A glittering Christmas celebration
Novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE, 85, lives in New York with her husband of more than 50 years, television producer Robert Bradford. Her 1979 novel, A Woman of Substance, ranks as one of the top 10 bestselling novels of all time, and her latest novel, Master of His Fate, is out on 29 November.
bob and I were married on Christmas Eve in 1963, so our wedding anniversary has always coincided with Christmas. and in 1998, after 35 years of marriage, I wanted to throw a party – it felt like the right time to celebrate.
there was another reason too. bob had never had parties as a child. He’d had to stand on his own two feet from a very young age, and there was no one to give one for him, really. His father died when he was young and he was separated from his mother during the War. she died before they could be reunited. It took me years to learn these things about his childhood. bob’s a very private person – I think being on your own in wartime would do that to you.
life is hard, but if you know there’s a sadness, you can alleviate that a little bit by doing something special.
so that year I wanted to make sure bob finally had a lavish celebration that we’d both always remember – not just for our anniversary, but to make up for all the parties he’d never had when he was a boy.
as Christmas Eve is a busy time for everyone, I invited our guest list of around 150 people for 10 December instead. they all accepted. I knew that the Doubles Club, in the Manhattan’s sherry-Netherland Hotel, was always lavishly decorated every Christmas by the owner, Wendy, and so we hired the club for the evening. there were large Christmas trees, and lots of smaller ones, plus the ceiling was dripping with glittering decorations, fir branches, baubles and big red bows.
bob invited samy Goz – a jazz musician we’d seen together in a restaurant in
Paris – and his trio to play. He sent them plane tickets, making sure they would be in New york several days before the party. samy rang bob just before flying out, telling him he’d have to hire the instruments as he couldn’t bring drums or equipment on the plane. “thank
“I wanted to make up for the parties he never had as a child”
God he told us in time,” I thought, and luckily, I was able to call upon a conductor friend of mine for help.
Not one of our guests cancelled. Everyone arrived in their fine feathers, all dressed up and glittering in lovely jewellery. the party was black tie, and all very fancy. I wore a velvet balmain dress with a boat neckline and long sleeves, a strand of emeralds, an emerald bracelet and emerald earrings – all gifts from bob over the years.
on arrival at the party, guests were immediately welcomed by three Mariachis wearing velvet suits and sombreros, playing maracas and strumming guitars. Waiters were floating around offering glasses of Champagne and hors d’oeuvres.
among the guests were Christopher Plummer, who starred in The Sound of Music, and his wife Elaine, actor ben Gazzara and Edwina sandys, who is Winston Churchill’s granddaughter.
During dinner, guests took their seats at the round tables and there were a few speeches. bob said a couple of words thanking our guests for coming, and then I stood up to speak. I turned a bit serious and, despite the room being full of guests, I spoke directly to him. I said, “It’s been a wonderful 37 years knowing you, and I want you to know that this very lavish party is to make up for all of those parties that you never had as a child.” I think he was very touched. Everyone danced until two in the morning, and friends still say to me now that it was the best party they’ve ever been to. It really was the most spectacular bash I’ve ever hosted – and a Christmas I’ll always remember. ✢ Master of His Fate (HarperCollins, £16.99), is out on 29 November.
Barbara and Robert celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary