Life of the Party

updated 01/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/30/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

LIKE HIS FAMOUS FATHER, JOHN Funt has white hair, a ready grin, and a fascination with the art of surprise. But while Allen Funt's pranks on his long-running Candid Camera TV show were aimed at unsuspecting bystanders, John makes his living wowing high-society swells who think they've seen everything.

John, 41, is a professional event planner known for his breathtaking party decorations. At a Welsh National Opera bash in New York City in 1989 honoring Princess Di, Funt bathed an entire room in red-and-pink lighting and covered the head table with an 80-foot carpet of blossoms designed to look like a flower bed. And at last month's Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Ball in Manhattan, he transformed the museum's cavernous ground floor into an 18th-century Chinese fantasy garden. "John is brilliant," says Pat Buckley, wife of writer-editor Bill and the event's chairwoman. "He's the man of choice for me."

The youngest of three children (Allen and his first wife, Evelyn, divorced in 1964), Funt grew up in suburban Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. "I remember Dad teaching me how to draw," recalls John. "He was pretty much a taskmaster." (The elder Funt, now living in Carmel, Calif., suffered a stroke in 1993.) After earning a degree in studio art from Ohio's Kenyon College, John found work planning events first for the Metropolitan Museum, then for Tiffany's, before going solo in 1989.

A bachelor, Funt divides his time between a Manhattan apartment and a house in Salisbury, Conn., where he loves to garden. But demure little flower beds aren't his thing. "If I could," he says, "I'd live in Howard's End."

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