Holiday cheer with family, friends, and furry ones

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The interior of Mr. Chow Thursday night with everyone seated for Alex Papachristidis’ birthday dinner.

Monday, December 16, 2019. Steady rains from Friday through Saturday, with mild temps – 40s to low 50s – to a cloudy Sunday and the winds blowing in.

Waiting for winter. The NYSD calendar has been filled with lunches, dinners, holiday cocktail receptions and even a birthday party.

Dining at Sette Mezzo with old friends, Marianne and Steve Harrison. Formerly New Yorkers (we met in 1970), they now live in Beaufort, South Carolina where they own the Rhett House Inn. They were up here to see friends and family before the holidays.
Leaving Michael’s with Emilia Saint-Amand after catching up over lunch. Emilia and I have known each other from the early ’70s. We catch up two or three times a year with a lunch at Michael’s.

I’m writing this on Saturday night, close to the midnight hour. I just came from dinner at Sette Mezzo with another old friend, Cathy Callender. We met on the 20th of  December, 1960, when I was in college. I’d come to New York for a “coming out” dinner dance “honoring” three debutantes at the Waldorf-Astoria. The music was provided by a society bandleader named Meyer Davis whom I’d read about many times in Cholly Knickerbocker and Susie’s columns.

The event was all a first for this country boy. Black tie, New York girls, distinctly more sophisticated, it was held in the Sert Room, then was one of the hotel’s big party rooms at the entrance off the lobby. Among the guests — friends of one of the parents — were Rose Kennedy whose son Jack had just been elected the 35th President of the United States; and CZ Guest who was famous to Americans for being on the cover of TIME. At the time, I was a sophomore in college in Maine, and quietly agog at this New York scene. I see now, in retrospect, the event was to be a significant moment in my life.

The Marymount School of New York, Fifth Avenue sy 84th Street, with its Christmas wreaths lighted at night.

Cathy and I see each other maybe only a couple of times a year, maybe even less than that, but when we do, we fill each other in on our lives these days. The upcoming holidays motivate this reunion, of course. It was a three hour dinner, a lot to recount and talk about. Old friends are family in our lives. 

Meanwhile, there are the significant moments today to be recalled in other far off times. The energy of the city has picked up the holiday spirit noticeably, like the lights in the store windows along the avenues putting their best foot forward. 

Sette was especially busy for a Saturday night during the holiday season when many are occupied with pre-holiday dinners, receptions, and beginning their holiday travels. So the room was rocking with the clatter of talk; the noise of language when it’s all spoken together, a jumble indecipherable. It’s like a celebration to the ear.

The holiday cards are coming in. People are getting out more just to meet friends and family. The holiday warms and inspires the memory. Last week there were parties and events all over town. 

Mine started last Tuesday when I went to the Animal Medical Center’s annual “Top Dog” gala. The vast room of Cipriani 42nd Street (which was once upon a time The Bowery Savings Bank) was decorated by David Monn. “Decorated” is not an adequate word for Monn’s work. “Wonder” is more like it. It was gorgeous and magical and even “chic.” You had to be there; but it was. 

This gala is one of the top draws for the philanthropists who are also animal lovers. So the familiar boldfaced names were in attendance as well as hundreds of others who also just love animals. 

The AMC is a hugely successful animal hospital here in New York, if you didn’t know. They’re the top of the crop and of the moment, and impressive. The late Brooke Astor — who loved her dogs and always had more than one — once said that if she ever needed medical care, she’d like to go to the AMC (which has the best). They are now engaged in raising funds to expand their facilities to accommodate the large and growing number of pets in need of some kind of medical care. 

So the evening was that fundraiser. I don’t have the figure but I’ll bet it was well over a million from the evening. They honored Dylan Lauren (her beautiful mutt Jersey was the cover of the evening’s program). Jersey was a rescue from a horrendous situation. He’s been with his mistress for sometime now and he’s loved and even idolized (as he should be). She has a special foundation for rescuing and placing homeless animals. 

I’ve had dogs and cats all of my life, all of whom came from homes where they were not wanted or organizations such as Humane Society, Bide-a-Wee and the ASPCA, to name just three. Animals as household companions are one thing: LOVE. They bring it out in you by giving you the opportunity of sharing it. We’re all in need of the practice, especially in this moment of our history.

And don’t forget about the cats! Here are 2 beauties caught in the act on the cat cam at AMC.

On my calendar (and many others), the fund-raisers are over for the rest of the year and into the beginning of 2020. The parties are another story. Here are three private parties. Jackie Weld Drake’s reception for Casita Maria, her top charitable priority, was held at her apartment and the crowd filled several of her spacious rooms.

Jacqueline Weld Drake, Jose Campos, Casita Maria students Elizabeth Campos and Maximus Maldonado, and Gabriel Maldonado.

But the Holiday receptions  (post-Modern cocktail parties) hosted by John Demsey and Cornelia Guest as well as the annual holiday party hosted by George Farias and Anne Hearst and Jay McInerney at Doubles were BIG.

Lotsa guests partaking of the libation and the company they were keeping. Although everyone missed the hostess who was recovering from a bout with the stomach flu.

Cornelia Guest and John Demsey at their always-glam holiday reception.

George Farias and Jay McInerney, hosts of the Christmas Cheer, along with Anne Hearst who was home with the stomach flu. Humbug!

And last Thursday night, December 12th, at Mr. Chow’s on 57th Street between First and Second Avenues, there was a birthday dinner in honor of Alex Papachristidis, the interior designer, who was celebrating his  57th amongst and amidst legions of friends. Black tie for the men (the women know what to do with direction). 

Le menu.

Then about ten-thirty came the cake. I was told Alex wanted chocolate with the chocolate icing, however, the interior designer in him couldn’t avoid the reality. Big chocolate would be good but boring on first sight, so Alex decided they should add some gilding to chic it up. And lo, and so it was.  A Great Evening. Alex, you may have recognized, shares a birthday with Frank Sinatra. Although I don’t think Alex is a singer.

Alex Papachristedes
The birthday boy waiting for his cake.
Alex Papachristedes
And here it is! A foot tall and gilded for your viewing pleasure. Make a wish Alex!!

This is a big party. There must have been a hundred or more guests. Everyone knows everyone one by one or two degrees of separation. Cocktails called for 8 and dinner at 9. I’ve posted the menu which was spectacular to these taste buds. It came in pieces, like a buffet being individually served.

I’m fairly unsophisticated about menus. If I don’t recognize something, I’m unlikely to try it or even ask about it. As a guest, of course, you take what you get. Thursday night the menu was plentiful but not always recognizable either in word or presentation. So I “cautiously” took small helpings at first. Aha! It was so delicious I regretted being so cautious. Beyond! After which, whatever came my way, I devoured immediately.

Jill Roosevelt, Lisa McCarthy, and Fran L’Esperance taking in a view of the cake …
Mark Gilbertson and Phoebe.Tudor
Psst….did you see how much cake he took?
Do you know how many calories are in that single slice you’re eating?

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