Sunday, September 24, 2006

JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS


Like the perfect pearls she often wore the presence of Jackie made every occasion complete.

As a true woman of her class, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis has always appeared as someone at home in any home, engendering awe and ease in equal doses. She exemplifies a time when one did not parade every emotion in front of the cameras with a tear-stained face for the world to pity. Virtually everything written was almost all speculation or hearsay for she never granted interviews on her past -- the last one was in 1967.

As a student in her Miss Porter’s School 1947 yearbook Jacqueline Bouvier was quoted as saying in the section under 'Ambition', "Not to be a housewife." In 1963, as First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy showed the world how to grieve with majesty and impeccable behavior right at the moment when all needed to be reassured someone was in control. Until her death in 1994, Jackie Onassis as a second-time widow living in New York City showed us one can survive the past and achieve a peace and serenity seldom afforded to someone for whom the limelight never ceased its incessant bleating.

Her break from the gate was auspicious. On the eve of the Depression, July 28, 1929, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was born in East Hampton, New York to the handsome Wall Streeter John Vernon "Black Jack" Bouvier and the comely Janet Lee. Black Jack was a charming monster of the Southampton set. His large black moustache, matching eyes and flashing wit gave him entrée into the drawing rooms of all the leading ladies. By the time his second daughter, Caroline Lee was born four years later, the monster had successfully devoured all their money from drinking and gambling and managed to lose a patient wife in the process. His devotion to his two daughters, however, was something that would never be diluted. They adored him. He taught the girls how to behave with a gentleman in the battle of the sexes, or what he called, "the gentle war." As Truman Capote once snidely put it about the sisters, "They were raised to be geishas."

Janet Lee, but not of the Virginia Lees as she allowed many to assume, set her sights on better financial stability after Bouvier and found it in Hugh D. Auchincloss. Uncle Hughdie, as he was known to the girls, was rich. A Standard Oil heir, he owned two estates, Hammersmith Farm in Newport and Merrywood in Virginia. Janet had found the wealthy husband she desired and her daughters were assured a secure upbringing. Jackie was able to maintain the horses she learned to ride almost from the moment she could walk and was raised as a proper young lady.

Society scribe of the day Cholly Knickerbocker anointed Jackie's entry into society in 1947 when he named her "Debutante of the Year." Jackie had loftier ambitions than that. She attended Vassar in upstate New York, traveled extensively and graduated from George Washington University in the nation's capitol. To her great relief she was placed a little closer to the action than Vassar's campus in Poughkepskie, New York. During these studies she perfected her love of languages and eventually became fluent in French, Spanish and Italian. After graduation she entered and won Vogue magazines’ Prix de Paris writing award in 1951 where the prize was a year in France training at French Vogue. However, both mother and stepfather felt she had spent too much time in Europe already and insisted she return stateside. She did and took a job as an inquiring photographer with the Washington D.C. Washington Times-Herald. Had she remained in France what followed next may never have happened.

Around 1951 Jackie met New York banker John Husted and was engaged to him until mother Janet caught wind and put the brakes on that. Husted was from a good family but not good enough for the likes of Mrs. Auchincloss. Jackie remained in Washington as an inquiring photographer for the Washington Times Herald and was seen around the Capitol covering inquiring minds. In 1952 Jackie had an interview with a rising young Senator, John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. The two had been introduced at a dinner party and sparks flew, but privately. Known as Washington’s most eligible bachelor, the young JFK was noted for being seen around town with a lovely lady on his arm, so when Jack and Jackie started dating, it was done quietly. Jackie was not raised to be a mere boldfaced name. As non-committal as one could be, Jack proposed to Jackie over the telephone while she was in London on assignment for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. But even the engagement announcement took a backseat to Kennedy's political rise when the announcement was delayed so as not to interfere with an article on Jack Kennedy as one of the Senate's gay young bachelors.

Secure in her Social Register position Janet Auchincloss was to meet with Jack's father, Joe Kennedy to hammer out the plans for what would be the wedding of the decade. Joe Kennedy, a Boston banker turned movie-maker turned Ambassador to the Court of Saint James presided over a large family. His grandparents were immigrants from Ireland and Joe was determined to rise above the social blockades. Married to the former Rose Fitzgerald, daughter of Boston’s mayor Honey Fitz, Joe Kennedy knew what it took to make a marriage. He was no slouch in getting the best for his family and had a reputation as a hard bargainer. Janet and Jackie arrived at the airport to greet Kennedy as he walked across the tarmac in a beautifully tailored suit with a clubby smile pasted across his face. Jackie turned to her mother and said, "Oh Mummy, you haven’t got a chance." And the couple was married in 1953 at Hammersmith Farm in Newport to nationwide attention but through and through it was a Kennedy affair right down to the Irish priest officiating and the local Boston baker providing the wedding cake. The only glitch in the entire affair was Black Jacks’ failure to walk his eldest daughter down the aisle. He was back in his hotel room dead drunk.

The newlyweds were eager to start a family but after one stillbirth and one miscarriage, it wasn’t until 1957 when daughter Caroline was born. Son John, Jr. was born in 1960. The family moved to a house "Hickory Hill" in Virginia and the Senator ascended into national prominence.

The other Kennedy women misinterpreted Jackie's breathy voice and genteel ways as silly and snobbish, but with her uncommon beauty and intelligent wide-set eyes, Jackie was a figure bred to more rarefied air and outclassed them all. Her choice of couture became the nation's fashion mandate, while her extravagant spending habits were often a source of irritation to her extravagantly roguish spouse. The Kennedy women looked at her with disdain and laughed, but Jackie, knowing the ways of men had the ear of old Joe Kennedy and that's what counted. And the aging former Ambassador saw in Jackie the distinct public relations appeal his son needed to catapult him onto a national audience.

Backed by his rich father, the popular Senator won the Democratic nomination and enlisted the help of his family who went on the road in full force to run successfully against his friend, Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon. Using the relatively new medium of television as a means to attract voters, America was captivated by the handsome Kennedy and his attractive family to become the first Irish Catholic elected to the White House by the slimmest of margins.

Mrs. Kennedy, as she was known around the White House, instructed the staff not to refer to her as the First Lady, ("It makes me sound like a saddle horse.") took the White House itself to task. Awash in reproductions and lots of "Mamie Eisenhower pink" she oversaw the complete restoration of the Executive Mansion, calling on her wealthy friends to donate or lend art and objects. The result was so magnificent that all three networks televised a tour and a record 52 million viewers got to see for themselves the inside of "their White House." Her enthusiasm for preserving historic structures was already making itself known when during this period Congress declared the White House a national monument. Later that year, she received a special Emmy award for public service.

Jackie Kennedy continued making a name for herself. On a trip to Paris in 1962, President Kennedy, bewildered by all the attention his wife was receiving, introduced himself at a news conference by saying, "I am the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris."

For a thousand days, she was the undisputed queen of a country that claims no royalty. Married to a charismatic American president - the youngest and most handsome ever to hold that office - she was the perfect wife for what has been described as a mythical era and helped to overshadow an administration beset with challenges. State dinners were sought-after affairs when she organized intimate settings, with tables of eight, rather than the enormous U-shaped dining table of her predecessors. Guests were the best and the brightest. One dinner in April 1962 hosting over 40 Nobel laureates and the A-list of the arts and letters prompted President Kennedy to remark "the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone…"

But what forever endeared Jackie to the nation was her comportment in those anguished days after her husband's assassination. When the shots rang out on November 22, 1963, Jacqueline drew on her breeding, her training as a woman of refinement, to show courage and hold the country together with a dignity that became her hallmark.

She refused sleeping pills so as to retain control of the funeral arrangements. She would not change out of here blood-stained pink Schiaparelli suit so the world could see what had happened without any softening of the facts. Two days later, the world focused on the grieving widow being led by the riderless horse, the gentle prompting of her young son to salute his father's casket. In mourning for the next year, she closed the door on one life and prepared to open the next.

In 1964 she moved with her children to New York City, leaving behind all the ghosts of the last year. In a city that cherishes anonymity, she purchased an apartment on Fifth Avenue and was able to live close to friends and family with relatively little scrutiny.

She extracted herself from the life of the Kennedy family slowly but surely. She raised her children as New Yorkers not Bostonians. When her brother-in-law Robert F. Kennedy prepared to run for the 1968 presidency, she did lend her support but carefully, so as not to intrude on sister-in-law Ethel's' intended glory.

