A beautiful early June weekend in New York
Parading along Fifth Avenue. 2:00 PM. Photo: JH.

Very warm on Sunday with a touch of the muggy to remind us of what summertime could bring.

The Manhattan social scene lost two of its longtime stalwarts in the past week – both men who had long, industrious and youthful lives right up until their mid- to late-eighties – Paul Hallingby and Forrest Perrin.

Paul Hallingby died last Thursday at age 85 after a few years of declining health. Paul was a prominent member of the set briefly known as Nouvelle Society in the roaring 80s in New York. A handsome man, a Southern California surfer who began life without means, he later distinguished himself amongst his peers by two things: he became a very successful Wall Street investment banker, and had six wives.

A native Los Angeleno, Paul attended Stanford and then Harvard Business. But when the world was on the brink of World War II, he left HBS to join the Navy. A nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy, after the War he married his first wife Allison, with whom he had three children, and worked his way up on Wall Street. In the 1970s he became the head of White, Weld, one of the whitest of the old line white-shoe brokerage firms.

In 1978 he negotiated the sale of White, Weld to Merrill Lynch for $50 million. It’s hard to believe, but less than thirty years ago, fifty million was a very big deal on Wall Street, in fact, it was then one of the biggest deals in the Street’s history.

Two years after the merger, in 1980, Paul moved over to Bear Stearns to become a general partner, and later became managing director emeritus until his death. It was the decade of the “trophy wife,” and Paul had two – Marife Hernandez and Mai Ercklentz. It was during his marriage first to Marife – his fourth wife – and then to Mai, his fifth, that Paul hit his stride socially in New York.

Not a man with many interests outside of business, he loved the diversion of the gala benefits, cocktail and dinner parties, the opera and ballet openings, the summers in Southampton and winters in Lyford Cay where he also maintained homes. He was also a man who loved to gift his wives with major pieces of jewelry.

In the summer of 1993, eleven years into his marriage with Mai, on a Hamptons Jitney ride out to Southampton, Paul happened to meet a young (for him – he was in his early 70s) Manhattan lawyer named Jo Davis, with whom he struck up a friendship.

That chance encounter led to a greater friendship, and before the summer was out, the town (meaning Southampton, and its auxiliary Manhattan demographic) was wondering out loud if this meant the end of the Mai and Paul Hallingby marriage. Answer: it did.

That autumn Aileen Mehle, writing as Suzy
in Women’s Wear Daily revealed one day that Paul intended to divorce Mai. Mai later claimed that she had no idea of her husband’s intentions until she’d gone to lunch on the day it came out in Suzy’s column – which she hadn’t yet read – and discovered that everyone at the luncheon was talking about it. I wrote a piece about the troubled triangle called “What’s Love Got To Do With It” in the December/January 1994 issue of Quest magazine.

The divorce from Mai was probably the most contentious of all that Paul had experienced. Although characteristically he behaved toward his soon-to-be estranged partner in a manner that could be most tactfully described as “nonchalant.” There was an oft-repeated anecdote about a previous marriage where he one day told the wife he was going on a business trip. She asked if she could join him. He replied that he already had another woman he was taking with him. The wife then asked: “But don’t you love me?” To which Paul was said to have replied, “Yes, but I love her more.”

With the Mai-Paul divorce there was even contention over the dog – both wanted custody. Then, in New York State, there is the matter of 50-50 division of community property. The Hallingbys owned the three residences which also included a very grand apartment at One Sutton Place South that had previously been owned by an Astor heir, Thornton Wilson, and contained very valuable 18th-century boiserie. Mr. Wilson’s final marriage, incidentally, also ended in that same apartment when his wife moved out while he was away, without informing him of her plans, taking a good deal of his very valuable 18th-century furniture that he had inherited from his 19th-century forebears, and thereby unloading him of much of his patrimony.

Mai Hallingby also learned during the divorce
proceedings that the jewelry Paul had given her during the marriage is considered “community property” in New York State. And Paul wanted his share back. The “gifts” were then split between the two, some of which he later sold at auction, and the rest of which went to his new wife. Mai later lost a substantial amount of her remaining collection, after the divorce, when she was robbed in Southampton one fine summer day.

