Gray Foy requests
the pleasure of your company to celebrate
Knopf’s publication of
THE GRAND SURPRISE: THE JOURNALS OF LEO LERMAN
Edited by STEPHEN PASCAL
Monday 7 May
6 until 8 o’clock
Leo Lerman's Life Partner,
The Artist Gray Foy
Well, I had definitely
heard of The Osborne, the Dakota-like apartment
house catty-corner to Carnegie Hall, but just who
was Leo Lerman? According to Jonathan Marder of
General Strategic Marketing (the source of my invitation)
he was a "legendary party host, Condé
Nast editor and friend to the stars of the entertainment
world like Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Carson McCullers
and Noel Coward."
Intrigued, I started
my journey through The Journals. Leo Lerman
was born in Spanish Harlem, the son of a painting
contractor. Lerman was Jewish and gay at a time
when being Jewish and gay was much more of a burden
than it is today. He was a bon vivant, both a partygoer
and a party giver. And in literary New York society,
he was a star.
Stephen Pascal met
Leo Lerman in 1981 when Condé Publications
hired him to be Lerman's assistant. Pascal knew
that Lerman had an incredible story to tell and
he tried to help him put it down on paper, at one
time even starting an oral history. But when Lerman
died in 1994 without completing his life story,
Lerman's life partner (the artist Gray Foy) discovered
that Leo had actually kept diary-like notebooks.
Foy showed them to Pascal, who used these notebooks
and other outside materials about Lerman's life
to put together the book.
In the introduction
to The Journals, Pascal writes:"What
friends often remember most fondly about Leo is
how he changed their lives by a casual introduction
or an offhand suggestion." And later in the
introduction: "Through decades of reporting
on art and entertainment and, perhaps more importantly
through years of counseling, introducing, and prodding
talent, Leo Lerman helped steer American culture."
But The Journals
are also gossipy, ribald and fun. Lerman was a man
who liked to go out every night and his journals
are filled with tasty morsels like Noel Coward on
Mary Martin: "The only two grown-up things
about her are her ego and her son." And Lerman
himself on Truman Capote: "Yesterday morning,
Truman told me so many dreadful things about everybody.
It's wonderful how Truman acquires bits of information
and then passes them off as his own." And you
will have to buy The Journals to read what
Lerman said about Yul Brynner; due to our (admittedly
loose) editorial standards, I simply can't repeat
Leo Lerman's Slippers
On the night of the
party, New York Cool photographer Mary Blanco and
I arrived early and were given a tour of the apartment
by Mr. Foy's assistant, Joel Kaye, and Stephen Pascal.
The apartment is utterly stunning. According to
the "talk" circulating around the apartment,
Mr. Foy had removed about seven hundred pieces of
art (I simply cannot call them knick knacks), but
the apartment was still full of the most amazing
furnishings, art collections and books.
| Lerman-Foy Apartment
||Leo Lerman's Bed
In the hall way between
the apartment’s foyer (with its witty paintings
of Mount Vesuvius erupting) and the bedroom wing,
there is a wall full of art, including some of Gray
Foy's pencil drawings. Mr. Foy’s drawings
have been purchased by collectors like Steve Martin.
Stephen Pascal showed
us Lerman's bedroom and told us the most amazing
story. When Lerman died, he had left instructions
that he was to be laid in wake in his bed for two
days. And when New York society called to pay their
respects, Gray Foy would bring each person into
the bedroom and introduce them: "Label (his
pet name for Leo), this is Beverly Sills."
Gray Foy's Bed
Pascal and Kaye also
showed us Gray Foy's bedroom with its optical illusion
bed. The bed looks like a child's bed but is actually
full length; it requires a custom-made mattress.
It was certainly
propitious that we arrived a little early because
as soon as the party started, the apartment filled
up with what appeared to be over two hundred people.
Many were formally dressed because they were on
their way to the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute
Benefit Gala to celebrate Paul Poiret (Condé
Nast was one of the sponsors of the Gala).
The Playwright John
||Hannah Pakula and
Donald and Susan Newhouse
|Steve Martin and Joel
(Gray Foy's Assistant)
||Robert Osborne and
One of the guests
was playwright John Guare (House of Blue Leaves,
Six Degrees of Separation). When asked
how he knew Lerman and Foy, Guare said that he met
them when he was working with some producers who
lived in the Osborne back in 1967 when he was trying
to get his first play, The House of Blue Leaves,
produced. According to Guare, it took four years
of pre-production work before he could get Leaves
produced. "I just couldn't get it produced.
It took forever," he said. Now John Guare is
one of my all-time favorite playwrights and it is
simply incomprehensible to me how the world did
not immediately recognize his talent.
It was an amazing
night, a trip to a living museum of art and literature.
For more information
about Leo Lerman and "The Grand Surprise:The
Journals of Leo Lerman," log onto the New
York Times book review and the article in New
York Magazine. You can purchase the book at