Fate would intervene once more and on June 5, 1968 a lone assassin took the life of Senator Kennedy in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California after winning that state's primary.

Feeling that she and her children were targets, Jackie stunned the world when it was announced that she and Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis would marry and live abroad. While it appeared the two hardly knew each other this was not the case. Onassis lent Mrs. and Mrs. Kennedy his yacht after the death of their son Patrick in 1963 and had been close since. Not much unlike her mother some speculated, Jackie wanted to be assured of financial security for herself and her children. The late Jack Kennedy was rich but not as rich as the Greek tycoon and she allowed herself this bold move, as unpopular as it was. In October 1968 the two wed on Onassis' private island of Skorpios, each with their children by their side.

It was at this point the media, always respectful of the President's widow dropped their kid gloves and let her have it with both flashbulbs. No longer Mrs. Kennedy she was dubbed "Jackie O!" From that point forward she was fully stalked by paparazzo Ron Galella, a brazen man who documented Jackie each time she left her house. Constantly in her face she finally took him to court in 1972 where he was prevented from coming within 100 yards of her home and fifty yards from her or her children. Eventually that was reduced to 25 yards.

Life with Ari continued. Soon it appeared to those closest to the couple that theirs was a marriage blanc, with him seen around Paris with his old paramour opera diva Maria Callas and Jackie in New York with several suitable escorts.

By 1975 rumors swirled that Ari was going to divorce Jackie for her capricious spending but suddenly he died leaving Jackie a widow for the second time. Before he passed, Onassis changed his will ensuring Jackie would only receive a protracted amount of his enormous fortune. He even petitioned Greek Parliament to pass legislation protecting his enormous fortune. Through a legal battle with his daughter, Christina, Jackie received a legacy of somewhere between 20 and 25 million dollars, which was roughly a quarter of the fortune she was expected to inherit.

Back home in New York, with estates on Martha's Vineyard and Bernardsville, New Jersey, Jackie moved into the final chapter of her life.

Using her literary talents to find work as a book editor, she managed a reasonably private existence, occasionally surfacing to jog in Central Park or to attend a gala for one of her preservationist causes with her companion of over a decade, Belgian financier Maurice Templesman. In one move that brought the preservation cause to the forefront and firmly in the hearts of New Yorkers, she successfully led efforts to save Grand Central Station from demolition. 'If we don't care about our past, we cannot hope for our future."

She was most successful in sheltering her two children, Caroline and John Jr., from the celebrity-mad world. Ensuring her children led normal lives she allowed them to fall and experience life as any other child, even when John Jr. was mugged for his bicycle in Central Park as an adolescent.

In New York City it was a cosmic bonus to see her on the street, jogging around the Reservoir, dining occasionally at the Fours Seasons (favorite meal: a baked potato heaped with caviar and a glass of champagne). Like a modern-day Garbo, she wanted to be alone and New Yorkers, understanding and respectful, kept their awe in check.

Rarely venturing out into the social maelstrom when she did it was a cause célèbre.

On May 19, 1994, at sixty-four, she succumbed to lymphatic cancer. The street outside her Manhattan apartment was thronged with mourners paying tribute to the woman who had taught an entire country how to grieve. When a bereaved nation buried her with full honors next to President Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, it was reminded that the woman who had fashioned the mold for an era had, in dying, quietly broken it.

by Blair Schulman
copyright March 2006


Wallis Warfield Simpson,

The Duchess of WIndsor

The love story of the century began as a favor between two friends. In January of 1934, Lady Thelma Furness, mistress of the Prince of Wales - and future Edward VIII - was traveling to New York on a most serious matter. Her sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt was trying to retain custody of her ten year-old daughter, Little Gloria, from her rich and powerful sister in-law Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Before taking her leave, Thelma lunched at the Ritz with her new friend, Wallis Warfield Simpson, an American-born divorcée married to a prosperous, but dull, shipping magnate. Thelma asked her friend, "Look after the little man. See that he does not get into any mischief." Such a request was akin to asking a lion to tend the sheep and its course changed history. Thelma returned ten months later to find that the Prince cut her off from the court and fell in love with Simpson. On December 11, 1936, only ten months after becoming King Edward VIII, he abdicated, forsaking crown and kingdom for the woman he loved.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, born in 1894 was raised to continue his family's thousand year-old business - that is, maintaining the throne of the newly renamed House of Windsor. In large part to anti-German sentiment during World War I, the name was changed from Coburg-Saxe-Gotha. Raised to be king, Edward was a modern gentleman stuck in an ancient profession. While his forebears kept the mystery of royalty behind baize doors, David as he was affectionately known, was seen in public. Whether it was touring the coalmines of Manchester or the nightclubs of the West End, the Prince of Wales was the golden haired royal that epitomized the new era and would carry the dwindling Empire forward. His parents, King George V and Queen Mary disapproved of this way of living and hoped their eldest son would hurry up and marry instead of being seen out, out, out. The press, while respectful, monitored his romances with an array of women, including Freda Dudley Ward and the aforementioned Lady Furness. But one day a storm named Wallis blew into the town.

Bessie Wallis Montague Warfield was not terribly attractive but made up for that in being clever. Born in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania to the respectable, but impoverished Warfield family of Baltimore in 1896, Wallis' father died when she was a toddler and her mother took in borders. Living in reduced circumstances, the child was still a bit spoiled where it was alleged her first words were not "Ma Ma" but "Me, Me." The young Wallis had a craving for high society early on, supposedly naming her dollies Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt. Fortunately, there was her wealthy Uncle Sol to ensure that she had a proper upbringing. Wallis' clothing and education were provided for by Sol but a fight about her coming out party, which didn't happen and her early imperiousness distanced him and Wallis was cut out of his estate altogether when he later died.

Craving a better way of life, she set her sights on the dashing aviator Lt. Earl Winfield and married him 1916. Almost immediately the marriage was a disaster. He claimed to be from a rich Lake Forest, Illinois family but Wallis was decidedly disappointed when she learned he was from a lesser suburb of Chicago. Plus it was discovered that he was an alcoholic. A string of unfortunate discoveries like these caused Wallis to divorce her dashing Lieutenant.

After divorce number one, Wallis and a friend traveled to Peking where she supposedly learned many secrets of the boudoir, including one trick involving ping-pong balls that particularly delighted the Prince of Wales later on. Upon her return to the United States, Wallis met and married American-born Englishman Ernest Simpson. A wealthy businessman with an entrée into British society, Wallis had found her calling. She enjoyed the moneyed titles and the drawing room gossip. It was at one of those smart-set parties that the Simpson's were introduced to the future king. Very quickly, Ernest, Wallis, and Edward became a trio. Much to the distress of the royal family, rumors were afloat that accommodations for Mrs. Simpson but not her husband had been made at Fort Belvedere, the prince's country getaway. The King often fought with Edward about this most dubious alliance.

Ignoring the obvious, Prince Edward was having a grand affair with a married woman. Untouchable and loved by millions he could do as he pleased and did. Meanwhile, his father, King George V was sinking towards his end. On January 20, 1936 the Kings' devoted footman hastened the King's death with an injection of morphine and cocaine so that the news would make the morning headlines rather than the less impressive afternoon news.

Although he was enormously popular with the working public, the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and Edwards courtiers were floored by this casual attitude toward his new responsibilities, shirking important duties to spend more time with vulgar American. Although the royal family was royally pissed off about "that woman", Edward insisted on marrying her. Finally, the powers behind the throne issued a warning that if Edward VIII married the American divorcee without their consent, he would be forced to abdicate the throne. And he did.

On December 11, 1936, Edward VIII officially abdicated the throne to his brother, George, Duke of York, (to be George VI) proclaiming to the people of Britain, "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love." Edward and Simpson had to remain apart until her divorce was legal, and on June 3, 1937, they were finally married just outside of Tours, France, in a ceremony attended by no one from the royal family. Wallis wore Mainbocher and the title of Diva Number One for the next fifty years.

