Fleur Cowles**and Flair Magazine

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René Gruau (1909-2004)
Portrait of Fleur Cowles, editor/creator of Flair magazine

Gruau was in essence the house artist at Flair, “the most lavish magazine of the 1950s,” even though published for only a year and 12 issues (and an annual), it was ahead of its time (even our time) and a clinic of high-end graphics and printing techniques—unheard of for a mere magazine. Cowles, a painter herself, was an epic figure (read more on her below.)

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SEPTEMBER 30, 1996 8:00 PM

A Flair for Living

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Fleur Cowles: Author, painter, and most famously, editor of Flair magazine, circa 2003. By Robert Trachtenberg/Corbis Outline.

Fleur Cowles, legendary American expatriate, editor, writer, painter, hostess, and philanthropist, is publishing her memoir and The Best of Flair, an opulent anthology of the dazzling, short-lived magazine that galvanized the literati in the early 1950s.

BY AMY FINE COLLINS

During the high season in London last July one joke passing around Harry’s Bar was that the town was so full of rich Americans no one was being admitted anywhere without a U.S. passport. Ascot was over, Wimbledon in full swing, the Henley Regatta days away, and the festivities surrounding these events were as abundant as the rainfall. But for a carefully chosen group for about 60 individuals the main draw of the week was a book-launch party hosted by Fleur Cowles, the legendary American expatriate editor, writer, painter, hostess, and philanthropist, in her extraordinary 18th-century set of chambers in Albany, originally Lord Melbourne’s palace. Copies of Fleur’s new book, the anecdotal memoir She Made Friends and Kept Them—a kind of gilt-edged address book narrated in the first person—lie neatly stacked on a corner table in the vast pink salon, while the writer has stationed herself several yards away in the grand Wedgwood-blue drawing room. Smartly tuned out in a black-and-white ensemble by her personal couturier, Philippe Lempriere (“He only designs for me”), coquettish black seamed stockings, a colossal pearl-and-diamond brooch by Fabergé (once the object of Eva Perón’s envy), and oversize dark glasses (a trademark for more than half a century), Fleur confers with her secretary Liza Lapsley minutes before the party begins about who will not be attending. The Queen Mother, for whom Fleur throws a birthday party every August, sent her regrets. “She’s not feeling well. And my wonderful Peter O’Toole—those beautiful eyes!—he can’t make it, either. He just started shooting a movie. Have I read you his adorable note? Everybody I’ve invited to the party is mentioned in my book.” The intended guest of honor, Carlos Fuentes, who wrote the memoir’s introduction, has also regretted, due to illness.

But by 6:30 sharp the room begins to fill up with the kind of distinguished company expected more for a state dinner than a publishing party. Writers, artists, and scientists mingle among titled aristocrats from Europe and Asia, including Aysha, the Rajmata of Jaipur, in her native dress. (More royals are present in effigy—silver-framed photos, all inscribed to Fleur, of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco, and the Shah of Iran, are scattered on objet-covered tabletops.) And droves of diplomats from the Old and New Worlds arrive—from Brazil, where Fleur has been decorated as a Commander of the Order of the Southern Cross; from Spain, where she has been awarded the Order of La Dama Isabel la Católica for restoring a ninth-century castle, her summer residence; and from Fleur’s native U.S. Conscientiously observing rules of precedence, Cowles waits until King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of the Hellenes, Greek’s exiled monarchs, join the party before allowing toasts and speeches to commence.

In England—a country to which she fled in 1955 as a newlywed with her current husband, the dapper timber tycoon Tom Montague Meyer—Fleur Cowles is best known for her ravishing houses, her naïve/Surrealist paintings of jungle animals and flowers (the subject of more than 50 exhibitions), her philanthropy, and her magnetic power to attract heads of state and artistic luminaries to her table. Yet in America she is best remembered by people of a certain age—and by a knowledgeable elite of young art directors, photographers, editors, and fashion designers—as the founding editor of the short-lived Flair, the most outrageously beautiful, visually daring, and extravagantly inventive magazine ever conceived. This month, HarperCollins will be bringing out, along with the American edition of She Made Friends and Kept Them (her 16th book), an opulent volume that has been Fleur’s dream and mission for nearly 50 years—The Best of Flair. Once again “the magazine for moderns,” as it was billed in a 1949 advertisers’ prototype, will throw “aristocrats of taste” into a state of awed delight, and once again Fleur will be plunged eyeball-deep into what she calls “the fishbowl” of intense social and media scrutiny. “That is my obit,” says Cowles, pointing to a hardbound set of the original Flair, which ran for just 12 issues, between February 1950 and January 1951. “People ask me, If you could read your obit, what would it say? My answer is that I would like it to be about Flair.”

Unlike every other facet of her artfully constructed, mythically scaled life, the contents of her obituary may be a matter beyond her control. The official version of her tale flows along a precisely engineered course, starting somewhere just short of her life’s midpoint, when she married Gardner “Mike” Cowles—scion of a media conglomerate that encompassed Look magazine, The Des Moines Register and Tribune, The Minneapolis Star, and several radio stations—in 1946. “Fleur came like a comet from nowhere,” says one acquaintance of six decades. “She invented herself, never making a false step. She has an amazing power within herself to make anything she wants happen. And now, at the end of her life, suddenly there is this re-emergence! All Fleur wants is to see the beautiful world she’s created around herself and not waste time thinking about how she got there.”

Though Fleur has stated that her childhood is “too painful to discuss,” she does recount that as a girl—a small New Jersey town a ferry ride from New York was the setting of her early years—she dreamed of becoming a writer. “At 11, I wanted to be Katherine Mansfield,” she says. As single career women, she and her younger sister, Mildred (a singer and radio producer), adopted the surname Fenton, another matter closed to discussion. In 1949-50, the year when Fleur was publicizing Flair, she related the story that at 15 or 16 (circa 1925) she bluffed her way into a job as a senior copywriter for Gimbels. From there she appears to have gone to Boston, where she worked in a similar capacity for the carriage-trade shop C. Crawford Hollidge. Though the Fleur trail tapers off a bit after this, it does pass, during the late 20s, through the Massachusetts town of Haverhill, where, known as Fleurende, she became friendly with a local woman’s sister, Alice Hughes, a frequent weekend visitor who wrote a chatty syndicated feature for The New York World-Telegram called “A Woman’s New York.” On September 19, 1933, Hughes’s byline—situated on the front page of the second section beside Heywood Broun’s popular “It Seems to Me” column—was abruptly replaced by a newcomer’s, “Fleur Fenton,” whose intelligent, modish brunette’s features looked out from a photo accompanying her story each day.

Fleur’s column ended in June 1934; by this time she had become “assistant to the executive vice president of Blaker Advertising Agency.” The man holding that lofty position was Atherton “Pett” Pettingell, whom Cowles had married on February 13, 1932. Around 1935, husband and wife formed their own firm, Pettingell & Fenton, representing Seventh Avenue clients and—through Fleur’s cunning efforts—cosmetics giant Helena Rubinstein. Producer Harold Prince, who worked at Pettingell & Fenton during the summer of 1942 as a teenage office boy, remembers that “it was all very theatrical, atmospheric, and glossy, with models like Lisa Fonssagrives stalking in and out. I liken Fleur physically to Gertrude Lawrence in Lady in the Dark. And Pettingell was a very tall, handsome, dashing fellow—very Errol Flynn-y.” It’s not hard to understand Fleur’s attraction to Pettingell. Says Fleur’s great friend the painter Enrico Donati, “He was one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen.” But after Pett impulsively “ran off with a blonde,” who then left him to return to her husband, Fleur did not take him back.

Fleur, it seems, had already fixed her sights far beyond the limited arena of advertising. “Like most good things in my life, a White House assignment fell into my lap without my trying, due to friends,” Fleur wrote. “I was one of the volunteers writing speeches for the War Production Board.… I was sharp-witted enough to wangle a permit to fly to Europe after VE Day … the first civilian American woman to get into Europe after the fighting stopped.” This special distinction, the first of many to come, “gave me the status,” Fleur continued, “which helped me into the White House [in 1946] as Special Consultant to the famine Emergency Committee … assisting Herbert Hoover, its chairman.”

With typical reserve, Fleur avoids naming exactly which “friends” ushered her straight to the seat of global power. But surely it couldn’t have hurt that by this time she had encountered Gardner “Mike” Cowles, who, as domestic director of the Office of War Information during World War II, lived more in Washington, D.C., than in his native Des Moines. (They originally met, she says, while he was soliciting advertising for Look.) On December 27, 1946, Fleur married the Harvard-educated Cowles (recently divorced from his second wife, Lois, the mother of his three children) at a friend’s house in Stamford, Connecticut. “Anyone who thinks I went after Mike Cowles is out of his mind! I was ashamed of him because of Look. It was a sleazy barbershop sheet. The horror of it!” she exclaims, flinging her hands heavenward.

“Washington, D.C., regarded The Des Moines Register so highly. How, I asked him, can you run a newspaper with such a reputation and make a magazine like Look? It was published on cheap paper and full of sex, while Life took the serious road. But it was making $1 million a year, so he didn’t see any point in changing it. Look was based in New York and he was an absentee editor living in Des Moines. So I told him, ‘You have upbringing, class, and taste. Move to New York and edit the book!’”

Though harsh, Fleur’s estimation of Look was accurate. In fact, Cowles and Life’s Henry Luce had ingeniously teamed up, charting their respective media territories together. In the mid-30s Cowles, inspired by a Gallup study proving that the best-read newspaper articles were accompanied by photos, pasted up a dummy of Look. When he heard Luce was conducting a similar experiment over at Time Inc., the two men compared prototypes. “Our editorial plans … turned out to be quite different,” Cowles wrote. “Life planned to cover the news while we saw Look as feature-oriented. Life would be a rather ‘upscale’ publication while Look would seek a more downscale audience.” Look’s first issue tantalized readers with a lurid pictorial, “Auto Kills Woman Before Your Eyes,” a story on “dope fiend” Hermann Göring—and a back-cover head-and-shoulders color pinup of Greta Garbo. Astonished to see the initial print order of 400,000 swell to 700,000, Cowles soon discovered the cause for this massive sellout. It turned out that when the Garbo page was strategically folded in half the resulting image looked uncannily like a beaver shot.

This was the sordid legacy that Fleur hoped to live down. Literally moved by her insistent pleas, Cowles relocated to New York. Says a man who had ample opportunity to observe them at close range, “My theory about why Mike fell for Fleur was that she was a complete change from his wife, Lois, a lovely Iowan. She could talk politics and publishing. She was a ball of fire—dynamic as any man, but with all the wiles of a woman. She was such a challenge, I would have made a play for her, just to conquer her.”

Ballsy though she may have been, at this point Fleur felt ready to surrender to her more feminine side. “I was pleased to give up my work. I had five households to look after—we kept hotel apartments in D.C. and Beverly Hills, and a house in Des Moines. I love homemaking.” Indeed, her house on 68th Street and the 13-bedroom waterside weekend house they acquired in Weston, Connecticut, came to be greatly admired for their artfully eclectic décor. “Très Fleur,” Flair’s flighty taste arbiter, Federico Pallavicini, once gasped in admiration when called upon to describe the Cowles town house. “She mix all the Louis with all the Georges … Mexican paper flowers with fresh green leaves … Renoir with her own paintings. Quelle salade!” To help stifle intra-office murmurs about Fleur’s supposed Lady Macbeth-like schemes to incite a revolution at her husband’s company, just after their marriage the Cowleses threw a party for some of the Look executives and senior staff. “Fleur got up and made a speech,” says one former editor. “She announced to us that she had no ambition except to ‘take care of Mikie.’ I thought she was a kind of con gal.”

As promised, Fleur did stay at home—at first. But every morning before Mike went to work she stuffed his pockets with little notes brimming with suggestions. “I’d tell him I didn’t like the cover, or the typeface, or I don’t like the sexy pictures. Finally Mike said, ‘Just come in and do it yourself. You know more than I do.’” Her name first appears on the masthead as “Director Woman’s Department” in the August 19, 1948, issue, about eight months into their marriage. “Soon,” Fleur wrote, “I added the role of associate editor of the magazine.”

