Orchids and Liliums

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The scene at The Plaza for the New York Botanical Garden's annual Orchid Dinner, which raised more than $800,000 to support the Garden’s global plant research, conservation and education initiatives.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023. It snowed last night in New York. I took a photo just to offer evidence. That was the first such snowfall that I’ve seen this year with Winter entering its final weeks. There was one other so far but that was in the late evening/early morn and it was long gone by the Sun coming up.

Temps in the mid-30s melting the white stuff as it falls.

The following photo came in my email. I recognized immediately that it was a designer ad (Romona Keveza) but what caught my eye was the woman in the red dress. She looked familiar, a little like a New York society woman, maybe a hostess at her best for a dinner she was hostessing.

Jamie Lee Curtis wearing a gown by Romona Keveza and the wedding ring that her famous father, Tony Curtis, gave her famous mother, Janet Leigh at the 29th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Curtis won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Although she also looked like Jamie Leigh Curtis who happens to be the daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis.

Yes, that is she, but she has now gone au naturel; a grey-blonde, which gives her an entirely different image. Older, more established, self-possessed with a nature that enjoys a lot of life.  It turns out that Ms. Curtis was dressed in this for the 29th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. But you can tell the story by the face; a very cool and good sport, welcoming and amused.

But I was drawn to it because it revived very pleasant memories of my life out there. I met Jamie Lee back when I was living out there in Hollywoodland. I knew her mother, Janet Leigh.  Janet and Donna Reed and Debbie Reynolds all looked after the aging Lillian Burns Sydney who had been the Acting Coach at M-G-M throughout its golden years from 1938 to 1954.

Lillian had a powerful personality in her post at the Studio. It was she who decided whom they had under contract who would get the “star treatment” — which was an actual business plan to create a star. Stars were made in those days when the moguls started and owned the studios. They were their most valuable assets. Lillian, who was highly cultured as well as having a clear view of the image that the studio represented to the public, got the message and had the eye for it.

Lillian, circa mid-1940s when she was the Acting Coach at MGM and had the powerful position of deciding which contract actors and actresses would get the “star treatment” where they were groomed to represent a certain individual image in terms of their public conduct and the primary roles best suited to the image.

So as she moved into her late 80s and early 90s, she lived alone in a comfortable apartment in Westwood and was looked after by these three actresses. It was notable to see the caretakers looking after this powerful personality who preferred taking care of herself, ideally speaking. As charitable as it looked, they all pitched in as they all would do for a family member with the idea of keeping Lillian at her place in the world.

Three movie stars in the role of three caring daughters. Debbie had organized it after Lillian’s husband director George Sidney left her for Edward G. Robinson’s second wife and widow. Despite her powerful personality, maternal in a wise sense, Lillian was crushed by George’s departure.

Which takes me back to the Society matron in the scarlet gown looking like today’s version of CZ Guest or Babe Paley, is Ms. Jamie Lee Curtis, ready for her closeup and looking like the nice and really lovely lady that she is.

And while we’re on the subject of beauty and glamour, last Thursday night right here in little ole New York the New York Botanical Garden hosted its annual Orchid Dinner at The Plaza for nearly 400 guests raising more than $800,000 to support the Garden’s global plant research, conservation and education initiatives.

The evening was in celebration of The Orchid Show: Natural Heritage, which opened on February 18, 2023 in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and runs through April 23rd. Acclaimed artist, Lily Kwong, created a meditative and captivating design inspired by her ancestral connection to the natural world.

Lily Kwong at The New York Botanical Garden’s annual Orchid Dinner. Ms. Kwong’s message to the guests: “To be honored with the distinction of guest designer for the 20th annual Orchid Show has been a joy and privilege. It has been deeply rewarding to see the public connect with Natural Heritage, and consider our powerful ancestral connections to the plantworld.”

This annual dinner is famous to its patrons for astounding beauty that is created and put forth on the tables and in the room. Known for stunning table centerpieces of large-scale orchid arrangements created by the country’s most innovative designers, florists, landscape enthusiasts, this year’s designs did not disappoint. and showcased dramatic, colorful bold works, inspired by Kwong’s vibrant, and fantastical vision.

The evening began with cocktails and the sale of exceptional and rare orchids, as well as a tour of the designers’ imaginative tablescapes. Guests had the opportunity to meet designers and experience the inspiration behind their creations. A multi-course dinner began promptly thereafter with an exclusive performance from Gina Alice, Guerlain’s “Orchidee Imperiale” global ambassador and world-renowned pianist. Later guests danced to music by Timo Weiland.

Jill Joyce at the Plant Sale.

Proceeds from the evening support the Botanical Garden’s premier programs in horticulture, botanical research, and children’s education – central to preserving and protecting the plant world.

