Chicago Social Diary
Bunky's college of cardinals

Last week JH and the Digital and I were scheduled to go to Chicago, guest of the town’s social impresario Bunky Cushing to cover his annual Valentine’s Tea in the Greenhouse of the Ritz-Carlton Chicago. We’d been invited several times before but there was always a conflict to prevent the trip. This time Mr. Cushing took care to get the date down in our calendar months ago. And since I’ve never been to Chicago (really!), I was looking forward to a look at that “toddling town,” that “windy city,” or as it is referred to in Daily Variety: “Chi.” Alas, the Sunday before, New York and the northeast was inundated with a blizzard and our flight was canceled.

Stanley Paul, Megan McKinney, and Mark Heister

However, Chicago, also that snowy town, had none of the storm and the show went on. Activities started the night before when Chicago orchestra leader and pianist extraordinaire Stanley Paul held a Valentine’s Eve cocktail party at his art deco penthouse. Mr. Paul is a Chicago legend and goes way back to a long and celebrated gig at the Pump Room of the Ambassador Hotel. Someone very kindly sent me a CD of his latest album.  Charlotte Ford who attended one of Bunky Cushing’s events last year came away with one of Stanley Paul’s albums. She told me she plays it all the time. I can see why. If you like brilliant cocktail piano, showtunes and popular American standards, you’ll love this. It’s the greatest!  Visit his web site: and take my word for it, order a couple – one for yourself and one for friend – or even more.

Among those attending the Paul cocktails were Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, Chicago couturier Mark Heister, columnists Bill Zwecker and Megan McKinney, socialites Hazel and Warren Barr, Nancy Klimley, Tom Gorman, Lynn and John McMahan, Myra and John Reilly and Maria Zec, general manager of the Peninsula Chicago and her husband Bob Zec.  I don’t know if the host played but I’m sure if he did, they stayed all night.

Sherren Leigh and Bill Zwecker
Lynn McMahan and Averill Leviton
Greg Hyder with Myra and John Reilly
Warren Barr and Sheryl Dyer
Maria Pappas and Tom Gorman
Stanley Paul and Nancy Klimley
L. to r.: Stanley Paul's Oceanliner main salon; Bunky Cushing and Hazel Barr.
Stanley Paul's piano top
Stanley's chef prepares

The next day Chicago’s premier party-giver Mr. Cushing celebrated the 12th anniversary of his now famous Valentine’s Tea. Called “one of Chicago’s most sought after invitations” by Harper’s Bazaar, Bunky brings together the city’s fashion, financial, social and literary personalities for this one. More than 85 women attended, wearing the Valentine’s colors that match their red and white engraved Tiffany invitations.

Ritz-Carlton Chicago Executive chef Kevin Hickey created an “aphrodisiac inspired” tea menu to complement the day.

Susan Ellefson, Greg Hyder, and Maria Zec
Melissa Ehret, Marisela Holder, and Nancy Gardner
Joanne Schell and Maryellen Connellan
Hazel Barr and Nancy Klimley
Sarah and Melinda Swift
Michelle Parillo and Lynn McMahan
The Kensington Road Barbershop Quartet serenading Maria Pappas, Bunky, and Hazel Barr
Barbara Israel
Candace Jordan and Sherrill Bodine
Mary Ann Murphy and Gretchen Jordan
Bunky and the gals
Rose petal preparation
Rona Granet and Susie Forstmann Kealy
Heather Wright and Gerri Shute
Noren Ungaretti and Marty Higgins
Pat Kaplan and Megan McKinney
Cindy Yingling and Missy O'Neill
Michael Smith and Diana Elias
Bunky and Barbara Israel
Lori Daniels and Cathy Bell
Wendy Wood-Prince Sherman and Melissa McNally
Bunky and Missy O'Neill

February 24, 2006, Volume VI, Number 34
Photographs by Dan Rest and Joan Hackett


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/