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Let them Eat Short Ribs: Stephen Schwarzman’s 70th

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Stephen Schwarzman’s 70th Birthday Party

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” exclaimed an overwhelmed grand dame, “and that includes the lavish parties that Marjorie Merriweather Post gave at Mar-A-Lago.” An awestruck David Koch said, “There were acrobats, Mongolian soldiers and two camels.” Some said it took two 747s to fly in the talent and that it cost $20 million to build the elaborate compound of Asian temples, but then some will say anything.

“It was all Christine’s idea,” said Stephen Schwarzman, as he thanked his stylish wife for the now legendary 70th birthday party that she threw for him at Four Winds, their far-flung Palm Beach estate.

The evening’s theme was “The Silk Road,” a salute, Christine told pals, to “Steve’s love of discovery.” Geisha girls in red greeted the guests with flutes of champagne. The fete unfolded in a series of exotically carved, three-story-high golden temples. Trapeze artists twirled from the dining pavilion’s red cupola.Red-lacquered staircases flanked by gigantic blooming trees led to a grand tier for additional seating. Hand-embroidered napkins were folded on teal satin tablecloths, with pleated edges revealing shades of green and blue. Every surface was festooned with exotic red and orange flowers. At each place a single golden egg topped by an enameled dragon cracked open to reveal a delicate lobster salad. Oriental ribbon dancers and an acrobat with a 40-foot-high pot balanced on his head amused the diners as they nibbled on short ribs and noodles and sipped peerless wines. At each table, everyone received a chocolate surprise hidden in a masterfully carved 10-inch dragon.

Want more? Summoned by drummers, guests drifted through enormous black hoops that led down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole to a grass-covered amphitheater to watch the thrilling fireworks. The journey continued past the pool, which had a full-size gondola stacked with silks, crates of spices and jeweled cases. Last was a magical space with two stages on either side of the room;: one for the stars of Jersey Boys, the other for Gwen Stefani, who not only sang her hits and “Happy Birthday,” but kicked off the dancing with Steve as well. Also on the dance floor were Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Louis Bacon, Sloan Barnett, Emilia and Pepe Fanjul, and Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder. Amidst all this pomp and ceremony, Christine screened a short film that saluted her husband’s $100 million gifts to the New York Public Library and to his Beijing Scholarship program, as well as $150 million to Yale University and $40 million to the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, to name but a few. Schwarzman, whose net worth is just shy of $12 billion, is the cofounder of the Blackstone Group, which oversees $300 billion in assets—so if he wants to have a little fun, why not? “Steve loves parties,” deadpanned Larry Gagosian.

“This is a celebration of my friends,” Schwarzman said, and they all were there, a 450-strong battalion of the chic and powerful from the four corners of the earth. Among them were Prince Pierre d’Arenberg and his wife, Princess Sylvia, Princess Firyal of Jordan, Lord and Lady Evelyn de Rothschild, Lord and Lady William Astor, Ann and Mitt Romney, Suzanne and Woody Johnson, Lord and Lady Jacob Rothschild, Hilary and Wilbur Ross, Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis, Steven Mnuchin, Audrey and Martin Gruss, Aby Rosen and Samantha Boardman, Elaine Chao, and, representing the first family, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The president was down the road attending to affairs of state with the prime minister of Japan. “He wanted to come,” an in-the-know guest whispered, but “security would have been a nightmare.”

The next day Christine closed the Brazilian Court and had Daniel Boulud whip up brunch for 250. The happy couple arrived in a vintage blue Skylark, but it failed to start as they tried to wave bye-bye to pals. Even billionaires have car trouble. Undaunted, Steve and Christine simply jumped into a waiting SUV and went home to survey their personal “archeological ruins” and reminisce about, dare we say it, the Party of the Decade.

Debutante of the Year

Kiera Rumbough, the granddaughter of actress and philanthropist Dina Merrill and the great-granddaughter of E. F. Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post, is my pick for Debutante of the Year. She was presented along with 15 other young ladies at the 62nd Annual Viennese Opera Ball at the Waldorf Astoria, escorted by her brother, Cole Rumbough. Also among the leading debs were Marie-Sophie Höfer from Vienna, Milana Guseinzade from Russia and Emily Mohr from China. Special guests included the Archduke Dominic von Habsburg-Lothringen, the Austrian ambassador Wolfgang Waldner and Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter Kiera Chaplin, who said, “I am producing a film about my grandfather’s last wife, Oona O’Neill, who was the daughter of the playwright Eugene O’Neill, and the days when she was a debutante in New York with Gloria Vanderbilt.” The ball’s chairs were Silvia Frieser and Michael Pecnik. Also in attendance were former U.S. Ambassador to Austria Alexa Wesner, Tamron Hall, Life Ball founder Gary Keszler, opera star Stephen Costello, Jean Shafiroff and Laine Siklos. Siklos entered the crystal chandeliered ballroom in a horse-drawn carriage with her two young children, Anabelle and Henry Siklos, their arrival invoking the famous Viennese dancing Lipizzaner stallions. The glittering ball also celebrated the 150th anniversary of Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz, and benefited “Leonard Bernstein—A New Yorker in Vienna,” a project supported by the U.S. Friends of the Jewish Museum of Vienna.

Ode to Joy

Sylvia Hemingway hosted a dinner in honor of conductor Iván Fischer after his concert with the Budapest Festival Orchestra at Lincoln Center. The maestro invited students from the Juilliard School to dash onstage to play at the end of Beethoven’s Fifth, and peppered the hall with undercover singers to surprise the audience by jumping up to sing “Ode to Joy” during a rapturous Ninth Symphony. Leading the applause were Ambassadors Colleen Bell and Donald Blinken, Daisy Soros, Gianluigi and Adrienne Vittadini, Dr. Ferenc Kumin, CC Goldwater, the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra’s CEO Shea Arender, wedding planner Cristina Verger and Dr. Christopher Calapai.


Jenna Bush Hager and Blair Underwood have added Cheri Kaufman as a judge to their NBC show, Give. Kaufman is the founder of CiGIVE, an organization that empowers the charitable spirit of millennials by connecting them to business leaders. Recently, she surprised the young players of Broadway Bound Kids by providing them with a real stage for their next performance.


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