DIANE VON FURSTENBERG, Fashion Designer
Where: West Village studio
Guest List: John Malkovich, Carolina Herrera, Taki, Nan Kempner, Ed Victor, Charlie Rose
Menu: Chicken curry and chocolate cake served buffet-style
Table Seats: Several long, rectangular tables for 100
the key: “I always move around,” says Von Furstenberg. “I behave as if it’s someone else’s party.”
The Vibe: Von Furstenberg’s massive loft is one of the best spaces for throwing dinner parties for her most intimate friends. To counteract Malkovich’s glower at one recent dinner, she sprinkled rhinestones on the tables. Then there are the stunning Warhols of (who else?) Diane. Expect a heady crowd of fashionistas and literary and media types, and if you can’t get a cab, ask to borrow her son Alexander’s motorcycle (he parks under the stairs). “I sat with Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne!” says Grove Atlantic publisher Morgan Entrekin. “To me, Diane’s parties represent the best of what New York is right now.”
PAT BUCKLEY, Grande Dame Socialite
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR., Founder of National Review
Where: Upper East Side apartment
Table Seats: Two round tables of 12.
Guest List: Kenneth J. Lane; Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan and his wife, Catherine; Ahmet and Mica Ertegun; Conrad Black; every second Monday, the editors of National Review
A good dinner needs: “A people mix, good wine, good conversation, and fun,” says Pat. “There’s a difference between their public life and their private life,” says one friend. “You see Bill Buckley yelling on Firing Line, but in private, their buddies are liberals, conservatives—they’re all over the place. They’re intimate, warm, and friendly.”
How often: “When the spirit moves me,” says Pat.
Guest testimony: “I love to go to their dinners on election nights,” says Lane. “Everybody is rooting for somebody else, so it is very lively.” Dinner music: “I had a dinner the other night,” says Pat, “and Bruce Levingston played part of the concert he’s playing at Alice Tully Hall. For 45 minutes, people were absolutely enraptured—then we had dinner. That’s the sort of dinner party I like.”
Menu: The Buckleys’ personal chef is in charge. As for guests’ dietary predilections, says Pat, “you can’t do good food if you pay attention to that sort of thing.” Cheese soufflé is always a winner to start.
Tip: “Never have a cocktail hour longer than half an hour. Whether they’re there or not, I don’t change the time of when we sit down.”
GEORGETTE MOSBACHER, GOP Fund-raiser
Where: Fifth Avenue apartment
Table Seats: 18
Guest List: Dick Cheney, Plácido Domingo, Bill O’Reilly, the king of Spain
Menu: Formal—salmon tartare, quail potpie, beef Wellington, deep-dish fruit cobbler (catered by Glorious Foods). She recently stopped serving French wine.
Duck and cover: “Conversation does get heated, no question about that,” says television host Larry Kudlow. “There’s a lot of strong feelings about war and terror.”
Tip: Keep that conversation off the record. People must be able to say anything. “Everyone knows there must be no laundry list in ‘Page Six’ the next day,” says Mosbacher.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, Lawyer, Harvard professor
Where: At his Martha’s Vineyard home
Table Seats: 12. “I like large parties, but my wife, Carolyn Cohen, prefers more intimate parties with six couples. That’s the one thing we argue about.”
Guest List: Harvey Weinstein, William Styron, Larry and Laurie David (“Larry’s from Brooklyn. Sometimes we’ll have theme parties where everyone’s from Brooklyn”)
Guest qualifications: “I rarely invite my academic colleagues,” says Dershowitz. “Most of them don’t make good dinner guests.”
Guest Testimony: “Alan’s guests are creative, interesting intellects, not necessarily intellectuals, but witty or wise or profound or comic,” says one guest. “What bedazzles at Alan’s parties is not the jewelry but the conversation that issues from their lips.”
Seating arrangements: “One time, we had Yo-Yo Ma and seated him next to this federal judge. Who would have thought it, but Yo-Yo and this judge have become really good friends. We sat Joel Klein, my former research assistant, next to one of my former students, Nicole Seligman, and they got married.”
