Loved High Drama
“Mario loved to have fun,” Ms. Altschul said, “but he would also get cranky and scream.” Shop assistants and workmen were frequent targets of his blistering fulminations.
“He was a holy terror,” Ms. Altschul said.
Temo Callahan, a designer and a longtime friend, met Mr. Buatta while working at Clarence House, the fabric showroom. “Mario was a delightful, charming, wonderful person,” Mr. Callahan said. “But he was a paradox. If you had a sense of humor, you got along with Mario. If you were a silly shop person, he would grind you into bits.”
“He’d be screaming and winking at the same time,” Mr. Callahan said. “A lot of people didn’t understand that. He was very difficult but lots of fun. Mario loved high drama. You have to remember it was drama, not meanness.”
Mario joked about his own paranoia about assistants, fearing that they would steal his ideas and trade secrets. (“Mario accused everyone of stealing,” Ms. Kron said.) Some who worked for him in the 1980s remember him fondly. Others do not.
“Mark Hampton had 20 assistants,” Mr. Callahan said, referring to another famous decorator, with whom Mr. Buatta collaborated in the 1980s on a design of Blair House, the president’s guesthouse across from the White House. “Mario had yellow legal pad pages of his to-dos, folded into quadrants,” Mr. Callahan said. Panic ensued every time he thought he’d dropped them.
In more recent years, Mr. Buatta was a proud Trump supporter, much to the dismay of his many liberal Democrat friends. Convincing him otherwise was an unrewarding battle, said Louis Bofferding, an antiques dealer and Obama supporter.