I know we are in the midst of some difficult times, but what is going on at the Wickliffe House? Cars and couches parked on the lawn? Did I hear pianist Steven Williams playing the theme to Sanford and Son?
No, but “Lizbeth! This is a big one!”
On an electric baby grand in the center of the yard. Williams played “It Had To Be You.” Tall drinks of water stretched their legs on the sleek black sofas, sipping gimlets. And the spotlight was on … three vintage automobiles from Merrill Benfield’s “Garage Mahal.”
“He owns 12 Rolls-Royces,” Benfield’s friend Sam Baker said.
“No, that’s not true,” Benfield said. “I own 15.”
At least that’s what I think he said. There were a lot of numbers being thrown around.
“This is a ’48 Cadillac, that’s a ’41 Packard 120, and that’s a ‘51 Rolls-Royce Silver Dollar, although the body was built in ’44. It can outrun the mafia.”
As he pointed out which Gatsby-mobile landed him in jail for going 136 in a 35, another wide-eyed partygoer approached the star of the night.
“I loved you in the play today,” she said to Benfield — an East Bay antique dealer and interior designer — “and I loved you in The Constant Wife, too!”
To be fair, the Gate Theatre has played Spoleto so often they might be mistaken for locals.
Jade Yourell was here in ’07 for The Constant Wife and plays ingénue Daphne in Present Laughter. She and fellow lovely red-haired lass Niamh O’Flaherty (company manager, pronounced “Neve”) were enjoying some cookies from the new Macaroon Boutique on John Street. They’re staying on Folly, where apparently the Dubliners are going through sunscreen by the tubful.
“We use [sun protection] factor 70, sometimes 100,” O’Flaherty says.
I believe SPF 100 actually turns your skin a whiter shade of pale. If you stand near someone who wears SPF 100, you should wear sunscreen yourself, even at night.
Back out on the lawn I got to talk about zeugma and isocolon with retired USC English professor Carolyn Matalene, a self-avowed “schemes and tropes girl.” She encouraged me to use parallel structure in my writing if I wanted to sound smart. Bill Struhs (Spoleto USA photographer) encouraged us to see way more shows than time allowed. Tom Bradford and Susan Bass encouraged me not to wear an undershirt in the summer. Brian & Gretchen Cuddy * Brian & Gretchen Cuddy And I encouraged the pianist to break out Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” The Wickliffe house has a fantastic porch where I bumped into the Wickliffe Johns: John Paul Huguley and partner John Pope. Leaning over the railing with gimlet in hand, co-host Gretchen Cuddy surveyed the scene below. A floral designer, she planned the event with her “mentor,” Denise Barto of All Occasions. Cuddy also had her hand in the opening gala, but all this party planning may go too far. “My daughter asked us the other day if we could shut down King Street for her wedding,” Cuddy said. At least she and husband Brian have a decade or two to figure that one out. Food: Lobster Thermidor, shrimp cocktail, steak diane, passed escargots, more. Cheese count: 14. Overheard: “What are you talking about?” “Getting naked in my pool.” George & Julianne Khoury * George & Julianne Khoury 024_thumb.jpg