Category: EOLIS Perspective
Nikki Haley arrived for her New York City presentation with open enthusiasm. She brought to the stage the confidence of a consistent winner, the inviting swagger of a knock-out model, and a story of proven strategies that have positioned her as a mover and shaker to watch closely. Even staunch critics are muttering about her chances to become the first woman president in this country!
In one of the smaller auditoriums in the Streicker Center, Haley was a large presence with a definite game plan to reach this predominantly liberal crowd. Among President Donald Trump’s Cabinet appointments, Haley, the former Ambassador to the United Nations left her post in a decidedly different way from most other high- level officials who have headed for the hills. She exited the President’s inner orbit unscathed. Here at the Streicker Center, she expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve as a member of the Trump Cabinet–without all-around boos from the Democratic loyalists.
While she was in the administration, the President opted to avoid acting irascibly (at least in public). Haley chose her own timetable for departure and made her move on a high note. (Before he became president Haley made no bones about her tepid view of his candidacy. He brushed her off as an incidental player. But once Haley made friends with First Daughter, Ivanka Trump, Daddy Trump took another look and concluded Haley was no bimbo. It seems that Haley also took a harder look at the President at precisely the same time. A month later she was nominated to her Cabinet position and won Senate confirmation smoothly (96-4).
The former Governor of South Carolina knows how to size up her audience quickly and accurately, in South Carolina and Washington, and she made a sharp judgment call that New York’s Steiker Center was filled with attendees eager to hear what she had to say. Indeed, the crowd allowed ample latitude. Haley sang her former boss’s praises (in the few areas of his presidency that have been least controversial), without a single boo–from the down front VIP seats up to the rafters.
Nikki Haley may be the most respected non-contender (Republican or Democrat) for the US presidency in 2020. Thus far, President Trump has been helpful, if only by restraining his frequent impulse to diss anyone who abandons him–especially former Cabinet officials–as they take their leave for the door.
In recent years, Haley has been a supporter of Israel, so it was fitting that Israeli Ambassador Aharoni was her interviewer. He gave her plenty of room to rise or fall on the merit of her words. She gained traction, quickly, by suggesting that great politicians hold common sense in high esteem, and favor doing more homework than appears to be required. She says that being prepared for the unexpected helps her to keep cool when others are getting hot. Haley freely acknowledges that she has studied the playbooks of highly successful women and men.
The Ambassador’s presentation appealed to a broad mix of New Yorkers. It resonated with a cross-section of conservatives and independents in addition to the predominantly liberal crowd. She refused to be pushed into harsh political positions, making her case for her initiatives as Governor and thereafter as President of the UN Security Council. Point by point, she brought her understanding of the facts to the table. She often supported her position with empathy for people in the line of fire. And, she focused on one underpinning– an open mind for compelling solutions that make sense.
A confident executive, Haley has climbed up the totem pole with gambits that tilt skeptics on their collective heads, such as advancing to decision, removal of the Confederate flag while Governor of her home state of South Carolina, and pushing the position that United Nations must talk more and do more on the right side of an argument. Haley’s strong focus on reaching the finish line is her proven strategy to win,” she says. But more than that, her fans insist that she “makes you want to listen, even if you come to the table with an independent or diverging view.
In watching so many Democratic contenders of late, making their points in the debates to prop up their candidacies, women can be proud that so many women have been prompted to take the plunge. Each one has shown grit and a basic understanding that being prepared is one of the keys to getting respect, but Nikki Haley could teach a lot of lessons about how to apply gutsiness as the basic timber for glory- with a credible mix of moxie and mellifluent tones.
Her presentation was a stunning example of carefully honed political savvy, if only in the proof; her preparation provoked a long, standing ovation.
Frankly, she offered a slew of additional arguments for keeping tabs on her continuing steps to sculpt her positions as well as her image. There is little doubt that she is firmly engaged in the trek toward the 2024 election proceedings– no matter which way the 2020 election goes, Haley is paving the way not only for herself but also for the competition.
