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.
Part of the Times’s “Committed” series: 165 Years of Love (and War) in The New York Times Wedding Announcements.
“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.
I can’t remember how I landed at Toys in the Attic, a now defunct toy store. I didn’t like children, and I detest dolls — I mean, I really hate them, especially the ones whose eyes roll shut when you tilt them backward. But the store’s owner gave me an after-school-and-Saturdays gig. I might have seemed an incongruous hire, but she had a gift for hiring employees with no affinity for the under-10 crowd. This is what I learned from my unlikely comrades there.
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.
We had been hearing rumors that a great party had been going on there at the bar and restaurant, a days-long fête that was only getting crazier each successive evening, that half of New York was showing up, that it wasn’t to be missed. Like many great parties, this one had been entirely unplanned. It had simply started the way wild fires sometimes start: no one knows how. This is what went down that night.
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.
Last year, I confessed to my best friend that I had fallen in love with another man. When she heard this man’s identity, she knew I was in trouble.
“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.
Vanity Fair‘s exclusive advance excerpt of Blume’s upcoming Hemingway biography, Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises.
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.
This iconic author’s distinctive persona appears to have been more or less bestowed at birth; even his bespoke hats have their own “byline”: MADE ESPECIALLY FOR GAY TALESE. Fellini attended his wedding after-party; he grew up alongside Grace Kelly at the Jersey Shore; Lorena Bobbit sends him Christmas cards. Read Blume’s June issue profile on Talese for more tidbits about his fascinating life.
If you love ideas and beauty and elegance, then you would likely love the famous Rizzoli Bookstore, housed in a glorious six-story townhouse on Manhattan’s 57th Street. But it’s closing its doors tomorrow and the building is slated for demolition. Read Blume’s story on her own longstanding love affair with this legendary literary haunt, and why its loss is a loss for all New Yorkers.
If anyone understands the importance of detail, it’s Wes Anderson. From The Royal Tenenbaums to Moonrise Kingdom to his new release, The Grand Budapest Hotel, each of his films showcases instantly recognizable, intricate diorama worlds, often stocked with preciously arranged camping tents, Crayola-colored portable record players, and pleasingly worn copies of National Geographic. Everything about his work signifies a man who likes things just so. All of which practically obliges one to wonder whether Anderson’s own life resembles a painstakingly curated vintage store. In this profile, one of America’s great modern film auteurs gives us a glimpse into his world.
Few women inspire near-universal adoration, but one person certainly falls into this rarefied category: Anjelica Huston, muse to some of the greatest auteurs of the modern film and fashion industries. Read this spirited interview with Ms. Huston here in Blume’s inaugural ‘Moment in Time’ column for newcomer Hollywood insider publication Violet Grey.
The elegant Montgomery Clift once reigned as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after leading men – but now it appears that he could have added “photographer” to his list of career credits as well. A long-forgotten collection of the actor’s personal photos has recently surfaced in the archives of the NYPL; Clift’s scrapbooks and portraits of fellow stars reveal his gift with a lens. Read Ms. Blume’s exclusive feature on the rediscovered Old Hollywood treasure trove.
What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago, the Starrett-Lehigh Building was considered Manhattan’s equivalent of real-estate Siberia -— admired by architects but shunned by commercial tenants because of its location in windswept, far-west Chelsea. These days, however, it’s commanding top rents and everyone from Ralph Lauren to Martha Stewart to Marchesa (not to mention the FBI) are making it home. Read Ms. Blume’s profile of a cultural icon that is basking in the spotlight once again.
“The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there.’” With this memorable opening line, writer Truman Capote set the melancholy tenor of In Cold Blood, the mega-bestseller that would make him world-famous – and ultimately ruin him. On the eve of the book’s 50th anniversary, Lesley Blume traveled to Holcomb, still one of literary history’s most notorious locales. Read her profile of the town, and the lingering Capote legend that wreathes the community – for better or worse.
An H-bomb has just hit Hollywood, in the form of a new book: The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. Author Ben Urwand’s research has revealed a shocking level of collaboration between the German government and Tinseltown’s studios in the 1930s. Read Ms. Blume’s interview with Urwand as he discusses the Nazis’ sinister consul in Los Angeles, Hitler’s passion for Mickey Mouse, and what was really at stake for the Germans as they sought to control Hollywood’s portrayals of their country.
Looming in the heart of Greenwich Village, the Marlton Hotel has housed countless counter-culture icons over the decades: Lenny Bruce dwelled there while on trial for obscenity; so did Valerie Solanas, Andy Warhol’s would-be assassin. Jack Kerouac holed up at the Marlton while working on the manuscripts for On the Road, Tristesse, and Subterraneans. Now the hotel is staging a comeback — and is poised to become Manhattan’s newest hotspot. Ms. Blume profiles the landmark for Vanity Fair‘s September issue.
Would you pay $50,000 for a coat? One man bought two. Ms. Blume reviews “The Coat Route,” a new book tracking the international genesis of these curious bespoke garments. Yet “The Coat Route” is more than than a “Tin Tin”-esque adventure for the Women’s Wear Daily crowd: rather, it compels us to remember that behind every garment is a deep history and a pair of human hands.