Thursday, June 28, 2007

Philip Baloun

Philip Baloun, Darcy Miller, Martha Stewart, and Sylvia Weinstock
In Memoriam, 6.28.07 Philip Baloun, one of New York’s most prominent special events designers died Wednesday at his home of pancreatic cancer. He was 61 (1/22/46) and had been diagnosed only 12 weeks ago.

A native of suburban Chicago, Mr. Baloun began his professional career teaching English at Holy Trinity High School in Georgetown. In 1976, when he was thirty, he decided to change his life and moved to New York to become a theatrical director. In order to support himself he worked for various design firms, such as RENNY, where he learned his craft. 

In 1979, he began what was to be an illustrious career with his own design firm, specializing in weddings, corporate events and private parties. He soon developed a reputation for producing spectacular results. He became a pioneer in combining forestry, interior design, lighting, carpenters, painters, seamstresses into transforming an ordinary room into a palatial confection.

For the past 28 years Baloun dazzled thousands of party guests (and hosts and hostesses) at hundreds of parties where he created his signature combination of magic, fantasy, beauty and theatrical excitement with productions that easily ran into the high six and low seven figures. This past February he produced a tribute to these talents with the transformation of the 7th Regiment Armory on Park Avenue and 66th Street into a Manhattan nightclub setting to celebrate the 60th birthday of investment banker Stephen Schwarzman.

One of the most famous parties of the 1980s, the 50th birthday party of Saul Steinberg given by his wife Gayfryd, and rumored to cost more than $1 million, was designed by Mr. Baloun.

Among his gilded clientele were Richard LeFrak, George Soros (Baloun designed his million dollar millennium party), Judy and Alfred Taubman, Shelby White, Arne and Millie Glimcher, Steven Robert and Pilar Crespi, Leslie Wexner, Sandy Weill, Time Magazine, the Smithsonian Institution, the New York Botanical Garden (where he created famous flower exhibitions to marvel thousands of visitors), and the Washington Opera Ball.

“He was a true artist,” recalled his colleague Polly Onet who often worked with him in planning private and charitable parties in New York, Palm Beach and Southampton. “he had a passion for all things relating to design and party creation. Unlike many party designers, Philip was also much more involved in all aspects of the theatricality of it, including the sound and the lighting. He was very good at masking things”

Onet also said that in his spare time, he’d turn his creativity into decorating theatre sets or his residences. “For his East Hampton house, he acted as contractor, landscape designer and decorator.”

He was by nature always late in getting to a meeting, keeping an appointment and the actual execution of a job. He was one of those people who worked right up to the last moment, which could create anxiety at times for his clients. Onet recalled, “ten minutes before the guests were due to arrive you’d look around it looked like he had hours to go before he’d be finished. But then, he’d be done on time and it would be flawless, better than anyone I’ve ever known. His imagination was beyond.”