Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mark Gilbertson

Mark Gilbertson is one of the most high-profile men in the New York social scene. This is the result of time and an enduring commitment to his interests. He is, without question one of the main leaders of a group of young and prominent New Yorkers who are largely an urban-exurban crowd with names often found in the Social Register, the Southampton Blue Book, the Quest 400 and the New York Social Diary Party Picture pages. A lot of people from the tonier suburbs of Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey who keep apartments or pied-a-terres in Manhattan. Lawyers, bankers, designers, publishers, trust fund babies, young mothers, young grandmothers, real estate executives, philanthropic activists, people who went to boarding school and college together (along with people who didn't), many of whom have known each other all their lives, many whose parents knew each other's parents all their lives. Many of these people still know and see each other a good deal because of Mark, the ring-leader and chief organizer of what for years has been known as "the younger set" in New York All things being relative, this is still true. Although ... all things must pass.

For years Mark (pictured with Sara Ayres and Cynthia Lufkin) gave a couple of big cocktail parties at his small bachelor pad on the Upper East Side. Because of the limitations of space, he’d juggle the list, often alternating his guests season to season. A few years ago, however, he had the bright idea of taking space in one of the posh private clubs on Park Avenue where he could have hundreds at one time. And so he does. There are very few in New York who do this with regularity that Mark does. The Mark Gilbertson cocktail has a Wasp-ish down-home, touchstone kind of atmosphere. Very clubby, very old friends, all playing catch-up, before going back out into the melee and the fray.

After years of this, he is one of the leading Manhattan social impresarios, a longtime fixture on the New York-Southampton-Palm Beach circuit. His unassuming appearing tenacity and sheer force of personality has made a big difference to certain philanthropies, such as the Museum of the City of New York and Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. Because he’s grown up in this world and gets around, he knows everybody. He's also assiduous about keeping in touch with scores, maybe hundreds of people (and not by cell phone), friends and acquaintances. At his parties, he often takes snapshots of people and a few days later, one is likely to receive a print or two in the mail. A nice touch; excellent p.r. He’s quick and reliable and thoughtful with his thank-you notes and he’s got a Rolodex that some savvy corporate executives would long to have just for business purposes.

There are a lot of people who first met at Mark's cocktail parties, and even more than a couple of marriages here and there (I don't know about the divorces). He's a genial host, as well as a bit persnickety about who’s who and what’s what. He’s extremely sensitive (sometimes to the point that you wonder if he's putting you on) about whether or not people had a good time at his receptions and events. Although he needn't worry, they always have a good time. It's a real age mix, and always some new faces and even some old faces that look like new faces.

He hails from Rumson, New Jersey
where he can still be found almost every weekend that he’s not in Southampton or Newport or PB. He often even divides his weekends between Rumson and the aforementioned because he’s a committed club man, as well as gardener at the family homestead. It’s a single life, or at least it has been up to this point, which now is nearing, I would guess, a half-century. Roots and connections dominate it although he loves meeting new people. In that way, he could be regarded as an authentic social arbiter although he’d consider that a gross exaggeration. Years ago when he was younger and out of college, he was in the real estate brokerage in Palm Beach. Today, although he appears to be a man of very stable leisure, he is industrious about his social activity, even serving as adviser and consultant to several charities and companies on their philanthropy ventures. Few work as assiduously at our tasks as he does at his.