Madoff Who? Palm Beach Parties On

Two reports from the front show that Palm Beach didn’t miss a beat on New Year’s. The only difference was that some of the partiers wanted to avoid having their mug on camera.

Huffington Post Blogger Laurence Leamer: My evening was to begin with a cocktail party at the home of Dick and Susan Nernberg, friends of mine from Pittsburgh. They live in an exquisite apartment above Maus and Hoffman, a clothing store on Worth Avenue.

Then I was to go to the wedding of George Cloutier and Tiffany Spadafora at the Breakers Hotel. I would have to leave at some point to go to the Coconuts party at the Flagler Museum. This is the most exclusive invitation in Palm Beach by far. Then finally, Mark Brentlinger and Brian MacDonald were giving their annual blast at their mansion. They were gay and last year at midnight the bartenders stripped off their shirts to greet the New Year. That would be a fitting ending to the evening.

In the last few months the lives of the mega wealthy have been twice devastated, first by the collapse of the stock market and secondly by the embarrassing losses of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. That made even those who had lost nothing angry and fearful looking for someone or something to strike out against. And when people learned that ABC’s 20/20 was following me around New Year’s Eve, that became the target of the moment.

The day before yesterday, I knew something was wrong when Susan called and said that guest after guest at her cocktail party was backing out, terrified by the idea of camera snouts intruding on their lives. A few months ago, most of these same people would have lined up for their shots, but now AM(After Madoff) they seek to hunker down in obscurity. I scarcely had time to decide what to do about that problem when George Cloutier called to say that he had guests refusing to come if there were cameras. George loves publicity, and it was extraordinary that he was willing to give up the klieg lights in the name of love and a full house.

Mark Brentlinger said that he didn’t want cameras either. These were tough economic times, and it would not look right that he and friends were having a wildly extravagant blast.

I couldn’t do anything about George’s wedding or Mark and Brian’s party but I sure could do something about the cocktail party. So I started calling around inviting a whole new group of people to the cocktail party. ABC interviewed on camera many of the guests. What was so striking was the seriousness of their comments and their convictions that Palm Beach was a different place now and their lives different too.

After the cocktail party, my wife Vesna and I drove over to the Breakers for the wedding. “If this is the Titanic,” Cloutier had told me in one of his more philosophical moments, “Well, we’re in the ballroom and we’re going down dancing.It was most flamboyant, extravagant, over-the-top, spare-no-expense blast imaginable. Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey tried to talk over the din of music while Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson and Louisiana’s John Breaux sat quietly and others of the 350 guests danced.

And, from the Palm Beach Daily News:

Club Colette, The Mar-a-Lago Club, The Breakers and The Coconuts booted out the old year with their traditional flair.

Things kicked off early at Trump’s Playland, where the canny businessman extended the cocktail “hour” to cocktail “hours,” thus ensuring that his 300 guests were plenty celebratory once midnight rolled around.

Not that we would know.

Red seemed to be the prevailing colour, which makes us wonder if the party planner knew when they start organising these events a year ago that the economy was going to be in the pooper, or if maybe somebody just likes the colour.

Club Colette took on an imperial flavour for the night with its Russian theme that looked like something out of Doctor Zhivago.

Except without, you know, the depressing stuff.

A blanket of snow covered the floor of the club, which was cocooned in Russian red, from the silken fabric on the walls to the table linens to the elegant tapers topped with red shades.

There were probably a few red eyes, as well, by the time the last reveler shuffled out. Hey — anything in keeping with the theme, comrade.

The Breakers, too, turned eastward for its Chinese theme. Cherry blossom branches were projected onto a fabric screen behind the band, and large square paper lanterns hung over the dance floor. Tables set in all-red were centered with towering arrangements of ginger, cherry blossoms or roses, and the menu was decidedly Asian.

The revelry, however, was all-American.

The Coconuts continued its 70-something-year tradition at the Flagler Museum, where the … um, OK, “distinguished” gentleman in the white dinner jackets, red carnations and Stubbs & Wootten slippers — the latter a gift this year from Percy Steinhart to his brother Coconuts — greeted nearly 300 guests.

The event, which starts late to allow for dinner parties earlier in the evening, takes place in the pavilion, which is such a work of art that it requires little more than good lighting to spark a fire in the eye of the beholder.

Image via the Palm Beach Daily News.

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