It was Brendan Gill’s big night, and no one knows better than Brendan the Magnificent how to take advantage of that sort of golden opportunity. “What a day this has been,” he crowed into the microphone on stage at the 7th Regiment Armory on Park Avenue. “What a rare mood I’m in. Why, it’s almost like falling in love.” You couldn’t blame him for borrowing the words of the old song to describe his mood, because how many people before him have received the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award, given by the Municipal Art Society for unparalleled efforts to preserve and conserve New York City’s landmarks? None. And then there was the added thrill of receiving the first-time award from the hands of Jackie’s two children, Caroline and John Kennedy, whom Brendan much admires. “They are old-fashioned children,” he told the crowd gathered in the Armory, meaning old-fashioned in the finest sense of the word — manners, morals, values.
Just a few months ago, the New York City Landmarks Commission had the perspicacity — and wit — to designate the company rooms at the Armory, created about a hundred years ago by such as Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Herters, as landmarks. And very festive these lovely spaces were at the party the other night honoring Brendan, who worked so hard, hand-in-hand with Jackie Onassis through the years, to preserve the city’s architectural monuments.
The guests who came to do Brendan honor were greeted in the Tiffany Room by Stephen Swid, the Municipal Art Society’s chairman of the board, and by the co-chairmen of the evening, Tina Brown, Duane Hampton and Arie Kopelman of the Chanel Kopelmans. Brooke Astor, the evening’s honorary chair, was unable to be there because she was at home still mending from bronchial pneumonia, but she was missed, and her name was evoked by several of the speakers. Never let it be said that the Municipal Art Society is unmindful of Brooke’s support. No, no, no.
During cocktails, a trio of woodwinds from the Juilliard School, perched in the musicians’ gallery, serenaded the throng. Music hath charms, especially the kind where you can hear yourself think. The Tiffany Room and the other two landmark rooms, where Glorious Food served seafood ragout in acorn squash, pot roast and baked alaska, were teeming with the scent of thousands of paper white narcissi, which Robert Isabel had used to deck the rooms. Talk about your fragrance. Casey Ribicoff, terminally chic in a black and silver Galanos, was on the point of swooning.
Dear Robert Isabel is never one to overlook the importance of lighting to heighten the charms of all concerned — that definitely includes men — so every chandelier and sconce in the place was “relamped” with 300 soft amber light bulbs. The tables were laid with celadon linen cloths and centered with four 16-inch tapers with brass shades, votive lights and a dense mass of roses, amaryllis, calla lilies and mimosa. Did you ever hear of anything quite so pretty? Brendan’s do marked the first time the three rooms, the Tiffany, the Clark and the Mary Divver, had ever been used together.
Between cocktails and dinner, the crowd was led by the New York Police Departments’ Pipe and Drum Crops onto the Armory’s huge drill floor where a small theater had been improvised, the better to use as a forum to laud Brendan. The speakers included Kent Barwick, the Municipal Art Society’s president; Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; architect Hugh Hardy, who traced (with the help of drawings on a screen) Brendan’s life from squalling babyhood on a bear rug in East Hartford to Manhattan, not forgetting a major (well, major to Brendan, anywho) stopover at Yale. At that point, Caroline and John presented the hero of the night with the medal, designed in 1892 by Daniel Chester French and bearing their mother’s name. Again John Kennedy demonstrated his ease and charm as a speaker, so if handsome is as handsome does, he’s your man.
After all that, Yale’s Whiffenpoofs took center stage in white tie and tails, serenading Brendan with special birthday lyrics sung to their “To the tables down at Mory’s” traditional ditty. Yes, it was Brendan’s 80th birthday, along with everything else, which explains his “What a day this has been” outburst, sort of.
They all turned out for the birthday kid — Brendan’s wife Anne, Maurice Tempelsman, Bill Blass, Veronica Hearst, Anne Reinking Talbert and Peter Talbert, Mark Hampton, Anne Cox Chambers, Lee Radziwill looking marvelous, Liz Mezzacappa, Susan Burden, Joan Kaplan Davidson, Rita and Ian Schrager, Virginia (in her becoming new Monsieur Marc short haircut) and Freddie Melhado, John Sargent, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Audrey and Martin Gruss, Fernanda and Jamie Niven, Edwin Schlossberg, Nin Ryan, Bernard Lafferty (Doris Duke’s heir, if you were wondering), Nan Swid, Philip Johnson, Coco Kopelman, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Helen Tucker, John Dobkin, Susan Solomon and Paul Goldberger, Marian and Andrew Heiskell, Eleanor Lambert, John Loring, Mica Ertegun and a host of others too landmark to mention.
The Old Masters at the Newhouse Galleries were in a spin the other night when 300 art lovers pushed in for cocktails and to see the Henry Koehler show. The galleries’ directors, Meg Newhouse Kirkpatrick, Stuart Kirkpatrick and Adam Williams, who specialize in important paintings from the 15th to the 18th centuries, took a quantum leap into the 20th with very much alive Koehler, who is widely acknowledged as one of the finest painters of sporting subjects, accent on all things equestrian. The red dots were up on many of his 80 paintings, which will be displayed at the venerable gallery until Dec. 20.
Meg, the fourth generation of Newhouses carrying on the galleries’ tradition, was all smiles and good looks as she and Stuart greeted such as Marylou Whitney, Tom Guinzburg, Irish fashion designer Pat Crowley, Chessy Rayner, Barbara Bancroft, Pandora and Yves Hentic, Cathy di Montezmolo, Prince and Princess Alexander Romanoff, Peter Rogers, Wendy Carhart, Amory Carhart, Patricia Patterson, Beatrice and Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Lil and Stephane Groueff, Monte Hackett and more, more, more. I won’t ask where you were.
This just in from Palm Beach: When Stefanie Powers comes here, she runs around the polo fields 20 times a day…and takes a trip to the Keys to swim with the dolphins. And that’s just to get herself warmed up. Stef’s the international honorary chairwoman of the William Holden Wildlife Polo Luncheon and Cartier International polo game on Jan. 15, sponsored by the House of Krug in France and J.P. Morgan in Florida. Stefanie herself will play polo, of course, on the English International All-Star team against the USA team. Expected for the fun is le tout Palm Beach plus some cuddly animals from the Dreher Park Zoo. With any luck you’ll be able to tell the difference.