This is the thirteenth year of the Quest 400 list that was inspired by the list of the “The Four Hundred” issued to the press about 115 years ago by the Mrs. Astor’s amanuensis, Ward McAllister. As everybody who follows these things knows, 400 was supposedly the capacity of Mrs. Astor’s ballroom, and therefore only those deemed fit would actually fit. But that wasn’t really true. Capacity or not, Mrs. Astor’s list of the most worthy included some number short of 400, perhaps closer to, say, 369. But round numbers work better in the press and in one’s memory.
People like lists. My theory as to why is simple: lists are easy to read, requiring very little brain work; they are easy to focus on especially during those private moments when they’d like a little company. And lists give you something to think about: they inform, amuse, outrage, comfort and even confuse and are also out of your control: perfect entertainment.
Lists can also create controversy. One year we numbered the names on the list and the names were also listed alphabetically.Many readers took the numbers to indicate a ranking, never noticing the obvious alphabetizing. John F. Kennedy Jr. was very much on the scene in those days, and very much on the list, but nowhere near number one (since his last named started with a “K”). As a result, these same readers decided that any list without JFK Jr.’s name at the top was not worth the paper it was printed on.
We stopped numbering the list, although because the actual number of names is in excess of 400. Quite a bit of excess, actually.
Lists are also good for flattering egos that you don’t even know exist. For example, after last year’s list was published, several people came up to me at various social gatherings, and thanked me. At first I wasn’t sure what the thanks was for. In some cases I didn’t even know who the people were. When I inquired as to why I deserved their thanks, it was, of course, because I had put them on the list. As pleasant as such incidents were, there were others who were annoyed, and a few even outraged that their names were not on the list. And they expressed their sharp dismay accordingly. This was troublesome because I do not regard myself as one who likes to exclude, and also, human error (forgetfulness) does factor into a list made up of several hundred names.
However, the Quest 400 is not the work of any individual, but rather a group effort as prone to the errors of a wandering memory as many of us. And the list has grown well beyond four hundred. That is because the social scene in New York these days is vast, highly diverse and a great deal more democratic (and even in some cases, proletarian) than it was in Mrs. A’s day.
In this year’s list we also addressed the issue of Etiquette; that is, manners – what they were and what they aren’t in these harried, fast-changing times. Those who hold any kind of position of social prominence are often thought of as genteel, as ladies and gentlemen. Of course, this only follows in the beset of all possible worlds, which, it would seem, our is not. Nevertheless, the matter of Etiquette is having some kind of revival or renaissance, and not a moment too soon. It may be a natural human instinct being exercised in a moment of utter need. Which we may be fast approaching.
Anyway, this and many other subjects are available in the current issue of Quest Magazine, where this writer’s name sits about the title Editor-in-Chief. Wednesday night, Chris Meigher, the publisher and owner, hosted a cocktail reception at Doubles to toast the list with legs, and these were some of the guests.
Robin Kassimir and Tina Flaherty
Ed Ulmann and Kitty McKnight
Jeanne Lawrence and Ed Lobrano
DPC and Emilia Saint-Amand chatting
... And caught off guard
Laurie Bodor and Tom Madden
Elizabeth Meigher, Lara Meiland, Carrie Cloud, and Natalie Leeds Leventhal
Mary and Marvin Davidson
Jill Roosevelt and Jackie Williams
Andrew Leventhal and Natalie Leeds Leventhal with Sharon Silberstein
Jim and Marge Ternes
Michael Meehan, Chris Meigher, and Bill McKnight
Natalie Leeds Leventhal and Dennis Basso
Kirk Henckels, Nathan Saint-Amand, and Emilia Saint-Amand
Enter Fred Krimendahl
Conley Terner, Eleni Tsiros, and Fred Alexander Hall
Richard Waterman, Bill McKnight, and Jacques Nordeman
R. Couri Hay, Ann Downey, Mona de Sayve, and Alex Lari
Stephanie Stokes and Priscilla Ulmann
Susan Glasgall, Dotty Walker, Donna McElwee, and Patricia Goghegan
Taki with Priscilla and Ed Ulmann
Edward Barsamian, Georgina Schaeffer, and Victor Wishna
Ann Pyne with Sharon Sondes and Geoffrey Thomas
Joy and Jonathan Ingham
Graev and Jacques Leviant
Wendy Carduner, Marlene Hess and Jim Zirin, and Nathan Saint-Amand
Dr. Joel Kassimir, Debbie Bancroft, and Herman Tarnow
Tiffany Dubin, Herman Tarnow, and Debbie Bancroft
Annette Tapert with Gigi and Harry Benson
Felicia Taylor and friend
Grace Meigher and Laurie Bodor
L. to r.: Debbie Bancroft and Kevin Krier; Mark Gilbertson and Amy Hoadley; Peter Gregory and Joy Ingham.
Linda and Steve Horn with Linda's sister
Bettina Zilkha and Bill McKinght
Daniel Benedict and Andrew Saffir
Chappy Morris and Melissa Stanley
Jonathan Ingham and Jamee Gregory
Geoffrey Thomas and Sharon Sondes with R. Couri Hay