Psst, follow us. We’re on our way into Doubles, the chic private club in New York’s Sherry-Netherland Hotel, to chat with Wendy Carduner, who has been the club’s deft and diplomatic proprietor since 1982. The social home-away-from-home for generations of New Yorkers with surnames like Roosevelt, Rockefeller and Hearst, Doubles has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the best places in New York to dine, dance and socialize. The mere act of descending the club’s fabled red staircase is a rite of passage into the marvelous world of mingling established by predecessor clubs like El Morocco and The Stork Club. She may run Doubles, but Wendy is single-minded when it comes to making her guests feel welcome and comfortable. Pull up a chaise rouge, doll, and listen in.
Doubles has been in business for nearly 40 years, since your father founded it in 1976. What is the secret to its longevity?
Our members, their families and their guests continue to look for and enjoy an atmosphere and environment that is safe, civilized and very comfortable, where everyone dresses and behaves nicely. In addition, the staff at Doubles enjoys being here and they definitely contribute to the welcoming environment. Also, we have evolved over the past 39 years and continue to update our decor and club events as social habits and the world around us change.
The legendary red staircase that leads into Doubles
How has the social world changed over the decades?
When Doubles opened in 1976, most women were not working and, every night, members drank and danced until 2 am. Then, women became more active professionally and told their husbands they had 8 am meetings and needed to go home. When the stock market hours became longer, and we changed to a global economy, men started spending more time at work and less at play. Women began going away to spas that convinced them not to drink their calories and those who used to order glasses of white wine at lunch returned from vacation ordering Perrier with lime. Years and years ago, members from Connecticut used to drive to New York City on Saturday nights, come to Doubles and party until 1 am. When the drinking and driving laws changed, their habits changed, too, and they began staying in Connecticut. Along the way, there have been recessions and televised wars, which made people feel unpatriotic if they were out celebrating while our troops were engaged in battle. People are now drinking less, exercising more, going to bed earlier and working longer hours. Everyone continues to give parties large and small but the principal difference is whether they give them in New York, at their weekend home or a third home or while away on vacation.
Club members enjoy a party at Doubles
You host more than 200 events a year at the club, which is an incredible creative feat. How do you keep them fresh?
I sit down with our chef, Steve Mellina, and discuss which events continue to be successful and which need to be changed and, together, we improve the favorites and create new ones.
What are your must-haves for the parties you host at Doubles?
Everything has to be set up perfectly and ready when guests arrive. The staff must be attentive, the food must come out properly, in a timely fashion, and be delicious. Drinks, wine and champagne must be plentiful. The lighting must be set at the beginning of the party and adjusted throughout the evening. Meaningful and amusing toasts must be given to make the evening more memorable for everyone present. Music and dancing are extremely important to a party. Assuming all of the above go as planned, a successful party is all about momentum, momentum, momentum.
Wendy with Kamie Lightburn and Margot Takian at the Doubles 38th Anniversary Gala
You say dancing is important at a party. What is your best strategy for getting people on the dance floor?
The most important element is the DJ who needs to understand the audience. We usually begin dancing after everyone has finished their entree. If it’s a party, it’s important for the host and hostess to step on the dance floor first. Once people begin to dance, the dancing is usually non-stop.
Speaking of footwork, you spend so much time on your feet. What is your go-to party shoe?
David Monn’s “Red Party” at Double’s
What are some of your favorite party resources in New York?
The event planner who has impressed me most is David Monn. Years ago, he enhanced the red color theme of the club for a birthday celebration and created the most magical evening ever.
You’re known as one of the most gracious event hosts in New York. What are the traits that define a good party host?
I think it is very important to be intimately involved with and carefully review ALL the details of a party during the planning stages and to follow up on them before the party begins. Also, always be polite, nice, well dressed and helpful and treat the staff with respect.
And the traits of a great guest?
A good guest is always gracious and makes an effort at a party to socialize with people they do and do not know. At a dinner party, a great guest will make the same effort with their dinner partner regardless of how challenging the situation might be.
You’ve had the opportunity to know many of the most socially-skilled people in the world, people like Pat Buckley, Nan Kempner and Harry Platt. What did you learn from them and what characteristics did they share?
They were all very gracious, very supportive and very sincere.
The front bar at Doubles
You were very close to your father. What are the most important lessons that he taught you?
He always taught me to be honest and sincere and encouraged me to do my very best regardless of the challenges before me. I believe my father would be very proud of where Doubles is today and also very proud of my contributions and devotion to the club.
We agree. Here’s to you, Wendy, and thanks for having us.
Image sources: Gotham Magazine, New York Social Diary, Annie Watt, David Monn, Cutty McGill
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