Fleur Cowles, gloriously fulfilling her confident vision of her destiny at the magazine, turned out to be the best thing to hit Look since the Garbo picture. As a woman and former top-notch ad exec, she instinctively divined exactly where the magazine’s untapped resources lay. If Look in its first raucous incarnation was, as one writer said, “a huge bottle of sex, another of blood [and] a sizable dash of morality,” then under Fleur’s firm, bejeweled guiding hand, the book matured into “as close to a family magazine formula as you can get,” BusinessWeek reported. A cataloguer in the Library of Congress prints-and-photographs department, which has been processing the five-million-item Look photo archive (donated in 1971 when the magazine folded), verifies that the publication “turned around abruptly in the late 40s, almost entirely because of Fleur Cowles. The photography improves, the messy layouts become cleaner, the paper better, and suddenly, with features on fashion, the home, and food, there is a focus on women—who were buying the magazine. Fleur clearly understood the emerging consumer society—that, after the Depression and the war, people wanted their lives back. Her contribution was such that had she not insisted on changes the magazine would never have survived through the 50s and 60s.”

Less than a year after Fleur swept onto the masthead, Look’s ad revenues had vaulted 50 percent, and circulation leapt by 310,000. “Women had to be brought into the magazine for advertising,” Fleur explains. “No one could sell a product without the wife’s O.K., whether it was a tin of sardines or a car.” Fleur also broke the mold by experimenting with photography—and by aggressively recruiting top editors for her department. Imperiously glamorous with her suavely coiffed hair, tinted harlequin glasses, and uncut-emerald ring the size of a horse chestnut, Fleur ruled the distaff side of the Look empire from behind her blond-mahogany “power desk,” a kidney-shaped affair of “considerable sweep,” recalls Look food editor Sylvia Schur.

“I had heard about Fleur’s reputation for being a sharp and driving person,” Schur says. “But she understood the changing attitudes of people coming home from the war, and had a lot to say to them about how they could get on this upwardly mobile thing. We uncovered new developments in food such as ‘America Bit by the Bar-b-que Bug.’ She liked being what she called ‘hep.’ She coined the word ‘heptitude,’ which meant being knowledgeable about food, dress, and living.”

Mike and Fleur had, says Enrico Donati, “a real business relationship—they were workaholic people.” Even so, they managed to carve out a very visible niche for themselves in the social “power structure of New York,” recalls Look fashion editor Nancy Holmes. Their East Side town house and their weekend house in Weston became meccas for high-powered and celebrity friends. “Once when I was visiting Weston from school,” says Mike’s son Gardner “Pat” Cowles, “Cary Grant dropped in. During another stay my father announced that Marilyn Monroe was coming over to spend the day!” Fleur also became very close to financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch (whom she credits with sharpening her intellect with daily morning telephone drills about world affairs) and to her counterpart and sometime rival at Life, Clare Boothe Luce. “The difference between Clare and me,” Fleur says, “was a three-letter word: s-e-x. And the other difference is Clare never got her own magazine.”

Fleur and Mike further expanded their perpetually enlarging sphere by traveling around the world every year. “I wrote to Eden and Churchill asking for meetings,” Fleur says. “Mike did not have the self-assurance I had to make these requests.” Among Fleur’s many junkets, usually under the auspices of Look, were trips in 1949 to Brazil and Argentina, where she met the Peróns (subjects of her first book, Bloody Precedent); and in 1953 to Formosa, where she bunkered with Madame Chiang Kai-shek and a boa constrictor, and to Korea, where she and Mike spent 21 hours of “agony and frustration” at the Panmunjom peace negotiations. “Don’t forget I also worked for Ike [whose presidential campaign Cowles had vigorously supported]. I was his unofficial representative to four countries: Persia, Egypt, Cyprus, and Brazil. More presidents should realize that a woman can say things that a man can’t.” On personal terms with the Shah of Iran and his wife, Soroya, with whom she toured America in 1954; Egyptian premier Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose unlikely guest she was at the all-male sacred feast ending Ramadan; Queen Frederika and King Paul of Greece; and Oswaldo Aranha, adviser to Brazil’s President Vargas, she “could say anything”—and then report back to her president.

To create a more official diplomatic forum for her, around 1954 Eisenhower proposed to Fleur an ambassadorship to Greece, or possibly Formosa. But, perhaps thinking of the strain placed on Clare Luce’s marriage by her 1953 appointment as ambassador to Italy, Fleur determined it was in her best interest to decline the offer. “I am probably the only woman in history to turn down an ambassadorship,” she announced to the New York Post. More to Fleur’s taste was her appointment as special envoy to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation—an assignment that galled her rivals. Her nephew John Cowles Jr. says, “My mother [Betty Cowles] was deeply affronted. She felt she had seniority in the family. And she believed it was wrong to send a divorced woman to court, as the King’s abdication was still very fresh in the people’s minds.” After the coronation, Time ascribed to Fleur a statement of the utmost hubris: “I dressed down so as to not detract from the Queen.” Incensed, Fleur considered suing the Luces but settled for a letter of apology instead.

While Fleur assiduously revamped her husband’s magazine, she encountered frustrations which seemed unsolvable. “I couldn’t get the taste, quality or respectability—all my longings, everything that I craved—into Look,” Fleur says. Cowles wrote in his memoir, Mike Looks Back, “Almost from the time we were married, [Fleur] was determined to start a highly original fashion, art, and culture magazine that would appeal to a class instead of a mass audience.” Fleur maintains that Cowles, recognizing that the whole Look outfit could use further upgrading, “asked me, Would you like to do a class magazine to enhance Look? I jumped to the ceiling! I was filled with joy that it would be mine.” Whatever its true genesis, Flair came into being, Mike’s son Pat says, because “my father was fascinated by Fleur. But he also loved to gamble. He drilled oil wells and loved the craps table.” John Peters, Look’s modern-living editor, asks rhetorically, “Why did Mike Cowles create Flair? Why did they build the Taj Mahal?”

