From The Editor: Art
A quarter century ago, I decided to move back to my hometown of Miami, leaving Manhattan at the height of the proverbial party (NYC was enjoying an economic boom at the time). The moment I landed at the airport, I hopped in a cab and made my way over to a dear friend’s impossibly chic South Beach apartment. Just before the taxi dropped me off, I looked out the window, expecting to breathe in that clean South Florida air and instead let out a yelp when I was confronted with a gargantuan monstrosity of a sculpture invading my sight line—in a word, that so-called piece of art was gross.
As I settled back into a routine in Miami, every now and again I’d find myself driving or walking by this inexplicable, odious statement and force myself to stare at it and consider its worth, its meaning, its value, but I consistently came up short. To me, it was just an oversized eyesore, and I wanted it gone.
About a year later, the same friend I’d visited right from the airport threw a very fancy dinner party (black tie for a house fête in Miami isn’t the norm I’m used to). He had a dramatic entrance to the festivities planned: The invitation said that all of his guests should meet in front of that same sculpture I despised but that he referred to as “iconic and powerful.” Well, I just about lost it.
As the invited, well-dressed guests and I milled around the artwork, I started to tell some of my friends how I felt about this so-called masterpiece and went on and on with snarky, superior sarcasm to discredit the work. At that precise time, an older woman, who was with a small group not affiliated with mine, slowly made her way to me and said, “Enough! I’ve heard just about enough from you!” I was stunned into silence—as were my friends.
She stared at me and said, “I have one question for you: Who are you to judge?” Her voice barely above a whisper. I felt as if I was slapped, and again, I was stunned into silence.
Here’s the thing: She was right. There I was feeling cool and witty while I showed off in front of my equally been-there-done-that friends discussing things I knew very little about. The woman’s justified rebuke of my artistic ignorance shook me in ways that went beyond the sculpture. Right then and there I started to take stock about my life decisions and why I’ve been so fast to judge everything in my path. So what’s the silver lining to my red-cheeked dressing down? The woman’s name was Laura (a name I love as it’s the same as my grandmother’s, as it happened), and we kept in touch for years before her passing.
When I visit Miami these days, I make it a point to stop by the sculpture and smile to myself in memory of Laura, a woman who helped me to open my eyes and my heart. Such is the power of art. And of kindness.
Executive Vice President, Editor in Chief, ELLIMAN Media
From The Editor: JFK/LAX
I’ve always been amused by the so-called—and largely imagined—rivalry that exists between my Manhattan friends and those who call Los Angeles home, and the nonstop jokes that feed it. Oh, you know, stuff like “LA: Fifty miles long and an inch deep” or “Why are New Yorkers so depressed? Because the light at the end of the tunnel is New Jersey”…and on and on. But for years, I’ve stood alone among my circle and said the unthinkable: “I love New York and LA equally.” That sentence always—always—quieted the room. It doesn’t anymore.
For nearly a decade and a half, my job as Editor in Chief of various national celebrity magazines afforded me what a close buddy of mine called “the dream scenario”—living in Manhattan and traveling to Los Angeles two weeks a month. Though it was a grind (what work-related travel isn’t?), I have to admit, it was also pretty darn cool.
My regular United Airlines flights—noon JFK to LAX and 8am LAX to JFK—were, to my mind, the perfect setting for a TV show I want to produce called The Flyover. On those flights—and specifically in the first-class cabin—I’ve chatted, laughed, argued and made friends with some of the biggest names in the celebrity universe. It became routine, if one can imagine sitting next to an international superstar ever being routine, for me to walk onto the aircraft and find David Beckham or Mary-Kate Olsen or Christopher Walken or Drew Barrymore or Alec Baldwin or Sigourney Weaver sitting in the front-row window seat next to me (I prefer the aisle). Let me tell you something you probably already know: When you’re right next to an interesting person, who may or may not have had one or three chardonnays over the five-plus-hour flight, you tend to get to know them. And, remember, what I do for a living is partly based on getting famous people to open up to me as never before. Oh, how I did look forward to those flights.
But, for me, the bigger picture came into focus once those planes landed and I could see the extent to which my experiences in Manhattan and LA started to merge, feeling undeniably and oddly similar. Yes, the geography, dialect and modes of transportation were different, but the things that really matter about a city—the people, the businesses, the optimism—were completely in alignment in both these places I happily called home. I realized then that what made my day-to-day life so seamlessly consistent in tone and content was, in fact, the equally incredible quality of the people I interacted with in both LA and NYC. I don’t get that inside-the-club comfort I always have in Gotham and LA when I arrive in, say, Chicago, DC or San Francisco. You see, New Yorkers and Angelenos are, yes, two sides of the same spectacular coin.
