A Brilliant Birthday and A Big Ball

Featured image
Patrica Duff and 40 of her nearest and dearest at a birthday lunch she hosted at Michael's.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Lots of cloudy days these days; often overcast and cooler-feeling than the actual temps. Which were said to be at 70 yesterday. Some Sun too; nice.

Which speaking of, our friend down at Michael’s, GM and CFO Steve Millington, sent us the photo at the top of the page taken last Wednesday — the same day as the famous Hat Lunch. I never made it to this lunch which, as you can see from the photo, I wouldn’t have been invited to anyway because of my gender.

So, the same day as the Hat Lunch and these girls were down at Michael’s — many very prominent in the community — having a gigantic lunch. This was Patricia Duff’s lunch. I learned that much. And it was what we used to call a ladies lunch.

I know Patricia; have known her for years now. Not well, but well enough to describe her accurately. She is easily likeable and so is her presence in a room. I’ve always liked her and liked her company. For she is a girl, a woman, a lady of distinction.

Where’s Patricia?! That’s her in the yellow suit flanked by Lisa Simonsen Atkins and Sharon Hoge. You’ll notice some other very recognizable, accomplished faces in here, too.

For example, she’s extremely alluring to meet for the first time. That is, a first-time, first-hand meeting. The appeal is obvious in the ordinary sense: the wholesome prettiness, the complexion, the blue eyes, the blonde hair — a kind of All-American girl-next-door quality that gives her charisma. And the beauty continues. And she’s intelligent and interested in what’s going on around us. And she’s nice. That takes the cake.

It was she who was instrumental in the mid-1980s in introducing Governor Bill Clinton to L.A. Democratic Party supporters and contributors. Clinton was relatively unknown in national party politics and was only one of many potential candidates and party leaders whom Duff presented to Southern California Democrats. She used her position as “Hollywood Wife” uniquely (when she was married to film producer/executive Mike Medavoy), gaining accessibility to national political, feminist and environmental figures. She quickly established herself as an independent and forceful individual in the forums she participated in. The Clinton connection rewarded her and Medavoy with White House access at the beginning of his Presidency.

Women, almost without exception, and all types, tend to like her immediately, and she befriends easily. Men, in her presence, even without introduction are often instantly distracted by her.

It is the physical, the visceral. Her voice, her handshake, have a soft gentleness, like her complexion, her carriage and her bearing. This asset appears to be double-edged. It bestows attraction as well as the presumption that she manipulates men with it.

So I was impressed that she was hosting a ladies lunch at Michael’s for forty New York women. I imagined that she was exercising the opportunity to discuss her political activities. She’s also the Founder of The Common Good. And works at them. So JH, who had also seen the group photograph, suggested that I call our distinguished correspondent Sharon Hoge, because he noticed (I didn’t) that Sharon was in the group photo.

And so I did. The reason for the luncheon? It was Patricia’s birthday. So she’s a Taurus. Both of my sisters are/were Taurus. This isn’t the first time she’s had a birthday lunch for herself. When I think of it, knowing her and her politically-oriented and philanthropic pursuits, it’s a brilliant way of keeping the work moving out there. Because a lot of her guests, maybe all of them, are active and industrious in their lives. Brilliant like the birthday girl.

A closer look at every guest present at Patricia’s birthday lunch …

Those in attendance, and all accounted for in the group photo, included Debbie Bancroft, Ariadne Beaumont, Kathleen Begala, Joy Behar, Marie Brenner, Cynthia Brill, Candace Bushnell, Ana Cabrera, Margaret Carlson, Juju Chang, Nancy Collins, Susan del Percio, Judy Della Femina, Beth Dozoretz, Christy Ferer, Vicki Gordon, Barbara Guggenheim, Sharon Hoge, Catherine Hormats, Linda Janklow, Jurate Kazickas, Veronica Kelly, Rikki Klieman, Kay Koplovitz, Kathy Lacey, Annie Lamont, Francine LeFrak, Lisa Lehner, Shirley Lord Rosenthal, Crystal McCrary McGuire, Karen Mehiel, Julie Menin, Nicole Miller, Sarah Goerner Orr, Lily Patricof, Jennifer Raab, Marjorie Rosen, Pat Schoenfeld, Sarah Simms Rosenthal, Lisa Simonsen Atkins, Jennifer Stockman, Ann Tisch, Lauren Veronis, Silda Wall Spitzer, Lally Weymouth, Lynne White, and Anita Wien.

Diana wearing Dior at the 1996 Met Gala. Photo: Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

Last night was, of course, the Met Gala. This has been occurring for many years. The last one I attended was before Madame Wintour took over (years ago) and Diana the Princess of Wales was the Guest of Honor.

I’ve written about that somewhere in these pages because it was the first and only time I ever saw (and met) the Princess and had a brief conversation. It remains totally as a complete scene in memory. And she was as accessible to this stranger as you might imagine she would be to anyone. Kind, and sensitive.

However, that was then, back when the Nan Kempners and Pat Buckleys were presiding and planning and exercising power for the still young Costume Institute section of the Met. It was strictly a “social event.” The Met Ball of today is a 21st century production and Madame Wintour is the Mrs. Astor of the 21st century. I know that sounds like I’m stretching it but t’is so. Wintour is a brilliant editor, and with the Ball, she’s far ahead of even Vogue itself.

I haven’t attended under Wintour’s regime, so I only know what I hear from friends who do attend. Firstly it’s a hugely financially successful evening, maybe without comparison. Said to be more than $22 million taken in from the Ball.

That is astounding even in this town. You have to be rich just to buy a ticket. Although many of those “rich” have corporate funds that cover the costs and glamour is a business after all. And friends in all the right (promotion) places.

Some friends of mine who attend every year, and have for several years, dress for the occasion, go at the appointed hour, congregate in the cocktail reception room while guests continue to arrive. They can observe the arrivals from above without being caught in the mob (yes) on the avenue taking it all in.

The crowds on Madison Avenue waiting to catch a little glimpse of Hollywood in NYC hours before the Met Gala …

The highly sensationally dressed guests, the celebrities, arrive last after everyone else. Media dominates. After that, the entire guests move to dine.  At that moment, my friends who attend annually (and dress appropriately for it) depart the Met with friends who also “attended” for a nice dinner at a very nice restaurant on the Upper East Side. Completely satisfied with the outcome of the production.

They love it because it’s unlike any other amusement in New York. It’s all about looking and watching. And the funds raised are for the Costume Institute which is a collection of looking and watchings dating back centuries.

Meanwhile, outside the Met, the crowds thinned out but far from entirely. Mme. Wintour’s production is thoroughly fascinating for the spectator even outside, who at that moment has nothing better to do than watch and wonder.

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