Love, I’m so glad you’re here. You simply must meet our fabulous friend, the gorgeous Pat Montandon. Nicknamed “Party Girl Pat,” Pat used to throw the most fabulous parties in San Francisco back in the day. In fact, Esquire magazine called her “the West Coast’s number one hostess.” Heck, doll, she even wrote a book called, How to Be a Party Girl that led to this chic interview with Joan Rivers about her party savoir-faire. But don’t be fooled. There’s a lot more to Party Girl Pat than that. She’s also an author, women’s rights advocate and humanitarian who’s been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Still glamorous, fun and sharp at 85, Pat has a cult-like following on Facebook where thousands wait with bated breath for her candid tales about everything from her chic soirées and dates with Frank Sinatra to her tête-à-têtes with world leaders and the heartbreak she’s endured. Pat’s preparing for the September launch of her memoir, Peeing on Hot Coals, but she’s here to tell us about her fabulous life as one of the country’s most skilled salonnières. She even brought her photo album. Grab your gimlet, baby, and join us. This dame’s the cat’s meow and you’re not going to want to miss a word she says.
Pat, tell us, what are the qualities of a first-rate party host?
An honest caring for people is essential. Be real, never fake. Ever. Focus on your guests and not on yourself or a mini disaster or even a real disaster. It doesn’t matter. Laugh. Cultivate a sense of humor about things. Don’t fuss or apologize for anything other than stepping on a guest’s toes. Relax and enjoy your own party. If you do, your guests will too.
What’s the next party you’ll be hosting?
A round table lunch with Molly Shannon as one of the guests. I started hosting round tables 30 years ago because I was hungry for intelligent and meaningful conversation. I wanted to know a diverse group of people who lived differently than I did. Conversation is the focus and no subject is off limits. We laugh a lot and, sometimes, we cry. But, above all, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and real. My guest list is always varied, and I often invite people I don’t know but who seem interesting. For instance, I once had Senator Dianne Feinstein and Margot St. James at the same luncheon. Margo is a retired prostitute who founded COYOTE, Cast Off Your Old Tired Ethics, which advocates the decriminalization of prostitution.
You have met so many incredible people in your life including Pope John Paul II and the late Indira Gandhi. Who is the most fascinating person you met at a party?
I’ve met some of the most interesting people in the world at my own table. Ginetta Sagan, the founder of Amnesty International, and Alex Hailey, whose mega-blockbuster book, Roots, had just been published, immediately come to mind. At a party in the Kremlin, I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Mikhail Gorbachev when he was president of the USSR and his wife, Raisa Maximova Gorbachev. But everyone is interesting if you ask the right questions.
Who have you found to be the most gracious celebrity guest?
The late Shirley Temple Black was gracious and generous and endowed with a marvelous sense of humor. When she came to lunch one day, it had been in the news that she had recently had a breast removed from cancer. It so happened that Merla Zellerbach, a friend and writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, had just written about having a mastectomy. I seated them next to each other. Shirley laughed and said, “Pat, did you seat Merla and me together so that between the two of us we make a pair?”
Pat with Andy Warhol
Who are your dream dinner partners (dead or alive)?
Carl Sagan and Oprah Winfrey
In whose honor would you most like to host a party?
His Holiness The Dali Lama
What party in history would you like to go back in time to attend?
I would love to be a knight…knightess?…at King Arthur’s Round Table, the famed table in the Arthurian legend. As its name suggests, it had no head or foot. Everyone was equal.
At what party did you feel your most glamorous?
The Oscars in 1965 when I was photographed on the red carpet. I attended with producer, Robert Cohn, an Oscar winner and the nephew of the founder of Paramount pictures.
Tell us about one of your favorite post-party thank you letters.
