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Reba McEntire plans product line, Christmas album

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Inside the Four Seasons restaurant auction: A Manhattan landmark goes under the hammer

4seasons

A Wright auctioneer takes bids for coveted Four Seasons furniture and tableware

There were no bargains to be had, but did anyone expect there to be? Tuesday’s auction featuring roughly 500 items from the iconic Four Seasons restaurant was still equal parts riveting, nostalgic, stressful and – at times – downright gleeful.

Starting at 10 a.m., Wright Auctions began selling off mid-century furniture and trinkets from the restaurant, which ended its run as real estate macher central at the Seagram Building earlier this month. On the sale block were banquettes designed by Philip Johnson, silver serving pieces by Garth and Ada Louise Huxtable, as well as Four Seasons dinner plates and bespoke pots and pans.

Johnny Swing’s murmuration went for $90,000

By mid-afternoon, one of the restaurant’s signature desserts – pink cotton candy – had been passed out, and an auctioneer was taking fast-and-furious bids for a corner banquette designed by Johnson that was used in the restaurant’s Grill Room, birthplace of many of the city’s most memorable real estate deals for more than half a century.

With a low sales estimate of $2,000, the price quickly escalated. “$9,500 and I can’t even keep up,” the auctioneer yelled. The winning bid came in at $28,000.

“Philip Johnson’s corner banquette Table 32 goes at ‪#fourseasons auction for $28K, which it probably generated w 2 months of lunch checks,” tweeted the architecture critic Paul Goldberger during the sale. “I doubt that I can afford a spoon at the rate this is going.”

The landmarked restaurant, designed by Johnson and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was frequented by the likes of Jackie Onassis, Henry Kissinger, Princess Diana and Tina Brown over the decades. “My dad Lew Rudin had lunch almost every day at the Four Seasons,” Beth Rudin Dewoody told Town and Country magazine earlier this year, recalling Rudin’s penchant for hot dogs, which owner Julian Niccolini would bring in from a corner stand and plate for him.

Philip Johnson’s three-sided banquette fetched $28,000

On Tuesday, some of the marquee items went early, including Emil Antonucci’s “Four Seasons” sign, which fetched $96,000. A pair of Barcelona chairs designed by van Der Rohe went for $17,000, while the matching ottomans commanded $18,000. A custom Saarinen “Tulip” table with a bronze top sold for $36,000, while a quartet of Four Seasons ashtrays fetched $10,000.

While the bids came in at a brisk pace, not everyone approved of the auction.

“To see the dispersal of the furnishings at auction is painful,” Aaron Betsky, dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, told the magazine Dezeen.

The restaurant closed July 16 after a protracted fight with RFR Holding’s Aby Rosen, who owns the Seagram Building. Rosen opted not to renew the Four Seasons’ lease — “I love the guys but their time has passed,” he told the New York Times — and instead brought in Major Food Group’s Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick to replace it  Four Seasons’ owners Niccolini and Alex von Bidder said they plan to re-open at SL Green Realty and Vornado Realty Trust’s 280 Park Avenue.

At a 2009 New York Observer party in the Grill Room for some of real estate’s elite, guests included Stephen Ross, Marc Holliday, Bill Rudin, William Zeckendorf, Pam Liebman, Daun Paris, Howard Lorber, Donald Trump and TRD publisher Amir Korangy. “Everybody’s here, so you can’t do better,” Trump said.

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Experiencing Santa Fe’s food, shopping

Blueberry, Blackberry and Strawberry Crumble with Ginger Scone

Scone:

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• 1/4 cup granulated sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

• 13/4 cups flour

• 1/2 cup cold salted butter, diced into 1 inch pieces

• 2/3 cup toasted almonds, sliced

• 5 Tbsp. ginger, crystalized

• 2/3 cup buttermilk

• 1 egg, beaten

• 5 tsp. granulated sugar (set aside)

• 4 Tbsp. milk for brushing top of scones

Berry mixture:

• 3 cups blackberries

• 2 cups strawberries, stem removed and sliced

• 2 cups blueberries

• 1/4 cup sugar

• 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

• 1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add all dry ingredients for scones together in a large bowl of food processor. Add butter a few cubes at a time and pulse until mixture starts to form small clumps. Add almonds and ginger and pulse once more. Add in buttermilk and egg, making sure ingredients are mixed, pulsing in short bursts. Remove and pat onto a floured surface. Knead a few times and make a circle about 1 inch thick. Cut into pie shaped slices (scones). Transfer to cookie sheet and brush with milk then sprinkle with sugar and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. This will be placed on top of crumble.

