New York Memories: The Ladies Who Lunch, Part Two of Four

Fourteen years ago this month, I resigned to the senior editors at Trade Media Publishing and went to work at The Consulting Firm. On my first day, I was taken to lunch by one of the vice presidents, a WASPy grey-haired matron who was in charge of Personnel, Protocol, Discipline, Keeping Up Standards, and revealing company secrets at the right time. I’ll call her M, after Judi Dench’s character in the Bond films.

I do not remember where we had lunch. It wasn’t the Italian shellfish place, because that was the president’s turf; it wasn’t Sign of the Dove, because that was his wife’s; it wasn’t the pub at the end of the street, because nobody ever went there except the Irish guy who worked there for a year as the accountant; it wasn’t a diner because nobody ate in diners except me. I soon learned I could go to any diner in the city without fear of running into people from work.

So I guess we went to some girly lunchy place probably decorated in yellow with white tablecloths, and M. had a chicken salad and I had some penne or a sandwich or something else that I was sure I could eat without getting it on my black velvet jacket and plaid skirt, and M. conducted a light interrogation about my background, my schools (local, public), my living situation, my prospects in life. I must have passed, because she rewarded me by revealing some of the firm’s secrets, namely the celebrity connections in the neighborhood. The office had once belonged to Milton Glaser (the graphic designer best known for the “o” in Mobil, the “9” in 9 West 57th Street, and the heart in I ❤ NY). Next door was an interior decorator named Melanie someone, who had been responsible for the introduction of avocado and gold appliances into American kitchens after the war. Bill Cosby lived around the corner. Tom Wolfe was up the block. Sting had been sighted. And one of the townhouses belonged to Ashford and Simpson – did I know who they were?

Me: Err … management consultants?
M: Singer-songwriters. Rhythm ‘n’ blues. “Love Don’t Make It Right.”

At The Consulting Firm, magazines circulated with routing slips attached and there were two paths. Research staff got the serious magazines: Forbes, Fortune, Harvard Business Review. Office staff and female researchers got M’s old copies of People and later Entertainment Weekly. I was on both lists. With this support my celebrity spot rate improved dramatically (as did my database on eligible bachelors in the computer business), and I was already au courant when Bruce Springsteen established his love nest with Patti Scialfa on the next street, when Jesse Jackson came to call on Bill Cosby, and when Gorbachev zoomed down Park Avenue in a flotilla of twenty mirrorglassed limousines. Next: Prêt-à-porter.

Posted on by Diana ben-Aaron
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