Village doyenne Doris Diether turns 90! Feted by friends at Judson bash

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | It was the party of the year — and we’re only 10 days in!

Decked out in a red velvet frock with a “Happy Birthday” sash, Doris Diether held court like a queen, her glittery birthday hat festooned with paper flowers. Diether turned 90 on Jan. 10. She helped save Shakespeare in the Park, fought Robert Moses, is a zoning specialist and has been an active member of Community Board 2 for almost six decades.

The Washington Square Park Superstars musicians, who jam regularly in the park, set the mood in Judson Memorial Church’s main hall. Park pianist Andrew’s “Johnny B. Goode” got the septuagenarians (boomers) onto the dance floor. Colin Huggins a.k.a. “That Crazy Piano Guy” performed a Beethoven sonata on the grand piano.

Doris Diether with the “Little Doris” marionette at her 90th birthday party at Judson Memorial Church last Thursday. Photos by Tequila Minsky

Other park denizens joined in the fun, including Elisa; Joe, the sand mandala artist; Larry, the “Pigeon Man”; and Ricky Syers, the marionettist, who, along with Diether and a mini-Doris marionette, is featured in AARP’s “An Unconventional Friendship” video.

Wearing sparkly black, Sharon Woolums, in her opening greeting, remarked, “How do we love thee Doris? Let us count the ways tonight!”

A bevy of local politicians were on hand, and wouldn’t have thought of missing the occasion.

In a personal, charming address and a commendation, City Comptroller Scott Stringer thanked Diether for an education in zoning.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer presented Diether with an official commendation.

Preservationists, friends and fans listened as citations and proclamations gushed forth from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, state Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and former Councilmember Rosie Mendez. Mendez stood in for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. All the assembled pols noted Diether’s public and community accomplishments.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson paid tribute to the legendary activist.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick gave the “zoning maven” a citation.

Naturally, Judson congregants were there in abundance. Senior Minister Donna Schaper paid glowing tribute to Diether while Minister Micha Bucey wrapped the C.B. 2 veteran in a red feather boa as a symbolic gesture of ordination.

The wine flowed.

Staff from The Lantern, on Bleecker St., mixed endless margaritas as guests gobbled burgers and mozzarella/basil sliders.

The official Doris Diether Birthday Bash (D.D.B.B.) Committee with the woman of honor, from left, Suzanne Schropp, Sharon Woolums, Hellen Osgood and Erin Rogers.

Community board members, including Keen Berger and David Gruber, toggled between the bash and C.B. 2 meetings.

The jamsters’ rock-and-roll played on.

Musician Richie Weintraub adapted “Run Around Sue” with customized Diether lyrics.

State Senator Brad Hoylman, who formerly chaired Community Board 2, gave his former community board colleague a kiss.

Next! Former Councilmember Rosie Mendez paid her respects to the beloved community board member.

“I should’ve known it from the very start,” he sang. “That woman must be the queen of the park. Once you know her for a while, her example makes you smile.”

At another point, he sang, “Doris may be 90 today, but she is always ready to play!”

Diether loved every moment of it.

Party organizer Sharon Woolums with the grande dame of the Village — and with the little dame, “Little Doris,” at right, the marionette created by Ricky Syers.

Marionette master Syers rocked out with another original, “Every Day Is Doris Day in Washington Square Park!” And along with ongoing schmoozing, Diether’s friends individually wished her the best.

Much later, Le Souk set up a hot-food table at the Judson Diether love-in, featuring Middle Eastern fare like couscous and vegetables.

A political power trio, from left, State Committeeman Ben Yee, Downtown Independent Democrats’ Sean Sweeney and Judge Kathryn Freed, who was formerly a city councilmember representing the Washington Square area, Soho and Lower Manhattan.

Meanwhile, guests added their tributes in writing at a table featuring a blow-up pig, a throwback to 1960 when Diether appeared at a protest with a live rented pig at Governor Nelson Rockeller’s office to oppose demolition of older buildings.

An all-star band of Washington Square Park musicians performed on the Judson stage.

And, specifically for Judson, a donation box manned by two friends greeting guests at the top of Judson’s classic wooden staircase raised $2,800. The funds will go toward replacing the elevator, which Diether, along many others, use to access Judson’s multiuse sanctuary.

A classic (and classical) moment as Colin Huggins, that “Crazy Piano Guy,” of park fame, performed Beethoven for Diether’s party.

An inflatable pig recalled Doris Diether’s protest — holding a live pig on a leash — against Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

“Big Doris” gave marionettist Ricky Syers a big kiss. The two met in Washington Square Park, where Syers performs and which Diether, who lives nearby, frequents.

Then, they brought out Diether’s favorite — chocolate cake — for her to blow out the candles on top, and wind up the party. There were five more delicious cakes — chocolate and white — for everyone to enjoy.

Ten years ago, Sharon Woolums and Suzanne Schropp organized Diether’s 80th birthday blowout extravaganza, also at Judson. It was hard to imagine that they could have topped that for Diether’s 90th but — this time joined by Erin Rogers and Hellen Osgood — incredibly somehow they did. They juggled the myriad details of this special night for a special community member, with Judson volunteers’ assistance throughout the evening.

Obviously, a great time was had by all!

Reflecting about Diether’s birthday celebration, Woolums said, “There was so much love, sweetness and joy in the room and a true feeling of community.”

9 Responses to Village doyenne Doris Diether turns 90! Feted by friends at Judson bash

  1. What a great event! Everyone who ever turns 90 should be so lucky. And Judson is such a wonderful community home. Never been more proud to just be the bartender in the back and to witness history. It was a special night indeed. Here's to the next decade of Doris!

  2. Tequila, nice text and photos of the celebration of Doris' life of service. You have a promising career in photojournalism. Maybe a small town in a big city. Like, say, Greenwich Village.

  3. Looks like it was a great party! Doris is so wonderful and her friends and organizers of the event are special people and friends.

    Well done and Happy Birthday Doris!

  4. Victoria Pohlmann

    Very happy to have attended and experience all the love — plus a great party. Doris definitely rules!

  5. I am so sorry I missed such a wonderful party!

    Lisa

  6. From all the community board members to Judson folks, not to mention the representation of musicians and others from Washington Square Park, where Doris is the queen and all the local businesses that contributed…. so much fun

  7. What a magnificent and well-deserved salute to Doris Diether, a mainstay of Greenwich Village and and our resident expert on zoning. It was a pleasure working with her in the late 70s on CB 2's zoning committee and following her exploits thereafter with my good friend and her fan, the late Ed Gold.

  8. great article, great photos, great party, great Doris Diether, great party committee, great musicians, great everything! and great local businesses contributing!! support them!!

  9. Thanks for the great photos! it was a great party for a great lady! Happy I was able to attend. and represent her downtown friends.

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