That latter label horrified Quinn (Happy Endings, 1991) when she heard it aplied to her on Good Morning America. She was, after all, a "serious journalist," and "hostess" was synonymous with "frivolous" in her view. She was, alas, somehow persuaded otherwise. Quinn has organized a book about giving parties that begins with a credible mantra from her party-giving parents: "A guest can do no wrong." It's downhill from there. Namesfrom the Clintons to Princess Margaret, Henry Kissinger to Lauren Bacall, and Washington pundits too numerous to mention or rememberare scattered profusely, but many of the anecdotes are pointless and without context. One secret of legendary hostess Perle Mesta's success, she tells us, was to hang a lamb chop in her window to signal a partybut why? Perhaps lamb chops have a kinky sexual connotation not revealed here. More likely, it was WW II and meat was rationed, making lamb chops a surefire lure for partygoers. No hint of that historic motive from Quinn, whose party success meter seems to be how many guests "in black tie and . . . evening gowns were reclining all over the living room floor giggling." Moreover, in a chapter alluringly titled "The Booze," her vaunted motto regarding the immunity of guests stops short at large cocktail parties, where she refuses to serve red wine because "people spill," and coffee after dinner, because "it kills the party"presumably sobering everyone up. Other chapters deal equally improbably with table settings, entertainment after the meal, and where to have the party.
Beginning and ending chapters are titled "The Point" and "The Point (Again)," but Quinn seems to have missed it both times. Go to Miss Manners for a useful guide to party giving or to almost any celebrity bio for better anecdotes about parties-I- have-known.