“This is to repay all I shoplifted,” teased Mario Buatta to Barbara McLaughlin and Kevin McLaughlin, co-owners of J. McLaughlin. Mario was signing his new, very heavy book — seven pounds, representing 50 years of decorating — at the Fund for Park Avenue’s annual reception. Fund President Barbara McLaughlin had invited us to this evening at Anna and Brian Haughton’s International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show at the Armory, to salute the 2013 Park Avenue Tree Lighting. Buatta was donating book sales to the Fund, and showing off the amiable touch and just naughty enough sense of humor that have helped him navigate the waters of Manhattan’s wealthiest homes. (So, no, he is not a shoplifter.)
“You’re a decorator?” the Prince of Chintz correctly guessed of the next in line. “You’re jacket is lined in Chintz isn’t it? No? I saw the chintz lining! I saw it,” he teased the petite brunette clearly impressed by this attention from the master. “I’m looking for an assistant. I can pay you half of what you’re making now. But, you’ll pay less taxes.”
With each signature, he used a ghoulish rubber Halloween hand to blot the ink. “I always use it,” he said. “It’s a helping hand.” And the book? “What about it? It’s a Buattapedia. It’s heavy. It weighs 7 pounds. It’s 432 1/2 pages. I’ve been working on it two years. Rizzoli kept pushing me and pushing me to do it. I finally agreed when others started asking.”
“Do you know how many years we go back?” Event planner Polly Onet asked, before turning to Swifty’s owners Stephen Attoe and Robert Caravaggi. “Great photo in ‘Vogue’!”
“Page 223,” Pat Attoe explained. “Blythe Danner, Sarah Jessica Parker and Amanda Peet from ‘The Commons of Pensacola’ were photographed at Swifty’s.”
Home away from a Buatta-inspired, chintz, Park Avenue, home is the dining room of Swifty’s. “In one night we had Burt Bacharach, Harry Benson, the legendary photographer and, Botero, one of the greatest living artists dining,” Blaine Caravaggi whispered. “Bianca Jagger and Andre Leon Talley were also in the room.”
Swifty’s will donate 10% of the room’s December 8 proceeds to the Fund the day the Fund lights up Park Avenue — literally. Their annual Christmas Tree lighting commences in front of Brick Church on Park and 91 St at 6:30 PM. “Last year there were 5000 people there,” Jason Grant told us. “The streets are blocked off. It’s like a big block party. (Brick Church’s) Reverand Lindvall says, ‘Let there be light,’ and the runners go from 96 Street down to 54th, lighting each block. Because we’re elevated on 91 street, you can see the trail of lights go on. It’s something to see.”
And bring comfortable shoes. Even Jamie Dimond — there with his daughters — stands.
The Fund for Park Avenue maintains the Avenue’s defining malls of sculpture and seasonal foliage — tulips in the spring and begonias in the summer — wholly supported by private donations. They’ll start putting in the trees on Nov. 11.
Barbara McLaughlin is President of the Fund for Park Avenue. Their Board of Directors, lead by Chairman, Ronald D. Spencer, Esq., is: Mary Davidson, Eugenie Niven Goodman, Derek L. Limbocker, Helena Martinez, George B. Moore, Judith T. Steckler, Margaret M. Ternes, and Ron Wendt. Ex Officio: Adrian Benepe, Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation.