Eva Lorenzotti Veronica Bulgari Jackie Astier BVLGARI MON JASMIN NOIR

I love the Mediterranean. I love everything about it: the sea, the climate, the different cultures, the rich history. I love the way the air smells on a hot summer night—I'm talking Capri, under a lemon tree at 7 p.m., not Saint-Tropez, inside Les Caves du Roy at 4 a.m. (though that has a charm all its own).

So when Veronica Bulgari invited me to the launch of Bulgari's newest fragrance, Mon Jasmin Noir, in a Mediterranean Eden–inspired garden at the Bowery Hotel, I couldn't wait for my mini vacation.

And what a vacation it was, from the minute I walked up the stairs. Jasmine wafted through the air, and everywhere I turned, there was life: red-rose-filled "trees" designed for the occasion; centerpieces made of lemons, lemon peels, lemons dipped in gold, and white roses. Lewis Miller's creation was pitch-perfect; I defy anyone to "do" a better paradise than this.

The notes of Mon Jasmin Noir were artfully laid out on a table in the corner, where master perfumer and creator Olivier Polge told us it took a full year to perfect. Veronica Bulgari described it this way: "It's elegant, feminine, multiseasonal and unusual." Striking Tika Sumpter (Raina on Gossip Girl) agreed. "I like a perfume that's flirty and soft," she said.

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Lynn Whitfield, Grace Gibson



One of the great joys of growing older—and yes, dear reader, there are joys; it’s not all slouching toward the Bethlehem of a church-basement bingo game—is being an “other mother” to my friends’ children.

Recently, I brunched with the remarkable Grace Gibson, daughter of my dear friend, the brilliant actress Lynn Whitfield—who, among other accomplishments, won an Emmy for her reincarnation (for it was far more than a portrayal) of Josephine Baker in the HBO biopic about the entertainer—and the late British director Brian Gibson (of What's Love Got to Do with It fame).

Grace’s life, for all its privileges, has not been “a crystal stair,” as the poem goes (though the image hardly suggests comfort … but I digress). She lost her father, to whom she was extremely close, at the precarious age of 11, while still a student at Spence. Rather than let it destroy her, she used the loss as a source of strength and a reminder to live her life out loud.

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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.

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On March 3, the American Cancer Society presented its annual Mothers of the Year Awards at a luncheon at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

This year's honorees were Dr. Freya Schnabel and Muffie Potter Aston. The ballroom was filled with fans of both women. I don't know Dr. Schnabel personally, but from what I understood from Patti Hansen, who presented her with the award, she is nothing short of a saint.

Hansen spoke earnestly about her own battle with breast cancer, and how Dr. Schnabel's patience, encouragement and wisdom had helped her through. The two women have become friends, and Hansen even spoke about Dr. Schnabel's love "of my husband's music"—she's referring to the great Keith Richards.

I do know Muffie personally, and I know this: Muffie deserves an award every day of the year for all the things she does. She is a strong, intelligent, organized do-gooder, multitasking her way through life and letting nothing fall through the cracks.

Whether it's helping an organization (ACS, Memorial Sloan Kettering, the Alzheimer's Association, and many others she's been involved with over the years), a business associate, or a friend in need, Muffie always steps up to the plate. Her most formidable achievement to date has been as a mother to twin girls Ashleigh and Bracie, and as a wife to Sherrell—"the loves of my life," as she puts it.

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