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A Culinary Genius In Doha

The Scottish-born chef Gordon Ramsay originally set out to become a professional soccer player, switching to catering college at age 19 following a knee injury. He went on to train under chef Marco Pierre White before deciding to specialize in French cuisine, working alongside Albert Roux at Le Gavroche in London and Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon in Paris. His first Michelin star came in 1997, when he was chef at Aubergine. When he was 33, his own venture, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, was awarded three Michelin stars. Today, his ever-growing chain of restaurants stretches from Los Angeles and New York to Paris and Hong Kong, and he continues to appear on television series such as Kitchen Nightmares and MasterChef. The chef launched two restaurants in 2012 at The St. Regis Doha: Opal by Gordon Ramsay, which serves classic western dishes in a bistro-style environment, and a fine-dining space, Gordon Ramsay Restaurant.
 
Which dish do you most enjoy cooking?
 
I love cooking all sorts; what I make depends on what mood I’m in and how long I want to spend in the kitchen. In my recent TV cooking series Ultimate Home Cooking, it was all about making tasty food at home: nothing too fancy, but great fish dishes, pies, desserts.

 

Is there anything you’d rather buy than make?
 
No. Cooking your own food is always a better and healthier option. I’m a big believer in cooking at home with the family. My kids do a lot of the cooking in the house and it’s much more enjoyable.

 

What do you eat when you’re home alone?
 
Something quick and simple, such as a good-quality steak with salad and a homemade dressing. I always like to see what’s in the cupboard: you’d be surprised what you can make with just a few staple ingredients.

 

What would you order from the menu at The St. Regis Doha?
 
From Gordon Ramsay Restaurant, I would choose the carpaccio of Scottish scallops. At Opal, the lamb burger with mint is one of my favorites, although I try different dishes every time I am there. I always ask the chef to create mini versions of dishes on the menu so I can sample all of them.

 

How do the dishes there differ from your other restaurants?
 
Opal is very similar to Bread Street Kitchen in London, and obviously Gordon Ramsay Restaurant is inspired by my three-Michelin-starred flagship restaurant. However, we do make changes to reference the local culture, the flavors that are popular in the region, and the fresh ingredients that we can get.

 

When you were a child, what was your favorite food?
 
Eggs Benedict. I’ve always loved having it in the morning; it’s all about the hollandaise sauce.

 

Which meal most reminds you of home?
 
Beef Wellington, which has become one of my signature dishes. It’s very versatile: you can change what meat you use (I recently used lamb) as well as the spices and secondary ingredients.

 

Which is the dish you’re most proud of?
 
King crab tortellini with lemongrass and tomato vinaigrette. It is simple and fresh and always impresses.

 

What’s been the most memorable moment of your career?
 
Getting the first Michelin star for Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (and of course getting three a few years later). But every time I’ve opened a restaurant it has been a really proud moment. I now have 25 globally and 13 in London, and there’s more to come. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have my restaurant business, TV career and wonderful family.

 

Are there any foods that you think are overrated?
 
No, although anything that is processed or poor quality is never good in my book. I grew up in a household with very little money so we ate some horrible food – spam. That definitely isn’t something I’d eat now.

 

What do you enjoy most about Doha?
 
The people. They have always been very friendly and extremely professional.

 

If you could revisit a meal that you’ve had in the past, what would it be?
 
I’m very lucky in that I eat out a lot and get to experience lots of different styles, concepts and cultures. The most recent amazing meal I’ve had was at Quique Dacosta in Spain. I was in the area filming for television and found myself in a terrible restaurant. We wanted to show them what amazing service was, so I took them to Quique Dacosta; it was fantastic.

 

What’s the secret to running a restaurant really well?
 
You have to have a great team. I definitely do, and when I’m asked who does the cooking when I’m not there, I say it’s the same people as when I am there. To run a restaurant, and certainly to be a chef, you have to have passion for what you do, work hard and persevere.
 
