- “The wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do.”
- “A party! Let’s have a party.”
- "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."
- “Don’t stop the music or I’ll tell my father!”
Diana Vreeland, the legendary Vogue editor, always had something original or thought-provoking to say. Her deathbed was no exception. What were this extraordinary woman’s last words?
The answer is after the JUMP.
“She’s a genius but she’s the kind of genius that very few people will ever recognize because you have to have genius yourself to recognize it. Otherwise you just think she’s a rather foolish woman.”
Truman Capote, Empress of Fashion, A Life of Diana Vreeland
“The intellectuals always have microscopes before their eyes.”
Albert Einstein, The Cosmic Religion
“If we have an intellectual working for Vogue, he’s running the elevator!”
Diana Vreeland, via Cecil Beaton, Beaton in the Sixties, The Cecil Beaton Diaries as He Wrote Them
“Keep your secret. That’s your power over others.”
Diana Vreeland, Empress of Fashion, A Life of Diana Vreeland
“This picture of the Duchess of Windsor looks like a Titian to me. I happen to know she loathed this picture. She couldn’t stand the past. But in this picture, she looks to me like someone who has seen the future.”
Diana Vreeland, Allure
Image Credit: Allure
"Once she called: Come for dinner tonight ... Jackie will be there ... who else would you like to meet?"
--Valentino, via Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style
Sorry for the break in posting. I have been hard at work on the annual NHL holiday catalogue. It is now completed, and a PDF version will soon be available for download via this blog. If you would like a hard copy version, please email me your address.
Here is the introduction from this year's catalogue:
“How tragic and how glorious is the passing of time!”
--Little Edie Beale
It is fitting that Little Edie opens this year’s catalogue. She was the first reality superstar and its cultural apogee. How extraordinary that one of her successors in the medium has been elected to the presidency of the United States, the most powerful job on earth. From Grey Gardens to the White House Orangerie: reality programming—you have come a long way baby.
It is an astonishing shuffle of the cards that has left some questioning whether the electorate was playing with a full deck. It is also an event so significant to cultural history—a primary focus of Nick Harvill Libraries—that not to mention it would be ignoring the elephant (or donkey) in the room.
As we contemplate the implications of the election, we seek answers via social media and the Internet. That is akin to instructing a murderer to investigate his own crime. Technology has given us so much, but its dark side is that it has also flattened us out, trapping us in an echo chamber that obliterates the past and disparages opposing points of view.
Like Homer Simpson said of alcohol, the Internet is both the cause and solution to all of our problems. There is a reason it is called the World Wide Web and not the World Deep one. In places, it is baby-pool shallow. Worthwhile books and fascinating people have faded into oblivion, barely covered online. For the Nick Harvill Libraries blog that is an opportunity. I write and post articles that rank high in search results because they are the most in-depth treatment of a particular subject matter online.
Books are not perfect, but in their sum-total, they come close. They are pieces of an infinite and ever-changing puzzle. We must constantly resist the all-too human temptation to arrogantly decide where a puzzle piece ought to go and proceed to hammer it into place. Just as tempting, particularly for nonreaders, is to see the puzzle as complete with only a few inadequate pieces. [Cable news + religious dogma = not much of anything.]
That does not mean we all have to be of the intelligentsia. Diana Vreeland declared, “If we have an intellectual working for Vogue, he’s running the elevator!” I get the sentiment. Pure academic theorizing, untethered to how we actually live, comes with its own set of worries. Correlating literature with our own experiences, however, is one of life’s great pleasures—it connects us to both the present and the past and softens the loneliness intrinsic to the human condition.
Books enable us to see the temporal world in its proper perspective. It is a lesson so easy to forget that it must be constantly relearned. Everything is transitory. Ying becomes yang. Chanel liberates woman from her corset only for Dior ensnare her in it once again. Yippies become yuppies and join the Reagan Revolution. A president of exquisite gentility is replaced by his opposite.
Time despises entropy, and it is inevitable that good will revert to bad. It is only in the long arc of history that we see progress. Do not despair. Take comfort in the words of that unwittingly wise woman, Little Edie Beale. “How tragic and how glorious is the passing of time!”
“I never remember anything unpleasant … remember that!”
--Diana Vreeland, via Stephen Jamail, Immoderate Style
The above quip is nowhere to be found in Diana Vreeland’s memoir D.V. Instead, it is but one of many off-the-cuff remarks Vreeland made in the company of Stephen Jamail, her devoted right hand man at the Costume Institute. Jamail recalled that Vreeland's nonstop aphorisms, spoken in a voice that “was a cross between a New York cabby and an English duchess,” often left him “scrambling for a scrap of paper to” in a desperate attempt to record them for posterity.
In this case, the quip might not have been exactly lost, just more difficult to uncover. It is also buried in a 2009 issue of Vogue Australia. The periodical’s former editor Sheila Scotter disclosed that she was present when the comment was made and revealed the context. It was Vreeland’s demurral "when asked what was the worst fashion show she had ever attended.”
Back in 1982, when Vreeland was very much alive, Stephen Jamail cooperated with a New York Magazine cover story on his Costume Institute boss, which is available in its entirety via Google Books.
Image Credit: Immoderate Style
“Always have a glass of champagne before making a serious decision. Or even before going to the dentist.”
--Diana Vreeland, via Rosamund Bernier (as recorded in Immoderate Style)
Image Credit: Immoderate Style
From Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style. Photograph by Lord Snowdon.