In 2017, when New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art staged a major exhibition honoring the 100th birthday of the late photographer Irving Penn, its director, Thomas P. Campbell, cited Penn as “one of the most celebrated American artists of the 20th century.” The statement was an acknowledgment of Penn’s “uncommon virtuosity” with a camera, as Campbell put it, and his innovation in the darkroom, but also indicated that Penn’s oeuvre was more diverse than just his renowned photography.
Few people are truly inexhaustible, but Damian Woetzel appears to be one of those rare creatures. As a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet from 1989 to 2008, Woetzel’s exuberance and limitless energy was lavishly celebrated.
“I loved to dance, and it was never enough,” he says. “I always wanted to do more. City Ballet had multiple ballets on a night. If there were three ballets, I’d want to do all three. One was not enough. Two was pretty good. Three? Wow. That would be my night.”
Before retiring from that stage at 41, Woetzel acquired a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He later taught at Harvard Law School and served on President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Now 51, Woetzel has become the new president of Manhattan’s prestigious Juilliard School—the first former dancer to hold that position.
In this profile, he pulls back the curtain and gives a glimpse into his life, onstage and off.
Fashion designer Thom Browne walks into his office, trailed by his wire-haired dachshund, Hector – who, like everyone else on the premises, is clad in Thom Browne apparel (in this case, a tidy red sweater, not a suit). Mid-century furnishings have been placed with great intention throughout the space. As the staffers come and go, one gets the sensation of having been admitted to a benevolent cult, comprised of eager, immaculately-groomed, Ivy-league prepsters — with a surrealist twist.
One of the central curiosities about the entire Thom Browne enterprise: it is paradoxically restrictive and unbridled at the same time — a massive, seasonal exercise in restraint and release. If Browne’s headquarters represents the zany yet buttoned-up restraint of his operation, his fashion shows exude its fantastical release. Going from the Thom Browne studio to a Thom Browne presentation feels akin to teasing open an elegant clock and watching the springs explode out. The show scenarios vary wildly: one season, there was a nightmarish circus set, complete with models bound as mummies or sent down the runway adjoined in a Siamese twin suit; another presentation mimicked an elaborate, ghoulish funeral. At yet another show, models relentlessly hammered away at a wooden house frame for the duration of the show.
Read more about Mr. Browne’s stylishly peculiar world here, in Ms. Blume’s profile of the designer.
Sunset Boulevard has long been synonymous with spectacle; now the street is getting spectacle with conscience. On February 27 – just in time for the Oscars – London-born artist Zoe Buckman will unveil her feminist installation Champ, a rotating 43-foot sculpture featuring a white neon uterus with boxing gloves instead of ovaries.
The site choice was highly intentional, says Buckman: “The visual landscape on Sunset is saturated with billboard images of women; it made sense to juxtapose [Champ] against the sexual objectification portrayed there.”
Champ was conceived before #MeToo rocked Hollywood, but the movement has certainly made the work more significant. Buckman and the Art Production Fund, which secured funding for the project, found a willing partner in the City of West Hollywood, and throughout 2018, the Fund will host public programs and discussions inspired by Champ.
“It represents many things that deserve protection,” says Buckman. “I’m really excited about taking it beyond an object, and making it into an opportunity for social engagement.”
It’s difficult to imagine anything that would intimidate Sarah Paulson. She’s an actress who seems to choose roles for their audacity, and she inhabits her characters fearlessly– whether she’s playing Marcia Clark in American Crime Story, a brutal salve owner in Twelve Years a Slave, or conjoined twins in American Horror Story. Yet when Paulson arrived on set for The Post, Steven Spielberg’s film about the late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and the legal battle around the Pentagon Papers, Paulson admits that she began “totally freaking out.”
“These are arguably the most respected filmmakers and actors of their generation,” Paulson says. “That made it a very extraordinary place to be. It was a pinch-me moment.”
Paulson is having a lot of those moments lately. Following her Emmy-winning performance as Clark in 2016, accolades and offers have been cascading in. Over the coming year, in addition to The Post, she will appear in the all-female spy comedy Ocean’s Eight, the Netflix series Ratched (as Nurse Ratched, of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fame), and M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming thriller Glass. She also recently signed on to the movie adaptation of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.
“It’s head-spinning,” she says. “But part of me is scared. I’ve got a window, as a woman of 43. Right now it’s cracked this big”—she holds her hands inches apart—“and I’m trying to keep it open with both hands, as wide as possible, for as long as possible.”
In this February 2018 Town & Country cover story, Paulson talks with Blume about the view from the top, why character likeability is irrelevant, and how she will never bow to convention – in any aspect of her life.
Earlier this fall, I got an amusing call from the writer Adam Gopnik. He’d come to Los Angeles as part of the tour for his new book, At the Strangers’ Gate, and was making his way down the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. I was stunned: first of all, it was high noon on a hundred-degree day—the town was absolutely baking—and second of all, he was walking, a rare activity among Angelenos. Luckily, he happened across Greenblatt’s, an old-fashioned deli on Sunset, and sought solace in some chicken soup and a corned-beef sandwich. All of these activities seemed to me evidence that Gopnik was a quintessential, incurable Manhattanite, far away from his natural habitat and relying on his New Yorker instincts for survival.