Table Conversations: “Sometimes we’ll let our guests know two weeks ahead of time that after dinner we’ll be showing a film and having a discussion about it afterwards!”
Where: Westchester home
Guest list: Dan and Jean Rather, former CIA director Stansfield Turner, Charlie Rose
Menu: Thoroughly modern French fare by a friend’s private chef. “I don’t think people want to come over and eat sweet potatoes and turkey with gravy,” sniffs Mary, who was forced to call a temporary halt to the couple’s regular entertaining after her husband sprang to Al Gore’s defense at the last election. She adds: “David always gets a separate dish which is very plain. If I’m eating duck, he’ll eat plain chicken.”
Seating arrangements: “I never seat husbands and wives next to each other,” says Mary. “After the main course, David and I trade seats.”
Tip: Invite people from the arts, academia, and the political world as well as authors and media people. “We rarely have a dinner party where everyone does the same thing.”
GITU RAMANI, Publicist
Where: Union Square loft
Table seats: 25
Guest list: Moby, Nina Griscom, performer René Risqué (a.k.a. Andy Boose)
Menu: Indian catered by Bollywood City. Ramani’s friends often bring caviar and wine, so “it ends up being really nice and costing much less than it would,” says Ramani, a former producer for the Food Network. The last time Moby came, he checked the vegetable-patty box to make sure it was actually vegan. “I had to wipe the grill for half an hour in the bathroom,” she adds. “I actually feel guilty when people accommodate my vegan-ness,” Moby says hastily. “But grateful. And some of the best vegan food I’ve ever had has been prepared by people who normally cook with meat and fish.”
STELLA SCHNABEL, Self-proclaimed “wheeler and dealer”
Where: Her mom’s West Village townhouse
Guest list: Sean Lennon and Bijou Phillips, Zac Posen, dad Julian
Menu: Home cooking! Cheese croquettes, roast duck with shag-bark hickory syrup (gulp). “Stella has an open kitchen, and the food prep is something everyone gets to enjoy,” says decorator Alexia Kondylis, who finds Stella’s dinners cozy and relaxed. “It’s very spontaneous and never overorganized.” Schnabel also grew up watching her parents entertain and says her mother, Jacqueline, whom she’ll often enlist to help, is “the best cook ever.” “I always watched my mom when I was little,” says Schnabel, 20, who adds that her painter dad is a good cook but not nearly as “refined” as her mother. He makes up for it, however, by providing drama. At a dinner he hosted in his studio for 350 of his closest friends (Glenn Close, Al Pacino, Barry Diller, Mary Boone) to fête Before Night Falls, the cops had to tell the Cuban band to keep it down.
ANTHONY ROMERO, ACLU Executive Director
Where: Chelsea loft
Table seats: 10
Guest list: Danny Goldberg, CEO of Artemis Records; New Republic publisher Stephanie Sandberg; Harold Varmus, president and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “I had a very interesting chat with one man who had been in jail in the seventies for protesting the draft,” recalls Goldberg. “Another friend had done time in prison for civil disobedience concerning Vietnam.”
Conversation piece: “To your left, people will be discussing clitorectomies in Africa,” says Sandberg. “To your right, Greek philosophy. In a very relaxed atmosphere.”
Food: Homemade. “My love for cooking and entertaining was the buzz at the ACLU because my predecessor, Ira Glasser, was known as this rough-and-tumble guy. They kept saying, ‘The new guy is a cook!’ ” A recent menu included arctic char with cream morel sauce, and Reblochon cheese cut in half and glazed in honey.
Must-have: Real silver and San Pellegrino.
Won’t allow: Smoking. “But I let people go in the stairwell.”
Memorable night: Amped up on Martha Stewart’s Weddings, Romero prefaced one dinner with a commitment ceremony for two friends. “I did the flowers myself, found the rice paper, learned to tie the bows, and made a chapel out of palm trees.”