Though they were starting from scratch, with every decision to be made, one that Fleur had already settled on was the title. “Choosing the name was very simple. It’s a word I use a lot. I said to Mike, ‘The name’s got to be Flair—it’s the one thing it’s got to have.’” (And it didn’t hurt that the name was a near homonym for that of its intrepid editor in chief.) Flair’s radically ambitious aim was to outdo every magazine in every category on its own turf. To get the ball rolling, Fleur took off for Europe for three months to research new developments in paper stock, graphic design, and printing techniques. Her quest led her to Milan, where she discovered a madly eccentric pair of aesthetes named Daria Guarnati, the flame-tressed friend of architect Gio Ponti, and Count Federico Pallavicini, a pixilated Viennese decorative artist who had fled the Nazis (and an unconsumed marriage to the Demel’s confectionery heiress) in 1938. Since 1939 this peculiar duo had been publishing—with virtually no budget and no staff—an opulent seasonal review named Aria d’Italia. More objet d’art than magazine, in its fewer than 10 issues, Aria d’Italia “laid the cornerstone for modern graphic design,” Pallavicini wrote. The Cowles company purchased the U.S. rights to the magazine, and Fleur imported Guarnati and Pallavicini to New York.

“Guarnati did have an eye for graphics,” Fleur says, “but when she got to the U.S. she was lonesome and heartsick and went home soon”—though for the full run of Flair she received masthead billing as “Representative for Italy.” Pallavicini, on the other hand, flourished under Fleur’s nurturing patronage. Perpetually gushing frothy drawings and quirky story ideas, he cheered up the staff with his “aristocratic manners, ebullience, and spicy gossip,” recalled Patrick O’Higgins, Flair’s travel editor.

From this fanciful foundation, Fleur began building what Look and Flair photographer Tony Vaccaro calls “the best magazine staff ever assembled.” All the key players, with the exception of general manager Arnold Gingrich (Esquire’s founding editor, whom Mike had cajoled out of retirement in Switzerland) and ad manager Bill Rosen (prized loose from Seventeen), were handpicked by Fleur.

Fleur tapped as her managing editor George Davis, the literary impresario who, following his own precocious success as a novelist, went on (after a stint at Vanity Fair) to discover Truman Capote while editing features and fiction at Mademoiselle. Notorious for his acid tongue and his floridly arcane homosexual chicanery (for his parties he engaged a nude pianist who played ragtime while a lit cigarette puffed away rhythmically in his rectum), Davis was briefly affianced to Gypsy Rose Lee (whom he enlisted as a Flair writer), before taking Lotte Lenya to the altar in 1952. Fleur reflects, “George sometimes came to work and sometimes didn’t. He drank too much, but he was heart and soul to me. He knew what was going on abroad. He had odd ideas, but I would have been a fool not to take his advice. Needless to say, George and Arnold Gingrich did not get along.… Gingrich was the worst thing that ever happened to Flair. He kept insisting on a man’s point of view”—obviously his straight man’s attempt to wage warfare on “a crew,” he wrote, “most of whom could fly back and forth without using the stairs.”

Among the cast of characters flitting through the Flair offices were O’Higgins, given to showing up for work in full riding habit, entertainment editor Shana Alexander, and Paris-based mining heiress Margaret Thompson Biddle, whom Fleur had peremptorily anointed European editor, much to the consternation of Rosamond Bernier, poached from Vogue to fill a similar position. “The word was out,” Fleur says. “People stood in line to get interviews.” She also summoned the great fashion draftsman René Gruau to America to work exclusively for Flair.

With no budget to constrain them, Flair’s multilingual, pan-generational, omnisexual crew toiled 16-hour days throughout the summer and early fall of 1949, confecting the preview issue for advertisers and press. “We were never out before 10 o’clock,” says Francesca Morris, one of Flair’s fiction editors, who sacrificed her honeymoon to the cause. “There was a great esprit de corps, especially among the group around George Davis”—whom W. H. Auden, a Flair contributor, deemed the wittiest person he ever knew.

When, in September 1949, Fleur at last unveiled Flair’s prototype, limited to an edition of 5,000, “all hell broke loose,” says Morris. “It was madness. There was so much interest, phones in the office were ringing off the hook.” Says Letitia Baldrige, then Clare Boothe Luce’s assistant, “People were dazzled. Everyone who counted was talking about it incessantly. Of course, people also thought the magazine would send Mike Cowles to debtors’ prison.” Every pundit in town was scrambling to weigh in with an opinion about the magazine that promised, in its editor’s letter handwritten in gold ink, to “give direction and fullness to life.”

Starting with the die-cut hole in its front cover—a wedge-shaped aperture through which readers spied a man kissing an ecstatic woman—the magazine offered up one sensation novelty after another. The outside cover, richly embossed with a vanilla-covered basket-weave pattern, gave way to a second, photographed by Louis Faurer, which showed the amorous couple to be part of a wall layered with a random collage of shredded posters. “I decided on a two-part cover with a hole,” Fleur says, “because I like the mystery of not being able to know what’s inside. Of course, people started calling it ‘Fleur’s hole in the head.’”

But the cover was just the curtain-raiser for Flair’s startling pack of miracles. One feature, incorporating heat-sensitive invisible ink, instructed readers to “move the lighted tip of a cigarette slowly over the space just below” to find the answers to such enigmatic questions as “What is Flair? Is it Animal? Is it Vegetable? … Is it Male or Female?” A swatch of gossamer cotton lifted up to reveal a drawing of a fetching woman in a Valentina maillot. Jean Cocteau, whom George Davis had transported to America on the Cowles expense account, whipped up a dreamy “Letter to Americans.” (The poet wrote the story on his flight home.) The preview issue concluded triumphantly with a prismatic two-page spread, bleeding luminously from blue to red, entitled “The End of the Rainbow.”

From the moment the prototype debuted, Flair attracted a hate club—a small band, perhaps, but a vociferous and powerful one, drawn mostly from the ranks of the media and advertising worlds. Time, not exactly disinterested, dismissed the preview issue as “a fancy bouillabaisse of Vogue, Town & Country, Holiday, etc.” Newsweek invoked “the ghost of the late and lamented Vanity Fair,” and BusinessWeek cautioned that Flair was “a highly impractical business venture.” The advertising newsletter Space & Time derided Flair’s editors “as lilies seen in a black mirror,” and steered advertisers “allergic to femininity and effemininity” elsewhere.