Gopnik is a virtuosic writer; since joining the staff of The New Yorker in 1986, he has written nine books and covered a myriad of topics for the magazine, from the emigration of the European Roma to the complicated legacy of F. Scott Fitzgerald to gun control in America. For many readers, he is synonymous with the pleasures of Paris: he was the magazine’s correspondent there between 1995 and 2000 and wrote the best seller Paris to the Moon, about his young family’s triumphs and travails as modern American expats. (The French Republic even bestowed upon him the medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.)
Yet New York City—where he lives with his filmmaker wife, Martha, and their two children—has been an endless source of fascination and material for him. When he first started at The New Yorker, he dispatched himself all over the city, covering table-hockey tournaments in Flatbush, slack-rope walkers who dwelled in boats on the Hudson River, and a community of rivalrous fresco painters. In Strangers’ Gate, a blend of memoir and social observation in which Gopnik specializes, he revisits his arrival in New York from Canada in the early 1980s. The book is a love letter to that vanished town, then an eccentric metropolis of all-powerful magazine editors, landlines, Kodak film, artists’ lofts in SoHo, and bookstores on every block.
At the Strangers’ Gate also seems, at first glance, a whimsical counterpoint to Gopnik’s recent writings about America’s fraught political landscape. Although he once told me that he had never wanted to be any sort of pundit, he was an early whistleblower in the pages of The New Yorker about the threat to democracy posited by Trump, and has been unrelenting in his criticism since. “I feel a sense of emergency every morning,” he says. “We have to bear witness, even if we can’t change minds.” (He is already working on his next book, a political essay defending liberalism). Yet, he maintains, the seeds of today’s landscape had already been planted by the era he documents in the book; the eighties were “the first domino in a line of dominos that have fallen,” he says, leading to the post-9/11, post–financial collapse, Internet-and-social-media-driven realm in which we dwell today.
Gopnik and I spoke about the New York of his salad days, the attributes that make the city uniquely (and peculiarly) alluring, and how New Yorkers seem innately equipped to handle these unstable times. Click here to read the interview.
Everyone has seen Jeff Goldblum in a movie. The Oscar-and Emmy-nominated actor has done it all: alien, dinosaur, and superhero blockbusters; urban comedies (both light- and dark-hearted); dramas; thrillers—the works.
He’s not designated as a comedian first and foremost, but Goldblum is a connoisseur of absurdity and often brings a perverse, languid humor to his roles. His funniness was apparent from the earliest days of his film career: in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), for instance, Goldblum plays a vapid Los Angeles actor at a party, informing someone—presumably his agent or manager—on the phone, “I forgot my mantra.”The cameo lasted all of two seconds, but the line has become one of the most oft quoted from the classic film.
Now 65, Goldblum remains relentlessly busy. In Thor: Ragnarok, out this month, he plays the immortal, game-obsessed Grandmaster; he’s also reprising his role as Dr. Ian Malcolm in next year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Factor in his regular jazz gig in L.A. and two kids under the age of three, and Goldblum would seem to be leading a sleepless existence. But he says he’s sleeping just fine these days, thank you very much. In this Vanity Fair interview, he talks about vice-free living, an unlikely early job (it involved jails), and how he repaid Woody Allen for that early-fame favor.
Jim Shepard is always funny in conversation—but never more so than when he’s imparting dark musings about the future of the country or about human nature in general. And he can often be found musing about these dark things, for he is, as he puts it, “resourcefully pessimistic.”
As evidence, he cites the title of his just-released book, The Tunnel at the End of the Light: Essays on Movies and Politics. Many of us nursing the bitter cocktail that is the Trump administration are familiar with this sentiment, but Shepard’s book has been decades in the making. There has always been something to despair about, he announces jovially: The title “reflects the sinking sense I’ve had following American politics since the late 1960s. It’s been an ongoing cycle of progressive and thoughtful people saying, Well, this is a new low, but we have something to look forward to—and then hitting a new low after that.”
An award-winning, seven-time novelist and professor of English and film studies at Williams College, Shepard has studied certain iconic, influential American movies, from Casablanca to Goodfellas to Schindler’s List—along with “what they’re selling us”—for clues as to why this country keeps finding itself in the soul-crushing cycle of Icarus highs and lows. They provide, he concludes, a constructive road map. He pulled his book’s title from an anecdote about the 1974 noir film Chinatown, in which scriptwriter Robert Towne told director Roman Polanski that the dark ending was like “the tunnel at the end of the light”—much like the circumstances contributing to the déjà-vu political landscape Shepard sees now. He and I spoke last week about how movies both reflect and generate the circumstances that made the presidency of a creature like Donald J. Trump possible in the first place.
On September 14 at 9 PM ET, Logo TV will air “Kevyn Aucoin: Beauty and the Beast in Me,” a documentary about the rise and fall of legendary make-up artist Kevyn Aucoin, who helped define the 1990s supermodel era and became the world’s first celebrity make-up artist. The film reveals, for the first time, extensive Camcorder footage Aucoin shot of his own life and times.
