In The Magazine

What’s Doing in Palm Beach

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Everglades Club, the Hope Diamond, the Coconuts and Club Colette

Le Bijou du Roi

Brownie McLean is the only person alive who was offered and rejected the Hope Diamond as a wedding present. This “cursed” gem, which was formed more than a billion years ago, was owned by both Louis XVI and Evalyn Walsh McLean, the mining heiress and Brownie’s eccentric mother-in-law, from 1911 to 1947. Harry Winston bought the gem in 1949 and gave it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where it can be seen today. The Hope Diamond is also known as Le Bijou du Roi and is currently insured for $250 million. The 45.52 carat blue diamond, which glows red in the dark, was worn by Marie Antoinette until she was guillotined in 1793, adding to the bad-luck legend. Brownie confided to me, “After my mother-in-law’s death I was offered the Hope Diamond. I went to see it, and while approaching it I felt negative energy and saw red sparks emanating from the diamond. I stopped in my tracks; I never touched it and never accepted it. I have always been psychic and I knew immediately it wasn’t for me. Even now, my skin crawls when I think about it. Harry Winston took ownership of the diamond but told me he didn’t want to keep it ‘because of the curse.’ ” She added with a twinkle in her eye, “I was having lunch with Paul Getty in London—he liked me—when Paul got a call from Richard Nixon, I said, let me talk to him. I told the vice president not to let the Hope Diamond come to Washington because it would bring bad luck to the city, and we all know how that worked out.” This 98-year-old beauty remains the reigning Queen of Palm Beach; she goes out every night and is the longest living member of the exclusive Everglades Club. Brownie’s husband, John “Jock” McLean, was a leading member of the Coconuts, PB’s most prestigious group of men, who give an annual New Year’s Eve party for the crème de la crème. Long live the Queen.

Club Colette

Andrea Stark gave a Carnival-themed party at Club Colette, in honor of the opening of the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show and its owner, Scott Diament. Guests included the show’s design chair Campion Platt, Pamela O’Connor, and Sharon Sondes; designers Scott Snyder, Lars Bolander, Chris Coleman, and Joseph Pubillones; and the artist Jeff Highlander. There were more than $2 billion in collectibles at the show, including Andy Warhol’s sterling silver flatware from Tiffany and Joan Fontaine’s Art Deco minaudière studded with diamonds and rubies. Fontaine carried the case when she won the Oscar for Best Actress in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion in 1941. Both items were offered by M.S. Rau. Michael Bloomberg, Ralph Laurenand Jon Bon Jovi have all collected flags from Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques, which is the nation’s largest seller of early Stars and Stripes and political textiles. Barbra Streisand has bought flags for Bill Clinton and Bill Gates from Jeff, who is the leading expert in his field. Bridgman offered a large selection of Americana at the show, including two rare Lincoln campaign flags: one from 1860 with 33 stars, the other from 1864 featuring 35 stars from the election of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. It is the only known surviving flag in this style and can be yours in this election year for $125,000.  

Friends of The Budapest Festival Orchestra

Lucky Roosevelt, who was the USA’s longest serving chief of protocol and married to President Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson Archie, led the standing ovation for Maestro Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra (BFO) at the Kennedy Center. Aniko Gaal Schott, Jane Cafritz, Manuel Martinez and Karon Cullen hosted a reception for Fischer, who founded the orchestra, at the St. Regis. In attendance were the ambassadors from Hungary, Japan, Greece, Spain and Monaco. At the end of the BFO’s brilliant concert at Carnegie Hall, the orchestra surprised the house and stood up and sang: marvelous! Fischer explained, “No other orchestra in the world does this. Singing is important to me; people should sing to their children and grandchildren. They should join choirs; we want to inspire people to sing because it brings people together.” The evening’s chairs were Sylvia Hemingway and Kati Marton, who said, “We live in a world of walls, and Iván is tearing down those walls.” Guests at the inspired gala dinner catered by Starr Events, an elite member of the Chosen Few, included Ambassadors Donald Blinken and Ferenc Kumin, Stephen Benko, Tim Warner, Jamee and Peter Gregory, and Adrienne and Gianluigi Vittadini. Daisy Soros, the BFO’S director emeritus, echoed Fischer’s sentiments about the importance of singing, saying, “When I first came to America my English wasn’t very good and I didn’t know any lullabies so I sang the jingle ‘Ajax the Foaming Cleanser’ to my baby over and over.” Laughter and applause swept the room. The evening commemorated the BFO’s 20th anniversary in New York. Supporters included Jan Chipman, Tamiko and George Soros, Nancy Brinker, Laszlo Balassy and David Tobey.  

Safari Roundup

Carolina Herrera, Valentino, Ronald Reagan, and Rudolph Giuliani are all past honorees of the Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Italy’s annual gala. Contessina Francesca Braschi Gumina will chair the 71st ball at the Pierre on April 5. This years honorees include Vincent Pastore, Mercedes Ellington, Dr. Maurizio Forte, Karen King, John Salvato and Charles Gucciardo. The organization has made a home for 120 refugee and war-orphaned youths from 20 countries outside Rome. . . . . . Doubles’ guiding light Wendy Carduner will mastermind the club’s 40th anniversary black-tie dinner dance on May 12 . . . . . Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin was named a legacy board member of the Vanderbilt Museum on Long Island and has become a brand ambassador for Michela Rigucci shoes, which held a fashion event with designer Gemma Kahng at Tracy Stern’s house . . . . . Jennifer Lawrence worked

with Christy Scott Cashman on Joy and supported the actress’ CharityWarriors benefit in Boston. Nancy Frates, who cocreated the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS, helped judge this year’s contest, which was won by Julie Joyal’s HMS MEDscience . . . . . Cheri Kaufman spoke at the U.N. General Assembly on sustainable development goals for young people around the world . . . . . World Series Poker players Beth Shak and Jamie Gold hosted an evening of cards to benefit the JED Foundation, which fights to reduce the risk of suicide at 2,500 colleges across the USA. Supporters included Starwood Capital CEO Barry Sternlicht, chef Rocco DiSpirito and Montel Williams.

Photos courtesy of Patrick McMullan


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