Skip to main content

Marcy Blum Transcript

From a commune to zoom: party planner extraordinaire Marcy Blum’s fascinating journey

Kerry Diamond: Hey, Bombesquad. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the podcast that's all about women and food. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond, coming to you from my apartment in Brooklyn, New York.

Today's guest is Marcy Blum, event planner extraordinaire, wedding planner to the stars, and a woman with many lives. Marcy went to Performing Arts High School, the Fame High School as many movie lovers know it. She lived on a commune in Vermont, studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, worked with the legendary Edna Lewis at Gage & Tollner right here in Brooklyn, and went on to launch her own events company. Marcy has organized events and weddings for everyone from LeBron James to Nate Berkus to Katie Lee. Of course, Marcy and I also talk about how the event industry is changing in the face of COVID-19, and what you can do to make Zoom and other digital events seem more special and intimate.

Thank you to the folks at Sonos and Breyers CarbSmart for supporting our podcast.

Some housekeeping, Cherry Bombe has been working on a very special project since April, and I'm excited to tell you about it. We helped the students at the Food and Finance High School, New York City's only culinary focused public high school, create their very first magazine. It's called Pass The Spatula, and it's all about trailblazing chefs of color. The students interviewed some of our favorite folks around, including Padma Lakshmi, Adrienne Cheatham, Carla Hall and Priya Krishna. Copies are on sale right now at, and they are $10. Help support both the food media leaders of tomorrow and a school that is very near and dear to us here at Cherry Bombe.

We'll be right back after this word from Sonos.

The awesome folks at Sonos graciously sent me their new premium Sonos Move speaker for a road test. Even though I love music and listening to podcasts of course, I have been speaker-less for a very long time, and just played everything through my phone. And you know, the sound was so-so. No more. I unpacked my Sonos Move, charged it, downloaded the Sonos app, and set everything up in about five minutes. I turned on one of my favorite podcasts, and the sound was crystal clear. I had forgotten how a great speaker makes all the difference, and let's just say Radio Cherry Bombe sounds way better through a Sonos Move than through my phone.

Some other cool things about Sonos Move? Well, it's called Move because it's cordless, and once it's charged you can easily move it around your house or apartment. Whether you're baking in your kitchen, cleaning your bathroom, or if you're lucky, grilling and chilling outside, Sonos Move can hang out with you, making sure you're surrounded by gorgeous sound. Sonos Move is even weatherproof and drop resistant, and you'll love the sleek design. Get a move on, visit to learn more.

Now, here's my conversation with Marcy Blum.

Marcy, we're going to start at the beginning, because you've had so many lives that I wasn't even sure which life to start, so we're just going to start in the beginning. You went to Performing Arts High School.

Marcy Blum: I did, I did. The original one. Yes, known as Fame.

Kerry Diamond: What did you study there?

Marcy Blum: I was an acting major. Before the schools of Music and Art and Performing Arts were joined, Performing Arts was just acting, dance, and music. We were at the original school, the building on 46th Street, which is now the school's located at Lincoln Center, but this was on 46th off Broadway.

Kerry Diamond: Wow. So for those of you who don't know what we're talking about, Performing Arts is really the famous New York City Performing Arts Public High School, and it was memorialized in this movie called Fame that came out in 1980. I just watched the trailer. But I remember seeing the original movie and just thinking, "Oh my God, I can't believe a school like this exists. It is the coolest thing in the world."

Marcy Blum: It was pretty cool, I must say. My parents wanted me to go to some all-girls private school in Riverdale, where we're from in the Bronx, and I was so adamant that I purposefully failed the test. To this day, I don't know if I would have gotten in.

Kerry Diamond: What was the city like back then?

Marcy Blum: You know, it was interesting because this was the late '60s, so a lot of us had become hippies, and a lot of my friends, we were all pretty nuts. There were be-ins in Central Park and concerts all over the place, and the Fillmore East was hot and heavy, and we all were just hanging out on the sidewalks of the East Village and taking subways everywhere, and of course in those days, smoking a lot of pot.

Kerry Diamond: So you said you went to be-ins. I've heard that term before, but what exactly is a be-in?

Marcy Blum:  In Central Park, we would just tons and tons and tons of people would usually ... It was usually at Sheep Meadow, and you'd encircle the park. It was like a all day and night picnic for everybody who had the same long hair and painted faces and vanity table skirts and peace signs, and we would throw flowers at the police, and play music and bongos and sing Hare Krishna. It was really like, just be.

Kerry Diamond: I'm trying to think, did that plant the seed for your event planning?

