Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.

Posts tagged “Ursula Von Rittern

My tea with Margo Feiden

There are two Margos that I adore, Margo Channing (fictional) from “All About Eve” and Margo Feiden (larger than life), of the Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd. and curator of the legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld’s collection.

To paraphrase Addison DeWitt from “All About Eve,” ‘To those of you who do not read, attend the theater, attend art gallery openings or know anything of the world in which we live – it is perhaps necessary to introduce Margo Feiden. Her native habitat is the art world and the theater – in it she has toiled for 70 years. She is essential to the art world and the theater.’

MARGO FEIDEN

Margo Feiden

I myself am a native New Yorker, born 1955, NYC tour guide today, who since childhood followed and revered Al Hirschfeld’s imaginative drawings that so precisely capture an artist’s voice, personality and movement with the stroke of a pen. I had always hoped that I one day I would get to meet him. That day came on March 21st, 2001 at a benefit performance at The Martin Beck Theater (now ‘The Al Hirschfeld’) of “Nothing Like A Dame,” featuring the who’s who of legendary ladies of the theater. He signed my Playbill and I gently touched the hand of genius as he etched that famous boxed signature.

Hirschfeld sadly passed away on January 20, 2003 in his sleep, just five months short of his 100th birthday.

June 22nd, 2011 Doyle’s Auction Galleries held an auction of his estate, one of the many things I bought was his shoulder bag which still has his handwritten name tag attached, written in his trademark squared signature.

November 14th, 2013 Henri Bendel’s Department store on Fifth Avenue celebrated Christmas with a tribute to Hirschfeld, filling their window with three dimensional figures of his drawings. Inside the store, a figure of Charlie Chaplin sat in the atrium, high up in a tree overseeing all the goings on – it was magical! Helping to create the displays and attending the event was the divine Margo Feiden herself. I showed Chris Fiore the president of Bendel’s my Hirschfeld bag, “I’m going to take you to Margo!” he said. (Shades of ‘All About Eve’!) She welcomed me with open arms and warmth. There I was, after 49 years of collecting Hirschfeld, sitting with Margo Feiden, holding hands and telling her my Hirschfeld stories.

BENDEL HIRSCHFELD CHRISTMAS WINDOW

Henri Bendel’s Hirschfeld Christmas window November 14, 2013

DSC_3383A

Charlie Chaplin observes the proceedings at Bendel’s 

Six years later in June of this year, I am contacted by Margo, it was her secretary on the phone, “Is this Hans Von Rittern? I have Miss Feiden on the line, is this a good time for you take the call?” There was that unmistakable voice, she has never forgotten me and would I come to tea? My heart stopped. Tea with Margo in her Stanford White townhouse – I gladly said ‘yes’! It was arranged for Friday, June 14th, 4:00pm.

June 14th, at precisely 4:00pm, I rang the bell. I was greeted by her personal assistant who took me up the steep staircase to the main floor ballroom, I was in awe. There are the huge leaded glass windows Stanford White designed, the fireplace and all the moldings exactly intact to this day. The walls are filled with Hirschfeld art and . . . sitting in a chair by the sofa is Charlie Chaplin, the sculpture from the Bendel’s Christmas show. On the cocktail table was an assortment of teas and cookies awaiting me. IMG_9782

Six years later, Charlie awaits me in Margo’s ballroom

I was shown the bins of drawings, the hallway filled with iconic images we have all seen over the decades – there they were – in person.

Next to the hallway is ‘the front office’ where two of her staff were busy on the phones. It is filled all the way up to the high ceiling with Hirschfelds that are now part of the American landscape. There was Marilyn, Ella, Bogey, both Hepburns, Sinatra, the Beatles and above the fireplace Margo Feiden’s Hirschfeld portrait. I was agog.

IMG_9780A

‘The Ballroom’ 

Giddily her assistant asked if I would like to go down the cast-iron spiral staircase to the ground floor – down we went. A treasure trove of more Hirschfeld art and the lovingly curated collection of Margo’s glass and antique collection, meticulously displayed in shadow boxes and old wooden display cases. You could see the passion and care that has been put into these collections.

We arrived back in the Ballroom and still no Margo. ‘Hmmm,” I thought, ‘maybe this was just to be a tour of the townhouse.’ I stood there turning about marveling at the stupendous Ballroom chandelier, when suddenly, her assistant invited me to, “See the upstairs”. Gulp. We ascended the grand sweeping staircase from the Ballroom, the stairwell filled frame to frame with jaw-dropping art. All the way up to The Deck we went, where presiding over the residential court is a centuries old tree filled with the songs of birds, not a city noise could be heard. Oh the stories this tree could tell.

