Guy About Town: Partying for a Cause in Palm Beach

Beautiful photo Kravis Center for the performing arts West Palm Beach FL
The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Fla. in 2020 (Getty Images)

Palm Beach has always been a place where people boogie down and party!

I remember my auntie Janet Rhinelander Stewart, who learned how to drive on the empty streets here when they were carving up the town, telling me of the fabulous parties she attended here as a young girl in the roar of the booming 1920s. And even when this town was a bit sleepy in the 1990s and things became a little dusty, the stories of the balls and parties never seemed to stop. And last week was no exception.

At The Breakers, there was the Heart Ball, an annual gala to support The American Heart Association. Traditionally many ladies wore red gowns to this event, but this year many ladies wore white. In attendance were Virginia Oatley, Charles Arthur Bane, Sue Gibson, Kay List, who danced with the band leader while he sang, Julie Hayek, Sky Meadows, Sharleen and Maurice Moradof, Chris DelGatto and Veronica Webb, Jessica and Trent Swift, Matthew Holland and Bryan Walsh and Camille Russo. 

Did you know that according to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States? Who knew? So, ladies, get your heart checked! 

Then there was the opening night of Cosi Fan Tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, by The Palm Beach Opera at the Kravis Center. First performed in 1790 in Vienna the title means All Women Do It, meaning all women are unfaithful. But in the end, all the men accepted life’s unavoidable good times as well as the bad. And so life and love continued. And this opera lover loved every minute of this performance. 

The annual Kips Bay Showhouse returned to the Palm Beach area with a fabulous group of interior designers reworking a dramatic intracoastal home on N. Flagler Drive. The home was built in 2007 in that mixture of classical styles with columns, and arches and niches so particular to the Palm Beaches. I was there filming before anyone else with Jayne Chase of Perfectly Palm Beach, so we got a first-hand look at the rooms and met the designers. Opening night was a great success. But if you didn’t happen to see this amazing showhouse in person, you can check out Perfectly Palm Beach, wherever you get your podcasts, or on YouTube. It is certainly worth a look for design inspirations. 

The recent Old Bags Luncheon to support The Center For Family Services, took place at the Breakers Ballroom. Some 500 guests including C0-chairs Tammy Pompea and Diane Smith, Diana Maune, Shawn Jan, Harrison Morgan, David McClymont, Tracy Turco, Donna Preudhomme, and Cecy Martinez enjoyed a silent auction and a sumptuous meal of watermelon gazpacho and panko chicken, followed by a chocolate macaron desert in the shape of a handbag. Marie Osmond was this year’s guest speaker. The center provides innovative child development and family preservation services.  

Even with all the fun and frivolity here, there can be a bit of a dark side lurking in the shadows too. One hears talk of a previous jeweler on Worth Avenue who swapped out the stones of the jewels of unexpecting dowagers, and of a very current art gallery that sold forgeries. According to The Associated Press, Daniel Bouaziz of Danieli Fine Art on Worth Avenue, has pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with a scheme involving the sale of fake Andy Warhol paintings. He faces up to 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on May 30.

There is something to be said too for the quieter times on this island paradise. Daytimes are usually filled for most people with shopping, non-contact sports, card games and dining experiences. Personally, I just love the clubs here in Palm Beach, and as a guest of many and a member of one, I have been to all of them. 

So, is it true that the food is generally better at The Palm Beach Country Club? And is the daily salad bar at The Everglades Club the very best in town? And who has the best golf course, or the best band playing at night? Inquiring minds want to know!  

Someday, I should write a contrast and comparison of all the private clubs here, but that would mean I would never be invited back! And this Guy, who grew up in private clubs, appreciates an invitation, and knows how to keep his mouth shut, too. That said, my dance card is never too full, and I do make a very good dinner companion… hint, hint!

Speaking of dinner companions, there really is an art to polite dinner conversation. My mother always told me as a child to look people in the eye when speaking to them, and to engage the guests on each side of you at a table throughout the evening. It’s common sense, really, but kids don’t often operate with common sense. In fact, my boarding school headmistress once told my mother that “good manners begin at home” and that she was not running a charm school.  

Maybe that was after I instigated a food fight, or snuck out of my third-floor window and shimmed down a pipe to walk around in the cool Massachusetts air, only to find myself locked out of my dorm in my PJs! Fortunately, my hooligan days are well behind me, and nobody was the wiser… until now.

A big highlight for me recently was the annual Kravis Center Gala. In all the years I have been living on Palm Beach Island, for some reason I never attended this black-tie event. Of course, I have attended virtually every performance of the opera and the symphony there, as well as many other events, including when my niece Kristen Hahn starred in Hello Dolly. 

Well, let me tell you, the gala was a blast as they pulled out all the stops to celebrate the center’s 30th anniversary. First there were cocktails (of course) and then the celebrated, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan entertained us as only a true artist can. But what I didn’t know is that McLachlan’s eponymous nonprofit foundation provides music education and mentorship to children and youth who face barriers to such access. Brava! 