While documentary depicts the glamorous aspects of Aucoin’s life, it also showcases his deep background, both through Aucoin’s own footage and director Lori Kaye’s excellent reporting. Born in 1962 to an unwed, sixteen-year-old mother in rural Louisiana, he was given up for adoption and raised in a nearby town. He knew that he was gay by age six, and so did everyone else: in high school, his classmates tried to kill him with a pick-up truck. Aucoin dropped out. He eventually made his way to 1980s NYC and launched his career.
Aucoin eventually documented on tape his reunion with his birth mother after tracking her down. She rejected him, and told him that he wouldn’t have been gay if she had raised him. But he had the unrelenting, heartbreaking support of his adoptive family, who quit their local church because it taught that homosexuality was a sin. “No one was going to tell me that something was wrong with my boy because he was gay,” his adoptive father tells Kaye in the doc.
Lori Kaye’s access in “Kevyn Aucoin: Beauty and the Beast in Me” is astonishing, and apparently unlimited: everyone from the supermodels of the era to Aucoin’s birth mother spoke with her. The film not only depicts a now-vanished 1980s and 90s NYC, but also gives a surprisingly nuanced portrait of small town Louisiana, where pockets of tolerance thrive.
The original version of this story appeared in the September 2017 edition of Vogue, which celebrated the magazine’s 125th anniversary.
When Los Angeles-based fashion designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy are asked to identify the genre of their debut feature, Woodshock, their answer is decidedly noncommittal. “I’m not sure we should try to categorize it,” says Laura, and then ventures a try. “I would not describe it as experimental. It’s more of a non-traditional narrative, a drama.”
Producer Ben LeClair confirms that classifying Woodshock—which debuts this September at the Venice Film Festival —has proved difficult for the project’s entire team. “We’re reluctant to corner it or put it in a box,” he says. “It’s in a space all to itself.” Kirsten Dunst, who plays the movie’s main character, adds, “The film is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There’s definitely a psychological element in a Polanski sort of way.”
Read Ms. Blume’s WSJ Magazine article on the Mulleavy’s sisters’ bold, idiosyncratic leap into filmmaking.
If Frederick Vreeland’s famous Marrakech estate has long been a private-jet-set enclave, the public now has its chance to get an inside glimpse. The property has just been put up for sale, with an asking price of $2 million. Like many of its guests over the decades, the earth-colored house (official hue: “Marrakech la Rouge”) has an outsized, idiosyncratic personality. The Vreelands commissioned Anglo-French solar architect Dominic Michaelis to create the building, with the instructions that it should be designed with an elaborate game of hide-and-seek in mind. “We insisted that it should be almost impossible to find one’s way around,” says Vreeland. “People had to be able to get lost.”
Invitations to this sprawling 12,000-square-foot desert fortress in the Palmeraie, outside Marrakech, have long been coveted by luminaries and pleasure-seekers on at least three continents. The Vreelands’ giddy entertainments and days-long house parties are the stuff of legend in certain circles. (The house sleeps 16, but, Vreeland notes, more guests can be easily stashed away on the myriad veranda-and-living room couches and chaises.)
Mick Jagger used to let his offspring ride the Vreelands’ resident camel, Jamila; the rock star himself could occasionally be compelled to hop on the animal’s back for a ride around the house’s camel-racing track, nicknamed the “Chamodrome.” King Hassan II took an interest in the house’s grand eccentricities. Society photographer Slim Aarons shot the Moroccan-door-shaped pool for his book Poolside with Slim Aarons. Read more about the home and the Vreelands’ world in this Vanity Fair story.
As a historical journalist and biographer, my life is populated with dusty, out-of-print tomes; when I moved last year from New York City to Los Angeles, I carted along with me over 3,000 books. And I still want more.
But, as a shallow-pocketed writer, I am a nuisance presence in Los Angeles’s elite antiquarian bookstores. This doesn’t mean that I don’t covet their wares anyway. (One Mystery Pier Books item that tempts me to the precipice of theft: Cecil B. DeMille’s personal copy of “The Great Gatsby,” complete with linen box and DeMille bookplate — a bargain at $7,500.)
Within weeks of my arrival in Los Angeles last year, I had already hunted down a passel of the most eccentric rare and vintage bookstores in town. To my great pleasure, these stores offered a highly specific and often amusing glimpse into the soul and workings of my adopted city. Despite its richly deserved reputation for superficiality, Los Angeles is indeed a reading town, but with a uniquely transactional relationship to books, especially those that are remnants of bygone eras (Dynamite, anyone?).
Read on to become acquainted with this world and its characters, many of whom are as colorful as those in the books they sell.
In the summer of 1950, in Paris, the most unlikely party in town was happening in a walk-up on the rue de Vaugirard. After lumbering up six flights of stairs, one might be astonished to find that the destination was a former photography school, sans water and electricity, but no matter. Everyone in town made that trek, and there stood the world’s great models, artists, and intellectuals alongside mailmen, pastry chefs, and vegetable sellers. The host was photographer Irving Penn, then in Paris to document the full spectrum of the “human comedy,” as one of his mentors, creative director Alexander Liberman, put it.
Penn was an intense and quiet man, but had a voracious appetite for character. Everyone and everything intrigued him. Yet he was intensely private, and rarely turned the camera back on himself. On the eve of a major new Penn retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lesley Blume spoke with Penn’s family, collaborators, and collectors to create an intimate portrait of a man dedicated to shining the spotlight on others. She delves into his process and inspirations, documents his sleepless nights and curious portable studio, which he brought even to the wilds of Africa. The story is a glimpse into the life someone considered by the Met to be “one of the most celebrated American artists of the 20th century.”
Photo: ‘After-Dinner Games’ by Irving Penn, 1947, © Conde Nast.
A few years ago, when I heard through the grapevine that Grey Gardens was up for rent, I thought it had to be a bizarre joke: What kind of a sick twist would pay to spend time in the notorious cat-and-rot-scented squalor so memorably depicted in the Maysles brothers’ 1975 documentary Grey Gardens?
It turned out Grey Gardens had long since been renovated back into a glistening private playground for the intelligentsia A-list. (My ignorance of this fact confirmed me as an intelligentsia C-lister, at best.) In 1979, the Washington journalist and social doyenne Sally Quinn bought the house with her husband, Ben Bradlee, the Watergate-era executive editor at the Washington Post; they lovingly restored the estate to its 1930s glory; there, amid the rose bushes and chintz chaise lounges, they entertained the gods and goddesses of the film and political worlds. More recently, they offered to share Grey Gardens by renting it to those willing to pay $150,000 a month for the privilege. (It’s now on the market for nearly $20 million.)
Sensing a now-or-never opportunity to get a firsthand glimpse of the place, I pitched a story on Grey Gardens and assailed Sally Quinn with a request to stay there. She kindly granted me a couple of days at the house. I fell in love with everything: the clawfoot bathtubs, the armada of wicker furniture, the elaborate butler’s pantry – but above all, the Beales’ incredible book collection. More than anything else in that storied house, the library gave me an intimate, voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of the people who’d lived there over the past century. Here is my story on those literary artifacts, now on sale with the rest of the estate.
When I was a 23-year-old grad student, more than anything, I wanted to be a foreign correspondent. More specifically, I wanted to be Christiane Amanpour or Martha Gellhorn, or basically a female Edward Murrow, and — in my mind — the more alien the backdrop for my training, the better.
I chose Amman as my destination to learn the trade. This might not seem daring to some, but back then, the idea of an American girl setting up shop in the Arab world felt ballsy to me. To be fair, it was admittedly a relatively calm time in the Middle East. This was 1999, before the world had been rocked by 9/11, the 2003 Iraq invasion, the rise of ISIS, the devastating Syrian Civil War, and Trump’s proposed so-called Muslim bans. As Ernest Hemingway once wrote about attending a bullfight, it might be like “having a ringside seat at [a] war, with nothing going to happen to you.”
But when I got to Jordan, something did happen to me — or someone, rather. And with this person, I did something that seemed little and strangely sensible at the time, but suddenly, given recent events, seems extraordinary now, and also reminds me how far I was willing to go to become the reporter I wanted to be. I came away unscathed, but probably only because a tragedy abruptly cut short my Amman adventure before I could take things too far. This is the story of that summer, and the Arab man who taught me much of what I know about being a journalist today.
Anita Loos – one of early Hollywood’s greatest writers – helped invent the industry. Hell, she even helped to invent its inventors. She would pen some 200 screenplays and help turn Douglas Fairbanks, Jean Harlow and Audrey Hepburn into stars. During the Depression, she earned the then-astronomical sum of $1,000 a week at MGM. She also found time to write the best-seller Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and to conjure up showstoppers for Broadway. For more than 60 years, Loos was revered, widely imitated, called a genius by geniuses — and yet never was nominated for an Oscar. Why?
In this story, featured in the Hollywood Reporter‘s Oscars-and-the-gender-divide issue, Ms. Blume speaks with experts about the life and legacy of Ms. Loos, and why female screenwriters still have a near-impossible time getting high-level recognition today.
Some women appear to have it all: brains, looks, talent, and wit. Actress Gillian Jacobs, 34, is among these rarefied creatures, but she is not above envy. She watched the launch of the HBO series Girls with mixed feelings.
“At the time, I was on Community, and we were always fighting to stay on the air,” she recalls. “I was excited for Lena, but there’s also a natural jealousy.”
Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, which is just what Jacobs did: in Season Four, she joined the cast of Girls as the cult-favorite character Mimi-Rose Howard, arguably the most defiant and least needy female on the show. She now stars in her own Judd Apatow-created Netflix rom-com series, Love (which returns for a second season on March 10), as well as a slate of upcoming films (Dean and Magic Camp). Jacobs is quickly emerging as a patron saint of smart alecks and independent souls—even if her knees still sometimes knock and her teeth chatter during auditions.
In this story, she talks with Lesley Blume about the advantages of having been an oddball child, her unlikely penchant for Hannibal Lecter, and marriage in the realm of millennials.