Marcy Blum: No, I'd like to say that. But what I did, I wound up living on a commune. My friends and I, when we graduated high school, there were 20 of us and we bought a farm in Marshfield, Vermont. The be-ins were certainly a precursor to that existence, and I was, in fact, the cook on the farm. So that kind of lead me to my next life, which was after the farm broke up when I would up going to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and then CIA, first class of females at the CIA.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my God, you're throwing so much at us.

Marcy Blum: I have a lot lives, yeah.

Kerry Diamond: Okay, so the be-ins, you are the cook on a commune at a farm in Vermont. What was communal living like?

Marcy Blum: I was there with my boyfriend. We were all couples. Well, maybe there were a couple of singles, but most of us were couples. We actually ... Every time I try to tell this story it sounds so ridiculous, so I always try to make it sound more intelligible. But basically, all we knew is that we didn't want to be in New York anymore and we didn't want to be part of the establishment. We had marched against the Vietnam War and we were listening to music and going to concerts, and I just could not imagine going to some straight ass college, and neither could any of my friends. We were all either in theater or art, so we put down I think $5,000, it was ridiculous 1970, and we bought this farm in Vermont and we tried to plant vegetables thinking we were going to be self-sufficient. Of course, planted many crops upside down. All these New York City kids, which was kind of funny. One of our members parents came up who actually had been from the Midwest and dug up a carrot and said, "This is upside down."

Then we tried Christmas Tree farming and a whole bunch of other things. We were about 20 miles from Goddard College, so we would hitchhike to Goddard College every Sunday for the students all-you-can-eat brunch, and one of us would get on line and feed 20 of us. That's how we did it, and it was great fun playing Grateful Dead and painting the house and tending to our upside down crops until it became absolutely bitter freezing cold. It was not very sustainable.

I was still cooking for everybody. Some of my female friends went out and got waitress jobs and some of the guys went out and got carpentry jobs, but the whole dream of being self-sufficient fell by the wayside, and then by the next year we just let it go.

Kerry Diamond: I'm imagining a lot of lentils.

Marcy Blum: A lot of lentils. A lot of brown rice. I used to say at the beginning it was brown rice and vegetables, and by the end, by the following June it was brown rice and carrot.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my gosh. So it's a big step from a commune in Vermont to Le Cordon Bleu in ... Where did you go, London or Paris?

Marcy Blum: Paris. My brother is a writer and he was writing a book. He was living in Paris with his girlfriend. I was sitting in my parents' house watching Let's Make A Deal after the farm broke up, and my brother's girlfriend called and said, "You're parents are losing their minds. We have to do something," and I was no longer acting. She said, "You love to cook." My mother was an extraordinary cook and has taken courses from Simone Beck and James Beard and a lot of those people, and she said, "Why don't you apply to Le Cordon Bleu?" It was a summer course, and I went and I took it and I loved it, loved it, loved it, so I lived in Paris for three months.

Kerry Diamond: We have to go back to your mom. Wow, your mom actually got lessons from Simone Beck? I know a lot of you know who that is, but she was Julia Child's co-author. And then James Beard, also. How did that even come about?

Marcy Blum: My mother was a school teacher in the Bronx, and she was a cooking fanatic and the television was always pulled up to the dining table, which was in the kitchen, so that she could watch Julia Child while she cooked, and Julia Child was the background of my childhood. Her voice is the voiceover for every meal that I can remember. And my mother, even though we kept a semi-kosher house, kosher-ish, no milk and meat, but certainly not entirely kosher ... My mother was really a brilliant cook and baker, and was able to make some delicious, wonderful soul satisfying foods that were kosher-ish based on Julia's recipes, Simpca's recipes, James Beard's recipes.

Then I, after Cordon Bleu, I wound up apprenticing. I took a class from and wound up apprenticing with John Clancy, who wrote the Foods of the World cookbooks. My mother took some classes with him too, and he's the one who taught me how to bake. I mean, not that I'm a great baker.

Kerry Diamond: What do you remember your mom making?

Marcy Blum: Well, she made wonderful rugelach. My grandmother was Hungarian, so she had some great Hungarian recipes. A lot of sour cream doughs, and she made a wonderful chocolate chip Bundt cake. Thanksgiving was her holiday, so we would have these crazy 10-course meals with either crepes or dumplings or some sort of exotic salad that she had found, and several different ... Turkey, but also roast meats. She was actually very big on pasta salads in those days.

That sounds so ridiculous now, but one of the first things I ever made when I came home from CIA was a avocado soup, which is very prosaic now, a cold avocado soup. But things like pasta salads, avocado soup, vitello tonnato was incredibly exotic. Like a veal in a tuna sauce was just ridiculous, right? But it was also kosher, by the way, because there's no dairy in there. I mean, there's mayonnaise, which is not ... So interesting, things that you could find to make.

