Hello, dahlings! Gabby touches down at preeminent museum parties, then heads south for Best of the Beach, the biggest of the blow-outs by the sea.
Every dog has his day. And if your name is Homer, Ziggy, Boom Boom or Iggy Pop, you have the star wattage of a heat-seeking missile because Jamie Wyeth immortalized you in his delightful “Dog Days of Summer” show, which struts its stuff at the Brandywine River Museum through September 2. Ziggy—the cover pooch for the coffee-table art catalogue—was a bit spotlight-shy among so many head-patters as he hitched a ride on Phyllis Wyeth’s fancy scooter at the busy preview party. But Wiley, a recent female addition to the couple’s Jack Russell entourage, happily played super nova, gobbling cheese treats from the catered buffet as Carlene Jackson of Kennett Square extended her hand. Jamie and Phyllis have a thing for Jack Russell terriers the way some collectors have a thing for frogs or cowboy boots. “Some people think they’re mean, but they’re really very sweet—a big body on short little legs,” Jamie told Gabby.
Phyllis—very chi-chi boutique-y in a horse-motif straw hat, jazzy beaded jacket, burgundy skirt and Southwestern-style earrings—found herself mobbed on the museum’s second floor. (So did Jamie, gamely signing copies of his art book for customers.) Another payoff: Phyllis’s style closet was about to be enhanced. Georgina Arthur, Phyllis’s step-niece from Australia, sparkled in a sheer, fringed turquoise cloak patterned with peacock feathers that she was giving Phyllis the next day as a gift. “I found it in the fashion district of L.A., where it was cheap, cheap, cheap,” Georgina said.
Peripatetic Frolic Weymouth—dapper in a navy blazer, pink checked shirt, bowtie and white slacks—arrived with board member Dick Sanford. Faster than you could say Point-to-Point, Frolic was surrounded by a slew of well-wishers, including Peggy Butler of Centreville, flashing an armful of silver bracelets, with Linda Prickett of Greenville in black cotton summer pajamas. In all, 820 guests jostled to catch Jamie’s 61 paintings and drawings, which were culled from the past 40 years. Local artist Mary Page Evans admired the Newfoundland oils (1971), originally owned by Gregory Peck. “I’ve always loved Jamie’s work. He’s my friend,” Mary Page enthused. “Of course, Jamie loves animals. He loves people, too.” Mary Page’s ties to Jamie have history. “I accompanied Jamie while he painted Rudolf Nureyev in his dressing room years ago,” she disclosed. Now what do we do to get some of that?
“Party Like It’s 1939” may sound like an obscure dictum. But that’s the year that Henry Francis du Pont threw a lavish coming-out party for his daughter Ruth Ellen, so the theme got the nod for the al fresco black-tie dinner that was the centerpiece for “Chic It Up!” Winterthur’s tastemaking design conference. Dearies, all the ladies looked drop-dead elegant and the gentlemen soignÃ©. There was Leslie Greene Bowman, Winterthur’s executive director, in a vintage, black-and-white crepe chiffon gown that once belonged to the mother of Margaret (“Meg”) Caldwell, a Manhattan antiques dealer. “Look around. We’re bringing it back. And people know they’re not going to make fools out of themselves. The party’s got to carry,” Leslie told Gabby. Conversely, Meg Caldwell—whose field is American and European 19th-century furniture—wore an obi-sashed pants outfit because, “In the ’30s, women were finally accepted in pants,” Meg noted. Floating gardenia tealights illuminated the pool in Winterthur’s tree-laced garden, so Jan Jessup looked apropos, as well as gorgeous, with a silk gardenia pin, plus pearls, on her pleated black dress from Italy. Jan, who’s communications director for Calico Corners, topped everything with a veiled, black velvet hat provided by Connie Greeley, an orthodontist. “Isn’t it fun to see this place as if you were an honored guest of Cousin Harry?” Jan asked. The reference to Henry Francis, Winterthur’s founder, was, presumably, rhetorical.
“I just wore an evening dress I had in a closet,” said “Ruth Ellen,” now Ruth du Pont Lord of New Haven, Connecticut, an honored presence. Her ruffled, off-the-shoulder, polka-dot dress was 10 years old, she guessed. The night’s buffet—bourbon sours, chicken on waffles, watercress soup, turkey croquettes and roast guinea hens with fruit chutney—came from “The Winterthur Cookbook” of recipes from the family’s era. Gabby pressed Ruth: “Did you really dine like this growing up at Winterthur?” “Mostly, we ate kidneys and sweetbreads from the sheep,” she said. Even Henry Lord, her son, didn’t seem especially familiar with the cuisine. “Is this the way they ate chicken back in the 1930s?” he wondered aloud.
Kudos to Tom Savage, director of museum affairs at Winterthur, for puttin’ on the Ritz in white tie and tails—even white gloves. “I ceased being the debs’ delight. Then I ceased being the debs’ mothers’ delight,” Tom quipped. Tea for two, anyone?
MUSICAL BEACH CHAIRS
Alex Sydnor, former director of development at Winterthur, is getting acclimated as executive director of Beebe Medical Foundation’s Board of Directors. Mike Clemmer, his predecessor in that position, finds retirement “great.” “I love being a guest,” Mike told Gabby at the 18th annual Best of the Beach, the art auction and dinner dance that benefits Beebe and the Rehoboth Art League. Eric Davison, former events coordinator for Beebe, “loves” his arty new job as director of Philip Morton Gallery in Rehoboth Beach. Such personnel changes may sound like musical chairs—make that musical beach chairs. Isn’t it nice that everyone is as happy as a clam?
When we buttonholed Alex S. about any changes he’s hatching, he demurred, “I’m just four months into the job.” But he became more specific regarding the role endowment plays. “The board has discussed making endowment more of a priority. A new facility near Millville is being planned. They’re under-served right now,” Alex said. Preston Watkins, who attended with his partner, Philip Cross, along with John Baker, AIDS Delaware’s leader, was also feeling entrepreneurial. Preston had just launched Veggie Shack, a five-acre farm market on the Lewes-Georgetown Highway. Tomatoes and popcorn, respectively, were the early-season best-sellers.
Another Alex—Alex Pires, to be exact—was calling contracting honcho Mark Robino “Moneybags” during drinks. Alex, a Highway One honcho, has always been a Gabby fave because he loves being outrageous in his own inimitable way. Somehow, Alex segued into a confession that he would like to wear lipstick the color of Gabby’s. “I’d like to wear earrings, too, but my wife won’t let me. I’m for a liberated country,” Alex said. Alex is what bold-faced columnists call “hot copy.”
We must report that Jennifer Robino, Mark Robino’s wife, served as chairwoman of this event, looking smashing as ever in a two-toned mocha, BCBG dress with jeweled Manolo Blahniks laced up her calves. Ciro Poppiti, director of wine and spirits for NKS, and his wife, Laura Poppiti, were on hand, too, celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary at the beach. Ciro recommended Taurasi, a red, as a great grape experience. “It’s incredible, like drinking silk,” Ciro said. Ciro, whose early career involved being a child actor, has been randomly selected by the Screen Actors Guild to select nominees for SAG’s five major awards categories this year. (Think of the ceremony, held in winter 2008, as a less bombastic Oscars) Not that Ciro is one to let the grass grow under his feet, movie-wise. He’s pushing to get “Golden Door,” an Italian immigration drama backed by Martin Scorsese, booked at Theatre Nâ€¦Ta-ta, ’til next time.Â