Party disaster: “The time I ran out of rice. I had to go nouvelle cuisine, take out the Japanese plates, and convince people it was intended.”
PAOLO ZAMPOLLI, Head of ID Models
Where: His triplex penthouse on Gramercy Park
Table seats: Buffets for up to 75
Guest list: Donald Trump, Roberto Cavalli, David Copperfield, Patrick Demarchelier
Menu: Giuseppe Cipriani caters a buffet, or Zampolli cooks a simple pasta with tomato sauce.
Modelizers, beware! “You think it’s going to be crawling with gorgeous, willing, morally depraved models,” says one guest, who also feels the need to describe Zampolli’s gym, which consists of a leopard-print couch, shag carpeting, and a Nautilus machine. “But you can’t really talk to them, since they’re all foreign.”
Tip: Never do a seating plan, says Zampolli. It should just be an “ebb and flow of beautiful people.”
VERA WANG, Bridal designer
Where: Park Avenue apartment
Table seats: 8. It’s round—“so nobody’s ever at the head.”
Guest list: Peggy Flemming; plastic surgeon Dan Baker and his ex, Nina Griscom; pro golfer Dottie Pepper; Bill Gray, president of Ogilvy & Mather NY; Cendant CEO Henry Silverman and his wife, Nancy; Wang’s 86-year-old father, C. C. Wang
Menu: An in-house Chinese couple prepares Wang’s famous Asian feasts—“Chinese pizza,” a dish made of scallions baked into dough, is a favorite. For Wang’s 50th, her husband, Arthur Becker, threw her an Indian-themed dinner party complete with saris and henna-wielding makeup artists on hand.
The vibe: Informal. At one party, guests brought their pets. “I had my two puppies,” says Wang. “Julie Minskoff brought her pet pig. Somebody brought a rabbit. Suddenly we were Old MacDonald’s farm. It was insane!”
MARJORIE GUBELMANN, Socialite Where: Upper East Side apartment
Table seats: 10
Guest list: Aerin Lauder, Michael Kors, Samantha Boardman, Harrison LeFrak
Menu: Homemade Thai chicken curry
Hostess with the mostest: The gregarious Gubelmann entertains about once a month for her close friends, with whom she works the junior charity circuit, and members of the old guard. “She is without a doubt the most gracious hostess of our generation,” enthuses real-estate scion LeFrak.
Tip: No dieting! “No one leaves Marjorie’s hungry!” says Jeff Klein, who loves Gubelmann’s wacky stories about her Palm Beach doyenne grandmother, Barton, who’s handed down some skating-rink diamonds.
REED KRAKOFF, Creative director of Coach
Where: Upper East Side townhouse
Table seats: 20
Guest list: Fern Mallis, vice-president of IMG; Kyle MacLachlan and his wife, publicist Desiree Gruber; gallerist James Danziger; illustrator Eduard Erlikh; Glenda Bailey; his downstairs neighbor, Mr. Heath. “It’s always good to invite somebody that nobody knows,” says Krakoff.
Invitations: Krakoff, an accomplished illustrator, makes his own. For a house-warming dinner, he sketched a row of red, pink, and purple townhouses on a tree-lined street; for an evening celebrating Kenneth Nolan’s work, he sent a Coach bag to everyone with an original Nolan screenprint on each. “People didn’t even realize what they had,” says writer Jeffrey Slonim, “but it was an original print by a major artist. I framed mine immediately.”
Menu: For small parties, his wife, Delphine, an interior decorator, churns out the French favorites she grew up on. Her last feat was boeuf bourguignonne. Â“It’s informal. Formal is not our personalities.”
Tip: Â“Make guests trade places in the middle of dinner—it reenergizes people. Don’t try to invite people to impress people. I’ve made that mistake early on where I was like, ‘If this person came, then this other person would come.’ You’re too stressed out. Like if I got Julianne Moore to come to my party—I’ve met her, we’ve done things together, and even though she’s really sweet, I wouldn’t ask her to my house.”