March 15, 2023

March 2020: Remember When the World Shut Down?

 Originally appeared in MEDIUM, Illumination

Remember When the World Shut Down?

Coronavirus Loomed

Photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash

It’s impossible not to think back to March 2020, when we were at the beginning of an international pandemic. The world was scared. Unknowing.

On my daily walk, I passed an empty hotel. Red tulips were in bloom at the entrance. I wanted to pick them but feared they’d bring COVID into my house.

Everyone was Zooming. Toilet paper was a commodity. In fact, the shelves of all paper goods were bare. And remember the video circulating on how to wipe off every surface of your groceries? And to leave packages outside for 24-hours before bringing them inside?

An article I wrote now seems so far away. Did this really happen?

CORONAVIRUS NEWS: Fashion Houses in Brooklyn Pivot to Make Isolation Gowns During COVID-19 Pandemic

Libby Mattern, Founder of Course of Trade / Photo by the Author

When Covid-19 hit, one thing was blatantly clear: the stockpile of PPE (personal protective equipment) was desperately low. Libby Mattern, production director at Malia Mills (swimwear and ready-to-wear designer and domestic manufacturer) is also founder of Course of Trade, a registered 501c3 dedicated to providing industrial sewing training to New Yorkers in need — no previous sewing experience necessary.

As the pandemic continued to spread, it was obvious that the time was right to revive the declining garment industry in NYC. The racks of Malia Mills swimsuits and clothing took a back seat so that Course of Trade could shift the company’s focus.

“Coronavirus is an important time for small businesses, large businesses, and the government to band together to help in whatever way we can,” Mattern said.

“This is what makes NYC manufacturing, and people behind sewing machines, so incredible — we can nimbly move to address the supply chain issues and bring goods to market rapidly.”

The isolation gowns are level one with very specific specifications and fabric secured by the Mayor’s office. Course of Trade is working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) who works directly with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to distribute the gowns to public hospitals across the five boroughs.

Along with Course of Trade, Mattern is managing five other garment factories in South Brooklyn on a contract that expires on July 1. The city is providing the materials and paying the factories for their work.

Together, Course of Trade and its cohorts are producing over 65,000 isolation gowns every week for front-line hospital workers in NYC.

Mayor DeBlasio and the Course of Trade team / Photo by Libby Mattern

Bill DeBlasio, Mayor of NYC, recently visited Course of Trade, where the sewing machines have been socially-distanced, and reinvigorated workers are hard at work, doing their part, to help protect those who protect others.

“Such a short while ago, you were a swimwear factory, right here on this floor, making swimsuits for the summer season,” the Mayor said. “Now you are a war-time factory making isolation gowns to protect health care workers.”

Photo by Libby Mattern

“None of us would’ve imagined that trying to find isolation gowns would be nearly impossible for our front-line workers,” the Mayor continued. “This is an amazing industry — the heart and soul of New York City.”

“We’re moving heaven and earth to get this done,” Mattern said.

The memory of the March 2020 panic is still so fresh.

February 25, 2023

"MY STROKE IN THE FAST LANE: A JOURNEY TO RECOVERY" to be released this Spring '23

 On the heels of last week's announcement, being named an Ambassador for the American Heart Association, and totally by coincidence, a book that I've been writing for five years will be released this Spring. 

"My Stroke in the Fast Lane: A Journey to Recovery" is a memoir about what it's like to have a stroke and eight weeks later, my son was getting married. Oh, the drama!

More info forthcoming, but wanted to share that the cover is finished!

February 21, 2023

Who's the new "Ambassador" in town to the American Heart Association?

I am proud to announce that I've been officiated the title "Ambassador" to the American Heart Association. I will be the featured speaker and share my story at an upcoming fundraising benefit at Surf Club on The Sound on Thursday, March 30 . (Details to come!)

As a proud Stroke Survivor, I want to share my story and inspire others. It ties in nicely with my memoir, "My Stroke in the Fast Lane: A Journey to Recovery." Coming this Spring!! 

February 15, 2023

R.I.P. Raquel Welch

I worked with Raquel Welch when she starred in "Woman of The Year" on Broadway. As she died today, 2/15/23, at the age of 82, I'm posting it again in her memory. 

Mayonnaise, Me + Raquel Welch

Beauty and The Condiment

When you hear the name “Raquel Welch,” you probably think of her in that famously babacious publicity shot.

She’s standing on the beach in a busty, fur bikini. The earth is parting. Mountains are falling. Volcanos are going off all over the place. It’s from the 1966 action thriller “One Million Years BC.”

But when I say “Raquel Welch,” I think of something entirely different. I think of Hellman’s mayonnaise.

What’s the connection? Have a seat, and let me share a story about Beauty and The Condiment.

Raquel Welch was in Manhattan taking over the role played by Lauren Bacall in “Woman of the Year” on Broadway. The bi-coastal entertainment public relations agency I was with assigned me as one of her press agents for the show.

After Ms. Welch landed from LA, we met in my office. We discussed various requests, like the Girl Scouts wanting to imprint her hand in a pie-pan of wet Plaster of Paris for an auction they were having.