Your address: The St. Regis Doha


 

 

 

 

Ramsay’s repertoire
 
Bleu lobster salad, croquant of celeriac and apple
with homardine sauce

Terrine of duck foie gras, dried apricots and almonds,
strawberry vinaigrette

Buttered truffle and guinea fowl with sweet potato purée,
chestnuts and mushroom mix

 

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Gentleman Racer

Goodwood House might have remained just another of England’s lesser-known stately homes were it not for the fact that its present incumbent, the entrepreneurial Earl of March and Kinrara, has put it well and truly on the map as the site of the Festival of Speed and Revival events which attract car enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. But while visitors to the interior of the rambling 17th-century property get an impressive display of Sèvres porcelain, furniture by William Kent and paintings by Canaletto and Stubbs, they are seldom privy to the contents of Lord March’s office, which is crammed to the ceiling with an eclectic mix of the sort of car and motorcycle-related trinkets that are commonly known
as “automobilia”.

 

Lord March began the collection in the 1970s. “My grandfather, the aristocrat-turned-racing driver Freddie March, used to send copies of Veteran and Vintage magazines to me at school, and one of the things I’m most attached to comes from that time of my life,” he says. “It’s a copy of The Treasury of the Automobile by the American cartoonist Ralph Stein, which was one of the first of the big, full-color car books to be published during the 1960s. I used to love the pictures of great cars such as Type 35 Bugattis, and I’d spend hours doing drawings of them. “My grandfather was a very good model-maker. He made lots of models of cars and aircraft, some of which I still have. I’m also trying to collect all of the original Goodwood motor-racing-event posters produced when he originally operated the circuit between 1948 and 1966.”

 

One of the pieces Lord March most cherishes is also one of the smallest: a trophy in the form of a cigarette lighter engraved with the image of a horse. “My grandfather won it when the Lancia Car Club staged the first hill climb event at Goodwood in 1936. It represents the start of motorsport at Goodwood, which makes it very special. I also have his tattered silk scarf and armband from his racing days, and a lovely Roy Nockolds pencil drawing showing him winning the Brooklands Double Twelve in 1934.”

 

But it is since the first Festival of Speed 21 years ago that his collection has really taken off. “People just give me things,” he says. “I have hundreds of model cars, dozens of crash helmets. One of my favorites is the helmet worn by the great American driver Dan Gurney when he was racing Ford GT40s. It is incredibly flimsy. “I also have a couple of Stetsons which were gifts from famous drivers. One came from Jim Hall, co-founder of the 1960s racing firm Chaparral, who presented it to me after I became one of relatively few people to drive one of the cars. The other belonged to the legendary NASCAR racer Richard Petty – it’s massive and decorated with strange animal bones and bits of fur. It’s possibly the maddest thing in the whole house.”

 

The 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed takes place June 25 to 28 2015, and the Revival, September 11 to 13 2015, in Sussex, England. goodwood.com

Mexican Waves

Mexican Waves

For decades in the second half of the 20th century, Mexico City was dismissed as one of the most dysfunctional cities in the Americas, struggling to cope with a population edging past 20 million and an unfortunate geological site. Founded by the Aztecs in 1325 on an island on Lake Texcoco, the city had been built on soft soil which, as well as subsiding on a regular basis, was vulnerable to flooding and earthquakes. As other cities such as Buenos Aires and Rio flourished, constructing ever-higher skyscrapers, Mexico City had to be content with sprawling outwards, creating a conurbation that, futurists warned, was spiraling out of control.

 

Fast-forward to 2015, and how things have changed. The city is now a beacon of urban-design brilliance and all the world’s architects want a slice of the action. As architect Zaha Hadid observes, “Mexico City has the most amazing buildings – from Luis Barragán’s masterpieces to Félix Candela’s ‘shell’ building to really strong Brutalist and Mid-Century Modern structures.” In the past few decades, too, the city has undergone a renaissance, with a new generation of buildings by high-tech architects and designers. As well as a center of finance, Mexico City has become a hub for art, design and creativity, with an economy the size of Peru’s.

 

“Construction started to boom here even when other parts of the world were in recession,” says architect Ezequiel Farca, who works both in Mexico City and Los Angeles. “Architecture and design are going through a great phase now and are poetic and free enough to create something bold and full of imagination. Young architects are inspired by the Mexican masters, which you can see through their use of color, proportion and building techniques. At the same time there is a revival of furniture design and a greater appreciation for design icons such as Clara Porset and William Spratling.”