After the marriage, the British royal family bestowed the now estranged Edward with the title, His Royal Highness, Duke of Windsor, but to further emphasize their bitter disapproval of Wallis, they withheld the title of "Royal Highness" from his duchess. Queen Elizabeth (later to add the Queen Mother to her name) despised this flashy woman who pushed her simple husband and loving family to the throne and did everything within her power to ensure the American was afforded no royal courtesies. It later prompted Wallis to say of England, "I hate this place. I shall hate it to my grave."

Further distancing him from the royal family, the Duke and Duchess met Hitler in 1937, with both expressing pro-German sentiments and risking Britain's involvement in the coming war. They traveled to the United States and began speaking out about the war, disturbing the tenuous string of diplomacy. This was more than the royal family could take and sent the couple off in 1940 to the Bahamas where the Duke was made Governor and Commander in Chief. Apparently the royal family knew more than they cared to tell the public as it wasn't revealed until 2003 that Wallis' Nazi sympathies were the real tipping point in the abdication crisis and not her divorces as had been widely believed.

Disappointed and miserable in the Caribbean heat, Wallis flew to New York frequently to have her hair done and attend round after round of lunches in her honor. Their friend in the Bahamas, Sir Harry Oakes, was murdered there and the tinge of scandal began following the Windsor's. After the war, the couple moved to Paris where they rented an estate on the grounds of the Tulleries from the City of Paris for four dollars a month. There, the Windsor's held court and traveled the globe ceaselessly, wherever there was an estate to vacation on or a yacht to sail, the Windsor's could be found.

Childless, ("The Duke is not heir-conditioned.") the couple made children of their pug dogs, feeding them from silver bowls. The humans lived just as lavishly. They dressed for dinner every night of their lives, had the footmen wear scarlet and gold livery, their servants matched the lettuce leaves of their salads and individually prepared the bathroom tissue into squares so their employers wouldn't have to tear the roll themselves. Banished from England and off the lucrative Civil List, the couple moved in international social circles where they were perceived as the top rank of the assembled plumage.

Their notoriety took a plunge during the 1950's when the couple befriended Woolworth five-and-dime heir Jimmy Donahue, the son of Jessie Woolworth Donahue and first cousin of Barbara Hutton. The younger man was handsome, socially prominent and rich - criteria the Windsor's considered before involving themselves with newcomers. Fully estranged from his brother, George VI, the Windsor's needed someone rich to help finance their alluring lifestyle. David, calling his wife "my romance," afforded her every opportunity and tolerated the younger man, but Wallis engaged him to the point where they were quite inseparable. At one point the friendship took on sexual overtones and almost caused the Windsor's to divorce, even though Donahue was a notorious homosexual. Had a divorce occurred, it would have been deemed "the greatest betrayal in history." After several years on the circuit, Donahue overstepped his bounds with the Windsor's, often insulting them publicly. One night after a drunken revelry, Jimmy kicked the Duchess in the shin, causing her to bleed. The Duke ordered Jimmy out of their room and out of their lives, although later stories were told that Jimmy wasn't taking proper care of his hygiene and ate too much garlic, causing him to have offensive breath.

The couple divided their time between Paris and whoever invited them to their estate/plantation/yacht/gala/bridge party. Wallis was revered for many years as the imprimatur of high society although she merely led its cold, decaying hand out of the drawing room and onto the society pages, further antagonizing a pointless existence. The last word in chic, she was a perennial on the Best Dressed Lists and her pug dogs were entered in the Westminster Dog Show but rarely did she lend her name to important charitable events. She was fascinating as an object of mystery but the curtain had been drawing close for years. The couple's aura of glamour was tarnished by having been everywhere and seen by everyone for the price of dinner.

In 1956 she wrote her memoirs, "The Heart Has Its Reasons," around the time the Duke wrote his own, "A King's Story." Both elevated their love story to a new audience but having spent a lifetime accomplishing nothing, their importance diminished.

Wallis never gained acceptance by the royal family until after the Duke's death in 1972, when Queen Elizabeth II invited her to stay at Buckingham Palace. She spent the next fourteen years living alone in Paris in poor health until her death on April 24, 1986. In 1936 she was called, "the most romantic figure of all times," she later confessed to a friend, "You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance."

Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland

Diana Vreeland

"Balenciaga did the most delicious evening clothes.
Clothes aren’t delicious any more."

If the Society Diva of yore had a Little Buddy, it might be Jacques Cartier of Cartier, the jeweler to High Society. If these same Divas had a Number One Dinner Invite, they would definitely nominate Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor as the guest who can out-dress the rest. But if there were one person to whom they could all turn to as the last word in style, it would certainly be Diana Vreeland. Mrs. Vreeland was the beginning and the end in all things chic. Her persona and dictums were not to be overlooked or ignored.

Rather than a mere silver spoon, some Divas were born with an entire set of platinum cutlery in their mouths, thereby failing to grasp the meaning of overkill. Outsized, gilt-edged and studded with enough bibelots to blind the Sun King, some of these women have taken their diamond-encrusted, mink-trimmed coals to Newcastle and created a big, sooty mess. Women of lesser means and lesser taste often took their cue from the very, very rich to believe that more is more. It is why someone like Diana Vreeland was able to exist. She bridged the gap between tacky and hideous to create that splendiferous hallowed ground called chic. Whether or not one could learn it, or had to be born with it, is still heavily debated. No matter, there emerged a symbol for looking good in this world and how could you not respect a woman who summed up style with the mere words, "Elegance is refusal?" Any pretense attributed to her stylish imprimatur is purely coincidental.

"The best thing about London is Paris."

Never one for humble aspirations, DV, as she was often referred to, hit the ground running. Born in Paris to British parents she never even spoke English until her family moved to New York at the start of World War I. Diana studied ballet and likely got a feel for fluidity in movement, a hallmark of style. In 1924, she married banker Thomas Reed Vreeland and eventually had two children. The Reed Vreelands were not rich at all, but were socially connected, called "good goods" and welcomed in the best homes. For a time they lived in Albany, New York, then moved to Paris in 1935. A bright, educated couple, the two were avid readers and grasped an understanding of the world at large. "… and Reed and I would read things together out loud, which was marvelous. That was the charm of it - when you've heard the word, it means so much more than if you've only seen it."

Upon her return to the United States in 1937 she began work as a fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar. At the time, the fashion industry was a gathering storm of greatness. Schiaparelli, Chanel, Mainbocher and Charles James, to name a few, were all leaving their mark in the world of haute couture. Employment at the magazines was acceptable for ladies of gentle birth who wanted to have careers before heading into brilliant marriages. Babe Paley, Doris Duke and Slim Keith all worked at Harper’s Bazaar at one time or another, offering their style and perspective to the magazine. Not to mention their unique ability to be among the rare few who could actually afford the designs of these magnificent couturiers.

"Pink is the navy blue of India."

Better than everyone, DV understood change and how we now lived in a visual age. As with life itself, one must recreate a certain dis-unity, angular poses, hands and feet being what they are – movement, a surprise at the ready and isn’t that what life is but a menagerie of surprise?

She inspired everyone from debutantes to drag queens with her mark on fashion. Or perhaps it was the other way around. With her heavily rouged cheekbones, mile-long lashes and red lacquer everywhere - trademarks that identified her for decades - one could imagine they were in the presence of a modern Watteau, reality presented to the viewer with a gentle caress. In terms of her personal style, Diana loved simple elegant clothing with splashy accessories. Exotic jewelry, hats and wonderful shoes were among her favorite fashion items.

Not all descriptions of her looks were generous, however, someone once described her having the face of a wooden drug-store Indian. But her clothing was the essence of chic – a simple dress, properly accessorized, one outstanding object that explained everything, not twenty expensive baubles that meant nothing.

"She makes the smallest detail important." Andy Warhol

At Harper’s Diana soon began changing the way fashion was reported to the public. Instead of simply reporting the styles and trends of fashion, Diana began to create, to motivate and popularize, certain objects, attitudes and ideas. She did this with her legendary observations, comments, wit and humor, keeping the American public - always wanting more. Readers began to learn of DV’s stratospheric thinking with her column, "Why Don’t You?" Such suggestions as "Cut up your old ermine wrap into a bathrobe!" and ‘Why don’t you wash your child’s hair in champagne?" were typical offerings. While not always the most practical advice, she made for good copy and struck a chord with the American woman who saw that the rules of good taste were bendable, as long as you did it with style.