We stood there for a while and I wondered, ‘Where is the mysterious Margo? Am I to meet her at all?’ After some time we descended back down the magnificent staircase to arrive again in the Ballroom. At about 5:00 pm, it was announced, “Miss Feiden will be ready to receive you now, please have a seat.” I sat on the sofa next to Charlie and waited anxiously.

Then, suddenly, Margo appeared, poised midway, posed gracefully on the sweeping staircase, attired in one of her trademark quilted hats and jackets, hand painted sneakers and a ponytail almost down to her knees, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Staircase

The sweeping Ballroom staircase

I sat there stunned. ‘Hans, get up…say something!’ I thought. I answered as I rose, ”You know how to make quite an entrance, don’t you?!” We spent the next four and a half hours talking about our lives.

It turns out Margo is an avid reader of my blog “In The Wit Of An Eye” and was concerned that she no longer saw me posting my stories. She suggested telling me some of her own stories to get me to write again.

I explained I had stopped writing the blog in 2014 in order to write the life story of my mother Ursula Von Rittern and three generations of the independent women in my family, a telling of how they survived two world wars in Germany in a book entitled, “Last Train Out of Berlin.” My mother Ursula was 88 at the time, and I felt time was fleeting, so by age 90, we had finished the book and even received a complimentary letter from Meryl Streep after she had been handed a copy of the manuscript by me personally. (At age 93, Ursula and I are are still looking for a publisher.)

MOM COVER 2 DARKER!

Margo started to tell me parts of her life story and presented me with rare clippings and mementos of her amazing life, shown here. To know Margo is to receive a history lesson of New York City and it’s art scene.

In 1961 at the young age of 16, Margo Feiden then ‘Margo Eden,’ was the youngest person ever to produce and direct a musical version of “Peter Pan.” This was at the 41st Street Theater in the Wurlitzer Building. Her unique vision was to produce it with mostly high school age actors to fit the parts accurately. These were young professionals from the revered High School of Performing Arts. The fact that the High School of Performing Arts permitted their students to miss school in order to rehearse and perform in her production of Peter Pan, shows the importance they attached to Margo’s production. History was being made.

Here is a rare New York Times Broadway A – Z listing showing the “Peter Pan” production, but let your head spin to see who else Margo was on the boards with at the time: Henry Fonda in “Critic’s Choice,” Carol Channing (later in life to become Margo’s close friend) in “Showgirl.” Ironically Mary Martin was appearing five blocks away at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in “The Sound of Music” and Cyril Richard the original Captain Hook was appearing in a production on 45th street. As well as Patty Duke in “The Miracle Worker,” Lucille Ball in “Wildcat,” Richard Burton & Julie Andrews, Elsa Lanchester, Phil Silvers, Zero Mostel, Tammy Grimes, Maurice Evans…the listings go on. As you can see it was a time on Broadway never ever to be again.

1.Peter Pan-NYT-April 1, 1961

The New York Times Broadway A - Z listing, April 1, 1961

The following year, Margo had penned “Out, Brief Candle,” a three act play about dope addiction. Featuring 30 actors, it centered around ‘Bob’ whose life long dream of becoming a surgeon is destroyed by his heroin addiction. In 1963 Margo prophetically returned to the 41st Street Theater where she directed and produced the play herself.

She was heralded in the ‘teen magazines’ of the day, Hi-Teen 11/1962 and Teen Time 01/1963 as “News maker” and “Teen of the Month.”

2.HI-TEEN Magazine-Jan 1963-Pg 22

High Teen Magazine,  November 1962

3.Teen Time Magazine-Nov 1962-Pg 32 (1)

4.Teen Time Magazine-Nov 1962-Pg 33

Teen Time Magazine,  January 1963

At age 17, now known as a child prodigy of the Broadway theater, Margo became the agent, as well as producer, director and publicist of Kuda Bux, a Pakistani mystic and mentalist performer who could read and see despite being heavily blindfolded. They appeared on stage and television together.

Oh, did I mention she is a licensed pilot? Has gone camel racing in the desert? So it is also no surprise, that Margo also happens to be a member of MENSA, the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world, open to those people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized IQ test.