Next time you spot me—preferably in that aisle seat nursing a cocktail—ask me about some of the stories those famous folks told me about their lives. As fantastical and jaw-dropping as I found those tales, I think they would only resonate in similar fashion with my fellow New Yorkers and Angelenos, since we are, no doubt in my mind, spirit brothers from different mothers.
C’mon, go ahead and say it out loud and proud: “I love New York and LA.” You know you wanna.
Executive Vice President, Editor in Chief, ELLIMAN Media
From The Editor: Design
The moment I realized that people could affect the aesthetics of their surroundings was the summer before I turned ten, when my family moved into a comfortable new home in the suburbs of Miami. I remember my mother turning to me when my dad and she were done showing us kids our new cavernous house and saying, “My goodness, there are a lot of rooms to decorate in here.” I had no idea what she was talking about.
A few weeks later, we moved in and—in the blink of an eye—the recently empty spaces were filled with sofas, chairs, tables and even more sofas, chairs and tables, and it all looked pretty darn good to me. That very day, I asked my mom what she meant by “decorating,” and she whispered to me to go with her so she could show me something. In the back corner of our garage, she pointed to an empty television box belonging to a Zenith set that had just been installed in my sister’s room. Inside the box was a large, square lining with a chevron pattern on heavy plastic, a design that my mom told me she thought would make “the perfect wallpaper pattern” for the living room, if only she could find it.
For several months, my mom would relay to me her ongoing frustration at not finding that wallpaper pattern she wanted for our most formal room when, to my surprise, I came home from school one afternoon to discover that very Zenith plastic chevron lining from the garage in a heavy frame hanging on the wall behind the sofa in our living room. And—wait for it—it looked great.
My mom and I would smile conspiratorially to each other and graciously accept the compliments. It was our first design secret. And it was awesome.
For years, family members and friends would come to our home and cheerfully comment about the unusual “painting” hanging above our sofa, and my mom and I would smile conspiratorially to each other and graciously accept the compliments. It was our first design secret. And it was awesome.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate to call many interior design heavy-hitters dear friends and have sat back and watched their tasteful mastery benefit me—none more so than Thom Filicia. Thom, the Emmy Award–winning costar of Queer Eye more than a decade ago, has been a buddy of mine for longer than that, and he’s always had this knack for walking into my apartments (be they in Manhattan or Los Angeles) and, within minutes, sketching out precisely what he would do to the space. For my home in West Hollywood, he literally scribbled his vision on the back of a cocktail napkin (I still have it), and once I followed his aesthetic directions to a tee, anyone and everyone who entered my crib was blown away by the effortless elegance of the space.
Thom, and all other talented interior designers, share a gift—creating spaces pretty and relevant—as well as a curse—noticing how few rooms in our lives are actually pretty and relevant. But, in the end, making the world a more beautiful place is a magical, superhero-type power that should be celebrated.
I think my mom had a little of that superhero power in her as well. Just don’t ever tell her I gave our secret away.
Editor in Chief, Executive Vice President, ELLIMAN Media
We’re On A Winning Streak!
On the heels of ELLIMAN’s recognition by min’s (Media Industry News) 2015 Editorial And Design Awards as a finalist in the Single Magazine Issue category—among the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, Architectural Digest and Food & Wine—we’re proud to announce that ELLIMAN Media magazines have been selected by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts to receive multiple 2016 Communicator Awards. These accolades are for both writing and design. ELLIMAN was honored with two “Awards of Excellence” for the Spring/Summer 2015 issue for Overall Design and Overall Magazine, as well as three “Awards of Distinction” for Cover Design of the Spring/Summer 2015 issue, and two feature stories: “Alan Cumming, Hero” by ELLIMAN’s Editor In Chief Richard Pérez-Feria and “The Greatest Celebrity Story Ever Told” by former Vanity Fair writer Kevin Sessums. ELLIMAN Media is proud to uphold Douglas Elliman’s first-class standards. For more, go to ELLIMANMedia.com.
AWARD SEASON ELLIMAN Media’s latest winning entries include stories by Richard Pérez-Feria and Kevin Sessums as well as overall and design top honors for the Spring 2015 issue of ELLIMAN featuring Naomi Campbell on the cover.