“I make enemies deliberately. They are the sauce piquante to my dish of life.”
Image Credit: Allure
"At a costume ball in which Schiaparelli was dressed as a surrealist tree, Chanel colluded to have her put on fire."
Meryle Secrest, Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography
The house of Chanel, the sensation of the 1920s, was still going strong in the next decade, but the white-hot center of the zeitgeist had moved on to Chanel's upstart rival, Elsa Schiaparelli. One of the elements that made Schiaparelli's designs so admired was the clever way in which she collaborated with surrealists such as Salvador Dali.
In the late 1930s, Schiaparelli herself dressed as a surrealist tree for a costume ball also attended by Chanel. According to Horst, Chanel typically refused to so much as utter her rival's name. Yet, on this occasion, Chanel asked Schiaparelli to dance with her. Alas, it was not to initiate a truce. Chanel intentionally steered Schiaparelli's flammable costume into a lighted candelabra. Schiaparelli caught fire, but it was quickly put out with soda water. The contretemps was Topic A in Paris for the next few days, but like much gossip, it soon was buried by more serious matters—in this case, Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland.
Image Credit: Beaton in Vogue
In After Andy: Adventures in Warhol Land, Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni recalls a contretemps with 1970s-era supermodel Jerry Hall (currently Mrs. Rupert Murdoch). In the mid-to-late 20th Century, the uber-glamorous Hall was in embroiled in a decades-long, star-crossed relationship with Mick Jagger. She became jealous of the attention Jagger was paying to then-teenage London It-Girl, Natasha Fraser, who had the patrician social connections that Hall lacked. Fraser's father was the well-born Hugh, who had been a close friend of John F. Kennedy. Her mother (still living) is Lady Antonia Fraser, a well-respected historian and author of the best-selling book, Mary Queen of Scots.
Despite his relationship with Hall, Jagger went out on a date with young Natasha. When Hall found out, Fraser attempted to avoid a confrontation, instructing her older brother that if a woman with a Texas accent rang that “he was to say that I’d left England.” [In hindsight, Fraser might have been wise to have actually fled the country.]
When Hall finally managed to reach Fraser on the phone, Fraser appealed to the supermodel’s ego, arguing, “Jerry you’re so beautiful, why would Mick be remotely interested in me?” Following a thoughtful pause, Jerry replied, “Perhaps you’ve got a point.” Then she hung up.
The current "Sisters" issue of Vanity Fair revisits the feud of Oscar-winning siblings Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. Nick Harvill Libraries covered the feuding sisters in two blog posts: "A Tale of Two Sisters: Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine" and "A Bed of Roses (One Day Only)." It is a topic that Olivia, age ninety-nine, has avoided for decades. As such, what (if any) relationship the sisters maintained in their geriatric years has remained a private matter. All that was really known was that on the rare occasions when the sisters might meet, such as the Academy Awards, they went out of their way to avoid each other.
It turns out that in private, they kept in touch. De Havilland went on record with William Stadiem for VF's "Sisters" issue. He writes that Olivia told him the sisters at last reunited "with help from time's winged chariot and their shared religious roots." Specifically, Olivia encouraged Joan to return to the Episcopal faith with which they were raised. Olivia reports that Joan took her up on it, joining Saint Thomas Church in New York.
Image Credit: No Bed of Roses
“Saint Laurent has excellent taste. The more he copies me, the better taste he displays.”
--Coco Chanel, Mademoiselle, Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History
See also: "Coco Chanel on Christian Dior"
Image Credit: Horst, His Work and His World
There is no feud like a Hollywood feud. As such, it was simply an oversight that we failed to mention the contretemps between Sue Mengers and Dominick Dunne in Monday's post "Twinkle, Twinkle Super Star: The Life of Sue Mengers." Dominick Dunne and Sue Mengers should have been great friends. They had so much in common. Both simply adored fame and the famous. They had other connections as well. Dunne produced the 1973 Elizabeth Taylor-film Ash Wednesday that was written by Sue Mengers's husband Jean-Claude Tramont.
It was actually a comment Dunne made about Jean-Claude that finished off Dunne's faltering career in Hollywood. Mengers became infuriated when the Hollywood Reporter quoted Dunne as implying that nepotism, not talent, was the reason Jean-Claude was hired to write the screenplay for Ash Wednesday. He compounded the insult by referring to Sue's weight problem. Mengers, then at the height of her powers, made certain Dominick Dunne never ate lunch in Hollywood again. Or, so she thought. How was she to know that the end result would be a dazzling new career for Dunne that would enable him to dine out anywhere he damed well pleased.
Read about it in greater detail at A Boat Against the Current.
Image Credit: The Way We Lived Then
"Dior? He doesn’t dress women, he upholsters them!"
Photo Credit: The Fifties in Vogue
There was more than one cold war in the 20th Century. Both were a clash of egos and extremely volatile. Figuratively speaking, there was the risk that each might go nuclear. Yet only one was mostly fought in the press and involved stockpiles of witty repartee. It began in the 1930s when Bette Davis became a formidable rival to the established star Joan Crawford. Davis rebuffed Crawford's phony offer of friendship, declaring herself an actress and Crawford merely a star.
Ironically the early 1960s saw their fortunes inextricably linked with the comeback vehicle in which they co-starred, the hugely successful Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? They played nice initially. After the first week of filming, they both attended a small dinner at Hedda Hopper's in which they offered fulsome praise to the other. [Who says Crawford could not act?] However, they were in open battle by the end of the film, as Shaun Considine amusingly relates in his marvelous book Bette & Joan, The Divine Feud.
In spite of this animosity, they were convinced by the huge office of Baby Jane to re-team for Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte. They both arrived on location in Baton Rouge and even posed for a publicity still before Crawford thought better of it and checked herself into the hospital instead. Olivia de Havilland reluctantly took over the role.
It is not that this book is rare (it was published in 1989). It is that it is such fun. The book's reasonable price point makes it the perfect gift to offer a host or hostess in lieu of a typical bottle of wine.