By Ted Kruckel Posted March 3, 2009, 1:42 PM EST
It is hard to keep an annual event fresh, so the Young Fellows of the Frick Collection deserve extra props for their swanky Les Liasions Dangereuse-themed evening last Thursday. The theme worried me, given the economy and all that. Was it really wise to be paying homage to the courts of those Louis guys, with the opulence and wigs and all? The invitation called for rococo dress, after all.
But the theme was rooted in meaningful art and Frick heritage: The party celebrated the museum’s Fragonard room, and focused on one of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s seminal works, a series of panels depicting “The Progress of Love,” which were commissioned by Madame Du Barry, the mistress scandale linked to Louis XV, in case you forgot.
And in the gallery—where guards vigilantly prevented drinking and horsing around, guests took in the artwork with a sense of purpose—despite the spirited revelry happening a few yards away. I always think of trees when I think of Fragonard, don’t know why, and now I realize I know nothing about Fragonard at all. Need to get on that.
The Frick has a magnificent garden hall that is perfect for parties, and their house horticulturist and event designer, Galen Lee, laid it on. After checking in and de-coating in a workman-like hall, one strolled through a treillage (think trellis) of flowers, arriving at a gaze-worthy swing set, where any conniving countess would be proud to sit and plot. In all honesty, I wasn’t crazy about all the specific bloom choices, but the overall grandeur I salute.
Ivanka Trump, who I represented once through Next Model Management, and about whom I have nothing bad to say, sorry, served not for the first time as a chair, so Trump Vodka lemony things were passed in rock glasses, mais bien sur. Mine tasted fine.
I used to be a Frick Young Fellow, and many of the key elements from my era remain. There’s a fashion-designer sponsor every year, and in addition to Roger Vivier (shoes? Didn’t really see any), and Ivanka Trump Jewelry, Monique Lhuillier was the belle of the ball. In their rotunda, a lounge turned into a dance floor. There were bars on each side of the balcony overlooking the sunken jardin, and the stationary food was in the back, as before. There were flow issues, which they’ve curiously never addressed; the hallways were jammed and the big gowns and wigs made it no easier. But at a happening, nobody cared, and people smiled and winked as I lumbered by.
Despite the throng, the waiters diligently passed tray after tray, and an odd set of green pyramids caught my eye. I thought they were premature minty desserts on the first pass, but, after learning they were savory souffles, I bit the bullet, or in this case a pyramid. Hot and eggy and gooey, with the subtlest nutty sweetness (nutmeg, I was told). Oh, there was a tiny Parmesan crisp sailing on top, instead of acting as a medium, but doing the job of adding crunch and salt nonetheless. I go to a lot of parties, so it is rare when I see something really new, and this qualified, so I followed my server to caterer Olivier Cheng.
Standing outside the makeshift kitchen door, eyeing emerging waiters (exactly where a caterer should be), Cheng gave me a rundown. Tiny croque monsieurs were a nod to the theme, but a tiny cherry chutney added a newish punch. His custom lucite trays had Paris maps, a detail I would have overlooked had it not been pointed out.
It was Olivier’s first time working this event. I hope he gets asked back. His idea for the main dining station was “naked salmon” with a zillion sauces and garni. If you didn’t like salmon, you were out of luck, but I do and cashed in. Whether it was poached or slightly undercooked, I couldn’t tell you. Fragrant and pink, I can verify.
It was swinging! No recession here. Mon Dieu. Young ladies in extravagant dresses. Men in slightly elevated black tie. There were some laughable misses, one guy looked AW (All Wrong) in tails, and most of the bravely donned wigs had a rented look. Who cares? I love a fancy dress and wish there were more costumers.
I’m too old for this group now (though I’m glad to say there were many longer in the tooth than me), so I didn’t stay for the dancing. But handsome DJ DL seemed to have the situation under control. Glow Design Group did a paisley gobo on the ceiling and a moving-light rococo projection on the floor—both pretty but I wished for more focusing. As I sneaked out two hours into the gig, jovial arriving guests prevented me from even getting through the door. Where the hell will they all fit, I wondered. But isn’t that what makes a fete?