She also did a lot of ... I mean, I haven't eaten meat in a very long time, and my mother's gone now many years, but the last 10 years of her life she didn't eat meat either, but when she did, giant stuffed veal roasts and rib roasts with several different kinds of potatoes. Very, very earthy, but delicious. I mean, all my friends would come to eat at my parents' house.

Kerry Diamond: How did you like Paris?

Marcy Blum: I don't know where I pulled this out of Kerry, I just know it was on the Rue du Champ de Mars. I don't know how I remembered that because I was always I always lost, so someone must have drilled it into my head. I never knew where I was. It was all in French, and my French, it's not very good now again, but in those days it really sucked, and then I learned when I lived in Bordeaux for a while, but that's a different story. So I basically relied on my knowledge of food and cooking techniques, such as it was from my mother, and the fact that I read cookbooks like novels, to get through.

I didn't understand anything other than the culinary portion. No jokes, no asides, nothing else. But it was a very aggrandized and well run housewives cooking course, and I learned tons. A lot of, from what I remember, it was more technique than recipes, and when I came back here and took classes here they were mostly focused on, "We're going to teach you how to make this dish," which is different.

Kerry Diamond: Very interesting. I'm projecting a little bit here, but did you fall in love with Paris?

Marcy Blum: Oh my God, I sort of glossed over it. I was extremely depressed when the life I had in mind, which was going to be living on this commune with my boyfriend for the rest of my life, fell apart. That age in your life, when you're 18, 19, 20, it's scary and I was extremely depressed. I would have to say that finding this delight in learning about food and being insatiable about cooking and food and Paris really gave me my life back, actually. It was the first time in a long time that I remember being happy and excited and interested and fascinated and unable to get enough of it, which is great. You'd spend an hour on a bus to find a croissant that someone suggested. Things like that, and especially at that age. I was still wearing my hippy clothes but I had a giant French straw hat with a ribbon that I wore everywhere. I don't know what I thought I was doing, but I was very recognizable. And yeah, it was just absolutely wonderful.

Marcy Blum: I remember we'd open the French doors every morning, the French door windows, and say, "Bonjour," because there was this airline commercial at that time that had that all the time and it was so cool to be actually there saying, "Bonjour." It was just enormous amounts of fun, and I stayed three months and took the class, and then came back and was so revved up. In those days, who was the food scene in New York? It was, as I said, John Clancy. It was Richard Olney.

Kerry Diamond: This was the '70s?

Marcy Blum: The '70s, exactly. The early '70s. I mean, I took classes from everybody. I just ran around and sopped up every class. Oh my God. I mean, I took cake decorating, whatever I could get my hands on. And then when John Clancy, the Time Life Foods of the World Cookbooks, which I think you and I have spoken about, to this day I think they have legs. I think they're wonderful cookbooks. Beautiful, wonderful cookbooks. He was test kitchen chef, so I went and started taking classes from him. He taught not only how to bake bread and croissant and how to do a Feuilleté, just wonderful, interesting, fabulous man, who then later on owned a restaurant in the Village, which is now Bobo's, I think was John Clancy's.

I spent a year taking every housewife class I could get my hands on, and then he was the one who suggested I applied to the CIA, and they were starting to accept females. He wrote a recommendation for me, and I went up there and wow. It was the first year they accepted females, so I think we were the second graduating class, the second or third trimester of that term. But there were 50 of us in the school and 1,500 men, and they put one of us in each class. Literally each class would have 15 people in it, so they'd have one girl and some of them had two, but most of us were in classes, one of us. It was hilarious.

Kerry Diamond: What was that like?

Marcy Blum: It was interesting because I kind of... I'm just trying to think. This was right in the midst of when we were all becoming feminists and figuring out what that meant, reading Marilyn French's The Women's Room or Simone de Beauvoir, right? Or all these people. We were becoming woke as feminists and at the same time, I was also a 23 year old young woman who liked guys, so I would alternate between being really obnoxious in class and taking an hour and a half to drag a sack of potatoes across the room rather than letting one of them help me and then wind up sleeping with them.

That was kind of how that went for a couple years, but it was a very strong bond between the 50 girls who were at the CIA. I was living off campus because I was a little older, I was 23, which most of the people go there go right from high school, at least in those days. I would have these poker games at my house, I would have all these... We would have book clubs. We really had a great time, but it's fierce. This is not a... And I'm sure you've been up there, right? This is serious stuff.

This is eight hours a day in the kitchen, preparing meals, learning things. They're very string about brunoise or julienne or things like that and that was not at all how I was cooking. I had a good palate and I was a very good home cook, but nobody ever measured the squares of my vegetables. It was like going to bootcamp, really.

