They Told Me Not to Take that Job: Tumult, Betrayal, Heroics, and the Transformation of Lincoln Center

BOOK: They Told Me Not to Take that Job: Tumult, Betrayal, Heroics, and the Transformation of Lincoln Center
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ALSO BY REYNOLD LEVY

Nearing the Crossroads: Contending Approaches to American Foreign Policy

Give and Take: A Candid Account of Corporate Philanthropy

Yours for the Asking: An Indispensable Guide to Fundraising and Management

Copyright © 2015 by Reynold Levy.

Published in the United States by PublicAffairs™, a Member of the Perseus Books Group.

All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, address PublicAffairs, 250 West 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10107.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Levy, Reynold.

  
They told me not to take that job : tumult, betrayal, heroics, and the transformation of Lincoln Center / Reynold Levy.—First Edition.

        
pages cm

  
Includes bibliographical references and index.

  
ISBN 978-1-61039-362-1 (ebook) 1. Performing arts—New York (State)—New York—Management. 2. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. 3. Levy, Reynold. I. Title.

  
PN1588.N49L48 2015

  
792.09747’1—dc23

2014049065

First Edition

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

One of the longest journeys in the world is the journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan—or at least from certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn to certain parts of Manhattan. I have made that journey, but it is not from the experience of having made it that I know how very great the distance is, for I started on the road many years before I realized what I was doing, and by the time I did realize it, I was for all practical purposes already there.

NORMAN PODHORETZ,
Making It,
1967

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man and woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.

Of these three trembling cities, the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.

E. B. WHITE,
Here Is New York,
1949

I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.

PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY,

Amherst College, October 26, 1963

To Elizabeth

For almost thirteen years, you were Lincoln Center’s first lady. I am very fortunate that you have been mine as well. Thank you for reading, critiquing, and living through the content of
They Told Me Not to Take That Job
. I cannot imagine having been president of Lincoln Center or an author without you at my side.

CONTENTS

                       
Acknowledgments

                       
Prologue

                       
Map of the Lincoln Center Campus

CHAPTER 1
    
A Kid from Brooklyn Becomes a President (Again)

CHAPTER 2
    
Welcome to Lincoln Center

CHAPTER 3
    
Curtain Up

CHAPTER 4
    
Transformation

CHAPTER 5
    
Rejuvenation

CHAPTER 6
    
A Refugee Returns Home

CHAPTER 7
    
A Death Foretold and a Turnaround Unheralded

CHAPTER 8
    
The Fashionable Landlord

CHAPTER 9
    
A Year of Reckoning at the Met

CHAPTER 10
  
Close Encounters

CHAPTER 11
  
Civic Leaders Come and Go: In Search of Accountability

CHAPTER 12
  
Hale and Farewell

CHAPTER 13
  
Futures: The Third Sector’s and My Own

CHAPTER 14
  
The Leadership Lessons That Matter Most

                       
Appendix A

                       
Appendix B

                       
Appendix C

                       
Appendix D

                       
Notes

                       
Selected Bibliography

                       
Index

                       
About the Author

A Photographic Ensemble

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

                
I’ve been working on my rewrite.

                
That’s right

                
I’m gonna change the ending

                
Gonna throw away my title

                
And toss it in the trash

                
Every minute after midnight

                
All the time I’m spending

                
It’s just for working on my rewrite

                
Gonna turn it into cash

                    
—PAUL SIMON, “Rewrite,” from
So Beautiful Or So What

P
aul Simon is correct. Writing a book is mostly a solitary exercise. But I am very fortunate to have benefited from the guidance of good and gifted friends.

Those now noted read all or parts of the manuscript. They offered a combination of trenchant critiques and moral support. More than a few of their reactions caused me to reconsider a point of view or to deploy the English language more clearly and compellingly. I am exceedingly grateful for each reserving the time so that
They Told Me
could be a better book. Warm thanks are extended to Kara Medoff Barnett, Ed Bligh, Bart Friedman, Jennifer Homans, Winston Lord, Dick Martin, Nessa Rapoport, Dan Rubin, and Julie Sandorf.

I am particularly indebted to Jennifer, Kara, Ed, Winston, and Dick for the care and the discipline with which each offered me advice. They are extraordinary. Writers all, they knew precisely just how to convey
criticism, leaving the product improved and the author’s ego reasonably undamaged.

My son Justin gave every page of this memoir a close reading. Little can please a father more than to have a child, of whatever age, take such a keen interest in his work. I am the beneficiary of what can only be called a loving critique.

By contrast, being at the helm of an organization is very much a collective enterprise. Whatever accomplishments may have occurred during my tenures as executive director of the 92nd Street Y, president of the AT&T Foundation and a senior officer at the firm, president of the International Rescue Committee, and president of Lincoln Center can be attributed to extraordinarily gifted and driven staff and to resourceful, energetic, and influential boards of directors.

At Lincoln Center, a spirited expression of appreciation is extended to my chairpersons in chronological order of their service: Beverly Sills (since deceased), Bruce Crawford, Frank A. Bennack Jr., and Katherine Farley. Each was the embodiment of civic service at its best. Possessed of very different backgrounds, personalities, and operating styles, I admire them all. Lincoln Center is the stronger because they came to its side.

These extraordinary leaders symbolize the Lincoln Center trustees overall. Their generosity of spirit, time, and treasure keeps critical nonprofit institutions like Lincoln Center world class and vibrant. To serve with them, tackling problems (and sometimes people), was a rare privilege.

I am also indebted to my colleagues at Lincoln Center. The senior staff with whom I worked closely are a peerless group of professionals. They simply do not come any better than Ron Austin, Kara Medoff Barnett, Peter Duffin, Russell Granet, Jane Moss, Liza Parker, Tamar Podell, Nigel Redden, Lesley Rosenthal, Dan Rubin, and Betsy Vorce. Each in turn leads teams who brought to Lincoln Center uncommon energy, ideas, entrepreneurship, and managerial skill. While I am not given easily to superlatives, it comes naturally to state without fear of contradiction that the employee body of Lincoln Center knows no equal.

There was for me a professional life before Lincoln Center. Leading a singular organization, the International Rescue Committee, was a profoundly moving experience. It is not too much to say that it changed my life. I never think of a glass of clean water in the same way. It is
precious and not to be taken for granted. To have been associated with an organization devoted to the relief of suffering of innocent victims of armed conflict was an extraordinary experience.

BOOK: They Told Me Not to Take that Job: Tumult, Betrayal, Heroics, and the Transformation of Lincoln Center
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