Saturday, May 12, 2007

Birthday Overwhelm

May 3, I was to be spending my first birthday without my family. Since I am not a person who enjoys feeling sorry for myself, I decided to make myself a party. I was speaking with a 'new best' friend, Jay Mulvaney, who I met one day in the Ferragamo Museum (which is a jewel here in Florence). Jay was in Florence for 6 weeks working on a secret project....which I can't say for fear of being cut off from him...Jay is an American writer, who has written books on the Kennedys, and other famous people, socialites, etc. So, a great source for me, as a journalist, social climber and celebrity stalker. Check out his books on Amazon. He told me, he would 'throw' me the party at his incredible apartment overlooking the Arno. Then, being the professional writer that he is, interviewed me about my wants and needs. Besides the extensive guest list, I only had one real concern, my cake. I have still not recovered from my 7th birthday, when my mother brought in a very elegant and expensive cake, with marzipan, liquer filling, and fruit, instead of the 'proper' chocolate, with milk chocolate buttercream frosting, and milk chocolate buttercream flowers. Here is the invite that Jay sent:

Please come for drinks to celebrate the birthday of our lovely friend Nita Tucker.

The date is next Thursday, May 3.

The time is 7:30 - 9:30 (PM, PLEASE don't surprise me in the morning!)

Regarding gifts

I happen to know that at the top of her wish list is Sting.

A date, a lunch, an interview, a random siting on the street, it matters not - so if anyone can provide Mr. Sumner in the flesh (CD's don't count), please do.

BUT, I also know that running a close second on her list, and, if you can imagine, even closer to her heart, is The Florentine. As the paper enters what we Americans call the "terrible twos" it, like a toddler, is demanding and expensive. A very special way for her friends to show our love to Nita is by supporting her baby.

Cash is always good, but how about buying a subscription (or two or three), or taking out an advertisement, promoting your favorite negozio or cultural event, taking a space in one of the innovative "business card" pages. or copies of Linda Falcone's wonderful book Italians Dance and I'm a Wallflower.

The Florentine is moving offices soon, so they will need many new things: desks, phones, computers, office supplies, etc.

Most important, however, is that this is Nita's first birthday without her family, so I hope you'll be able to join me as her "FFOC" - Florentine-family-of-choice - and celebrate this special day.


Jay Mulvaney

Then Jay, who immediately went into, "oh my God- mode"....because he had no idea how he was going to give the party, food, flowers, drinks, and of course THE CAKE, called two other friends to his aid.

Louise Ferragamo, came to the call. The angels were looking down on me, the day I met Louise. When we were putting together the first issue of the paper, we met Suzi Jenkins. In defense of not having to repeat all of the same information for her guests coming to Florence, Suzi had put together a website. In an amazing gesture of generosity, Suzi opened up her archives to us to choose what articles we wanted for our paper. Since we had no funds to pay our writers, and we had a lot of available advertising space, we offered them the space to advertise their ‘real’ work. Suzi answered that she really didn’t need to advertise (she is a management consultant), but she had a friend who had remodeled an apartment for herself, but in the meantime had 2 children and now was thinking of renting or selling it. We received the ad, my husband looked at it and said we should look at the apartment ourselves. Meanwhile, the week before, my friend called from LA. She knew we were starting the paper, and she called to tell me that we had to get the Ferragamo twins on the front page of our paper, ‘they’re young and gorgeous….and Ferragamo is very hot now.’

Back at the apartment, we are met by the owner, a gorgeous, blonde Danish woman. The only thing more beautiful was the house….we had to have it. The woman proceeds to tell us that she had spent the last 3 years of her ‘life’ fixing up this dream house, but it wasn’t right for small children. Her husband traveled a lot, etc.. I asked what kind of work her husband did, and she told me he worked in his family’s business….Ferragamo…have you heard of it?’ And she wasn’t joking!! She said when she first came to Italy from Denmark, she didn’t know who they were.
I immediately jumped on the occasion to tell her I wanted to interview the twins, did she know them? She laughed. “I’m married to one of the twins.’
This was 2 years ago, and the apartment was a magical space for my family, and James and Louise Ferragamo have been the greatest friends, but I have yet to get Jamie to be on the cover of The Florentine.