When, as, and if the former Ambassador/Governor chooses to step up to the plate, there will likely be a whole new crowd of women ready to make their mark. If Haley’s contribution were solely to set an example for how women (and men) can up their game with more guts than bluster and more common sense than bullying tactics, her contribution would be “huge.” It is time to become gender-neutral in presidential politics and to stop presuming in any line of endeavor that assertive women are automatically nuts.
Triple crowned actor Helen Mirren has earned an Academy Award, a Tony and an Olivier. And, she dazzles the media as a stunning fashion icon at the glitziest red carpet events. But… she shines as an even brighter star in person.
Shortly after Dame Mirren graced the stage as a presenter at this year’s Hollywood Awards, the 2007 Oscar winner (best actress) shed her ethereal pink Schiaparelli gown for more comfortable airplane garb and then jetted off to New York for another presentation– to a smaller audience in a synagogue auditorium.
The Great Dame made her entrance at an educational forum hosted by Israeli Ambassador Ido Aharoni in a chic ensemble befitting a self-confident top executive with the guts to show plenty of leg and equal brainpower. She moved seamlessly into a cerebral discussion about her life, her work, and her high respect for professional excellence–no matter the endeavor.
The sailors in the musical South Pacific, who said there is nothing like a dame, might have in mind women like Helen Mirren and many of the unique characters she has played! Beyond her award-winning portrayals of Queen Elizabeth 2 in The Queen and The Audience, Dame Mirren’s entire body of work is quite remarkable.
She is beyond funny and active as Victoria Winslow in Red, doggedly determined as a Jewish refugee, Maria Altmann, who fought the Austrian government to retrieve a Gustav Klmpt painting of her aunt, in a Woman in Gold, and keenly resourceful as a criminal lawyer (Linda Kenney Baden) in the Phil Specter Story. Helen Mirren succeeds in being her best self, through full immersion into the mindset of the character she plays.
As the Dame acknowledges on stage, to a predominantly Jewish audience, the upcoming made for television mini-series, Catherine the Great will provide complicated challenges, requiring her to assume the role of a “woman who rewrote the rules of governance by a woman and succeeded to the extent of having the word “Great” attached to her name.”
Dame Mirren mentions, not as an afterthought, that Catherine the Great “was not very nice to the Jews,” but decides not to elaborate on her apparent real-life disdain for this Russian leader who was responsible for the creation of the “Pale of Settlement” that fostered anti-Semitism.
Tonight Dame Mirren draws an audience that revels as much in her unabashed candor as her panache. She brings us to our feet for a standing ovation after declaring bountiful love for Israel, while holding tightly her commitment to atheism. She embraces her beauty but is not owned by it. After all, she is known to be happiest on a beach–in the nude –with others of like mind. And, while she is full of talent, she is not full of herself. She is by all appearances thoroughly comfortable in her own skin.
A dominant presence in the branding of beauty products by L’Oreal, for years, Dame Mirren’s star power emanates from deep within. She tells us she breathes from the diaphragm and has perfected her posture. She walks with her spine is straight as an arrow. Her confidence is on autopilot. And, she pivots, seamlessly, from a starlet making small talk on a grand stage to a humble public speaker on a bare stage with a powerful voice in support of her craft and her belief systems.
Helen Mirren is known as a champ at carefully assessing her options on film roles, and for a personal temperament that allows for going with the flow. She causes giggles at home with do-it-herself haircuts and hair color, generally, but she prefers to take on these tasks out of the spotlight, most of the time. But make no mistake, Dame Mirren still makes the most of the power and perks that suit her fancy and or optimize safety in her highly elevated position. A fine looking bodyguard never strays far from her side.
Dame Mirren disarms with honesty. She also provokes much curiosity about what makes her tick. She is a striking presence. She radiates empathy, maturity, and passion rolled into one mesmerizing image. As the famous organizer and 2019 Oscar attendee, Marie Kondo might say, Dame Mirren’s talent “sparks joy.”The Interview with the Great Dame hit all of the high notes about her career.
Can you blame me for wanting to meet her–one-on-one? In passing, I whispered to my longtime acquaintance, the Good Israeli Ambassador, that I would like to chat with the Great Dame at the reception we were all scheduled to attend later in the evening. He demurred, ever so politely, as only an exprienced ambassador could. So, I quickly gave up any hope of a private tete a tete. I would settle for a handshake–I suggested.
