Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Review - Eleanor Lambert: Still Here

Eleanor Lambert: Still Here by John A. Tiffany is a very large and heavy book.  In fact it is a bit of challenge to actually read because you really have to put it on a table to look through and certainly not cozy up on the bed, which is how I like to read.  Other than that little bug-a-boo, I loved this book!  I had wanted to read it ever since I first heard it was going to be published.  I was not disappointed.

The book cover
How grand it would have been to have lived her life!  Of course, as in most any book I love, there were many things about her that I identified with.  She was a Mid-westerner, growing up in Crawfordsville, Indiana, she had a "can do" spirit creating events and making things happen, and the thing I most identified with, oddly enough, - she had bacon, eggs, and toast every morning for breakfast, which I do, too, though she had her breakfast brought to her on a tray by her maid, while I make mine myself.  She also had fresh fruit and orange juice, too.  Most people are all pious and talk about how they just have cereal or oatmeal, so I was glad to see another bacon and egg gal because there aren't too many of us around, or at least who will admit to it.  That's what my mother served me for breakfast growing up and that is still what I have.  When I start my morning that way, I feel like all is right with the world.

For those of you unfamiliar with Miss Lambert, she was THE New York City publicist for decades - promoting fashion designers, stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf's and Bendel's, and artists and art galleries.  She created the Art Dealers of America and Park Bernet Galleries and played an important role in establishing the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.  She started what we now know as Fashion Week in 1943 at the Plaza Hotel, she started the American Fashion Critics Award, which became the prestigious Coty Awards, she created the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), and her coup de grace, creating the International Best-Dressed List!

One of the fun things I read about was her involvement with Truman Capote's Black and White Ball, the party from which all future parties are judged, in my opinion.  She was the one who convinced the tiny terror to make Katherine Graham the guest of honor, instead of himself.  She also guided him in making the infamous guest list, while dangling tantalizing stories to the press about who and who wasn't being considered.

The indomitable Miss Lambert, also known as Mrs. Seymour Berkson, also convinced Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor to give her wedding dress to the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute.  She had joined with colleagues to form the Costume Institute in 1937 so America could have its own collection of fashion history.  Her enthusiasm inspired the creation of the Institute's "Party of the Year" in 1948, which is now the biggest charity event in New York (and on my bucket list of things I want to attend before I die, along with attending a State Dinner at the White House!). 

The book is jam-packed of original press releases and the photos which accompanied the releases.  I think at one time or another, she represented every major American fashion designer including Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta, Pauline Trigere, Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein and the list goes on and on.  The same with artists.  She represented Jackson Pollack, Isamu Noguchi, Cecil Beaton, Thomas Hart Benton, Salvador Dali, and so many more.

She lived most of her New York life in a gorgeous apartment at 1060 Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park.  The book contains several photographs of different rooms.  I loved her bedroom!  She, like me, has all sorts of books and magazines stacked up around the room.  I do too, much to the chagrin of my husband, who pretty much complains about it all the time.  I also have a photograph of her dining room, which hosted many a luminary ranging from Greta Garbo, to Diana and Reed Vreeland, to Claudette Colbert and all of her many clients. Oh, how I long to have been on the guest list for those intriguing and enchanting dinners!

Starting most of her days at the famous Kenneth salon, THE hair salon for high society at the time, everyone on her staff would take turns meeting her there.  She was a queen at multi-tasking long before it was fashionable - simultaneously sitting under the dryer, getting a pedicure, and using the salon's telephone, way before the day of the cell phone.

Her seat at Kenneth's salon
The perfect picture of Miss Lambert working at her desk - love the divine fur hat!  I have a jacket that is almost identical to the one she is wearing and I wear my pearls with it, too!
She passed away in 2003 at the age of 100.  She had said many times that all she ever wanted to do was to get to the big city.  She is quoted as saying, "Taste is a sharpened eye for the beautiful, the interesting, and the unusual - coupled with the talent to apply all these to one's life....We understood work was part of getting ahead.  We were just lucky to have had the opportunity to meet a lot of people who were a part of history.  And when you meet prominent people, you live a better life.  It is not about society at all, it's about knowing things."  Amen to that, sister.

Her captivating bedroom

The enchanting dining room - oh, to be a fly on the wall!

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