Billy Baldwin, Billy Baldwin Remembers
“Just when we were ready to begin lunch, she went and stood by the long sunny window. ‘Do you think we could draw the curtains and light the candles?’ she asked. Was she joking? Of all the outrageous, spoiled, childish requests, I thought. ‘Of course!’ I said, to conceal my irritation. I shut out my precious New York winter sunshine and proceeded to light all the candles on the mantel, on the table, and in the chandelier. Because of Greta Garbo, we had our caviar and vodka and cold-turkey Christmas lunch by candlelight in the middle of a brilliant Christmas Day.”
Billy Baldwin, Billy Baldwin Remembers
Image Credit: Persona Grata
“I thought it would be great fun for a woman to have her hair dried under a paisley tent, her fingertips manicured on a Porthault pillow, her hair curled by the light of a palm-tree lamp, as she sits in a lacquered bamboo chair. Apparently it is indeed fun; I’m told a woman will keep dentists and dinner dates waiting before she’ll miss an appointment at Kenneth’s.”
--Billy Baldwin, on His Design of Kenneth's Hair Salon, Billy Baldwin Decorates
Billy Baldwin's exotic design of the famed New York hair salon owned by Kenneth Battelle was widely praised, but there were of course detractors. One client uttered in horror, "I'm getting out of here! It looks like a brothel." After she fled the salon, Kenneth pondered how she knew what one looked like, inquiring, "Do you suppose she's been in one before?"
Kenneth and his salon reached their apogee in the days leading up to Truman Capote's 1966 Black and White Ball. Katharine Graham, Capote's guest of honor, was but one of many partygoers who sat under Kenneth's dryer to prepare for the party.
The others in Kenneth's appointment book that day comprised a Who's Who of New York society, including both the former Mrs. Leland Hayward (Slim Keith) and the then-current one (Pamela Harriman). Kudos to the scheduler who timed those departures and arrivals. Yet, that was nothing new for the salon. Kenneth was accustomed to such matters. During the Kennedy administration, he styled the hair of both Jacqueline Kennedy and her husband's occasional paramour, Marilyn Monroe.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis began with Kenneth before the White House years and stayed long after. Kenneth even traveled to Washington to groom her the day of that fateful trip to Texas in November 1963. He was with her for happier moments as well. In 1986, he was the hairdresser for Caroline Kennedy's wedding to Ed Schlossberg. Kathy McKeon, personal assistant to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, wrote in Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family that Kenneth woke up extra early to style even her hair before moving on to Caroline's bridal party. It was a magnanimous gesture on his part, and an amusing experience for McKeon. When he was shampooing her, Kenneth muttered, "Oh, you sexy bitch." McKeon was left to wonder, "Was this how [Mrs. Onassis's] shampoos went all those years?"
When Kenneth died at the age of eighty-six in 2013, his library included warmly inscribed books from grateful clients. Three such examples are currently on offer at the Nick Harvill Libraries store: The World of Gloria Vanderbilt signed by Gloria Vanderbilt, Allure signed by Diana Vreeland, and Tiffany Taste signed by that book's editor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Note: The photograph of Marilyn Monroe by Cecil Beaton (above) was included in Diana Vreeland's spectacular coffee table book, Allure. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was that book's editor. It says much about Mrs. Onassis's character that she did not use her power to remove this photograph of her husband's volatile mistress. Moreover, Maria Callas is included as well (Callas was the mistress of the former first lady's second husband, Aristotle Onassis). Bravo, Jackie O!
"No matter how many people are in a room, my eye is immediately stopped by the same outstanding woman: tall, good-looking, extremely racée. ... She is Nan Kempner.
--Billy Baldwin, Billy Baldwin Remembers
“I met him when I started at House & Garden. He had two sides: he was very elegant and had friends like Kitty Miller, but then he would be seen at the worst night clubs. He was quite a naughty boy.”
--Horst P. Horst, on Billy Baldwin, Horst, His Work and His World
The adventures of the Billy Baldwin character in Dominick Dunn'e The Two Mrs. Grenvilles seem to support Horst's assertion.