And then it seemed that serendipity intervened. The gracious Dame began walking in my direction. She strolled over to the chair where I was parked–with my ankle encased in an icepack–propped up on another chair. Suddenly, people emerged out of the woodwork. They were clearly frustrated that they had missed Dame Mirren while she was holding court at a nearby table. She had been stationed midway between the chocolate-covered strawberries on one side and the miniature lemon meringue tarts on the other.
The Great Dame approached me, directly. She caught my eye and smiled broadly as if she was honored to make my acquaintance. It was at this moment that Helen Mirren leaned in and insisted she needed a short rest from the crowd. She suggested that I allow her to tend to the ice pack and offered to take a video and photographs of our spontaneous duet. Instead, I insisted on rising from my perch to shake her hand. I then leaned against the wall and paid rapt attention.
We engaged in one of the fastest-paced 10- minute chats I’ve ever had. It covered the world of government, business, the arts, healthcare, the Holocaust, her upcoming projects and our respective medical nuisances. And we laughed. I thanked her for her compassion and she clapped with approval as I walked, on my own, back to the chair and the tepid ice pack.
Ambassador Aharoni came over to say, “Good night,” and thanked me for helping him to give the Great Dame Helen Mirren a short respite before making her way back to another world of fans. So much for my reliance on serendipity!
On a wintery night, the pairing up of Presidents Bush (43) and Clinton (42) warmed up the magnificent sanctuary in an instant. A dazzling roster of speakers has become the norm this past year, at Temple Emanu El’s Streicker Center, but the event planners truly outdid themselves on this particular occasion. They created an SRO condition for the highest priced tickets within days of their going on sale. The bleacher seats in the distance went like hotcakes, too.
A Bubbly Evening
The blockbuster event began in the early evening. It was a post-Mid -Term elections soiree with a fancy reception to get it started. Champagne, cocktails and high-end appetizers were offered to the well-heeled who could afford the tab. The uber-connected and clever crashers also got a personal glimpse of the starring performers. More importantly, however, the program left most everyone in the crowd, from all around town, wanting more from the speakers when the quick-witted debate came to an end. The two presidents came with a plan they fully relished. And, they put on the style for an unforgettable evening; ribbing each other good-naturedly while educating a jam-packed audience.
Two men of opposing parties, that had battled ferociously for the presidency have found much to share between themselves. And, they brought their sincere camaraderie into view for the diverse crowd. The pair of presidents gave their listeners a taste of the awesome responsibility each felt upon election to the most powerful position in the world. They also shared with their audience, a few nuggets of the wisdom they acquired during the period each occupied the Oval Office and added insights from the further education of hindsight.
Wendeen stood with them for a moment that evening, hardly shoulder-to-shoulder–but with a deep respect for their public service and use of continued celebrity to do good around the world. She rose to the occasion, accepting their congratulations on her own public service during their respective administrations and for her ongoing recovery following an accident, in which she was hit by a taxi, earlier in the year.
The two good men reminded all, sensibly, that what makes America great is the resilience and endurance of its people –especially in volatile times. The presidents agreed about the laundry list of big and disruptive challenges, but they also shone a light way beyond them–from different perspectives.
Doris Kearns Adds Heft
The Clinton-Dubya duo started the proceedings by needling each other, playfully, as they stepped across the stage to their side by side seats. Doris Goodwin, the highly regarded presidential historian trailed, politely, behind them. She was at the ready to moderate the proceedings. Kearns, who is known to all manner of history buffs, TV cable news watchers, political pundits, and poker players of all stripes, is a well-modulated force of nature and a keen observer across a multitude of industries and cultures.
Politics and Poker
Speaking of poker — everyone who saw All In-The Poker Movie would recognize Ms. Kearns, a petite blonde with a frequently cheeky smile, from her narration of presidential forays into poker rooms. Wendeen waited with bated breath for stories of Tricky Dick’s poker prowess and tales from the felt as told by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, but Ms. Kearns took no special notice of Texas Hold ‘Em poker this particular evening–not even with the Texan president in residence; there were no questions as to why on his watch, Mr. Bush signed legislation designed to curb online poker–as part of the Safe Port Act! But–Kearns showed no fear in asking direct questions.
