Birthdays, remembrances, and everything in between

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A streaky view of midtown Manhattan. Photo: JH.

Thursday, 1_25_24. Yesterday was overcast with occasional very light rain and temps reaching into the mid-40s, and a light rain in the evening with temps predicted in the low 50s today.

I went down to Doubles, the private club in the Sherry Netherland, where Melanie Holland was hosting a luncheon for her friend Mark Gilbertson who turned Seven-Oh yesterday.

Mark was not excited by his new number. Having been there myself, I advised him that it was Youth compared to the numbers ten years out; and furthermore I’ve known him for about thirty years and he doesn’t seem older. I reminded him that he’s still a kid, probably in his own mind — as aren’t we all.


The birthday table set at Doubles.

Mark has a unique role in New York. His business is public relations. He’s the guy NYSD-readers have read about his annual cocktail party inviting several hundred of his closest friendssort of an exaggeration but not really every Spring at a private club here in New York.

Several hundred seems like a big number for a cocktail party but Mark being the classic host knows so many people and everyone of his guests knows a lot of people thanks to his social connections, and so they always look forward to it.

Cocktail parties for me is people-watching. That’s why Mark’s are the best kind of parties especially for those of us who turn shy in a crowd. With such a big crowd it’s always interesting just to WATCH everyone meeting and greeting (and just to see who Mark knows). When Mark is the host he keeps moving through the crowds making sure everyone’s enjoying themselves with old friends and maybe new. The events he publicizes, fund-raising by nature, are always interesting because of it.


Mark with his good pals, luncheon host Melanie Seymour, and Polly Onet.
Wendy Carduner, Doubles’ director, bringing out the cake.
Mark making it official.
The whole table, me included, trying to stay composed.

Mark brought along two of his favorite photos to show the guests of just how handsome he was only “a few years” ago.

Yesterday’s guests — 13 of us at a long table — were all longtime friends of the birthday boy and included Geoffrey Bradfield, Polly Onet, Hilary Dick, Blakely Griggs, Noel Munson, Stephanie Loeffler, Jared Goss, Guy Harley, and Andrew Roosevelt. And the food was fabulous, as always, from the Doubles buffet offering an enormous selection of fresh and delicious items, followed by a dessert table that is so varied you feel like you can’t resist all of it.

Stephanie Loeffler provided favors for all the guests and the birthday-boy, a large (I set it next to an apple so you could get a sense of its size) chocolate dog reminding everyone of Mark’s adored Setter. It’s solid, so no matter the chocoholic who possesses it will need some time (days, weeks) to consume it.



Meanwhile over at Michael’s restaurant at the same hour there was (among many) another birthday lunch — for Joannie Danielides, a major public relations executive here in New York. That’s the birthday girl on the far right next to Gayle King. The ladies had one course and most of them enjoyed Michael’s spectacular crab cake with green goddess sauce — only fitting for this crowd.


From l. to r. (top row): Paula Zahn, Blair Beard, Rochelle Brown, Gayle King, and the birthday girl Joannie Danielides.
From l. to r. (bottom row): Linda Stasi, Sonia Armstead, Donna Hanover, Cathie Black, and Susan Lucci.

Meanwhile, down in Miami, the Miami Symphony Orchestra, our friend, Composer Karen LeFrak premiered her piece Miami Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra to critical acclaim.

The glamorous night attracted a stellar crowd including Blaine Trump and Steve Simon, Hilary and Wilbur Ross, Kimberly and Neil Bluhm, Laura and Lloyd Blankfein, Meryl and Jimmy Tisch, Donna and William Acquavella, John Hess, and Ann and Andrew Tisch.


Karen LeFrak and Maestro Eduardo Marturet.

The concert, under the brilliant baton of Maestro Eduardo Marturet and featuring multi-Grammy Winning guitarist Sharon Isbin, received a standing ovation.

A gala post-concert dinner was given by Karen’s husband, real estate mogul Richard LeFrak, at Contessa. In addition, the MSO enchanted audiences with a piece dubbed Glimpses of a Living Culture, also conducted by Maestro Marturet.


Sharon Isbin and Maestro Eduardo Marturet.
Maestro Eduardo Marturet.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava from Miami-Dade County.
Karen LeFrak post-premiere.

Marturet is renowned for his visionary approach delving into the richness and diversity of cultural expressions. His leadership added profound depth and insight, creating an unforgettable experience for all attending.