She became fashion director two years later and stayed at the magazine until 1963, when she moved to Vogue. On one occasion during a fashion layout, Diana was informed that a phrase, "windbreaker" was already copyrighted. She rushed into the copy room and demanded, "Quick, what's another word for breaking wind?" On another occasion she created a two-page layout of a nude female lying face down in the sand, her derriere covered in a large black straw hat. The caption read, "Spend the summer under a big black sailor."

"Never fear being vulgar, just boring"

Her ability to spot talent brought us some of fashions’ best-known faces. She discovered Lauren Hutton in the 1960’s who went on to become one of the most photographed models, ever. She appeared on the cover of Vogue 25 times. And there is Iman's recollection of her first meeting with Mrs. Vreeland. "She put a bony hand under my chin, realigned my head to a profile position and pronounced: "Now, that's a neck!"

Even the décor of her apartment on Park Avenue had the air of invention. Armed with the thought "Garden in Hell," she and famed decorator Billy Baldwin created a hideaway completely decorated in lacquer reds with scarlet colored floral wall coverings, memorabilia and books. In the center of her living room was a bright red sofa piled high with an impressive collection of cushions, gilded mirrors and picture frames and delicate wall moldings.

With all that magic emanating from this one woman, one might think it could go on forever. Sadly though, without any fanfare at all, the chief of Conde Nast Publications, Si Newhouse, fired her in 1971. There was never a reasonable explanation of her termination. Either way, it was a heartbreaking mistake and a cruel response to a woman who devoted her life to style. Apparently the company had a history of letting people go without actually firing them directly – passive-aggressive business to the nth degree.

An evenhanded moment came when Mr. Newhouse found himself across a desk with Diana Vreeland staring at him. Though Newhouse had one of his flunkies let Vreeland know her services were no longer required, Vreeland apparently wished to hear the news from Si himself. After a long silence, Newhouse apparently found the courage and the words to let Vreeland go -- but was spooked by nightmares for some time afterward. It was a fierce moment in Ms. Vreelands professional life – a final chance to retain a shred of dignity which had been so callously ripped away.

One man’s discard is another man’s treasure and soon Diana was named a special consultant to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum. As special consultant from 1973 to 1989, she organized with the staff of the Costume Institute a series of highly popular exhibitions, including "The World of Balenciaga" (1973), "Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design" (1974), "The Glory of Russian Costume" (1976), and "Vanity Fair: A Treasure Trove of the Costume Institute" (1977). Her cache and knowledge can now be experienced by a broader audience. This world-renown appreciation is best shown as the Costume Institute Ball has become the hottest social ticket in town.

"Without emotion there is no beauty."

It is terrible to end with her death as someone like Diana Vreeland doesn’t merely die, but in 1989 she did leave this world for another - doing fabulous things with fluffy clouds and harps, no doubt.

Lillie Langtry




Lillie Langtry
Lillie Langtry

Lillie Langtry

Lillie Langtry

The High Society Express wasn’t running on a full schedule when Lillie Langtry was born Emilie Charlotte LeBreton in October 1853. Certainly on the Isle of Jersey, nestled between the English mainland and the French coast, the Express didn’t stop there at all.

Emilie LeBreton was born into a proper family of high standing in Jersey. Her father was the Very Reverend LeBreton and her mother, Emilie, raised the younger Emilie and her six brothers with a loose hand. The children were raised by various governesses and taught the usual sports mixed with a classical education. Emilie, being the only girl, was plunged into the mix and developed an enthusiasm for intelligence, horses and sport at an early age.

To the consternation of her conservative father, Emilies’ beauty developed early and soon was one of the most captivating girls in Jersey. Her red hair, blue eyes and porcelain skin was standard English fare but her pure beauty and mischievous nature was uncommon and she received her first marriage proposal at age fourteen. Now called Lillie by all, her popularity reached a peak when she met Edward Langtry in 1874. He had means, but was not very wealthy, although he did have a beautiful yacht, the Red Gauntlet.

Apparently, Lillie LeBreton fell in love with the yacht but not the man as she saw this as a means of escape from the confines of Jersey. They married and immediately moved to his home in Southampton. It was an escape of sorts but still not the glittering life the new Mrs. Langtry hoped to lead; Edward would go off to fish and to drink, leaving Lillie alone most of the time. Soon thereafter, Lillie developed typhoid fever and she and her besotted doctor hatched a scheme that would change her life. The doctor convinced Edward Langtry that Lillie would recover much faster if they moved to London. In 1876 London was the largest city in the world and very expensive. But if it would please his beautiful, sickly wife, then Edward Langtry would sell his beloved Red Gauntlet to finance a move. Thus, the Diva was born.

Coinciding with their move to a middle-class London neighborhood, Lillie’s favorite brother, Reggie, was killed in a freak horse accident. She made a quick trip to Jersey and returned to London in full mourning. During this period fate intervened. She and Edward were visiting a museum where they ran into old family friends, the 7th Viscount Ranalegh, Jersey inhabitants who spent the season in London. The Langtrys were invited to a party at the Ranalegh’s fashionable home. Edward Langtry was not much of a mixer, but Lillie, fully recovered from her illness and very bored, desired a change so she convinced Edward to go. Still in mourning for her brother, Lillie arrived with Edward at the party wearing a plain, figure-hugging black dress. Amid all the colorful costumes of the London society ladies, Lillie Langtry was a sight for sore eyes. Immediately, the artists Frank Miles and Edward Milliais who were also guests at the party, sought out the ethereal beauty and both asked if they could paint her portrait. Frank Miles, a very popular painter of the era made a line drawing of her on the spot, thus immortalizing her moment of discovery. Not only was Lillie beautiful, it was soon discovered that she read a lot and had opinions on many subjects, making her not just another pretty face. It was hard not to be enchanted by her and she was the hit of the party. The High Society Express had left the station for the fast track with Lillie Langtry aboard. She was on her way.

The next morning the invitations poured in. One treasured invite came from Winston Churchill and his American-born wife Jenny Jerome, leaders of English high society and parents of the future Prime Minister. Edward Langtry, still a social curmudgeon, agreed to attend but persisted in badgering Lillie on spending their small funds on new clothes. Lillie simplified matters by altering her black mourning dress creating a whole new look. At the party she met James McNeill Whistler and Oscar Wilde and they hung on her every word. Soon thereafter, penny postcards of her earlier line drawing by Frank Miles became available to the public and she instantly became known as a Professional Beauty, a popular term at the time and the earliest incarnation of the Diva - a woman of few attributes other than getting exactly what she desired. The effect was mesmerizing and Lillie Langtry became a star in London, mobbed wherever she and Edward went – which was everywhere that one should be seen.

Edward Milliais had Lillie sit for her portrait and insisted she wear the black dress from their first meeting. He also had her hold a crimson lily, a flower native to Jersey. Called “A Jersey Lilly” the name became synonymous with Lillie Langtry forever. The portrait was hung at the Royal Academy, soon nominated Portrait of the Year and had to be roped off because of the crowds eager to see whom Milliais called “the most beautiful woman on earth.”

At a more crested peak than the Churchills were “The Marlborough Set” of whom its leader was the future King of England, Albert Edward the Prince of Wales. It was inevitable the two would be introduced and the meeting was magic. With her husband seated at the other end of the table, Prince Albert, “Bertie” to his friends, was captivated by the lovely Jersey Lillie. She was beautiful, witty and possessed a keen intelligence not held by the women of her day. The Prince was a well-known philanderer and the two embarked upon an affair. His wife, the Princess Alexandra, knew of his dalliances but dutifully looked the other way.

An open secret, Lillie Langtry became Prince Albert’s’ official mistress. Designers heaped free clothes on her so she never had to worry her husband with that expense. They were given a gilded coach so the Langtrys could travel to each party in style. Appreciated by the men, Lillie was not so coveted by the women, but was nonetheless invited to all social events as everywhere that Lillie went, the Prince was sure to go. The High Society Express was moving full steam ahead and Lillie couldn’t be happier. She was often known as “The Langtry Phenomenon.” The Diva was in full flower.