Both former presidents took on all her serves in their own distinctive communication styles. Right off the bat, Kearns asked if the current state of affairs in American politics worried either of the two presidents. After a few wry asides Mr. Bush said, “I am not worried;” explaining why he remains confident that the country will survive and grow stronger, no matter the challenges presented by the current occupant of the Oval Office. Mr. Clinton waited patiently to weigh in. There was no curveball before he deadpanned, “I worry.”
Different Optimism; Similar Conclusion
Bush talked up optimism, making a reasoned case one might expect of the Yale graduate with a Harvard Business School degree to go with it. He couldn’t help but jab, affectionately, at the liberal New York cognoscenti that dismissed him as a dunce and a putz while in office. On this night they were clapping in response to his penetrating and good-natured words. Clinton, for his part, opined on the unending need to worry and scrutinize. He made a high charging case with a low key delivery, worthy of the Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate. He also reminded the visiting intellectuals in the crowd that overthinking produces its own unique headaches! Speaking their piece with different vocal cords, at the end of the day, both of them left their guests with ample hope for the future.
The Strength of Diversity
The open and well-publicized access to this event was a testament to inclusion. The Temple welcomed straight and gay, teens and adults, tough veterans and frail seniors, men and women of all faiths and more –all thirsting for explanations as to how/why our country is so seemingly divided, at the moment; a public that was looking for answers as to where we are going.
“An Unprecedented Evening”– was how the event was billed, and the publicist got that right! What a full house –more than 1700 strong! Sitting side by side were high powered politicos including former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, entertainers and business luminaries from across the City. They paid their respects to the double headliners along with a large complement of Temple members. But most notable was the highly visible broad sample of New York’s immigrant-connected population.
By the time this extraordinary evening came to an end, a shared warmth among attendees filled the air. Likewise, there was plenty of food for thought as to how we ensure the ongoing success of our democracy. For Wendeen, there was also a giant grace note. She enjoyed, immensely, rising for her arm in arm walk with these two strong gentlemen, proving where there is a will there is a way –and so she is reminded in the newest picture displayed at eolis.com/photos–“Wall of Fame and Fortune.”
The decision to unite Madelaine Albright, and Dick Cheney, in their first joint appearance-ever, this past fall, was a brilliant example of creativity and gumption on the part of the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center event organizers.
The first woman to become Secretary of State, a dedicated Democrat, and the most powerful vice-president in American history, a vigorous Republican, engaged in a discourse that was both intellectually stimulating and refreshingly civil.
The Odd Couple has Appeal
The timing of their appearance was particularly prescient, as the country was nearing the end of the 2018 mid-term election campaigns; the dominating news of the moment was gruesome accounts of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khasoggi’s murder. The event drew a very big crowd.
Wendeen arrived for the debate, in the nick of time to catch up with the two distinguished guests that had consulted with her office on special counsel requirements–in two different Presidential administrations. The former Veep and one-time chief diplomat smiled, as if they remembered her well, but neither one greeted her by name. Together, they beckoned her to take advantage of a grand photo opportunity. Now take a look at the group photo! This picture is awesomely telling. The honorable dignitaries are at the ready to fake delight–of sorts, while Wendeen is at the ready to play her part in the scene!
The Stars are Aligned!
Secretary Albright and VP Cheney made their way to the stage, flushed, from recent flashes of public attention on their lives. Madame Secretary had been crisscrossing the country more than continents, of late, with books that highlight her continuing relevance in foreign affairs and the super confident one-time Vice President has proven himself worthy of a Christian Bale performance in the upcoming movie, Vice. Russell Goldsmith, the longtime Chair of City National Bank and an esteemed member of the Council on Foreign Relations, served as the low-keyed intellectual who acted as a moderating force between these two hot tamales.
Walking with a certain authority in her kitten heels, Secretary Albright sashayed to her place. She was wearing a brooch, perhaps in homage to her best selling book, Read my Pins. It is a collection of stories that link her well-known collection of brooches to her diplomatic communications, The brooches provide her with a style signature. Secretary Albright’s latest scholarly tome (2018) and third NY Times best seller, is Fascism, A Warning.
