Life’s a Banquet … Don’t Starve: 'The Life and Art of James Baldwin'

Cari Modine, Matthew Modine

“The world is too much with us.” But from the 44th floor of the Norman Foster–designed glass-and-steel gazebo that houses the Hearst Corporation, it lay glittering at one’s feet as some hundred business and civic leaders gathered to celebrate “The Life and Art of James Baldwin.”

The hosts, vice chairman and CEO of the Hearst Corporation Frank Bennack and his wife, Dr. Mary Lake Polan, also underwrote the American Library’s release of Baldwin’s collected writings. Mr. Bennack works close to heaven in that glorious tower. Now he’s assured himself and his wife a permanent place within the pearly gates for helping to preserve a cultural legacy.

I heard stories of Baldwin from the time I was a child because as teens, he and my late mother, Josephine Premice, were habitués of the salon of Anaïs Nin (in the days when people actually exchanged ideas instead of hurling insults under the cloak of cyber anonymity).

For the American Library’s festivities, the Hearst reception room was set up like a living room, albeit a palatial one with enveloping crème-colored sofas to lounge upon. Holly Peterson, Pamela Fiori, Alexis Clark, Darren Walker, Crystal McCrary (Jacqueline Onassis–elegant in a sleeveless black Valentino shift and bolero) listened to Leslie Uggams and the eternally boyish and goyish Matthew Modine read passages from “Sonny’s Blues” and other masterpieces. Matthew’s gorgeous dancer wife, Carrie, cut a Coco Chanel–esque figure in flowing slacks and matching jacket.

With cell phones silenced, champagne flutes in hand, we reveled in the lyrical language of a man who helped Americans of all colors and “classes” find their common humanity.

Péché Mignon/Cute Sin of the Day: a post-cocktail-party glass of wine “up the road” at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Life’s a Banquet … Don’t Starve.

Photo: Matthew Modine with wife Carrie