Stir together blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and sugar. Add 1/4 tsp. almond extract. Stir in flour and toss gently. Gently butter ramekins. Divide mixture among the containers and Bake for 15 minutes, less if using individual portion skillets. When done, place a scone on top and top with ice cream allowing it to drip into berry mixture.

The International Folk Art Festival was only two days away. We were in Santa Fe, which is at 7,000-foot elevation in the Sangro de Christo Mountains, so even in mid-July the weather outside is extremely pleasant. It feels a lot like October in South Texas – cool in the mornings and warm during the day.

I always can find plenty to do in this old city. There are many museums, lots of fun shopping, many great restaurants and beautiful pueblo architecture to stroll around and look at. When we arrived Thursday, we checked into the old adobe house on Canyon Road. This mud-brick, beamed-ceiling structure was more than 100 years old but had been adequately modernized so was comfortable.

Our first art destination that day was the new and strange MeowWolf. This is a surreal experience that some very imaginative artists created inside a large building that used to be a bowling alley. It is not the type of art that hangs on a wall that you look at. It is like a movie set that you go in to, perhaps a cross between “Alice in Wonderland,” Disneyworld and a very strange dream.

The first part is an old house that is fully decorated, and you soon discover that the family’s son has disappeared into a different dimension. The father is a nuclear scientist who had been doing research and the son got on his computer. One thing led to another, and the son ended up in some parallel world. If nothing else, this should be a lesson for all children to stay off your parents’ computer.

Anyway, there were so many people in that place. A passage through the fireplace led into a chamber of dinosaur bones. If you opened the refrigerator door in the kitchen there was another secret passageway that led into the reception area for an imaginary island destination on another planet.

There was a school bus that you sat in that looked like it was launching into space, and another room that was full of strobes and had laser beams projecting from the ceiling to floor that would play like a harp if you flicked the beams.

I cannot even begin to describe all the weird stuff in there but I was quite fatigued and losing my sense of reality by the time I found my way back out the front door. This is currently the largest tourist attraction in Santa Fe, and although I mostly like what is conventional and normal, this is a must-see.

Santa Fe has at least 100 art galleries, and most of them are filled with excellent but expensive art.

One gallery worker told us that Santa Fe was now the second largest art market in the world – only trailing Los Angeles.

The three main areas of galleries are Canyon Road, the area around the central plaza and The Railyard District. We look a lot and compliment the gallery attendants on how awesome the art is. Unfortunately for them, we tend to be only lookers and not buyers.

The restaurants there are as much of an attraction for me as the art. The Chocolate Maven is the best place to start a day with a multitude of baked pastries to choose from – many stuffed with chocolate.

The chili cheese croissant was a great way for a girl who likes spice to start the day as it is loaded with green chiles, Monterrey jack cheese and red peppers.

We sat near the large window that looks into the actual bakery and watched as the bakers made hundreds of croissants.

Later in the day, we returned to Cafe Pasqual, an institution in Santa Fe, and had a bison cheeseburger, mango and curry chicken salad and Taylor’s favorite, mole enchiladas. The evening was spent dining outside in the courtyard of Cafe Sena. Under a huge cottonwood tree, we celebrated Miles’ girlfriend, Caroline’s, birthday. I had a bowl of mussels in a Thai coconut broth along with sourdough bread for dipping and finished the meal with a small bite of cake.

The International Folk Art Festival started Saturday morning at 7:30 for those shoppers who hold “early bird” tickets. These tickets enable the shopper to reach the sales tents first, and since it is so early, it is also not as crowded.

I was probably much more excited than either Caroline or Miles who did not know what to expect. The line was filled with lots of middle-aged women and a few faithful husbands, either there to make sure the pocketbook was protected or because of a general interest in folk art. Taylor stayed behind to wander around the Canyon Road galleries stating he had already seen the festival three times and did not know if there would be too much new.

