It’s just after 7 p.m. on a rainy Monday night in New York City, and the top floor of Tiny’s restaurant, a cozy downtown eatery, is abuzz with the sounds of Donna Summer and the laughter of beautiful people. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are passed as Soledad O’Brien and Estelle exchange Twitter contacts; as Nelson George tells Melanie Fiona what he learned during a recent trip to Liverpool (that Black GIs influenced the Beatles’ harmonies); as everyone admires June Ambrose’s black L.A.M.B. cape. They’re gathered here as guests of Beverly “Bevy” Smith, television personality, founder and host of Dinner With Bevy [DWB], a hot-ticket, invitation-only event that hooks up various movers, shakers, stars and brands within an intimate dining experience. The launch of Belvedere Vodka’s Lemon Tea libation is the occasion, and Smith has handpicked a veritable who’s who from the worlds of journalism, music, fashion and art. “All of my passion push points,” she purrs, gimlet in hand.
“There’s a certain magic to a dinner party, and Bevy does it masterfully,” says O’Brien, who has also been a DWB client. “It’s not just a networking event; it’s a great time.” Smith, 45, stands before her guests in a devastating orange dress, makes her trademark introduction (“Welcome to Dinner With Bevy. I’m your host, Bevy Smith.”) and invites everyone to join her on the second floor where dinner will be served. The room is infused with a warm, rustic glow. Two long wooden farm tables are dressed with amber votives, pastel yellow napkins and Mason jars filled with yellow roses. At the bar, glass vessels are filled with lemon candy in addition to a bowl of sugared orange slices. “To match the orange notes in the vodka,” she explains, smiling. “Monochromatic décor is economical, and candy is whimsical and fun.”
While guests dine on dishes such as house-made vermicelli and grilled hanger steak, Smith is doing what she does best: bringing people together and having a good ol’ time. The former fashion advertising exec spent much of her 20s traveling the world and hobnobbing with the fashion glitterati, but her earliest inspirations were found in Harlem, where Smith has been a lifelong resident. “When I was a little girl, I lived across the street from the Dunbar Tavern, where the barmaids went to work in eveningwear, jewelry and furs. They were so fabulous. The ultimate hostesses. I thought, ‘Ooh, I want to be a barmaid!’” Smith laughs. “I joke, but the concept is the same: welcoming people into a space, taking into account their needs and ensuring they meet other people and have a good time.” Since 2008, she’s been doing exactly that, having hosted dinners for clients including Rashida Jones, Pharrell Williams, HBO and McDonald’s. DWB has also been featured on Bravo’s Chef Roblé & Co.
Smith’s supper success—combined with her knack for dispensing a quick wit and sage advice to her 40,000+ Twitter followers—brought about the debut of her first public event, Dining With Bevy: Life With Vision, a luncheon to help attendees get clarity on life goals.
’Round midnight, Smith is saying her last goodbyes, giving her guests double-cheek kisses and a Belvedere insulated canvas gift bag filled with candy and a small bottle of the Lemon Tea. “People were here for three and a half hours,” she says, plopping down on a bar stool. “On a rainy night like this? I’d call that a successful party.” Indeed, by the night’s end, once-strangers exchanged contact info, firm handshakes and warm hugs; tomorrow on Twitter, guests will find each other and the lovefest will begin again. But tonight, the hostess kicks off her pumps and basks in another job well done—though she’s quick not to take all the credit. “If you put interesting, smart, curious people in a room together, they will find each other and have a good time,” Smith says. “No matter what.”