The press couldn’t get enough of her. She was written about on a daily basis and the public was eager to see what she would do next. George Bernard Shaw was quoted as saying, “I resent Mrs. Langtry, she has no right to be intelligent, daring and independent, as well as lovely.” Oscar Wilde, great wit of the day and a bit of a Diva himself, once said “I would rather have discovered Lillie Langtry than America.” Princess Alexandra, often viewed as the long-suffering wife, soon met Lillie and the two developed a caring, friendly relationship. A quality not often found in the Other Woman, but a secret weapon used much to Mrs. Langtry’s credit. It gave her a special cachet that might otherwise have left her merely tolerated by the women of high society. Soon thereafter, Lillie was presented at court to Bertie’s mother, Queen Victoria. The Queen’s reaction was never recorded but it was said that she personally removed a picture of Mrs. Langtry from above the bed of her youngest son, Prince Leopold.

The Prince bought a royal love nest for the couple in a secluded area near Bournemouth, far removed from the London reporters that dogged their every move. The two were very happy there, with Edward Langtry now delegated back to his home in Southampton, rapidly becoming an alcoholic of the first order. An interesting feature of the house was the date “1881” etched in a stained glass window, commemorating the birth of Lillie’s only child, Jeanne Marie, who rumor has it was fathered by Prince Albert’s nephew, Prince Louis of Battenberg. The real father was never revealed to the public or her family and Jeanne Marie was raised back in Jersey by Lillie’s mother. She was brought up as Lillie’s niece and was only told the real story on the eve of her own wedding day to a Scottish nobleman.

As time went on, the Prince and Mrs. Langtry carried on with great decorum until one night when Lillie, usually a teetotaler, drank too much champagne and stuffed a large piece of ice down the Princes’ back in full view of the entire party. Lillie refused to apologize and their relationship came to a resounding stop, making Lillie a social outcast. Her world had come to a resounding halt!

Lillie was given credit by every merchant she frequented as it was a given that Prince Albert was her benefactor. But when word of her expulsion became known the vultures descended, demanding their money. On the verge of bankruptcy, Lillie searched around for an idea and one appeared in the voice of her friend Sarah Bernhardt, the leading actress of the day. Bernhardt suggested she capitalize on her fleeting fame and become an actress. First appearing in light comedies her success was swift and permanent. She also appeared in advertisements for such personal items as Pear’s soap and made money from that, decreeing such impertinences as acceptable.

New York was rapidly giving London a run for its money in the social whirl and Lillie traveled to America in search of her fortune like so many before her. On the eve of her debut at New York’s Park Theatre the theatre burnt to the ground leaving only a charred sign bearing the name “Lillie Langtry.” Thereafter, Lillie’s fame was assured and she was an immediate hit. In the 1882-1883 season she grossed between $100,000 and $150,000, an unheard of amount of money at the time. For years this record went unsurpassed and Lillie Langtry was a star of the first magnitude, appearing in light comedies and fluffy romantic stories.

Much to her credit Lillie returned to Jersey to visit her daughter, er, uh…niece and then hopped over to Paris to enroll at the Conservatory of Francois Joseph Régnier, the leading dramatic teacher of the day. Aware that her fame was fleeting, she consigned herself to being a student and improving her craft. Much to her benefit, sturdier roles of importance became available to her. Appearing in such plays as “As You Like It” and “The Degenerates,” Lillie Langtry achieved a success and critical acclaim that was unsurpassed. The critics for the most part liked her, except for the New York Sun’s William Winter who praised her to no end. He was a loyal fan to the last.

Determined to never be caught off guard financially again, while touring America Lillie visited the California coast and bought several thousand acres of a winery which proved to be financially successful. Her name was known throughout the land. In true Diva style, one admirer, Texas Judge Roy Bean changed the name of his town to “Langtry” in her honor. She only had a chance to visit after his death but was presented with his revolver, which the Judge used to clean up Langtry, Texas in her name.

So fond of America was Lillie Langtry that she finally divorced her husband and became an American citizen in 1887. Still touring England and the provinces she made up with and maintained a fond friendship with Prince Albert even as she made the United States her home, reveling in her Toast of the Town status.

Touring for several years in America, Lillie decided to return to England and Jersey to be closer to her now aged parents. As with anything Lillie set her mind to, Lillie developed a passion for racehorses and purchased a moneymaking stud farm, winning trophy after trophy in the process, even if she was forced to do so under a male pseudonym, Mr. Jersey.

During this period she met a wealthy heir from Baltimore, Freddie Gebhard. Another alcoholic, Gebhard was often cruel and generous to Lillie at the same time. During one contrite moment after hitting Lillie he presented her with her very own Pullman car, the “Lalee” worth almost one million dollars. No longer relegated to a mere seat on the train, now Mrs. Langtry could hitch her own car to that fast-moving High Society Express.

In 1897, during successful tours of England and America, her ex-husband Edward Langtry died, impoverished and alcoholic, his life a complete waste, of use to no one and a disappointment to himself. This is the result of stepping into the path of a fast-moving Diva.

The following year Lillie retired from the stage a star and a multi-millionaire and briefly reflects on the passing of her husband. The year after her retirement, in 1899 she married again to Hugo de Bathe, this time fulfilling her social ambitions by becoming Lady de Bathe when Hugo’s father dies leaving him the title and not much else. Accustomed to paying the bills by now, Lillie has more than enough income to support their extravagant lifestyle.

Her great love and dear friend Prince Albert becomes King Edward VII in 1901 and Lillie and Hugo attend the coronation. The audacity of who she was and who she had become is made plain to all who watch her and wonder – she makes no excuses, all the while keeping a firm eye on the road ahead. Lillie Langtry had arrived at the summit of her success.

Although financially independent she is offered an absurd amount of money to appear in vaudeville around 1906. Considered to be lowbrow entertainment, performers such as Lillie Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt give this second-rate medium a newfound respectability. She tours fairly relentlessly for several years and retires once again, her coffers much fuller than ever.

The first in everything, she purchases an automobile and rides around in high style, making headlines for that as well as every other move she has made for the last twenty years. The new medium of film gained popularity when Lillie agrees to star under the direction of pioneer filmmaker D.W. Griffith in 1913. During World War I, Lillie returns to the stage once more to raise money for war charities and her every move recorded by the newspapers, a national treasure on both sides of the Atlantic.

When Hugo de Bathe dies Lillie moves to Monaco often spending her evenings at the casinos and in one memorable night broke the bank at Monaco, winning over fifty thousand dollars. Once more her name made ‘round the world headlines!

After her daughter Jeanne Marie marries Scottish nobleman Ian Malcolm his family encourages their daughter-in-law to cut off her controversial mother and the two rarely spoke again. It was a wound that never healed in Lillie’s life. She briefly mentions it, so hurt was she, in her 1925 autobiography, “The Days I Knew,” keeping that hurt a secret as well as other intimate of a very public life. Surprisingly, for as public a figure as she was Lillie Langtry kept the most intimate details of her life a closely guarded secret.

As she grew older, Lillie Langtry retreated more and more to her villa in Monaco, “Le Lys,” overlooking the Riviera and tends to her prize-winning gardens. On February 12, 1929 Lady Lillie LeBreton Langtry de Bathe died, her good friend and companion of many years, Mrs. Peat by her side. The Jersey Lily was buried in the cemetery of her father’s church back in the Isle of Jersey. An era had come to an end, but the remarkable Lillie opened up another that would usher in a celebrity once unthinkable before the woman in the plain black dress made herself known.

Pamela Churchill Harriman

Pamela Churchill Harriman Pamela Churchill Harriman

Pamela Churchill Harriman

Pamela Churchill Harriman

Born to a good family, Pamela Beryl Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman started out with a great name and devoted her life to improving upon that. She arrived March 20, 1920 to Edward and Pansy in Kent, Farnborough. Pamela’s father was from an old and distinguished family. Her mother was the daughter of Baron Aberdare, a peer in the House of Lords. Pamela and her three younger sisters grew up at Magna Minterne, their large ancestral home. Grand, but not quite as grand as the houses she would later find herself in.

There are many reports of her escapades with various rich and powerful men – but to call her a courtesan or a chameleon is a cheap and easy answer. Pamela always exhibited a firm, but stylish, hand with everything she did – even when she married another woman’s husband. Good manners always prevailed and the invitations to lunch and dinner kept coming. Perhaps women of these changing eras were a little afraid of someone who desired self-improvement – even if that meant improving her taste for life’s treasures. It is hard to fault someone for wanting a better life and if people suffered for it along the way, well, look at the Roman emperors of yore; at least no blood was shed with Pamela Digby around. Her accomplishments in the end – helping to bring the Democrats back into office during the 1980s Republican majority – can justify itself as an end game. Pamela Digby saw the available brass ring and Pamela Harriman knew how hard one must work to grab it. Having styled her life on that of her ancestor Jane Digby, herself a wildly “popular” woman, Pamela had a role model to mold herself from as she eventually came into her own.

