The other evening I was attempting to explain to WH and E who Robert Isabell, who died July 11,was and what he meant to the event world. Being ridiculously young and dreadfully bored with with everything they couldnt have cared less, so dear reader, I will share my thoughts with you…I worked on several events with Robert because my former and I owned a venue that was in demand by the high and haughty and to hold an event there you had to work with us. I took advantage of that to stealthily gain knowledge and eventually, to begin my business. When Robert walked into a space, whether it was a hideous ballroom with a gigunda chandelier or a big glass atrium with track lights like our space,it was obvious he didnt see the venue at all, he only saw what it would look like when he was done with it. Logistics had no part in that vision whether he had to build a new ceiling or ditch the kitchen entrance. For the charity/benefit opening of “Out of Africa” he employed a vast army of beautiful Rostafarians who came in the middle of the night, wrapped the space in brown paper and then sketched on the paper with charcoal-when they were done,we were in Africa. For the premier of “The Natural” with a budget of about 22 dollars, he turned the vast, cold space into a sexily lit ballpark. It was the sort of alchemy that transcended the prowess of an ”event designer”. He was drop-dead handsome, but definitely not the friendliest, and,as I was neither a socialite nor a star, it took a lot of chutzpah for me to approach him and ask if he would ”consult” on my wedding decor ( I was young and gutsy and figured wtf)
He actually agreed and accompanied me to Wave Hill, where I would be wed and showed me where to place copious flats of Paper Whites and (to this day the scent reminds me of my 1986 wedding) and how to use potted plants as centerpieces and branches in glass vases to frame the ceremony space. As a grand act of kindess he gifted me with 20 Alencon lace table cloths left from some rich person’s wedding and that he was about to toss-(they were beautiful and I used them on many weddings in the early years)
We sent him a good bottle of wine as a thank you (I had no idea then what he actually charged for his talents). I began my business in earnest soon after,and over the years had several occasions to work with him when clients would hire both of us (often in the mistaken concept that I could or would control him budgetarily) Each time we would begin a project I would remind him that he had “done” my wedding and he would smile/smirk and do his best to politely ignore me for the duration. Nonetheless, it was always a cosmic and extraordinary experience to witness him at work and each time one entered a party and saw that the band had almost invisible white speakers rather than the hideous monstrosities usual on the stage or the centerpieces were flaming torchons that appeared to wirelessly sprout from table centers, those in the know would realize it could only be Robert Isabell at work.