“Shyness” was the diagnosis: After all, what else could possibly have caused Mary Landon Baker — heiress and socialite — to have left her fiancé, Allister McCormick, a fellow Chicagoan, at the altar so often in the early 1920s?
Newspapers around the world — including The New York Times, which referred to the would-be groom as “thrice jilted Allister McCormick” — delighted in covering the drama that unfolded between the two. In the end, nothing could compel Miss Baker to become Mrs. McCormick: not the Cartier sapphire engagement ring, nor the mountain of wedding gifts (valued at a reported $100,000), nor the thousand of well-heeled guests who showed up for the first wedding ceremony.
Called the “shy bride” by reporters, Miss Baker appears to have been anything but: Throughout the 1920s, she went through lovers like General Sherman blazing a path to the sea and provided excellent copy while doing so. Read Ms. Blume’s account of Ms. Baker’s anything-but-shy adventures here.
By his own admission, Stephen Starr has an aversion to fun. This may seem odd for a restaurateur who oversees more than 30 exuberant restaurants. But he’s quick to clarify: He wants you to have fun. He wants you to sip champagne and devour caviar and whoop it up. He just doesn’t want any of that stuff himself. “I’m the guy producing the show, watching it offstage with his arms folded,” he says.
The 59-year-old Philadelphia native is a maestro at creating sensory pleasures for others. Over the years, he has masterminded restaurants for all tastes, starting with a diner/comedy club in Philly and making his way into the foodie stratosphere; his best-known creations include New York’s Buddakan, Morimoto, Upland, and Le Coucou (which was recently awarded three stars by The New York Times). He has four new projects in the works, from Paris to South Beach. Yet, despite Starr’s success—which he craved early, unrepentantly—he was an accidental restaurateur.
In this story, he talks with Ms. Blume about who he would really be if only fate had made some different choices on his behalf, how divine intervention is required to make a restaurant click, and his obsession with canned tuna.
Like everyone else in the world, these past few weeks, I have been aghast at the real-time horror-show unfolding in Aleppo. Last night, I watched a handful of videos taken by a man who was scaling what had once been the city’s streets: devastated is too light a word for the destruction there. Pulverized—that’s more like it.
Years ago, I spent some time in Aleppo, and as I watched the videos, I desperately scanned the landscape for surviving landmarks. And I found that I was irrationally searching, above all, for staff members of the Baron Hotel, which had been my home during my time there, and for the hotel itself.
This is the story of my own poignant encounter with the Baron, and the cosmopolitan international world it once embodied.
Fashion designer Tom Ford’s feature films depict catastrophic loss of control and the sheer misery that ensues. In Ford’s debut feature, A Single Man (2009), an English professor grapples with the sudden death of his lover. In his latest film, Nocturnal Animals, out this month, a young man endures the kidnapping and murder of his wife and daughter. Why does Ford keep returning to this theme of ultimate loss?
“It sort of preys on my mind all the time,” he says. “Because in the end, there is no control. You think there is. We try for it; we struggle for it. But I’m going to pull out of that driveway and get hit by a truck on my way home. That’s just life.”
Read Ms. Blume’s profile on Mr. Ford, published on the eve of Nocturnal Animal‘s release. Designated WSJ Magazine’s film innovator of the year, Mr. Ford muses on what drives him (“Money and success buy you the freedom to do what you feel is right. I push boundaries because I can.”), how he envisions his legacy, his experience as a new father, and much more.
Photo by Terry Richardson.
It may be easy to poke fun at Love Story, the 1970 film starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal as star-crossed lovers from different social stratas. But it’s harder not to cry during the movie’s tragic final scenes—just try. We challenge you.
The movie may be a tearjerker with some endearingly dated dialogue, but it also remains beguiling—and very stylish. Upon its 1970 premiere, Love Story became a runaway international hit; audiences around the globe sobbed in darkened theaters. The Academy bestowed its approval: seven nominations, including best actor and actress noms for MacGraw and O’Neal. MacGraw, until then a virtual unknown with one starter film under her belt, became an icon of her generation.
Most starlets endure trials-by-fire in Hollywood, but with Love Story as a vehicle, MacGraw had a gilded ascent, protected and championed by Paramount chief Robert Evans and director Arthur Hiller, to whom MacGraw remained close until his death two weeks ago. In this story, she shares her recollections of the film’s director, its producer and stars, and how it changed all of their lives forever.
At first glance, Rodarte’s designs – created by sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy – might not summon images of Los Angeles, where the fashion scene has long been synonymous with yoga pants and denim cutoffs. But Rodarte’s rapid, almost astonishing ascent seems like a tale that only Hollywood could have conjured.
Since its 2005 debut, Rodarte has been worn by superstars like Michelle Obama, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton, to name a few. The Mulleavy sisters have also collaborated with members of the creative intelligentsia (Benjamin Millepied, Frank Gehry and Gustavo Dudamel among them) on films, ballets and operas, and they are directing their first feature film, starring Kirsten Dunst. Yet despite their status as serious American fashion auteurs, they’ve long resisted the almost gravitational pull to New York City, the industry’s center, and remain fiercely loyal to the City of Angels.
