Victoria’s Secrets: Enjoying the last licks of summer

With the last days of summer fast approaching, it was a treat to be with people from different worlds this past weekend — from attending the international Hampton Classic horse show, to enjoying a dinner party with friends out east, to walking through the grassy knoll at the Westhampton Art Show and finally finding artists both from Queens and around the country.

All the while, I made my way through the raindrops only to see the sun shine again for a glorious end to the Labor Day weekend.

I had the pleasure of being a guest of Bridgehampton National Bank, one of the sponsors of the International Hampton Classic, in their “ringside tent” in Bridgehampton. Meeting old and new friends is part of the fun of being up close to the remarkably talented riders and horses as they jumped fences around the course. It truly was a sight to behold.

Bridgehampton National Bank President Kevin O'Connor with Vice President Claudia Pilato at the Hampton Classic.
Bridgehampton National Bank President Kevin O’Connor with Vice President Claudia Pilato at the Hampton Classic.

On the grounds of the Hampton Classic is a “shopping arcade” featuring vendors from around the world. I found a designer, Carina Hildebrandt, from London whose organic baby alpaca knitwear and organic cotton dresses in my favorite colors are made in Peru! Other vendors were offering jewelry, horse-themed clothes and accessories, and gift wares. This was a scene by itself.

The next day, I was a guest at the home of Vinny Riso and Georgiana Reese-Benatti on the beach of Quoque. Even though the weather was uncharacteristically cool for early September, we had a warm day inside their beautiful home sharing good company with many good friends and meeting a new friend: Fox Business News star Maria Bartiromo. Her parents live next to Vinny. I was happy to hear that her father is a big fan of our Home Reporter newspaper, located in his hometown of Bay Ridge.

Georgianna Reese, Vinny Riso and Maria Bartiromo with her sister Theresa
Georgianna Reese, Vinny Riso and Maria Bartiromo with her sister Theresa

Then there were more markets to be had; after all, my kids run the LIC Flea and Food Market, and I’ve been addicted to markets forever. Labor Day weekend marked the annual Westhampton Art Show, and there were plenty of vendors to be found while walking the grassy knoll near the exhibit.

To my delight, I stopped at Simon Zeng’s booth to relish his beautiful scenes of the water. It turns out that his studio is in Flushing, so I plan to visit and see more of his unique work. Up the aisle was an photographer of ocean scenes from Sarasota, FL. We chatted and I found out his company runs these shows around the country so we compared notes on events. Of course I also had to tell him to look up my son, Dr. Jon Yunis of Sarasota, if he ever needed a hernia operation.

Flushing artist Simon Zeng had a booth at the Westhampton Art Show.
Flushing artist Simon Zeng had a booth at the Westhampton Art Show.

Then I was delighted to meet a gifted artist from South Carolina, John Daso and his wife. He and  he likes to say his paintings “are beyond what the eyes can see.” After viewing his work, I could certainly agree.

He shared his powerful yet sad life story, noting that his father regularly beat him because of his drawings. His father apparently believed it would lead him nowhere, and chose to continuously discouraged his artistry through his fists and voice. John’s father, as it turned out, would only recognize his son’s achievements and talents while on his deathbed.

John not only paints but teaches youngsters in his studio space. He is my hero!

Then I found a sculptor, also from Sarasota, who made me smile just looking at his work. His boat-building business was destroyed by the economy in 2008 and he passed the time making things from his left over materials. When a stranger passed his home and saw it and purchased it, a new business was born. I’m thinking of buying the mailbox he created that made me smile.  I’ll keep you posted!

The warm sun finally appeared on Labor Day itself, and spending some time on the beach with the warm, velvety winds made for a perfect end a wonderful holiday weekend.

Special condolences to three special people

Sadly, I’m keeping in mind this weekend three very special friends who’ve suffered tremendous losses. Congressman Tom Suozzi has lost his mom nearly a year after his dad’s passing. Hy Hochberg lost his wife, Polly; for decades, Hy owned Queens Wine & Liquor in Ridgewood and continues to serve on the board of Wyckoff Hospital, recently lost his wife, Polly.

We also lost Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz, who was a true public servant. He leaves behind four children and his beloved wife, Jennifer. My prayers are with them.

Happy surprise birthday to Seth Kupferberg


On a happy note, congratulations to Tracey Kupferberg for pulling off a wonderful surprise birthday party for her husband Seth at the rooftop of the NoMad hotel in Manhattan. The Kupferberg family supports many important groups in Queens and I’m proud to serve with Seth on the Queens Museum board.

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