Undaunted, Fleur forged ahead on schedule with the premiere issue, February 1950—still her favorite. Long before, she had settled on the image that would grace its blood-red cover—a single golden wing. Symbolizing “flight, excitement, and beauty,” it was based on a brooch Fleur had found in a Paris flea market. Its aerodynamic shape recurred silhouetted just below, in a peekaboo die-cut hole affording the reader a glimpse of the second cover—a Gruau sketch of a woman in profile. While several of the preview’s sumptuous features returned for an encore, plenty of extraordinary new material figured in the first issue as well. An article on the 28-year-old Lucian Freud came liberally accompanied with reproductions of his art—the first ever to appear in America. Angus Wilson and Tennessee Williams contributed short stories, Wilson’s printed on paper textured to resemble slubbed silk. Thanks to the intervention of Margaret Biddle, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor opened their home to Flair’s readers, treating them to their recondite and entertaining tips. A more futuristic approach to living was set forth in a two-page spread on Richard Kelly’s lighting design for Philip Johnson’s glass house in Connecticut. Fashion received lush coverage in stories illustrated with Gruau ink studies; photos by Hoyningen-Huene, Maria Martel, and Louis Faurer; and deliquescent paintings by one of Fleur’s discoveries, Sylvia Braverman. To this quixotic mix, Patrick O’Higgins added a whimsical yet practical Baedeker to Morocco.

The 11 Flairs that followed were organized thematically. March saw the Spain issue, a choice savaged by the virulently anti-Franco Nation magazine, which took particular offense at the suggestion that tourists in Spain shun “all political discussion … if only out of courtesy.” Politically, at least, April’s Paris issue—presenting stories by Colette and Simone de Beauvoir, an interview with Proust’s former housekeeper, and a pop-up view of the Place Vendôme—was more commendable. The most luscious number of Flair, the May Rose issue, was impregnated with fragrance—a forerunner of today’s scent strips. Incorporating a handsome booklet by Katherine Anne Porter called “The Flower of Flowers,” the May issue was the one most closely identified with Fleur, who had selected the rose as her personal emblem: more often than not she wore a gold rose brooch or pinned a fresh blossom to her bosom. A Dutch grower bred a Flair Rose, a pinkish-coral tea variety, in the issues’ honor, and later the Fleur Cowles Rose, a cream-colored flower blushed with pink (much in evidence in the garden of her Sussex country house), was named for her. The same issue also introduced a new term, lifted from the lingo of jazz joints: “cool.” Fleur says, snapping her fingers for emphasis, “I invented ‘cool.’ I remember sitting on the floor and asking my staff, ‘If something’s hot, isn’t it cool?’ I said it first.”

By the time of the September 1950 New York issue (with a jaunty cover designed by Pallavicini, profile of Fleur’s friend Baruch, opinion column by Clare Luce, and pamphlet of capricious cityscapes by Saul Steinberg, it was arguably the last great issue of Flair) ominous shadows had begun to darken Flair’s rarefied door. Cudgeling Flair—with all its gimmicks, it was an easy target—had become a favorite pastime of the press. Some of these attacks where lighthearted—such as Charles Addams’s cartoon of a three-handed freak simultaneously reading the magazine and its accordion foldouts. (In a similarly gentle vein, another cartoon depicted one writer telling another, “My story was in Flair but it fell out.”) But others—most notoriously S.J. Perelman’s poisonous “The Hand That Cradles The Rock” in The New Yorker, which likened Fleur’s personality to “a Kansas cyclon … successfully wedded to Devonshire clotted cream”—were wicked. So devastating, in fact, was Perelman’s satire of Fleur’s editorial methods, ad manager Bill Rosen had to brief his sales staff about possible repercussions. At this point, however, Rosen was a bit like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike: no effort, no matter how valiant, was enough to prevent ad revenue from flooding out of the magazine. “Flair was very exciting,” Rosen says. “It was just 50 years ahead of its time. Every ad we got was like pulling teeth—there was too much jealousy from other magazines, and they influenced advertisers. Nobody was rooting for Fleur to win. The general feeling was that she had mesmerized a wonderful guy, and they wanted to see her sink.” Mike called a troubleshooting meeting, at which, Rosen says, “I had to explain to Mike that we depended on fashion ads—and because of her ‘Sammy Glick’ attitude at Pettingell & Fenton, Mrs. Cowles was hated by Seventh Avenue. Well, everyone’s head just dropped. They couldn’t believe I had said that. We then decided at the meeting the new strategy would be to make it clear that the Flair project was Mike’s.”

This tactic, of course, fooled nobody—though 90,000 readers signed up to subscribe (and circulation peaked at 200,000), the Fleur-bashing momentum was already going full throttle. Fleur says, “I went through most of the magazine assuming the advertising would come. I thought the ad world would be just as proud of Flair as I was. But all my magazine rivals banded together and convinced the advertisers that Flair wouldn’t last. My asking them to make custom ads for Flair [tied to issues’ themes and format] didn’t help, either.”

But it was not just external enemies who laid siege to Flair. Its worst foes lurked within the Cowles organization—and the Cowles family—itself. Members of Look’s board of directors, all of them stockholders, including Dan Mich, the editorial director, and Marvin Whatmore, the C.E.O. (a Des Moines man whose daughter married Mike’s son Pat), were alarmed at the rate at which Flair drained its resources away from the flagship publication. By the end of 1950, Mike estimated, Flair’s before–tax losses had mounted to $2,485,000—averaging out to a 75-cent loss on each copy sold. Mike’s brother, John, co-owner of Look since its inception, ended up dissolving their partnership in 1951. “My mother forced the breakup,” John Cowles Jr. explains. “She was afraid Fleur would ruin my uncle. My father swapped his holdings in Look for my uncle’s share of the newspapers.”

