The Vanderbilt who organized the service commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the legendary family, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, plus the Vanderbilt family reunion at St. Bartholomew's Church, is Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt III, 45, the eloquent son of Alfred Gwynne Sr., the present head of the family, and Jeanne Murray Vanderbilt. (Alfred Sr., in his 80s, was not at the church, but attended the reception afterwards at the Racquet Club.)
Alfred III got up and told a story about when he was a child visiting the great Vanderbilt estate in Newport, where a caretaker told him all the Vanderbilts were dead, victims of a huge train crash years before. To prove that the Vanderbilts are not only alive but flourishing, Alfred summoned all the Vanderbilt children under eight years of age to congregate before St. Bartholomew's altar. Before you could say dynasty, scores of Vanderbilt young were streaming up the center aisle. Alfred then called upon the middle and older generations of the family to rise and identify themselves, which they did in considerable numbers. Point taken.
The service concluded with the old Commodore's favorite hymn, "Nearer My God To Thee," after which over 150 repaired to the reception, including such non-Vanderbilts as John Davis, who is writing a biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, a great-great grandson of the Commodore, and Dominick Dunne, who is writing a feature on the Vanderbilts for Vanity Fair. The vrai Vanderbilts present were Wendy Vanderbilt and her two Lehman daughters, Paul Szpary, Virginia Smith Burke, former Congressman John LeBoutillier, Nancy Whitney, Harry Cushing IV and Harry Cushing V (with two year-old Cathleen Vanderbilt Cushing), Gerta Conner, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt (Marylou) Whitney, Whitney Tower Sr. and Whitney Tower Jr., Harry Payne Tower and Alfred III's wife, Allison. Gloria Vanderbilt, the most famous of current Vanderbilts, was conspicuous by her absence -- one hears tribal rites of this nature are not exactly Gloria's cup of tea -- but her son, Stanley, by her marriage to the famous conductor, Leopold Stokowski, represented her branch of the family.