“California is just so ingrained in us,” Laura says. “In an hour, you can be in the desert, or on the beach, or in the mountains. It’s always been the thing we go back to. Nine times out of ten, in our collections, there’s an influence that came from being here.” In this story, the Rodarte sisters give Ms. Blume a tour of their private and beloved home city.
It is lunchtime in Los Angeles, and I am waiting for Anjelica Huston in the back of Musso & Frank Grill, reputed to be the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. This is a treat for me: after all, Huston is one of this town’s most rewarding conversationalists: wise, blunt, whip-smart — and she has decades of Tinseltown gossip to impart. She first moved here in 1973, and by the 1980s had reached the Oscars strata, like her father and grandfather before her. She has since worked with Wes Anderson, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen. Huston’s advantages and successes should inspire legions of envious detractors, but somehow she seems universally adored and admired. (“Oh, that’s not true,” she says later. “I’m sure bitchy things have been said.”) When she arrives at the restaurant, everyone gawks as she strides down the aisle. In the subsequent interview, the Transparent star talked about her longtime connection to the LGBTQ community, the Hollywood icon she would have loved to seduce, and her unlikely talisman.
Over the years, television has brought us Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, Mary and Rhoda. But in 1992 it spawned Absolutely Fabulous’s Patsy and Eddy, arguably the most hilariously despicable comedienne duo of all time. Relentlessly drunk, self-obsessed fashion slaves, Joanna Lumley’s magazine editor, Patsy Stone, and Jennifer Saunders’s publicist, Edina “Eddy” Monsoon, took madcap satire to giddy heights and sleazy lows.
The series ran sporadically through the 90s and into the 21st century, and this month Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (written by Saunders) is being unleashed upon us all. (Cameos include everyone from Stella McCartney to Joan Collins to Jerry Hall.)
Yet if Patsy is sublimely soul-less, Lumley is her antithesis: a beloved activist (principally on behalf of retired Gurkha soldiers seeking the right to settle in Great Britain), a global traveler, and a wise soul; at 70, she is considered a national treasure in at least two countries. That said, she isn’t exactly vice-free, as she explains in her interview with Ms. Blume.
During my sophomore year of high school, my parents gave me a choice: Play an after-school sport or get a job. In the end, it came down to vanity. After six long, terrible, socially exiled years of wearing braces on my teeth, the idea of dodging lacrosse, field hockey or tennis balls did not appeal to me. Employment seemed a reasonable act of self-preservation.
My friends and I decided to meet there at six o’clock. Under other circumstances, this hour might have seemed unchic, even geriatric, but these were unusual circumstances indeed. You see, this is the last week in which NYC’s Four Seasons restaurant shall remain among us—soon it will be stripped down, emptied. It will simply cease until it is chiseled into something else.
Legendary New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who for decades covered events and street fashion, has died at 87. For many of his lucky subjects, getting photographed by him was like getting approval from New York itself—an earlier incarnation of the city that shimmered with eccentric glamour and a particular sort of individualistic ambition.
Mr. Cunningham himself did not, at first glance, seem to exude glamour or ambition. Yes, he was spectacularly eccentric, but even the uninitiated could immediately deduce that Mr. Cunningham’s peculiarities were unaffected.
The more you knew about him—and everyone was always curious about this sweet, skinny man who darted around the corners of 57th St and Fifth Avenue and the ballrooms of the elite hotels with his 35 mm camera—you saw that he had an awful lot a lot in common with the city he documented. He was the city’s chief anthropologist and its mirror.
Read Ms. Blume’s love letter to Mr. Cunningham – and the NYC that is vanishing along with him.
By the mid-1920s, thousands of Americans were sending themselves over to Paris to take part in la vie boheme. The often-debauched cafes and bars of Montparnasse served as the heart and soul of the famous expat colony that grew there. Upon arrival, each expat picked his or her café affiliation carefully and was judged accordingly: each café was its own nation with its own rules – and once you became a citizen of one, you were expected to despise patrons of the others. The rivalries of expat patrons often paled in comparison to the black-hearted practices of the cafes’ owners, who regularly tried to sabotage one another. What follows: a brief guide – adapted from my new Hemingway biography, Everybody Behaves Badly – to the Lost Generation’s most notorious cafes and the low-grade war that raged among them.
Not all publicity is good publicity, after all: Consider the case of Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway. Married to writer Ernest Hemingway from 1927 to 1940, she may best be remembered as one of modern literary history’s most controversial home-wreckers.
Hemingway himself had a hand in ensuring that this would be her legacy. In his beloved Paris memoir, A Moveable Feast, written after their divorce, he vilified Pauline and claimed that she had “murdered” his first marriage to the gentle, matronly Hadley Richardson through the “oldest trick”—namely by befriending Hadley to get access to him and then promptly seducing him. Pauline is remembered for other things as well, such as her wealth, which was reportedly a powerful lure for Hemingway when he first met her in 1925.
What gets overlooked, however, are Pauline’s own hard-earned accomplishments. At that time, she was a successful fashion journalist for Vogue, and few biographers have ever bothered to highlight exactly how good she actually was at her job. Nor have they considered how this professional savvy may have played a role in bringing about the eventual Pauline-Hemingway union in the first place.
