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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Barbara Tober, Museum of Arts and Design Chairman Emerita, Board of Trustees Chairman, Global Leadership Council, Manhattanite Extraordinaire Our Coverage Sponsored by Hallak Cleaners the Couture Cleaner

Barbara Tober

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Barbara Tober is President of Acronym, Inc., a firm which invests in art-related projects. These have included THE GUILD Publishing Company, Inc. and GUILD.com in Madison, Wisconsin, publishers of The Sourcebook of Architectural and Interior Art for architects, interior designers, gallery owners, wholesale buyers, collectors. etc. which enables artists to show the results of their creativity to the public. Mrs. Tober has been Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City for 15 years and is now chairing its Global Leadership Council. Her Foundation funds educational arts projects for children nationwide such as the successful Quilts Across America. Prior to her career in the world of the arts and craftsmanship, she spent over four decades in the corporate advertising and magazine world, the majority of which was at Conde Nast Publications where she was Editor-in-Chief of BRIDE’S Magazine for 30 years.

Mrs. Tober is the author of THE BRIDE: A Celebration (Harry N. Abrams, publisher), and produced during her years at BRIDE’S over a dozen wedding standards, including The BRIDE'S Book of Etiquette, Questions and Answers About Love and Sex, and Wedding Nightmares, and a host of "how-to" books, cassettes, etc. on weddings and marriage. Most recently, her articles include "Crafts and the Passion of Making,” published in Dutchess Magazine, 1995. “The Nobility of Beauty” is her introduction to the book OBJECT LESSONS, published in 2001.

Barbara Tober appeared as a spokesperson for the $32 billion wedding industry on numerous television and radio talk shows, and has been profiled and quoted extensively in the print media. Her credits include The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Joan Rivers, Sally Jessy Raphael, Jenny Jones, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, CNN's Sonya Show, ABC's Entertainment Tonight, The New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, People Magazine,U.S.News and World Report, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Manhattan, Inc., Architectural Digest, Gotham Magazine and many others. She has been listed in Who's Who for over five decades, and has served on the Boards of a number of organizations, such as the Women's Forum, International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA), which gave her their award for excellence in 1992, and The Fashion Group International, where she was President in 1991. She has been a board member of the Women's Leadership Initiative at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and has been a member of the Board of Sugar Foods Corporation for the past 38 years.

Other awards include American Cancer Society Humanitarian Award, 2010; Lifetime Achievement Award Museum of Arts and Design, 2009; Pratt Legends Award for Philanthropy, 2006; BIZBash Hall of Fame -- New York City Civic Champion, 2004; Distinguished Women of Northwood University, 1997; American Craft Museum Award, 1993; New York Women in Communications "60 Years of Success" Award, 1984; UJA Federation Award, Bridal Division,1988; and the Traphagen School Diamond Jubilee Alumni Award, 1983 and 1975.

Mrs. Tober has traveled extensively throughout the world, and collects works of art by established as well as emerging artists. Her background in design (Traphagen School of Fashion, Fashion Institute of Technology, and New York School of Interior Design) has served her well in her chosen fields. She is married to Donald G. Tober, Chairman of Sugar Foods Corporation, a food manufacturing and marketing company. She is a member of the Metropolitan Club, Cosmopolitan Club and the Century Association. We just love Barbara and are absolutely thrilled to present her as our latest Mover and Shaker! Peachy Deegan interviewed Barbara Tober for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first art memory and how did it impact you?
Barbara Tober: 
When I was about six years old, I was taken to the Woolworth’s 5 & 10 for an “outing” and saw an artist using a Bunsen burner and a long rod of glass to make ships, houses, animals etc. and I was awestruck. With no strict regulations about “fire” in those days, she was able to create anywhere. I was allowed to buy one, and eventually had a small “collection” in my bedroom. Of course, Swarovski Crystal has refined this idea into a major global enterprise, but in 1940 this was absolute magic to me! 

