80 is just a number

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Vancie Vega, Josh Flagg, Nikki Haskell, Eugenio Lopez, and Chris Wilmer at Nikki Haskell's 80th birthday celebration at the home of Eugenio Lopez. Photo: Patrick McMullan

Monday, June 7, 2021. Very sunny, warm day, yesterday in New York. Hot: 92 degrees, felt like 101. If you were out in it. Here by the river the breezes keep things moving. So it was a perfect Sunday although fewer people out because of the heat.

Last Thursday night I had dinner with Nikki Haskell who was in town briefly to attend a celebration hosted by her friend Clive Davis. I don’t know Mr. Davis, except for his reputation as eternal boy wonder in the music business. Nikki sees him often, even spent 17 weeks during the lockdown  in Palm Springs as his guest — along with other members of his close associates. They all “work,” all have projects, objectives, schedules. For Nikki it was 17 weeks of stimulation, company, activity and as God provided it, good Palm Springs weather.

Today is Nikki Haskell Day on the NYSD. Not that it was planned as such but … it became inevitable. At dinner last week she was telling me about her birthday: 80. It is a number that always seems far away in life until … Nikki told me she “always knew” she’d see 80 one day far away, but it turned into fifteen minutes later.

The birthday girl celebrating with 80 candles at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

If you didn’t know, Nikki is an authentic Hollywood legend. You have to know Hollywood to understand that but it’s the same as having someone in your neighborhood whose very presence describes the “community” she grew up and matured in. We call it Hollywood but it is the film version a neighborhood phenomenon.

She started out in the brokerage business. I don’t know if that was before or during her first and only marriage. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she was very much a part of the nighttime scene in New York including Studio 54. She was a pioneer on cable, interviewing all the characters she came upon and often got to know. Those interviews are popular these days on Amazon Prime.

Nikki was 12 or 13 when her father died. They were living in Los Angeles. It changed the life of herself and her mother and brother financially but her mother was a practical optimist and they kept on “keepin’ on.” Nikki’s lived her life that way. 

On May 17th, Nikki celebrated her 80th.  I’ve known her for about 30 years and to these eyes she doesn’t look any older. Nor does she seem affected by it. In fact she’s got products and scripts that she’s working on. But when someone realized this girl-about-town had a big birthday coming up, things started to happen.

At the Beverly Hills Hotel where Nikki’s been going since she was a teenager, Ed Mady, the regional director of West Coast USA and General Manager, suggested they have a small party marking Nikki’s big day in the Polo Salon of the hotel. In arrangement with the City, May 17th was made Nikki Haskell Day in LA.

Ed Mady declaring May 17th “Nikki Haskell Day.”

Nikki felt very honored as the Hotel (and pool) has been part of her life since she was a schoolgirl. 50 people were invited. It was called for 7 p.m., in the back of the Polo Lounge, red-carpeted with an array of hors d’oeuvres and champagne and caviar. The celebration came along with an opportunity to do something for the Hotel and the community. She’s been given the opportunity to shine her light on the relationship with the community as a social and cultural strategist.

Laurie and Keith Wheeler.
Barbara Morrow and Gregory Morrow.
Christopher Gialanella, Celesta Hodge, Jorge Perez, Nikki Haskell, Sonja Morgan, Bobby Boyd, Tara Solomon, and Patrick McMullan.
Brie Bella, Edward Mady, Nikki Bella, Nisha Bhagat, Constance Schwartz, and Koral Chen.
Jim Colucci, Candy Spelling, and Christopher Gialanella.
L. to r: Jacqueline Bisset, Corinne Buckley, and Carly Steele; Jane Booke and Gary Wilson.
Ana Brant, Annabelle Shulman, Steven Shulman, and Eleanor Pillsbury.
Alan Selka, Ben York Jones, Nikki Haskell, and James Sikura.
Maer Roshan, Merle Ginsberg, Benjamin Svetkey, and Lenka Ulrichova.
Mario Palumbo and Stefan Gargiulo.
Ann Johnson, Dennis Basso, Kathy Hilton, Joan Schnitzer, and Candy Spelling.
Peter Thomas Roth, Josh Flagg, Sonja Morgan, Christopher Gialanella, and Jorge Perez.
L. to r: Nick D’Annunzio, Tara Solomon, and Robert Escalera; Georgina Pazcoguin, Gregory Morrow, and Barbara Morrow.
Steve Dangcil and Adam F. Bankhead.
Darren Ramirez, Jacqueline Bisset, Fred Buckley, Nikki Haskell, Corinne Buckley, Alex Hitz, Candy Spelling, and Michael Chow.
Teran Davis, Jorge Perez, Nikki Haskell, and Kathy Hilton.
Laurie Wheeler, Georgina Pazcoguin, Sonja Morgan, and Teran Davis.
Nikki putting out her cake!

