An Associate Professor’s 111th Dream

I hope that was an empty bottle, George. You can’t afford to waste good liquor.
Not on your salary. Not on an associate professor’s salary.
Elizabeth Taylor, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

At midnight on Mick Jagger’s birthday in 1972 I waited for Deene in front of the St. Regis Hotel. We’d been to the Garden to see the Stone’s perform the last concert of their tour. We attended separately so planned to rendezvous afterwards at her hotel.

Deene’s father booked the room for her when she heard the group would stay there. She picked up this tidbit giving Keith a massage in his hotel room after the Indianapolis concert.

Although I’d been to see her a couple of times, that night I could not get past the front door. Not only was the St. Regis hosting the Stones, they were throwing Mick’s birthday bash on their rooftop as well. Security was tight.

Deene ordered room service.

From the sidewalk I watched the swells arrive while waiting for Deene. There was no one interesting until this tiny figure alighted from her limo. She was swathed in a charmeuse cocktail dress void of adornment. Whatever breeze there was in the July heat caught the fabric and made it billow on her 100 pound frame. A deeply saturated apricot, the dress was exquisite.

Ascending the stairs the woman acknowledged us with a wary half-smile and the attitude of someone who’d seen it all. Being Jackie’s sister, she probably had.

A simple evening at home with the things she loved: her fabrics, antiques, and daughter. In that order.

Lee Radziwill’s death this week marked the end of an era for certain social graces. She exemplified the upper classes love for glamorous cocktails. When the Princess offered, “you’ll have a vodka won’t you,” it came with layers of codependent enabling. It was tempered by her Forrest Gump-like presence in high society’s perpetual 20th century cocktail party.

When the cocktail fad started in the 20’s and 30’s she would have seen her parents cavorting amongst the Fred Astaire crowd. With a Moderne backdrop, they pursued the most esoteric liquors and the most elaborate concoctions with the most exotic names. To stay atop this ever-changing scene was a mark of true status.

In the 40’s and 50’s when cocktails became more middle class, the elite hung out at their clubs. With their casual attitude towards working they acted as if they could drink anytime, anywhere, without any consequences. Hit and run accident? Burned down the guest house? The attorneys will handle that.

The first few decades of the craze the downside to drinking was never mentioned. Like the billion Muslim women who all voluntarily “choose” to wear the hijab, no one ever seemed to have a problem with alcohol. Then in the 1960’s the perils were discussed openly. And treatment programs were developed.

In the era of recognizing alcoholism, Princess Radziwill could be found floating on her perfumed barge down de Nile. Usually with her bestie, the shit-faced booze hound Truman Capote.

Rumored to have done a couple of stints in rehab, it doesn’t seem she ever stopped drinking. In the clip of her offering the vodka her subtext is clear: “go ahead, one won’t hurt. You’re hip, you know these things.” Her tone is as smooth as that silk dress she wore.

My life with liquor has been checkered. In Dad’s family there was beer when the men went bowling but none was kept in the house. My Grandma, though, always smelled like the essence of Strohs. With a top note of stale Parliaments and Jungle Gardenia. We didn’t talk about any of that.

My other Grandmother led the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union. While being an unrelenting advocate. she neither challenged nor coerced those who disagreed with her. Her example and infinite patience she felt would eventually win out.

My parents were light social drinkers when I was growing up. More urgency was added in my teenage years.

Then there’s my boozing. Sadly, word count prevents me from elaborating on the topic in this piece. I can, however, mention hooch’s role in decorating my kitchen.

The loneliest part of kitchen cabinetry is the cupboard that juts out above the refrigerator. Sometimes it holds liquor but usually it’s just junk. It’s always under appreciated, never decorated. Until now.

Leafing through a box I found one of Jackie’s White House liquor bills. The perfect piece to hang in the lonely corner.

I cherish these kinds of historical documents/perverse curios. Visitors can now study the fuel that ran Camelot (in addition to the “B12” injections administered by Dr. Feelgood). And schoolchildren passing through are given an important lesson too.

How can they ever hope to understand our nation’s past if they don’t know what our First Ladies drank?



Atta Babe

When the double wide meets Avenue Foch.

With Opening Day upon us, everyone’s thoughts turn towards The Babe. For me that would be Mrs. William S. Paley.

Babe Paley was one of Truman Capote’s Swans, elegant chatelaines known for their jet set originality. In Babe’s case it was the seemingly effortless soigné she brought to her personal sense of fashion and decor.

My favorite quote of hers (which happens to be the only quote I know of hers) is that you have be able to mix the dime store stuff with the good stuff. Although her collection was more Jansen where mine is more Woolworth’s, I couldn’t agree with her more. It’s not so much what things are but how they are perceived.

Sans souci chic

I’ve always been too impressionable for my own good. And now I’ve become obsessed with Amazon. I want to buy everything, they make it so easy.

Lately its been those tacky plastic coverings that are used to make windows look frosted. Although I am savvy enough to see through the ad copy B.S., I am completely seduced by the photos. I really want to believe what I’m seeing is true.

The pictures make the windows so dazzling, they sparkle like fine case crystal. When the box arrives and is opened, however, the coverings look and smell like something out of a raunchy motel in the Smokies.

Undaunted, I was determined to use them in some manner. So I layered them on top of the Evans & Brown wall paper to cover the bedroom door.

The results were inconclusive. The side with the stylized cross pattern shows promise. It has an MCM feel to it (that would be mid-century modern to the unwashed) but shows glue spots in some of the frosted areas. Fortunately this is on the backside. And, unfortunately, very few visitors get the closed door experience these days anyway.

The front was a complete disaster, two days of effort and $9.98 wasted. I’d ordered the 35″ width but received two rolls of 17.5″. Trying to create an invisible center seam then match the dizzying 3D pattern into a straight, horizontal line was Sisyphean. Fine print must have been missed somewhere (calling the aforementioned ad savvy into question). Though one would be mistaken to think I’ve given up.

I doubt that Mrs. Paley would have used this technique in any of her homes. I do think she would have appreciated the spirit behind it.

Pussy Rout: the Cat’s Eye pattern produced Cat’s Liter results.