|Photographs by Mary Hilliard
Malcolm Forbes was the most celebrated magazine publisher of his day although there were others far richer and with larger media empires. Forbes was famous for his lifestyle, which was viewed as a kind of flashy irreverence. He appeared to be the ultimate WASP who could “get down” with the best of them. He liked a good time. After a lifetime of marriage and fatherhood, he and his wife divorced in 1985. That added to his epicurean tastes as well as his affection for the spotlight, i.e. fame.
This birthday party was highly publicized at the time and the guest list of 800 was stellar with a mix of New York Nouvelle society, international socialites, billionaires, major corporate CEOs, media and their celebrities.
It was a flashiness that ran counter to his WASPish background, a kind of platinum-plated rebel that gave him his distinction. And he often threw extravagant glamorous entertainments and dinners for friends and acquaintances, always picking up the check. Plus he was a lot of fun and good company. Is it any wonder everybody wanted to know him?
Elizabeth Taylor was his co-host for this shindig. Baumgold follows the star’s presence(s) in amusing and fascinating detail. The guests were flown in from all over (especially the United States) on private or charter jets or Concorde. Or on their own yachts, such as Robert Maxwell and Gianni Agnelli. In retrospect it was a spectacular promotion of the brand, entertaining clients and would-be clients (advertisers) that enriched his popular business magazine.
|Malcolm Forbes died less than six months after this party, of a heart attack at home on his estate in Far Hills. Very shortly thereafter he was "outed" by journalist Michelangelo Signorile. This was long known by some and unknown to many. In his later years he became more of a partygoer. In retrospect one could conclude he was naturally making up for lost time. The "outing" was a surprise, to many who were not aware, or did not believe that he was gay. Signorile published the story more to show how "acceptable" a gay man is without the predictable tarnish of prejudice – i.e. our hypocrisy about these matters, especially if there is money in the picture. In this case, the band did not play on, but the party was a great spectacle in the replay, and for many, in retrospect, fun while it lasted, as you can imagine when you see. Enjoy the view of it all thanks to the eye and the camera of Mary Hilliard ...|
|Walter and Betsy Cronkite.|
|Arnold Scaasi and Gayfryd Steinberg.|
|Betsy Bloomingdale, Reinaldo Herrera, and Aline de Romanones.|
|Catie and Donald Marron.||Diane von Furstenberg.|
|Ezra and Cecile Zilkha.|
|Kelly and Calvin Klein.||Laure Boulay de la Meurthes.|
|Susan Gutfreund and Pat Kluge.|
|The following day a "King's Lunch" was held before the party guests returned home ...|
|Arnold Scaasi and Gayfryd Steinberg.|
|Liz Arrives ...|
|Liz flashes ...|
|Kip Forbes, Mario Buatta, and Reinaldo Herrera.|
|Pat Buckley.||Robert Maxwell.|
|Julie Baumgold’s New York piece, “That Party; More Than Malcolm Forbes Dreamed,” is a brilliant piece of journalism, the equivalent of a comparable documentary. After a detailed look at the cast of characters (and there were certainly some “characters” among them as history has since revealed), she delivers the denouement so you get it; always food for thought. Also fascinating to see the “role” that Elizabeth Taylor so deftly played, one of her greatest.
You see what I mean about Baumgold’s take? I’m quoting her conclusions:
The weekend is a study in fame. There’s the minor New York-bound fame of Blaine and Carolyne. Then there’s the television fame of Kissinger and Walters. And, at a whole other level, the sick, desperate movie-star-freak fame, the merciless charge, the centipede movement of camera and crews pushing to the center, where Elizabeth Taylor stands like the defendant at a big trial. This what She always has and what he borrows for the weekend ...
"This party wasn’t done for ego or to show opulence,” he (Forbes) says. It was done for the business, so that the name Forbes would be heard in Europe, where they are starting a German edition, as they may in Italy and Japan. It was done to get 300 chief executives who "would not go to another night at the Waldorf while we pat ourselves on the back." And he knows he succeeded.