“Gossip is never fatal until it is denied.”
Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons
If gossip is not fatal until it is denied, might not the same be true of a public insult? Consider the case of Frank Lloyd Wright and Dorothy Draper.
In spite of the great architect’s antipathy for interior decorating, the American Institute of Decorators (AID) honored him at its 1952 dinner. In his acceptance speech, Frank Lloyd Wright’s legendary ego got the better of him. He tactlessly remarked, “I don’t call them interior decorators. I call them inferior desecrators.” He then singled out Draper who was in attendance at the dinner. “And the greatest inferior desecrator of all is Dorothy Draper. She doesn't know anything. All she knows is God made some flowers."
The tension was diffused, and the audience burst into applause. To this day, no one is certain whether Draper was being tactful or ditzy. It is “possible that she hadn’t been listening and heard only her name.” Or, maybe “she intentionally saved the day.” Whatever the truth, it is an excellent example of how not every confrontation needs to evoke the pathos of The Real Housewives.
Carleton Varney recounts this story (and much more) in The Draper Touch, The High Life & High Style of Dorothy Draper.