Sunday, May 24, 2009

Michael Gross and the furious Social Empress of New York


Is it the case that the uncrowned "Social Empress of New York" has waved her sceptre and decreed that a book she finds either embarrassing or inaccurate or both should be ignored by Anyone Who Cares What She Thinks? That it should in effect be allowed to die by ordained silence? Who knows?

The Empress in question is Annette de la Renta, the book, Rogues' Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum, and its author the legendary, the inescapable, Michael Gross. His oeuvre includes non-fiction bestsellers Model and 740 Park.

Mrs de la Renta is the wife of the - omg!, gimme the grandest-sounding adjectival phrase, please - multiversal fashion designer Oscar. They are among the society Caesars and Cleos of America (NY in particular) - with the tragic ends missing, respectively. Apparently. They're so huuuuuge that even American Vogue editor Anna Wintour over-arches her back into an ageing stoop as she scrapes about in their presence. Not even the newly refurbished Hubble telescope can fully capture their social enormity. There isn't a lens big enough!

So, when this goddam writer Gross produced his sensational NY museum history book, which does not portray Annette (the sometime guardian of the late Social Empress of New York Brooke Astor's estate, and a trustees board member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) in an entirely approved light, all hell broke loose. Museum types raged for and against Gross' book: indisputably, Gross had hit a raw nerve about a national institution. And Annette threatened legal action - she could sue yet in the US or turn libel tourist.

Suddenly, promised book reviews did not run, scheduled interviews did not appear. All this in the Land of the Free. No writ has been served as I write.

Was she offended by the stories about her and her late, wealthy philanthropist mother Jane Engelhard or was she aggrieved by Gross' impertinence in delving into Oscar's well-known sexual past? Or all of the above?

Annette de la Renta is rich enough and powerful enough to hire the best lawyers to speak on her behalf. I spoke with Michael Gross about the affair. (If you want more background, read Jesse Kornbluth's excellent report, click here)

Michael, my dear. You're imagining that sections of the US media have banned coverage of your book, aren't you? You've got sensitive?

"No. I did a fascinating interview with Daphne Merkin, a celebrated writer, for a publication-day story on The Daily Beast, Tina Brown's web site, that has still never appeared. I also know of at least one reporter who has received a warning letter from Mrs de la Renta's lawyers saying the book is 'full of misinformation' and another, at another newspaper, whose story on the book was killed by an editor who said that they would cause the book to be withdrawn and/or corrected and the newspaper would be left 'holding the bag.' I also know of several reviews that were scheduled and then mysteriously postponed. I hesitate to be more specific since I fear that the reporters and editors who have filled me and my publisher in on what's been happening (or more precisely, not happening) might themselves be at risk of retaliation."

You're saying the New York elite have closed ranks against you in defence of their Empress?

"I know that the New York elite - call them the 4,000 - love to know and discuss things no one else (ie, the public, the great unwashed, the NOCD types) knows. Much of what is in my book is no surprise to them. Many of them were my sources.

"That said, I suspect that the core issue here is not this or that nugget of revealing information but rather something larger and perhaps more threatening, my exposure of two things: the way things really work behind-the-scenes in a great American cultural institution - which no one involved wants revealed - and the picaresque saga of Jane Engelhard, whose riveting life story still has holes in it, despite my attempts to fill them, but which is nonetheless told in full for the first time in Rogues' Gallery. Both she and her daughter have battled every attempt to shed light on this saga - battles referred to in the book."

Is this just about the de la Rentas - or have you also upset the cultural snobs by telling the unauthorised and all-too-human story behind a national treasure, the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

"The sad fact is that the sort of people who create and sustain historical repositories like the Metropolitan do not want their own histories, or those of the institutions, revealed. Otherwise, why would they repeatedly obstruct researchers and make a mere book like mine into an object lesson, a warning to any who might think of following a similar path of crumbs?"

I understand the de la Rentas' friend Anna Wintour made her feelings known ....

"I ran into Anna Wintour at Graydon Carter's Monkey Bar shortly before the book came out. We have 'crossed swords' before, beginning when she was the editor of British Vogue and began an interview by instructing me in no uncertain terms that I was not to refer to her as Nuclear Wintour, so I was not surprised when she gave me a look I can only describe (by paraphrasing a designer) as 'standing in a strapless dress next to an open icebox.'"

