Life of the Party – Giovanni DeCunto
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Giovanni DeCunto. It was June 20, 2002, a big night for Boston—or at least for that thin slice of Boston that considers Kobe beef essential to a decent hamburger. Two big new restaurants were opening, with enough combined buzz to supply a bucketful of royal jelly. Then a staff writer at this magazine, I queued with the rest of the crush to get into Via Matta, the trattoria owned by Radius restaurateurs Michael Schlow and Christopher Myers. Across town, an equally hyped crowd was squeezing into the Nine Zero Hotel for the opening of its restaurant, Spire.
It was a balmy Thursday night, and by the time I arrived, the Via Matta party was already pouring through the potted plants onto the Park Square sidewalk. Inside, it was sardines: servers with canapé plates laboring to part the walls of cocktail dresses. It took about an hour to even make it to the dining room, where socialites struggled to hold forth over the din of club music.
And that’s when I spotted him.
Really, it was impossible to miss him. With a white ponytail and a chiseled face, he would have stood out from the crowd even if he were just standing still. But he wasn’t. Despite the throng, he had cleared a dance floor in the center of the room, and was now frenetically twirling a twentysomething in a series of full-on ballroom moves. It was like Al Pacino’s Scent of a Woman tango scene on speed. When he dispensed with one girl, he immediately reached for another, while those of us on the fringes traded stage whispers about the crazy old guy.
In the years following that night, I saw him repeatedly at parties—always with the slicked-back ponytail and open shirt, and always spinning women on the dance floor. I assumed he was a party crasher, figuring no one that flamboyant could be on a guest list in Boston. I was not the only one. "He’s kind of an urban legend," says a longtime restaurant manager. "He’s very suave, very unique-looking, and he’s always got the ladies with him."
Then, this past October, I saw him again. I was attending a fashion show for Boston-Argentine designer Daniela Corte in a small Fort Point warehouse space, when he began pulling women onto the dance floor. One of them happened to be my wife, a woman not normally given to dancing with strange men. She tried to extricate herself several times, pleading a lack of affinity for dancing; each time, he pulled her back, reassuring her that she could keep up. Finally, in a moment by the bar, my wife turned to a much younger man with curly dark hair who was standing nearby. "Isn’t that the party crasher?" she yelled.
"I’m more of a party crasher than he is," the dark-haired man shot back. "He’s actually a famous artist."