Wendy Carduner is a born diplomat with the gift of always knowing exactly how to make people feel comfortable. But instead of White House social secretary, she is the guiding light of Doubles, the chic private club in The Sherry-Netherland hotel that her father, Joe Norban, founded 36 years ago, and which hosts its traditional Valentine Diner Dance on February 14. “I look at it as a place where I want to be happy, I want the members to be happy, and I want the staff to be happy,” says Carduner. “People come to Doubles and they tell me, over and over again, that when they walk down our red stairs, whatever’s going on outside, whatever feelings they may have woken up with that day, disappears when they come to Doubles.”

It makes perfect sense that Carduner would feel right at home in a hotel club; much of her upbringing revolved around the hospitality industry. “I grew up in the St. Moritz Hotel,” she says. “We lived on the 33rd, 34th, and 35th floors; Walter Winchell was our next-door neighbor. We had two terraces, a dog, a canary, 13 turtles, and bunnies at Easter. We had turtle races, just like Eloise. It was a wonderful childhood.”

Carduner’s father founded Doubles with the help of Earl Blackwell, the legendary publicist, and a committee that included the reigning social figures of the era, including Patricia Buckley (wife of William F.), Pat Patterson, Mica Ertegün,, and Nan Kempner. “My father was an active investor in El Morocco and at some point was not pleased with the way it was being run,” says Carduner. “The club Raffles closed in The Sherry-Netherland in the early ’70s, and this space was vacant for four years. We lived in the hotel, and he decided that he was going to open his own private club.”

Doubles was originally conceived as a backgammon club; the name comes from the doubling cube. “When we opened in 1976, we decided not to be a backgammon club, but we liked the name Doubles, so we kept it,” she says. From the very beginning Carduner was hands-on, working with the famed decorator Valerian Rybar, who gave Doubles its signature red décor, which was recently refreshed by interior designer Thomas Britt. Since 1982 Carduner has operated the club without a manager, constantly updating the establishment for the times. Each morning she rollerblades to work with her five-pound toy poodle, Bandit, in tow. “Doubles hasn’t changed as much as it has evolved,” she says. “When we opened, people were drinking more, and they were staying out later. Then, women who were going to spas were taught not to drink their calories, and everyone began ordering Perrier instead of wine at lunch. The nightlife that existed in the ’70s and into the ’80s changed significantly.”

The private club is open nearly 10 months each year. During that time, she plans more than 200 events with the help of her talented executive chef, Steve Mellina. Over the years, notables such as Frank Sinatra have made the pilgrimage down the red stairs to mingle with the city’s elite: Tara and Michael Rockefeller; Muffie Potter Aston and Dr. Sherrell Aston; Anne Hearst and her husband, Jay McInerney, and her daughter, Amanda; as well as scions of the Whitney and Mellon families. “I genuinely have a very good time at Doubles; interacting with the members, friends, and the staff,” says Carduner. “It’s very challenging, but it’s fun and exciting.” The Doubles Club, The Sherry-Netherland, 783 Fifth Ave., 212-751-9595

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