Following the performance was a delicious dinner and pop-music dancing. In attendance were Katheryn and Leo Vicellio, Monica and John Preston, Bill Bone, Tiffany and Bill Meyer, Harrison Morgan, Sunny Sessa and Prinz Max von Anhult, Matthew Holland and Bryan Walsh, Sandra Douglas and Max Scanavino, and Linda and Allan Adelson. Frankly, I ate too much and danced like a crazy fool, but the icing on the cake was the parting gift: a long strand of luscious freshwater pearls from Lugano Diamonds

As co-chair with my husband Harrison Morgan, we are both looking forward to the 211 Spring dinner dance on March 31 at The Colony Hotel. The 211 Helpline has served this community for over 51 years for suicide prevention and crisis intervention. I bring this up to point out that dialing the three numbers 2-1-1 will put callers in touch with trained counselors should you or someone you know ever be in a crisis. If my own brother had just reached out 30 years ago, he might be alive today. And if my friend Tom Lee had just reached out recently to 211, perhaps his wife Ann and his kids would not be going through this tremendous loss right now. Please remember 211 in your daily life. Too many people are suffering, and it isn’t always obvious. 

The other day I was having breakfast at The Colony Hotel. It reminded me of the power breakfasts that I used to witness at The Regency Hotel on Park Ave in New York City in the 1990s and early 2000s. We were outside by the pool at Swifty’s, and everyone stopped by to chat with me at our table. I could barely eat a bite without being interrupted. 

The only difference between The Regency and Swifty’s is that here in PB the men were not wearing custom made three-piece suits but wear workout clothes and bathing suits. In fact, sauntering by my table was the workout guru Isaac Boots, in skintight shorty shorts and a tank top. And the women at Swifty’s for breakfast weren’t dressed in Chanel suits, but in flowing and flowering caftans over bikinis and wearing gobs of gold jewelry. 

My oh my, how the world has changed … or maybe it is just that my world has changed? Speaking of changes, I was at The Carriage house the other night and attended a riveting talk given by Lizzi Bickford Meadow. The topic was The Czinger 21C digitally printed sports car. 

Frankly, even after the talk, meeting the co-founder Lukas Czinger, and seeing the car in person, I still don’t understand the whole process. All I know is that the 28-year-old Lukas was charming, smart, and very easy on the eyes. And so was the two-seater electric blue car! 

If I heard Lukas correctly, the car has 950 horsepower. That’s just crazy. In attendance were supermodel Veronica Webb and her husband Chris DelGatto, The New York Times best-selling author Jane Green, the newly married Jared Seligman, Harrison Morgan, and a bunch of people I had never seen before in PB. It was a great mix of people, some of whom I hope to run into again.

I missed what sounded like a fabulous birthday party recently for the decorator Danielle Rollins.  Sadly, I had a previous commitment, but the “Denim and Diamonds” rodeo themed evening was attended by hundreds of my friends who regaled me with the stories of fun times and square-dancing into the wee hours. How Danielle had the energy to pull that party off, while attending daily her fabulous installation at the Kips Bay Showhouse, I cannot fathom. You go, girl!

In my 20-plus years as an ASID interior designer, I do come across many unique people and some amazing homes. My clients are always fabulous, patient, generous and eventually they turn into lifelong friends as well. But the hardest thing to find here in PB is not clients but is a quality contractor. Working on this island is always a challenge, as everyone “in the trade” wants to overcharge you.  

Of course, I realize that it is all about supply and demand. But when you see contractors driving a better car than you or even your clients, you know that they are indeed overcharging. Of course, there are exceptions to this, and I have been fortunate enough to work with those select few who are talented, honest and hardworking.

As I ponder on great local trades people, I recall a few years ago being introduced to a delightful man who opened my eyes to what a true architect should be. Dinyar Wadia opened his storefront studio, Wadia Associates, next to Bricktops on South County Rd about three years ago.  

Dinyar Wadia is a classically trained architect with an eye towards preservation, which in this town is too often an exception and not the rule. As an example, just look at a recent Wadia project at a landmarked 1920s home at 323 Chilean Avenue. When Dinyar took me on a tour of the dilapidated home, the only thing holding up the structure was the clapboard on the interior of the walls. I am not kidding!

Termites had eaten through almost everything, the floor shook when I tried to walk around the missing floorboards, water damage was pervasive, and the whole structure was basically unsound. I even suggested it would be easier to tear it down or burn it to the ground. But the famed Mr. Wadia saw the potential. After quite an extensive restoration, which included raising the home, moving it forward closer to the road, adding on to it, and adding many missing exterior details, the home is now complete. And glorious it is. Touchette Dinyar Wadia, for saving this historic home and making it not only unique, but a true testament to the glory days of Palm Beach in the 1920s. 

Speaking of interior design, my husband always says he feels a bit like “the cobbler’s son without any shoes,” as he is always pushing me to redo our homes. Frankly, he is correct in that a designer’s home is their calling card, but who has time or inclination to redo what is already perfect? It’s often easier and more fun, just to sell a home and start over, at least in my mind.

And that brings me back to real estate again. Although The Palm Beach Daily news reports that home sales are down in PB County, the island doesn’t seem to be hurting. Yes, sales are slower, and inventory remains low. At the writing of this article, there were only 67 homes available on the island with prices ranging from $6,900,000 to $218,000,000. 

Just trying to find a condo in town these days is almost impossible. But what I really want to know is, where are all the new people who are moving here going to live? So, fasten your seat belts my friends, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

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