Thursday, January 31, 2008

Back in Town - Ronnie Scotts

Farewell, then, the sticky carpet, stale air, and food of which the original owner used to say, only half-joking, "A thousand flies can't be wrong." On Monday, Ronnie Scott's club, that venerable Soho institution which proudly calls itself the home of British jazz, reopens after the first major re-fit in its 47-year existence.

And about time too. After Scott and his business partner Pete King moved it from Gerrard Street to the Frith Street premises it has occupied since 1965, Ronnie's spent the next three decades obstinately resisting the gradual tidying up of Soho.

For a while, this had a certain funky, atavistic logic, on a par with the way the club largely ignored the revolutions in popular music that threatened to push jazz into the margins.

But after Scott died in 1996, that famous joke of his in which he would refer to the club as "just like home - filthy and full of strangers" didn't seem quite so funny any more. His old business partner Pete King kept it going, but the only memorable shows I've seen there in the past 10 years have been record company showcases. And the food really was terrible.

Now £1 million has been spent by the club's new owner, theatre impresario Sally Greene. This makeover will be scrutinised with as much interest as the one she carried out at the Old Vic after acquiring the theatre in 1998, although on this occasion Greene has delegated a lot of the decision-making.

The person calling the shots round at Frith Street now is the club's manager and booker, Leo Green, son of bandleader Benny.

Green, who says he "never realised there were two nine o'clocks in the day" before he started working on the re-launch last summer, is a former musician who has played in touring bands with Van Morrison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jeff Beck.
His contacts across the worlds of jazz and R&B landed him a job which entails keeping the musical menu pretty much as it was. "In terms of the music, Ronnie's wasn't broken and we haven't fixed it," he says. Alongside jazz classics such as Billy Cobham and Ramsey Lewis, Green's first month features the Brit soul diva Carleen Anderson and pin-up bassist Kyle "Son of Clint" Eastwood.

British jazz legend Ronnie Scott
For those anoraks who believe that jazz can only be truly appreciated in louche, poorly lit dives, the good news is that the club has retained its trademark brothel-red table lighting. For the rest of us, the opening gig on Monday with the Monty Alexander Trio should spring some pleasant surprises.

Getting in is much easier now that you won't have to fight through a crush of bodies queuing at the bar, which has been sensibly moved from the side next to the entrance to the middle at the back. The carpet upon which oceans of drinks have spilled down the years and on to which the great jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie once threw up has finally been replaced. Air con, comfy seats and a range of - hoorah! - edible snacks promise a hitherto unknown level of comfort.

The upstairs part of the venue, for years a semi-detached irrelevance, has been turned into a DJ bar - jazz only - where patrons can seek refuge from tiresome support acts, and also have a smoke. The entrance fee has, unsurprisingly, gone up: £25 is now as cheap as a night at Ronnie's will get, rising to £45 when superstars Wynton Marsalis and Chick Corea appear in August. But there's no club membership to pay, and we are promised that the price of drinks will remain "reasonable".

The new regime have been careful to preserve one thing: the club's excellent acoustics. This has meant not messing around with the low ceiling, not moving the stage or otherwise altering the layout of the main room. "What musicians love about Ronnie's isn't the tradition of the place, it's the intimacy and clarity of the sound," says Green.

If the relaunched Ronnie's works, then we have Kevin Spacey partly to thank. When Greene went to meet the octogenarian Pete King in 2003 to discuss the sale of the club, she took the artistic director of the Old Vic with her to convince the old man that jazz really was at the top of her agenda. The ploy worked. No other bidders for the club were considered.

Spacey is more than a fan: he harbours serious ambitions as a jazz singer. As well as starring in a movie about Bobby Darin, he got up at Ronnie's one night with the Woody Herman Big Band, after which King was heard to mutter, "He's a good boy, he can sing."
The Old Times...

What is a Kelly Bag? (Para a Amélia )

Em versão bolinho para a minha Amélia.

Senhora Dona Graça. Gracinha – Para as mais intimas.

The classic Hermes handbag, known as the "Kelly" since 1956, was joined in the early 1980s by the "Birkin."

"The Kelly is a touch more formal, a little more appropriate for an evening out, a business dinner, as a more refined look. The Birkin is more sporty, more casual. Often people use it as a briefcase, throw in a change of shoes," says Trina Sams-Manning, manager of the Hermes shop in Fairfax Square, which recently reopened after a major facelift.

Inga Guen, who sells gently used Kellys and Birkins at Inga's Once Is Not Enough, a high-end consignment shop in Northwest Washington, is even more emphatic about the difference. "A woman who is going to wear the Kelly is of very erect stature, she comes from money, very good background, is extraordinarily educated, and life to her is one where she will be very inconspicuous," says Guen, an avid Kelly carrier. She cuts a bit of slack for the Birkin femme, who "wears Manolo mules, a pair of jeans, a little Chanel jacket. She is the younger woman."

Both bags have made their marks on the cultural landscape. In "Le Divorce," a red crocodile Kelly was a sure sign that young Isabel was having having an affair with someone rich enough to buy her this five-figure confection.
The Birkin became an intense object of desire on "Sex and the City," when Kim Cattrall's Samantha told Hermes she needed one instantly for a client. Yes, it was a big fat lie, but morally defensible in social circles where owning a bag that can cost as much as a car is, like, truly, seriously important.

Conversely, a Birkin may have worked against Martha Stewart, who schlepped her well-worn Hermes to court during her 2004 insider trading trial, to the derision of critics who thought the super-expensive bag might not play well with a middle-class jury.

For the uninitiated, these bags, which start at about $7,000 and can top $25,000 depending on hide and hue, are named for a duo of beautiful actresses.

Philadelphia-born Grace Kelly -- so blonde, so patrician -- had been wed less than a year to Prince Rainier of Monaco when she deftly obscured her royal pregnancy with a structured, crocodile Hermes purse on a 1956 Life magazine cover. Created in 1892 as a large saddle carrier -- the French fashion house started out as a saddlemaker -- the bag was downsized for daywear in the 1930s. But after its moment in Life, it was dedicated to Her Serene Highness, and, as legends often do, lives on after her.

By contrast, it was during a 1981 airplane flight that the effluvia in British-born actress-singer Jane Birkin's overstuffed purse spilled in the vicinity of Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes. Three years later, the venerable firm introduced a bag for Birkin's more bohemian lifestyle based on an 1892 design. In a splendid bit of irony, Birkin recently confessed she barely used hers because it had proved hazardous to her health.

"I told Hermes they were mad to make it. My one was always full, and it ended up giving me tendinitis," she told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper in March.

Like the Kelly, the Birkin is crafted entirely by hand by a single artisan from start to finish, and embellished with a petite padlock, keys and gleaming hardware made of white or yellow gold.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jai Hong Kong

Designed by Philip Starke, the Jia hotel on first impressions is a good and trendy option for Hong Kong. Each suite/apartment is sizeable, most with a living room and kitchenette - and of course the design is fun Starke albeit circa 2005. But having stayed for two separate weeks you start noticing the cracks – no full room service, poor (but free) breakfast in the main lobby, faulty equipment, no heating and sporadic hot water etc… There are definite instances of design over function, so not a great business option but definitely a place to party with friends for a couple of nights.

Hotel Du Cap - Ferrat

Spring is almost here...


Sunday, January 27, 2008

An upgrade idea...

The proposed master bedroom for the Dreamliner as designed by Lufthansa Technik

For the Super-Rich, It’s Time to Upgrade the Old Jumbo Jet
The tremendously rich are different not only from you and me but also from the merely rich. For one thing, some of them have really nice airplanes.

This is not about the presumed titans of the private jet universe like the mighty Gulfstream G5’s or Global Expresses, whose occupants can leap continents and oceans at high speed and in plush comfort, without all the inconveniences of commercial airports, airline schedules and, well, strangers.

This is about big, long-haul airliners that are converted to private jets and can carry not only pampered passengers and their entourages, but also, in some cases, their Rolls Royces and racehorses. These are specially equipped, privately owned jumbo jets — the kind that normally carry as many 300 to 400 passengers — but reconfigured with interiors designed for the enjoyment of, at most, a couple of dozen.

