Byline: Aileen Mehle
Giving a marvelous party is an art. Giving a fabulous party is an art form. As I once wrote in the preface to John Loring’s “Tiffany Parties” book, all fabulous parties, national and international, “share three things in common — imagination, a desire to dazzle and delight, and a transcendent guest list.” A magnificent setting adds to the glamour, and beautiful, beautifully dressed women are the jewels in the crown. Crucial are brilliant planning and organization.
In recent years, the truly fabled parties have included such glorious galas as the Baron and Baroness Guy de Rothschild’s Proust Ball at Ferrieres, their spectacular chateau outside Paris; the brilliant Oriental Ball given by the elegant Baron Alexis de Rede at the Hotel Lambert, one of the most beautiful private houses in Paris; that matchless host, Bolivian tin king Antenor Patino, and his Spanish-born wife Beatriz’s great ball at their far-flung finca in Portugal (and let’s not overlook their moonlit gathering of international society at the opening of Las Hadas, their Moorish-styled hotel in Mexico); Sao Schlumberger of the oil equipment millions’ Portuguese extravaganza at the Schlumberger finca where the hostess, standing in the midst of the azulejos lining her picturesque grotto, turned an uninvited movie star away at the door; Rosemarie Kanzler’s Orientalist-themed party at her lovely white house on the sea in Greece with the hostess dressed like the sultan’s favorite, cooks flown in from Morocco just to make the couscous, and 16 private yachts steaming in for the party, disgorging guests dressed in everything from one transparent veil, not seven, to a yellow, tent-like chadur with only tiny slits for eyes worn by a French-born English duchess; Lily and Edmond Safra’s villa-warming of La Leopolda, their fantastic residence in the South of France, decorated by Renzo Mongiardino, a showplace done in the greatest of taste, and Sandra and Ricky di Portanova’s nonstop parties at their dramatic Acapulco pleasure dome where a dozen white, life-size, plaster camels ruminate on the huge terrace.
Whatever the extravagance of their revels, the Europeans scarcely have a corner on the fabulous party market. Consider Truman Capote’s legendary Black and White Masked Ball at the Plaza in New York where that mischievous elf, who had planned the fete six months ahead, gleefully greeted an incredible guest list of stars of society, the arts and government. Consider the magic celebration given by Mrs. Henry J. (Drue) Heinz II for her husband’s 75th birthday at the superb Heinz townhouse on Sutton Square, a carnival cum street fair with guests in Gay Nineties costumes, sheep grazing on the lawns stretching down to the East River and three connecting tents in the garden. And who can forget the harvest ball given before they split by Patricia and John Kluge, one of the richest men in the world? Held at their Virginia manor house midst thousands of rolling acres, guests were treated to rides in antique carriages, pheasants en plumage and the awesome sight of prize-winning, blooded bulls in the stables.
Which brings us down to the latest entrant on the fabulous parties list, beautiful, blonde Judy Taubman and the gala she gave in Palm Beach last weekend to celebrate the 70th birthday of her husband, Alfred Taubman, the titan/tycoon of Sotheby’s and shopping malls as far as the eye can see. Organized by Judy herself for the past year and set in the gardens of Collado Hueco, the Taubmans’ ravishing house on South Ocean Boulevard it brought out a guest list of 350 of the creme de la creme from England, France, Germany, Argentina, Canada and this country. Not only was the party a dazzlement and a delight, it was great fun, the most necessary ingredient of all. The guests were asked to appear in tropical dress, and every man wore a white dinner jacket.
Eight hundred candles lined the driveway to the house where Alfred and Judy — radiant in a Pierre Cardin evening dress with a fitted black lace torso entirely embroidered in pink and fuchsia paillettes simulating tropical flowers over a short-in-front, long-in-back black pleated taffeta skirt — received their guests in the main rooms and on the candlelit terrace overlooking a breathtaking view of the ocean. Judy didn’t order the crescent moon, but one appeared anyhow. The canopied promenade leading from the house to the gardens was hung with palm branches and candles and completely lined with bamboo, so that the giant tent at the end of the walk seemed to appear out of the air. And what a sight! And what gasps from the guests! Philip Baloun of New York had fashioned the tent to evoke a clearing in a magical, tropical forest. The ceiling was one immense midnight blue curtain studded with tiny glittering stars. The walls of the tent were covered with hand-painted murals of palm trees, tropical foliage and bright yellow and pink hibiscus blossoms. Towering palm trees entwined with exotic orchids framed the dance floor, also painted to resemble a carpet of tropical leaves and flowers. Overhead a myriad of immense yellow, pink and orange tasseled lanterns glowed. The lighting was perfection.
The 33 tables were centered with moss-covered, bamboo votive candelabra embellished with yellow and pink exotic orchids, and the napkins, tied with raffia and embroidered, were yellow and pink to match. The tablecloths were of multicolored silk woven with gold thread, and each chair was slip-covered in taupe canvas tied with hemp ropes with tassels, all set on a taupe sisal carpet. It was hard to imagine a more wondrous sight.
Everyone drank champagne and thanked heaven — and Judy — that the first course at dinner was great lashings of caviar, passed several times, over baked potatoes. Judy flew the musicians, Samy Goz and his orchestra, over from Paris and they were the most tremendous hit, maybe the best orchestra to play at any party in memory. The crowd, which never really left the floor except to dine, kept on dancing until almost four in the morning. To keep body and soul together, breakfast was served at one o’clock.
Probably one of the happiest men in the world that night was Alfred Taubman, who, with Judy beside him on the orchestra stand, congratulated her for one of the greatest parties ever, thanked the guests for coming and said he was thrilled to be 70 — just like Paul Newman.
And who was there? As there’s no more room in this one, you can read all about them in Friday’s column, where they came from, what they wore. But, to drop a couple of names, Ann and Gordon Getty flew in from San Francisco on their plane along with the Prentis Cobb Hales, and Pauline and Dixon Boardman, who gave a big barbecue under a tent in their Palm Beach garden the night after the Taubman party, lighted up their places at table. You could never tell by their smiles that it was their turn to entertain next, even though they only invited a mere 100.