Divorced was granted in 1994 and Paul married Jo Davis, who survives him along with his children by his first marriage.

I first met Forrest Perrin in the 1960s when
he was playing at a cocktail party here in New York. Forrest worked for decades on the society circuit as a pianist and orchestra leader.

He started his career as a sandy-haired, soft-spoken Southern boy from Elberton, Georgia playing on local radio in Atlanta when he was eight years old.

After serving in the Army Air Force during the Second World War, he graduated from UCLA where he majored in political science and continued studying music. Earning money playing on the weekends in Palm Springs, which was a mecca for Hollywood personalities in those days, he was hired by Rudy Vallee as an accompanist.

During the 1950s, he and his sister Margaret played on local radio broadcasts in Atlanta, and then moved to New York where they played in nightclubs, at private parties and on ABC Radio’s “Piano Playhouse” which broadcast Sundays on 600 stations nationwide.

When Margaret Perrin returned to Atlanta in 1959, Forrest formed a partnership with Lesley Davison, a composer and lyricist producing shows for Fortune 500 companies. In 1961, when Forrest was in his mid-forties, they married. The couple had two children. Their first born, Wendy Perrin Baker, is the well known travel writer.

In New York, Forrest became a familiar figure
as musical accompaniment and director at fashion shows and chic cocktail parties, debutante balls, weddings and dinner dances here in New York. He had a lovely light and witty touch at the keyboard and a vast musical vocabulary. Not surprisingly, his musical personality brought out the singer in a lot of us, including this writer, and also Paul Hallingby who loved popular American tunes, and often hired Forrest to play at his parties.

In all the years I’d known him, Forrest never seemed to age except for his sandy hair greying. It was always an added pleasure to go to an event, hearing wonderful music in the room and seeing that it was Forrest, bespectacled, in his signature black tie, at the piano. It was a sound and a presence which for me always conjured up the lyric “a tinkling piano in the next apartment” (From “These Foolish Things,” Marvell/Strachey/Link).

He was a very kind man, with a sweet yet modest demeanor that belied his resolve as a man and seriousness as a musician. He had the good fortune to have worked all his life (eight decades!) doing something that he loved – although he once told me that the most wonderful thing that ever happened to him was to have married Lesley and raised their two children, Wendy and Christopher, who were the lights of his life. They and two grandchildren survive him.

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The New York Botanical Garden's 30th annual Conservatory Ball
Frances Hayward
John Rosselli, Mickey Ateyeh, Giovanni LoFaro, and friend
Mr. and Mrs. Alberto Mariaca
Last Thursday night, the New York Botanical Garden held their 30th anniversary gala, The Conservatory Ball, at the Garden in the Bronx. The Botanical gala always marks the end of the spring social season in New York and because of its location it’s always a beautiful, elegant affair.

Cynthia Lufkin

June is Rose Month at the Botanical. In their award-winning Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, there are more than 2700 plants, including the latest All-America Rose Selections.