Kerry Diamond: Were you made to feel welcome? Were the 50 women wanted there?

Marcy Blum: You know, the men, the students were certainly happy to have some females there. This was old school, mostly French, if not French-European chefs and they thought it was outrageous and ridiculous and just another stupidity of what was going on in the world. You'd be constantly, "Come sit on my lap, honey, and let's discuss your grade," or, "Oh, you're going to make this wonderful soup for your husband after you learn how to make it." Nobody ever thought any of us were going to do this seriously at all, at all, at all.

I mean, again, for someone who was... I was absolutely obsessed with food and cooking, so the library up there, you could sit in there for... It's like if you're a Shakespearean actor going to a Shakespearean library. We'd sit on the floor in the library for days going through cookbooks, stacks and stacks and stacks of everything from the original Escoffier cookbooks to whatever came out that week. It was just amazing and in those days, certainly CIA, there were no schools in New York, professional schools. They were all hobby schools.

If you were serious, you had to go up there and it was a very heady experience. Most of the guys in my class were there on the GI Bill, nobody ever thought of a... I keep saying guys not as a mistake because it was all guys. Certainly, there was no rock'n'roll chef cult at all, at all, at all. That just did not... Nobody thought of it as sexy.

My first job when I graduated was at a German-Jewish country club in Larchmont. I was a sous chef. The people on the buffet line, they were totally aghast and agog. What could I have done that I wound up in the kitchen? What horrible crime had I committed? Because it certainly was not... There weren't any Rachael Rays. Nobody was going into this as something that you actually wanted to do as a career. It was really, really considered blue collar. A lot of guys in my class, their parents were like, "Look, you can wind up in juvenile detention center or you go to this culinary school."

Kerry Diamond: You said that none of the professors had any aspirations for the women there. What were your aspirations for yourself at that time?

Marcy Blum: I wasn't sure. I don't think I ever wanted to be a chef chef. I really wasn't sure. I just knew I wanted to learn everything I could possibly learn about it and I certainly wanted to work as a chef when I graduated, although that was not possible because kitchens didn't hire women. I had several rejection letters, including from André Soltner who owned Lutece at the time, which wrote, "You have very good grades and I'm sure you're lovely, but we don't hire women for the kitchen."

I wanted to be a test kitchen chef, so I applied to Suzanne Zakroff, my gosh, was the test kitchen chef at Gourmet and they were full up and then I applied to a lot of... There weren't a lot of magazines. It was Gourmet, but a lot of weird places to be test kitchen chef and I wound up, as I said, when I finished working as a sous chef, I wound up and then Peter Ashkinazi who's now my former husband and still dear friend, I just spent the weekend up at his house with he and his wife, hired me to be a food consultant for a bunch of restaurants that he was opening.

I wound up doing that and a couple of other jobs at the same time. I worked at Maxwell's Plum as the garde manger. I was the only female in the kitchen, which was... They called the garde manger, but it was actually the parsley lady. You'd stand at the door and toss a sprig on cold plates that went out and I worked at a place as a sous chef called Coup de Fusil which was a very, very avant garde... It was before The Quilted Giraffe and it was a wacko, avant garde, before molecular gastronomy, really wackadoo restaurant.

As I always say, I'm a good cook, but I was never a very talented chef. I mean, some of the guys in my class were extraordinary, like watching the Bolshoi. They didn't have the connections or the wherewithal to go work at some place fabulous. I mean, some of my friends who did go to Culinary but weren't in my class, like Geoffrey Zakarian, people like that knew enough to go to France and cook.

These guys were pretty provincial, but they were skilled. I wasn't sure what... At some point, I thought, well maybe I'd be a food critic and I wrote a couple of columns. My brother was writing for the Village Voice then, so I wrote a couple of restaurant columns. This has to be 1974, '75, '75, '76 and it was horrible because I felt so horribly when I didn't like something that I couldn't write it and blech, I just didn't want to do that. Made me feel terrible.

In those days, they really wielded power. I mean, if you got a bad review in New York Magazine or the New York Times, you might as well close up shop. There weren't blogs, there weren't other places to look. It was the Times first, which was Mimi Sheridan, and then New York Magazine, which was Gail Green. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it. Not that I knew as much as they did either, but aside from that, I just could not destroy someone's life like that.

Kerry Diamond: It's interesting. I guess I haven't thought that you had these two women who were at the forefront of food journalism in the city, but you didn't have that many female chefs.

Marcy Blum: Oh, there were none and as a matter of fact, before your time, but I was very ensconced in the restaurant business then. If Mimi got to your restaurant first, if you tipped her off or Joe Baum and all these people, they were all friends with each other. Barbara Kafka, Joe Baum, Mimi Sheridan. Mimi got there, Gail would freeze you out and vice versa. You couldn't get reviewed by the other one unless you turned out to be the Four Seasons or something where they didn't have a choice.

