On a way-too-cold November night, Le Club, an intimate, often-wild, ultra-private club in the East Fifties in Manhattan was “it” for way more than 15 minutes. Way more.
That’s what happens when Jackie Kennedy Onassis decides a place is the perfect setting for her children’s joint birthday celebration (John Jr.’s 18th and Caroline’s 21st).
All six foot and four-point-something of Patrick Shields, the official host for Le Club, was lightyears beyond elated.
“He could not be cast as a glorified servant,” mused Gay Talese, referring to Patrick’s height, demeanor and, some might add, ego.
For weeks before the big night, it was “Jackie, this and Jackie that,” until one of the board members woke up in the middle of the night and thought he was having a nightmare. A Kennedy nightmare. Only, Shields’ last Kennedy encounter was done wide awake.
“That Ethel Kennedy sure could charm the pants off of you,” Shields said. Saying this was one thing, but seeing it in print was….simply not going to happen again. Le Club’s board members huddled and ultimately exhaled when they realized it would be advisable to hire a publicist.
Gifford -Wallace, the public relations guru for Studio 54, was now Le Club’s alliance with the Fourth Estate.
What went on at Le Club would try its absolute best to stay in Le Club. But it was a mission near impossible to keep a double Kennedy birthday a secret.
Outside the club, the paparazzi lurked, smoked, shoved, shivered and cussed.
At 5:00a.m., when the party was quieting down, John Jr. and his friends made their exit, only to be smothered by tabloid photographers. Kennedy had his head bashed into a limo while a few guests turned into “street fighting men.”
What to do, what to do? Where there’s a Goliath, you need a David.
Shields went barreling out, and without so much as a wrinkle in his Dunhill Tuxedo, crushed the mighty scandal-seeking, give-me-a-break, elbow shoving photographers. Still, he couldn’t stop the story—the very well illustrated story, at that.
The next morning, Patrick Shields received a note from Jackie O.
“I’m walking on a cloud,” she cooed.
“I don’t think she had seen the papers yet,” Shields concluded.
Even if she had, this was not to be the last Kennedy party at Le Club.
Next was an engagement party for one of the Lawford ladies. Caroline and cousins sang Going to the Chapel while Teddy Kennedy carried assorted family on his broad dancing shoulders. No unwelcomed paparazzi peek-a-boo, or “charm-the-whatever off of you,” remarks this time around.
Le Club didn’t start out with Shields at the helm. The Cassini brothers, Igor and Oleg, founded the club for the elite European New York clique. Times changes, board members moved on, and members multiplied.
Donald Trump was a constant Le Clubber; Al Pacino sat in his quiet corner until a chauffeured jeep drove him to his next destination; Mike Nichols hosted his after-Tony Party upstairs,
On any given night, Diana Ross lit up the dance floor while Jennifer O’Neill, veiled in the image of a classic movie star, made heads that weren’t used to turning, turn.
Then there was George Steinbrenner, the infamous Yankees owner and Le Club Board Member.
A home run for Patrick, who could then sit in the owner’s box, proudly wearing his Red Sox cap. For his birthday, Shields took his entire junior committee to a Yankees night game. The fields lit up with a winning “Happy Birthday Patrick Shields.” He had arrived.
It is no secret that Patrick died of A.I.D.S.
Romeo, his mate, pulled Patrick’s Red Sox hat over his grief.
Le Club did not survive long after Shield’s death. The good times rolled on…but not at Le Club, whose fifteen minutes plus were worth their weight in caviar and nostalgia.