My Road To Stardom
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, January 11, 2015
If the Chinese New Year is the Year of the Goat, mine will be the year of Stardom. NOT that I have been beckoned to appear in a film or design a Hollywood movie set - though this is only the beginning of the year! However, my brush with Hollywood and bathing in its reflected glory is well on its way. I spent Christmas Day having dinner with Woody and Sun-yi Allen, their family and my friend Melanie Courbet.
Dinner with Woody and family
Most of you know that I spent a good deal of my winter in Palm Beach:
Palm Beach is la-la land. You know you are heading to the sunshine state when the airline gate has a dozen or more wheel chairs lined up for boarding…. I am amongst those fortunate people because we board first – have preferred seating and whiz through security like a racehorse!
Palm Beach has gorgeous sunny weather, warm waters, beautiful blue skies and is just plain boring.
The effortless flight of the pelicans
The Serene view from the terrance of my apartment
A glimpse into Edwina Sandys private sculpture garden
The latest attraction - The Palm Beach Outlet Mall
To its credit, Palm Beach has an extravagant new shopping Mall that keeps the ladies occupied. For the boys, the beach is lovely but the sand is granular, not like the white stuff of the Caribbean that sift so gently through your finger. Nor is the girl watching a match for the bottoms-only bikinis of St. Barths.
To continue on my road to stardom, I arrived in Palm Beach just in time to attend an intimate “Sixth Day of Christmas Dinner”. A party seated for fifty of the nearest and dearest friends of Michael Kovner and Jean DeMonyaillou, Palm Beach’s glamorous party givers.
The dining room of the Palm Beach Yacht Club
This was only the start on my road to stardom! This week, I was nominated, (for the fifth straight year), for the coveted Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s 2015 National Design Awards, “Honoring excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement in American design. Your nomination is as an individual and pre-qualifies for excellence in the following category: Lifetime Achievement.” This is the Oscars of the design world!!!
The challenge in Palm Beach is how to overcome the doldrums? Simple: you import your own entertainment! Who better than an Oscar nominated movie Queen to liven up the party? Our friend, Lilly Kilvert was nominated for creating the setting for the ‘Last Samurai”. Lilly has been a fixture in our Nantucket lives since she was a teenager. One of five children, Lilly went to Hollywood to follow her muse and became one of the most sought after Production Designers in the industry. (For other films that you might have seen, see list below.)
Lilly Kilvert on my terrace
Lilly is a great friend of my Daughter Jessica, (whom you have met in many previous Blogs). They thought three days in Palm Beach would be just the right tonic before Lilly returned to the wilds of Kazakhstan and to Budapest for staging the Vatican chambers and Streets of Rome, which Genghis Kahn was plotting to conquer.
For Jessica it was a respite from her blowtorches, gems, precious metals and designing her edgy jewelry. Needless to say, they needed a dinner party to help liven up their few days with me.
Lilly had just recently returned from Malaysia where she has spent the last ten months staging Netflix’s Marco Polo series. With the help of 400 staff artists, carvers, technicians and carpenters, she has recreated the Mongolian Desert in Kazakhstan, Mongol Palaces and Song dynasty on Pinewood stages in Southern Malaysia.
Lilly Kilvert's set designs for Netflix's Marco Polo
Palm Beach is the playground for the rich and famous. Not to be outdone, I followed suite by hosting an intimate dinner party to introduce Lilly and Jessica to a dozen of my nearest and dearest. To accomplish the transformation of my apartment from bachelor digs into an elegant dining room, we needed new wine glasses, crescent-shaped salad dishes, extra-large soup bowls, a pair of Fu Dogs, dozens of roses, an electric mixer, a marble mortar and pestle, an extra-large new table cloth, napkins, dozens of candles, flowers, a new three piece pants suit for Jessica, a sweater for me and replenish the mostly empty liquor bottles in the bar…This essential shopping took most of the day. Finally home by four o’clock, Jessica started her magic cooking and was finished in plenty of time for our glamorous dinner.
Jessica not only acted as my hostess, but also cooked up the most divine dinner ever given in my apartment. My star-filled guest list included artist Edwina Sandys, Churchill’s granddaughter; Nat and Lucy Day, the most entertaining hosts in Palm Beach; Michael and Jean, without whom, no party is complete; Dale Coudert, Palm Beach’s intellectual soul and “custodian” of one of the finest examples of a 1920’s Addison Mizner mansion complete with original furnishings… hers home qualifies as truly elegant shabby gentility – as opposed to my apartment, which is just shabby. For glamour, we had the lovely Sherril Goggin of Los Angeles, Nantucket and Pam Beach and Suzanne Klein the belle of Loveland Texas, Houston, Santa Barbara and Boca Raton. She has been my beloved client for many years and is truly a dynamo. Her business empire, Richland Corp of Houston owns commercial real estate all over the South West; her oil explorations discover oil where others have failed. I recently introduced her to my friend Zaha Hadid at which point she contracted Zaha to build Richland’s Headquarters in Houston Texas. Suzanne is particularly proud of the fact that her company is run by three women and together with Zaha, these four women will build the first Hadid monument to modern architecture in the West.
"The Dinner Party"
At my apartment in Palm Beach
Jessica’s innovative menu started with an hors d’oeuvre of goat cheese marinated in garlic and spices, followed by a subtle pasta topped with rare bottarga caviar. The main course was in celebration of the recent detent with Havana; a spectacular Cuban Fish soup, elegantly spiced and served with saffron rice, topped with a piquant rouille. For desert we burned through all the garlic and spice with a Colonel; Lemon sorbet laced with Russian Vodka.
By the time you read this epistle, I will have joined the millions of souls suffering through the coldest week in the North …. Hey, maybe Palm Beach doesn’t sound half so bad!
Links to films for which Lilly Kilvert was Production Designer: