A Berkshires New Year’s Eve

The Scene surveys one New Year’s Eve with visits to two places: Methuselah and Blantyre


New Year’s Eve is a momentous time when all people come together to celebrate the present year and reflect upon days gone by: days of happiness and joy, accomplishment and success, love’s abundance, but also sadness and pain, discouragement and failure, heartbreak. The new year gives each one of us the opportunity to begin again, and as the sun’s golden rays stretch out upon our majestic Berkshire mountains, we visualize brilliant horizons before us and dream of new days to come.

Our earth is filled with multifaceted people and ideas, and as The Scene covered this past New Year’s Eve’s festivities, we bring to you a glimpse into two worlds: Methuselah Bar and Lounge and Blantyre Hotel Restaurant Spa.
The night begins with appetizers at 6 o’clock at Methuselah Bar and Lounge on North Street in Pittsfi eld. Its frequent customers call it “The Thuse.” The restaurant and bar owned by Yuki Cohen is hip, energetic, contemporary, and supports innovation and philanthropic philosophy.

Upon walking in, the lights are dimmed and the mix of marble and oak bars bars are dotted with candlelight and sparkly paraphernalia to usher in the new year. It’s quiet and the bartenders are well prepared for the crowd of customers about to arrive.

Taking tickets at the door is Shane Tatro of Pittsfield who also barbacks. “It’s a great night to be working and Yuki is my favorite boss of any job I’ve ever had,” Tatro tells us.

Tickets to New Year’s Even at “The Thuse” cost $75 for appetizers, dinner, a ticket for a drink and champagne toast. Admission to the dance party only was a cover of $10 and included a Champagne toast. Dinner tickets were sold out.
With disco music pouring from the speakers, bartender and server Justin Allen of Pittsfield and bar manager John Burns of Lee swirl to the tunes.

“I helped with the building-out, care for Yuki, and have a deep connection with the space,” says Burns. “I want to keep people happy and keep them coming.”
The first customers to arrive are Hillary and James Zowistowski of Pittsfield.
“We’re excited about tonight and here because our co-workers from BMC are in the band,” says Hillary.

The evening is a celebration to benefit WAM Theatre, a place where arts and activism meet. WAM was founded in 2010 by Canadian director, actor, educator, and producer Kristen van Ginhoven, and it supports the opportunity for women and girls through the mission of theater as philanthropy. With each theatrical event, WAM donates a portion of the proceeds to organizations that benefit women and girls.

The night’s event features the rocking local band “Tantrum,” playing popular ’80s and ’90s tunes along with some original compositions. The band members are Dr. Emma Weiskopf, neurologist at Berkshire Medical Center, as lead vocalist; Jed Hall on bass guitar and vocals; Chris Hennessey on guitar; Jim Harwood on drums; Matt Mozian on guitar; and Jonathan Denmark on keyboard and vocals.

“We are not a professional group, but play at fundraisers that donate to charity and other causes,” says Weiskopf.

“We have a lot fun doing it for charity and named the group ‘Tantrum’ because we all have little kids.”

After walking past the bar, you find yourself in the lounge where poofy leather couches and on them people are mingling and relaxing. Among them tonight sat band members Matt Mozian and Jonathan Denmark laughing along with their spouses Sharon Mozian and Lara Denmark.

Keyboardist Denmark talked about the band, “To me, personally, I do it because I love to play music while giving back to the community.”

Standing by was the band’s photographer and friend, cardiologist Dr. Peter Hahn capturing the moments.

In a conversation, WAM Director Van Ginhoven speaks with enthusiasm about the event and how it came into play.

“Every year WAM does social club events and Emma wanted to do a social club for WAM, so together she and board President Tammy Valicenti plotted it would be fun to do it with the band. The band played here at Methuselah last New Year’s Eve and so we thought it would be cool to combine the benefit with tonight’s New Year celebration.”

In an earlier conversation, Van Ginhoven had confided, “I have long dreamed of being a backup singer in a rock band, and thanks to this event, it’s coming true!”

In addition to the cutting-edge charm, Methuselah is known for its delicious and diverse menu. This evening, sous chef Bryan Louais presents several of his signature tapas displayed on the tables and along the bar to please the crowd’s pallet, along with a full dinner spread set up in the lounge for guests to partake. One of the favorites is the butternut squash turnover.

As the night goes on, guests greet one another shaking hands and embracing as “We Are Family” plays. Soon it was time for “Tantrum” to begin their set, and as guests gather around it takes nearly a minute before everyone is on the dance floor.

WAM board president Valicenti talks about the evening’s event: ”We are beyond grateful to Yuki for donating so much of her time and resources to make this night possible!”

Methuselah owner Yuki Cohen works right along with her staff to make the evening a success.

“WAM is one of my favorite nonprofits. I feel especially passionate about supporting organizations such as WAM who help women around the world,” she says.

• Our journey to the next world takes us to a magical mansion filled with history and heart and the people who are appreciative of its old-world charm and beauty. Blantyre Hotel Restaurant Spa in Lenox leaves its visitors in awe.
Outside, it is snowing with the kind of flakes that fall softly like stars, landing on your cheeks. There stands a largely lit Christmas tree shining in the mist before the grand country house where light illuminates the many widows to where inside people are celebrating.

A brief history of Lenox and Blantyre is required, as retrieved from Blantyre’s website: The area had once been described as the “Switzerland of America” by the Cleveland Amory. In the late 1800s, Robert Paterson purchased the Lenox estate of 220 acres called “Highlawn” from the Dorr Family, and he tore down the original home and began building out the property on a grand scale. The house was modeled by Patterson’s mother’s ancestral home in Blantyre, Scotland, and the architect who took Paterson’s concept and designed it was Robert Henderson Robertson complete with towers, turrets and gargoyles. Construction commenced in 1901.

The history continues: It was the “Gilded Age” and the house was used in the summer and fall for entertaining garden parties and grand dinner dances, one more lavish than the next with each new gathering until years later after government taxes crippled that lifestyle for good, leaving Blantyre to go through many transitions and falling into disrepair into the 1970s. That is until 1980 when Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick came to the abandoned estate, fell in love and planned to purchase it for their daughter, the late great Ann Fitzpatrick Brown. Ann’s dream was to restore the home to its former stature and elegance. Today the beautiful country house is “recognized as one of the finest hotels in the world, where guests can come and stay and experience the life and service of a bygone era.”

Blantyre’s New Year’s Eve Premier Gala Reception was inclusive of a Champagne & Caviar tasting from 7 to 8 p.m., served in the Main Hall followed by “an evening of fabulous cuisine, dancing and a Champagne toast at midnight to ring in the New Year.” Tickets were $300 per guest. To forgo the Champagne and caviar tasting, tickets were $150 beginning at 8 p.m. and ending at 12:30 a.m.

General Manager Annabel M.M. Sattler, dressed in her long red skirt and and black embroidered buttondown festive for the season, seems to appear in every room at the precise time to ensure every guest is cared for and achieves the ultimate experience.

Guests Pommy and Jerry Levy of New York City peruse the dining room while partaking in the decadents desserts such as Lemon Meringue Tartlets, Chocolate & Dulce de Leche tartlets with Fleur de Sel, Paris-Brest with Fresh Berries and Sliced Almonds, Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, Croquembouche, and Raspberry Macaroon Petite Gateau — all made by pastry chef Kim Watson.

“I think it’s such a treat to be able to come to this beautiful place,” says Ms. Levy.

Judith Knight, attorney and manager of Fitzpatrick Holdings LLC, speaks passionately about the late Ann Fitzpatrick and her estate: “It was Ann’s wish that every guest who came to Blantyre would never want to leave. She was all about the experience and nothing but the best.”

Knight explains she grew up around the estate, that she and Ann Fitzpatrick became close, and that she looked up to her with great esteem. “Ann knew I’d fight for Blantyre and fight for the staff,” she says.

“We are so thrilled to open up the property for the first time to people other than guests staying here at the hotel. Tickets are sold out and all 23 of our rooms are filled,” Knight says.

Presently, Blantyre is for sale and it is Knight’s and all the staff’s hope to find a buyer who maintains the history and integrity and the legend and vision Ms. Fitzpatrick fought so hard to bring into fruition.

It was clear that the care, dedication and passion is felt by all the staff present. Like a second home, Blantyre is.

In one of the private dining rooms is David Berger from Miami, in his festive party hat, with his wife, Cindy, along with a playful and vivacious group of friends.

Mr. Berger jokes, “Let’s call this ‘Miami does New Year’s in the Berkshires.’ We love coming here to the Berkshires and all have second homes in Lenox and West Stockbridge. What better place is there than here?”

They jump at the opportunity to have their pictures taken in front of the fireplace.

“We are so happy to welcome the local community for the first time and share Blantyre,” said director of lodging Christine Fraser who at the time is assisting at the wine table with administrative assistant Barbara Czelusniak. “This is my 29th year working here and the staff are like family to me. I love it!” Fraser says.

Looking quite at home in a Queen Anne chair, Abby and Barry Cooper from Long Island are happy to share the joy of their experience at the hotel.
“We come here every year,” says Ms. Cooper. “We love that it is such a gracious place and the grounds are beautiful like the chateaus in Europe. We were very sad to hear Ann passed away.” Ann Fitzpatrick died nearly a year ago.

Ann remains a strong presence in the Country House and throughout the grounds.

A beloved oil painting hangs upstairs of her holding her son, Alex, on her lap while reading a story. The staff has mentioned Ann’s kindness and generosity and how colorful her personality was, a parallel to the ballroom where brightly colored ribbons cascade from the ceiling.

Glitter and sparkle move along the walls each with distinct mannerisms that note elegance and class.

As the evening grows later, the crowd grows more animated, dancing in couples and clusters to all the favorite songs from the ’60s up to the present day. The band, “The Rhythm Dogs,” know how to get the crowd dancing.

By the end of the evening, guests are moving in “the train” to usher in the new year. Everyone gathers their champagne glasses. The countdown begins until horns blow and balloons fall. Couples kiss and embraced. Everyone toasts and raises their fluted crystal to the new year, 2017.

Sitting around the grand fireplace is a huddle of friends from Winsted, Conn., sipping wine, laughing and happy to share their love for Blantyre.

“This is such a special and magical place,” says Janet Spiridonakos. “Everyone should take the opportunity to come and experience the beauty. It is worth so much.”

• Both worlds venturing out tonight share one common theme. The people gather to share the experience, create memories, to laugh, to dance, and to once again look forward with hope to the time before them yet to unfold.

Janel Harrison covers the Berkshires social scene for The Eagle.


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