"The safest way to taxonomize Peter Lawson-Johnston," William F. Buckley Jr. said, "is to say simply he is related to everybody." Mr. Buckley and ISI Books hosted a reception to celebrate the publication of "Growing Up Guggenheim: A Personal History of a Family Enterprise" (ISI Books) by Mr. Lawson-Johnston, president of the board of trustees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Lieutenant General Josiah Bunting III was master of ceremonies.
The book contains biographical accounts of Mr. Lawson-Johnston's grandfather, Solomon Guggenheim, the museum's founder, and other relatives such as Peggy Guggenheim. The last chapter traces the recent history of the museum under Thomas Krens. Mr. Bunting, who is president of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, introduced Mr. Buckley, who spoke of visiting foreign countries with Mr. Lawson-Johnston.
Mr. Lawson-Johnston told his own anecdotes, including one about landing a job at $35 a week as a cub reporter for the Baltimore Sun. "One afternoon," he said, "I was called into editor Buck Dorsey's office. 'Did I know anything about boats?' 'No.' 'Okay, from now on you're yachting editor.'" The audience laughed when Mr. Lawson-Johnston said he had a column in the paper called "Rounding the Buoy."
Russell Baker, the well-known columnist and author, was once a rewrite man on the same paper. Mr. Lawson-Johnston spoke about choosing a title for his book. He called his friend and former colleague Mr. Baker to ask if it was okay if he used the title "Growing Up Guggenheim," since Mr. Baker had written a best-selling autobiography, "Growing Up." Mr. Baker said fine," but even if I objected, there's no patent on titles to books."
Mr. Lawson-Johnston added that he now understands from reading Liz Smith that there's a television show called "Growing Up Gotti." Mr. Lawson-Johnston added, to audience laughter, "I'm not all that excited about the timing."
Seen at the event were Mr. Lawson-Johnston's wife of 54 years, Dorothy ("Dede") Johnston; John Mortimer; Todd Morley; Walter Cronkite; Martin and Audrey Gruss; Thomas Messer, a former director of the Guggenheim Museum; Mary Dearborn, who wrote a biography of Peggy Guggenheim; ISI staffer Jeffrey Nelson, editor of the University Bookman, a quarterly review journal; and many others.
FOR PETE'S SAKE As the choir sang the words, "To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season," folksinger Pete Seeger, lanky and still full of charisma, walked onstage to one of three standing ovations early last week at the Community Church of New York. Around the stage were bronze busts of Emerson, Thoreau, Gandhi, Margaret Sanger, and Martin Luther King Jr., as a standing room only audience of all ages came out for a concert celebrating Mr. Seeger's activism and music to benefit the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. A new edition of Mr. Seeger's autobiography, "Where HaveAll the Flowers Gone" (Sing Out), will be out this summer.
Mr. Seeger sang lyrics to "Tzena, Tzena" in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, as well as "Wimoweh," "If I Had a Hammer," and other classics, many of which were associated with the Weavers, the folk group of which Mr. Seeger was a member.
Guitarist and vocalist Jim Scott told an interesting anecdote. At a folk-music conference, Mr. Seeger and his wife, Toshi, were walking to the exhibit area when a woman at the entrance told them, "You can't come in without a badge." Mr. Scott continued, "Pete and Toshi walked back two or three blocks to their hotel room to get their badge. Pete did not wait for anybody to say, 'Don't you know who they are?' Instead he went back, for Pete believes in equality and lives it."
WE REMEMBER YOU Friends and family came to the Players Club on Gramercy Park last week to remember the life of Elsa Zion (1935-2005). A force at the New York City Department for the Aging, she was married to newspaperman nonpareil Sidney Zion.
"I never saw two people so comfortable with one another," said crooner Tony Bennett, who sang a rendition of "I Remember You" to the crowd.
A printed sheet given to guests that evening contained these words of Irving Berlin: "Not for just an hour / Not for just a day / Not for just a year / But always."
PROUST PANEL At a panel discussion on "Proust and the Power of Conversation" at the Jewish Museum last week, the audience learned details of Proust attending the salon of Genevieve Straus. The panel was part of a special exhibition, running through July 10, on Jewish women and their salons.
Straus provided the notebooks to Proust on which he drafted his famous book "In Search of Lost Time." A panelist said Straus's dentist had an office in the same building as Proust's apartment. She would make a routine call and ring Proust's doorbell, but the housekeeper would appear to tell Straus that she could not see him because he was sleeping.
MAGAZINE MATTERS "We publish on behalf of those who don't read us," said Nation magazine publisher Victor Navasky in conversation with E.L. Doctorow at an evening sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center the other evening. Elaborating, he said, "We publish on behalf of the dispossessed." The author of the recent book "A Matter of Opinion" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) touched on various topics pertaining to his life in the world of New York publishing. The New Republic, he said, once bragged in an ad campaign how many of its readers sat on corporate boards and other berths of influence. "Our readers," he said, "flourish on school boards, library boards, and on local planning boards."
Mr. Navasky said his new book had been contracted a long time ago. In this connection, he related an anecdote in his role as professor of journalism at Columbia. "I have from time to time told my students that a class assignment turned in late will be marked down." Invariably, he said, some wise guy in the room will yell out, "Navasky, how's your book coming?"