By George Wayne
So I packed the Porsche Design Luggage one recent long weekend and took a “Staycation” to one of this city›s greatest neighborhoods – Battery Park City. There GW took up a four day residence at the simply chic and exquisite Conrad Hotel all the way down at 102 North End. It was the very same weekend as I unpacked the designer luggage that early evening from the gorgeously chic executive Suite 1436 as GW uncorked the complimentary Veuve Clicquot; the boys a few blocks east on Wall Street had much to celebrate too, having pushed the boundaries of the Dow Jones Industrial to historic, record highs well beyond 16,000.
It was the same week when the hallowed Christie’s Auction House had sold well over half a billion, (half a billion!) dollars worth of contemporary art that GW was loving the ideal of “hotel living” from one of Manhattan’s greatest best kept secret destinations - which is itself a nexus for some of the most amazing contemporary art to be seen outside any New York City museum.
The hotel’s quality was evident upon arrival - the greeting was divine and from some of the finest, well-trained hotel staff I have encountered in some time; they were all happy to treat George Wayne as if he were George Clooney. It was most readily apparent, as I jumped out of a yellow cab, that this hotel was absorbing, with its stupendously gorgeous and impressive atrium and lobby and the vast absorbing Sol Lewitt site-specific masterpiece “Loopy Doopy” (Blue and Purple, Acrylic paint, 100x80’). I mean this is a monumental piece of art commissioned from the artist who created conceptual art and no one really knows it›s here in the fabulous lobby of this clearly art-centric luxury hotel.
There are over 2,000 modern and contemporary pieces of art throughout the space. Pat Steir›s “Topsy Turvy” is the perfect complement to the Sol Lewitt, large and graceful and provides the gradient and the scale and the genuine sweep of say the cables of the Verrazano Bridge, which can clearly be seen from certain rooms of the 463 rooms of the all - luxury suite three-year-old Manhattan hotel.
There are well known works from many others such art stars as Frank Stella, Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons. I will never forget that Friday night sitting alone in the dark of the well-appointed living room and watching yet another Nat-Geo documentary of JFK and looking over my left shoulder at precisely 1:48am that morning at the touching and incredibly apropos image on the wall behind me. It was a moment in time I will personally never forget, watching this assassination documentary and turning my shoulder to admire the touching Elizabeth Peyton print right behind me “John & Jackie,” a lithograph of Jackie O in a Burberry trench walking the young John John down the street with a mother’s affectionate touch as she fussed with his hair. It’s a brilliant portrait and a simply unbelievable moment. Such is the life of George Wayne.
Then there was the gorgeous Saturday dawn and morning that day with not a cloud in the sky. As you can imagine at this point in time, Battery Park City might as well be renamed Baby Stroller Park City. A Saturday power-walk through the Hudson Park and neighboring landmarks like, One World Center, which is viewed best from the esplanade of where West Street meets Albany Street. From there the postcard picture perfect view of America’s newest and finally completed landmark is best acknowledged. One World Trade Center is a brusque, imposing and far too assertive fellow, but he does have flawless, beautiful skin.
After that it was a quick stroll through along lower Greenwich Street and past the huge crowds lining up for the 9/11 Museum to have a quick ale at the legendary - The Fraunces Tavern where George Washington lived in 1719. Dinner that evening was in one of the Battery Park City›s best neighborhood restaurants, which happens to be right there on the second floor atrium of the Conrad Hotel. Atrio Wine Bar and Restaurant under Executive Chef Anthony Zamora is indeed a local standout of a fine achievement. The Ahi Tuna Crudo is exceptional, and that is just for starters.
On a 2pm on a Sunday afternoon the baby stroller gridlock by the PJ Clarke’s in the Battery Park City mecca is like a yellow cab nightmare in Times Square and to be avoided at all costs. Sunday’s in this part of town is about the Hottie Daddy types with their even cuter tykes strapped to their torsos proudly power walking about their weekend Daddy duty. It is all rather endearing one must admit; sometimes. GW was more than thrilled most of all to live up to the hotel brands motto and indulge in “The Luxury Of Being Yourself”as the Conrad Hotels & Resorts, which the global luxury brand of Hilton Worldwide loves to expound.
That meant more room service, cuddled up in bed reading the dailies and watching English Premiere League Football and French rugby and the BBC World News and working on my book “The Uncensored Vanities” and reading the fascinating Richard Buckle biography on “Nijinsky” - just loving and living the fabulous hotel life. And as such “The Conrad Weekend” could not have been more fabulous!
A week or two previous - yours truly was also down Wall Street at that fabulous banquet hall they call Cipriani Wall Street for the annual rite of passage for GW - attending the society gala of the season, The Angel Ball, which benefits Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for blood cancer research. It so happens that my beloved mum died from brain cancer three days before the Angel Ball of 2002. And I wlll always remember going ahead with attending Denise Rich’s Angel Ball that year eleven years ago and then catching an Air Jamaica flight home to bury my mother at the Mandeville Anglican Parish Church in Mandeville, Jamaica. So every year when invited I make it to the Angel Ball to celebrate my mother’s life and share the immense and laudable work that Denise Rich continues to do year after year to help find cures for cancer.
The 2013 version of The Angel Ball was, for me, the best and also the most moving ever. I cried like a baby during the dinner, the great cancer survivor and friend Ethan Zohn brought me o tears with his speech. It was about as much as I could do was run outside to cry like a baby instead of ruining Tara Williams’ gown.
Montel Williams and his wife were seated at my table - across from GW was the icon Clive Davis and one his favorite socials, Nikki Haskell, a table away was Donna Karan Weiss and Hugh & Donna Jackman and so on and so forth.
The model Jessica White wore the most revealing gown of the night but Selita Ebanks was the belle of the ball in my humble estimation. Chaka Khan was at full throttle and you should have seen Tommy & Dee Hilfiger burn up the dance floor for the after-party. Martha Stewart and GW triple air-kissed, and of course there was the huge and emotional hug at the end of the success evening with the incredible hostess with the most-est... Denise Rich!
And I will be in touch. •