Before all of the unpleasantness, before the lawsuits and the gossip, before it all went so wrong, so quickly, there were the parties. Craig Drake loves a good party.
There were the dinner parties he would throw in the charming old-world dining room of Chez Donati, tucked inside the Les Trois Rois hotel in Basel, Switzerland. Andy Warhol was a regular at the hotel, as was Pablo Picasso, who is said to have painted a canvas or two in exchange for free meals. Every year, during the annual international watch and jewelry fair known as Baselworld, Craig Drake would score an impossible-to-score reservation for 12 or 16 and host a lavish dinner, commanding the room with his wit, charm and very good wine.
Then there were the parties in bars along St. Tropez, more impromptu, with Drake gregarious and welcoming, constantly drawing in more and more people, a jet-set Pied Piper. He smoked expensive cigars in expensive bars with his chum Julius Erving. He regaled Mick Jagger with jokes on the Concorde; he got invited to the birthday beach bash of the son of Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy in St. Barts, where singer Enrique Iglesias admired Drake’s young, sexy wife. There were dinners at “21,” late nights at Studio 54, jaunts to Mykonos and Monte Carlo. Chicago socialite Candace Jordan, a former Playboy Playmate, encountered Drake while in St. Tropez with tennis ace Jimmy Connors and his wife. “The first time we met him, he had all of these fantastical stories about celebrities and all of these high-profile people. And my husband and I just looked at each other and raised an eyebrow,” she recalls. “And sure enough, the next time we were there, he’s with all of these people he’s just talked about.”
We envy the lives of people who “have it all,” and Craig Drake sure seemed to be one of them. His exotic Brazilian trophy wife and the showy penthouse and the lineage as a descendant of explorer Sir Francis Drake (or so he constantly claimed) were augmented by memberships in the Union League and the Racquet Club. But mostly, what he had was his reputation, as the private jeweler monied Philadelphia and the Main Line went to when they craved shimmering, luxurious sparkle for their necks and wrists and fingers. Patrons rich enough to be buzzed inside his private second-floor Walnut Street atelier surveyed a glittering candy store filled with sinewy gold chains, monstrous diamonds, and Drake’s signature gold animal pins.
It all garnered Drake entrée into the highest echelons of Philadelphia society. He attended weddings with the Rendells and the Luries, rubbed shoulders with Gerry Lenfest and Suzanne and Ralph Roberts at the Orchestra gala. He contributed jewelry to a treasure hunt for Anne Hamilton and Joanna McNeil Lewis and their pals at the Zoo fund-raiser, then nibbled on smoked salmon gâteau and herb-crusted filet mignon with Louise Reed and Marcia and Ron Rubin at the Academy Ball. If there was an event that called for black tie, killer jewelry, and the attendance of the city’s who’s who, Craig Drake was there. “There wasn’t a big gathering that Craig wasn’t invited to or somehow got himself invited to,” says a stalwart of the Philly/Main Line social whirl.