Perhaps typical during the early 20th Century is the oppressiveness in an aristocratic English household. Young girls were raised to be young ladies and made marriageable through a minimum of education and travel and Pamela was not the exception. She was raised by a governess, attended girls school and then sent off to Europe to complete her adolescence, as was the custom at the time. One of Pamela’s greatest assets was her timing. She was sent to Germany for her finishing around 1938 and claims to have met Hitler, but that is widely believed to be false. Mostly she couldn't bear to be left out of anything, even meeting the most atrocious individual of the 20th Century. Back in England, Pamela is presented at Court to the new King George VI and his royal consort, Queen Elizabeth, which marks her entrée into society.

With not much direction Pamela finds herself another daughter of an aristocrat amongst many in pre-war London and figures out how to break free. With her gorgeous red hair, curvy body and milky white skin, Pamela was easy on the eyes. Running around London, going to this nightspot with that man, she was soon led to Lady Olive Bailie, a very wealthy American who owned Leeds Castle, one of the largest in England. Beautifully restored at enormous expense, Leeds Castle was open round the clock for international partying. Lady Bailie took the young Pamela by the hand and instructed her on the subtle differences in fine furniture, art and antiques. Pamela learned to tell the difference between a Manet and a Monet and that was important. She was also introduced to all who crossed Lady Bailie’s moat. Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks, Max Beaverbrook, the biggest London press baron, were just a few of the many powerful men she encountered. Beaverbrook especially was exactly the sort of man Pamela Digby learned to thrive on: rich, powerful and emotionally needy. Beaverbrook took Pamela under his wing and guided her through her early crises of young adulthood. She in turn provided the usual caregiving she would become known for. Pamela had discovered the role she was meant to play.

As Europe and England began living under the black cloud of World War II, Pamela met and married Randolph Churchill, son of the soon-to-be Prime Minister Winston Churchill. As England entered in the war against Hitler, young Pamela became pregnant with the Churchill heir in addition to being brought into the inner circle of world politics. This was easy enough as Winston Churchill took an immediate liking to his new daughter-in law. They got along famously. Once, having to share a bunker with her in-laws during an air raid she thought to herself, “One Churchill above me, the other inside.” Her husband, however, was another matter. Randolph, living under the shadow of his great father, grew into an argumentative, belligerent alcoholic. Even his parents had trouble with his temper and sympathized wholly with Pamela who was carrying their grandchild. During the war he was sent off to Cairo where he could drink and carouse while far away from the realities of his sham marriage. Some called it a wartime hitch, others called their marriage a stroke of good luck on Pamela’s part; either way, she had gone to the next level.

World War II was also a time of loosening morals. With so many being sent off to die, men and women for the first time came together to experience the pleasure of one another all while their cities were being bombed around them. A heady experience for everyone, it was under these circumstances that Pamela Churchill was first introduced to Averell Harriman, heir to the Union Pacific railroad fortune and a budding diplomat. He was in London to help develop the Lend-Lease program that sent supplies and weapons to Britain and the Soviet Union during the war. He would eventually become an ambassador to both countries. In Pamela, Averell saw a very pretty, if slightly chubby, redhead with a voluptuous body and she found a man who was far away from his wife and in need of some attention. It was a perfect wartime match and the two fell for each other instantly, carrying on a generous affair for the entire duration of the war.

Pamela also met and had affairs with Jock Whitney, another extremely rich American and Bill Paley, the maximum leader of CBS. Coincidentally, after the war both men married two of the famous three Cushing sisters, Babe and Betsey, with whom Pamela socialized even after having affairs with their husbands. After Averell returned to the United States to begin his run for elective offices, Pamela met Edward R. Murrow, a leader in reporting whose vivid broadcasts of the war ensured American sympathy for the British. Their affair became quite serious, even though Murrow was married with a wife and child in the States. At one point Pamela had hoped to wed Murrow, but in the end, as it was with all the men she involved herself with, their careers were far too important to be disrupted. The wives of these successful men had all been with them from the beginning and understood these dalliances while they remained in the background.

After the war when her lovers resumed life with their families, Pamela found herself floating around Europe, still married to the alcoholic Randolph, their young son, Winston, already shipped off to boarding school. It was during this period that Pamela began to cast her net. Europe was on the mend and she was free to travel the Continent. She proceeded to have an affair with bachelor Gianni Agnelli, the heir to the Fiat automobile fortune. They carried on for several years, floating around the Mediterranean on his yacht, partying at all the chic European nightspots. Pamela even converted to Catholicism in the hopes Gianni would marry her too. For years after this move really hurt her in London with the senior Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of a government whose monarch was Head of the Church of England. However, Agnelli didn’t marry her; instead, he chose the already Catholic, Italian and pregnant, Princess Marella Caracciolo.

Bruised from her affair with Agnelli, Pamela next floated into a relationship with Baron Elie de Rothschild. If she thought Agnelli was rich and powerful, she certainly entered the gilded realm with Rothschild. He was from one of the most powerful and distinguished families in France. Their vineyards produced the superior Lafitte-Rothschild wines. They were leaders in the French Jewish community and also ran the prestigious Rothschild banks. Although married, Baron Elie kept Pamela in high style for several years, her good taste more finely tuned than ever. His wife Liliane looked the other way, as do all wives unwilling to relinquish their positions to the Other Woman.

Along the line she had affairs with Stavros Niachros, the Greek shipping magnate and Prince Aly Kahn, son of the Aga Kahn, the world’s Moslem spiritual leader. While she enjoyed basking in the adoration of these powerful men, Pamela eventually emerged closer to forty and divorced from Randolph. If there was any emptiness in her heart she more than made up for it by keeping her chic Paris apartment filled with valuable art and antiques, gifts from the many rich men who passed through her door. She was quite notorious on the scene, seen here, there and everywhere, often with her friend, Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor - no doubt learning lessons from Master Diva Number One.

Ready for her next move, Pamela moved to New York around 1955. Taking a suite at the Carlyle, the wives of high society pricked up their ears when they heard the un-married Pam Churchill had blown into town. One of the first people to launch her on the circuit was Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, sister of Babe Paley and wife of Jock Whitney, Pam’s old flame. Immediately following her arrival Pamela suffered a serious medical condition and it was discovered that she needed a complete hysterectomy. After the operation Betsey Whitney offered to let Pamela convalesce at Greentree, the Whitney estate in Manhasset on Long Island’s North Shore. What appeared to be an act of kindness on Betsey’s part, she was most likely keeping a close eye on the roving Mrs. Churchill.

After Pamela’s recovery, the Whitney’s had an evening out in the city. They went to see a play by Manhasset neighbor and famed Broadway impresario, Leland Hayward. Sensing an opportunity or maybe pure navieté on her part, Betsey had Leland escort Pamela to the play that night. Hayward’s’ wife, Slim, was out of town, traveling in Spain with her pal Ernest Hemmingway and returned several weeks later to discover that Pamela had moved in on her man.

The Hayward marriage was practically in tatters by that point, but Slim Hayward had no intention of divorcing, or at least making it easier on Pam and Leland. She made them move to Reno, Nevada for the required six weeks to initiate divorce proceedings in an effort to thwart their plans which continued unabated anyway. Leland Hayward started his career as an agent, with a client roster of the biggest names in Hollywood and Broadway. He made the move to buying the rights of and producing Broadway plays and had some of the biggest hits on the Great White Way, including “Gypsy,” “Mister Roberts” and “South Pacific.” By the time of their marriage in 1960, Leland Hayward was as big a name as the stars of his shows.

With Pamela as the new Mrs. Hayward, the couple moved to "Haywire," a large estate in Croton-on-Hudson, north of Manhattan. Pamela chose Westchester over Long Island as the prestigious North Shore was home ground for Slim, Babe and Betsey. Ironically, Slim soon moved to England where she married Kenneth Keith, a wealthy British banker who became a Knight of the Realm and Slim Hayward would be known as Lady Keith.