How do you define art? 
Art for me is a visual entity that is uplifting, inspiring, emotionally rewarding and, yes, beautiful. There are sculptures and paintings that take one’s breath away… Chihuly’s glass, Modigliani’s portraits, some ancient Greek statues, Caillebotte’s street scenes, Van Gogh’s sunlit meadows. I’m glad that the art of interior and fashion design are beginning to be accepted as art. There are rooms and there are clothes that bring great joy to the eye and the spirit. 

What should most people know about art that they might not realize? 
People can learn that art is all around you all the time; you just have to be able to see it. There is such artistry in nature: we have a gnarly old tree on our farm that is now the perfect “home” for critters. It stands about 12 feet high and looks like a dinosaur in flight. We will never cut it down. 
Art can be a moment (photographers are good at catching these), a corner, a juxtaposition of certain objects that is pleasing and/or arresting. We all need to open our eyes to the possibilities of art in our daily lives. 

What have been some of your most memorable television appearances and why? 
About 25 years ago, I was on an early morning show in Detroit. The subject was bridal, of course, and we were chatting on about the colors for bridesmaids this year and what the mother should wear when a “gentleman caller” came through; I’m not sure what he told the screener. He asked “What did I think of homosexual marriage?” I answered without hesitation “anything that stabilizes an already loving relationship is probably a good idea” and the host looked at me in horror. I’m afraid she probably got a lot of hate mail that week. 
The truth was that over two and a half million couples were tying the knot in the U.S. in those days, but they felt guilty doing it because the “mainstream media” told them that marriage was out. 
I got accused of ruining the American family by “making them” have an expensive wedding, so I taught Economics 101 to the interviewers by explaining that “when people marry, other people work” and that weddings brought employment and profits to many small businesses, especially in the bride’s home town. And that our “average wedding cost” was not a mandate but a statistic.
Finally in the late 70’s, the tide changed and the world of weddings became more personal to the bride and groom. They realized that getting married changed their private commitment into a public commitment, and that by inviting those friends and family they valued before the wedding, they were signaling that they wanted the guests to be part of their life after the wedding. It all made perfect sense, and we chronicled all the vast changes in ceremonial behavior in our constantly updated BRIDE’S Etiquette Book. 
We always arrived at TV studios at around 5:00 a.m. to dress our models and prepare for the show… rain, shine, Houston, Pittsburgh, San Francisco … everywhere. And we promoted our books, wedding music CD’s as well, which were another segment of our publishing efforts. It was all fascinating and productive and so good for Conde Nast Publications. 

Having been an Editor-In-Chief for three decades, what do you think all Editors-In-Chief and journalists in general should know about being successful? 
The difference between an EIC and a journalist is that one is a manager and the other has the freedom of being either a freelancer or a staff person with specific responsibilities. Many journalists find their “calling” through research or a sudden epiphany to “go for” a certain story or article. A considerable number of journalists specialize in specific areas such as health, economics, zoology … it’s such a wide spectrum and a fascinating one. Journalists often turn into authors, as do some EIC’s who decide that specialization has its benefits. 
As Editor-In-Chief I believed that I had to understand what each of the editors on my staff were doing; even do it with them for starters so that I knew the pitfalls and difficulties they faced. Once accomplished, I depended upon each of them to run their own department and be responsible for it. We had specific intervals for checking facts and aesthetics (copy and visuals). Then the pieces were put together and they went to the printer. Editors felt the importance of their job and I oversaw the process with as light a touch as possible. 
Both jobs require education and knowledge, perseverance, patience (try editing a 500 page book or writing an important article in one day), and a will to be excellent. Accuracy of grammar and spelling are not a bad asset, either. 

What was your wedding like? 
Donald and I were married exactly one year from the day we met by a Judge in his chambers who read the most beautiful essay on KINDNESS. Before this could happen, however, we realized that Donald’s brother had forgotten the marriage license and they rushed uptown to retrieve it. We then said our vows and the Judge pronounced us “Husband and Wife”. 
We then repaired to the Delmonico “Wine Room” for a small reception of a few family members and friends. The table was heaped with grapes and the cake was big enough for a party of 100 with a croquembouche on top. We called his parents in Florida to share the news. I wore a coral suit for the ceremony, and a coral chiffon dress for the reception. We went home afterward and prepared to leave the next morning… Donald went to Florida for a convention and I went to the Highpoint Furniture Market. People said, “Aren’t you taking your job too seriously?” when they realized that we were “Honeymooning” separately, but since I had the New York Times announcement in my pocket, I had the necessary proof. For us, work was essential to our lives, so we waited a week and flew to Paris for our realHoneymoon. I was brought up to delay gratification, if necessary, and this was a prime example. 