 

In the past ten years, not only have charming old buildings been given new life, but a mass of hotels, restaurants and stores have sprung up alongside the city’s 150 museums. New landmarks include the Soumaya Museum, designed by Fernando Romero, with its sinuous, futuristic form made of metallic, hexagonal reflective plates to house an art collection amassed by telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim Helú. Next door sits the Museo Jumex, designed by British architect David Chipperfield for fruit-juice giant Grupo Jumex’s contemporary art collection. Also winning admirers is the Chopo Museum, whose glorious extension by Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos is an addition to an original 1902 building by Bruno Möhring.

 

Working alongside local architects are a slew of big international names. British starchitect Norman Foster is coming to town to build, with local hero Fernando Romero, a much-needed new international airport. Argentinian architect César Pelli, who designed the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, came to Mexico City to build The St. Regis Hotel Tower in 2008, and Richard Meier is busy designing the Reforma Towers, a mixed-use project on main thoroughfare Paseo de la Reforma.

 

“Thanks to the constant relationship between Europe, North America and Mexico, architects and designers have found Mexico the most beautiful place to express their individuality and have constantly added to the city,” says Emmanuel Picault, a Frenchman who settled in the city when he was 18. “There is still a feeling of liberty and joy that brings people here.”

 

All of these projects highlight the vibrancy of Mexico City today. But they also add a new layer to a metropolis that has one of the most multifaceted histories of any city in the Americas. This is a city that has reinvented itself many times since the days of Montezuma, when its population was already a great deal larger than that of London.

 

When Hernán Cortés and his successors began work on a new colonial capital, it was the ruins of Aztec temples and palaces that they used as foundations for their own buildings. Cortés himself ordered the construction of the Metropolitan Cathedral – the oldest in Latin America – alongside the ruins of the Aztec Templo Mayor. Centuries later, the architects of “New Spain” continually sought to layer their own designs over those of previous civilizations. Although the later modernizers of the 19th century adopted Spanish and European architectural styles – with influences from Gothic architecture, Spanish neoclassicism and Hispano-Moorish motifs – they were equally inspired by the local mestizo population, creating a style of architecture that was uniquely Mexican.

 

Walk around Mexico City today and one can observe the process of cultural fusion that has helped to shape the capital. In some parts, such as Colonia Roma, Condesa and Juárez, it is possible to see the French influence of the 19th century and again when Art Nouveau emerged, French-trained architects ruled, and villas sprang up all over the more desirable suburbs.

 

In other parts, exciting 20th-century architecture dominates: buildings that were created after the end of the revolution in 1920, when a process of re-evaluation began. While some architects, such as the country’s greatest Modernist Luis Barragán, found inspiration in the simple purity of Mexican adobe houses, others looked to Europeans such as Le Corbusier. By combining both – the pure geometry of Modernism and the organic warmth and character of traditional Mexican architecture – local architects created a regional fusion with a rich personality all of its own.

 

If there is one architect whose legacy looms the largest in the city, it is Barragán, who died in 1988. His warm, sensitive but contemporary buildings – among the few Modernist examples loved by traditionalists, too – are full of vivid color, rich textures and integrated gardens and fountains. The ranch house that he designed for Folke Egerström in San Cristóbal is considered one of the greatest delights of 20th-century architecture and a celebration of both the architect’s and client’s love of horses. Barragán’s Chapel and Convent in Tlálpan are a hymn to light and serenity, while his Satellite City Towers on the Querétaro Highway are a much-loved public landmark. The architect’s own house in Tacubaya is open to the public and an essential stop on any architectural tour of the city.

 

As well as creating a distinctive architectural lexicon with his own buildings, Barragán also inspired a generation of local architects. They included the great Ricardo Legorreta, who shared his passion for color and texture expressed in vivid, modern forms, and designers such as Félix Candela and Teodoro González de León, who injected Mexican architecture and design with an energy, dynamism and ambition not seen before.