I have telegrams, yes, telegrams – lots of them – thanking me for a Sentimental Journey party I threw in the ’80s at Bimbo’s nightclub in San Francisco. One is from Ethel Kennedy. I also received many handwritten notes and phone calls, too. The party theme was the ‘40s. Guests dressed in the mood of the era and their RSVP was a photograph of themselves from that time. I got a lot of baby pictures. I had the photos enlarged and suspended them from the walls. Guests had to figure out who was who to win a prize. An orchestra specializing in ‘40s music played while guests danced until dawn. A buffet supper was served at midnight.
How do you prepare for a party?
I prepare everything ahead of time and then relax. An hour before my company arrives, I take a warm bath with my hair in rollers. I dry off with a fluffy towel scented in Joy, my favorite perfume. With a Do Not Disturb sign on my door, I lie down for 10 minutes, close my eyes and envision how I want my party to go. I see myself greeting each guest with warmth and hugs and see how happy my guests are to be in my home. Then, I get up, apply my makeup and arrange my hair. I don palazzo pants with a silk blouse and forget about myself for the rest of the evening. I open the door and go forth to the best party imaginable!
What’s the best way to get a conversation going with a shy dinner partner?
Ask what’s important to him or her. You might say, “Today, I was thinking about things that are meaningful to me. So, may I ask what you consider meaningful in your life?” If you are honest and skillful, the conversation should ignite at that point. The person will be startled that you care enough about his or her opinion to venture outside the “nice party” and “delicious food” banalities. People love to talk about themselves and their interests. Just be ready to catch the conversational ball, darlin’, and keep the good talk going.
Your parties have been an important vehicle for fundraising. How much have they raised for charity over the years?
Bob Mondavi and I founded The Napa Valley Wine Auction, the most successful wine auction in the U.S. and maybe the world, so far as I know. That party has made many millions for two Valley hospitals. My parties for my international foundation, Children as the Peacemakers, raised quite a bit of money, too. Actually, I’ve given so many parties for charity that I long ago lost track.
Lana Turner joins Pat at an event for Children as the Peacemakers
How did your upbringing shape your approach to socializing?
Daddy was a Texas preacher. Mama played the piano. My eight siblings and I were required to take part in Sunday services. I was compelled to memorize long, edifying poetry that I recited in front of the congregation. My brothers and sisters sang or played a musical instrument. We were all required to socialize with church members. Those old-fashioned “dinner-on-the-ground” events gave me my foundation – my parents would have been shocked to realize – in party planning and the art of hospitality. But, when you think about it, church is a form of theater and a party of a special sort, especially for a preacher’s family.
What nourishes your creativity?
Music. While writing Peeing On Hot Coals, I listened to country music and hymns by Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Hymns take me back to my childhood in Oklahoma and Texas. You’ll find music on the first page of my web site.
How do you stay party ready?
I always have some good champagne and/or wine on hand along with fine cheeses such as Brie or Hudson Valley Camembert or Taleggio. The book Cheese and Wine by Janet Fletcher takes you on a trip regarding the pairing of wines and cheese. I have found that information to be helpful in selecting cheeses for certain wines. However, I’m not a snob about it. I enjoy any good wine with Brie and I don’t fuss. I keep sourdough French bread ready to slice and toast for the cheese and delicious firm Fuji apples to slice and serve with the cheese plate.
White lilies, efficient and cheerful help, candles and a new dress!
Party pet peeves?
Glaring lights, the same guests you saw last time (boring, boring, boring), guests who drink too heavily and overpowering centerpieces. I once attended a dinner party where the centerpiece actually reached the chandelier! Friends on the opposite side of the table were hidden. Finally, I could stand it no longer. I stood up and made a toast to…ta-da…the centerpiece!
Why are parties important?
Parties connect us in ways that allow us to laugh and talk and flirt and get to know and support each other. They provide community in a relaxed atmosphere. When you host a party, you have control of the ambiance and the theme and you can invite anyone you wish. If there’s someone you are dying to meet, well, darlin’ this is your chance. Invite them. Don’t be afraid. We all enjoy a good party, full of fun and dressed-up folks.