We entered the festival, which was a series of white tents filled with vendors from all around the world. These are not random “tourist trinket” salespeople but rather some of the top folk artists from each country who were selected and invited to Santa Fe for this show.

Another annual festival attendee from Victoria, MaryAnn, was by my side. We all split up to be able to seek out vendors we wanted to buy from early. I was a woman on a mission looking for exotic hand-woven textiles. MaryAnn tends to shop for jewelry and children’s clothes. I may have influenced her shopping somewhat and so she was also looking for African beads. Miles and Caroline were looking at everything, staring in amazement at the high level of crafts and art.

My commitment to the festival might seem strange, but if you stand and listen to an Indonesian woman who is explaining the batik process through an interpreter, you cannot avoid being impressed that such handwork still exists in our world of computerized everything.

Then, the woman begins to thank those who are taking the time to listen and maybe buy a scarf because the money she will bring home will feed her family and the families of the others in her cooperative for a year. This sort of shopping is special when you can put the money in the hand of the needy person who actually created the product.

At the end of the day, we celebrated with a meal at Joseph’s Table. Another July with friends in Santa Fe had come to an end. I will remember it long after as I wrap myself in a blue batik shawl and happily recall another year at the folk art festival.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail myra@vicad.com.

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The Awkward Etiquette of Bill Clinton as ‘First Lady’

First ladies have long been wary of the role they’re asked to play in the White House. As the title suggests, the president’s wife is expected to be the personification of American womanhood: a devoted partner, mother and hostess who also takes up a benign policy issue. Some first ladies have embraced the position—Nancy Reagan proudly listed “First Lady” as her occupation on her tax forms—while others have plainly dreaded it. “The one thing I do not want to be called is ‘first lady,’” Jacqueline Kennedy lamented. “It sounds like a saddle horse.”

On Tuesday night, as Bill Clinton addresses the Democratic National Convention, the nation will have its highest-profile encounter with one of the true novelties of Hillary Clinton’s campaign: The prospect of a man—and a former president at that—filling one of the most public “women’s” jobs in the country.

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At first blush, it has the makings of a screwball comedy. Even though Hillary Clinton has said she probably still would select the flowers and dinnerware if she is elected president, in reality, it’s unlikely she would have the time. Most of the countless other traditional items of protocol that come with the job of first spouse—including redecorating the White House residence and picking gifts and hosting teas for the spouses of dignitaries—would have to be carried out by someone who is not otherwise occupied with running the country. Technically, all of these could end up in the hands of Bill Clinton, the 69-year-old 42nd president of the United States.

Would departing First Lady Michelle Obama follow tradition and give Bill a pre-inauguration tour of the White House residence he once lived in, for instance? Would Bill work out of the quiet East Wing, the first lady’s traditional realm, rather than his old West Wing stomping grounds? Would he take pictures with the spouses of visiting leaders while his wife holds bilateral policy discussions? And would he take up a nonthreatening signature issue, like literacy or healthful eating?

True, the Clintons have long operated differently from other political couples, so might be expected to eschew traditional spousal roles in a second White House stay. As first lady, Hillary ditched the East Wing for the West so she could do more policy work, including spearheading Bill’s failed health care reform effort. One former White House florist told me that as first lady, Hillary sometimes seemed to be counting down the minutes before she could stop reviewing flower arrangements and get on with her day.

Susan Porter Rose, who worked in the offices of Pat Nixon and Betty Ford and as Barbara Bush’s chief of staff, recalls times when the latter, apparently out of “self-preservation,” chose not to read negative news coverage of her husband; no one expects Bill would stay at that kind of remove. In fact, it seems impossible to imagine that Bill would confine himself to noncontroversial policy work: Hillary has said that, if elected, she might put her husband in charge of revitalizing the economy—no light task.

Bill might be ill-suited to many traditional aspects of the role, or to quietly occupying the edge of the room, but there also are ways he might find himself diving into it—and, in the end, be pretty good at it. In a nation that still hasn’t crossed the hurdle of electing a woman president, it’s not hard to find the value in seeing a man host teas and give gifts once in a while, if Bill were to do so: It might just finally expose how out-of-date the “feminine” expectations of the office have become. And there’s a real prospect that Bill might genuinely rethink the role—a long-overdue change to what has become a strange purgatory for a wife who’s often extremely accomplished in her own right.