Visit themiso.org to learn more.


Gary Ginstling, Karen LeFrak, and Justin Ellis.
Barbara Palacios, Daniel Gomez, Eduardo Marturet, Sandra Quintero, and Athina Marturet.

Then, a few dozen miles up I-95 in Palm Beach, Honorary Chairs Jeff and Nicola Marcus, Event Chairs John and Amy Phelan, and this year’s Palm Tree Award recipients Linda Gary and Michael Bellisle led the perfumed pack at the 18th Annual Palm Beach Police & Fire Rescue Ball at Mar-a-Lago.

Suzanne and Woody Johnson, the ever-glamorous Kimberly Paige Bluhm and her real estate and casino magnate husband Neil Bluhm, Bill and Marianne Powers, Jean and Martin Shafiroff, and the Foundation’s CEO John Scarpa were all on the dance floor at the black-tie dinner, which was themed La Dolce Vita.


L. to r.: Woody and Suzanne Johnson; Kimberly and Neil Bluhm.

The evening began with guests gathering poolside for cocktails, while a DJ and saxophonist entertained and performers encased in clear plastic spheres creating an aquatic spectacle in the pool.

The club’s ballroom evoked the coastal glamour of Capri with elaborate arrangements of lemons, lush greens, crisp blue and white linens and a faux cobblestone dance floor. More than 700 guests were treated to a dinner of arugula salad, lasagna, and tiramisu. Jennifer and Sylvester Stallone and Andrea and Steve Wynn contributed to the live auction, conducted by Sebastian Clarke of Heritage Auctions.


John Phelan, Linda Gary, Michael Belisle, and Amy Phelan.

Other guests included the Foundation’s VP David Mack and his wife Sondra. All proceeds from the Ball remain in Palm Beach and benefit the Palm Beach Police and Fire Rescue Departments.

Event sponsors included Lugano Diamonds, Devon and Tom Roush, and Mark and Janet Levy. The ball raised over $3.3 million.

Visit Pbpf.us to learn more.


L. to r.: Karin Luter and Talbott Maxey; Mark and Janet Levy.
Jeff and Nicola Marcus and Howard and Michele Kessler.
L. to r.: Jean and Martin Shafiroff; Katie Vecellio and Annie Falk.
L. to r.: Mei Sze and Jeff Greene; David and Sondra Mack.
L. to r.: Bill and Marianne Powers; Devon and Tom Roush.

A celebration of life. Jamie MacGuire sent us this following report on the loss of his friend last December:

Nearly 200 family and friends of actor David McCallum gathered for a memorial on Friday, January 5th at a private Park Avenue club here in New York.

McCallum was best known for his roles as Ilya Kuryakin and Ducky Mallard on the hit TV shows Man from U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS, but he was also a musician, skilled stage carpenter, novelist and chef.


David McCallum with son Peter and daughter Sophie.

His daughter Sophie said the McCallum family motto was, “We will try as hard as we can and, if that’s not enough, try harder.”

NCIS co-star Brian Dietzen described David as his mentor and praised his work ethic. “He always did his research and blocked the scenes even before we did table work. Once he turned to me and softly said, ‘Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing.’”

“What do you mean, David?”

“You’re doing what I always did to Robert Vaughan. You’re stealing my scene … but keep doing it!”


David and Katherine McCallum greeting Aunt Joan & Uncle Philip at the their wedding, 1968, at the Rockaway Hunting Club.

Last to speak was David’s wife of 55 years, Mayflower descendent and Farmington grad Katherine, a successful model who met David on a Glamour Magazine shoot in 1965.

As they were walking home home from Columbia Presbyterian hospital where McCallum died last September, her son Peter asked if she was Okay.

“Yes,” she answered, “But I was hoping we could grow old together.”


A young David and Katherine at sea.

My mother and Katherine’s mother were best friends, and since David’s violinist father was on tour in Scotland, my parents gave the Rehearsal Dinner the night before their wedding in 1968.

David and I were friends for over half a century, and among my cherished memories are walking from the West End back to Knightsbridge with him and my late wife after his star turn in a musical adaptation of The Hunt for the Snark and also years later being waltzed by him across the Lawrence Beach Club dance floor to Lester Lanin‘s orchestra in what was still a decidedly pre-woke era.

He was always gentle, kind, good and fun, and his memory will be a blessing.



Photographs by CAPEHART (Palm Beach Police & Fire Rescue Ball)

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