On a Friday early in December 1950, Gordon Bryan, the Look merchandizing manager, returned to his office from an executive meeting and—swearing her to secrecy—whispered to his secretary that Mike Cowles was going to shut down Flair. Mike called an emergency Saturday-morning summit of the Cowles hierarchy—including his brother, John, Fleur, and Bill Rosen—at 42F, the corporate suite in the Waldorf-Astoria. In the dark about the nature of the conference, to which only about 8 or 10 people were asked, Fleur “thought it might have to do with policy for Flair—maybe that we’d have to cut some pages out to save money. It was obvious we were not getting our income back. If it had been that kind of meeting I would have understood. I found out at that meeting. And I cried—I could cry today when I think about it. It was heartbreaking. I was so proud of it.”

Mike, assuming that he had given his wife fair warning, wrote, “There is no question that Flair was perhaps the most original and certainly one of the most talked about magazines ever published.… But.… Flair was eating us up alive.… [Fleur] claimed, with nothing to back the claim up, that the magazine would eventually turn around.… It was time to put my foot down.… I don’t think Fleur ever forgave me.” His son Pat says, “Mike’s real love was Look. He would have done anything to keep it alive. Killing Flair probably put a dent in their marriage.”

Mike Cowles sent out a press release citing rising paper costs and “the very critical foreign situation” (the Korean War) as the reasons for the magazine’s demise. Intended to save face, it only made Fleur and Flair look worse with its self-important excuses.

In retrospect, Fleur says that “the Cowles fortune was so huge it didn’t matter if it closed then or later. With that terrible Look, Mike never had the experience of operating at a loss. Killing Flair gave the opposition justification for their nasty campaign that it had been a folly of mine.” On balance, reasons Sylvia Schur, “Fleur was probably brought at least as much money into Look as she lost at Flair.” In any case, poetic justice was served 20 years later when Mike, having lost his advertisers to television, was forced to bury his baby, Look.

Refusing to let Flair rest in peace, Fleur brought out in time for the 1952 Christmas season the Flair Annual 1953, which compiled between its hardback, shimmering red-and-gold covers many of the stories that had lost their chance to run in the magazine. Intended to be a yearly effort, the album was pulled together with a staff of 3 (Fleur, Pallavicini, and writer Robert Offergeld) instead of 100. It was during this period that Fleur also began in earnest to hurl her prodigious energies into world affairs, taking it upon herself to interview Nasser, the Shah of Iran, the King and Queen of Greece, and France’s Prime Minister Mendès-France for Look. Around 1954, Fleur—who admits she may have strayed from home too often—received some news that dealt a coup de grâce to her self-confidence and her ailing marriage: Mike had a mistress. She was someone whom Fleur knew, and he was keeping her rather nicely in an apartment near the old Colony restaurant. “Everyone in New York knew before me,” Fleur says. “Mildred, my sister, tipped me off. I wouldn’t have believed anyone else.”

Weakened, dazed, and, according to one confidante, despairing, Fleur flew to California to seek solace from her sister. When she returned, a Look editor remembers, “Fleur was renewed and very appealing. She dressed in paler colors, and wore a beige felt beret.” If the cause of her uplifted spirits was a new resolve to keep her man, it didn’t last long. In the spring or summer of 1955, Fleur and Mike were flying together on a plane scheduled to make a stop in Rome. While still airborne—a scene would have been out of the question at that altitude—Mike turned to Fleur and announced he wanted to end their marriage. Fleur insists that on the infamous plane ride Mike had merely asked her for a separation. “I don’t give separations,” Fleur says. “It’s an invitation to rape. I told him I wanted a divorce instead.” In July 1955, the public-relations director of Cowles Magazines announced that Fleur had moved into an apartment of her own, and that she and Mike had “separated … in a very friendly fashion.” Proving the amicability of their separation, the New York Post reported, “Mrs. Cowles recently sign[ed] a new three-year contract to continue as an associate editor of Look and [to] remain a member of the board of directors.” In the early autumn Fleur fell seriously ill and had to be hospitalized for an operation. But before she had fully recuperated, Fleur, defying doctor’s orders, flew to Juárez, Mexico, for a divorce. On her last day at Look, Bill Atuhur, the managing editor, went up to Fleur’s office to say good-bye. “She wept,” Arthur says. “I was told that was very unusual.”

Fleur had good reason to rise prematurely from her sickbed and end her marriage to Cowles. Two years earlier, while flying back from her second meeting with the Shah of Iran, she had made the acquaintance of a very eligible young Englishman named Tom Montague Meyer, who had been prospecting timber in northern Persia for Meyer International, the lumber concern founded by his father, Montague Meyer, after World War I. When the plane stopped in Athens, Meyer invited Fleur to occupy the vacated seat beside him. From Athens until the next stop, Rome, the seatmates chattered incessantly. Meyer recalls, “In Rome we got off and had breakfast together. After that we stayed in touch, and had dinner whenever she came to London. Fleur was very decorous, as she was still a married woman.”

After Fleur’s divorce, the couple rendezvoused in L.A. and on the spur of the moment married at the house of Rexall Drug president Justin W. Dart, on November 18, 1955. Cary Grant, the best man, was the only wedding guest besides the Darts. “It was quite a sudden decision,” Fleur says, “though I was always quite certain I would get an invitation to marry him.” After a quick visit to Mildred in San Diego, the newlyweds flew to London, where they were greeted at the airport by “a hundred photographers. When Tom and I arrived here I was famous,” she says. Once they had installed themselves in Albany, Mike Cowles, who until 1958 listed his ex-wife on Look’s masthead as “Foreign Correspondent,” came by to meet his successor. “He was impressed. Tom is the kindest thing alive. And he’s not jealous of me like Mike was,” Fleur says. Sighs a female friend of Fleur’s, “How lucky can you get? To be dumped by Mike Cowles and then marry Tom Meyer!”

Forty-one years later Fleur is warming herself by the fire in the library of the idyllic Elizabethan house in Sussex that she and Meyer bought and restored in 1956. The scent of the gardens’ luxuriant rosebushes blends with the odor of the acrylic paints Fleur is applying to a wooden board resting on a pillow in her lap. As she speaks she deftly paints, the way another woman might do needlework, fashioning an image of anemones, butterflies, and a lounging tiger that will be exhibited in a South American show of her work later this fall. Dispersed all around the romantic three-story house and its barn annex are souvenirs of Flair—Federico Pallavicini paintings, Lucian Freud doodles, Gruau sketches, a series of rose studies by Sylvia Braverman. And, of course, the library’s overloaded shelves hold lovingly worn, bound copies of the issues of Flair. To the right of the front entrance, a guest book, begun on Christmas Day 1956, records the names of people who have enriched Fleur’s purposeful life: Elsa Schiaparelli, Van Johnson, Cary Grant, her stepchildren Lois and Jay Cowles.

“I didn’t need Look to make friends in New York or here,” Fleur reflects as she squeezes a glistening droplet of red paint onto a small brush. “That awful wife [Betty Cowles] said, ‘She won’t get anywhere in England. She doesn’t have Look.’ My life is here now with Tom. There’s really no reason to think of any other. The only part of the past I ever think about is Flair.” Fleur dips her brush into a glass of water next to the French sofa she calls her “studio,” and pauses in thought. “Nobody would do Flair again. There’s not enough money in the world. But if somebody wanted to do it again, I’d be a consultant. My blood’s not red—it’s blue ink. I would create a section, edited by me, maybe an insert in another magazine, called ‘Flair by Fleur.’ It would be Flair for art, for food, for fashion, and for entertainment. I’d design it and give it my ideas. I have an idea a second. I’m a born idea myself! The fact is, the only positive single asset I have is my faith in myself.”

Nancy Holmes, one of Look’s fashion editors, remembers calling on her boss one day in her two-room corner office with the blond-mahogany desk. To her surprise, Fleur invited her to step across the room to see the view from the editor’s chair. “There was a tiny sign attached to a wall that no one could see unless you were sitting at the desk,” Holmes recalls. “I’ll never forget what it said: no matter what you’ve got, it takes more than that. God knows she’s lived it.”

Evgenia Peretz is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

~~ADELE~~HELLO~~2015

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OH MY GOD…DID YOU MISS IT…IF SO… I sang along with the old tunes, I listened and melted into the new tunes, I swayed around and I balled when she did …Adele, I missed you…welcome back woman.   LOVE LOVES LOVE  
JA/2015
WATCH ALL 45 MAGICAL MINUTES OF ‘ADELE: LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY’ RIGHT HERE
Just try not to cry.
By Harper’s Bazaar Staff
Dec 15, 2015 @ 9:52 AM
CultureArt, Books & Music
VIDEO LINK BELOW…make sure you view it until the very end…!!

http://www.nbc.com/adele-live-in-new-york-city/video/adele-live-in-new-york-city/2952285

Update, 12/15: Last night, NBC broadcasted a taping of Adele performing at Rockefeller Center in November. The emotional 45-minute set included heartbreaking ballads from her new album, 25, as well as favorites from 21 and her Oscar-winning hit, “Skyfall.” Watch the beautiful set below and just try not to cry when she breaks down after singing “When We Were Young,” around the 36:00 mark: “Oh, I’m glad you like it…I’ve honestly missed you all so much.”

Original Post, 12/4: Clear your calendar for Monday, December 14: Adele: Live in New York City airs at 10 PM EST on NBC. She’s set to perform standouts from her record-smashing new album, 25, in the hour-long special, produced by Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels.

King Tutankhamun’s tomb

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Since I was a little girl in the 1960’s, living with eyes and ears…wide open, I have always been in awe of King Tut, treasures and Ancient Egypt.  Growing up in NYC and CT., museums were a place I found to be quiet stimulating and exciting.  Before ‘Bucket List’ was big…I knew this was somewhere I had to go.  My grandparents were very ‘into the now’  so of course all the hoopla surrounding any part of this new and exciting discovery over in a far away land while living in NYC during the excavations in the early 1920’s, they were interested in.  My grandfather had thoughts of becoming an Archaeologist, he was in the medical profession. (I had those thoughts as well in my younger yrs., never knowing he did as well, so long ago). They had many books on Ancient Egypt and historic themes in their home library…and I spent much time in there.  This fascinates me now as it did then…and always will.  JA/2015

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King Tutankhamun’s tomb: Evidence grows for hidden chamber

King Tutankhamun's burial maskImage copyrightAFP

Image captionTutankhamun may have been Nefertiti’s son

Egyptian officials now say they are “90% sure” that there is a hidden chamber in King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

The Antiquities Ministry said it had carried out scans to gather more information about the theory.

Archaeologist Nicholas Reeves believes Tutankhamun’s remains may have been rushed into an outer chamber of what was originally Queen Nefertiti’s tomb.

The remains of Tutankhamun, who may have been her son, were found in 1922. He died 3,000 years ago aged 19.

“Clearly it does look from the radar evidence as if the tomb continues, as I have predicted,” Dr Reeves said at a press conference with the Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damati on Saturday, AFP reports.

“The radar, behind the north wall [of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber] seems pretty clear. If I am right it is a continuation – corridor continuation – of the tomb, which will end in another burial chamber,” he said.

Mr Damati said the scans would now be sent to Japan for further analysis.

Dr Reeves developed his theory after the Spanish artistic and preservation specialists, Factum Arte, were commissioned to produce detailed scans of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

The scans were then used to produce a facsimile of the 3,300-year-old tomb near the site of the original Valley of the Kings in Luxor.

While assessing the scans last February, Dr Reeves spotted what he believed were marks indicating where two doorways used to be.

The archaeologist from the University of Arizona says he believes Nefertiti may lie inside.

Tutankhamun’s tomb was the most intact ever discovered in Egypt. Close to 2,000 objects were found inside.

But its layout has been a puzzle for some time – in particular, why it was smaller than those of other kings’ tombs.

Dr Reeves believes there are clues in the design of the tomb that indicate it was designed to store the remains of a queen, not a king.

His theory has yet to be peer-reviewed and leading Egyptologists have urged caution over the conclusion.


The world known bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti is seen at Berlin's Kulturforum, 01 March 2005Image copyrightAFP/Getty Images

Image captionQueen Nefertiti’s name means “a beautiful woman has come”

Who was Queen Nefertiti?

