Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
For eight years in a row, we have featured outstanding women on our website. The trend continued this year as we were able to tell our readers about 45 amazing women who are making a difference in other people’s lives. They are Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, and Millennials. They come from various areas of the country and represent many different ethnic groups. Some work in business, others in the arts. They have positions in corporations or work for non-profits. Among the group are many entrepreneurs, women who have gone out on their own to follow a dream.
We are honored to have told their stories on Woman Around Town. Click on the slideshow to view photos of each woman. Click on a name in the tags that follow to be able to read an individual story.
In a few short days, we begin a new year, a new chance to spotlight even more women who inspire us all. Do you know someone who should be on our radar? Let us know!
For anyone immersed in this year’s presidential campaign (and who isn’t?), Lis Wiehl’s The Candidate is a feast to behold. Erica Sparks, the dynamic newswoman in Wiehl’s previous novel and series, The Newsmakers, returns to give us a “House of Cards.”
The Candidate asks, among other things: What are the similarities between the presidential campaign in The Candidate and a real campaign for the White House? And, how far would you go to get something you wanted?
Aside from Sparks, there is a fascinating cast of characters including two presidential candidates, Mike Ortiz and Lucy Winters. Ortiz is a dynamic war hero favored to win the White House. Lucy Winters, a senator from Minnesota, describes her mother as the most influential person in her life, the one who “held her family together” and the candidate who exudes middle-class, midwestern values. Think a Minnesota version of Kelly Ayotte.
Mike Ortiz, a senator from California, has standing by his side his glamorous, adoring wife, Celeste. Think Jackie Kennedy, but with sinister undertones. While Celeste appears sympathetic and supportive of a husband who spent nine months in a squalid Al-Qaeda prison, there is much more here than meets the eye.
If you thought House of Cards provided political intrigue and a lust for power, you haven’t seen anything yet. Lis Wiehl’s latest Newsmakers Novel, The Candidate, gives us a House of Cards, with gusto – and a Chinese angle to boot.
As Erica Sparks astutely notes, “Power is such an intriguing thing. I’m never sure if having it or getting it is what turns people into monsters.” Politicians take note. In the meantime, enjoy this latest thriller from Lis Wiehl.
Jojo Moyes’ bestselling novel comes to the big screen starring the adorable Emilia Clarke (sans her dragons) and the very appealing Sam Claflin (from The Hunger Games). Moyes also wrote the screenplay, so the film sticks closely to the book, something that will undoubtedly please her fans.
Moyes’ story is a twist on the familiar theme of star-crossed lovers. When Louisa Clark (Clarke) loses her waitress job, she finds employment as a caregiver and companion to Will Traynor (Claflin) a quadriplegic whose wealthy family lives in a castle that for centuries has dominated the landscape in a picturesque British town. Will, despondent about his physical condition, wants to end his life at Dignitas, an assisted suicide organization based in Switzerland. While Will’s father (Charles Dance) understands his son’s decision, Will’s mother, Camilla (Janet McTeer) hopes to change his mind. A skilled nurse, Nathan (Stephen Peacocke), takes care of Will’s bodily needs, but Camilla hires Lou hoping the quirky young woman can lift Will’s spirits and convince him to keep living.
Charles Dance and Janet McTeer
Lou and Will are polar opposites. Lou’s father, Bernard (Brendan Coyle, Bates from Downton Abbey), has lost his job and Lou, putting her own future on hold, is supporting the family. She’s never been outside her small town, never attended a concert, and never watched a foreign film with subtitles. Her boyfriend, Patrick (Matthew Lewis) is a self-absorbed exercise fanatic. (For Lou’s birthday, he gives her a necklace that says “Patrick.”) Before his accident, Will was a star at his firm and dazzled his friends with his athletic ability. “I loved my life,” he tells Lou. The morning of his accident, he gave in to his girlfriend’s urging not to ride his motorcycle in the rain and, as fate would have it, was struck by another motorcycle.
Lou and Will get off to a bad start. He resents her presence, his behavior condescending, even hostile. Lou, however, is willing to put up with a lot to keep the well-paying job. She’s also a Pollyanna, able to see something positive in even Will’s situation. Her appearance alone serves to pick up Will’s spirits. Lou favors fuzzy pastel sweaters, brightly patterned skirts, and whimsical shoes. Predictably, Will’s icy attitude begins to thaw. He introduces Lou to foreign films and agrees to attend a Mozart concert. When he’s invited to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, he asks Lou to go with him. In Lou’s presence, he seems less self-conscious about his disability, even taking a turn on the dance floor in his wheelchair with Lou on his lap.
Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin
While Will seems happier, he hasn’t changed his mind about ending his life and the 60 days he promised his parents to wait is nearly at an end. Lou, however, refuses to give up, pressing Will to go on a dream vacation. Accompanied by Nathan, the three fly on a private jet to a tropical island. While the word “love” is never spoken, it’s obvious the two have indeed fallen for each other. On a moonlit beach, they share a kiss. But that intimate moment proves frustrating for Will, bringing home that he would never be able to have the type of relationship with Lou that he truly wants and she deserves. (Get those tissues ready.)
Clarke and Claflin have wonderful chemistry. Director Thea Sharrock allows the pair’s relationship to unfold slowly so we are able to watch these two talented actors test each other and then finally come together. Clarke’s face is particularly expressive and she’s wonderful to watch. Fans of Game of Thrones will enjoy seeing her in an entirely different role. Claflin has a tough job, conveying an array of emotions while remaining immobile. The scenes where Will’s condition takes a turn for the worse are particularly tense, underlining how even with the best of care a quadriplegic’s health is sometimes precarious.