As I was researching my upcoming book, Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises, in which Pauline played an important role, I wanted to learn more about Pauline’s life as a reporter—but I found scant material in mainstream Hemingway bios. So my research assistants and I dug into the Vogue archives to learn more about her—and there she was, hiding in plain sight.
“First of all,” she told me, “you’re married. And so is he.”
“I know,” I said miserably.
“Plus, he has a mistress,” she pointed out.
“Yes,” I conceded.
“And, you know,” she went on, “he also happens to be dead.”
I had to admit that it was all rather inconvenient, but I was smitten and there was nothing I could do about it. My new boyfriend: F. Scott Fitzgerald, oracle of the Jazz Age, author of the great American novel. This is how it went down.
Several years ago, I came across a photograph of young Ernest Hemingway sitting at a cafe table with a group of people, including one beguiling, fashionable lady. There was something about the way she gazed at the camera; she managed to be both demure and coquettish.
I soon learned that her name was Lady Duff Twysden, and that she had been the prototype for Lady Brett Ashley, Hemingway’s iconic femme fatale in his debut novel, The Sun Also Rises. The image inspired me to write my upcoming biography, Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises (June 7, HMH).
Some time later, in the course of my research, I came across another powerful photograph, unearthed in the detritus of a long-forgotten estate. The image is undated, but it may be the last surviving photograph of Lady Duff Twysden, and this is the first time it has been published.
Here is the story behind it, and of the final days of the woman who inspired one of the most glamorous female characters in modern literature.
Ernest Hemingway’s debut novel gave a voice to the Lost Generation—often by lifting it directly from his affluent expat circle in post-war Paris. In her new book – Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises — Lesley M. M. Blume recounts the scandalous trip to Pamplona that inspired Jake Barnes, Lady Brett Ashley, Robert Cohn, and the characters from literature’s greatest roman à clef.
Everybody Behaves Badly was originally conceived as a possible article for Vanity Fair, to which Blume is a regular contributor, but was immediately expanded into a book instead. It will be released on June 7 by Eamon Dolan Books / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Rifat Ozbek belongs to a small but special club that has no name, comprised of artists who walk away from the spotlight at the peak of their fame. The fashion designer had a devout following in the 1980s and ’90s, but about a decade ago, Ozbek felt the cycles had grown too demanding, and so took refuge in designing his holiday home in Bodrum, Turkey. There he began making decorative cushions with textiles from Central Asia and Uzbekistan and filling them with down and Turkish lavender. From that, Yastik, his line of exquisite pillows, was born. “I wanted to simplify my life and do one product: no seasons, no fit problems,” he laughs. Exciting new projects are now in the works, and the stage is set for his second act.
My husband and I probably weren’t the most obvious candidates to move to Los Angeles. I am what people often describe as a quintessential New York character, for better or worse. Consider the evidence: I am invariably clad in black; I am addicted to my work; I am more inclined toward cheese plates than canyon hikes; I practically lived at Bemelmans and the 21 Club. But Los Angeles began to beckon us several years ago, and this year we made the leap. Read on to see my survival lessons for other New Yorkers looking to adopt L.A. as their home.
That Anderson Cooper hails from Vanderbilt lineage belongs to that strange category of well-known but still-surprising trivia. His own career trajectory—a newsman who has for decades covered wars, famine and natural disasters, along with the occasional New Year’s Eve—seems so profoundly un-Vanderbilt-y. His mother, Gloria Vanderbilt — a Studio 54 fixture and 1960s fashion icon — is in many ways a product of the Gilded Age, more Whartonian than Warholian. She hails from the now-extinct realm of dollar princesses and Newport “cottages.” For anyone who has ever wondered how Mr. Cooper relates to this heritage, a new book, The Rainbow Comes and Goes – a conversation between this famous mother and son – should provide some insight.
If Robert Evans minds the fact that I’ve been climbing into bed with him recently, he has been very polite about it. Then again, I’m certainly not the only one to regale him there: That famous bed has long been known as Evan’s de facto office. Over the past few weeks, the legendary Hollywood producer and I have been talking about, well, everything under the sun, and I have recorded those chats in a three-part series for Violet Grey. In the first story (see below), I relayed his reflections on actresses, Oscars, and his favorite red carpet moment. In the second, we discussed beauty, allure, and what makes someone truly glamorous. For this final installment, we had a more serious talk, during which Mr. Evans schooled me in his own brand of terribly important life lessons. As someone who has lived life more fully, recklessly, and hungrily than most, he has proved a most instructive mentor. The final story in a three-part series.
It would seem the textile designer Madeline Weinrib was predestined for her line of work. After all, her grandfather founded the Manhattan design mecca ABC Carpet & Home, which he passed down to her father, and her grandmother was a skilled tailor. But Weinrib never saw it that way — not at first, anyway. “I didn’t even like carpets,” she recalls — perhaps a youthful inclination to go against the genetic grain. Instead, Weinrib became a painter. In her 30s, the family trade began to draw her in. Twenty years later, the New York native is considered one of the earliest pioneers of the now-ubiquitous bohemian, East-meets-West design boom.
