It was during a very formal dinner for 150 people in the Spanish court of the Metropolitan Museum, and there was a famous violinist performing. Since it was autumn, I decided to serve a rabbit stew. Growing up in the Midwest, we ate rabbit, but I guess New Yorkers see it and think they're eating bunny. One of the more memorable lines was "Oh my God, we're eating Thumper!" Another time there were maybe 14 of us for dinner, and we were having rhubarb pie, and I looked up at a guest, who had a strange, confused look. Then I saw two or three other similar faces, and I thought, Wow, that's odd—not the response I usually get from this pie. Turns out the person who baked the pies this time had substituted salt for sugar, so something that needs a lot of sugar was pure brine. All you can do is laugh.
I did a party for 150 in the Hamptons for a client one summer, and the caterers did not appear at all. There was no food. So what do you do? You improvise. We went to a deli, got a lot of stuff, made fun of it, and made it work. Improvising is the main and most important thing.
When we have big parties and the music is blasting, we get the local precinct here. But they know me—I've been in the Village for so many years. There was one wild party where I had just put some new furniture in my place, and the next morning the legs of two sofas were collapsed and the arm on a chair was broken. I said, "Oh, well, that's the price of fun."