Kerry Diamond: The first prominent female chef I can think of of that time in New York City, I guess would be Anne Rosensweig.

Marcy Blum: That's exactly right. That's right, and then she had a southwest restaurant originally, didn't she?

Kerry Diamond: I never went to any of her restaurants, but I know she had Arcadia. Did you eat at those places?

Marcy Blum: I did, I did. Yeah. She was really talented. You're right. That's the first one I can remember and then there was also Sally Darr, who was the test kitchen chef from Gourmet Magazine and her husband John Darr and they opened up a four star, very, very, very well received and very fancy restaurant called La Tulipe in a brownstone in the West Village. That was, I think, around the same time as maybe The Quilted Giraffe.

Kerry Diamond: Amazing that you got to eat at all of these places. I've only read about them.

Marcy Blum: We were there, my former husband and I were eating at The Quilted Giraffe the night that they got their four star review in the Times. I remember it like it was yesterday, because literally Kerry, in those days, it was like winning the lottery. It was like someone gave you a million dollar check, right? You knew that you were gold and this was going to work and you've got investors and whatever and you'd never have to worry. The phone started to ring off the hook.

In those days, the food section came out on Fridays and you'd stand outside the New York Times building Thursday night at midnight waiting for the first and he came running in. He says, "We got four stars!" Everybody got... Poured Dom Perignon for the entire dining room, we were all dancing and singing. It was so wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. It was very exciting.

Kerry Diamond: Don't go anywhere. Stay tuned for a word from Breyer's Carb Smart and to hear who Lisa Lin of Healthy Nibbles thinks is the Bombe.

As someone who thinks that ice-cream should be a food group, I'm very happy that today's episode is supported by our friends at Breyer's ice-cream. Breyer's is America's number one ice-cream brand and I'm pretty sure my family of Breyer's fanatics helped contribute to that top ranking. I'll have to get my mom on here one day to back that up.

Did you know that Breyer's has a special treat that won't undo your day? It's called Breyer's CarbSmart and it comes in tubs and bars, and in great flavors like mint fudge and caramel swirl. One thing I especially like about Breyer's is that they use 100% Grade A milk and cream from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones. Breyer's colors and flavors come from natural sources and their vanilla is sustainably sourced.

Would you like to try Breyer's CarbSmart when that next craving for something sweet and frozen hits? You can find it at all major retailers. Go to to get a coupon so you can try Breyer's Carb Smart today. That's

Lisa Lin: Hi, my name is Lisa Lin. I'm the blogger behind the website Healthy Nibbles and I'm based in Sacramento, California. Do you want to know who I think is the Bombe? Well, it's all the women who are featured in the Pasta Grannies YouTube channel and Instagram account. They are just absolute masters of their craft. In every video, you can see all the love and care that they put into the food they make for their families. It's absolutely heart warming and I hope you get a chance to check out their videos.

Kerry Diamond: Thank you, Lisa. Those Pasta Grannies are the bomb and they have some serious skills too. Back to my chat with Marcy Blum.

So, you eventually get married and you own some restaurants.

Marcy Blum: I owned restaurants with my former husband. He owned them and we owned them together and we had six restaurants, including the US Steakhouse and the original Charlie O's and Peter wound up buying Gage & Tollner and going to Georgia and convincing Edna Lewis to come up and be our chef. Those couple of years, I got to work in the restaurant with Edna.

Peter had this vision and Gage and Tollner was a classically Black-run and Black clientele restaurant in downtown Brooklyn. Peter thought what would be better than to get someone absolutely fabulous, such as the doyenne of southern country cooking, who was Edna Lewis.

Kerry Diamond: How did Peter come to own the restaurant?

Marcy Blum: He bought it, he and his... He had a thing. We owned Luchow's before that, which was the largest German restaurant in the world, I believe, which is on 14th Street. So, he liked landmarks. That was a thing. He went and saw that Gage and Tollner was down on its luck and up for sale and he went and made a deal with the Dewey's, the family that owned it for 100 zillion years and then when he made the deal, he went down to Georgia.

I think Edna and her niece were there and everything and he just got her... Because she had spent a lot of time in New York.

Kerry Diamond: Right, a restaurant called Café Nicholson, I think.

Marcy Blum: Exactly, in the Harlem Renaissance and all those. She had a lot of friends still up here, so she said, "Why not?" She was maybe in her late 70s then and she was something else. We lived in the West Village and Edna and I would often... She lived downtown. We would often commute on the subways together, going back and forth to Brooklyn. She was beautiful and tall and stately and just amazing and absolutely unsinkable.