The former Vice President was second in the parade to the armchair-based conversation. He stood at ease, reveling in his uber celebrity status as the chief protagonist in the highly touted, upcoming biopic of his life. He knew that it would confirm both his extraordinary power in American political history and the counterpoint of his record-low approval ratings by the end of the George W. Bush presidential administration. The former Vice-President exuded comfort in this rather unfamiliar venue.
The speakers were followed by Mr. Goldsmith. He tailed behind them with perfect posture and a half smile; he checked his ego at the door and promptly turned the spotlight evenly on the two speakers.
Once they squared off, the Albright- Cheney pairing covered a wide range of world events and foreign policy issues. The speakers’ divergent views were less discernible then their apparent commitment to mind their manners. For the most part, the audience mimicked their example. You could forget for a moment the crazy world in which we currently reside–no matter which side of the spectrum is your favored home court.
The complexities facing the current US president in our relationship with Saudi Arabia was front and center that evening; the apparent cover-up of the murder of the Saudi Arabian- American resident journalist was boiling over.
Decorum–Staying the Course
The evening’s speakers offered overviews and strategies that were more similar than different, both taking measured positions rather than engaging in rambunctious, independent, politically motivated rants. Different political views, notwithstanding, this audience was reacting to the program as if they live in one America, even when tested.
There did come one point in the discussion, in which some strongly disposed Democrats seemed agitated by the respect Secretary Albright gave to the former Vice President. But, the savvy Streicker Center executive director took notice– deftly.
Gady Levy stepped in- -at the speed of lightning. He stood at attention, raising his hand slowly, with the gesture of a stop sign. By the time his hand was visible to the crowd, everyone had simmered down; this crowd aspired to higher standards of civility.
An Evening Marked by Civility
Educated, competitive, focused strongly on public service and their independent ideas, the Albright-Cheney match-up kept the audiences’ rapt attention for their entire 90-minute lesson in passionate politics, grounded by civil argumentation and debate.
As one of a handful of well-known women poker players in the 90’s (and the only one with a full-time day job, unrelated to gambling), I was often introduced to casino executives by their poker room personnel. Donald Trump was among them, but the king of Atlantic City had already made my acquaintance. With a trail of controversial business moves in his resume, years earlier the Trump Organization had asked one of its lawyers to hire EOLIS –for a small project before he ran up huge debt on the Jersey shore.
WHAT’S MY LINE?
The deal was proposed as a no fee opportunity with a top-shelf carrot–a big recommendation by The Man –if EOLIS performed up to expectations. EOLIS passed up the first opportunity but got more than one-second chance–and was among the few service providers fully paid–with or without a fight. I figured to rank right up there with his favorite flesh peddlers! The truth was a bit different The Donald made no connection between the poker player, the legal headhunter and the budding politico. He had no clue that his company was an occasional client or that I was the leading activist to stamp out smoking in his card room. And, he had no clue about my advisory role to Mayor Rudy Giuliani nor of my frequent presence at the Mayor’s office. It wasn’t until he was seated beside me at a dinner, in Palm Beach that he began to see the light.
As Donald pulled out from the starting gate, with the development of the United States Open Poker Championship, at his Atlantic City flagship, the Taj Mahal Casino, he invited a group of us from the card room’s most notorious games to join him for a short chat about a “fantastic” poker tournament in the works. He stopped traffic as he pranced through the high energy poker parlor, knowingly, with his entourage and a beautiful woman on his arm. Donald took in a boatload of suggestions from our group-which consisted mostly of males, and all of us among the highest stakes poker players on the east coast. And then, he went on his merry way with a smiling Marla Maples and a troupe of fearsome bodyguards in tow.
Donald Trump remained intrigued with women poker players –reportedly bedding the cutest local pro and casting another on his Celebrity Apprentice show. As he is today, with Supreme Court candidates, so he was then, most impressed by academic credentials and negotiating skills. The poker player he chose for the Apprentice was a smart, defiant, highly publicized pro with a BA from Columbia with additional studies in cognitive psychology at Mr. Trumps’ alma mater–U Penn. (but not Wharton). The poker “Dutchess” he selected, was not a personal friend of his, nor was she a household name nor was she quite as well-schooled as he had first heard, but she could hold her own–up to a point. In the end, Joan Rivers– a loyal friend of Mr. Trump was “hired.” The “Dutchess” was a runner-up who basked in the glory of her Celebrity Apprentice gig for years but leaves it invisible on her website, now that Mr. Trump is president.
TRUMP GETS AROUND
By the time the US Poker Championship got underway, I had put in a full year as a special advisor in Mayor Giuliani’s City Hall–long enough to develop and voice some political differences with the feisty, self-confident Mayor. I left the fading embrace of the Mayor’s Office to accept appointment as the first woman to hold the post of 1st Assistant and Senior Advisor to the Governor (in New York State). The title was far more distinguished than the portfolio, with a catch-all mix of responsibilities including responses to special requests by corporate and civic bigwigs.
When Mr. Trump wanted a favor from the City but failed to connect, the Governor’s office was often the next call. As the Governor’s supposed right hand, I was invariably on the receiving end of all requests for favors. For many months, Mr. Trump never realized I was one of the poker players he met with, or that I was a political appointee, or that I was the person who dodged his requests for landing rights for his private plane on Staten Island–until we met up in Florida as he breezed into the home of a true real estate mogul, the late Lew Rudin–recognized in his world as Mr. New York.
RUDIN SHANGRILA SHINES
Lew was adored in the real estate community, up and down the east coast, so Mr. Trump toed the line, attending the invitation to dinner at the Rudin Shangri-La, in honor of the Governor. Once he pegged me as the Governor’s tippy top “secretarial assistant,” and chief gopher, he took no chances. He was charming. Before dinner was over, Donald insisted on introducing me to his entourage, ordering that I be chauffeured to Mar-a-Lago for the evening entertainment. Wayne Newton – Mr. Las Vegas – was in town.
I accepted the invitation. I couldn’t wait to establish my credentials for once and for all! Wayne Newton was a client and “Mr. Las Vegas” was a longtime friend, to boot. On arrival at the Mar-a-Lago poolside party, Mr. Trump hastened to impress me with HIS good friend Wayne, until Mr. Newton’s eye suddenly caught my presence as he walked toward us. Mr. Las Vegas turned the tables on the Donald, introducing me as if I was his very best friend.
TRUMP PUTS ME IN MY PLACE
We all chatted amiably. Mr. Trump finally opened his hand–connecting an odd bunch of dots; his company’s relationship with EOLIS International Group, his meeting with poker players, his request for airplane landing rights and my position in the Governor’s Office. No sooner than I thought that I made the grade, however, I ran into The Donald, again, walking solo on a reception line. There was not the slightest acknowledgment of prior close encounters. Today, President Trump the most powerful man in the free world, Trump remains on my radar screen, even though I do not occupy an iota of space on his busy canvas. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that the smarter- than- you think-he-is President will take the time to tip his hat if he has reason to believe such a gesture will be personally useful to him.
For her first post-accident outing, Wendeen chose a wine and cheese tasting at the French Consulate, just a block from her city home. Hosted by a colleague of the International Women’s Forum, it was truly a feast of summer wines and cheese.
Although wine was strictly verboten for Wendeen–no desire to tire quickly– the education about the summer offerings and the cheeses that surrounded them was thoroughly joyful. So, too, were the incredible group of women who have supported Wendeen with calls, messages, and visits for the past eight weeks.
Wendeen says, “Merci beaucoup,” to the fabulous women in the New York chapter of IWF who instantly stepped up to the plate with help and friendship from the moment of her injury. These incredible ladies notably include Roxanne Mankin Cason, a good friend as well as a client, who found her in the street awaiting an ambulance. Roxanne accompanied Wendeen to the hospital and notified her home and good friends in the NY Women’s Forum of the accident.
The challenge of unexpected fate is mitigated significantly by the solace of a great group of friends. The mission of WFNY is to provide a community “where preeminent women leaders of diverse achievement come together to make a difference for each other”…
In addition to the friendship and compassion that members of this sisterhood can expect from colleagues, the organization advances women’s leadership through multiple initiatives; an Education Fund to provide scholarship awards to women with potential, board initiatives to encourage participation of more women on corporate and civic boards, and unique programming made possible by the organization’s high achieving membership.