In 1969, Margo opened her first art gallery, but she had no art to display. So her girlfriend, who just so happened to be iconic photographer Diane Arbus, suggested they exhibit her work. Margo told me, “In the morning within an hour, I had rented myself an art gallery but had no artwork, by midnight, Diane and I had finished hanging her work.”

Also ahead of her time, on December 10, 1995, Margo became the first person ever to hold an art auction on the World Wide Web, when she auctioned five Hirschfeld works on the Internet to benefit New York City Meals-on-Wheels (god bless her).

We talked and talked about the wonderful and even curious stories she has to tell. It was now 9:30pm, the summer sky was casting it’s dark hues into the ballroom, it was time to end my delightful tea with my fellow Sagittarius Margo. Perhaps I will tell some more of her stories here. My favorite (so far!) is of the fateful meeting of Hirschfeld and Charlie Chaplin in 1932. I teared up as I sat on the sofa listening to Margo tell the tale, gazing into those sparkling blue eyes of hers. Thank you dear Margo.

This November 19th, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of the Margo Feiden Galleries Ltd. Margo is penning her memoirs to follow hopefully thereafter. I dare think it shall be Auntie Mame, er ah, Margo telling tales that will keep us captivated!

I hope you will also stay tuned for more stories from me as well, especially hopefully one day, my book, ”Last Train Out of Berlin” – – – Berlin, March 21st, 1945: A charismatic opera singer receives secretive warning that Berlin is doomed by advancing Russian forces and that there is one last train out of Berlin leaving in four hours. A true story that spans three continents and three generations.

STAY TUNED . . .

https://www.alhirschfeld.com/ 

(with a special nod

to my extra-special line editor…you know who you are!😉)

 



Photo of the day: THE SPECIAL FATHERS DAY THAT MARILYN MONROE CAME TO DINNER

Marilyn, Mozart (Kugeln chocolates) and Mom

Marilyn, Mozart (Kugeln chocolates) and Mom

Photo of the day: THE SPECIAL FATHERS DAY THAT MARILYN MONROE CAME TO DINNER – I had the most extraordinary fathers day! Mom celebrates fathers day for me every year since I am the ‘daddy’ to our dog Noel, so ‘Noel’ throws me a dinner party every year 🙂 To my surprise mom (age 88) had gone all the way uptown to 86th Street to go to Schaller & Weber delicatessen and got the ingredients for my favorite German dish: Rouladen with dumplings, gravy and green bean salad. I was in heaven, because I usually only just get this treat for my birthday and Christmas, but mom and I have started to work on our her/family’s memoirs together (finally! Its a page turner!) and she felt I deserved it, for all the research and writing I am doing.
But I had an extra special surprise guest, Marilyn Monroe came to dinner last night – in painting form.
To my great shock and surprise a very dear friend of mine gave me the painting as a present that I treasured and coveted from our “Whitewash” exhibit. Carlos (See TF) had painted a two story tall sepia tone Marilyn in the stairwell at 5 Pointz, sadly unseen to all visitors. I was in absolute awe of it. When 5 Pointz was destroyed they vindictively painted over the amazing mural as well – twice, despite the fact she was inside away from everyone’s view. I came to discover the amazing artist Carlos (See TF) and who he is and we developed a wonderful friendship.
This was almost two stories tall, done in sepia tones. here sadly whitewashed.

This was almost two stories tall, done in sepia tones. here sadly whitewashed.

For the exhibit Carlos brought back some of his famous ladies that he had painted at 5 Pointz, the fantastic geisha girls, a ‘Metropolis’-like masked woman and…Marilyn. I coveted that painting, and for those of you who came know how I feel about that MM painting!
It is so mesmerizing that when my own mother came to see my photos on display next to the Marilyn painting, she was so transfixed by it she didn’t even see/acknowledge her own sons photos at first. “Mom! My photos are here!…” LOL. “I know,” she said, “but I have never seen this magnificent Marilyn you have told me so much about.” The whitewashed Marilyn was one of the photos I included in the exhibit and one of the first to sell. They purposely hung side by side, corner to corner to tell the story. Mom gazed at her the rest of the night, oh and, my photos too.
This Sunday was my day to pick up my remaining photos from the exhibit. As I was packing them up, I remarked to my friend Meres that it was sad to see Marilyn gone. “Oh she’s downstairs all wrapped up…Carlos wants you to have her,” he said with the biggest grin. I froze and just exclaimed “What!” several times, still frozen I wasn’t sure I had heard right or if it was a joke. It was not, I right then and there received the most touching phone call from ‘the artist’ telling me why he wanted me to have the painting, I teared up. “She’s going to the right home.” And so my friend…she did.
I revealed Marilyn to mom at dinner and she was also stunned. “She’s so haunting, it draws you in,” and mom, as on opening night, starred at her the rest of the night.
There are people that cross your path in life, that are such unexpected treasures that make you so much richer. 5 Pointz brought many of these people together and even brought Marilyn Monroe to dinner and she stayed.
Thank you my friend.
What is so haunting about it, is that it is not 'wet lip Marilyn', or 'skirt blowing Marilyn'. It beautifully sad reflective 1962 Marilyn portrayed as a human being - not symbol. Notice the painting goes from light (right side) to the dark side (on the left).