Whatever happens, having a former president as first spouse ensures that we’d be in for a very decisive break with the past. “A male spouse who wasn’t a former president would have been a way to tiptoe into this uncharted territory,” says the Reagans’ former social secretary, Gahl Hodges Burt, “instead of blasting our way into it.” Here’s what the territory might look like.

***

What Would We Call Him?

What would we call Bill Clinton? Obviously, “first lady” would not do, and its counterpart, “first gentleman,” sounds equally antiquated. Bill still has a claim on the title “president,” but so would his wife if she wins. Who would get dibs? Melanne Verveer, who was Hillary’s chief of staff when she was first lady, says Bill would likely be deployed in the White House as a “special envoy” and an “elder statesman,” but those would not be official titles. Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s White House press secretary, argues that having two presidents in the White House would add to the sense of excitement, for instance at state dinners. “Guests would be surrounded by twice the power,” Fleischer says (while noting that Bill would have to resist the urge to overshadow his wife). So the clunky introduction of “President Clinton” and “President Clinton” (or “Former President Clinton”), and the confusion that would follow, seem inevitable.

East Wing vs. West Wing

Michelle Obama’s East Wing has been referred to as “Guam” by some staffers because they are sometimes left out of important meetings and can be the last to know about the president’s schedule. That likely wouldn’t be a concern for Bill. Donald Ensenat, who served as chief of protocol from 2001 to 2007 and worked closely with Laura Bush’s staff, suggests that Hillary would likely hire a highly experienced social secretary who could take on most traditional first lady duties; as president, she simply would not have the time. That would let Bill off the hook when it comes to studying state dinner menus and seating charts in the quiet East Wing, but it also would leave that part of the building more isolated than ever, with staffers there strictly confined to table settings and flowers. Verveer says she finds it hard to believe Bill would occupy the East Wing. Instead, he could have an office in the West Wing or next door to the White House in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where vice presidents have their offices. The question is whether Bill would be chastised for such a move, as Hillary was by the press when she took over valuable real estate in the cramped West Wing as first lady. Back then, voters questioned how much influence they really wanted an unelected first lady to have in her husband’s administration. It’s likely that a former president would be granted more leeway.

Touring the Residence

The outgoing first lady usually gives the incoming first lady a tour of the residence on the second and third floors of the White House at some point after the election and before the Inauguration. Burt expects it would be Hillary, and not Bill, who would get the guided tour. “Hillary knew how she had done the house when she was there,” Burt says. “She’ll be curious to see what’s been undone and redone.” She might also want to decide where to put cribs in the White House residence for her grandchildren’s visits, Burt adds.

State Visits

The elaborate sense of ceremony that comes with state visits makes it particularly interesting to imagine a man in the first lady’s traditional role. First lady Laura Bush and her social secretary, for example, were in charge of the delicate tasks of deciding who sits where at state dinners and what dishes would be served, according to Ensenat. It’s hard to imagine Bill giving those matters much thought. There is also typically an elaborate arrival ceremony on the South Lawn for the guest of honor, as well as a photo-op in which the president, the first lady, the visiting head of state and his or her spouse stand side by side on the Truman Balcony. Unless Bill suddenly decides to elevate men’s fashion designers, it’s likely tradition would be turned on its head as attention turned to the president—Hillary—and her outfit, rather than the first spouse’s. And even though Bill has relationships with many world leaders, he would have to find something else to do while his wife was meeting with visiting heads of state in the Oval Office. “He wouldn’t have a seat just because he was first gentleman,” Ensenat says.

When it comes to traveling abroad, the first couple usually have separate schedules. The first lady’s itinerary is coordinated by her East Wing staff in conjunction with the National Security Council; first ladies often visit schools and hospitals while their husbands meet with leaders. But that protocol would likely need to be rethought, Ensenat says. Having a former president in the entourage “would increase the pressure all around,” Ensenat explains, since staff would need to take extra care to make sure Bill didn’t feel bored or sidelined. “I assume if something doesn’t quite go the way he was expecting it, my successor would hear about it.”

