Spring Picnic 2012: “Oh my God, we’re in the toilet already. Thirty-six seconds, a new record!” ~ Bette Midler

Vanity Fait
Susan Sarandon Was Mugged in Union Square Park–by a Squirrel
by Bennett Marcus 12:45 PM, JUNE 1 2012

At the New York Restoration Project’s spring picnic, Adrian Grenier showed off his T-shirt, bearing the word “Enviromantic.” “I think it’s pretty self-explanatory,” he told us, chuckling. “You know, they do call me quite the enviromantic.” (Staring into his blue-gray eyes in the sun-dappled light, under the trees in Fort Tryon Park on this perfect spring Thursday, we could believe it.) And the native New Yorker is impressed by what N.Y.R.P. founder Bette Midler has done with city parks. “A lot of stuff that she’s done, I guess I took for granted. She’s sort of the unsung hero in a lot of ways,” he said.

Midler opened the festivities with a warm welcome. When lesbian comic Judy Gold crowed about Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, Midler laughed, “Gee, this gay thing is lasting a long time, huh? When did the love that dare not speak its name become the love that wouldn’t shut the fuck up?” That set the tone: “Oh my God, we’re in the toilet already. Thirty-six seconds, a new record!”

She did her trademark fund-raising routine, browbeating attendees into donating money for her parks-beautification projects with foul-mouthed hilarity. Michael Kors is a new board member. “Michael Kors, you missed the first board meeting. You’re going to pay, baby,” Midler said, approaching the designer’s table. “You are so fucked.” Kors donated $20,000, and Midler told the crowd, “I just want you to know that Michael had an I.P.O. that was enormously successful. Not like some I.P.O.’s I could talk about right now.”

And then she called Grenier to the stage. “This is my first N.Y.R.P. event. Have you guys been having this much fun every year?” he asked the crowd. “So no big laughs from me, but hopefully I’m going to warm your hearts with this poem, because I am an enviromantic,” he said, eliciting a collective “Awww” from the audience. Then he recited “Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me,” by Mary Oliver.

In 17 years of fixing up N.Y.C. parks, Midler has seen quite a bit. “We’ve had murder, drugs, car thefts, car bombings. We’ve had refrigerators; we’ve had couches in trees; we’ve seen lampposts that the garbage was so high, you don’t know that there’s a lamp there,” she said. “This park was full of drug dealers, pimps, prostitution . . . [but] it’s just been restored beautifully.”

Other guests at the picnic included Susan Sarandon, who told us she’d once been mugged by a squirrel in Union Square Park. “It took my lunch. It came and took stuff away from me, and didn’t listen to me. You know, they’re very cocky, those New York squirrels.”

Ever dapper Tim Gunn wore a windowpane-patterned suit. To a picnic. Does he ever dress casually? “Well, actually, for me, this is casual–I’m wearing brown shoes,” he told VF Daily. His favorite N.Y.C.-park memory? “I think one of the most invigorating and wonderful things was in the Smurfs movie, having the portal be near Belvedere Castle, and that’s where Gargamel set up shop. I love Belvedere Castle,” Gunn said.

The evening, titled “Camp Temple Bet Midler,” had a summer-camp theme, complete with dinner in a non-air-conditioned tent, a bluegrass band picking tunes, and renditions of “Hello Mudder, Hello Fadder, Here I Am at Camp Grenada” on the sound system. “I never went to camp. I was too poor, so it’s aspirational,” Midler explained. “I finally made it to camp.”

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