That was on a Thursday (5/13). Then on Friday night, word had already got around, and another friend of Nikki’s, Josh Flagg, a prominent real estate broker, and star on Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing”, and his partner Bobby Boyd, hosted a seated dinner for 65 and turned their house into a pop up supper club called Nikki Beach.

Michael Flagg, Cindy Flagg, Josh Flagg, and Bobby Boyd.
L. to r: Melissa Rivers and Dennis Basso; Josh Flagg, Tara Solomon, and Nick D’Annunzio.
Alex Hitz, Denise Hale, and Frank Bowling.
L. to r: Joan Schnitzer and Barbara Thornhill; Jo Champa.
Franklin Johnson and Ann Johnson.
Candy Spelling and Kelly Day.
L. to r: Lauren London; Teran Davis; Celesta Hodge.
Nikki Haskell and Marc Scarpa.
Merle Ginsberg and Maer Roshan.
Ann Johnson and Stefanie Powers.
Mark MacGregor, Lisa Bacon, Heather MacDonald, Melissa Rivers, Teran Davis, Megan O’Brien, Karim Amiryani, Nikki Haskell, Celesta Hodge, and Jorge Perez.
Sami Zedolph and Vanessa Nicole.

Then the final night was hosted by art collector Eugenio Lopez at his home in Beverly Hills. Guests were wined and dined in full fashion, with dinner created by Wolfgang Puck, along with drag superstar Jimmy James singing a medley of discos songs followed by female impersonators of Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton and Joan Rivers wowing the crowd.

Nikki closed her speech with the line, “I realized sooner of later I’d be 80 but I never realized It would be sooner!”

Party #3 at collector Eugenio Lopez’s home in Beverly Hills.
L. to r: Brooke Davenport, Eugenio Lopez, and Nikki Haskell; Billy Zane.
Lisa Gastineau, Peter Thomas Roth, and Eugenio Lopez.
Vera Serrano, Kathy Hilton, Nikki Haskell, and Libbie Mugrabi.
L. to r: Trista Rullan and Eugenio Lopez; Suzanne de Passe.
Esthella Provas.
Barbara Thornhill, Darren Ramirez, Fred Buckley, and Corinne Buckley.
L. to r.: Waldo Fernandez and Cornelia Guest; Jo Champa and Ana Brant.
Meital Dohan, Barbara Thornhill, Lady Victoria Hervey, and Akhee Rahman.
Vancie Vega, Jazmyn Simone, and Joan Rivers.
Elizabeth Segerstrom and Nick Chavez.
Vera Serrano, Kathy Hilton, Candy Spelling, and Wendy Stark.
David Anthony, Teran Davis, Brooke Davenport, Robert Escalera, Nikki Haskell, Eugenio Lopez, and Chris Wilmer.
Jimmy James.

Among the guests who attended one or all of the Nikki weekend events were: Wolfgang Puck, Michael Chow, Jonathan Kayne (who designed her wardrobe for the weekend events), Melissa Rivers, Stephanie Powers, Candy Spelling, Jacqueline Bisset, Kathy Hilton, Wendy Stark, Suzanne de Passe, Dennis Basso, Cornelia Guest, Denise Hale, Ryan O’Neil. And present, and photographing the entire weekend of festivities was our one and only Patrick McMullan. These are all his and his photographers snaps (and there were hundreds more that you can see on his web site).

In recounting the parties to me, Nikki said that they were all successful because for a lot of people, it was their first time out in a long time. The relief was very great; people were just happy to know Nikki and to celebrate life with her.  It was that energy that made the day.

Referring to her own experience in this life, it’s all about “how you feel and who you are. And looking at life through rose colored glasses. I have to make the best of everything.”

I asked where that point of view come from. Her answer: “My mother.” She had that attitude and passed it on to her daughter. ‘Atta Go Girl!

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