Man with the golden touch

Gillian McAinsh

THE name’s Cowie, Colin Cowie, but unlike secret agent 007, this style guru aims to thrill, not kill, with parties thrown for those with the wealth of a Goldfinger.

Party and wedding planner extraordinaire, Cowie was in Port Elizabeth last week for his nephew’s wedding and at the same time gave a talk for charity on a few of his more spectacular do’s. Born and bred in the Eastern Cape, Cowie left South Africa for Los Angeles in 1986, starting out “with $400, one well-cut suit, a suntan and big dreams”.

Today, the only thing that has changed is the cash in his pocket and the number of suits because the designer, author, television host and producer is now a household name across the world for his fabulous functions.

However, like his close friend Oprah Winfrey, Cowie also has a deeply spiritual streak and loves to use his success to uplift and empower. Last weekend’s talk in Stanley Street, for example, raised R26000 for Zwide’s Ubuntu Education Trust.

“I do live in a world of excess, not personally, but I am surrounded by it, so rather think of me as Robin Hood. I take from the rich in America and give to where it should be!” said Cowie after his visit to the Ubuntu centre.

“I was blown away by the groundbreaking things they do, taking children from their cradle to their career and I will continue to work with them. They have a great model.”

So much so that Cowie is executive producer for an Ubuntu fundraiser in New York in June but for years he also has supported the Phelophepa train, Infinite Family and the Turning Point Foundation.

What his achievements on paper – he has written eight books, with two in production – don’t reveal, however, is what a gorgeous voice he has – and coupled with talent and the charm of James Bond, he has forged an entertainment empire.

His audience last week at the new Granary venue heard his secret to entertaining was this: “When we entertain, the idea is to be as personal as possible”.

“It’s not just about drinks and food: it’s how you honour your guests and make them feel special,” he explained, whether it is an intimate dinner for a few or a mega celebration for thousands.

Of course, world-class musicians, themed decor, caviar and champagne don’t go amiss and, if you have a budget of between $2-million and $25-million, “I’m available tomorrow”.

His favourite was his own 50th birthday bash held in Mexico earlier this year. It had a Bond twist, but also an element of soul when his long-time spiritual mentor Linda Garbett led the 170 white-clad guests in meditation before everyone plunged into the surf for an en masse swim.

His combination of ritual and razzmatazz is a winner so you can be sure the magnums of Dom Perignon fizzing at his 50th would be chilled to a perfect 21°C but that his guests leave with the knowledge they were treasured friends, sharing a ceremony that meant a great deal to Cowie.

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