Hugh Jackman was the first to respond to Nelson Aspen’s 50th birthday bash in the Hamptons. Jackman sent regrets, but still, we were impressed. Nelson’s a big celebrity down under. He’s been the on-air Show Business Editor for “Sunrise,” Australia’s #1 national morning show, for the past ten years. Nelson’s interviewed Jackman, “at least a dozen times,” and knows him socially.
American audiences know Nelson from three seasons on “TV Guide Television,” and as a contributor to “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” and “Inside Edition.” Locally, he also contributes to WPIX morning news and Rita Cosby’s WOR Radio show. Aspen also hosts his own web series, “…@ NELSON’S!” blogs about Daytime TV (he appeared on and helped produce “Search for Tomorrow”) and has written enough celebrity-driven, entertaining books to get him featured as one of Elle Magazine’s “Good Time Gurus” alongside Martha Stewart, and to get his book publisher, Linda Williams, to fly half way around the world from Melbourne to fete his fiftieth!
Ditto for “Sunrise” morning host Melissa Doyle from Sydney, who planned her vacation with husband John around the party. This was a serious “Destination” event. Actor Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen in the first four “Superman” films, Dave McFly in “Back to the Future”) and wife Carol flew in from Palm Springs. WABC Meteorologist Amy Freeze drove in and out in time to do the early weekend weather reports. Former Fox News babe Louise Pennell flew in from LA. “Search for Tomorrow” stars Louan Gideon (Liza) came in from Asheville, NC, where she lives and is preparing a one woman show, and Marcia McCabe (Sunny) left her Westchester Country Club routine.
And if you’ve written “Let’s Dish Up a Dinner Party,” and “Dinner at Nelson’s: Cuisine and Conversation with the the Showbiz Guru,” you don’t do it half way. You give your party a theme and hold events all weekend. “I was born in 1963,” Aspen told Hamptons.com, “so I decided on a 1963/’Mad Men’ party.” Think madras jackets, shifts, and Babe Paley in Palm Beach. Signature cocktails: the Nelsontini (vodka with cucumber juice and watermelon) and Nifty 50s (a tequila concoction). Retro deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket, and shrimp cocktails were passed around. “We duplicated my favorite Grandma’s chocolate cake recipe, complete with Crisco!” Nelson said. Salmon and steak were entrees. Chita Phong Phanh, of Hamptonspeaceofmind.com catered. Tim Cronberger, of Halcyon Designs in Manhattan, curated the music. “First all 60s songs,” said Nelson. “And as the night wore on we moved into the 70s and 80s.”
For a man who wrote the autobiographical “Hollywood Insider: Exposed!” this occasion served as an inspiration for his next book: “Prime Time with Nelson Aspen: Middle Age is Only the Beginning” to be released in 2014.
It all took place at the East Hampton estate of Nelson’s best friend, financial services COO Glenn Finn. “Glenn and I met 30 years ago, at the first Tommy HIlfiger store, working as fashion consultants,’” Nelson told us. “In other words, we folded sweaters.”
Earlier that Saturday, guests had been invited to a Boot Camp workout at Indian Wells Beach, led by Hamptons trainer Erik Frederickson. The following day, Glenn hosted a “Hangover Bagels & Bloody Mary’s Brunch” that went ‘til dinner.
Louan Gideon performed two songs, Broadway tunes, with lyrics lauding Nelson. Glenn’s speech included a Nelson trivia contest. An obviously moved birthday boy took the mic: “If you’re here, it’s because I love you and I’m here because Glenn loves me. What a wonderful host. He and his partner Tim have made everything so pretty and so special. Glenn would give you the shirt off his back to any one of you because he’s that kind of a friend. He’s been my brother for 30 years.”
The next day, the 50 orange balloons Nelson’s parents sent could still be seen from the pool: floating in the guest room, when we overheard him on the phone with his Mom. “Every friend who’s every meant anything to me has been here,” he said. “It’s better than a funeral! And I owe it all to Glenn.”
“Nelson’s a good guy, just as simple as that,” said Aussie anchor Melissa Doyle. “One of the things Aussie audiences like is his level of respect for what he does and who he talks about.”
“I’ve never seen Nelson down under,” chimed in “Search” star Marcia McCabe. “But I’ve seen him in his shorts.”