What do Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, rap mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and socialite Marina Rust Connor all have in common with a tractor repairman from the Mississippi delta? The answer is Van Wyck & Van Wyck, a mother-son event-planning team with big-name clients and surprisingly deep country roots.
Bronson Van Wyck (rhymes with hike, not hick), the company's 30-year-old cofounder, is based in Manhattan, where he stands out on the social scene thanks to his party-planning prowess, old-fashioned manners and iconoclastic dress sense (open-toed sandals at a black-tie occasion, for example, oras he displayed at the Guggenheim Museum's Artists' Ball in Decembera fur-lined goatskin biker jacket custom-made for him by Gucci). But the company's headquarters and spiritual home is not Van Wyck's Chinatown studio, it's Arrowhead Farms in Tuckerman, Arkansas (pop. 1,757), where he grew up and where his mother and business partner, Mary Lynn Van Wyck, still lives.
Whether the event is a presidential inauguration or a Maine clambake, most of the duo's extravagant props25-foot bamboo branches or moon-size disco ballsoriginate in Tuckerman. "Bronson dreams up these ideas, and I think, how are we going to implement this?" says Mary Lynn. "I'll end up taking the drawings of a disco ball to the welder who usually repairs tractors, and he'll make it." But, she adds with her Southern lilt, "that makes life fun."