December in Palm Beach is usually one big party circuit in which people reciprocate for reciprocating and trade thank you notes. Truthfully, it’s exhausting. And although we got a reprieve this year due to the pandemic, it was certainly not for the best reason.
So what have Palm Beachers been up to? Well, many of us have become very nostalgic. If we can’t go to parties and restaurants, we can still reminisce about them — and dream about what’s to come. However, according to Mike Berland, Founder and CEO of Decode_M, the meaning and momentum for “togetherness” has increased from 63 to 83. “In March, when the global pandemic broke, ‘together’ took on a singular meaning: a global fight against the pandemic. Now that we see a light at the end of the tunnel, momentum for ‘together’ means getting together IRL (in real life),” he told us.
To that point, Steven Stolman interviewed Robert Caravaggi, the managing owner of Swifty’s Pool at The Colony Hotel, “IRL” about the origins of Swifty’s.
The interview took place at the prestigious Society of the Four Arts. There were only approximately 50 guests in attendance, but the interview was also taped and broadcast to the membership. Masks were required and the appropriate social distancing was observed. We are seeing more and more of these hybrid events.
The precursor to Swifty’s New York was a popular restaurant on East 75th Street called Mortimer’s founded by legendary restaurateur Glenn Bernbaum. The restaurant was frequented by fashion designers Adolfo, Bill Blass, Carolina Herrera, and Oscar de la Renta, and socialites including Nan Kempner, Ann Slater, Pat Buckley, Nancy Kissinger, Kitty Carlisle Hart and C.Z. Guest who dined on chilled cucumber soup, kipper paté, poached egg in gelée and sardines diablées.
Robert — whose family owned another well known restaurant of the time called Quo Vadis, where he started out in the cashier’s booth — served as the maitre d’ of Mortimer’s. Swifty was Glenn Bernbaum’s dog, named after the famous Hollywood publicist Irving “Swifty” Lazar. So it doesn’t take a lot to understand the allure of Swifty’s to many New Yorkers who have homes in Palm Beach such as the actress Arlene Dahl and husband Marc Rosen, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Audrey Gruss, Felicia Taylor, Somer Farkas, Greg Kelly and others. Not to mention they serve lunch, dinner and cocktails around The Colony’s iconic Florida-shaped swimming pool with additional alfresco seating under Swifty’s Hanging Garden.
There are too many wonderful Swifty’s stories to recount here, as it was truly New York’s preeminent society boîte for nearly two decades. Affectionately known as “the club without dues,” Swifty’s regulars over the years included Michael Kors, Aerin Lauder, Martha Stewart, and celebrities ranging from Gwyneth Paltrow to Bill Murray. Many wonderful events took place in the storied “back room” — including at least one birthday party for our Founding Editor David Patrick Columbia that I recall back in 2006.
In the meantime, everyone’s talking about the beautiful renovation of the lobby at The Colony Hotel by Kemble Interiors featuring bespoke wallpaper designed by de Gournay exclusively for The Colony Palm Beach. Custom designed in collaboration with Colony owner Sarah Wetenhall, the de Gournay scenic for The Colony was inspired by the original mid-century mural that adorned The Colony lobby when the hotel first opened in 1947.
“I discovered an old postcard image of the mural titled ‘The Early Days in Palm Beach,” said Wetenhall. “We worked hand in hand with de Gournay to create this unique ‘love letter’ to The Colony and Palm Beach. It was our mission to embody the whimsy and humor of our beloved hotel, brought to life through the meticulous artistry of de Gournay.”
The wallpaper features flora and fauna indigenous to South Florida, painstakingly hand-painted on a custom pink Edo Xuan Paper. Alligators creep from shallow pools and panthers wear diamond necklaces — all while The Colony’s mascot, Johnny Brown, sits high in a palm tree waving the Colony pennant flag. This project is a departure from past de Gournay partnerships in that it reflects unique elements unique to The Colony Hotel and Palm Beach, and will be available for sale as framed panels through The Colony Hotel.