Here’s to the Women’s Forum!
Shortly after Rudy Giuliani was appointed to President’s Trump personal legal team, journalists from all over the country began to analyze his selection by the President and Rudy’s decision to come on board.
EOLIS was one of the hundreds, or more likely thousands of calls, on their list. While I have pondered these issues as well as many of Rudy’s comments since joining the team, I elected to participate in just one interview and very limited comments for The Washington Post (‘Nowhere near close’: The bond between Trump and Giuliani is less than it appears). For more than 15 years, I was a confidante, career advisor, and a consultant who served as a special advisor on City Hall operations during Rudy’s first year in office as the Mayor of NYC. Above all, he was a friend who paved the way for important new relationships that have significantly impacted my biography far more than I could have ever impacted his life.
Our paths took different directions once I had accepted a role as First Assistant to Governor Pataki (after I failed as a go-between in an effort to unite them).
My recent comments made in The Washington Post were based mostly on solid recollections from more than 20 years ago. But, I believe his recent (albeit delayed) decision to join the team could have been predicted. Whatever observations others have made, I can assure you Rudy prizes loyalty fiercely, and you can count on him to show that trait during his representation of the President.
In the 80’s era of extravagance and glitz, Barry Wine turned The Quilted Giraffe Restaurant into a thing of beauty and a joy forever for diners like Wendeen and every other foodie in our town, not to mention the rich and famous from around the world. The restaurant is long since gone but early East Coast worshipers of farm to fork produce and meat exquisitely prepared and presented, knew Barry as the King of the road from the farm to the table.
Barry first popped up on Wendeen’s radar screen as a lawyer at a prestigious NYC law firm of yesteryear. In due course–40+ years later, the legendary chef became an EOLIS client, as a JD credentialed executive, contemplating new adventures! In his final coaching session, Barry thanked Wendeen. As they parted company, Barry quipped: if your advice pays off, a Quilted Giraffe- type dinner is on me!
Tonight he made good! Barry and Wendeen met up at Eleven Madison Park Restaurant. It is widely reported as “the best restaurant in the world.” EMP, as it is known to New York foodies, is the capital of the restaurant world, and it seems to operate with many similar principles that Barry Wine held dear–—excellent ingredients, prepared to bring out the full flavor, with plenty of grace notes, and striking presentations, and uncompromising devotion to the customer experience.
Barry and Wendeen were pumped up for their planned visit to catch up on the results of their collaboration. Barry had developed a unique strategy for a big deal. and had just hit another home run in a life well lived. They were about to celebrate in style!
Turning back the clock, Wendeen recalled that Barry first popped up on her radar screen as an associate at Breed, Abbott and Morgan, a prestigious, New York, White Shoe law firm that was swallowed up in a fancy mega-merger. Barry was wholly unaffected. He had long-since begun his march to the beat of a different drummer. In a small Hudson Valley college town, where he lived with his former wife, Barry taught himself how to cook. He relied on local farms to produce meals for the table. He took ideas from his home kitchen to a tiny restaurant he opened and put on the map–in no time flat. Instant raves never waned from one move of his restaurant to another that accommodated expansion and greater grandeur. Barry Wine made it, big time in “New York, New York; he closed the Quilted Giraffe amid success rarely achieved with ever-fickle foodies.
He has moved on, seizing opportunity each time it knocks his socks off! The one-time lawyer/restaurant owner /chef/private chef and hospitality consultant has explored his artistic side; as a jewelry designer, photographer, and artist, too. Barry epitomizes the Renaissance man. His recent home run was a real estate transaction, the product of Barry’s independence, creativity, and sharp business sense. He has coupled his artistic talent and entrepreneurial skills with a keen understanding of contracts and agreements gained from his training as a lawyer to achieve singular success in a host of endeavors.
From one course to the next, at Eleven Madison Park, Barry and Wendeen caught up on news and views and friends and acquaintances in common– in law, business, and entertainment–until suddenly they were interrupted during their sensational meal.