Sam Claflin and Stephen Peacocke
Moyes’ book received uniformly positive reviews when it was first published in 2012 and went on to become an international bestseller. Yet even before the film’s opening, disability advocates have protested what they feel are problematic messages. Will’s charge to Lou to “live fully”, seems to imply, the groups say, that only able-bodied people can do so and that euthanasia becomes a likely choice. (Other films besides Me After You – Million Dollar Baby and Whose Life Is It Anyway? – have shown individuals with paralyzing injuries fighting for the right to die.) Moyes and the film’s stars have emphasized that Me Before You is simply one story (and a fictional one at that) about one man’s decision. And there has been praise for the book, specifically from The Christopher Reeve Foundation. (See Robin Weaver’s interview with Jojo Moyes.)
With robust sales for the book, the film is expected to do well at the box office. In a summer filled with super heroes and sequels, Me Before You provides an alternative for moviegoers. If this movie also sparks a discussion about how the disabled are portrayed in all forms of media, that would be a very positive outcome.
Robin Weaver (top photo on left with Campbell Brown) dashes into the Women’s National Republican Club in a whirlwind – she’s allotted an hour for our breakfast interview prior to dashing to Brooklyn for her next appointment. Recently elected President, she’s on a mission to transform the Club by raising political awareness and making it a forum for debate and discussion. “Although our membership adheres to Republican principles, especially lower taxes and fiscal responsibility, we want to make it a welcome place for all. As a matter of fact, a number of my friends who are Democrats attend our events,” she notes. Her goal is to make the Club a place where everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, feels comfortable, a go to spot for political and social events, and a destination for banquets and weddings. In office since May 2015, Robin already has made big strides, making the Club a mecca for New York men and women to exchange ideas, dine, and socialize.
The volunteer role of running any organization can be a thankless job—demanding time, energy, and the skills to manage the various personalities to get things done. Robin faces a big challenge—but her can-do attitude, fresh ideas, and attention to detail appear to be working.
Robin’s interest in politics was inspired by her father, now deceased, with whom she watched William F. Buckley’s Firing Line every week growing up in the Pittsburgh area. She joined the Young Republicans in high school, and her yearbook from that time attests to her involvement, sprinkled with comments from classmates acknowledging her extracurricular political activities. Her curiosity carried over to college (where she majored in political science and economics) and then law school, where she joined the Federalist Society, and now serves as Vice President of the New York Chapter. When she moved to New York City in the 1980s, Robin began attending social and political events at the WNRC, and became an official member four years ago. She also attended both political conventions in our city: the Democratic Convention, at which Bill Clinton received the nod, and the Republican one in 2004 at which George W. Bush was re-nominated.
In most cases, success in running an organization is measured by the numbers, and Robin’s gig is no different. Increasing its existing $5.5 million revenue is a primary objective, and she’s going full force with two initiatives: broadening membership and promoting its 3 West Club’s banquet and catering capabilities. “It’s also important that we tap into Republican organizations in the city, as Republicans are outnumbered by Democrats by about six to one. I have a special focus on young people, as they often bring innovative ideas that in the long term will help our Club flourish.”
The Club’s banquet facilities are impressive. Located on 51st Street, just a few steps west of Fifth Avenue, it boasts two ballrooms sizable enough to accommodate weddings, bar mitzvahs, and corporate events. Under Robin’s stewardship, banquet revenue is on the rise. The Club also has 27 prettily appointed rooms (including two suites) available both to members and non-members alike. Visitors would be hard pressed to find a better value: rates range from $140 to $220 per night, depending on the season. And its prime location, in the heart of the city’s prestigious shopping district, and within walking distance to the theatre, is an added attraction.
The Club’s pub and dining room, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails, are accessible to anyone with a credit card (and are a great value, with prices ranging from 15 percent to 20 percent lower than other private clubs). Robin plans to host social events on the 9th Floor’s solarium, which has a terrace, once warmer weather arrives.
She’s already attracted a stirring roster of Republican speakers, including Dana Perino, Peggy Noonan, Judith Miller, and Margaret Hoover. Judith will be honored on April 11 at the Club’s 95th Annual Awards Dinner, along with Jack Pritchard, the NYC Fire Department’s most highly decorated fire fighter. Other honorees at the dinner include Michael Mukasey, the country’s 81st Attorney General, as well as Congresswoman Martha McSally of Arizona (who was elected to the seat previously held by Gaby Gifford).
Among the Club’s members are Candy Straight, previously a Wall Street executive, whose film Equity starring Anna Gunn was previewed at the Sundance Film Festival and just sold to Sony Pictures; and Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the George W. Bush administration.
Alice LaBrie and Robin Weaver
An election cycle creates buzz, and Robin has cleverly capitalized on it by organizing a Debate Watch Party for each of the Republican debates. (Full disclosure: I’ve attended most of them, and they are colorful, fun-filled, and spirited). Our talk of the slate of presidential candidates quickly turns to Republicans whom she admires: Speaker Paul Ryan, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, and Maine Senator Susan Collins. She also includes four Congresswomen in her list: Virginia Foxx (North Carolina), Kathy McMorris Rogers (Washington), Elise Stefanik (New York, and the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress), and the aforementioned Martha McSally.
Right on cue, our time is up, but Robin makes one final observation: “We’re committed to recruiting from a broad demographic of all ages, especially younger women, men who can serve as associate members, and as diverse a group as possible. Although male members can’t vote, nor serve on the Club Board, we want them to join and participate in our programs and events. It’s part of our plan to make the Club a welcome spot for all Republicans in New York.”