Louise is a wonder at creating and designing spaces. So anytime any of her friends give a party, you will always find Louise there an hour before with lots of candles, feathers, balloons….and more candles. So Jay called Louise to manage the atmosphere.

Now 2 days before the party, Louise accidentally copied me this email.

Hi Jay

- Don't tell Nita yet, I will be there for her birthday, I talked with some friends, we have got an idea.

I still don't know if possible, but it could be fun if we all fake nobody can come, and then be there as a surprise ????

What do you think ?

Ciao Louise

Also a couple of days before the party, I get a call from Ellyn Toscano. Ellyn Toscano is a lawyer, former aid to a NYC congressman, and currently director of Villa La Pietra in Florence. I met Ellyn at a Black and White Ball hosted by Nora Dempsey at the US Consulate last year. Many people had recommended I meet Ellyn to interview her and tour the Villa. So when we were introduced, I said to her, "You're on my list!!" I have still not interviewed her, because she told me she wants to be the only person who stays on the list. But better than an interview, she has become my friend. Ellyn is incredibly intelligent, very, very beautiful, the best sense of humor, has huge job responsibilities, works here, NYC, (did I mention she is very, very beautiful?), and her best asset is she is the mother of Gaby, an 11 year old, who is not only darling, sweet, and even more beautiful than the mother, is one of our best writers for The Florentine. As you can imagine, Ellyn certainly had nothing but time on her hands to organize this party.

Ellyn calls me and tells me she doesn’t know if there is going to be a surprise party for a particular person, but if ‘hypothetically’ there was to be such an event, and if ‘hypothetically’ there was to be a cake at this event, she had heard from some un-named source, that this ‘hypothetical’ cake had to adhere to some strict critieria. After confirming, the milk chocolate, not dark, no fruit, no liquer, absolutely no marzipan, she asked me if someone would ‘hypothetically’ want to buy such a cake, did I know of a place. I didn’t. Then she asked, again, if there was to be such a party, and such a cake, how many people would it ‘hypothetically’ have to feed.

What friends I am blessed with!!

The party: I invited everyone I knew. There were people who I had met or interviewed in a professional capacity, that I liked and wanted to get to know better. I couldn’t count them as my friends, but people who I would like to have as friends.
I think one of my ‘strong suits’, is that I’m not afraid of rejection. I don’t like being rejected, but I don’t look to avoid it.
Soon after the first issue of The Florentine came out, we received an email from Raffaella Antoniazzi, who is an executive with the Lungarno Hotels (Gallery Art Hotel, Continentale, Lungarno and Lungarno suites), complimenting us on the paper and asking to meet with us about having it in each room of the hotels.
We met, and I was so impressed by this woman, that at the end of the meeting, I told her how much I liked her and flat out asked her if we could be friends. Two years later, she was at my party, celebrating with me.
Since this ‘pick up’ technique worked so well with Raffaella Antoniazzi, who is now one of my ‘Florence treasures’….I continue to use it.

A week before my party, I interviewed Patrizia Gucci (see Up Close and Personal… May 3 issue). My preconception of her, was that she would be one of the famous Florentine snobs that I’ve heard so much about, (but after 3 years, have yet to encounter). Instead I left, mesmerized by her kindness, talent, and grace. I invited her to the party….and to my great pleasure, she came.

Two Ferragamos, one Gucci, the amazing Sibilla della Gherardesca, Barbara Deimling (director of Syracuse), Ellyn Toscano…..the rich, the famous, the VIP’s, the notorious, the powerful, talented (Aaron Craig and Bari Hochwald from Florence International Theater)…my beloved partners and editors from The Florentine. The guest list read like a virtual ‘Who’s who in Florence’. But the common denominator for everyone present, besides that they had been stalked or harassed by me, was their amazing kindness and sincerity.

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