WHAT’S OLD IS NEW: As a warm-up for its upcoming Folk Couture gala benefit, the American Folk Art Museum threw a party for patrons and designers Wednesday night. And those who trekked north to Minton’s were also among the first to check out Richard Parsons’ latest project. The former chairman of Citigroup and the former chairman and chief executive of Time Warner has added club owner to his resume. Three and a half years after he first “identified” the legendary West 118th Street space, Parsons plans to open its doors Oct. 21. Minton’s has effectively been shuttered since 1974. “This has been a longstanding dream of mine to have a jazz club where I can take my wife — to have good music, a nice ambience and good food instead of what they have nowadays downtown. They have places where you can go but once the performers come on everything has to stop. You can’t talk, you can’t eat,” Parsons said.
As chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, his wife Laura was understandably all about “Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art,” which bows in January. Gary Graham and Koos van den Akke, whose work will be among the 13 designer labels featured in the show, were at the party along with Yaz Hernandez, Tim Gunn, Valerie Steele and Elizabeth Musmanno. Asked if he has any favorite young designers, van den Akke said, “Hell no. They all look alike. I have my own story. I’m 75 years old. I love what I do, I work very hard 12 hours a day. I sew everything myself so no I have nothing to do with those kids.”
Nor does he have much interest in the industry at large. “Fashion is very commercial now. It’s lot of words and very little deeds. I just like making clothes. It’s very simple.”
Giving Minton’s another life has not been so simple for Parsons, former chairman of the Harlem Empowerment Zone and chairman of the Jazz Foundation of America. “You work with the local community. But you know having built a lot of things around the city, we built the Time Warner Center, what I’m saying is nothing happens easy in New York. And you have to just hang in, work with the people to make it work and make alliances. You don’t necessarily have to do that downtown but particularly here so we have formed the Harlem Community Development Corporation.”
As for the seismic shifts in the media landscape, Parsons said, “Now that’s a big question. It’s all part of the future, it’s part of the inevitable transition to a digital world.”