The party’s the thing …

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The dance Floor after midnight at the Coconuts NYE Party.

Cold and occasionally sunny, yesterday in New York, with temperatures reaching up to the low 40s and falling later to the mid-30s. For some reason this has felt like a long week – in other words, not flying by. I imagine the town will be back on its frenetic schedule by Sunday night.

In the meantime, we’re looking at the last of the old and the welcoming of the New. I don’t know about you but I stayed close to home (at home) on the last day and night. I’ve had my fill of New Year’s festivities although I’ve loved them when I participated. For the past few years it’s been a respite – don’t have to go anywhere, do anything. I usually have had a couple of very old friends over for some caviar and champagne and the pleasure of the company of old friends.

Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, Jr. on the cover of Life in 1943.

Down in Palm Beach, however, the party’s the thing and the big one – the one they talked about afterwards – is the Coconuts black tie ball. This is, in its way, the party of the year. It has the renderings of tradition. The first recorded “Cocoanuts” New Year’s Eve Party took place in 1920 when it was held in someone’s home. Palm Beach was already Palm Beach then: the rich, the chic and the shameless (the down-home version). It was originally created by a couple of guys who were in the party mood and being single (at the time), thought of a reason to have a New Year’s party. A payback of sorts.

Its popularity waned until the mid-1930s when a man named Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, Jr. (famous in his day; a Philadelphian of course) got a few of the guys together and hosted the evening. With that (then) platinum Palm Beach guest list. Again, it came and went. But the history of tradition reminds that we’re always establishing our roots, and back in the early 2000s the “Coconuts” was revived after a couple of decades on the wane, by a cadre of the black tie gents, and all these years later, it is the party of the holiday season. It was held at the Flagler Museum – which was originally the mansion Mr. Flagler built for his young third wife. This year was notable according to Shannon Donnelly, the society editor/columnist for the Palm Beach Daily News, because the powers-that-be had pared the guestlist to keep it down to a manageable “exclusive” number. Gate-crashers everywhere even in chic PB.

Needless to say, it was a big hit and a big crowd. And the following are photos of some of the evening.

I should also add that last May Augustus Mayhew, the architectural and social historian of Palm Beach in the 20th century, published a piece on the NYSD of the “history” of the Coconuts/Cocoanuts. It is fascinating as it records the nature of us creatures in creating a lasting memory, over generations, of a time and a place.

L to R: Alex and Nikki Fanjul; Bingo Gubelmann and Girard Brownlow
Daisy, Kane, and Mary Baker
L to R: Piper Quinn and Blakley Page; John Johnson and Gil Walsh
Chris and Binkie Orthwein with Christine and Hunter Beall
Alex Fanjul, Wilbur Ross, and David Ober
L to R: David Ober; Lisa and Mehmet Oz
Hunter Beall, Piper Quinn, and Alex Griswold
Amb Edward and Susie Elson with William and Jean Matthews
L to R: Sarah and Nevin Donahue; John and Marianne Castle
Wilbur Ross, Bingo Gubelmann, Chris Meigher, and Alex Fanjul
L to R: Chris and Grace Meigher; Casey and Erik Waldin
Eliza Meyer, Laddy Merck, Blair Meyer, and Dede Merck
L to R: Alice, Tennant, and Talbott Maxey; Bebe McCrandell, Christina McPherson, and Bettina Anderson
Jay Maddock and Rodney Dillard
L to R: Whitney Tower and Lucy Webster; Alex Dreyfoos and Rodney Dillard
Percy Steinhart
L to R: Bill and Nancy Rollnick; Debbie and Troy Maschmeyer
Tennant Maxey and Talbott Maxey
Denise and Daniel Hanley
L ro R: Wilbur and Hilary Ross; Hillary Dick and Mark Gilbertson
James and India Hancock with Harold and Joanne Paull
L to R: Kim Nisbet and Michael McCarty; Carol and Earl Mack
Robert and Lauriston Segerson with Bingo Gubelmann
L to R: Mikela Wellner, Karl Wellner, and Deborah Norville; Kaley Campbell and Breanna Spencer
Dede Merck and Daisy Baker

Photographs by Capehart Photography

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