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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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!