"Best $2k I Ever Spent!" Secret Belgium Brunch In Bryant Park

by JOHN NORWOOD · April 28, 2009

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With the summer-like weather rushing in, it's no wonder everyone in our city is coming out of hibernation and doing what New Yorkers do best: Brunching. It is a fine art indeed. and these Belgium Brunchers in Bryant Park this Sunday, may just be the best we've seen yet.  Read what John Norwood had to say about the "Top Secret" event below...

The email invitation announcing a "Belgian Brunch" arrived about a week ago, but with no address for the party. Guests were instructed that the secret address for yesterday's event would not be revealed until the day before.

More story and photos below...

And, BTW, dress in white and bring lots of food and beverages. At 1PM on Sunday, revelers carrying bundles and bottles made their way to the chosen corner of a Manhattan park.The agent provocateur behind this clandestine gallery of guests is a charming and amusing Belgian, Gregoire Vogelsang.

Gregoire arrived in NYC just three weeks ago. I bumped into him during his first week at at least three parties, so we became fast friends. The Belgian Brunch was an extension of the spontaneous white parties he has hosted in Belgium, mostly around Brussels. Like in Brussels, only invitees and their friend are welcome. His parties also bear a passing resemblance to the legendary and outrageous "Outlaw" parties of the late 80's, they are spontaneous and take place in public places. Unlike the outlaw parties, there is no booze, (not allowed in public parks) and there are no drugs. And, there is no Michael Alig, at the foot of the Wllliamsburg Bridge, passing out martinis to startled motorists on their way into Manhattan. Also, the Outlaw parties were wide open and attracted thousands. The Belgian Brunch was planned for forty and sixty-plus showed up.

Like the Outlaw parties, there is always the risk of running afoul of the authorities. In this case, the park supervisor who showed up and asked for our permit, wisely and kindly decided that there was little threat to public safety and order from a bunch of people dressed in white and bearing only table cloths, china, silverware, glasses and food.

In addition to the interest in fun, the party is propelled by two underlying factors. Gregoire has a public relations company. And, what is a public relations company except putting people together - just like a party. Also, the parties might become a TV series. In the series Gregoire and his Belgian partner, Phillippe Parel, will go to an unknown city and put on a big party in forty-eight hours. The challenge is that they have to get the party on for free - there is no budget. They must get everything donated or on loan - location, food & drink, tables, chairs, dishes, etc.. Surprisingly, this works. I've seen it happen. It is amazing what you can get for free, if you just ask nicely. I took Gregoire for a tour of Central Park the day before the Belgian Brunch. During our walk, he expressed an urgent desire for flowers for his party. I suggested that we go to the nearby Pierre Hotel and the Plaza Hotel. Surely, since it was Saturday, at least one of them should have an event with left over flowers by the end of the night.

When we exited the Park at 59th and 5th, we stumbled right into a group of bridesmaids. They were being photographed for a wedding that night at the Pierre, naturally. Rachel, the wedding planner, was thrilled to donate the left over flowers. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Gregoire could charm the leaves off a tree! The dishes and glasses were loaned by Petite Abeille restaurant, the table cloths by the Sea Grill and the the silverware by the Marriot Marquis Hotel. Gregoire and Phillippe have already filmed a short pilot in Washington DC. So, if you want to see the boys in action, go to www.thebelgianparty.blogspot.com

All of the guests brought food and drinks, there were mounds of it on the table. Some of those who were lucky enough to enjoy it were legendary CBS news and "48 Hours" producer Allen Alter, "I invited a news crew to cover this party, but they went off to cover the swine flu story instead!". (Apparently, they don't have their priorities straight at CBS). Racine Berkow, "A quintescential New York event. A homeless person stepped right up to the table and filled his plate with a mountain of food. A true New Yorker with chuztpah. I love it!" Helen Uffner, who rents out her huge collection of vintage clothing for movies and theater, "Next time I'm going to dress some of the guests in my vintage white outfits." Emerging science fiction writer, Tom Crosshill, who was suffering from his first day of hay fever, "Nice pollen." And, prominent television and theatrical producer, Chris Raphael, "Apparently, even the squirrels had fun!"