A knowing EMP executive summoned them to meet the chef and take a tour of the palatial kitchen. Barry and Wendeen were treated like royalty with a stunning caviar -based dish –prepared for them the EMP-way. It was a truly special toast to the visit of the Great Barry Wine!. It was also a reminder to Wendeen of the Quilted Giraffe’s singular confection of caviar and creme fraiche, tucked into a pastry crepe. The bundle of goodness was tied with a chive, dipped in clarified butter and perched on a circular slice of lime. As per Barry’s gentle instruction, it was then ready to be savored, in a single bite.
Barry’s unending talent –he still consults as a guru to culinary masters–is just one small part of a busy easel. His insatiable curiosity and desire to grow and share is reflected in his ever-evolving talents. This week he has two tango dance lessons on his calendar!
On a cold day in January, a busload of students arrived at Weil Gotshal and Manges, from a Bronx neighborhood public school– for lessons in public speaking. The kids are paired with the law firm in a New York City Pencil Project. Weil Gotchal and Manges is among the dedicated sponsors of unique learning experiences for students in NYC public schools.
The students settled into the comfy conference room chairs with plenty of spunk and curiosity about the task they were about to begin–preparation for speechmaking. The goal was to pick a subject and make a speech for 10 minutes that their peers and other attendees would judge. The reviewers included a group of young Weil lawyers, Pencil personnel and Wendeen, an ardent supporter of the project. and excellence in education.
In a matter of 40 minutes, the students gained some crucial skills and tips with solid coaching from Weil’s energized associates and dedicated Pencil executives. And Wendeen, a speaker on the lecture circuit, watched listened and cheered as the youngsters got ready to fly solo –many with plenty of confidence. One after another they stood and gave their speeches.
Their subjects were diverse, they grasped current events with startling clarity, and they interacted with each other like “ladies and gentlemen.” What a joy to watch and hear.
After the presentations, Wendeen, participated in the debriefing. She noted, “Choosing a topic that lets you show your passion for the subject usually makes for the best speech.” One of these erudite middle schoolers quickly piped up, saying you can be more passionate, if you do research. Another, whispered to me, “Information is power, right!” One young lady, without any prodding , turned to thank everyone who participated in the critiques– including “our special guest, who helped me so much.” I was awed by these inner city whiz kids. Right on!
Wendeen says, “Randy Levine minds his business by speaking his mind–with equal parts knowledge and passion.”
Best known as President of the New York Yankees, except to the lawyers on the other side of his fierce end game in the crunch of a tough labor negotiation, Randy Levine is a man who speaks his mind, but he is a teddy bear at heart.
Some forty years ago, I hunted Randy’s head as a legal recruiter–to no avail. He had worked closely with Associate Attorney General, Arnold Burns at the Justice Department. They moved as a team into private practice. Arnie then led the effort to find a more ideal Firm to serve their big-ticket clients. His colleague Rudy Giuliani recommended that he consult with me. Randy visited me and then Big Gun Arnie stopped by to chat. In the end, Arnie and Randy joined an EOLIS client–the fancy Proskauer law firm–without an ounce of my help. But they graciously tipped their hats in the press release, that trumpeted their arrival. They thanked me for my advice in their consideration of multiple offers.
Randy and I have been friends ever since, as each of us wended our way in the private and public sector and back to business. Our paths intersected as senior advisors to Mayor Rudy Giuliani in his first term. Randy moved up the ladder to become Deputy Mayor. I left the City Hall corridors for a stint in the Governor’s office. Randy went to the Yankees. I returned home to EOLIS International Group, the legal search and consulting business I founded. Our friendship has continued through the years.
Randy has made quite a name for himself, but he is at ease with success and enjoys making more of others’ accomplishments. When I seek out his counsel or call to kibbitz, I know I’ll find him–wherever he is. If you know Randy you know he returns his phone calls–fast. Have I mentioned that Randy also has grace? He has never asked me to explain how the heck it came about that I brought A-Rod to a poker game that landed up as a story in the New York tabloids?
At the end of lunch, I didn’t have to propose a next date. He did. I have a choice of any of the 81 Yankee games he will be watching, intently, in his buzzing president’s suite at Yankee Stadium. I’m on my way!