April 04, 1977 12:00 PM

Though George Plimpton’s rep is as a jack-of-all-trades, he is unquestionably master of one: throwing a party. But for his 50th birthday, wife Freddy could hardly let George do it. Still, her efforts, with a little help from pal Jimmy Lipton, impresario of the Inaugural Gala, produced a classic of its kind. The element of surprise was demolished, unfortunately, when George intercepted a phone call. “It was the air traffic controller at La Guardia,” he explained imperturbably, “saying all the pilots were alerted and it was all right to go ahead with the fireworks.”

The guest list of 450 at the Plimptons’ rambling East Side duplex was as diverse as the birthday boy’s interests—an odd-coupling of such haut-and demimonde types as Jean Harvey Vanderbilt and Warhol screen stud Gerard Malanga, Diana Vreeland and ex-prizefighter Jose Torres, Pat Kennedy Lawford and randy fiction-diarist Dotson Rader. “Too bad nobody came,” purred Lauren Bacall at the multitudes.

Mixed-media types to the core, George’s friends put together a combination record and slide show (called “Plimpton Gets the Shaft”) that paid appropriately stinting tribute to Plimpton’s first 50 years—from childhood through Harvard and Cambridge, and his various identities (of George’s brief tour as an aerialist the lyrics noted, “He rose to great heights / Just to fall in pink tights”). Cool Plimpton took it all in stride, up to and including the arrival of an unclothed lady at midnight. When the party was over, mother Pauline Plimpton was moved to bestow on her daughter-in-law the ultimate accolade. “Freddy,” she declared, “you are a wonderful wife!”

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