For me, New Year’s Eve always belonged to Guy Lombardo. It was a childhood viewing ritual that rarely varied.
In the early 1960’s I felt like Cinderella, permitted to stay up to the stroke of midnight and watch, along with millions of other TV viewers, as Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadian Orchestra rang in the New Year. For one night the Canadian bandleader ruled television.
The epitome of “high-bred good taste,” as we were told , the New Year extravaganza telecast “live from the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel located on fashionable Park Avenue, where New York’s glamorous high society would bid a farewell to year and a noisy welcome to the next.”
For one night only, I too would be a part of “those who know life’s more sophisticated pleasures.”
Not to be outdone by Mr. New Year’s Eve himself, my parents would always celebrate in style with their own New Year’s Eve Party.
My parents, like most suburban couples enjoyed entertaining.
But this party was company unlike my standard family get-together’s which had more to do with genealogy than congeniality. Neither relative nor neighbor, they were my parent’s friends, not mine.
Here was a constellation of adults mysteriously visible only at night, making appearances at certain times of the year and certain days of the week. Notwithstanding the funny hats and loud noisemakers, this gathering was for mature audiences only.
Strictly Adults, it was a party strictly off-limits to me.
Along with my brother Andy, I was excluded from the main festivities. After a brief walk-on long enough for cheeks to be pinched and hair tousled, we were vanquished to our bedrooms until midnight.
In anticipation of the guests, my father raced about giving last-minute checks of the Ronson silver plated lighters making sure the wicks were high enough, while my mother brought out the fancy perfumed soaps and embroidered monogrammed towels that were strictly off-limits to my brother and I.
We were forbidden to touch those 12 delicate pink guests soaps. I would stare longingly at those plump little heart-shaped bars each with a rose design molded in the middle nestled in a Limoge dish. In all the years of trotting out these pristine soaps, I don’t think they were ever touched by guests either.
Our faces pressed against the frosty picture window Andy and I waited in watch for the convoy of cars carrying the party company arriving at the top of our snowy block. The clanking sound of chains and studs on snow tires would be heard before we spied a single car.
But at the first sound of a doorbell ringing, like some Pavlovian response, we scurried into hiding like frightened mice. Despite our protestations on being excluded from the party, the truth was we were both painfully shy and really didn’t need much coaxing to stay out of their way.
But the lure of the forbidden world, the boozy adult laughter, tantalizing smell of new and exotic foods, seemed irresistible and drew us out of our bedrooms. We stealthily slithered down the hallway to get a worm’s eye glimpse of the festivities.
Watching the party from the sidelines, my eyes were focused on the spectacle being played out direct from the intimate living room of my own house on fashionable Western Park Drive, a spectacle that could easily compete with TV.
The glowing house and the beaming guests all so shimmering and glittering dazzled me.
A Hair Raising Good Time
The gals, fresh from the beauty salon were set to have a hair-raising good time.
Their collective teased hair a colossal cacophony of colors, spun like great puffs of cotton candy, an homage to Clairol, the first name in hair color who fittingly enough was the proud sponsor of the Guy Lombardo show.
Coming or going it was an eye-filling picture – flirty bows back and front, dresses of midnight magic in velveteen whimsy, merged with heavenly, billowing rayon chiffon; fancied bodices in shimmering acetate competed with figure hugging sheaths in crepe and Shantung.
Underneath it all, a galaxy of girdles, firming with femininity, girdles with magic controls, to mold, hold, and control gently assuring social security.
While hips were subdued, waists whittled, and tummies tightly kept in check, bosoms were lavishly displayed, poised like missiles for take off in their bras.
With glowing faces shiny with pink pancake makeup, eyebrows deftly penciled in, their eyes as if smudged with crayolas in iridescent jewel tones of turquoise and sea green, the girls hotly debated the latest twist on Liptons California Dip, exchanging sizzling party recipes; fondues were scrutinized, zippy dips and dunks dissected, and potato chips pondered- with or without ridges.
Men smelling of Vitalis and Old Spice were trim in tapered slimming Continental suits. Puffing on their Cuban cigars, dressed in cone-shaped cardboard party hats embellished with glitter feathers and ruffled crepe paper fringe, they discussed politics.
The future looked very hazy to me as the room filled with blue smoke.
With stinging eyes I would retreat from the haze into the quiet seclusion of my parent’s bedroom. Stretching out in the darkened room on the cool satiny bedspread I marveled how even the beds got dolled up in their company finest, dressed up in a fancy quilted satin bedspread instead of their everyday chenille.
Stifling a yawn, I nestled in the heavy pile of coats and fedora hats that had been tossed there earlier by the guests.
Glamorous mink coats with labels from I. J. Fox, Stein and Blaine, fancy monograms in contrasting color stitched onto the lining. Silky smooth, beautiful linings- vivid cerise, orange brocade or gold lame with matching scarf from the lining to complete m’ ladys look.
Hibernating under the pile of coats, a tangle of dark brown ranch minks, luxurious beaver, Persian lamb, and camels hair, there was not a single respectable Republican cloth coat among them.
I would doze off engulfed by smells of loose face powder, and a mélange of cloying floral perfume.
By 11:30 the television set was warmed up in the living room as everyone gathered around the TV to watch Guy Lombardo direct from the Grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria.
An assortment of colorful lithographed tin noise makers of all shapes, were strewn about the coffee table, including drum shaped tin clackers festooned with ballroom dancers, clowns with guitar, New Years revelers, and balloons.
While my parents New Year’s Eve party was in full swing, I was down for the count.
Inevitably my father would scoop me up carrying a sleepy me into the future, where I would open my eyes just before the stroke of midnight.
Just in time to marvel at the sight of televised drunken couples “those epitome of high-bred good taste and elegance” decked out in their After Six tuxedos and silly hats dancing cheek to cheek to “The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven.”
I thank you all for your continued support. The camaraderie and commiserating during this chaotic and distressing time in our countries history has been reassuring and enlightening and I am grateful for this community for your insights, perspectives, and wisdom.
But way beyond the politics, I am touched and moved by the kindness, warmth, humor, intelligence, and compassion that has entered my life through all your connections this year.
Wishing You All a Very Happy, Healthy, and Hopefully, a Trump-Free New Year!
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2018.