And in a market in which many owners progressively upgrade — starting out, for example, with a Boeing 737 and eventually moving up — the next big thing is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which lists for about $150 million and up.

As a private jet, at least under a new “V.I.P.” design being introduced today by Lufthansa Technik at the National Business Aviation Association convention and trade show in Orlando, Fla., the 787 will have 35 seats — most of which can also be used as single lie-flat seats, queen-size beds or double beds, said Jennifer Urbaniak, a Lufthansa spokeswoman.

As a commercial airliner, the 787 will seat 210 to 330 passengers, depending on the airline that flies it.

“There are around 39 Boeing 747’s with interiors configured for V.I.P. use in the world, and many 757’s and 767’s, an MD-11, and two 777’s,” said Aaga Duenhaupt, a manager for Lufthansa Technik, based in Hamburg, a subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa that designs and builds the interiors for new and used (or “pre-owned,” as they like to say in both the luxury car and luxury jet markets) airliners for individual or corporate use.

Even though the first deliveries of the 787 are not expected until 2008, industry experts say that marketing interior design plans now makes sense because there is always great interest in the next big thing at the highest end of the luxury private jet market. Ordering now ensures getting into the front of the line for a private 787, fully loaded, they say.

PrivatAir, a Swiss company that markets charter and individual flights on privately configured big planes, is interested in buying a 787 from Boeing and in having it outfitted in true luxury, its chief executive, Greg Thomas, said.

“We’ve signed a letter of intent and are still in negotiations about the finer points of the contract,” he said. “We have put money down; at the moment it’s refundable. We are very interested in the airplane — the capabilities are superb and it’s a classy product.”

PrivatAir, which specializes in long-haul V.I.P. flights, manages a fleet of 50 aircraft, including a 757 that is chartered by governments worldwide for special purposes. The 757 is also used three or four times a year for so-called air-cruises — “around-the-world trips for 21 days, basically by retired Americans,” he said. Those trips can cost $50,000 to $70,000 a person.

Such planes are also used for special business purposes. “We’ve done movie launches,” Mr. Thomas said. “We did the launches of ‘Ocean’s 11’ and ‘Ocean’s 12’ and ‘King Kong,’ ” he said. “The studio will rent the plane for the actors to go and do premieres. One of the ‘Matrix’ movies we whistle-stopped in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to open the movie in several cities one day after another.”

Mr. Thomas said PrivatAir had ordered a 767 aircraft and expected delivery late this year.

Jumbo jets are often favored by Arab sheiks and other fabulously wealthy people who tend not to advertise their opulent lifestyles. A notch or two down-market, the 777’s, 767’s and 757’s are often coveted by corporate titans, among them Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google, who bought a used 767 last year and spent millions converting it into a private jet.

Airliner-size jets are also used by individual business people. Among them is Willie Gary, who grew up in a family of migrant workers in Florida but is now a prominent liability lawyer. Weary of wasting valuable time away from his family in commercial airports and eager to have the space to conduct business in the air, Mr. Gary bought a Boeing 737 several years ago and had it outfitted as a private jet. He also owns a 16-seat Gulfstream G2 that he refers to as his “second plane.”

Mr. Gary planned to invest in a bigger private 757, but now he says he is ready to kick the tires of the 787 Dreamliner, once the plane is on the market.

“On the 737, we can take depositions,” Mr. Gary said. “We have meetings and settlement conferences. It gives me the luxury of getting in and getting out and moving on. I’ve touched down in as many as five states in a day,” he said. “But I’m not going to keep the 737 forever. I’m a goal setter, and I’m always looking for something new.”

Anticipating strong growth in private demand for the long-haul, airliner-size planes, Lufthansa Technik says it is setting up a unit to design 787 interiors for clients.

The interiors have been developed in a partnership with Andrew Winch, who is best known for designing top-luxury interiors for big yachts.

Over the years, Lufthansa Technik has designed the interiors for 12 jumbo 747’s, said Mr. Duenhaupt. A 747 purchased “green,” that is, with basically a bare interior, costs about $180 million, he said. “And then, if you really want that 747 to be a full-blown V.I.P. aircraft, with all the V.I.P. luxuries, you can spend up to $50 million more on the interior.”