As Kornbluth writes of the matter: "A rich woman has used a two-ton gorilla to threaten a writer, and, for whatever reason, silence has descended." If Annette de la Renta's legal threats are intended to chill interest in Gross' book, then they may well have succeeded for now.

But would it not make more sense, and be more in keeping with the freedom-loving spirit of the US, if she published a statement of rebuttal for all to see? What is unacceptable is the suspected exercise of informal social power to, in effect, banish a book to obscurity, and with the acquiescence of a generally gutless American media. Tina Brown - when will you become the mouse that roared?

For a great read, order a copy here.
Michael Gross website

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

You always "uncover" the best stories first. Isn't she married to that Oscar de la Rentboy? Ph-oney marriage and all that? I can't wait to get a copy...Amazon here I come.

Anonymous said...

Can't you give Wintour a rest? She's just trifle.

Anonymous said...

I have read Gross's book and would say it's mostly not about the de la Rentas. It would have better had they greeted the book with a dignified silence - or put up.

Anonymous said...

Land of the Free? Don't you mean Fee?

An Editor said...

I do not understand what the problem is. The book has been widely previewed, not least by Vanity Fair, and reviewed by various star writers. It's not like Madame to get caught up in some negative hype. Dearie.

Anonymous said...

From those of us who actually READ Vanity Fair...maybe try and crack open that spine "Editor" and see what lies within.

Anonymous said...

Your birthday has reinvigorated you Madame.

Anonymous said...

I know what has reinvigorated Madame...but I couldn't possibly say.But it involved lycra. And Kenneth Anger films. Nuff said.

Madame Arcati said...

Lycra doesn't do anything for me at all, but you're right about Kenneth Anger. I'll post something on him when the mood takes me.

veritas said...

Really, no writer could possibly hope for something better than an Annette de la Renta on the rampage. Who needs a publicist ?. I thoroughly enjoyed "74 Park' & "Model". Can't wait to get my hands on Michael's latest tome.

Michelangelo de la Renta said...

Lycra doesn't do anything for those footballers either.Get back to the glorious world of jockstraps and underpants and the beauty of the upper thigh.

Fifi de la Croisette said...

The French rugby players wouldn't be seen dead in those lycra modesty knickers - on the contrary, they love stripping off for the fans.I think Duncan Fallowell had a point about only wearing them without overshorts. That would sort the men from the boys.

Anonymous said...

The next best thing will be a writ from de la Renta. It would turn the book into a cause celebre and bring on board all sorts who otherwise would not be interested in society trivia. Gross makes a good point though about these cultural lap dogs who think the public don't have a right to know about the scandals and misconduct that lie behind all institutions. Who does this de la Renta bitch think she is - fucking old thin cunt.

Anonymous said...

Michael Gross' next book should be about the New York 4,000 elite. The threatened lawsuits would earn him a fortune. Is CZ Guest still alive? I love all that Truman Capote crap.

Anonymous said...

I only hope you really meant it involved latex.

Madame Arcati said...

I know you're all a bunch of pervy fetishists but if you could keep to the topic in hand...

Anonymous said...

Yeah but the problem with these sabre-rattling socialites is that they are all trousers and no cock. They thought a raised eyebrow or a freezing stare would do the trick and get the book withdrawn. BIG kudos to Michael Gross and other writers who tell it like it is. And what is wrong with fetish? Who doesn't like a bit of slap and tickle in the Temple of Dendur from time to time?

Anonymous said...

Can't Michael Gross sue de la Renta for lost earnings?

Anonymous said...

Long live the male upper thigh

Anonymous said...

Since Arcati is deeply involved with such things, could she explain the difference between lycra and latex?

Madame Arcati said...

As I've said, I'm not into Lycra, and indeed have no fetististic interests whatsoever. I look on with amused tolerance as certain types froth over fabrics and other inanimate things, and all because nanny wore velvet.

I feel that you probably have more time on your hands to distinguish latex from lycra. But on a 30-sec search of Google I came up with this: http://organicclothing.blogs.com/my_weblog/2006/08/latex_or_lycra_.html.
Enjoy

Madame Arcati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madame Arcati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madame Arcati said...

http://organicclothing.blogs.com/
my_weblog/2006/08/latex_or_lycra_
.html

Anonymous said...

I am buying the book and de la Renta can shove herself

Anonymous said...

(Eye-roll...sigh) Having to explain myself on this one is scary in more ways than one.
www.vitamaker.com/durex-performax.html

Surfpup said...

Give me cotton every time

Madame Arcati said...

Dear Mr Gross, I really must apologise for the unseemly lapse into fetishes on this otherwise respectable posting. I had hoped to reveal to America the upstanding and wholesome side of Arcati, my conversion in short. But my followers clatter behind me like rusty tins clanking out their depravities. I'd weep if I had tears (left). MA

Anonymous said...

If Annette de la Renta really had a case against Gross wouldn't she have got an injunction or had papers served by now? As for Oscar, when you refer to his sexual past, don't you mean he's basically gay or bisexual? There was a time when you called a spade a spade Madame - especially when they were called Kevin Spacey.

Anonymous said...

First lesson to be learned when intending to step into the shoes of a lady: When a lady walks down the street and hears insolent comments from a crowd of 'rogues' standing by, she makes it CLEAR she is not amused at the FIRST transgressor and firms up her stance and stride as she walks away (She doesn't giggle, cover her mouth like a shy geisha enjoying the attention and bashfully waves away the handsome youngster's probing remarks); otherwise she invites the rest of the crowd to follow and get out of control. Boo-hoos are rather late in this post.

Pity, if you can manage to stick to the subject matter, there truly is a lot of potential in it for smart conversation.

Anonymous said...

I can't quite grasp why this de la Renta fag hag is in such a vindictive stew? Diane von Furstenberg married Barry Diller who's a pouf and she isn't suing anyone.

Anonymous said...

I can see madame needs further punishing

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the Truman Capote episode after he wrote bits of Answered Prayers and then published them in Esquire much to the horror of the rich bitches he'd fawned over for years. New York society froze the little shit out for his treacheries. Gross isn't Capote but he should beware the social power of wealth.

Neil Tennant said...

Good to see Madame back to proper stories. Though having said that I've just noticed your Molly's House feature. Dear oh dear.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tennant,
Are you inferring the House of Molly piece is improper? Why, because the featured vid is not one of yours?

Michael Gross said...

Thank you cher Arcati and no apologies necessary for the fetishists and assorted others who add spice to your stew. I am quite grateful for both the laughs and the support. (Wait, isn't there Lycra in support hose?)

Madame Arcati said...

Oh God, you're encouraging the Lycraists. The Spandex spammers.

Neil Tennant said...

I was not inferring but implying but actually, ACTUALLY, saying that the Michael Gross item is a proper story whereas the Molly thing is a puff. I love Molly and she has inspired my eye makeup. Now fuck off.

Anonymous said...

Tomato, 'tomatoe', Niella; get a dictionary. Anyway, is good to see you clarify you ACTUALLY like Molly and 'approve' -maybe not- of MA's versatility. Now go wash your mouth dear, oh dear - just to be clear from the start: I'm not i-m-p-l-y-i-n-g you've put something disgusting in it; it's what comes out of it that reeks.

Anonymous said...

Barcelona don't wear lycra long johns. Proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes. New York 4000! Interesting. I wish Mr. Gross well. Most people have no real idea what goes on in Museums. They have been largegly shielded from journalistic scrunity. In fact, Gross has hit a raw nerve and if Gross can find himself in this position, where does that leave the rest of us--the American equivalent of the shirtless ones--who have to deal with he people Gross writes about? In one instance, the very Director of the Museum of New York forced a Hispanic security guard to get on his hands and knees at a baseball opening last summer to clean up ater that spilled on the marble floor. What, then, do you think, occurs at the MET--the watering hole of the rich and famous in New York?

I think the gilded rich in New York had better be quite careful. The lawyers and bankers have raped the economy and, in fact, continue to display a breathtaking arrogance. Average people are tired of them.

But, what happens when the rich decide to blackball a writer and, in effect, thwart the First Amendment?

Fawning journalists and writers fail to look beyond the facade. This is what American (or New York) journalism has come to because there are these dinner party relationships that preclude looking at what is painfully obvious.

Museum workers, as a whole, work long and agonizing hours and have to to deal with arrogant donors, board members, and directors. The wealthy appear to be oblivious to these working conditions.

The racism in the Museum world remains breathtaking in this day and age of Obama. The MET is not unique. This is basically the case all along Museum Mile and it is an embarrassment to people visiting New York City.

This is the next issue that Mr. Gross whould investigate and the President and First Lady should also raise this issue and, in fact, not give one federal dime to these institutions that still practice their FOR WHITE ONLY employment and curatorial practices.