I want to share the details of an unforgettable pair of parties I attended recently. Not to cause FOMO or to duplicate (impossible!) but to tell the tale of two grand hosts and perhaps reveal some of their trade secrets. These two are totally suis generis, never copying anyone, 100% marching to their own beat. Neither care about a party for a magazine shoot or aim to impress anyone they’ve never met. Rather, they want to spread the joy. And these ladies know how to have a ball at their own parties.
First, a white tie ball — an ephemeral, ethereal, exotic evening from another era. This was the type of party the very rich gave frequently in season at the turn of the century (not the turn in 2000, but the one in 1900!) Our host embraces an art of living which defines generosity, celebrations, and (it must be said) down-to-earthiness; even though nothing was down to earth about the fairytale ball to honor her granddaughter’s 18th birthday, except for the main course of braised short ribs and mashed potatoes. (The host didn’t want the usual filet.)
The Setting: None other than the Plaza, a palace of yesteryear. The cocktail hour happened in a spectacular space with two photographers snapping away (which allowed guests to slip phones in pockets or purse and fully enjoy the moment) while we sipped cocktails (passed spicy margaritas, non-alcoholic lemony drink, and of course champagne, in addition to two large bars.) Then we ascended the grand marble staircase covered with cascading white flowers* into the golden ballroom before we had one too many sips and weaved and wobbled upstairs. Has anyone today mastered the ancient art of descending a staircase? No! It’s a lost art.
*Unbelievably, all the flowers were thrown away the next morning for the Emmy after party the next night. Why does a party planner insist on such waste just to stamp his mark on a party, discarding spectacular, eight feet tall arrangements only 24 hours old?
The Seating & Eating: Once in the ballroom, finding our table was a bit of a puzzle. The table numbers (in three dimensional brass) were hard to locate, peeking out from the elegant white floral centerpieces. The number placement was a great idea because first, instead of looking for numbers on flags high overhead (which spoil the magic because — hello — no one wants to see the working details of a party, we simply want to be enveloped by magic for a few hours and not wonder how this was all produced) and second, the mystery of finding your table made strangers connect, an opportunity to introduce yourself to others and ask fascinating strangers for help. Two hundred people seating themselves takes time, but finally we sat, we feasted, we even consumed three desserts on one plate. Why? Because our host couldn’t decide which dessert the Plaza chef presented at a pre-tasting she preferred. When in doubt, choose YES!
The Dress: It must be said that white tie looks marvelous on men. White tie can be rented because who born after 1900 has a white tie hanging in their closet? White tie is a different uniform than a tuxedo. The tie, jacket, and shirt are unique. Yes, the jacket has tails!
The Band: A 25-piece band and who among us has seen a 25-piece band since Barry White died? Just saying…
The Extras: Dancers to add glitz and glamor. Six dazzling women dressed in beaded 1920’s style dresses, six movie star-looking men in tails, leaping and spinning the girls around the room. You could lose your bearings watching and begin to imagine whirling like that yourself. And, since the band read a crowd like bands did back in the day, the music called us to our feet. With a partner or without, everyone between the ages 18 to 85 everyone got the call. Dancing in a pair or solo makes no difference in the 2000’s.
OOPS: The only thing the 18-year-olds didn’t like was having to show ID cards to get a drink. No drinks for that crowd. But the 18-year-olds will never ever see anything like this again in their lifetime so who cares about a drink when they were privileged enough to experience an evening from another era? They have a story to tell their grandchildren in 2060.
The Welcome: The host herself greeted everyone briefly from the middle of the dance floor, explaining that some of the guests were at her own coming out party 63 years ago! Imagine! This means the guest list spanned three generations, maybe four. That range alone creates magic.
The After Party: The Dean was invited (one of the cousins slipped me an invitation) but sadly I was too tired to attend. Bad decision on my part!
The Day After Party: An aunt of the granddaughter hosted a goodbye brunch at her house. We rehashed details of the previous night, relaxed, refueled, said our goodbyes until next time, until we realized there is no next time. The era is over….