“Oh yes, another ladies’ luncheon,” Linda Jesselson sighed, rolled her eyes good-naturally over the room piled full of estrogen, sushi and cocktails this afternoon at Guastavino’s. We felt for the UJA Federation‘s philanthropy president–they stand for the United Jewish Appeal Federation, after all. It’s one of those causes that seems to bring out the best and brightest of New York’s charity circuit, which can be a double-edged sword, not to mention voice-range.
Literally bright, the 300+ ladies making loud talk before the Federation’s annual Women of Influence panel were all wearing blinding white, celebrating that post-Memorial Day tradition that no one remembers to adhere to post Labor Day.
Speaking of what not to wear, the panel’s moderator this afternoon was Stacy London, of that network-defining therapeutic fashion show on TLC. (We almost asked her to come over to our house afterward.)
Ms. London introduced this year’s honorees and panelists by admitting that she stalked them all on Twitter. CEO Alexandra Lebenthal, of Lebenthal & Company and the dynastic Alexandra & James; Hamptons and Gotham Magazine’s Samantha Yanks; and philanthropist Elyse Newhouse spent the better part of an hour discussing everything from the boob-troversy to female jealousy to the popularity of E.L. James’ erotica. To sum things up with soundbites:
-Ms. Yanks thinks that parents get to decide when their children should stop the teat without cultural tsk-tsking, women will be jealous no matter what, and 50 Shades of Grey was a guilty pleasure.
-Ms. Newhouse worried about the message of the book, ostensibly teaching little girls to grow up and want to be dominated by characters created from Twilight fan fiction.
-Ms. Lebenthal said she was too busy to read any books, let alone sexy mom stories. But she had seen the SNL sketch and thought it was funny.
Afterwards we approached Ms. Lebenthal and Ms. Yanks to see what they were really reading. “I’m in the middle of Game Change right now,” Ms. Lebenthal, looking great in the only non-white outfit of the panel (she wore yellow) and with what was either a severe bun or newly shorn hair, told us.
Had she seen the HBO movie?
“No, I’m going to finish the book first. The only time I have to read is on vacation,” she sighed, before remembering something. “Oh! And I’m reading Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson’s book about Gilt Groupe!” (Last night, Ms. Lebenthal had thrown a party in honor of the digital shopping co-founders’ book, By Invitation Only.)
Meanwhile, Ms. Yanks was at a loss for her favorite new read until Jennifer Gilbert helped out. “Your favorite book is I Never Promised You Goodie Bags!”
“Oh yes, that’s my new favorite book!” Ms. Yanks smiled. “How could I have forgotten?”
“I wrote it,” Ms. Gilbert confided to us.
“That’s a great title. But everyone should promise us goodie bags.”
Ms. Gilbert eyed us suspiciously, but we were too distracted by the heavy SCOOP bucket bag filled with goodies to notice. Luckily, grabbing a bag on our way out (after a fistful of sushi for the road and skipping the cookie with the frosting in the colors of the Israel flag so we could technically keep kosher!) also prevented us from asking Ms. Yanks if we could visit her sometime in the New Jersey Hamptons.
Follow Drew Grant via RSS.