Liz Smith: The Pulse of Palm Beach

“A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money,” said W.C. Fields.

DO YOU care what Emilia and Pepe Fanjul serve for dinner when entertaining in Palm Beach? Why, roast lamb and a delicious chocolate dessert. Their guest list runs like so — Kate Ford, Frank Chopin, Margaretha and Eric Javits, Annette and Joe Allen, the Hashem Khosrovanis, Jill Fuller, Jim Mitchell, Mila and Brian Mulroney, Darlene and Jerry Jordan, Linda and Barry Donahue, Jackie Weld and Rod Drake, Gail and Harry Theodoracopulos.

And you thought Palm Beach was all washed up?!

The beautiful Grace Meigher of the Quest magazine Meighers was celebrating her February birthday all in white silk and many guests were in black tie as they were going on to the Red Cross Ball. It was a beautiful 80 degrees while everybody else in the U.S. was shivering. Glimpsed — Christopher Idone, one of the Glorious Food founders — had arrived for a Palm Beach visit.

Meanwhile, at the Frannie Scaife party on the lake Anne Slater in her blue eyeglasses and John Cahill drove up from Wellington, the horsey spot, and joined Nancy Brinker, Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson, Nancy Paul, Freddy Melhado, Bob Hardwick, Gigi Benson, and Princess Maria Pia de Savoia and Prince Michel de Bourbon-Parma.

P.S. I hope you got invited to Marylou Whitney’s new house where the former Saratoga hostess was making plans to give her husband a birthday dance at the Everglades. (And “they” said this marriage would never last!)

If you want to be in the Palm Beach “know”  — you know that Echo, the Asian restaurant owned by the Breakers Hotel, is the hot spot late at night in Palm Beach. And Table 26 is also usually packed.

I could go on and on. But suffice it to say Palm Beach is a town that would still be applauding if Mitt Romney had been elected. But they are trying to bravely go on although they didn’t get their wish.

Palm Beach a dead end? Here are a few others proving it’s not so: Lord Charles Spencer Churchill … former Amb. to France, Howard Leach and wife Gretchen Jesse and Rand Araskog Ed Cox of the Nixon clan … Rosita, the Duchess of Marlborough Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria Marianne and John Castle, who are in the old Joe Kennedy house … Itzhak Perlman … and on and on.

I hope I got all these names down correctly as I wrote them on the edge of a napkin that hadn’t yet gone to its reward in the wash.

THE restaurateur to all of Broadway and off is Joe Allen who has the well-known cafes named Orso and Joe Allen to his credit, cheek-by-jowl on West 46th ,just a throw from the theater district.

Joe began his own versions of the understated checked tablecloth kind of place where one can sit back, relax and feel at home in the manner of the old Danny Levezzo’s once famous P. J. Clarke’s. I remember when the young Joe Allen first told me he intended to create an informal hang-out like that and he did, indeed, in 1965.

The concept hasn’t changed much through all the years beginning with the Sixties. You can grab a burger before or after theater and see everybody you know who is coming or going to see a play or musical.

This week the still-youthful looking café mogul turned 80 and gave himself a party beginning with pizza and caviar in Orso and moved on to an informal sit-down dinner in Allen’s next door. The likes of star actor Nathan Lane, former Times drama critic Frank Rich, writer Alex Witchel and director Jack O’Brien plus Phyllis Newman were on hand to raise a glass and relish a few laughs. Richard Polo, has been running the London offshoot Allen’s for years, was in town for the occasion. (There is also a Joe Allen in Paris nowadays!)

In this informal café where the celebrated flops of theater are preserved in their original posters for years, I yukked it up with playwright Mart Crowley. He wrote “The Boys In The Band” and says now he is sorry he wasted so many years in Hollywood when he needed to be living in New York!

Many glasses were raised to the rather shy and usually incommunicative Mr. Allen. Sentimental feelings were concealed by raucous laughter, as usual. Joe has given theater types from stars to wannabes a real “home” on Restaurant Row where they can order what they can afford and always find convivial and like-minded company.

Joe Allen’s has become a fixture of New York theater and I think the Antoinette Perry awards should give Joe a Tony this year for surviving and serving on the Great White Way in a manner nobody else has thought of.

Feeding actors and their helpers! What a concept!

ALICE Tully Hall is still resounding to the music of the beautiful and talented piano virtuoso Lola Astanova, who performed recently. She was accompanied by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and played Piano Concerto #1 and the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2.

There was a party after at Doubles and this Russian beauty wowed her admirers in a pewter metallic wrap dress designed by Catherine Malandrino and those sky-high Christian Louboutin shoes, set off by Helen Yarmak’s diamond floral cluster ear rings.

Lola has risen to be considered one of the most talented pianists in the world, according to NBC. She made her debut here last January.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 2/20/13

4 comments so far.

  1. avatar Jay Gentile says:

    Liz, ever since you started writing for Social Diary, your column is littered with people America doesn’t know and doesn’t care about. These are not celebrities; they’re socialites whose job is to go out at night. Who frickin’ cares outside of a small handful of other socialites?

  2. avatar John Dillon says:

    I sorta agree with Jay Gentile about the society folks you write about. They may well do lotsa good deeds but seem to do these things only when there are cameras around. They all seem a bit superfluous to me. In any event, when I lived in NY I used to go to Joe Allen’s all the time starting in the late ’60′s. He did seem very nice and I always used to be impressed with the ‘names’ that used to pop in at all times of day and no one would bother them while they were there. He opened a ‘Joe Allen’ here in Hollywood some years ago that was great. It had the same atmosphere as the NY one with brick walls etc. I loved the place. Alas, it closed much too soon. Happy B’day Joe!

  3. avatar mickie1 says:

     I LIKE THE FACT THAT YOU INCLUDE THE RICH AND FAMOUS IN YOUR COLUMN LIZ. THOUGH I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THESE FOLKS — WHO BY THE WAY A DRIPPING RICH — MAKES IT INTERESTING TO SEE WHAT MAKES “THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS”. I THINK IF IT WERE NOT FOR THESE FOLKS THERE WOULD NOT BE A NYC. AS FOR THE JOE ALLEN PIECE — I HAVE HEARD OF THE BURGER JOINT FOR MANY YEARS AND AM GLAD TO SEE ITS STILL PART OF THE GREAT WHITE WAY. WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO P.J. CLARK’S ??? I REMEMBER IT WAS JACQUELINE SUSANN’S — OF VALLEY OF THE DOLLS FAME — FAVORITE SPOT. WHAT HAPPENED ?? THANKS LIZ FOR MAKING NYC A GREAT PLACE TO READ ABOUT AND KNOW NEW PEOPLE

  4. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Liz’s column has always had a “local” side to it which is why New Yorkers love her. And part of the New York scene is the Palm Beach scene.  So instead of complaining that you’ve never heard of these people thank Liz for introducing them to you. Some of them are more than just mindless socialites. Some actually do make a difference in the lives of others. And not just with a checkbook.