Gifts and Hosting

Bill would be surprisingly good at another traditional first lady duty should he decide to take it on: working with the chief of protocol to select gifts for foreign leaders before state dinners. Presidents can spend up to $2,000 each on such gifts, which can range from the pedestrian (like a box set of DVDs) to the sublime (a table made from the wood of a fallen oak tree at Mount Vernon). In the past, presidents themselves have gotten involved in gift selection in rare cases. President George W. Bush was so fond of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, an avid Elvis fan, that Bush helped come up with the idea to take him on a tour of Graceland and give him a jukebox loaded with Elvis tunes. But traditionally, such tasks would fall to the first lady. It’s not hard to imagine Bill being hands-on, since he has long-standing relationships with many world leaders, not only as president but also through his work with the Clinton Global Initiative. He also would make a good host. He knows Washington well after having lived in the city for eight years. One likely pit stop would be the National Gallery of Art, where he was known to escape occasionally on weekend mornings.

A Cause

Picking a signature issue is a loaded task. Barbara Bush was criticized for not choosing a “harder” issue when she took up literacy as her cause, while Michelle Obama’s healthful eating campaign has been criticized as the “food police,” rigidly dictating what children should eat. As a former president, Bill likely would face less pressure to decide on a singular, inoffensive cause to champion. After all, when his wife was first lady, she avoided softer issues and was involved in policy. If Hillary is serious about putting Bill in charge of the economy, his role might be more akin to that of a policy adviser or even a Cabinet member. That could be his signature contribution to the administration, but it surely wouldn’t be perceived as soft.

Consoler-in-Chief

A less visible aspect of the first lady’s job is meeting family members who lose loved ones in crises such as in cases of natural disaster or war. Betty Ford’s press secretary, Sheila Rabb Weidenfeld, told me she always viewed the East Wing as the heart of the administration and the West Wing as the head. And on that count, Bill actually might be quite well-suited to the traditional first lady role: He has experience with public memorials, such as after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and he seems more comfortable expressing his emotions publicly than his wife does. He’s almost uniquely talented at creating a sense of emotional connection with strangers, in person and before an audience. Fleischer points out that this could come with complications: “Is he the one who goes out when there’s a tornado? Why not Hillary? Does he only go to the Class 2 storms and Hillary takes the Class 1 storms?” Still, it’s not unprecedented for a former president to be tapped as an emissary in a crisis, and Bill has experience—teaming up with George H.W. Bush to launch an aid effort after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and George W. Bush to bring relief to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

***

If Hillary gets elected, we may be in for some awkward White House moments, with Bill outright avoiding traditional first spouse tasks, stumbling through them or overshadowing his powerful wife. On one hand, flowers and fashion could still fall to the woman in the relationship because Hillary would be in charge of appointing and overseeing someone to essentially replace the traditional first lady. (Her declarations about taking on some of this herself seem silly.)

Even though Bill would be the most nontraditional presidential spouse in history, he also could amplify the power that comes with the archaic role as no one has done before—and therefore make it more important. The son of one White House butler once told me how Lady Bird Johnson had secretly arranged for doctors to fly to Washington to care for the wife of another butler. “The first lady can pick up the telephone and change your life,” he said. That would certainly be the case for Bill Clinton, who would wield more power than any presidential spouse before him, and who could forever change how Americans perceive what it means to be married to the leader of the free world.

Kate Andersen Brower is author of First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies and The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House.

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Elio Releases Video About Shreveport Production Site

For several years now, Shreveport has been waiting with bated breath for one of the three-wheeled wondercars from Elio Motors to roll off of the old GM plant’s assembly line.

Many people are still wondering if it will ever happen.

Elio, however, seems undeterred as time moves forward, and even recently published a video explaining how they are going to utilize the facilities and equipment left behind at the former GM.

Watch the lengthy video below, and make your own judgements. It is cool to see the inside of the massive plant. And if you notice, at one point in the video, a lone truck chassis sits on one of the assembly skillets. Perhaps as a reminder of what was there, and maybe a beacon of hope that the plant will once again produce autos, bringing some much needed jobs and a boost in the economy to the area.

Tiny, three-wheeled autos…but autos nonetheless.

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