Marco Maccioni; Christopher Mason.

Carroll Petrie, Marco Maccioni, and Jamee Gregory
Marco Maccioni. One of the three sons of restaurateur (Le Cirque) Sirio Maccioni and his wife Egidiana. Mauro, Mario and Marco first came into prominence professionally as the co-proprietors/managers of Osteria del Circo (120 West 55 Street between 6th and 7th Avenues) which they still preside over today (while their mother vets and at times presides over the kitchen). Although they don’t look like identical triplets (and they’re only a few years apart) and don’t seem to resemble either mother or father at first sight, they definitely look like brothers. Tall, slender, with a continental refined manner, they are warm and gracious hosts.

The ready smile and the sparkle in the eye might lead one to believe that Marco, or his brethren, are always ready for a good time. But the evidence is somewhat different. The restaurant business is a demanding mistress and wife and family, a tight-knit family, and they are always on the job. Marco lives less than a block away from the restaurant. Nowadays, the Maccioni business has spread across the continent (to Mexico and to Las Vegas) and the brothers are at times elsewhere, watching over the family interests.

Christopher Mason. A Lotta Talent Comes a Long Long Way. Christopher Mason arrived on these shores in 1983 at just about this time of the year, fresh from graduating Cambridge in England. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, knowing only that New York was where he wanted to be.

Serendipity as his guide, he happened to meet George Trescher who was at that time (and possibly for all time) the greatest fundraiser/ partyplanner/public relations man of the city, and George gave him a job helping on the organizing parties and events he was doing for, among others, three important friends – Jackie, Brooke, and Liz. That is: Onassis, Astor and Smith.

Trescher was a taskmaster and detail was one of his strong points (as well as bete-noires). Christopher recalls working with him and Brooke Astor seating a dinner she was giving for Nobel Prizewinners when George, looking over her arrangements, exploded: “You can’t sit her next to him, he’s sleeping with her husband!” “Oh dear, oh dear, you’re right,” Mrs. A. responded.

Seating arrangements and the giving out of placecards can seem rather menial to some but for Christopher Mason fresh to America, giving out the placecards to the guests of the Hyannisport wedding of Arnold and Maria (Schwarzenegger and Shriver), or Caroline and Ed (Kennedy and Schlossberg), or organizing the Andy Warhol Memorial Service luncheon at the (then) new Paramount Hotel — heady stuff for the new boy in town.

After a few short years with George Trescher,
where he learned the lay of the land (as well as who was doing the laying), George Trescher fired him. He told Christopher it was for his own good. “You’re too talented to be doing this,” George concluded aloud, “you should be writing.” Those of us who knew George, who passed away last year, would understand: he was tough but also tough-love personified – and he deeply respected talent.

Christopher, as it happened, was also one of those lucky fellows who is handy on the piano, with a penchant for making up songs and lyrics in his fashion of his idols: Tom Lehrer, Cole Porter and Noel Coward. George Trescher could relate to this for he was one of those guys who loved the musical theatre (indeed, his friend Peter Rogers used to complain that the only problem going to the Encore Series at City Center with George was that he sang all the songs along with the performers – and loudly).

In 1987, Annette Reed (later Annette de la Renta) gave a dinner for Brooke Astor at The New York Public Library (one of Mrs. Astor’s top philanthropic priorities), and at George’s suggestion, hired Christopher to write and perform a song about the local real estate moguls tearing down buildings.

Christopher was a big hit. The following morning he received a phone call from Jackie Onassis exclaiming her famously soft breathless voice: “I loved your song last night,” and she asked him to do one for an event she was chairing. Soon after, Mario Buatta, staging a major party “10 Treasure Dinner” at the Library invited him to write something for that occasion.

That night at the Library, they hooked up the sound system so that the 1200 who were attending the after party could hear his song about New York personas. Christopher had dipped his big toe into the champagne that is New York: Ivana Trump called the next day. She and her then husband Donald had just acquired the Kashoggi yacht and renamed it the Trump Princess.

‘I want you to sing on my yacht,” she told Christopher — for a ladies luncheon she was giving. It was a hit — “He’s so wicked,” she trilled in her heavy Czech accent, “I pay him so much money to insult me.”

Insults can be good for business. The next day Ivana called to hire him for another entertainment she was planning. Soon he was the toast of New York, written about in the Times, in Vogue, in WWD, in New York magazine, and then he was getting calls from cities all over America, all to perform his witty ditties for the rich and the powerful.

In the mid-1990s a friend at the New York Times
called to pick his brain about a piece she was considering for the paper. After a few minutes conversation it occurred to her that Christopher was the ideal person to write it. A new career was born on the spot, unbeknownst to both editor and writer.

Then on the last Friday in January 2000,
Christopher was just finishing up the research he’d been doing for a New York magazine article on Sotheby’s multi-million dollar internet auction site (which later flopped) when Christie’s announced it had turned over documents to the Justice Department on an alleged price-fixing case they were investigating involving both auction houses.

Click to order
Realizing this was a much bigger story, he went back to square one with his research. On the first of May, 2000, the story came out. Later that day at a party at Diane von Furstenberg’s Christopher ran into his friend Dominick Dunne who pronounced the work “fantastic” and advised him to follow the case to its conclusion.

A book was conceived, and four years later, almost to the day, The Art of the Steal; Inside the Sotheby’s-Christie’s Auction House Scandal by Christopher Mason was published by Putnam (with a blurb on the cover quoting Dominick Dunne: “I was mesmerized from beginning to end”).

Everything the boy from Cambridge had come to learn, from all he’d come to meet, to seat, to organize, to entertain, to report on in New York, has come together in this trenchant chronicle about the greed, venality, high life, luxury, hubris and corruption borne out of that era of New York (and London and Paris) in the last fifteen years of the 20th Century.

It’s a riveting read, an unraveling of the complexities of personality and motivations that articulate (and at times personify) the high road Christopher Mason’s been traveling on since he first arrived in New York twenty-one summers ago. No punches pulled – he was able to conduct intensely informative interviews with all of the principals as well as their satellites and handlers – delivering to the reader The Goods. In full.

OTHERS ...

Albemarle, Rufus

Aston, Muffie Potter

Basso, Dennis

Benedict, Daniel

Capehart, Jonathan

Cominotto, Michael

Curry, Boykin

Dahl, Tessa

DeWoody, Beth Rudin

Duchin, Peter and Brooke

Duff, Patricia

Eaton, Phoebe

Fales-HIll, Susan

Fekkai, Frederic

THE FULL LIST



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