Geoffrey Bradfield’s birthday weekend at La Serenissima

Opera singer

Geoffrey Bradfield and his beloved William Featherby, sent this shy, but compelling invitation to a handful of pals, while waiting for 16 or more to accept. 38 did so, and so did they flow.

The place had to be moved from the aristocratic dining room of Palazzo Alvisi to a grand Baroque palace, more written place cards and prepared guinea fowl.


Footmen in livery ready.

Geoffrey recently retired from a legendary 50-year career as one of the world’s most esteemed decorators, so he finally had a few moments to spare. That never stopped him from hosting his other famous events, always featuring his costumed, sometimes painted, male attendants / living sculptures – the ultimate Insta moments before Insta even. Yet it was his magnum opus.

Geoffrey is painfully elegant, a perfectionist, a connoisseur of beauty, and a bit of an aesthetic snob. But he always finds a balance between modesty and greatness, bridging the distance between past and present, while still living for the moment.


Before dinner, champagne at Palazzo Alvisi, Allan Pollock, William Featherby, Yue-Sai Kan, Ilona Kogan and Geoffrey.

Of course, only Venice would do. He and William moved to Palazzo Alivisi, their large headquarters which would also welcome us for many Bellinis, flowing champagne and delicacies from its talented chefs. The 16th-century palace, on the Grand Canal, overlooking San Giorgio Maggiore, once housed the American socialite Catherine bronson, which hosted literary salons for Henri Jacques and Robert browning, among others. Walls are covered in silk, chandeliers sparkle above with speckled terrazzo floors below and antiques surround.

We gathered there before dinner, the resplendent women in ball gowns; men in black ties and masks as requested. Some, like Di Mondo, in her glamorous feathered cape and pulled over a black tie, has it all combined. Chantal Meyers skillfully rented an authentic Venetian costume, and Tara and Michael Rockefeller would have won the prize for the best mask (if there had been one) in their Herve Pierre the creations.


Winners of the prize for the best mask, Tara and Michael Rockefeller in the wonderful confection of Hervé Pierre.
I’m lucky with Geoffrey and Aida Hersham from London.
Geoffrey and Lucia Wong-Gordon, at Palazzo Alvisi with a full moon.
Di Mondo, Leyla Zaloutskaya and Greg Kan.
The Etonians: Waldo Fraser, Dylan Dunning, Celina D’abo and Charlotte Taylor.
Paul Linder, from Greece.
The girls just want to have fun, and that’s what they did: Celina and Charlotte.
Vignette in motion …
Then circled by Mary Hilliard, who is familiar with a vignette.

After champagne and foie gras, in our heels and opera pumps, we all delicately descended into waiting boats (only wooden, of course) and sailed towards the baroque wonder, San Rocco. There we sipped some more champagne, then walked up the stairs to the great room – Sala Capitolare.

Soft, atmospheric candles and handsome footmen in 18th century Venetian livery, with white silk stockings and buckled shoes, greeted us. Once seated, the breathtaking light show began to illuminate the Tintorets surrounding us on the ceilings and walls. Once we caught our breath, we started the birthday feast.


Aida and I go upstairs, San Rocco.
Ilona Kogan.

The classic Venetian meal included: mushroom and candied pumpkin cheese pie, packet of Venetian pancakes with smoked ricotta, guinea fowl, Venetian baïcoli glazed eggnog mousse and yes… the birthday cake – one of five I think this weekend. Rosa salva Catering – apparently the best in Venice, which I believe. Darling Geoffrey, if he isn’t loved enough already, gave a brief toast… a gift to all.


Sala Capitolare de San Rocco.
Footmen everywhere!
And again… what will we do without them?
Hmmm. Can I choose one? Ohhhh, sit down of course.


Hosts Geoffrey and William walk over to opposite ends of the table.
Farewell kiss.
Geoffrey’s program with his portrait. A touch of Dorian Gray? He never gets old.

The Tintorets surrounded us.
From left to right : Chantal Meyers in authentic Venetian costume; Layla loves Douglas Wittels.
Layla and Di Mondo, birds of a feather.
Sense of scale.
Oh! Are they taking pictures ?! DiMondo and Amy Hoadley, disguised under her menstrual wig.
Ilona Kogan and Geoffroy.
Mary Hilliard, on the other side of the camera, and Paul Linder, unmasked.

There is something about the moments after the “BIG” event. The heart (and waist) is swollen, the head a little lighter, and everything relaxes. So I took off my painful shoes to walk back to our water taxi. In honor of Venice, I arrived at the Gritti Palace, unscathed. With nightcaps in the glam bar at Gritti, we once again toasted Geoffrey, a prince of a buddy.


Nightcaps at Gritti Palace, Yue-Sai and Lucia.

The whole stay was sprinkled with magic: the predicted daily rain, was replaced by a constant sun, Yue-Sai Kan and Allan Pollock sent a weeping opera singer to Geoffrey’s palace, the NYT signaled a floating violin, with violins playing Vivaldi, passed by, and the brightest crop moon hung above. Geoffrey’s strong faith clearly presided.

Lest you think we were only satisfied with the most elegant party of the year… no, no. There was a delicious three-hour, four-course lunch at Harry’s Dolce hosted by Yue-Sai and Allan, followed by dinner at Harry’s Bar, a languid lunch at Aman hosted by Aida Dallal, and a welcome dinner at the Gran Caffe Quad where Geoffrey toasted: “Let the fun begin. “

They did, indeed, and we wish they never ended.


Violin floating in the Grand Canal, celebrating the revival of Venice… and Geoffrey’s birthday, of course.


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