What is so haunting about it, is that it is not ‘wet lip Marilyn’, or ‘skirt blowing Marilyn’. It beautifully sad reflective 1962 Marilyn portrayed as a human being – not symbol. Notice the painting goes from light (right side) to the dark side (on the left).


Photo of the day: URSULA VON RITTERN, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY !

MOM CONFIRMATION 1942

Photo of the day: URSULA VON RITTERN, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! ~ Coming from a long line of fiercely independent women, mom learnt from them and did it all on her own. From my great grandmother Johanna on – three generations of women divorced their husbands, each woman reaching success without her husband. Beauty, talent and strength – a remarkable combination.

Photo of the day: FRESHLY GROOMED ‘NOEL’ WAITS FOR HER CAR SERVICE

Our dog Noel - happy at last :)

Our dog Noel – happy at last 🙂

Photo of the day: FRESHLY GROOMED ‘NOEL’ WAITS FOR HER CAR SERVICE – Our dog Noel (a sheep dog-terrier mix), my mom Ursula and I would like to extend a special thanks to our friends Jude Amsel and Marie Flageul for turning us on to a really wonderful local Long Island City groomer “LIC Doghouse”. Mom and I have been through hell with Le Pitou II/Forest Hills dog groomers that would forget appointments then screaming at my 88 year old mom, shaving sores/cuts on Noel, Noel being returned to us in a frightened state, getting her toenail ripped off by a local Sunnyside groomer (yes you read that right!) and requiring emergency surgery, finding a car service that will take a large dog to far away groomers, let alone finding a groomer that will even take a 60lb dog.
Finally we found loving and gentle groomers at LIC Doghouse, they were so gentle and kind to Noel and my mom that they now have a new loyal customer. It is rare that Noel’s tail wags through the entire grooming process. Thank you again Jude and Marie, and a great big thanks to LIC Doghouse – Noel sends you lots of wet licks !

Photo of the day: “COME TO THE JEFFREY LEDER GALLERY MY FRIEND!”

Tom Orzo, Mindy Cassle-Rosato, Hans, Ursula Von Rittern, Deborah Blau, Frederica Meister

Tom Orzo, Mindy Cassle-Rosato, Hans, Ursula Von Rittern, Deborah Blau, Frederica Meister

Photo of the day: “COME TO THE JEFFREY LEDER GALLERY MY FRIEND!” – So, life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery! Here life is beautiful…
The paintings are beautiful…even the photographs are beautiful (and selling) !
My dear friends Tom Orzo, Mindy Cassle-Rosato, of course Mom, Deborah Blau and Frederica Meister all came for the grand opening party of the 5 Pointz “Whitewash” exhibit that I am a part of! Why don’t you join the ranks of graffiti lovers, street art lovers, preservationists and the passionate and check out my 16 photos along with the fantastic works of artists Auks, Cortes, Jerms, Just One, Meres, Orestes, Shiro, See TF, Topaz, Zimad, Hunt Rodriguez proving art is forever! A mourning and celebration of the destruction of the world’s most spectacular street art museum. $20 catalog available for sale in the gift shop.

Come see the exhibit till June 8 at the Jeffrey Leder Gallery: 2137 45th Road, 1/2 block away from the #7 & G Court Street subway station. Two blocks away from 5 Pointz and MOMA’s PS1. Open 12 noon – 6pm.
Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!
Fremde, etranger, stranger.
Gluklich zu sehen, je suis enchante,
Happy to see you, bleibe, reste, spray paint!
TAGS:

Photo of the day: MERELY THE BEGINNING!! APRIL 5, 2014, Hans in “Whitewash” exhibit!