What is your opinion of the wedding industry today and what do you think of its evolution? 
A wedding today is a BIG EVENT, which of course it IS, but couples now choose the how and where…. and often “how much” with or without parental involvement. The bride and groom are the arbiters of what will and will not take place. We have weddings: at home, in a big hotel, on a mountain top, undersea, in a balloon, on a desert island or a wild resort … as far as the couple can imagine. And we now have Gay Weddings, which can be a private ceremony with a few friends in Greece, or a simple “I do” moment, then a banquet in the Ballroom at the Pierre Hotel. 
We in the U.S. have institutionalized The Event Planner as a bona fide career so … from Washington, D.C. to Washington State … weddings are often planned and executed by a professional. This is fine, of course, if the couple themselves are actually in control; otherwise, the d├ęcor can be too gaudy, the music too loud, the event too staged and the guests might as well go home right away given the amount of pleasure they can expect from it all. The best weddings today take into consideration the comfort of the guests as much as the joy of the couple. Everyone is losing their hearing these days from the insistent BOOM of twelve amplifiers and eight singers. Remember: When you watch a vintage movie, how tantalizing it is to hear a man and woman whispering to each other at a table when Tommy Dorsey is playing. 

What should most people know about weddings that they don’t know? 
Probably most of what I just said in the answer above: Plan the wedding so that the guests as well as the bride and groom have a great time. FIVE HOURS is the maximum…. And take those post-wedding photographs earlier on. Two or more hours of cocktails guarantees some devastating accidents on the way home. 

What is key to a successful marriage? 
You have to LIKE each other as well as LOVE each other. Sex is terrific, but so is the excitement of the brain and the way it works for you and your mate. And if you two don’t have the same goals, you probably won’t stay in sync although plenty of couples have stayed together while pursuing separate goals, religions, careers, even living quarters. There is no formula that has ever worked for everyone, and people should stop trying for perfection and enjoy the simple pleasures of life together. 

Do you have any new books coming out? 
Not at the moment…. 

What should everyone know about Mover and Shaker Edward Tricomi? 
Edward is an expert at what he does and he’s having a good time doing it. BUT the most important thing in his life is his family. According to Edward, his son is “the best thing I’ve ever done”. To me, that has substance and goes far beyond the glamour that he creates for his clients. 

How can you have been in Who’s Who for five decades when you aren’t yet 50? 
Oh, dear Peachy… how kind you are. I was born in 1934, started working at 16, have 43 years of corporate experience, 18 years of philanthropic experience, and I still feel I’m 35 years old. I ride horses, ski downhill, work out and love dancing whenever I can. 
Who’s Who came to me many years ago asking for a Listing, so I obliged. I enjoy looking through these volumes. Lots of people are listed whom I know, but since Who’s Who has been in the business of giving information about their clients for so many decades, they could almost claim to be the first “Facebook”. If only they had initiated the first internet “info exchange.” It was only a matter of time and technology. 

What is your favorite thing to eat by the Sugar Foods Corporation? 
Those delectable garlic/herb croutons from our Fresh Gourmet division… I’m very proud that they’re in the Produce section of supermarkets everywhere! 

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
First a Negative: People who squander their talents, education, money, health and family on alcohol. I said “Never that life for me.” Later on, there were positive comments by various people: “I put great value on accomplishment” said one. “Now that you’re in your 30’s dear, you can learn to ski with your brain,” said another. “Would you like to be Editor-In-Chief?” said Mary Campbell of Conde Nast in 1965, “We just bought this new magazine…” and “Success in moving from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm” said Winston Churchill (among so many inspiring things in his checkered career). 

