Gore Vidal, In Bed with Gore Vidal
“My entire life is now devoted to appearing on television: a pleasant alternative to real life.”
Gore Vidal, In Bed with Gore Vidal
It could be said that this 20th Century playwright is "no Oscar Wilde." What is his name?
HINT: His work and personality resembled that of Oscar Wilde, but unlike Wilde, he sometimes appeared in the plays he wrote.
The answer is after the JUMP.
“In my grandparents’ time, the grounds of [Ferrières] were looked after by a veritable battalion of gardeners—fifty of them. A famous story was told about my grandmother who, while visiting friends one autumn day, was enraptured by the sight of a lawn strewn with fallen leaves. ‘It’s magnificent! How beautiful!’ she exclaimed, ‘but where do you get them from?’ It seems, of course, that she had never had the occasion to see a dead leaf on a lawn not even on a path. The story is too good to be true, but it is one of the family legends that continues to be told, half-smilingly, but also half-believed.”
Guy de Rothschild, The Whims of Fortune
“Michael and Katherine Govan [are] the most attractive New York couple. She is Katherine Ross, a vice-president at Prada. Michael is so smooth, so articulate, that he could run for political office. He reminds me—with his natural charm and good looks—of a young J.F.K., Jr.”
André Leon Talley, A.L.T. 365+
When André Leon Talley's A.L.T. 365+ went to press in 2005, Michael Govan and Katherine Ross were based on the East Coast. In 2006, they relocated to Los Angeles where he became CEO and and Director of Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). He has introduced a touch of Hollywood glamour to the once staid museum, while also adding to its prestige and international reputation.
“When the first guest arrives, I go to my own party.”
Betsy Bloomingdale, R.S.V.P., Menus for Entertaining from People Who Really Know How
In 2016, Tom Ford purchased Betsy Bloomingdale's Holmby Hills home, famed for its spectacular garden, divine parties, and unique place in Los Angeles social history. A perfect host gift for Ford (should anyone be fortunate enough to require one) would be the copy of Mouna Ayoub, A Voyage Round a Collector that Ayoub warmly inscribed to Bloomingdale. Given the fashion designer's avocation, this book—a retrospective of Ayoub's collection of haute couture—would be just perfect for him. It is available via the Nick Harvill Libraries store.
See Also: When Betsy Met Mouna
Image Credit: Nan Kempner's R.S.V.P., Menus for Entertaining from People Who Really Know How
"Quarantine Day 23: I haven’t hung out with anyone else in nine months."
Trey Kennedy, "Extroverts vs. Introverts in Quarantine"
“Where do the weeks go? They seem to hurry by even quicker than the days or the hours. It is the immediate future that holds such store, and that keeps our enthusiasms so active. If we had time to realise how quickly the unknown becomes the known, the future the present, and the present the past—should we then perhaps take a calmer view of the weeks and minimize our activity? Then maybe one would have time to consider the real significance of all those meetings, those jobs, those pleasures.”
Cecil Beaton, February 1931, The Wandering Years, Diaries: 1922-39
Cecil Beaton's diaries commence in 1922, nearly one hundred years ago. The first entry found him a student St. John's College in Cambridge—where he enjoyed some success, but just enough to give him a hint of what might (or might fail to) await him in the wider world. That knowledge became torture when he left school and quickly floundered. Beaton struggled in a one-pound-per-week office job for which he was ill-suited. He did not understand that his failure was the result of too much talent, not too little. Typical of his tenure there was when a supervisor reprimanded for adding ornamental flourishes to a business letter he had typed.
The young Beaton was all but ready to give up when a deus machina in the form of Edith Sitwell arrived. She and her brothers not only removed him from his office job, they launched him into the stratosphere. His life became a whirlwind of conquests and achievements, as he made a name for himself in London, Paris, New York City, and Hollywood. In a matter of days, Beaton went from moping in his bedroom to photographing London society in a makeshift photography studio. He became the aesthete of the moment, with nary a moment to stop and smell the roses (though he did paint and photograph them).
The years and decades flew by, and ultimately Cecil Beaton became one of the most accomplished and socially connected men of his era. He won wrote over a dozen books, contributed to fashion magazines (as writer, artist, and photographer), won Oscars and Tonys for his film and stage designs, and juggled a dazzling social life. As evidenced in the many volumes of his diaries, Beaton found some time for reflection. Yet, perhaps he spent too much time savoring his accomplishments and not enough simply enjoying the life he had created?
As Cecil Beaton noted back in 1931, how easy it is to be catapulted into the future via the means of a busy calendar. And, with improvements in travel and communication, life has only speeded up in the subsequent decades. Well, at least it had until March 2020, when the world slammed on its brakes.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had tragic consequences, and it is incumbent on us all to do what we can to offer whatever aid and comfort to those adversely affected. However, fate seldom takes away without offering something back in return (one of life’s most challenging lessons to accept). The fortunate among us now have the luxury of time (of which Cecil Beaton wrote back in 1931). Maybe it is not best spent binge-watching Tiger King on Netflix? Instead, why not take in the scent of those roses that Cecil Beaton painted and photographed but was too far busy to savor?
Image Credit: The Wandering Years, Diaries: 1922-39
What did Cole Porter have in common with Averell Harriman, Brooke Astor’s second husband (Buddy Marshall), Jacqueline Onassis’s father (Jack Bouvier), and U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson?
“Life consists, I believe, in accepting one’s duty, and that means often to accept the second best.”
Angus Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
Image Credit: The Face of the World
“Jackie [Onassis] might have hated him. (Ron is convinced it was a love-hate relationship.) But it’s clear that many of his subjects recognized that the guy made them look really good. Because he’s an artist and a realist. Anybody can be made to look good in the studio, but Galella made them look good on the street and on the run. And he may have been a real pest at times, but I suspect a person of Jackie’s taste must have recognized that he did take some very flattering pictures of her.”
Glenn O’Brien, The Photographs of Ron Galella, 1965-1989
There is no getting around it. Ron Galella stalked his number one prey (and source of income), Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. He went so far as to date one of her maids so as to have an inside track on her social engagements. In his book, Jacqueline, Galella boasted that his line in the sand would be breaking and entering into her 1040 Fifth Avenue apartment (as if that was a commendable moral high ground).
And yet ... the two were co-conspirators when it came to her legend. He claims to have selected only flattering photographs of Onassis, and either he was telling the truth, or she was the most photogenic woman of her generation (and perhaps she was). In any case, without his candid snapshots, the record of her most incandescent and fascinating years would be incomplete. No one captured the former first lady's natural beauty like Ron Galella. There might have been more talented photographers but certainly no one with his audacity, his shamelessness. The result was something utterly unique that the world might never see again. Da Vinci might have had his Mona Lisa, but Galella had his Jacqueline.
The most comprehensive and elegantly produced book of Ron Galella's work is Greybull Press's The Photographs of Ron Galella, 1965-1989. The copy he affectionately inscribed to Elizabeth Taylor is available via the Nick Harvill Libraries store. It is the only one of four books from Taylor's library that we acquired that has not yet sold. Elizabeth Taylor, by the way, was after Jackie, Galella's most bankable celebrity.
Image Credit: Jacqueline