The 1960’s saw the end of the hits for Leland Hayward. In 1964 he did produce “The Sound of Music,” which became enormous, but after that opus he never had a smash again. Parallel to this success his hard living caught up with him. Leland’s health rapidly deteriorated and Pamela Hayward was in her element, always the caregiver. She nursed him through the worst of times and was with him to the last.

Leland had two daughters and a son from his first marriage to actress Maggie Sullivan, all three with varying degrees of emotional problems. While stepmother Slim was good to the children, Brooke, Brigid and Billy, Pamela cut them off little by little and when Leland eventually died around 1971, the Hayward children were fully estranged from their father. There wasn’t much money left either, in fact it was alluded that Pamela had to dig into her own capital to support their rich lifestyle. Now Pamela was a widow with supposedly empty pockets. It was time to make her next, and she hoped, her last move.

1971 was the same year Averell Harriman’s wife, Marie died. By this time, Harriman was looking back on a stunning career: Chairman of the Union Pacific, Ambassador to both Great Britain and Russia, Secretary of Commerce under FDR, creating the Marshall Plan under Truman, National Security Advisor during the Korean War, Governor of New York State in 1954, negotiating the Vietnam peace talks under Johnson. He had done it all and it was during a party at Washington Post publisher Kay Grahams’ house following Marie’s death that he became reacquainted with Pamela.

The story goes that Pamela got herself invited to the same party and during cocktails snuck into the dining room to switch the place cards. Averell and Pamela were originally sitting side-by-side, but Pamela switched the cards so the couple would have their backs to each other. The ploy worked. Averell heard Pamela’s voice and the two kept up a playful back-to-back conversation throughout the dinner. Wasting no time they became a rather hot item. People didn’t know what to talk about first: the new couples' difference in age, he was twenty years her senior, or the Widow Hayward's new look. Pamela started out as a provocative redhead then became a matronly brunette during her Hayward years and was now a blonde who had gotten what people say was “the best face-lift in the world.”

In 1974 during their engagement party, Pamela and Averell shocked the party by announcing that they were already married in another part of the house ten minutes earlier. Harriman’s daughter, Kathleen, with whom Pamela had a close friendship during the war, was stunned to realize how stealthily Pamela moved. The newlyweds divided their time between the newly purchased Willow Oaks, set in the heart of Virginia’s horse country and their Georgetown townhouse on Embassy Row.

The 1980’s brought tumultuous change in Washington. The Republicans took charge of the White House as well as the House and Senate and the Harriman’s were not pleased with this change in leadership. Never one to be left out of anything, Pamela Harriman understood Averell’s need to keep involved and devised a way to reorganize the Democratic Party that was dear to his beliefs. They introduced a Political Action Committee (PAC). This new breath of the Democrats had a forum in which they could collect money, re-group and retain the advice of the 20th Century’s finest statesmen. Averell encouraged Pamela to speak publicly and “Democrats for the 80’s” now had a face. Pamela soon thereafter became an American citizen, pleasing Averell enormously, the clever girl.

Soon the press would call these committees PamPACs and it was at their "N" Street townhouse that Democrats retrenched and prepared to take on the Republicans. With Pam leading the charge Averell was content to remain behind the scenes as his age advanced and his health declined. Speaking at the 1984 Democratic convention in San Francisco, Pamela made a speech which added to the renewed vigor of the once-ailing party: “I am an American by choice and a Democrat by conviction.” she said and for the first time the limelight was squarely on her.

Slowly, the tides changed in Washington and the Harriman’s were in the thick of it. Unfortunately, by 1986 Averell Harriman was in failing health. His daughter Kathleen was kept at arms length during this period and so was his godson, Peter Duchin. Averell and Marie raised Peter since he was a baby. Peter’s mother, a great friend of Marie Harriman, was a Social Register debutante who died soon after giving birth to the boy and his father was Eddy Duchin, the famed bandleader. With his father on the road all the time, the Harriman’s became Peter’s surrogate parents and he kept a close relationship with them. Once Pamela Harriman came into the picture, all contact between Duchin and old Averell was shut down. Another bit of irony is that years later, Peter Duchin married Brooke Hayward, Leland's daughter.

After battling a long illness, Averell Harriman joined the majority and caregiver Pamela took care of all the details, ensuring he was given a send-off befitting a president. In fact, four Presidents attended his funeral. Although it looked as if he was being laid to rest in the family plot, he was actually being sent to a plot in Bermuda so he would be buried with Pamela. The family was furious when they found out but Pamela didn’t care. She inherited Averell’s entire $110 million-dollar fortune. She now had what is called by the very rich, “fuck you money.”

Family situations notwithstanding, Pamela doggedly continued with her efforts to ensure a Democrat was elected to the White House and he finally arrived in the package of William Jefferson Clinton, the governor of Arkansas, her PamPAC raising almost $12 million dollars for his campaign. The two got along famously as his history and hers don’t seem all that different in its most basic element. The time seemed ripe for a Democrat president and 1992 was their year. Bill Clinton won the election over George Bush.

For all her efforts in helping the Democratic Party, Pamela Harriman was soon nominated as Ambassador to France, the most prestigious of all political appointments. She tried to take it in stride but couldn’t rest until after the confirmation hearings where she had the most conservative Senators eating out the palm of her lovely hand.

Pamela’s time in France was marked by her excellent skills in improving American-French relations and earned the respect of many leaders for her efforts. Everything was great going until the end came in February 1997. While swimming in the pool at the Ritz Hotel as a part of her regular exercise, she had a stroke and drowned. Her funeral was attended by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, with whom she was close as well as a phalanx of diplomats and those who knew her in her last, great incarnation. Pamela carried on with great style and in the thick of everything; the English rose had come into full flower. With the money, status and respect the Diva requires, she had lived her life under the maxim: Do as you please and please look good doing it.

Doris Duke

Doris Duke Doris Duke

Doris Duke

Doris Duke

When christened the “Million Dollar Baby” by a relentless press, you are expected to lead a grossly extravagant existence. Doris Duke personified the epitome of what happens to the very, very rich – indulgent and irreverent to life’s responsibilities. A dichotomy of errors, Duke displayed both flippancy and fiscal responsibility throughout her life.

Her father was James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, a gruff man who organized the American Tobacco Company, the largest tobacco trust in the nation. Over ninety percent of the nation’s tobacco being smoked, packed or chewed was a product of W. Duke and Sons. Eventually forced to dissolve the trust in 1911, Duke invested heavily in real estate and also created Duke Power, a massive energy concern. When Doris was born on November 22, 1912, his fortune was an estimated $80 million dollars.

Buck Duke cherished his only child and repeatedly implored upon her that she would inherit a massive fortune and to trust no one because of it. Doris was raised in austere American castles on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Newport, RI (“Rough Point”) and Somerville, New Jersey (“Duke Farms”). She grew up amongst the wealthy but Doris Duke's money was a different cup of tea altogether. Her chauffeur/ bodyguard carefully monitored all her outings - for fear of kidnapping was an obsession with her father. Doris grew in height to almost six feet tall by age thirteen and she had a very prominent chin (that she eventually altered surgically). All this plus her frequent public exposure just for being Doris Duke only made the shy girl retreat even further. With her body rejecting her like that, it was hard for Doris to trust herself, let alone anyone else. Nonetheless, she persevered.

In 1925 her beloved father abruptly fell ill with pneumonia. The story goes that his scheming wife, Nanaline, wanted him dead. Deciding it was time; the wife locked them away in his bedroom for several days. Away from the servants and away from Doris. With the windows wide open in the bitter fall chill, Nanaline Duke kept her husband uncovered while she was swathed in layers and layers of furs, carefully watching him expire. Nanaline was the major beneficiary but Doris wound up suing her mother for control of the estate and won. The value was greatly diminished after the Wall Street crash of 1929, but Doris inherited $30 million dollars when she turned 30, in 1942 and controlled the family’s giving.

Being rich during the Depression was difficult. The tempo of the times didn’t jibe with the ultra-luxe living of people like the Dukes. Society divas were written up in the newspapers daily which left readers both fascinated and disgusted by the extreme living. Doris, however, learned philanthropy early on in life. She carefully watched her father’s 1924 endowment of Duke University (formerly Trinity College) in North Carolina, often traveling incognito to ensure her father’s wishes were being met. The Duke family contributed greatly to public programs and this began her management of the family fortune.

