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"The List"

2006-01-30 | New York Social Diary

Friday night at a private club called PM at 50 Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, Richard Turley, PM's owners Unik, Kyky, and Dimitri hosted a Chinese New Year's party in honor of his friend Yue-Sai Kan.

You've read about Yue-Sai here before. Even last week. She is a remarkable woman; one of those people whom I've had the privilege of knowing because of my business. She's an American citizen, but born in Hong Kong. She came to this country as a very young woman in pursuit of a musical (piano) career. The first night she was in New York, someone invited her to a concert being conducted by Leonard Bernstein at Lincoln Center. After the concert she had privilege of meeting the great and gregarious conductor/composer. That first encounter defined her path in her new country, a path of opportunity.

Yue-Sai in 2002

As a young girl in New York, thrilled to be in this great city, she had to earn a living and took whatever she could find. She got a job working as a receptionist in an advertising agency. Over time, one thing led to another (and of course, as it is in the Big Town, she met lots of people). Several years later, by chance and happenstance, she was offered the opportunity to make some video documentaries about life in New York for the then just budding Chinese television. She was a practical choice for the assignment because she spoke Chinese (and is Chinese).

The series was very successful in China for it was the first time many Chinese had the opportunity to see New York and to learn about what it was like to live here. And, as television does, it made Yue-Sai a very popular figure with her audience  especially women who took to fashioning their hair in the same style as hers. Over time, through this series, she also demonstrated how she could be an asset to her native country in opening up to the West. Once a friends daughter asked her if she would bring her back a doll from China. It was then she discovered that the only dolls that could be purchased in China were American Barbies, that there were no dolls made with Asian images. The result: she created the Yue-Sai doll. Then, because of her enormous impact on Chinese women's hairstyle, she got the idea of bringing cosmetics (for the first time) to China. Again, another major success.

Today Yue-Sai has her own television show in China (and now spends the majority of the year there, especially in Shanghai where she has an apartment). The show has a potential audience of 800 million. She became so famous there that the government issued a stamp with her image on it. Recently they issued a second stamp. Friday night at the party, Richard Turley asked her why a second stamp? Because I changed my hair-style, Yue-Sai replied with laughter in her smile.

Yue-Sai and her new do on Friday night

She has a warm, effervescent personality and a host of friends here in New York. There is a lilt in her voice and her manner in conversation is direct and often punctuated with a smile or laughter. She appears to be a woman with a natural self-confidence, focus and discretion; also a woman who had kind, loving parents. She befriends easily. You are aware of being in the presence of an intelligent, creative and clever woman. And Friday night, it was not a huge party but there was a wide array of New Yorkers attending, all friends of Yue-Sai and/or Richard Turley.

I was introduced to The Reverend Al Sharpton,  meeting him for the first time. Also a very friendly and warm personality, and also a young man named Ruben Diaz Jr. who is a New York State Assemblyman representing a part of the Bronx. I had also never met Mr. Diaz before. After I had taken his picture (with club owner Unik Ernest), I asked our host his name. Richard Turley answered by first telling me that he believed this man will be our first Puerto Rican-born senator from New York one day. Hed first met him ten years ago when Diaz (then just 22) ran for State Assembly. He lost that election but ran again the following year and won. He too was born on the Year of the Dog. Now at 32, (he'll be 33 April 26) he was overwhelmingly re-elected to his fifth term and is now a veteran State Assemblyman from his district in the Bronx.

During dinner I asked Ruben Diaz Jr. how he came to run for public office at such an early age. He has a polite, unassuming (for a politician) manner. He told me that he was motivated to run for office because hed felt politicians were not addressing the needs and issues of his generation. He said that after losing the first election, it was Richard Turley's write-up of him in a local Bronx paper that convinced him to run again, which he did the following year, successfully.

Ruben Diaz Jr.

His Assembly District (the 85th) includes the neighborhoods of Bronx River, Harding Park, Clason Point, Hunts Point and Soundview. This is an area often described as rich in culture, history and diversity. Whatever else that means, it is a district of middle-class (often poor), working family families who need representatives to fight for their priorities. Because of environmental issues it also has a very high levels of asthma cases -- especially among very young children -- directly related to the very poor air quality. Needless to say, Assemblyman Diaz is a strong advocate of addressing these problems, fighting against environmental racism and injustice and working to restore the Bronx River which runs through his district.

He is the youngest member of the New York State Assembly. His father Diaz Sr., is also a State Senator, winning his first public office when he was elected to the New York City Council in 2001.

Back to the party. After dinner there came a cry for the dragons and out they came from both entrances, wending their way around the room to meet the guests until they arrived at the pillars where, according to tradition, they had to crawl up to retrieve the Red Envelope (which presumably contains some cash). By the time the party broke about 11:15, outside the streets were jammed with club-goers and taxis.


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