Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Photo Images for the Homegrown Cookbook And Alec Baldwin too!

No, not the professional high-quality images of the Long Island Homegrown chefs and their growers and the food and the natural beauty that is unique to Long Island as captured by the book's photographers Lindsay Morris and Jennifer Smith.

Rather these images were to be of me for the book About the Author.  While I am very accustomed to being a spokesperson and being on camera for the world-class brands I’ve had the honor of working for – including Sony, Toy"R"Us, the NY Botanic Gardens and others, I always thought of that as work -- in the service to others. A fealty I did for the greater good.  In truth, I am much better and more comfortable telling others’ stories and me behind the scenes.

So when my editor, Melinda, said she needed a head shot, I kinda wished it away.
Not that I wasn’t prepared.
In fact, I had saved a brochure from The New York Botanical Garden that featured a handsome image of Sigourney Weaver. I not only have long admired the career of Ms. Weaver and her family, but I thought that when the time comes, I could look to this sophisticated, elegant, casual image as a template. 
I kept that image with me for more than a year, anticipating the day.

When the time came, I was ready. I even had the same black turtleneck :)
I’m not entirely sure it was a just a joke when I shared with my family that perhaps I should send the Sigourney head shot on to the publisher. 
After all, they hadn’t met me face to face, per se.  Everyone said if they noted I bore an uncanny resemblance to Sigourney Weaver, I could always plead the fifth! 

I was attending a family wedding in Chapel Hill, NC in October and at the rehearsal party, I noticed an extended family member had a rather fancy camera. So I asked if they might consider taking my picture the next day in the time before the wedding  -- and my planned trip to the gardens at Duke University.

It was serendipity. 
We did imitate the Sigourney profile.  See here. 

And then, I had to go outside the beautiful Franklin Hotel where we were staying and stand IN the plants.
After all, Homegrown Hamptons and Long Island is a book about inspired growers.   
Jen Watkinson did a masterful job of looking and clicking and in no time at all, we were “done” as they say in the kitchen.

I then sent the culled images to my team of experts: my Mother, Aunt Margaret, cousin Maryann and her mother Dorothy, and my friend Roberta. 
God bless them all for their thoughtful input.  Not a one didn’t offer less than a full-blown review.  Wow. How grateful I am.
I then sent the preferred images to my editor Melinda, who almost immediately chose an image.  Here it is.
(Not my mother’s choice -- she thought the plant looked like it was on the top J but she has come to accept and love it).  I like it... and am most grateful to the glamorous, almost stained-glass affect of the colorful coleus plant helping out the photo composition.  

Alec and Me

Then, not too long after, I read in our local Garden State newspaper, The Two River Times (I have written garden and book reviews for the newspaper) about Alec Baldwin coming to the Two River Theater Company ( to support our local theater fundraising. It was billed as Unplugged, a night with Alec Baldwin and Michael Cumpsty.  

There is no doubt Mr. Baldwin is a huge supporter of culture: from NPR and his new”ish” show "Here's The Thing,"
to the New York Philharmonic to Lincoln Center to the importance and need for regional theaters.  Which is why he was in Red Bank, in the Garden State.
So everybody can just button up about his contretemps with American Airlines.
I for one in complete simpatico. 
The airlines need to get with the digital program.  If I am reading on my Kindle while the plane is taking off, I really don’t need to be told to turn it off.  The wireless capability is not even on. 
Hello!  It is the digital age. The Consumer Electronics Industry needs to step up to the plate on these issues.  I love them. I served on the committees there when I was in the tech industry and am confident they can advocate for their products and their consumers.

So back to my “date with destiny.” 
I figured since Alec Baldwin – the icon of all things Long Island/East End and the Hamptons -- a native son  – was paying a visit to the Garden State to support his theater tribe – it was good karma all ‘round. 
I could contribute to a great cause. 
It was my first visit to the Two River Theater Company. I will be back.  I was very excited to meet Michael Hurst, the managing director of TRTC.  He and his team have done a masterful job of producing a first-class performance schedule.

It was raining the night of the event and I was racing from some home renovation work. I got there a tad early. The theater's reception area was beautifully appointed.  All sparkly and special.

I  figured I could attend the pre-event cocktail party and talk to Mr. Baldwin about our shared/mutual world – he dines at so many of the Homegrown Long Island Hamptons & East End restaurants in the book – that I thought he’d be muuy simpatico with a quick chat introduction.  I brought the table of contents to proudly show him the book's quality and his chef "peeps." 
One of my most adored garden clients even offered a special introduction to Mr. Baldwin.

The room of theater donors and benefactors was quietly pulsing with anticipation.
And then, just like that, he was in the room, working.

My contact somewhat immediately whispered to her husband that she thought it best to go over and say hello.  I soon followed her.
I had the opportunity to tell Alec how much I love his work (I've seen him on Broadway in Streetcar Named Desire, all his films, and of course, Jack Donaghy, the suave, sophisticated network executive on 30 Rock).
I told him I had just completed a book about the Hamptons and Long Island, featuring many of the chefs he knows.
He looked at me quizzically while nibbling a bar snack.
I was more than flummoxed trying to look away from the dimples.
Getting right to it, he asked, "And what do you want me to do?"
Take somewhat aback, I stammered, "Well, I hope you like it enough and the chefs of course, and Long Island (Alec is keen supporter of Peconic Land Trust and sustainability) to write a quote for the book jacket and..." all while attempting to graciously retrieve the book pages from my elegant Coach bag perched in the crook of my elbow.  I'd seen this done in all those high end thriller movies. The moll pulls the papers - or egads, the weapon, from her purse with nary a flip to the manicure.
However, the file folder that was keeping the pages from getting wrinkled, got stuck on the straps.

So there I was, rather Houdini-like, balancing a glass of champagne, with my left hand, while my right hand -- that suddenly seemed to belong to someone else - was turned round and in a wrestling match with the book pages that refused to leave the confines of the handbag.
Definitely not the poised image I had been hoping to present to Mr. Baldwin.
I did finally win the match, triumphantly pulling the file.  Alec said he couldn't take anything, but said I should call his executive assistant, Monica.  He gave me her phone number I jotted my notepad that leaped from the handbag with more agility than the book pages.  (Later I did get his autograph, scribbled on the book's inside photo image!)

Mr. Baldwin –recently named one of People Magazine’s Sexiest Alive 2011 – was very attentive to all the top benefactors to the Two River Theater.   He was totally focused.  

On Stage - from my front row seats:
It was an excellent, entertaining evening that ended all too quickly.

I did follow up with Monica, Alec's executive assistant, who couldn't be nicer.  After some emails and phone call exchanges, the upshot was that Alec is very oversubscribed and has no time to do anything for the book. It was deemed not in the cards for the book jacket quote. She explained he's even turned down close friends and family but that he would be very supportive of the Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown book when it is available in the spring.  They offered to support the book when it is out in print for the book signings and I am hopeful. It will be fun. And appropriate. His Twitter posting are frequently about his good fun and food at 1770 House, Nick and Tonis. Almond, and more…

Wellll. My admiration for Mr. Baldwin is in no way diminished. He is noble -- in support of all things art and culture. 

And don’t we make a cute couple?  Ha.  
Maria, my garden muse, and by extension, her culture club friends, had a blast emailing and referring to Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin and our “relationship.”

In no small way, Mr. Baldwin and I do indeed have a relationship.
We share a love of culture, of local food, of the natural beauty and sustainability of Long Island. 
We look forward to his always hilarious, spot on support of our locavore, sustainable, issues – and enduring support.

It was a fun, memorable night - that led to lots more fun stories.  

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