We also decided to meet the following day at a tearoom on Park Avenue in the 50s. Ms. Welch and I would review her upcoming media schedule. I needed to be on my game.

But there was one big problem: my hair. It was dry. “A friend” (notice the quotation marks) had told me that using mayonnaise as a conditioner was an excellent solution.

So that evening, after work, I bought a small jar of Hellmann’s.

Standing in the shower, I scooped out a glob and massaged it into my scalp. “What a great idea!” I said as I coated my head, making sure to cover every strand of hair. “Who would have ever thought that using a sandwich ingredient would remedy dry hair?”

When I finally finished scrubbing, I held my head under the flow of water. So relaxing!

Yet as much as I tried, the mayonnaise was not coming out.

I shampooed again.

And again.

Finally, I turned the water to cold. Maybe that would break down the oil molecules. It didn’t.

I switched the water from hot to very hot. I could feel my head beginning to blister.

Perhaps mayonnaise as a hair conditioner wasn’t a beauty trick at all. Maybe it was just a big fat trick.

I stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around my head. Maybe the terry cloth fabric would soak up the mayonnaise? The answer was no.

I gave up and went to sleep.

The next morning, I awoke to an oil-soaked pillowcase, as if someone had been eating salad in my bed.

I looked in the mirror. It looked like someone had poured a bottle of Bertolli Olive Oil over my head. Keep in mind this was the 80s. Big hair and volume were in. Think Farrah Fawcett and Jane Fonda.

Everyone (including me) tried to get that perfect, fluffy, flicked-out hairdo. Instead, mine was now hanging in strings.

I got dressed (being careful not to touch my hair to anything) and was out the door. Since I lived on West 58th Street, I could walk to the tearoom. And if I did it fast enough, perhaps the cold air would get caught in my hair and give it some lift.

As I approached Raquel, I tried to muster every ounce of self-confidence. We sipped tea and blabbed. Discussed ideas for a Harper’s Bazaar shoot and a request to do a segment on “The Today Show.” I prayed that she didn’t notice my hair. If she did, she was probably wondering when was the last time I’d washed it.

Her eyes darted around the room, hoping someone would spot her. (Or maybe to distract her from staring at my HEAD.)

This brings us to Beauty Tip #1:

DO NOT USE MAYONNAISE AS A CONDITIONER FOR DRY HAIR. (Especially if you have a meeting with Raquel Welch the next day.) My advice: stick with something that specifically says it will moisturize, nourish and repair dry hair.

Look and look, but you won’t find that on a bottle of mayonnaise.

February 14, 2023

Gossip: Blabber-Mouthing Hearsay

Featured in MEDIUM, "Age of Empathy" 

Gossip: Blabber-Mouthing Hearsay

A social code to live by

Eugene de Blaas — “The Friendly Gossips

Lip-flapping, idle prattle, muck-raking, and tittle-tattle. In other words, gossip.

It’s the kind of discourse that creates small-mindedness, and it touches all ages — from children’s whispers in the playground to grown-ups looking askance when you pass them in the supermarket and you thought they were your friend.

I’m still plagued by the fourth-grade memory of “confidentially” telling my best friend Susu that our other friend Annie was a real bitch. It spread to everyone in my Girl Scout troop and beyond. Before I knew it, guess whose mother was the new Girl Scout leader the following fall. Annie’s. Her mother must have heard it because she made it impossible, unattainable actually, to receive any badges I could show off on my sash.

In our household, we try to enforce what we call “The Small Town
Code of Ethics.” We encourage seeking the high road and consider it lowering oneself to speak disparagingly of others. If someone casts for dish, divert the conversation. Also, don’t talk despairingly about people behind their backs. You never know when it might come back to sting you.

“By refusing to provide a receptive ear to gossip or an active mouth to spread it, you’ll diminish its effect on your life and others,”
said Wanda Urbanska, former host of the national PBS
television series, “Simple Living” and co-author of “Moving to a Small Town: A Guidebook to Moving from Urban to Rural America.”

Practice verbal restraint.
Remember, in a small town especially, everyone has a bloodline, either by friendship, business, or of course, family. Everyone and everything is inter-

Here are a few tips to help you live by this small-town code:
Steer clear from vicious gossip. In other words, avoid the grapevine.

If you criticize someone, listeners might think they are next in your line of fire.

If you have blabbermouth tendencies, zip it.

Seek to protect one another’s feelings. Look out for the other guy.

I interviewed renowned football legend Coach Herman Boone, who was portrayed in the film “Remember the Titans.” I loved the way Boone phrased it. “Respect each and every person because that is what binds us all as a community.” He also said:

“Watch your words because they will become your actions.

Watch your actions because they will become your character.

Watch your character because that’s who you are.”

Bonni Brodnick is the author of POUND RIDGE PAST, a contributor to HuffPost, and a former editorial staffer at Condé Nast Glamour and House & Garden. She has written scripts for Children’s Television Workshop, was a weekly newspaper columnist, and editor of two academic mags. Bonni is a member of Pound Ridge Authors Society and has a blog (bonnibrodnick.com). She is also a proud Stroke Survivor.

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