Debbie’s Week at a Glance: Tender loving birthday celebrations

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Power outage, mid-composing. I should’ve saved some birthday candles. Read on!

This week, I supported no crumbling castles, impoverished artists or cures for diseases I will probably get. This week I unabashedly celebrated myself at a few tender loving birthday celebrations. My age isn’t particularly good news except for hotel discounts and expanded medical coverage, but I am way past counting candles on cakes. I instead, count my blessings, and they include some special friends.

My birthday weekend started with lunch with one of my most forever (we do not say “oldest”) friends, Monique Merrill. Hip girl that she is, she left the Upper East Side and Locust Valley (how is that for a double header tradition combo?) for the Meatpacking district years ago, and chose Pastis, bien sûr.


Forever friend, Monique Merrill, remembers and puts a bday tiara on my head. So I will, too.

I’m not sure uber cool Pastis has seen a table quite like the one she created for me, complete with hand decorated pumpkins, lights, candy, buttons (her clever new table décor idea), and of course a bday tiara for me. We were hard to miss and a woman stopped by to tell me how lucky I was to have a friend like her. I know. The perfect hangar steak with herb butter and a crisp, cold glass of rosè were incidental but fabulous.


Her legendary decorations, on Pastis’ table.

I trotted uptown, and readied my self for the evening plans. First stop was Majorelle, of course, where a few pals feted me with the most able assist by Charles Masson who surprised us with caviar, champagne, cookies and candles. And I thought I was just having an old Sauvignon Blanc.


Charles Masson makes every eve special … especially a birthday.

I felt like I was cheating on Charles when I told him I was going to Fleming for the actual dinner, but knew he would forgive me as his darling nephew Alessandro runs the place and learned everything he knows from his Uncle. We rounded the corner and tucked into Fleming with my cousin Lisa Woodward and Marisa Berenson, dearest pal and Godmother to my daughter, Serena.


Cuz Lisa Woodward, moi and Marisa Berenson at Fleming.

Ironically, Fleming is on the site of the former Fleming School that Marisa attended. She was in from Marrakech where she has built her dream house and on the way to see her daughter Starlite and granddaughter Luna in L.A. I was happy to hear that her career is stronger than ever, having just finished a one-woman cabaret (yes — there is a reference to the film, Cabaret) in Paris, a TV series and a photo shoot for new cosmetics campaign.

My unnamed mystery host breathtakingly told the waiter to “Surprise me.” I said “Really. Isn’t there something you wouldn’t eat?” I take my dinner choices very seriously. Out came spaghetti with white truffles — a reason for living — and a perfect Dover sole. Our waiter was spot on. And then a pal from the west coast remotely sent a round of deserts, which, since we didn’t order them, didn’t count.


It doesn’t count when deserts are sent from a friend, afar.

I rolled home and rested myself for another round of celebrations. I was getting tired and suspect you are by now, too.

A full day of rest prepared me for the endlessly energetic Geoffrey Bradfield and the equally tireless, William Featherby. While this was technically my birthday dinner, we had two cocktails before, of course. First up was a cocktail given by Cece and Lee Black at Doubles to celebrate the marriage of Ben Barnes and Liz McDermott. Ben is the legendary Texas politician who was The Speaker of the House of Representatives in Texas and Lieutenant Governor of that great state. And he’s a Democrat (!), who of course lives in the very cool Austin and Nantucket where they were just married. Liz, a talented interior designer, was doing just that for his home, and voila, love ensued. We’ll be seeing this whole group at the French Heritage Society Black and White Ball on November 21st, honoring my very own Geoffrey Bradfield and Margaret and Gregory Hedberg.


L. to r.: Oh — is there someone else to celebrate? Newlyweds, Ben Barnes and Liz McDermott with hostess, Cece Black, at Doubles; Joy Ingham, Wendy Carduner and Geoffrey. Photos fuzzy because I was.

Off again, to what we thought was a cozy cocktail for Qatari dignitaries at The Plaza. Weren’t we surprised on arrival to see guests beginning their dinners’ first course. After apologies and kisses, we skulked out but not before scoring a very nice Qatar pen and a bumper sticker that said ‘I Love Qatar’, which I’m sure I would.’

It was especially lovely to sink into my seat at the eminently sink-in-able Le Grenouille, with lighting that makes everyone’s face a glowing portrait, even this tired one. Our dear David Patrick Columbia joined and rounded out my birthday love fest, with the spice and feist he always brings. Sublime dinner was followed by soufflés for all with different flavors for each of us — pistachio, caramel, chocolate and Grand Marnier.


Boys! Boys! Boys! Our own DPC, Geoffrey and William, over-fete-ing me at Le Grenouille.
Oh Lordy! More champagne.
Need I say more?

And because Pastis, Marjorelle, Fleming and Le Grenouille in 48 hours wasn’t enough French indulgence, we topped it off with nightcaps at Daniel (full discloser, Editor DPC went home to work. I stayed and created content.)


What happens after all that champagne. Feet up in the Bentley. Too be fair, I straddled the hump.

My last, very special celebration, was brunch with my daughter Serena, her pals, and a press shy mom (She is highly productive and discreet. Maybe there is something to this discretion, though it would end my column).


Birthday brunch with the best girls: my Serena, Frances and Kerry.

On a somber yet heartwarming note, I attended the memorial for my very old friend David Koch, who passed away this summer. It was a private invitation-only event, so I will share only how moving and beautiful it was. It was held, fittingly, at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, and touched all facets of his extraordinary life — his philanthropy, athleticism, business accomplishments, patriotism, scientific curiosity, appreciation of the arts, especially ballet, deep friendships, and mostly his love of family. It was authentic, touching, thoughtful, loving and I think the way he would want to be remembered. We all will, with love, and gratitude for having known him.


David Koch Theater and his memorial program.

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