HOLD THE CAKE: Even at her own birthday party, Peggy Siegal can’t shake her detail-oriented nature. On Monday’s infernally hot New York City afternoon, the veteran publicist was circling the private room atop La Grenouille checking on centerpieces and conferring with the waitstaff on the timing of service for the luncheon held to fete her special day. “I just came back from Munich and I just said to myself, ‘Oh, it’s my birthday next week, what am I doing for it?’” Siegal said of the put-together-last-minute celebration (invites were sent the Friday prior). “I had to do something. I mean, there’s nothing more depressing than celebrating your birthday alone.”
That fear went unrealized as a steady stream of well-wishers — Tory Burch, Amy Fine Collins, Marjorie Gubelmann, Tamara Mellon and Samantha Boardman among them — turned up for the affair bearing little orange shopping bags (Hermès) or large lavender ones (Bergdorfs). Soon the space — a quiet, high-ceilinged loft atop the storied French bistro replete with an imposing fireplace and enough foliage to rival most greenhouses — became congested with Siegal’s at-her-beckon-call friends, nibbling on gougeres and leek tartlets. At their designated seats, a paper booklet waited for guests — “How to Look Like Me at 102” — a tidy index of the helpful hands that keep Siegal looking fabulous (a similar how-to booklet was distributed six years ago at her sixtieth; this edition is an updated version). Each listing came paired with Siegal’s own two-cents. Of her coiffeuse, Sally Herschberger pithed, “[Herschberger] invented my spiky hairdo I call, ‘The yenta with the dragon tattoo.’” Of Dr. Gerald Imber, Siegal quipped of her plastic surgeon, “his nickname is Ponce de Leon.”
Vera Wang, one of the first attendees to plunk down into her seat, happily flipped through the leaflet. “Peggy,” the designer giggled, motioning over the veteran publicist. “This is just fabulous!”
Guests took to their seats, leafing through the packet (perhaps inserting a few new entries to their iPhone contacts) as they grazed their first course, a plate of sliced heirloom tomatoes, basil and olives over a bed of arugula. Bob Balaban tucked his copy safely into his lap. “If I go home without this, I’ll be in big trouble.”
Siegal herself was perpetually itinerant throughout the affair, table-hopping for most of the meal.
“I’m so sorry,” a flushed Christie Brinkley said to Siegal after breezing in a few minutes late. Brinkley had driven in from Sag Harbor for the occasion and hit traffic at the Midtown tunnel. “It took me an hour just from the tunnel. I Instagrammed the whole thing.” Anderson Cooper recently installed the app on Brinkley’s iPhone. “And now I Instagram everything.” (Indeed, she took several snaps during the meal.)
Soon Siegal addressed the room. “I’m really serious about taking care of myself,” she said. “I’m the first person to tell you: no alcohol, no bread, no dessert.”
It would seem she stuck to her guns on that last bit.
After a round of toasts (by Billy Norwich and Liz Smith), the crowd began crooning the familiar song as the birthday girl was brought her birthday cake. After blowing out her candle, Siegal offered her chocolate mouse slice to her tablemates.