In 1959, as Ernest Hemingway’s personal assistant, Valerie Danby-Smith traveled to Paris with the writer to revisit scenes from his youth—the Paris of Joyce and Fitzgerald; the Paris of Jake Barnes, Lady Brett Ashley, and the Lost Generation; the Paris where “you could live very well on almost nothing,” as he later wrote. Valerie is a rare firsthand witness to the city through his eyes, for she shadowed him as he fact-checked the manuscript of what would later become ‘A Moveable Feast’ – his beloved Paris memoir which recently surged again to the top of best-seller lists. “I’ve gone back [to the city] many times, but I’ve not revisited it in that way,” Valerie told Ms. Blume. “It’s too personal and precious.” Yet she recently retraced that journey with Ms. Blume and gave us a rare glimpse not only into Hemingway’s early years as a writer, but also into the artist’s life and mindset just two years before his tragic death.
Pablo Picasso had a reputation for captivating and then subsuming his paramours—with one glaring exception: French artist Françoise Gilot. Just 21 years old when she met him, Gilot was a strong, definite presence. Her independence rankled Picasso, but it appears to have also worked on him like catnip. Throughout their nearly 10-year relationship, he liberally documented her image in paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Gilot did gradually become part of the Picasso machine, acting as assistant and archivist and bearing two of his children, but she never wholly succumbed to him. In her new book About Women and in this interview with Lesley Blume, Gilot reminds us that she was never in Picasso’s shadow.
It’s hard to improve upon perfection, but in the early 1960s George Whitman felt that something was missing. Yes, his Left Bank bookstore, Shakespeare and Company—an homage to the original bookshop owned by Lost Generation doyenne Sylvia Beach—had become a celebrated haunt for his generation’s literati, but that wasn’t quite enough. Soon Whitman identified the missing ingredients: coffee and lemon pie. Shakespeare and Company needed a literary café in the little medieval building next door. The only hitch: the building’s owner wouldn’t let him have it. Whitman passed away in 2011, but now, thanks to his daughter Sylvia, his dream is about to come true fifty years later.
Ralph Fiennes must infuriate fellow actors who lack his range, which almost defies believability. Over the past 25 years, the English actor has readily conquered Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Shaw, and collaborated with Spielberg, Minghella, and Anderson. He has played sinister villains, idiosyncratic Lotharios, and earnest romantic leads. Considering his sprawling résumé, it’s hard to believe that he once doubted that he had the stuff to act in the first place. In this profile, Fiennes, eternally boyish at 52, talks about his affection for anachronistic turns of phrase, why he roots for the bad guy, and his teenage infatuation with Ian Fleming novels.
David Muir, anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight, knew he wanted to be a journalist by the time he hit double digits. Around fifth grade, he began broadcasting from inside a cardboard box in his family’s living room in Syracuse, New York. Soon he used his allowance to buy a cassette recorder at RadioShack and began to interview his sister’s teenage friends. Fast-forward three decades and his interview subjects have a tad more gravitas—Barack Obama, Tim Cook, and Bill Gates, to name a few. Now that he’s been at the helm for one year, Muir talks about life as a new breed of evening anchor, his embarrassing dearth of real vices, and tweeting during commercial breaks.
Betty Halbreich has been privately famous for a long time. As Bergdorf Goodman’s grande dame personal shopper, she has dressed the rich and powerful for 40 years. Recently, however, this crowd has had to share Halbreich, 86, with the masses. In the 2013 documentary “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s,” Halbreich delighted audiences as a surprisingly salty mensch amidst a fantasy world of feathers, sequins and American Express Black Cards. Lena Dunham, creator of HBO’s “Girls,” is now developing a television series inspired by Halbreich’s life, also detailed in Halbreich’s new memoir, “I’ll Drink to That.” Read Blume’s Wall Street Journal review of the just-released book.
It would be hard to overstate the influence of Mary Tyler Moore when she emerged as a superstar in the mid-1960s. Back in the days of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, who could resist her? As an on-screen career woman, Moore mastered pitch-perfection. On the eve of the Emmys, and in the second installment of her ‘Moment in Time’ series, Blume talks with the TV icon about her career, style, and what makes a woman feel beautiful.
Do not use the word “empire” to Danny Meyer: it makes the hair on his arms stand up, he says. He’s happy to be called a humble restaurateur, thank you very much—despite being the C.E.O. of Union Square Hospitality Group and founder of an almost indecent number of James Beard Award–winning and Michelin Star–earning New York City restaurants. Below: the famed maestro of high-low dining gives Lesley Blume a glimpse into his frantically busy and delectable life.
From a potential leading actor who died of a drug overdose to a marshmallow man suit that went up in flames, the original Ghostbusters looked like anything but a slam-dunk when Columbia Pictures made it in 1984. On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the movie’s premiere, its cast, director, producers, and other industry greats share their recollections with Blume about the genesis of the Ghostbusters phenomenon, talk about how it helped rewrite the film industry, and discuss the franchise’s future.