You could have 50 people in the dining room ordering quail and she was still sauteing one at a time in the lard. She was not going to dump it in a Frialator. We had quail and corn pudding and she-crab soup and Edna's biscuits on every table and it went very well for quite awhile, but we just couldn't make a go of it, because nobody wanted to eat in downtown Brooklyn.

Kerry Diamond: Who were some of the people who came to the restaurant to eat Edna's food?

Marcy Blum: Well, Ed Koch was mayor and Ed was a dear friend of ours, my family's and Peter's, so Ed would come all the time and eat a lot, but we never had a lot of luck in those days getting people to come over the bridge, which seems so crazy now because I live in Brooklyn.

Kerry Diamond: You could walk to Gage and Tollner.

Marcy Blum: Exactly, and I do, but it's so funny to think of it because at that time, it just wasn't the time to do that.

Kerry Diamond: What were some of the other dishes you remember? You mentioned a few.

Marcy Blum: Well, we had a funny thing about she-crab soup because two of our friends were very pregnant a year apart, but one had she-crab soup and went into labor, so when the second one was overdue, we said, "Come out to Gage and Tollner and have she-crab soup," and she did and she did go into labor. We always said Edna's miracle labor soup.

We would do Smithfield ham on biscuits because we did a lot of cocktail parties, so everything in miniature. Deviled eggs and deviled shrimp and potted shrimp. She had a cream of tomato soup and fried green tomatoes.

Kerry Diamond: I don't think I know what potted shrimp is. What is that?

Marcy Blum: It's sort of an old school... It's almost like a poached shrimp with peppercorn and a lot of those spreads like the pimento spreads and everything, that honey mustard and collared greens. Everything had lard and/or bacon or both in it.

Kerry Diamond: What were the desserts? Do you remember?

Marcy Blum: I know she did a lemon meringue pie. Thanksgiving was a huge holiday, so she did sweet potato pies and then berry pies in the summer with a great lard crust. Her corn pudding was just amazing, so you'd have to order the quail in order to get the corn pudding and people would want to order three or four extra corn puddings, but of course that would require another four hours of Edna in the kitchen.

Kerry Diamond: What happened to Gage and Tollner? Did you have to close it down?

Marcy Blum: We had to close it down. We just couldn't make it. There were three weeks, which is what makes me so sad when I think about what's going on with the restaurants now, because there were three weeks there, I think, and I honestly don't remember exactly what was going on, but it was some war in the Middle East that was affecting us here. Everyone was freaking out and thinking that we were going to be bombed or whatever. It was way before 9/11, but that kind of thing.

We had three weeks where just nobody was going out and that was it, because we were already hanging on for dear life as it was.

Kerry Diamond: Wow. I think you and I talked about this last time we had dinner together, but the next life that Gage and Tollner had and maybe still will have, but Sohui Kim who has Insa and Good Fork and who's been on the show I think a few times, she and her husband and another partner took over the lease for Gage and Tollner.

Marcy Blum: Exactly. We were just talking about them this weekend and hoping that they're able to pull it off. It is a very beautiful restaurant and it has very good bones and it's all gas lamps. I think now the original Four Seasons, which is now a major food group, whatever, is landmark interior as well but at the time, Gage and Tollner was the only one. Even if we wanted to paint the ceiling, we'd have to go to the Landmarks Commission to be approved with the amount of gold in the paint so we could repaint the ceiling.

You certainly couldn't... For awhile there, it was under really hard times. It was an Arby's and they still had gas lamps.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my god, I do remember seeing a few different incarnations. I think it was a clothing store once, but it was supposed to open March 15th, which I remember because it's my birthday, and kind of the whole world came crashing to a halt on that date. Did you get to see the renovated space?

Marcy Blum: I did not. I was so looking forward to it and I hope I will. Is it finished inside?

Kerry Diamond: It is done, yeah. I went to a little opening party they had for folks in the neighborhood and they did a really gorgeous job. I got to talk to Sohi in the kitchen a little bit and talk to Caroline Schiff, the pastry chef we love so much. This is going to have to be a three part series on the life of Marcy Blum. So, how did you become an event planner?

Marcy Blum: I was working in the restaurants and I was running the banquets and various things and people started asking me if I could do events outside of where I was working. We were doing some off premise things at Gracie Mansion and some off premise catering events through the restaurants, so people asked me and then at the same time, I was planning my wedding to Peter up at Wave Hill, which is an off premise space and it was complicated and difficult and Robert Isabel, the famous Robert Isabel, may he rest in peace, was helping me as a favor.

