Sweet Sounds in Avery Fisher * A Buffet From Bush * The Baby Boom

It was the opening night of the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall with Lorin Maazel swaying from the podium, gems from Verdi and Tchaikovsky swelling from the stage. Add to that the brilliant bass, sexy Samuel Ramey, singing desperately thrilling love songs from such grand operas as “Don Carlo” and “Ernani” to a full house of music lovers and you have quite the New York night. Samuel R., a fine figure of a man, has a full head of carefully groomed silver hair (surely the envy of any number of gentlemen in the audience — not you, darling) and a beard to match. Anyhow, loved the hair; could have done without the beard.

This story first appeared in the September 19, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

This opening night, a gala benefit, the orchestra’s 162nd season began with cocktails on Avery Fisher’s Grand Promenade and, following the concert, a dinner on the Grand Promenade and all its tiers, a welcome change from the orchestra’s usual celebration held under an adjoining tent. This not only saved them money — tents are not free, you know — but rescued ladies in heels too high for them from the hike, and the weather.

There has, of course, been much talk of moving the orchestra from Avery Fisher in Lincoln Center to Carnegie Hall, with many reasons given, among them superior acoustics. Judging by the audience’s long-lasting, tremendously enthusiastic response, it didn’t sound on opening night as though anyone wanted to go anywhere. Carnegie may not be a fait accompli and the trucks may not have backed up to the door, but the feeling is they’re on their way.

The Gala chairmen of the evening, Paula Root and Daisy Soros, two creative women, designed the luminous decor with lush tones of autumn in mind. Remco van Vliet designed two tall centerpieces for each yellow and gold organza-draped dinner table — towering curly branches washed in gold, surrounded by roses, dahlias and celosia. The low centerpiece rested on a cinnabar box overflowing with hydrangea, dahlias, Dutch sedum and golden, sunny-sky roses. Try to remember that when you give your next little soirée.

For the Glorious Food dinner there was lobster and beef tournedos and apple charlottes. The Vintner Christian Wolffe, who donated the wines, was there in person watching people drink them. Which they did.

Listening to the beautiful music and maybe even humming along under their breath to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 were such supporters as Ambassador Henry Grunwald and Louise Grunwald, Beverley Sills, Wendy Wasserstein with Tom Quick, Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis, Carroll Petrie, Barbara Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Ambassador Carl Spielvogel, Shirley Lord and A.M. Rosenthal, Wendy and Bill Luers, Ambassador Ed Ney and Judy Ney, Laura and John Pomerantz, Ambassador and Mrs. Donald Blinken, Judy and Sam Peabody, Carmen and Zarin Mehta (he is the orchestra’s executive director) Joan and Sanford Weill, Molly and A.R. Gurney, the inspiring political columnist, William Safire, and, of course, the chairmen of the evening, Diane and Paul Guenther (he is the chairman of the Philharmonic’s board), Paula and Leon Root, Daisy and Paul Soros and Christina and Alan MacDonald.

The Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies has arranged a wonderful day of events in Washington with Laura Bush graciously inviting the Members of FAPE to the White House for a buffet luncheon on Oct. 8. During the ceremony, the design of the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing will be presented and one of America’s foremost artists will unveil his spectacular work, which was commissioned by FAPE for the new building.

After lunch, the Friends will visit the National Gallery of Art and that evening Secretary of State and Mrs. Colin Powell will be the guests of honor at a dinner in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department. Jo Carole Lauder is the chairman of FAPE and she always handles this annual event with finesse and charm.

In another part of the forest, far, far away, probably on another planet, Britney Spears cavorted downtown, arriving at Butter with two huge bodyguards and a pack of pals. She was there for Narciso Rodriguez’s party for model Carmen Kass’ 25th birthday. Britney, wearing thigh-high black boots and a one-shoulder black-and-white sweater that she kept pulling down to try and cover her underwear, jumped on the ledge behind her banquette, lit a cigarette and danced nonstop into the wee, wee hours. You know she and Madonna are putting the final touches on their first duet, “Me Against The Music,” the first single released from her new album, “Get in the Zone,” which she hopes will be out for the holidays. Britney says she and Madonna have become “close friends.” I’ll say.

Others at Carmen’s bash were Demi Moore, Glenda Bailey, David Copperfield and models Jacquetta Wheeler, Devon Aoki, Karolina Kurkova, Angela Lindvall and too many other young beauties to mention and plenty I wouldn’t want to.

Hollywood is having a baby boom. You’ve heard that Colin Farrell missed the birth of his first son by his girlfriend, model Kim Bordenave, because he was in Morocco filming “Alexander the Great.” The Irish bad boy is heading to Hollywood as soon as he can to see his son and they won’t name the baby till he gets there. Also, after almost four years of marriage, Greg Kinnear and his wife, Helen, a writer, had their first child, a daughter they named Lilly. And finally, Marlee Matlin of “The West Wing” and her husband, Los Angeles detective Kevin Grandalski, have announced that their three children are expecting a little brother or sister in January.

Cornelia Guest was front and center at the parade of fashionable men and women leading to the opening of the new Loro Piana men’s shop at Bergdorf Goodman. Also checking out the Italian designer’s sportswear and accessories were Roberto Cavalli, Amanda Hearst, American Ballet Theater’s divine dancing duo, Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belotserkovsky, and CeCe Cord, with her Yorkie, Tiger, tucked into one of the beautiful bags she designed. The opening also launched New York Times film critic Dave Kehr’s new book, “Italian Film Posters,” published by MoMA. Leave it to the Italians to add a new twist to Hollywood’s classics.

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