Jeffrey Leder Gallery    2137 45th Rd. Long Island City, NY 11101   jeffrey@jeffreyledergallery.com

Jeffrey Leder Gallery 2137 45th Rd. Long Island City, NY 11101 jeffrey@jeffreyledergallery.com

Photo of the day: MERELY THE BEGINNING! APRIL 5, 2014 – I am incredibly proud and joyful to announce I am one of 11 artists asked to be a part of this important exhibit here in Long Island City, New York!! The Jeffrey Leder Gallery (2 blocks from PS1 MOMA) will open with a unique exhibition featuring 9 Graffiti Artists and 2 photographers. These artists have created art that explores their strong reactions to 5 Pointz being whitewashed overnight.

Contributing Artists: Auks, Cortes, Hans Von Rittern, Jerms, Meres One, Orestes Gonzalez, Poem, Shiro, See TF, Topaz, Zimad

Curated by Marie Cecile-Flageul
April 5 – June 8, 2014
Opening reception April 5, 6-9pm! Come join me – you’re invited!!
WW LOGO

“Whitewash, is an answer to the violent act of G&M realty on November 19th, 2013 in Long Island City Queens. Overnight thousands of murals adorning the building known as 5 Pointz were destroyed. It‘s a story of pain, sadness, and anger at times and reflection – An epic of an art community and its home coming apart under the pressure of economical trends and waves of gentrification.
Bringing together a cluster of resident graffiti artists and two Queens photographers, the exhibition enables the artists to express their true feelings and thought process since loosing their work to a white layer of paint, and their home to the pressing demands of real estate development. For the first time since the whitewash we will witness how affected this collective is by being eclipsed from their 11 years home.

The works in Whitewash aspire to such: Laying feelings on canvas, and letting go of the pain, the show brings together artworks that can be interpreted as confession, lessons, or reflection but also aspirations and hopes.

Whitewash is an obvious requiem for 5 Pointz the building but also maybe the beginning of a rebirth of 5 Pointz the community and its true core: the people.“
Marie-Cecile Flageul

http://www.jeffreyledergallery.com/whitewash.php


Photo of the day: “IT’S A VON RITTERN!”

IT'S A VON RITTERN!

Photo of the day: “IT’S A VON RITTERN!” – A very proud Ursula Von Rittern, aka “mom” points to the six photos exhibited in the “PHO-TO-GRAFFS” exhibit that opened this weekend at the Gold Coast Gallery! Great news: I sold some pieces and I am featured in the gallery’s store too!!
Mom checks out 'the Von Ritterns' for sale

Mom checks out ‘the Von Ritterns’ for sale

I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to Marie Flageul and Meres One without whom 5 Pointz would not have been what it is and to their treasured friendship. To Jude Amsel, gallery director of the Gold Coast Arts Center for her kind guidance. To two of my dearest friends who came out to support me, tour guide alums Deborah Blau and especially to Tom Orzo who took the time to drive a very proud and delighted Ursula Von Rittern (not bad for 88 years old, huh?) to her son’s gallery premier. I am a very lucky man.
Deborah Blau, Tom Orzo, Hans Von Rittern and Ursula Von Rittern

Deborah Blau, Tom Orzo, Hans Von Rittern and Ursula Von Rittern

PHO-TO-GRAFFS: March 16 – April 27, 2014 http://www.greatneckarts.org/


Photo of the day: NO SMOKE MARIJUANA HERE

NO SMOKE MARIHUANA HERE

Photo of the day: NO SMOKE MARIJUANA HERE – Since this sign went up in the staircase of mom’s apartment building, she’s just going to have to find another place to light up . . .

Photo of the day: HAPPY 88th BIRTHDAY URSULA VON RITTERN !

MOM 88th BIRTHDAY SOUND MUSIC

Photo of the day: HAPPY 88th BIRTHDAY URSULA VON RITTERN – This is almost a scene from “The Sound of Music”, the photo was taken about the same time the famous von Trapp family was roaming in those hills as well singing their hearts out. This photo was taken approximately in 1938, mom is about 12 or 13 years old here wearing her traditional German dirndl dress. With not a care in the world picnicking in the mountains not knowing what horrors she was about to experience in Germany. Her teen years were spent in World War II, the stories are gruesome yet fascinating. We are in the process of writing our family history and her life story now. Ursula finally immigrated to the United States in 1952, I arrived three years later in 1955, and so the story continues. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag and Happy Birthday mom!