I said, "Wow, someone should do this for people," about weddings because I was already doing some corporate events, but I didn't realize that I actually didn't invent the industry, but I thought I did because I didn't know anyone who did it. People would ask me and I'd do a couple of small events, weddings, and I put an ad in New York Magazine in those days and I was the only ad for a party planner, believe it or not.

Now, there's about 4000 an issue, I think, and Women's Wear Daily picked it up and ran a page on me and people started calling. I met two of the Rockefeller daughters hired me and then through a friend, I met Kevin Bacon and Kyra and they hired me for their wedding, which I think now is maybe 35 years ago. It just started taking off and I plan all sorts of events, mostly social. We do a couple of corporate events. Of course, there will never be another corporate event. Hopefully they'll be social events again.

Mostly word of mouth and you don't know what you don't know at the beginning, so you're brave enough to do anything stupidly enough.

Kerry Diamond: I love now in your bio, you call out the fact that you create these events with sanity and humor. What is it about event planning that you felt you had to call out sanity and humor?

Marcy Blum: Not only my clients, but many of my colleagues and certainly people who are just starting in the business, first of all, they either mistake themselves for the clients, so there's this whole sense that they could be as obnoxious as our clients could be to the other people who work for them and around them, which is not the case because we are the help. Also, that at the end of the day, it's a party, it's a celebration. Even if it's a marketing event, it is still... We're not finding the cure for anything, unfortunately.

We're not changing the world. Maybe a little bit, but this idea that the import and the pomposity and the solemnity attached to it is really incongruous for what it is. It's a party, so we do our very best. We try to make people happy. We come up with all sorts of clever ideas that people haven't seen before or to make the guests feel special and wanted and especially now, because we're doing events for 10, 15, 20 people, so that part is easier. You can make people feel special more easily.

Kerry Diamond: How are you and your fellow event planners doing today?

Marcy Blum: Funny that you ask. I was just on a Zoom call with 20 people, talking to the Four Seasons hotels and properties. We were all giving our advice as to what they should do. I mean, it's a rough year. I would be lying to say... It is definitely a rough year. It's not a great year to be in the event business. We've done a couple of small events. We did a beautiful wedding a few weeks ago in Michigan for former clients of mine who were getting married and we've done events for them before.

Their parents are older, they didn't want to wait until next year, so we had 30 people in person and then we live streamed the ceremony for 100 people and we sent everybody who was on the Zoom, we sent them a big, beautiful box with an invitation and the ingredients for the couple's signature drink including a half bottle of... They're Tito's freaks, so half bottle of Tito's vodka, a shaker, the ingredients to make this certain kind of martini and two martini glasses with the instructions to make their drink and then come sit on the Zoom with us.

There was a sense there was camaraderie, it was interactive, they got to watch the ceremony. It was very cool, actually.

Kerry Diamond: Have you had to become a Zoom expert?

Marcy Blum: I'm trying. I don't love it. To say I was an expert would really be overblown, but I am Zooming constantly. It's not my favorite, I must say. I can never get the angle right or maybe that's the way I look and I'm not willing to accept it.

Kerry Diamond: Are there Zoom components to pretty much every event you're planning today?

Marcy Blum: Unless it's a dinner party for 10 or 12 people, which we've done a couple. We're doing one in the Hamptons this weekend on the beach. Otherwise, yeah. Live streaming and it's complicated and it's not inexpensive. You need two cameras minimum, because let's say it's a ceremony, you have to show the couple, you also have to show the reactions around it and stream it. Yeah, I would say certainly for a wedding, there's absolutely a livestream and Zoom component.

Kerry Diamond: And you mentioned the dinner parties. How are you doing these in a way that's respectful and safe and in compliance with different state and city regulations?

Marcy Blum: We don't do anything inside. It's all outside. If it's inside, it would be 15 people or fewer. But if it's outside, we're being very, very careful. If it's a pod of people at the dinner party this weekend, they've all been together all summer. Otherwise, we're doing testing beforehand and what we were all talking about on this call is some of my colleagues in California, they're doing testing onsite now.

Kerry Diamond: You've been through so many ups and downs in this industry. What advice do you have for event planners who maybe haven't seen as much as you have?

I think you really have to decide, as I've had to decide several times in this career, if this is what you really want to do. If it's really what you want to do and you still love it and you still think you can make money at it, because it's certainly not a hobby, then I don't think you have a choice but to hang in there and read a lot, hone your skills during this, maybe look at a different way to go about things and maybe this is also... This isn't for everybody.

Maybe this is a time to figure out you want to do something else, which we all have a tendency, particularly women I think, to, once we've said that we're going to do something, the shame in pivoting or deciding that you don't want to do it is enough to make us stay with something that maybe we don't want to do anymore.

Kerry Diamond: Why do you think you've stayed with this for as long as you have?

