Social Diary: “I’ll Send the Plane!”

When Philly socialites fly to Palm Beach for the season, they take along the most important people in their lives: not their husbands, but their hairstylists, trainers, interior designers and party planners

SOCIALITES, OF COURSE, have long traveled with entourages. Back in the 1920s and ’30s, Philadelphians who relocated to Newport in the summer and Palm Beach in the winter took maids, majordomos and drivers along with them. Banker Edward T. Stotesbury and wife Eva would leave their Wyndmoor house, Whitemarsh Hall, and relocate for the winter to El Mirasol, a 37-bedroom Addison Mizner house built in PB in 1918, and Eva needed help making those 37 beds. (Plus there was the private zoo — exotic animals don’t just feed themselves.) In 1923, Mizner built La Guerida on North Ocean Boulevard for department-store mogul Rodman Wanamaker; other Philadelphia notables, such as the Wideners, Munns and Geists, also found winter homes nearby and toted their staffs with them to Florida, sometimes on private railroad cars.

These days, it’s hard to afford an entourage, so when socialites move to their vacation homes, staff comes to them on a short-term, consulting basis. If you don’t have a chef, for instance, Scott Barnes, formerly of Philly catering and special-events company Feastivities, does a fantastic interim job. Barnes has established special friendships with his clients, which means he’s frequently winging down to Palm Beach to help them with their cocktail events.

“I went down twice last year,” he recalls, “one time right after the Academy Ball, in the dead of winter. That was for a horse show — the family I was working for is very involved with horses over at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in Wellington. They were entertaining ringside at the Grand Prix, and then they had dinners and breakfasts at their home.” Barnes bunked in his clients’ guest quarters, and basically turned himself into the family’s Jeeves for the week.

Another Florida commuter, David A. Schwartz, co-owns the boutique Sophy Curson on Rittenhouse Square, which his great-aunt (Sophy) and grandmother established in 1929. To meet demand, they opened a sister shop of the same name in Fort Lauderdale in 1942, and the family has spent the intervening decades shuttling back and forth several times a month in winter between Philly and Lauderdale. “My grandmother used to work at the store in Florida until she was 99,” Schwartz says, “but now she’s 101, so she retired.”

There are plenty of occasions that demand new frocks: There’s a Palm Beach Society for the Philadelphia Orchestra, for which Joanne and Graham Berwind hosted a cocktail reception in their PB garden last March. The late Anne d’Harnoncourt of the Art Museum used to travel down to spend time with her favorite trustees and attend dinners designed to keep the Museum in the minds (and checkbooks) of its supporters.

Like Tannenbaum and Schwartz, Barnes, the caterer, puts in long hours in Florida, but doesn’t exactly consider it punishing labor. And he admits that he goes native when it comes to dressing for Palm Beach — sort of. “I like the fitted clothes and the European style of dress. I’ll do seersucker, and a hot-pink shirt. I can’t bring myself to do the embroidered whales.”

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