Book cover illustration by Jill Prentice.
Photograhy: Various archival
Below is an excerpt from The Society Diplomat by Lance Avery Morgan, In the last issue we attended an opulent debutante ball in Big 80’s Texas. Fast forward to today where another event is about to happen.
There are people who have money and people who are rich. Coco Chanel
The sound of tires over the smooth Argentinean pebbled driveway created a low hum as the world’s priciest cars entered the superbly landscaped grounds of the baronial estate known as D’Medford. Showboating Nineties is more like it to describe The House That Zeke Medford Built.
“Honey, Zeke is incredibly proud of his baby, and I don’t mean me. This casa is not my thing, but my guy had this before he had me and well, what could I do but love the beast? The house, that is,” Alexandra had once confided to me.
Over a decade went into the designing and building of the red brick modern “masterpiece.” The 9,452 square foot home has, I admit, stood the taste test of time in its way. Its soaring ceilings were imported from a Portuguese estate that says I’m New Money are as impossible to miss as the Alexander Caulder mobiles that dot the entry leading to the installation of six, count ‘em, six, original Roy Lichtenstein oils of Alexandra portrayed in all of their animated popness.
Of course they’re hung on Ralph Lauren Vicuna walls.
Zeke’s buttons were bursting over the museum with bedrooms. “I bought all the Lichtensteins in one batch at Sotheby’s,” said Zeke over dinner one night. “Can I help it if I want to spoil my girl?”
“Zeke, all Ali ever wanted was you. I think she’s felt lucky ever since you and Sabrina broke up in college,” I say, meaning every word of it having known them as long as I have since college.
“There should have been something we could have all done to help Sabrina. I just can’t believe she’s gone,” he said, choking up, just a little.
It’s amazing; platitudes actually work in situations of bereavement, and this was no exception. “You and I both know that Sabrina would have wanted tonight to go on. She would have been the perfect guest and never alluded to the fact that you were the one that got away… to Ali.” Zeke nodded, knowing that some things are just not meant to be.
The impossibly lustrous white leather seating nooks that dot the home anchor the trim side tables, laden with deep purple Murano glass accessories, bought at auction, most recently from the YSL estate sale in Paris. The tables play host to the spirits: the martinis, French 75 champagne cocktails, and the quirkier Pimm’s & Lemonade, which accompany the Almas; that salty Iranian beluga caviar so coveted in fancy pants circles these days, it is spooned up in gobs here. No sour cream, no capers needed, please.
The soft amber-colored nuggets are supposedly harvested from sturgeons up to one hundred years old… how they know that is anybody’s guess. One thing’s for certain. If those little fish eggs are red or black, that’s the cheap stuff. Four pounds of Almas runs at least fifty grand, and no, at that price it does not come with coke or a hooker, the other unspoken accoutrements of the Jet Set. They’re separate, and will be in full attendance at the party, too.
My irreverent self was thinking that many of the guests are in sturgeon-age territory and would look the part if not for repeated trips to Dr. Bloom, the go-to society plastic surgeon in town when guests started arriving.
Sabrina Goodfriend was supposed to be a guest and after much contemplation, it was decided this morning that the party must go on after her demise. The fact of the matter was not lost on the crowd that Sabrina’s demise may have smoothed the road for Alexandra’s ascent up the social heap again, to remain there for good.
“I’m a tad nervous,” I say to Alexandra. “I want everyone to have a good time tonight.”
“Baby, if they don’t have a good time honoring you, then I’m just not a good hostess after all. Not to worry. I think guests want to applaud you, and it’s an excuse to gossip about Sabrina. Just you wait. Something spectacular will happen. It always does. This will be a memorable evening.”
Alexandra and Zeke had called me Christmas morning last year to see if I would be interested in having them host “a small dinner” for me. Now it’s June, and the show must go on. I had hosted a party for Alexandra when she was on the cover of Dazzle, plus I’d introduced her to so many people around the state who could be vital in her charity fundraising, so she was more than happy to have the opportunity to say thank you in this way.
“This next year is going to be your year, Jake,” said Zeke when he broached the subject of the party during the holiday call.
“Yes, that’s right. And, we want to be a part of it,” Alexandra gushed on the speakerphone.
“Geez, I don’t know what to say, except yes and thank you. It sounds amazing. What can I do on my end?” I offered.
“Send me your guest list, keep doing what you do and we’ll do the rest,” they both agreed.
Like planning a small wedding, the dinner party for 50 necessitated Save The Date cards six months in advance, arriving in early January after our initial phone call. It really was a courtesy to the guests and their schedules, booked so far in advance with calendars filled with jaunts to Aspen, Art Basel in Switzerland (why bother with its Miami show in December since those are just leftovers no one wanted in the first place?), and of course, the sailing races in Newport. These getaways are a testament that this rich crowd consistently craves new experiences to behold. Money creates more friends in more cities. Money also creates fresh memories, of which there can never be enough. Privilege has no expiration date and although money cannot buy happiness, as the old saw goes, it sure as hell does buy opportunity. And, The Society Diplomat is always there as a strategic conduit for opportunities.
The guests, arriving from myriad glittering metropolises, sparkle like the champagne that still flows like tap water, no matter what happens on the Wall Street rollercoaster. Out-of-towners are staying in suites at the Four Seasons and St. Regis, and with friends at private residences within a small radius of D’Medford. These men and women are the social beacons of today… high performers, celebrities, diplomats, and even, aristocrats, whose fortunes, if tallied would weigh oh, $35 billion, give or take a few B’s. So, yes, security guards are crawling around like hunky roaches dotting the dark, cavernous corners, ready to pounce as if the President’s been shot, if needed. Sometimes it’s quietly escorting a drunken tycoon to their ride; other times, well who knows. It is pretty much all about gemology. In the Medford milieu, security is always warranted and no female would dare arrive unadorned.
Yes, those stones need guarding, and their sentries are part of the décor, too. Precious jewels hang like hard fruit from every limb of every woman. These stones have been romanced and earned, by golly. When you marry for money, you earn every cent of it, as my grandfather used to say. Let’s face it, the amount of Graff, Cartier and Harry Winston’s here would rival anything on an Oscar red carpet, except that these are not borrowed for the evening. They’re the centerpieces of the wifely treasure chest, witnesses to social history as seen from alabaster clavicles, delicate ear lobes, dainty wrists lifted in happiness and disdain, and on fingers that point toward the future or back at transgressions, or held up in case one has erred in social judgment.
Some have been bestowed upon the bride with love; most are bribes to cover a back-story of marital treachery. It’s amazing how the delicate refraction from an 8-carat diamond can make even the most sensitive women blind to their tycoon’s indiscretions.
Regardless of value or intent, tonight no stone goes untracked by hired eyes.