then you can distort them as you please,” said Mark Twain.

Give a caring thought tonight for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). This is the nation’s first and largest nonprofit support group of this generation’s veterans. They are “celebrating” two days after Veteran’s Day.

Among the greats they are saluting this evening at Cipriani 42 Street “was” to be General David H Petraeus.

He, of course, will not be there to receive his Veterans Leadership Award. Emcee Brian Williams will have to make do with Roger Waters (Artistic Leadership Award) and Joan Ganz Cooney and her famous husband, Pete Peterson (the Civilian Service Award.

This “newsy” situation is not your award ideal, as you can imagine. But in a way, it will only underscore what a hero General Petraeus has been and always will be to many in the military service and elsewhere. It’s not a death in the family, but it is a genuine tragedy for the United States — his loss through his admitted own devising.

Frankly, I wish him and his family well and I hope, down the line, he can again be of service to this country.
So IAVA will carry on doing its best for veterans and making do tonight with the distinguished Joan and Pete and their tandem generosity … with some appearance from the stars of Joan’s “Sesame Street” and with Roger Water’s huge songwriting and performing talents. All three of these leaders are important advocates for the veterans community.

I will be there, too, for I have never done enough for the men and women who keep this country safe.

HEARD from a longtime friend, Anne Slater and her significant other, John Cahill, the other day.

Anne, who was a force around New York for years in her signature blue eyeglasses, is very much missed in these parts. But now she lives about 20 minutes from Palm Beach in Wellington. And she is having a swell time in horse country.

Why was the divine Anne calling me? She read here the incredible story about the late Margot Fonteyn of prima ballerina fame and how Margot wished, instead of doing the barre everyday of her young and mid life, this thought instead:

“You know, in my next life I would like to have a career like Shirley Temple. You work like hell till you are six; you then sit on your ass for the rest of your life!”

Anne Slater loved this story enough to phone me. Fabulous. I adore people with a sense of humor.

THE LANDMARKS Conservancy of New York City scored big the other eve at the Plaza Hotel Ballroom. It was an ironic coincidence that the Conservancy had just happened to “save” this beautiful room from destruction, in the same way they do many fabulous architectural works.

The excellent David Patrick Columbia of this website — newyorksocialdiary — already did a rave report on this black-tie evening which raised over a million bucks to keep the Conservancy doing its good work. The over-seer of this group, Peg Breen, glamorous as all get out, announced that they were working to help with the restoration of many buildings attacked by Hurricane Sandy.

I am all for the advancement of women to equal partnership in America. But, I’m telling you true that for me, there is nothing else quite like a distinguished man of accomplishment stepping up in public to accept an honor. On this particular night we had the aforesaid Pete Peterson, one of the foremost philanthropists in the country, as the Chairman.

(He is such a generous, impressive and genuinely funny man. When he retired from Blackstone, he gave a billion dollars for good works.)

At this Plaza Hotel event, we made “Living Landmarks” out of a host of other greats, who have each and every one done something spectacular to make life better for all of us.

They were Robert Caro, the LBJ and Robert Moses historian … the Empire State Building’s Peter Malkin, dedicated to restoration of the midtown skyline and to his other great love, Lincoln Center … Daniel Boulud, superchef who spent much of his time at the podium praising the man who first gave him a job in NYC, a former “Landmark” — Sirio Maccioni.

M. Boulud also whacked the cork out of a bottle of champagne with a short sword. Spectacular! … the giver of so many good things that I call him SuperPhilanthropist, John Rosenwald, Jr. … plus the ever-helpful-to-the-Conservancy, Liza Minnelli, who made a recitative of the lyrics of “New York, New York!” Liza deserved to be so-named herself.

I think people who love this city should all join in helping save it! This remarkable organization is gaining power by leaps and bounds.

Oh yes, and we had the Police Chief Ray Kelly on hand with his wonderful wife Veronica. When I asked the audience: “Dare I introduce him as the next Mayor of New York” — he wisecracked, “Liz, you always nail me.” I answered, “Arrest me!”

Audiences always love Chief Kelly and they even loved that.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 11/13/12

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