 

There are plenty of other individualists, too, who have imparted their own specific style on the landscape. Agustin Hernández, for example, takes inspiration from the pyramids, patios and ziggurats of Mayan cities, inventing houses that look like concrete spaceships on slender supporting pillars, hovering over the hills around Mexico City. Adamo Boari and Federico Mariscal created the Palacio de Bellas Artes in the 1930s, inspired by a mixture of neoclassical, Art Deco and Art Nouveau design and graced with murals by Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros. And Juan O’Gorman built a home-cum-studio for Rivera and Frida Kahlo, designed in an early Modernist style but full of color, light and drama. The list goes on.

 

“We love mystery and surprises,” Ricardo Legorreta once said. “Even in our way of being we are quite mysterious. We say we are a simple people but we are extremely complicated. The depth of the architecture we create is the depth of Mexico and its people.” 

 

Dominic Bradbury writes on design and architecture. His latest book,
Mid-Century Modern Complete, is published by Thames & Hudson/Abrams

 

Your address: The St. Regis Mexico City

 

Images: René Burri/Magnum Photos, Adam Wiseman, Inigo Bujedo Aguirre/Viewpictures.co.uk

 

 

Fernando Romero's Soumaya Museum

 

 

Enrique Norten's Chopo Museum extension

 

 

Luis Barragán's Satellite City Towers

 

 

Inside Romero's Soumaya Museum

 

 

MEXICAN DESIGN STARS PICK THEIR FAVORITE BUILDINGS 

Ezequiel Farca, Architect

 

National Autonomous University of Mexico. “Located in Pedregal in the south of the city, an example of great urban planning, where you can spend the whole day looking at the wonderful modernist buildings, gardens and museums.” unam.mx

 Vasconcelos Public Library. “By Alberto Kalach, this is one of the most impressive contemp­orary buildings in Mexico City.” bibliotecavasconcelos.gob.mx

 

Casa Barragán by Luis Barragán. “Always inspiring because of the use of light, space, mat­erials and color.” casaluisbarragan.org

Emmanuel Picault, Designer and Gallerist 

 

National Anthropology Museum. “Unforgettable.” mna.inah.gob.mx

Anahuacalli Museum. “Diego Rivera’s last atelier.” museoanahuacalli.org.mx

Teotihuacan. “The most powerful archaeo­logical site close to Mexico City.”

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THE TIARA

No woman looks bad in a tiara. As designer Vivienne Westwood said: “You can wear rubbish and you can just put [a tiara] on and it does something for your hair.” Hence the tiara’s return to glamorous heads, from the tousled locks of Georgia May Jagger to the regal crown of the Duchess of Cambridge. Although in European royal circles in previous centuries, crowns were daily attire, in the 20th century they were worn only for formal evening occasions, and then only by married women. In the past few years crowns have appeared on every catwalk, from Louis Vuitton to Roberto Cavalli. Why? Partly, specialists say, because of the return of conspicuous displays of wealth in places like China and Russia, and partly because many are extremely good value. A 19th-century tiara, for instance, can be purchased for less than $20,000, and makes a perfect heirloom – particularly those, like the Garrard Tudor Rose collection, that can be dismantled and made into earrings, brooch and pendant. What woman wouldn’t love that? graffdiamonds.com

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THE HYDRANGEA

When hip stylist Camille Bidault Waddington was photographed in her home for French Vogue, she chose to be shot alongside just a few of her favorite things: an antique wooden dresser, a sensuous sculpture and a vase overflowing with bulbous pom-poms of inky-blue hydrangeas. In the past, the hydrangea was a plant that was kept strictly outside. Today, it’s the bloom du jour, not just for stylists, but couturiers, jewellers, hoteliers – and even milliners. At last year’s Kentucky Derby, the heads of fashionable women were adorned with it, clearly inspired by such great hat-makers as Paulette Marchand, who created “caps” of hydrangea blossom for such clients as Greta Garbo and Edith Piaf. “Hydrangeas just go anywhere,” says florist Reed McIlvaine, whose arrangements adorn The St. Regis New York. “In winter we use big white balls of them to recreate snowy scenes, and in fall use them to turn the lobby into a jewelbox of beautiful rich antique colors. They’re incredibly versatile.” rennyandreed.com

