BY TEQUILA MINSKY | It was the party of the year — and we’re only 10 days in!
Decked out in a red velvet frock with a “Happy Birthday” sash, Doris Diether held court like a queen, her glittery birthday hat festooned with paper flowers. Diether turned 90 on Jan. 10. She helped save Shakespeare in the Park, fought Robert Moses, is a zoning specialist and has been an active member of Community Board 2 for almost six decades.
The Washington Square Park Superstars musicians, who jam regularly in the park, set the mood in Judson Memorial Church’s main hall. Park pianist Andrew’s “Johnny B. Goode” got the septuagenarians (boomers) onto the dance floor. Colin Huggins a.k.a. “That Crazy Piano Guy” performed a Beethoven sonata on the grand piano.
Other park denizens joined in the fun, including Elisa; Joe, the sand mandala artist; Larry, the “Pigeon Man”; and Ricky Syers, the marionettist, who, along with Diether and a mini-Doris marionette, is featured in AARP’s “An Unconventional Friendship” video.
Wearing sparkly black, Sharon Woolums, in her opening greeting, remarked, “How do we love thee Doris? Let us count the ways tonight!”
A bevy of local politicians were on hand, and wouldn’t have thought of missing the occasion.
In a personal, charming address and a commendation, City Comptroller Scott Stringer thanked Diether for an education in zoning.
Preservationists, friends and fans listened as citations and proclamations gushed forth from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, state Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and former Councilmember Rosie Mendez. Mendez stood in for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. All the assembled pols noted Diether’s public and community accomplishments.
Naturally, Judson congregants were there in abundance. Senior Minister Donna Schaper paid glowing tribute to Diether while Minister Micha Bucey wrapped the C.B. 2 veteran in a red feather boa as a symbolic gesture of ordination.
The wine flowed.
Staff from The Lantern, on Bleecker St., mixed endless margaritas as guests gobbled burgers and mozzarella/basil sliders.
Community board members, including Keen Berger and David Gruber, toggled between the bash and C.B. 2 meetings.
The jamsters’ rock-and-roll played on.
Musician Richie Weintraub adapted “Run Around Sue” with customized Diether lyrics.
“I should’ve known it from the very start,” he sang. “That woman must be the queen of the park. Once you know her for a while, her example makes you smile.”
At another point, he sang, “Doris may be 90 today, but she is always ready to play!”
Diether loved every moment of it.
Marionette master Syers rocked out with another original, “Every Day Is Doris Day in Washington Square Park!” And along with ongoing schmoozing, Diether’s friends individually wished her the best.
Much later, Le Souk set up a hot-food table at the Judson Diether love-in, featuring Middle Eastern fare like couscous and vegetables.
Meanwhile, guests added their tributes in writing at a table featuring a blow-up pig, a throwback to 1960 when Diether appeared at a protest with a live rented pig at Governor Nelson Rockeller’s office to oppose demolition of older buildings.
And, specifically for Judson, a donation box manned by two friends greeting guests at the top of Judson’s classic wooden staircase raised $2,800. The funds will go toward replacing the elevator, which Diether, along many others, use to access Judson’s multiuse sanctuary.
Then, they brought out Diether’s favorite — chocolate cake — for her to blow out the candles on top, and wind up the party. There were five more delicious cakes — chocolate and white — for everyone to enjoy.
Ten years ago, Sharon Woolums and Suzanne Schropp organized Diether’s 80th birthday blowout extravaganza, also at Judson. It was hard to imagine that they could have topped that for Diether’s 90th but — this time joined by Erin Rogers and Hellen Osgood — incredibly somehow they did. They juggled the myriad details of this special night for a special community member, with Judson volunteers’ assistance throughout the evening.
Obviously, a great time was had by all!
Reflecting about Diether’s birthday celebration, Woolums said, “There was so much love, sweetness and joy in the room and a true feeling of community.”