Marcy Blum: Every time I try to think about doing something else, I can't think of anything and I've tried, believe me, that would enable me to showcase my peculiar talents and knowledge, which is a little bit food, a little bit... I happen to really like people. I really do. I really get off on making people happy. When people walk into a room, "Oh my god, it's so beautiful!", or, "I can't believe you thought to do blah blah blah", I'm a needy person, that fulfills some of those things.

It's also different everyday. Up until this year, actually after all these years, made a go of it and started to make some money because I don't think anything's a lot of fun for very long if you can't make money doing it.

Kerry Diamond: I mean, you have had to do these Zoom events. What advice do you have for jazzing them up?

Marcy Blum: You know my darling friend Katie Lee is going to give birth any second, so we did a Zoom baby shower for her. I think there were 20 of us or 30 of us and her friend Amy Griffin, who owns Social Studies, we went two plates and a whole setup for dinner for two to everybody who was coming. I was "the emcee" and I think the problem with some of these Zoom things is they have no organization and no theme and no rhythm and they are endless.

So, we told everybody wear pink, set out the china, click on this link and send a book for the baby's library. I called on every single person one at a time, said, "Do you want to say something? Do you want to give some advice?", and that made it very special because everybody got their moment. It wasn't a big cacophony and the fact that everybody did have this china, or as I said for the wedding we did, everybody had the same cocktail.

There's an interactive component and you can't have too many people on it. Once you have over 20 people, people can't interact, so that's a different story.

Kerry Diamond: That's good advice, to limit it. Do you send an invitation?

Marcy Blum: Oh, yes. Send an invitation, then you send an email with the Zoom link later and tell everybody how long it's going to be so it's not endless, so people don't dread it.

Kerry Diamond: Marcy, I'm guessing you've seen a million food trends come and go in all the years you've been working in food and restaurants and events.

Marcy Blum: If I see one more cloche... For some reason, caterers have come up with this idea that they think the cloche is going to protect everybody. I said, someone should send it to Fauci so he understands that we found the cure. There is that. I love a great dessert room or dessert bar. I just think you want to get people up and around. Who knows if you'll ever be able to do anything like that again, because everything has to be behind sneeze guards? But I like elaborate dessert bars, even if we put them per table.

Kerry Diamond: Is the buffet dead?

Marcy Blum: Oh, forget it. Dead, dead, dead and family style is on its last leg. By the way, passed hors d'oeuvres, food stations, all these things. Remember, food stations have been the trend for the past 15 years. I mean, that's what we did at my wedding. What we did was very hip at the time and very, very, very new, but food stations as opposed to buffets. There's no food stations, there's no buffets. I think actually we're going to see bottle service per table like it used to be in the clubs.

Marcy Blum: That's what's going to happen because you're not going to have stand up bars. Now I think in everybody's parties, there's going to be a little mini bar each table.

Kerry Diamond: How are they going to do big sit down events?

Marcy Blum: I mean, I love carts. Everyone makes fun of me in my office because I'm a cart freak, but I think one of the trends to that point we're going to be seeing, let's say, a cheese course as opposed to a cheese cart. It'll be a tray per table because the seating that we're doing now at these smaller weddings are all per pod. It's the people who have already been hanging in together, presumably they can eat cheese off the same platter. It's going to change everything. Everything, everything.

I mean, I'm sure you know when you serve a kosher meal, in order for the recipient to believe it's kosher, you have to stick it on the table and pull the saran wrap off. If you bring it to the table already peeled, they won't eat it and that's what it's going to be soon is it's either going to be a cloche or a saran wrap or something.

Kerry Diamond: You do incredibly high end events. Do you ever see the day where everyone gets a really chic sandwich bag?

Marcy Blum: Oh, absolutely. I'm sure you know Blue Hill at Stone Barns is doing picnics. You grab your picnic and you go sit somewhere on the grounds where they've set a table, individual tables, socially distanced. Yeah, for sure I see that

Kerry Diamond: Listen, Marcy, you are amazing. I could've listened to your stories for a whole other hour and we've barely scratched the surface on event planning, but I mean, you have done and seen so many things and if you miss events and you miss parties, take a look at Marcy's Instagram account because, boy Marcy, you have worked on some spectacular events over the years.

Marcy Blum: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. Thank you so much to Marcy Blum for joining us. If you'd like to see some truly glamorous events or need some future event inspo, be sure to follow Marcy on Instagram @marcyblum. B-L-U-M. Thank you to Sonos and Breyer's CarbSmart for supporting Radio Cherry Bombe. Our podcast is edited by Kat Garelli. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Radio Cherry Bombe is produced by Cherry Bombe Media. Hang in there everybody, and thank you for listening. You are the Bombe.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.