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THE SNUFF BOTTLE

Just as men today might compare watches or cars, in 17th-century China the object of desire was a snuff bottle. According to dealer Robert Hall, these miniature bottles were not just objects in which to carry powdered tobacco, but intricately embellished masterpieces, created for China’s elite. Snuff bottles only came to popularity in China because of a ban on smoking tobacco by the rulers of the Qing Dynasty. A bottle that was both portable and watertight became the ultimate vanity object, and exquisite models were created by master craftsmen in materials from porcelain, jade, ivory and coral to wood and glass. Today hundreds of the tiny treasures still make their way into collectors’ hands through organizations such as the Baltimore-based International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society. Their value, too, has soared. In 2010, Bonham’s received one of the biggest ever collections, of 1,700 bottles, which it valued at more than $47m, and in 2011, a bottle delicately painted with a Chinese landscape was sold for a record-breaking $4.17m. e-yaji.com; snuffbottle.com

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FANCY WATCH FACES

While many horologists obsess about the movement and complications housed within a watch’s casing, for most watch-lovers, it is the look of a watch that matters most. Hence the trend in the past few years for watch manufacturers to invent increasingly decorative dials. Vacheron Constantin, the world’s oldest watch brand, has led the way by creating what are considered some of the most elaborate and intricate watches ever made. Each of its Métiers d’art collection is not just decorated with a different and highly complicated pattern, but layered with enamel, engraved by master craftsmen and then hand-painted by fine artists. Although the trend for decorative watches is gaining momentum, it dates back more than 500 years to when watches were made using mostly brass or copper and the dials enamelled to make them look more luxurious. In the 21st century, just as in the Middle Ages, designers have realized that, while complications are beloved by aficionados, the one thing no watch-lover can resist is a pretty face. vacheron-constantin.com

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WOODEN SURFBOARDS

For those who didn’t know that wooden surfboards were having a moment, there is plenty of proof online. Such is the devotion of the natural board’s fans that there are now more than 120 websites dedicated to their manufacture. Once the means by which islanders would sail between atolls in the South Seas, wooden boards have become not just the most coveted of surfing equipment, but the most expensive. Master craftsman Roy Stuart recently made the ultimate luxury board, the $1.3m Rampant, its surface hand-painted in gold leaf and finely skimmed in Paulownia. This Asian wood was relatively unknown by surfboard makers until it was used in Australia in the 1980s by the American board-shaper Tom Wegener, who has subsequently become its greatest supporter. Not only is the Asian wood lighter than balsa, it is also more resistant to salt water than any other wood. Today, inspired by the ancient alaia boards in Hawaii’s Bishop Museum – often more than six feet long, finless and only half an inch thick – Wegener has created the finest, lightest waveriders ever created. driftwoodsurfboards.co.uk

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American Beauty

Twentieth-century New York was full of fashion role models: high-society ladies whose wardrobes were as stylish as any European aristocrat’s, whose jewelry was priceless and whose elegance was the result of years of devoted attention. But none had quite the grace of Babe Paley.

 

Babe was the style icon of her day. The leader for a decade of the Ten Best Dressed list and an inductee into the Fashion Hall of Fame, she was a friend of and hostess to some of the most famous people in America. Babe was part of a circle alongside supposed wartime spy Gloria Guinness, actress and fashion designer C. Z. Guest, Hollywood socialite Slim Keith, Marella Agnelli, wife of Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, and Pamela Harriman, daughter-in-law of Winston Churchill and a future United States Ambassador to France. Truman Capote (a friend until he wrote an unflattering, minimally fictionalized exposé in 1975 that severed their bond) called these elegant women “the swans”, due to their propensity to group and glide through society like graceful birds.

 

What made Babe stand out from the rest of the swans was her compelling presence. As her friend, jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane, put it, Babe Paley, like the Mona Lisa, had a face that was both memorable and elusive. Eerily attractive and supremely charismatic, she was a product of a time when society figures were household names – and when women were schooled to be the epitome of elegance.

 

“One look from Babe and you melted,” Lane says. “You fell in love with her the moment her marvelous eyes looked at you. Every waiter in every restaurant fell in love with her. She made you feel that she was in love with you. If she walked into a room, people didn’t quite stop breathing altogether, but they held their breath for a minute. She had an aura.”