While in control of a checkbook, she hoped to escape from a domineering mother, Doris met and married semi-millionaire James H.R. Cromwell in 1935 when she was 23. Cromwell had a taste for rich women; he was previously married to auto heiress Delphine Dodge. The couple had a child in 1940, Arden, who died twenty-fours hours later. Losing the one thing she knew would love her for herself, Doris mourned the baby the rest of her life. After that the marriage weakened and three years later the couple divorced.

During World War II, Doris worked in a canteen for sailors in Egypt, earning $1 dollar a year. “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do something real to help in this war…I’ve discovered, I guess, that it’s fun to work.” She said this was the most useful period of her life. Following the war Doris stayed in Europe and wrote for the International News Service. Moving on to Paris she worked for Harper’s Bazaar as well. Had she been forced to work for a living, Doris might have forged a career for herself, but being Doris Duke was a career in itself. During this period she met and married superstud and divo, Porfirio Rubirosa. A Dominican diplomat and playboy, “Rubi” as he was called, had a reputation as a great lover with an enormous appendage. For years it was a joke in restaurants that the pepper mill offered by the waiter be called the ‘Rubirosa.’ Their affair quickly led to a proposal, but the rich lead a complicated legal life. Some accounts claim that before the ceremony he fainted when presented with the ironclad prenuptial agreement. The marriage only lasted a year, leaving Doris exhausted. In 1953 Rubi would also marry Barbara Hutton, Duke’s only “rival” in that very select world of heiresses, cementing his other reputation as a fortune hunter.

Wounded from her bad marriages, Doris developed wanderlust and traveled the world in search of adventure. She could be found wandering with Massai warriors in Africa as well as a Southern Baptist meeting, singing in the choir. Duke also proved to be a proficient jazz pianist and even penned a few tunes. She fell in love with Hawaii and built the great estate Shangri-La on Diamond Head. In Hawaii, Doris met Olympic surfing champion Duke Kahanamoku. They carried on a torrid love affair for years. She also had affairs with General George S. Patton, Errol Flynn (who didn’t?) and Pulitzer-prize winning author Louis Bromfield.

She also had a passion for the restoration of Newport, one of America’s oldest towns. Her own estate, Rough Point, on exclusive Bellevue Avenue, was adjacent to the public pathway, Cliff Walk. Doris and Newport town officials argued over its right-of-way for years. Then things in Newport changed dramatically in October 1966. Duke and her interior decorator, Edward Tirella, pull up to the mansion. Tirella gets out of the car to open the estates’ heavy iron gates. At first, Doris claims not to have been driving, then changes her mind and says her foot “accidentally” dropped on the accelerator, first dragging Tirella across the street, then crushing him against a tree. The gilded gossip mill went to work as fast as Doris and her lawyers did. People said she and Tirella were arguing and had a big fight on their way to the house. No matter what happened, one week after the manslaughter the investigation was dropped, simply described as an “unfortunate accident.” The Chief of Police retired a month later and Tirella’s family was paid a hefty sum of money after a civil suit. Then Doris suddenly and publicly gives $25,000 to fix the access to Cliff Walk. The arguments cease and public access is reclaimed. Not too long after the accident and still under the shadow of a scandal, Duke founded the Newport Restoration Foundation in 1968. The Foundation helped to restore some of Newport’s oldest structures and rejuvenated tourism in the area. Many considered this appeasement disguised as altruism.

With the whiff of humiliation behind her, Doris Duke begins to lead a more solitary life. Tending to her charities, Doris emerges as a leading benefactress of the arts. Shuttling between her many estates, including “Falcon Lair” in Beverly Hills, the former home of Rudolph Valentino, her vast farmlands in New Jersey, which houses her extensive art collection or a penthouse on Park Avenue, she sought happiness – finding it in bits and pieces but received the most satisfaction from her philanthropy.

The Doris Duke menagerie grew more and more bizarre. When she purchased an airplane from a Middle Eastern businessman she had to adopt two camels as part of the deal. Baby and Princess lived at Rough Point and helped themselves to all the vegetation on the grounds. When a hurricane threatened Newport, the two camels were brought indoors to live in the solarium that had a large pool and views of the ocean raging outside.

In 1988, while at Shangri-la, she became involved with a Hare Krishna devotee and former belly dancer named Chandi Heffner whom she believed was a reincarnation of her long-dead daughter, Arden. This is a case of the apple not falling far from the tree. Doris’ father Buck asked her to wait for him until he could return to earth in a reincarnated state. Perhaps fulfilling a prophecy of sorts, Duke legally adopted the 35 year old and the two lived together as mother and daughter. Rumors abounded that Duke was simply legitimizing her lesbian relationship with Heffner; others said she was finally careening off into the mental wild blue yonder. Either way, she doted on Heffner for the next three years. Duke gave her a ranch in Hawaii and included Heffner in her will. However, like so many people in Doris’ life Chandi disappointed her and the “mother & daughter” fought often. In 1991 Duke had the adoption reversed and Heffner was banished from the kingdom. “After giving the matter prolonged and serious consideration, I am convinced I should not have adopted Chandi Heffner…" Duke said in her will. As any diva will tell you, one of the advantages of money is never having to live with the consequences of your mistakes.

During this time she also made friends with the Philippine President and his wife, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Around the time of their exile, Marcos was given a $5 million dollar loan (which they had to repay while most loans Duke made were forgiven upon her death). Imelda Marcos and Duke were very close friends and again people spoke of a lesbian affair. This has never been proved or disproved, but Duke certainly didn’t go to any lengths to dispel these rumors, or other strange occurrences in her life.

Once, during an intimate dinner party at Shangri-La, Imelda and Doris were sitting together when their friend, actor Jim Nabors came out of the pool and accidentally cut his toe. Duke's pet leopard was freely roaming the property at the time and when Duke saw that Nabors was bleeding she firmly urged him to move towards the house, “Slowly, very, very slowly.”

Entering the fold was a new butler, Bernard Lafferty, a dimwitted Irishman with a penchant for drink who was formerly the butler for singer Peggy Lee. He soon developed a close relationship with his employer. Very close. As Doris’ health grew more and more precarious, Lafferty began holding off the visitors that came to see her, especially when she was in residence at Falcon’s Lair. Stepbrother Walker Inman, Jr. and cousin Ambassador Angier Biddle Duke, whom she saw frequently throughout her life, found themselves turned away by the peculiar butler. Even her own staff found it difficult to perform basic functions around Duke with the ever-present Lafferty hovering over his mistress.

After suffering from heart problems Doris Duke died in her bed at Falcon Lair in October of 1993 at the age of eighty. Bernard Lafferty was there by her side. She was later buried at sea. Following the funeral of this enigmatic woman whiffs of “the butler did it” began to surface .

If nothing else, Doris Duke was considered a shrewd money manager and investor. She smartly parlayed her $30 million dollar inheritance into a massive $750 million dollar fortune. Duke' entire estate was worth over one billion dollars. Loving animals as she did, Doris ensured the camels were provided for and that a $100,000 dollar trust was set aside for her beloved dog. The majority of the money was earmarked for charity through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that supported the arts, environmental causes and life sciences. What shocked everyone was when the semi-illiterate Bernard Lafferty was named trustee of the Foundation, providing him with a payment of over $4 million dollars and a lifetime annuity of $500,000.

Slowly, Lafferty began to emulate his late employer – literally. He attempted to slim down his rotund figure; colored his hair to match Duke's and even took to wearing her couturier dresses around the mansion.

While the directors of the Foundation carefully gave out the monies as stipulated in Duke' fifty-page will, Lafferty began to spend and spend – far beyond his annual stipend. He was the person who handed over the checks to high-profile charities such as $2 million to Duke University for AIDS research and $1 million dollars to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Lafferty became the much-publicized figurehead for all that was good with Doris Dukes giving and he had to go. After much legal wrangling Lafferty was ousted as co-executor of Duke's will and was finally given an undisclosed amount to go away.

Depressed and embittered over his removal, Lafferty eventually spent his last years drinking and carousing. He died peacefully in his sleep in his Los Angeles home in November 1996. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation continues to support social, cultural and health-related programs today.