My sister knew everyone in New York. Every couple of weeks she would have a dinner and she would always invite me. I never thought about it at the time but now, looking back, I realize what a generous thing that was.
When I was invited to one of her dinners I felt slightly sick, incredibly lucky, and completely shy.
Sometimes we would go shopping before these events to a special section in Bloomingdale’s where they had amazing designs from a young London woman who created costumes which were perfect for my sister. Generally, they were dresses that extended to the ground and when you lifted your arms in them cascading waterfalls from each arm in colors one had never really seen before fell around you.. In fact, I thought my sister looked like a glamorous bird of paradise.
I loved these shopping trips. I wouldn’t go in the room with her because that would’ve ruined it for me. I sat outside instead on a bench and waited for her reveal. It was always extraordinary and we always knew right away which one was going to be the right one for the night.
I wore the same outfit pretty much to all of her dinners. Jackie Rogers was a designer at the time who had a shop on Madison Avenue and I had spent way too much money on a black chiffon pleated skirt that was slightly transparent. I would wear the skirt with whatever black top I happened to think looked good that night. The best part was getting into the taxi on my way to my sisters and saying “ 7 Gracie Square, please!”
I thought it was the most glamorous thing in the world and surely the taxi driver must realize I was a very important person to be going there.
Once I got to her apartment and she opened the door which she always did And I could hear the hum and buzz of the party within.. I knew what time she would be serving dinner so I always arrived about 15 minutes prior to that time because in doing that I wouldn’t have to spend too much time making small talk which was not my strong point.
My sister would always introduce me to whoever she thought would be fun for me to talk to. One night I met Fran Leibowitz, George Plimpton, and Erica Jong. I felt as if my lips were frozen and certainly I couldn’t have had much of a conversation with any of them but just being in their presence was probably the coolest thing I could’ve imagined.
In those days everyone wanted to have fun. It didn’t really matter what you said or thought but if you laughed and had motion in your thoughts people adored you. Consequently I think I was adored at least by some of my sister’s guests.
It was the first time in my life I actually thought I was interesting. In the 70’s going out meant going out! We got dressed up. We took makeup seriously. We read Women’s Wear Daily and tried very hard to have big hair, beautiful dresses, and a lot of fun and we did.
I remember going to El Morocco which was a night club on 56th St. and the east side with various girlfriends and what I loved most was the staircase entrance. You showed up at the front door and Bart, the doorman, who was always wearing a top hat, would open the door for you and show you immediately to the elevator.
The elevator would take you to the second floor where the ladies room was and you could check your makeup for the 20 billionth time that night. After you exited from the ladies room there was a grand staircase descending in front of you. It was also mirrored on the right hand side to reflect the entire room of people who were dining or drinking. As you descended you knew that all eyes were on you whether for a second or longer. It was the most thrilling experience of my life. Don’t forget, I was all of 22 years old.
Bart, the doorman, often intervened when men became too amorous. I remember one night when my sister and I were going back to her house and one of our admirers wanted to come along with us in the cab. Neither my sister nor I seem to be able to be forceful enough to stop this however Bart took it in stride. It was quite exciting needless to say.
El morocco had been around since my parents were dating and was the most glamorous place people could go. There were black and white zebra skin banquets and palm trees with white feathers hanging over them. It was very important to be seated near the dance floor so you could see everybody and everybody could see you. I was never a Studio 54 girl. El morocco was the place for me. The music was amazing and the food, forgettable. The lady in the ladies room knew everything about everyone. If you were smart you would give her a good tip. Otherwise she might tell people things about you that might be true but weren’t pleasant.
Tonight I have been reflecting on how much fun that time was. The 70’s were a great period. The music was great, the parties were great, people were light hearted and wanted to just flirt and have a good time.
I was saying to my sister tonight how much I appreciated her support and friendship during those years and how it had made all the difference for me in my life. I am so grateful for all those memories of her apartment, all those interesting people, the food, the wine and the ambiance. I felt safe there.
I felt like nobody was going to say anything mean to me and everyone was going to protect me. She was the perfect older sister. Without sounding sappy, she was good to me. I don’t think people enjoy life in the same way that we did then in today’s world. Even when Covid leaves I don’t think young people have as much fun. It’s too bad.
It’s too bad because in those moments you could forget anything that was going on in the world and just listen to music, listen to the beat, look into the eyes of some interesting person and have a wonderful night.