Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Celebration of the Life of Mario Buatta

Writer Emily Evans Eerdmans (center) speaking at the event. 
Now that's what I call a memorial service. On Monday night I was invited to attend a celebration of  the remarkable life of American decorator Mario Buatta who passed away in October. The event was hosted by Emily Evans Eerdmans, Patricia Altschul, Anne Eisenhower and Hilary Geary Ross, and held at the Park Avenue Armory where The Winter Show (previously called The Winter Antiques Show) is now in session. Mario is an old pal who Ted and I had known for years. Besides his talent for creating beautiful rooms inspired by the English country style, he was indeed a larger than life character with an ebullient personality and a mischievous sense of humor. When Mario received an honor from the New York School of Interior Design, we did a video interview with him on the blog - you can watch it here.

On Monday night it was 11 degrees out, RealFeel negative 9, or something like that. I bundled up and headed uptown. When I arrived the place was already packed! There must have been 300 people already sitting on gold gilt chairs so it was standing room only. I stopped at the bar for a glass of red wine to fortify myself. A man said to me, "Mario would have loved this."

I inched through the crowd and secured a place to stand along the back wall where I noticed how beautiful the renovated, ornate Veterans Room is with its carved wood paneling and green-painted walls. Glass globes holding lights dangled off of exotic metal chandeliers overhead. The program began with a tv interview with a younger Mario. Then there were nine speakers in the program, commencing with Mario's friend Hilary Geary Ross. The pretty and blond Ms. Ross noted that Mario and she "were like brother and sister though he always introduced me as his mother."

I think every single speaker mentioned Mario's insect gag which I witnessed myself one day when we went to a lunch at the Sherry Netherlands Hotel. Suddenly on the white linen cloth was a big, ugly, brown cockroach jumping across the table. There were shrieks all around, but the cockroach was a plastic fake on a fishing wire tugged by Mario himself.

His cousin Anne Newgarden reminisced about growing up on Staten Island with Mario. Designer Christopher Spitzmiller recalled how Mario told him his pants were "like a cheap mansion - no ballroom." Editor David Patrick Columbia observed that though Mario was fun and jolly, there was a darker more complicated side to him and I think that is correct - Mario talked to me about being single and his frustrations with dating.

Towards the end of the event a diminutive lady in the back row stood up and left her seat - I thought she might be looking for a restroom. But she walked to the front and picked up a microphone and started singing; it was the great cabaret performer Marilyn Maye who then offered moving renditions of "Secret of Life" and "Here's to Life" followed by loud applause. It was one of those moments when you think, "New York is so amazing." After the event was over, it was back out into the cold night but the warm affection that was in the room stayed with me. It was a lasting tribute to Mario; indeed he would have loved it.


Dean Farris said...


Beautiful post- thanks for sharing! Mario would be pleased- he must be in decorator heaven !

Gail, northern California said...

You lead such an interesting and varied life. And, best of all, you know and enjoy it.

Bart Boehlert said...

Hi Dean, Yes indeed, he's cracking them up!

Bart Boehlert said...

Hi Gail, Thank you, there's lots to see and enjoy in New York, always inspiring to me!