The Orchid Dinner’s Gala Chairs were Maureen and Richard Chilton, Jr., J. Barclay Collins II and Kristina Durr, Ravenel Curry and Jane Moss, Gillian Hearst, Cecile Lochard, Holly and Todd Lowen, Susan and George Matelich, Tina and Steven R. Swartz, and Mr. and Mrs. Edward K. Weld. Junior Chairs were Sara Arno and Kevin Cornish, Lizzie Asher, Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Casey Kohlberg, Isabel LeedsandRebecca Vanyo. Additional notable attendees included Lily Kwong and Nick Kroll, actress Pauline Chalamet, ballet dancers James Whiteside and Isabella Boylston, pianist Gina Alice, Markarian’s Ali O’Neil, artist Angelica Hicks, as well as Michelin Guide’s Edward Barsamian, Allie Michler Kopelman, Natalie and Dylana Suarez, Krystal Bick, Roze Traore, the “plantfluencer” Christopher Griffin aka The Plant Kween, Brandice Daniel, among others.

The designers and companies who donated their services to create the evening’s breathtaking tablescapes included A-List Interiors, Kristen Alpaugh of FLWR PSTL, Ace Berry AIFD of Fulshear Floral Design, Brian Bowman and Dan Dahl of Bowman Dahl, Floral & Event Design, Marcella Rodriguez Broe of The Parcel Flower Co., Ingrid Carozzi of Tin Can Studios, Calvert Crary of FlowerSchool NY & LA, Lily Dierkes of LKStudio, Jacqueline Elfe of Stellar Style Events, Keiko Ellis of Botanique K by Cloud, Zoe Feldman of Zoe Feldman Design, Molly Ford of Flowers by Ford, Chris Goddard of Goddard Design Group, Michael Gonzalez of Verde Custom Flowers Inc., John Goodman of JL Goodman Design, Malka Helft of Think Chic Interiors, Sarah Khan of Sarah Khan Event Styling, Aamir Khandwala Interior Design and Nicolas Cogrel, Canaan Marshall of Canaan Marshall Design, TJ McGrath of TJ McGrath Designs, Lewis Miller Design, Michelle Murphy of Demi Ryan, David Netto Design, Susie Novak of Susie Novak Designs, Kelsea Olivia of East Olivia, Beth O’Reilly AIFD of Dutchess Bouquets, Hilary Pereira, and Joseph Augello, Principal, JSA STUDIO NYC, LaParis Phillips of Brooklyn Blooms, Hollis Loudon Puig of Hollis Loudon Interiors, Romanek Design Studio, Olivia Rose of Original Rose, Rudy Saunders of Dorothy Draper & Co., Mally Skok of Mally Skok Designs, Studio Lily Kwong, Gerald Tolomeo of Gerald Tolomeo LTD, Robert Ventolo of Crain and Ventolo, Joy Williams of Joyful Designs® Studio.

French luxury beauty brand Guerlain was the evening’s sponsor with additional support from Hearst. “The TianZi Exploratory Reserve represents over 1,100 acres (450 hectares) of orchids in their natural habitat, one of their oldest birthplaces,” said Minguo Li-Margraf, Head of the TianZi Exploratory Reserve. “In partnership with Guerlain, we have reintroduced more than 20,000 orchids and are proud to extend our commitment for the coming decade.”

Now that’s a beautiful thing.

Anika Shah, Sarah Khan, Christopher Griffin, Canaan Marshall, and Lutfi Janania.
L. to r.: Cécile Lochard, Indre Rockefeller, and Lily Kwong; Francesca Vuillemin.
George Matelich, Susan Matelich, and Richard Chilton, Jr.
Isabella Boylston, James Whiteside, Lily Kwong, and Gina Alice.
L. to r.: Casey Kohlberg and Lizzie Asher; Roze Traore.
Kamie Lightburn, Noel Momsen, Lindsay Burn, Mark Gilbertson, Blair Clarke, and Sarah Easley.
L. to r.: Holly Lowen; Gabby Prescod.
Alexandra O’Neill.
Naeem Crawford Muhammad, Casey Kohlberg, Lizzie Asher, Isabel Leeds, Rebecca Vanyo, and Charlotte Chilton.
L. to r.: Kevin Cornish and Sara Arno; Lilah Ramzi and Edward Barsamian.
Nick Kroll, Jennifer Bernstein, Lily Kwong, and Barclay Collins.
Sharon Jacob, Tina Swartz, Holly Lowen, and Gillian Hearst.
L. to r.: Pauline Chalamet; Brandice Daniel.
Rachael Burrow and Carolyn Englefield.
L. to r.: Natalie and Dylana Suarez; Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside.
Timo Weiland.


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