RSVIP: The Palace Regrets to Inform
First of all, author Jay McInerney and his wife, Anne Hearst McInerney, who feted HSH Prince Albert of Monaco this weekend, are sensational hosts, they support the arts and the environment in an enormously generous fashion, and in person, they are nothing but nice. And, especially after this regal shindig, they are the center of social swirl on the East End of Long Island.
If Truman Capote, having published "In Cold Blood," was at the zenith of his society status when he gave the black-and white-ball in 1966 at the Plaza Hotel with Katharine Graham, McInerney, who married Hearst on November 21, 2006, at 21, the former society speakeasy, is now enjoying a longer-term embrace by New York society in Manhattan and the Hamptons.
And Mr. McInerney, a wine expert and world-famous author, doesn't lord his social cachet over others, the way, say, Capote used to drop names while in a glassy-eyed stupor on "The Merv Griffin Show." Mrs. McInerney's grandfather was William Randolph Hearst, founder of the Hearst Corporation and the alleged subject of the Orson Welles classic film "Citizen Kane." During the brutally warm summer of 2010 on the East End of Long Island, Jay McInerney has quietly become a kind of Jay Gatsby.
Idyllic Setting for Princely gathering
While William Randolph Hearst was known for his zoo-like menagerie at San Simeon, the Hearst McInerneys entertain at idyllic Ashgrove Farm in Watermill, where the couple keep an emu (like an ostrich in a ballgown drape of feathers), presentation hens, and two 3-foot-tall geese, out of a fairy tale, that appear to weigh over 100 pounds each. Sadly, their pet Llama succumbed, possibly to Lyme disease, over the winter.
The sprawling shingled main house, designed by Peter Cook in the style of the original farmhouse at San Simeon, includes stone fireplaces, centuries old, collected in Europe by Mrs. McInerney's grandfather. The guesthouse is a modernist structure, recently built, with colorful 1960s-themed art, including bright squares within squares by Frank Stella.
Alison Mazzola, a scion of prominent New Yorkers, handles the invites and press for social engagements for the it couple who would be entertaining HSH. A book party for Taylor Plimpton's "Notes from the Night" last weekend by the pool of the Hearst McInerney guest house made for a sublime afternoon complete with raw bar and Chardonnay.
And Saturday, August 7, Mr. and Mrs. McInerney and Louis Vuitton hosted a midsummer garden fete to benefit the Princess Grace Foundation-USA with Prince Albert himself. The trouble began when this writer was accidentally included in an e-mail blast meant for paying social guests.
RSVIP kindly inquired as to whether we had been invited to cover the event or we were being asked to shell out the $250 ticket price, with $150 deductible--cocktails from 6 to 8, suggested dress code white with a floral accent.
Mazzola inquired. The palace required no additional press, so I set out to simply buy a ticket, attend, and take in the magnificence. After some searching, I found an interesting white slouchy jacket on a discount rack in Manhattan. My spirits lifted.
Lisa Lori Communications was handling press, so I double-checked at Mazzola's suggestion. A Lori rep thought Luxist coverage would be welcome, said she'd have someone get back to me, but didn't. I was becoming that sad character in
Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge waiting on his deathbed for an invite.
Thursday, the last day the foundation was open for ticket sales, a second Lori rep returned two phone calls and again offered a cheery "We'll get back." I phoned the Princess Grace Foundation, and I was welcomed to buy a ticket. But RSVIP decided to wait until we had double-checked with Lori.
Now decamped to East Hampton, as a just in case, I attempted to have the sleeves of the creamy white jacket altered. The seamstress off Newtown Lane in East Hampton wore her hair in a considerable dark bouffant. And she wanted $45 to clip the sleeves. Then in Wainscott, New York, a similarly grand tailor at the dry cleaner laughed in my face when I suggested Saturday night as a target date. But when I left, she scurried into the parking lot. "Okay, I'll do it," she said, promptly printing out a work-order ticket for $60. Decided it was best to wait until I actually had a ticket to the Princely engagement.
Meanwhile, the Princess Grace Foundation closes at 4 p.m. on Thursdays. At 3:45 p.m., the sweet voice on the phone regretted to inform that she no longer noticed my name on the invited list. Hmmm.
She was happy to take my credit-card information . . . and did . . . and then said she would phone back . . . but didn't.
Saturday at 4:00 p.m., two hours before the Princely party, Mazzola alerted me by e-mail, that I would still be welcomed to attend as a social guest; but RSVIP must agree to not write about the event. Done.
I raced to the local grocery, bought a sewing kit, and began to pin up the jacket sleeves myself. Sweat was pouring from my brow as I searched my closet for the single white polo shirt. The jacket sleeves folded and safety-pinned, and a few buttons removed, I was about to race off to the fete when I received yet another another e-mail. Could I double-assure them I would not write or report a single word about the event? And could they immediately have my credit-card information, yet again, by internet? The tone left a sour taste in my mouth.
My getup suddenly felt shabby. My hosts sounded circumspect. And while Monaco is a lovely principality and the arts charity well-deserving, it suddenly felt un-American to pay, possibly twice, and to then feel beholden to the wishes of His Serene Highness and the palace press blackout. RSVIP readers deserved more. I skipped the soiree.
But I wouldn't miss the party afterall. That night, at Donna Karan's house for the Cinema Society premiere of "The Big C" (more on that in my next posting) I ran into a photographer friend who had attended the party. He kindly showed me the Princess Grace Foundation fete, like a movie, on his digital camera.
RSVIP's Serene Virtual Attendance at the Princely Affair
It was a spectacular sunny late afternon at Ashgrove Farm. The Prince wisely wore a white shirt, with no jacket. His galpal, soon to be bride, South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, had on a floral print dress. New York Governor Paterson, staying with Debbie Bancroft, chair of the event, wore white. Rick and Kathy Hilton, Paris's parents, attended in white. Rick wore a white sweater over his shoulders. In the sun, the Hearst McInerneys' emu appeared resplendent. I spotted designer Nicole Miller. Sharon Bush, the former president's former sister-in-law, who loves to dance, was staying at the Hearst McInernys' beach house. McInerney and his bride appeared to have been dressed in Vuitton white, head to toe. She had her lovely blonde hair blown out for the Princely affair. "It was a spectacularly beautiful party," offered yet another eyewitness. And if much Moet and breezy weather weren't enough to make the afternoon sing, according to onlookers, trumpet star Chris Botti puckered up and played mellifluosly.
And the next morning, during the Einstein Family Carnival at the Ross School, I ran into Christie Brinkley, who had also attended the Prince's fete in flowing white with her big blonde hair even bigger. She mentioned that Albert's intended seemed lovely. Brinkley lifted her arms in the air, put her hands together, and busted a dance move while informing me that the future Princess of Monaco danced hard into the night.
At press time, the Princess Grace Foundation now assures RSVIP that our credit card went uncharged and the credit-card information was "destroyed." And, once again, all is right in the well-situated, tax-free principality.