This year, they also had perfect weather. Cocktails were called for 7:30 in the twilight in the garden outside the Enid Haupt Conservatory. More than 600 guests gathered for champagne and cocktails and hors d’oeuvres including Cetie and Anthony Ames, Muffie and Dr. Sherrell Aston, Rick and Candace Beinecke, Tim Landi, Dan and Cynthia Lufkin, Suzette de Marigny Smith, Mickey Ateyeh, John Christensen, Mai Harrison, Larry and Sherry Babbio, Garry and Rosalie Brinton, Pat and John Rosenwald, Brad Holbeck, Arnold and Ann Jurdem, Mary Hilliard, Dominique Browning, Coleman and Susan Burke, Patrick McMullan, Dailey and Gordon Pattee, Jeff and Liz Peek, Helena Lehane, Peter and Allison Rockefeller, Mark and Renee Rockefeller, Mary and Marvin Davidson (she was co-chair), Roberto and Joanne de Guardiola, Kathleen Hearst, Libba Stribling and Guy Robinson, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Eastman, Robert Couturier, Gillian and Sylvester Miniter, Arie and Coco Kopelman, Ralph Destino and Anne Sutherland Fuchs, Hampton and Kevin Luzack, Joan Schnitzer Levy, Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Lansing, Dr. Cap Lesesne, Roberta Louckx, Sarah Medford, Mr. and Mrs. Alberto Mariaca, George and Sheila Stephenson, Dr. Patrick and Dana Stubgen, Barbara de Portago with her son Russell Grant, Paul LeClerc, Somers White Farkas and Jonathan Farkas, Jamie Figg, Margo Langenberg, Stephanie Krieger and Brian Stewart, Carl and Sabrina Forsythe, Tom Fallon, Cynthia and Dr. Donald Frank, Anne Grauso, Gigi Haber, Bill Rondina and Giovanni LoFaro, Kirk Henckels and Fernanda Kellogg, Nancy and John Novogrod, Audrey and Martin Gruss, Donald and Muffy Miller, John Rosselli and Bunny Williams, Frannie Scaife and Tom McCarter, Natalie and Ed Kaplan, Raul Suarez and Frances Hayward and Donald and Barbara Tober.

About quarter to nine, the crowd moves
through the rotunda of the Enid Haupt Conservatory and across the terrace to the big white tent where the dinner is held every year. Bob Hardwick and his orchestra were playing as we entered, and almost from the moment people enter, the dance floor is filled, and it remains that way throughout the evening. A great party.

The Conservatory Ball generates critical funds to support the core mission of the Garden, including our internationally acclaimed programs in children's education, botanical research, and horticulture. The Garden teaches more than 250,000 children, schoolteachers, and parents about biology, ecology, and the natural world. In addition, Garden scientists are working to identify, understand, and conserve the plants of the world, document their usefulness for medicine or new food crops, and create programs of sustainable development. Finally, the Garden maintains the greatest public horticulture programs of any botanical garden in the world. Through your donation, you are supporting directly all of these important international programs.
30th Anniversary Gala Chairman

• Mrs. Richard L. (Maureen) Chilton, Jr.
• Mrs. Marvin H. (Mary) Davidson


• Pamela Fiori
• Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Johnson
• William D. Rondina

30th Anniversary Chairmen's Committee

• Mrs. Jeremy H. (Friederike) Biggs
• Mrs. Coleman P. (Susan) Burke
• Mrs. Marquette (Pat) de Bary
• Mrs. Ridgely W. (Mai) Harrison, Jr.
• Mrs. John S. (Gail) Hilson
• Mrs. Carlisle (Jeanne) Jones
• Mrs. John R. (Pat) Robinson

Journal Chairmen

• Mrs. Timothy M. (Cosby) George
• Mrs. George P. (Beth) Taylor V

Junior Chairmen

• Mrs. James B. (Whitney) Fairchild
• Mrs. Albert G. (Pauline) Joerger
• Mrs. Edward (Nathalie) Kaplan

Principal Benefactors

• The Carlisle Collection
• Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Johnson

Additional Underwriting from Town & Country
Gigi Haber and Bill Rondina
Muffie Potter Aston and Dr. Sherrell Aston
The caterer
Helena Lehane talking to Peter and Allison Rockefeller
Pamela (Mrs. Gifford) Miller and Bob Zimmerman
Mai Harrison in Luca Luca
L. to r.: Kathleen Hearst and John Christensen; The conversation.
Amy Fine Collins
Fernanda Kellogg and Jana Krauer
Somers White and Anne Grauso
Dailey Pattee, Liz Peek, and Candace Beinecke
Ralph Destino and Anne Sutherland Fuchs
Larry and Sherry Babbio
The tent
The table
Audrey Gruss
Sabrina and Carl Forsythe
Allison and Peter Rockefeller
Dana Stubgen
Guy Robinson and Elizabeth Stribling
Liz and Jeff Peek
Russell Grant and Barbara de Portago
Barbara Tober
Kevin and Hampton Luzack

June 6, 2005, Volume V, Number 99
Photographs by DPC/NYSD.com


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