Some private 747’s are even equipped with medical emergency rooms, “including ones that can do open-heart surgery when people are flying into a certain environment,” Mr. Duenhaupt said. “But preferably the surgery is done on the ground when the plane has landed.”

Luthnansa Technik is now working on preliminary designs for the much-delayed Airbus A380, which will be the biggest plane in the sky once it is available.

In addition to its size, which will allow for even more luxury, the A380 has a feature that may appeal to the most status-conscious of owners, who may travel with underlings. That feature harks back to the days of ocean liners, where social classes were physically segregated.

“The A380 will offer a chance to separate the senior V.I.P.’s from the junior V.I.P.’s because you have two decks, and they can be kept apart,” Mr. Duenhaupt said.


At least 55,000 people threatened by floods in Mozambique have been evacuated – all, remarkably, in small boats.
The British Red Cross has opened an appeal to support the Mozambique Red Cross and National Societies across the southern Africa region, which is threatened by a flood catastrophe.
The Southern Africa Appeal will provide non-food relief items such as blankets, tarpaulins and kitchen sets for 100,000 people.

Mozambique is the worst affected country with 57,000 people affected, and 1,000 households and 37,000 hectares of land destroyed. The government has declared a red alert.
It is vital the international community continues to provide support as needs will increase with thousands displaced from their homes.
Lois Austin, British Red Cross

“We now have about 500 volunteers involved round-the-clock in rescue operations,” said Fernanda Teixeira, the secretary general of the Mozambique Red Cross. “They are also helping to welcome displaced people in shelters set up by the government.”

Five other countries are affected: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The Government of Zambia, where 800 people have been affected, has put 34 out of the country’s 72 districts on red alert. In Zimbabwe, heavy rains have continued since December, with the floods affecting 10,300 people.
The situation is especially precarious for populations across the region, which was hit by floods a year ago.

Lois Austin, British Red Cross relief operations manager, said: “To date, the emergency response has seen the success of disaster preparedness work, but it is vital the international community continues to provide support as needs will increase with thousands displaced from their homes.”

Frank Gehry in Abu Dhabi

The Guggenheim Foundation has embarked on its most ambitious outpost yet: a 300,000 sq ft modern art museum designed by Frank Gehry on an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi.
The extension of the Guggenheim brand from New York, Las Vegas, Venice, Berlin and Bilbao to Abu Dhabi was widely seen as a coup for the region, which has sought ways to capitalise on its emergence as a holiday destination for visitors from Asia and Europe.

When I was 17...



Nicolas Sarkozy - Tres Tres Chic

The Plaza - Back in town

The Plaza is scheduled to debut this winter. Due to limited availability, reservations are currently being accepted for stays of Mar 1, 2008 and beyond.

A century ago, The Plaza set the standard for luxury and that tradition continues when the iconic hotel makes its grand debut this winter, following a $400 million, two-year renovation. The passion and uncompromising service, which made the hotel a legend, will return with a new and contemporary spirit. The Plaza hotel will offer 282 distinctive guestrooms, including 152 pied-à-terres, which will boast the largest square footage of any luxury property in New York. From the sumptuous décor to the impeccable white glove service, the Plaza is an extraordinary hotel that will offer its guests every indulgence. Amenities include a world-class retail collection featuring exclusive boutiques and purveyors of fine food, as well as health and wellness facilities, including a Caudalie Spa, Fitness Center by Radu and Warren Tricomi Salon.

Tom Ford - A God

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Hotel Fan in Paris

Lets sleep...?

Le Bristol

Hotel Crillon

Plaza Athenee

Le Grand Intercontinental Hotel

Hotel Ritz

Hotel George V

Hotel Meurice

Le Costes

Dover street Market

Concept and Direction by Rei KAWAKUBO

"I want to create a kind of market where various creators from various fields gather together and encounter each other in an ongoing atmosphere of beautiful chaos: the mixing up and coming together of different kindred souls who all share a strong personal vision."