Image Credit: Horst, His Work and His World
"To be her house guest is to be treated to every comfort imaginable--and some you never did imagine."
--Billy Baldwin, Billy Baldwin Remembers
“She is the essence of the chic and sophisticated woman, yet inside is a delightful little girl who every so often bubbles to the surface—she can become giddy with excitement over the planting of the new garden.”
--Billy Baldwin on Babe Paley, Billy Baldwin Remembers
We LOVE thought-provoking inscriptions in books. They transform an item produced in multiples into a one-of-a-kind treasure. Occasionally such inscriptions include information that the author dared not include the in the text, and that makes them part of history. Following are some of the best that have passed through Nick Harvill Libraries, two of which remain available.
Billy Baldwin Decorates, Signed to HalstoN
“For Halston, I wish that every woman who walks in these rooms was dressed by Him. Billy Baldwin, December 1972.”
In this copy of Billy Baldwin Decorates inscribed to the Halston, the dean of American decorators makes it clear whom he considers to be the dean of American fashion designers. Based upon the Bergdorf Goodman price sticker attached to the back of the dust jacket cover, this most likely was signed at the glittering party Bergdorf’s hosted to launch the book.
This would make a marvelous addition to a private collection, or it would also make a welcome donation to a fashion archive such as F.I.T. or the Met’s Costume Institute. For information on purchasing, click here.
Decorating Is Fun, Signed to Jacqueline BouvieR
“For Jacqueline Bouvier, This book goes to you with my best wishes. I Hope it proves useful, Dorothy Draper, August 15, 1953.”
It is difficult to imagine a more significant inscription for Dorothy Draper's classic design primer Decorating Is Fun! Several weeks after the date of this inscription, Jacqueline married John F. Kennedy, which set her on the path to becoming first lady. In that capacity, she took on one of the most prestigious decorating projects in the land. If only Draper had a crystal ball. The connection between the future first lady and Draper was Draper’s niece Nancy Tuckerman, Jacqueline’s lifelong best friend. This item is sold but listed here. Fabulous!
The Best Awful, Carrie Fisher Goes There!
“For my good to great neighbor Ed—who makes me think sometimes I “married” the wrong powerful gay agent. Oh well, next time. Largest love, Leia Carrie (Fisher).”
As is obvious to anyone who has followed her one-woman show or watched her interviews promoting the latest Star Wars film, Carry Fisher has a frank and quirky sense of humor. It is on full display in this droll inscription to Hollywood agent Ed Limato. The Best Awful is a semi-autographical novel, and the gay agent she did marry is one of the book's most sympathetic characters, adding relevance to the inscription.
Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook, "Unlucky-in-Love"
“To George who has encouraged me by reading this book. From his admirer----I give up. Love Cecil.”
In this copy of Cecil Beaton's Scrapbook, from 1937--his second book, Cecil Beaton went out all to amuse the object of his affection, composing a humble but funny inscription accompanied by an original drawing of a rose and butterfly. The surname of the George to whom the book is inscribed is unknown, but even though it was decades before their famous falling out, it is unlikely that his friend George Cukor was the recipient.
Traveling Incognito with Bemelmans and Schiaparelli
This copy of How to Travel Incognito is one of those cases in which a picture is worth a thousand words. The written inscription is modest, but Bemelmans charmingly proposes a toast via an effervescent drawing of a Champagne flute. Bottoms up! An added bonus is that the recipient was Elsa Schiaparelli, and in her typical manner, she has written her signature in book, and on the same page as Bemelmans’s drawing to boot. This item sold within minutes after it was listed online, but we do have other books from the collection of Elsa Schiaparelli available here.
Every Night, Josephine, “Elizabeth Taylor in Fur"
“To Lynn & Hy, Even if you don’t like ‘dogs’—Josephine is not really a dog. She’s Elizabeth Taylor in fur.”
Shakespeare she was not, but this inscription by the author of Valley of the Dolls proves Jacqueline Susann possessed an imaginative sense of humor. This delightful book, Every Night, Josephine, preceded Dolls by several years. For information on purchasing, click here.