What are you proudest of and why? 
I like to take small things and make them bigger. 
After eight different – and extremely educational – jobs in the publishing and advertising business, I became EIC of BRIDE’S, which was less than 200 pages thick at the time. From the middle of the sixties to the middle of the nineties, we grew the magazine, the advertising pages, and the prestige, worth and importance of the Bridal Market into what it is today – billions of dollars to the GNP. Through our “home grown” public relations campaign, we reached out to every market we wished to enfold and interested them in The Bride. Trade public relations and eventually, advertising followed. We were, at our zenith, the thickest magazine ever recorded by the MPA (Magazine Publishers Association). 
In the 80’s, I became interested in an institution called the American Craft Museum, which showed contemporary works by artists in glass, ceramics, wood, fiber and metal. It was a tiny place, somewhat buried within a much larger building, but it did have a loyal following and I joined the Board. After some time, it was clear that the Museum was floundering. I was ready to leave BRIDE’S after three decades and someone whispered in my ear that I was slated to be elected Chairman. I thought – a new career, why not? So in 1994 I left BRIDE’S to become Chairman of ACM and the long upward journey began. We were a stalwart group of about six people who cared deeply about the field. Harking back to that artist with the Bunsen burner and the rod of glass (which you can still see demonstrated at the factory in Corning, NY) we “put our shoulder to the wheel”, rebranded the Museum, found a new home that was owned by the City of New York, bought it, renovated it and opened in September of 2008 (probably the worst time to open ANYthing, but we had thousands of new members.). 
Today, the Museum of Arts and Design at 2 Columbus Circle is one of the most unique – and popular – Museums in New York City, enjoyed by over a half million visitors a year. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 
I have a lot of fun book ideas but not enough time to do them… perhaps next year… 

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? 
These are all listed in my biography. 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 
Cruising around Chelsea with my husband, walking to the Battery Gardens… in Central Park or JUST HOME. 

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 
I live right near Milan or Paris etc. on Madison Avenue, so the pleasures are in the diversity of what’s in the windows. 

What is your favorite drink? 
Good red wine from California, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Chile… as long as it tastes good.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 
One keeps meeting people from decades ago at unexpected places and remembering funny/tragic moments together. 

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
We love Italian food, so any restaurant that understands the generous use of garlic is my favorite.

What is your favorite Manhattan book? 
Any up-to-date guide that can bring me more knowledge of this great City… like the Walking Tour Books published by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Who would you like to be for a day and why? 
I like being me… life is a great adventure. The only thing I’d like to have that I don’t is more language skills. We have friends who speak an astonishing 11 languages between them. 

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 
I already have the Atrium and Grand Staircase of the Museum of Arts and Design named after me. That’s enough. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
Horse riding in Central Park many years ago with Michael Korda, who wrote – among other books – Horse People. Otherwise, walking everywhere is a kick! 

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
Go to the Metropolitan Opera on New Years Eve with all the trimmings, including fireworks! 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
Jefferson – for the historical significance, and to taste his wine. 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
Soledad Barrio’s Flamenco group on the stage at Joe’s Pub. And the funeral in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the glorious opera star, Anna Moffo, when her Rachmaninoff Vocalise was played. 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world? 
I have been (volunteer) Chairman of the Museum of Arts and Design for 15 years, and am now (volunteer) Chairman of MAD’s Global Leadership Council. The GLC is our international outreach to artists, collectors and other museums with whom we wish to partner. 
PLUS my husband and I support many humanitarian and cultural causes to the best of our financial abilities. After 43 years in the corporate world, people asked me “How do you like your new job?” and I’d say “I love it. The difference is: they used to pay me, now I pay them.” 

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here? 
Our “Celebrity Culture.” We don’t necessarily worship the most positive role models. 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I so enjoy when Peachy Deegan writes about MAD events!  The last one was in the NIGHTLIGHT column as a double feature with Charitable Peachy for Mover and Shaker Meera Gandhi's book.

Have you drunk The Peachy Deegan yet?
See above!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 
I think that’s plenty…

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 
My e-mail is on all my correspondence and my business card. When I meet people, I usually exchange cards, etc.

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