Doubles Your Pleasure, Doubles Your Fun
DECEMBER 22, 2021
GUEST DIARY• BY: KAREN KLOPP AND HILARY DICK
Sweep through the lustrous brass doors to the elegant lobby of the Sherry Netherland Hotel, slip into a side door and discover a secret scarlet stairway into a holiday wonderland of bright lights and festivity.
You’ve arrived at Doubles where mirrored and festooned walls drip with decor, and generations of New Yorkers flock for friendly frivolity. The royal red stairwell proclaims (cue the music) “Tonight’s going to be a good night!”
As Nancy Holmes, one of the original members of Doubles, recalls: “Once upon a time in New York there was no Doubles Club. It was a sad time indeed. One day, a Southern gentleman, beloved by all who knew him, changed all that. His name was Earl Blackwell and, aided and abetted by a marvelous man named Joe Norban, who had the good sense to live with his family in the hotel, Doubles was born, thank heavens. New York hasn’t been the same since, it has been infinitely better.”
And indeed it has been. The torch was passed to Joe Norban’s daughter, Wendy Carduner, who grew up in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel with her family. It is not an unfamiliar tale to New Yorkers.
But rather than wreak havoc on nanny as our young Eloise had done, Wendy set to work designing the most elegant destination clubhouse for the swells of the time. Here is the site of celebrations of life; from birthdays, anniversaries, deb ball dinners and so many more, it is a tradition that is passed down and shared through the generations.
And a cosy Apres Ski gathering for the young set …
Courtney Moss reminisces: ‘’Wendy Carduner and Doubles hold a very special place in my heart and in my family’s. We have celebrated many wonderful milestones there from birthdays, to graduation parties to engagement parties and more! When I turned 21, I could not wait to join the Club. In fact, I was one of the first Junior members. Dancing the night away is always a blast and who can resist a scoop of Jellybeans? Certainly not me. I’m so thrilled for Wendy that Doubles is still going strong after all these years.”
Hilary describes her history with the club: “Ever since I first stepped foot on those red velvet steps with my parents, I have loved Doubles. It is a special place filled with incredible memories. The club is cozy and familiar with Wendy at the helm, who is always there to listen and give advice while cheering on the party.”
So, What’s Hilary wearing?
Eleanora Kennedy notes Wendy’s unique style: “Wendy is a legendary proprietor … besides all else she is a friend who brings poetry, inspiration, and kindness to a room — a gift to know her and always grateful for her discretion and solid friendship.”
The club holds a special significance to Eleanora’s family. “When our beloved father and husband was dying he was specific … ‘take the entire church to a celebration lunch at Doubles Club.’ And so we did. One quick call to Wendy and she worked her magic for 200 mourners and Michael’s journey continued.”
Recently Wendy, at the suggestion of a young friend Connor McDermott, has created a series of events for 5th grade scions that have become an immediate sell out. While she holds the line with tradition, manners and matters of dress, Wendy is highly creative in keeping members coming back time and time again.
According to Connor’s mom Ashley, “Connor started the junior dance parties in the 5th grade because there was no place for kids to gather on Friday nights. Wendy told him she didn’t know any kids his age, but if he would fill the room, she would make the magic happen.”
Connor describes the scene, “A coed party at a club with your friends was about the coolest you could feel, and the Doubles all-red vibe made everyone feel years older than they were. What’s your screen name was a primary flirting line used by both boys and girls, and people often brought scraps of paper and pens to exchange AIM account information. Hilarious contrast to how Gen Z communicates today.”
Mark Gilberson agrees, “I’ve been a member of Doubles since I graduated from college and I don’t want to say how long it’s been. Just know that it’s been a long time. I’ve always found Wendy to be very hard-working and a perfectionist. Without her, Doubles would never have been a success for as long as it has been. Many years ago I formed the Associates Committee with friends and those three parties a year continue to be terrific gatherings of members and their guests.”
Wendy explains the naming of the club: “DOUBLES was meant to be a Backgammon Club and Social Club and the name refers to the Doubling Cube.” In 1974, Joe Norban was involved with El Morocco when he decided to take over the vacant space in the hotel and open his own club — an inspired concept.
Joe partnered with Earl Blackwell, a delightful Southern chap who hobnobbed with celebrities of the day and created Celebrity Service to track the goings and comings of acclaimed stars du jour — a revolutionary concept at the time! Among other accomplishments, he arranged Marilyn Monroe’s iconic ode to JFK, “Happy Birthday Mr. President.”
Blackwell’s early assignment tapped into his luminary list of notables from the top of the heap — strictly invitation only — while Norban oversaw every detail of concept and design. He brought Wendy in from inception when they hired Valerian Stux Rybar, an interior decorator of opulent and extravagant fame, known simply as the “most expensive decorator in the world.” Wendy recalled the excitement of those heady days. “It was thrilling to work with Valerian Rybar and personally order all of the fabrics and furnishings.”
Valerian was also well known for his lavish party design and costumes.
The quintessential DD logo was created by Henry Koehler, widely acknowledged as one of the finest sporting artists in the world. His art was collected by the likes of Prince Charles, John F. Kennedy, the Duchess of Windsor and other prominent collectors. He passed away in 2018.
When it comes to what to wear to a Doubles Holiday gathering, pretty much anything goes as long as it’s flirty, festive and fabulous. We shopped with many of our affiliate partners to bring you wonderful fashion, in stock and ready to ship. So if, like me, you did not fill your style stocking already, you can do it right now with time to spare.
Green is a go for elegant holiday evenings!
Debbie Bancroft, who returns with her children, has a kinship with the Club, “Wendy is the ultimate hostess. I call her that because Doubles feels like home. Knowing Wendy is in charge means the food will be fabulous, the staff professional and genuinely happy to do what they do, the decor spectacular and all will hum perfectly. We are into our third generation of fans and I sure hope I live long enough to see my grandchildren cavorting there too (no pressure, kids).”
Noted designer Geoffrey Bradfield, known for his refinement and taste, sums up Wendy’s style as “Always perfection!”
“So let’s all drink a toast to Earl Blackwell and Joe Norban, now both gone, and thank them once more for Doubles. And to Wendy Carduner, Joe’s daughter and the young lifeblood of the club, who sees to it that there will always be something extra special to do at Doubles.” — Nancy Holmes