 

She also knew how to live in supreme style. After her marriage to CBS founder William S. Paley in 1947, she established an estate, Kiluna Farm, on Long Island, where the couple spent weekends and guests included the likes of Lucille Ball, Grace Kelly and David O. Selznick. In Manhattan they occupied a magnificent suite at The St. Regis, which Babe remodeled with the help of society decorator Billy Baldwin. “I was in my early twenties when I first saw their apartment at The St. Regis,” recalls Lane. “It was a corner suite, and it had been tented by Baldwin. There was a wonderful birdcage chandelier hanging in the middle of the drawing room.”

 

As David Grafton, who wrote the definitive biography of Babe and her family, The Sisters: The Lives and Times of the Fabulous Cushing Sisters, describes the apartment: “Using yard upon yard of Indian cotton… Babe transformed the space into an exotic fantasy.” Later, when she and her husband moved into their 20-room duplex at 820 Fifth Avenue, while still keeping her St. Regis suite, Baldwin “recreated their old St. Regis living room, which he had installed originally as a jewel-like library”.

 

Babe didn’t have to work her way up in society. She was born into it on July 15, 1915, to Harvey Cushing, a pioneering brain surgeon, and his wife Kate, a gracious but determined society hostess in Boston. As Grafton writes, “Early on, the Cushing sisters learned to entertain and cater to the comforts of an eclectic mix of personalities, many of whom were masters of their own medical or social fiefdoms.” The late Millicent Fenwick, a friend of Babe’s and a New Jersey congresswoman, remarked, “Each of the girls, and especially Babe, entered the world convinced that they were the most attractive young women in the world, combining beauty and brains.”

 

Barbara was the youngest of the five Cushing children – hence her nickname, Babe – and she and her sisters were groomed from the start to marry well, a goal that became a virtual profession for their mother. Kate proved instrumental in engineering the 1930 marriage of her first daughter Betsey to James Roosevelt, eldest son of Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Minnie would eventually marry Vincent Astor, Jr., who owned The St. Regis in New York.

 

In 1940 Babe married Stanley Grafton Mortimer, Jr., grandson of one of the founders of Standard Oil. She had been working at Vogue, less as a day-to-day line editor and more as one of the magazine’s legions of young, socially prominent women forging connections with designers of the day – the likes of Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Cristobál Balenciaga. She was still at Vogue when the couple divorced in 1946, and she first met the significantly older, still-married Paley.

 

Their union in 1947 was, in some ways, unlikely, in that Paley, although powerful, was the son of Jewish immigrants – a detail that remained unsettling for Babe’s WASP mother at a time when such issues mattered among America’s elite. But with his intellect and contacts, and her social abilities, the couple became the hub around which high-society events revolved.

 

While powerful men need not be handsome or even charming, powerful women, especially in the mid-20th century, had to be beautiful. While Babe certainly possessed the beauty, she also had, as legendary interior designer Mario Buatta says, “substance and a sense of humor. I remember being at a client’s house for lunch one Sunday. Babe was at the table, about ten of us, and she was very quiet for some reason. But then she secretly put a piece of spinach on a front tooth. Finally, one of her friends at the table pointed it out to her. It got her the attention she wanted and it brought her into the conversation – a skill she never had any problems with.”

 

David Jannes, an art collector and former PR who handled some of New York’s most glittering society events, says, “You have to remember that Babe Paley and the women in her circle were true individuals. The society women of today don’t stand out in the way people like Babe Paley did. She dedicated her life to beauty – in her personal appearance, the objects she acquired, the people she surrounded herself with, the homes she made at The St. Regis and Fifth Avenue and elsewhere.”

 

The couple entertained CBS stars such as Edward R. Murrow, visiting dignitaries and politicians, and writers including Capote, who once famously said of his former friend, “Babe Paley had only one fault. She was perfect. Otherwise she was perfect.” Style was everything at their Fifth Avenue apartment. Sheets were ironed twice, once in the laundry, and once on the bed. Menus were archived to avoid serving the same meals to returning guests. Visitors complained of not being able to get into the bathroom because there were so many flowers. To cap it all, Paley had amassed a distinguished art collection, a centerpiece of which was Picasso’s Boy Leading a Horse (previously owned by Gertrude Stein, and which now hangs in the Museum of Modern Art, a gift from Mr. Paley).

 

Much has been written about Babe and Paley’s troubled marriage, both then and subsequently. Paley was devoted to Babe and keenly aware of the cachet she brought him, yet he was also a conspicuous womanizer. “Bill was Bill
and she knew it,” says Kenneth Jay Lane, who maintained a close friendship with Paley after Babe’s death. “She adored him. He was a fascinating man and much of her role was to make him happy.” Yet Capote, quoted in Gerald Clarke’s biography of the writer, said, “I never met anybody who was so desperately unhappy as she was… Once she tried to leave [Bill] and I sat down and said, ‘Look… Bill bought you. It’s as if he went down to Central Casting. Look upon being Mrs William S. Paley as a job, the best job in the world.”

 

Throughout her decades-long tenure as a society leader, the embodiment of high fashion, and a fundraiser for her favorite charities, Babe also occupied a role that could only have existed in her day. Certainly to fashionable women in New York, but also to those in the far reaches of America, Babe Paley was a recognized name, the exemplar of style and grace. Such was her power that one warm day, upon leaving a Manhattan restaurant, she removed her scarf and tied it to her purse. Paparazzi recorded the moment and “in no time, women throughout America were tying scarves to their handbags,” recalls Grafton. “So great was Babe Paley’s charisma that women of all ages and from every walk of life would do nearly anything to emulate her. They wanted not only to look like her but to be like her.”

 

 

Portrait by Horst P. Horst, 1946

Although Babe died in 1978, she is referenced for her style and look as if she were still attending parties and opening the door to her apartment to receive guests. “I think one of the reasons Babe endures is that she doesn’t look outdated. She looked like a modern-day woman even in the late ’40s and ’50s,” remarks Annette Tapert, who included a chapter about Babe in her iconic book, The Power of Style. “There’s also the fact that her name keeps getting passed down in style folklore. Young girls at fashion magazines today invoke her name.”

 

Poignantly, it was probably in part the pressures of maintaining the image of style icon and socialite supreme that created fissures in her marriage and contributed to her premature death. While Paley liked to see his wife project an image of impossible glamor, forever draped in furs and the most expensive jewelry, Babe’s love of fashion and design made her an early champion of the unconventional pantsuit. As she aged, rather than attempting to preserve an illusion of youth, she eschewed hair dye and presented her graying locks to the world.

 

Like many other women of her time, Babe also smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. Just a day before she entered a New York hospital to begin treatment for the lung cancer that would eventually lead to her death, she called her friend Kenneth Jay Lane, and invited him to meet for lunch. “She showed up wearing a long strand of big green beads,” he says. “I loved them. I said, ‘Babe, are those…’ and she said, ‘Yes.’ They were emeralds and I’d never seen the necklace before. ‘I haven’t worn this for years,’ she said, ‘but I knew you’d love them and I wanted to wear them for you.’ That’s the kind of person she was.”

 

Your address: The St. Regis New York

 

Images: Horst P. Horst © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis, CBS Photo Archive/Contributor, Erwin Blumenfel D © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis

 

With William S. Paley at Dwight D. Eisenhower’s
inaugural ball

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THE RETRO POSTCARD

One might have imagined that the postcard would have died a death in the internet age. But there’s a growing trend for cool types to send “retro” postcards, according to Katherine Hamilton-Smith, director of cultural services at the Lake County Discovery Museum in Chicago, which holds the Curt Teich Postcard Archives, the world’s largest public collection of postcards. Cards have become collectable: the work of John Hinde’s studio is highly sought after, as are works by historic postcard artists such as New York-born Ellen Clapsaddle and Australia’s Ida Outhwaite. Far from destroying the postcard, the internet has attempted to emulate its essence. The first
e-postcard site, The Electric Postcard, was created in 1994 at the MIT Media Lab, and since then apps such as Postcard on the Run and Postagram have been invented that convert messages into physical cards. But even with this innovative technology, old-fashioned postcards will never die out, says Hamilton-Smith. “They’re both
a tiny physical gift and a message; evidence that someone somewhere is thinking of you.” teicharchives.org