“I have long adored the Colony and can’t think of it without smiling,” said Hannah Cecil Gurney, daughter of de Gournay’s founder. “The combined passion The Wetenhalls and I have for our family brands and creating something that will be a part of both of our histories is enormous. The process of creating something completely personalized for The Colony is such fun!”
With décor designed by Kemble Interiors, “The Living Room,” as the new lobby will be called, will better reflect The Colony’s ethos of intimate, personalized hospitality. It features small vignettes of soft seating, cocktail tables, and conversational furniture making arrival at The Colony feel as though you are welcomed into someone’s private home. A palate of soft pink velvet, natural grasscloth, bamboo lattice, and hand watercolor grey linen accent the hotel’s original black terrazzo floors, which have been revealed and restored.
New to winter season 2020/2021, the Living Room will feature all day beverage, cocktail, and lite bite service, making it a chic and centralized locale for Palm Beachers to meet, work, and socialize at a comfortable distance. To that end, guest check-in will go wireless for a more a personalized and seamless arrival experience, as well as eliminating the shared touch points of check-in desks and allow for social distancing.
Other highlights of the season included a holiday luncheon given by Yaz Hernandez who along with her husband Valentin Hernandez toasted friends noting how fortunate we each were to have (so far) survived Covid and to now have a vaccine on the horizon.
And to simply celebrate friendship and togetherness through a very tough year, photographer Annie Watt hosted an “Annie-versary Party” at Table 26 with ten of her closest Covid friends.
Fashion Designer and Covid survivor Frederick Anderson hosted a trunk show and holiday shopping event with jewelry designer Meredith Marks (who also appears on The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City) at the ocean front cabana of a friend’s spectacular private residence in Palm Beach.
And Selfless Love Foundation’s National Adoption Day ‘Shop for a Cause’ Event at the Royal Poinciana Plaza was a huge success which raised more than $100,000 to help transform the lives of foster youth. The day was a celebration of the over 400 foster children Selfless Love helped match with families and children across the State of Florida in less than three years.
The shopping event included live entertainment by DJ & Electric Violinist KAT V, cookie decorating for the kids, Patrón Tequila-infused Bowdee’s Organic Shave Ice, artist Olivia Hughes hand painted custom champagne bottles, Beau Joie Rosé and bubbles, and a storefront scavenger hunt with the first 100 to complete receiving a $150 valued swag bags including full-size It’s a 10 haircare products.
A Lugano Diamonds raffle winner was announced at the event and the winners were Scott & Kristen Zankl of Boca Raton, winning a signature jewelry piece valued at over $25,000.
Participating brands gave a percentage back for shopping sales during the event to Selfless Love as well as some brands hosted a raffle giveaway to show their support. The Brands that participated in the event included: Alice + Olivia, Badgley Mischka, Bognar & Piccolini, Cremieux, Kirna Zabête, Lingua Franca, LoveShackFancy, Oscar De La Renta, Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa, Rani Arabella, Renny & Reed, Roller Rabbit, Zadig & Voltaire, and Zimmerman.
“We are blown away by the support we received from The Royal and it’s brands as well as all of the attendees who came out to support our Foundation,” said Ashley Brown, CEO and Founder of SLF. “We look forward to continuing to change the lives of foster youth across the State and give every child the gift of family.”
Sponsors included: The Royal Poinciana Plaza, Jack Elkins Real Estate Elevated, Palm Beach Illustrated, Karma Palm Beach and JetMembership.com, Daszkal Bolton, Palm Beach Garage, Sunshine Health, Lugano Diamonds, Renny & Reed and Beau Joie.
A feeling of gratitude for friends and family is clearly emanating from the island of Palm Beach this holiday season. We wish you all the health and happiness, and hope — virtually or IRL — you will be surrounded by the love of family and friends.