  • The name Nefertiti means “a beautiful woman has come”
  • She was queen of Egypt and wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten during the 14th century BC
  • She and her husband established the cult of Aten, the sun god, and promoted a new style of Egyptian artwork
  • It is thought the couple married when Nefertiti was about 15 and had six daughters and a son
  • Some theories hold that Nefertiti was the mother of King Tutankhamun

~~Joanna Lumley~~

Then there’s this one… I adore her on and off the screen…what a fave…what a BROAD!!!  JA/2015

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Joanna Lumley on turning 70 next year: ‘I’m jumping for joy that I’m finally getting old’

Sultry screen star and legend Joanna Lumley, 69, talks Elvis, ageing and the release of a small unknown movie called Absolutely Fabulous…

GettyJoanna Lumley
Joanna says she’s experienced some amazing things in her lifetime

She may have ticked off most things on your average bucket list, but to us, waiting to meet Joanna Lumley feels like swimming with dolphins, sailing down the Nile and walking the Great Wall of China all at the same time.

While we’re in reception, we hear her smooth-like-velvet voice a mile off and it isn’t long before she is bounding towards us, greeting us by grabbing both our hands, telling us how fabulous we look, complimenting our perfume and then linking arms with us as we walk to a room where she pours us drinks. She absolutely insisted.

And that’s it. We are 100% charmed. And what’s the occasion? Only another one of Joanna’s brilliant documentaries, this time, on the life and legacy of Elvis Presley.

Someone who she loves so much, she is wearing blue suede shoes in his honour and has rather sweetly propped up a handsome picture of Elvis against her glass of water so she can gaze at him lovingly.

Joanna has graced us with her greatness since 1969, when she starred as a Bond Girl, (obviously) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Since then, she’s done anything and everything, from kissing Leo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street, taking us to see the Northern Lights, casually making a documentary about Will.I.Am and, of course, what we love her for the most, playing the naughty Patsy Stone in megahit comedy,Absolutely Fabulous.

BBCAbsolutely Fabulous January 1994
Back in the Ab Fab day

Now, her priorities are spending more time with her husband Stephen, her son Jamie and being a glam grandma to her two young grandchildren. But she won’t be slowing down too much any time soon.

So, sweetie darlings, we quizzed Joanna on the new Ab Fab movie, her unconventional lifestyle and what leaves her all shook up…

Can you tell us anything about the Absolutely Fabulous movie?

[Squeals excitedly] I would love to tell you everything darling, but I really shouldn’t. All the old cast are in it, there are plenty of surprises. It’s a fantastic story. It’s very funny. It’s divine, glamorous, ridiculous and fabulous.

There is a lot of expectation surrounding it, does that bother you?

Oh, I know people will expect it to be good and so they should. But much like Christmas cake, if you don’t like it, it’s more you than it.

We’ve heard Kim Kardashian will be in it…

Well I heard that Harry Styles is in it this morning. I’m not ruling anybody out, but you know, (Joanna gives a very suspicious smirk) you’ll have to wait and see.

How long does it take to get into Patsy mode?

It takes a tragically short time, darling. Sometimes Jennifer Saunders and I will watch an episode together just to get it back in our heads.
Although of course it’s secretly in my head all the time.

BBCAbsolutely Fabulous movie
Jennifer has written an Ab Fab movie

Do Patsy and Eddie have some new costumes for the film?

Edina has many more things to look completely wrong in. I’ve got a hair piece this time round. Because I would be filming every day for seven weeks with my hair backcombed to sh*t, brushing it out and doing the same thing every morning. Horrible! I wanted hair at the end of filming.

Will you keep playing Patsy until you’re 90?

Absolutely. The great thing is that we’ve already done an episode of Ab Fab where we looked forward to the future. We had four and a half hours of make-up. Our skin covered with liver spots and big saggy bosoms made out of sand, hanging down. So we’ve been about as far as we can go in terms of old.

Is there anything different this time round?

The smoking will be interesting as people are very serious about it now. Children can access videos of beheadings and play the most horrifically violent video games, yet they will most definitely smoke if they see someone smoking on TV. It’s madness. But there is no other way when it comes to Patsy, really.

Joanna Lumley in James Bond

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969

Did you and Jennifer Saunders get together before filming?

We never see each other. Our lives are so busy. I’m so busy I hardly ever see anybody. We both have grandchildren, so we can’t hang out a lot. Oh, how I wish we could though.

Are there ever moments where the lines between reality and Ab Fab
get blurred?

Do you mean, “Do I ever go out and get absolutely slaughtered?” Well life is so serious now, isn’t it? I just don’t have time. I’ve behaved well so far, but you never know when filming is over…

What would be your drink of choice?

Well, much like Patsy, Bollinger, of course.

How often do you get dolled-up to go to a party?

Never. I can’t explain how sad people’s lives are when they’re as busy as mine. My husband is away for six weeks for work. By the time he gets back, I’ll be working. We work all weekends. I’m not good at going out partying any more. Maybe I should call up Kim Kardashian and get some tips.

If you get an evening in together, do you watch yourself on TV?

No. My husband hasn’t seen any of my shows. We never have time. We live a strange life. Terribly happy, but it isn’t completely normal.

FilmMagicJoanna Lumley and husband Stephen Barlow
With husband Stephen

There’s nothing normal about your life?

No. I was astonished to hear Elizabeth Taylor used to have Ab Fab weekends at her mansion. She’d get her showbiz pals round and they’d wear pyjamas, drink fizz and watch the show. That enthralled me! I will never forget it.

What are your fans like?

Oh, so lovely, darling. I take the tube and take taxis and things in public, and I love smiling at people. I was driving along in my Smart car, and a young man in a fantastic car pulled up beside me.

I smiled at him and told him he had a lovely car. Then he sped off, but kept pulling up beside me and grinning. I thought, “Oh no, he got the wrong impression from that grin? Does he know I’m 100 and a granny?” So I tried to give him a schoolmistressy look instead.

Daily MirrorJoanna Lumley with her son Jamie
With son Jamie

You have done it all, but is there anything left on your bucket list?

Plenty. But it is hard to leave my family when I film. And I can’t do everything in the world. I’ve seen so many of the great wonders. But
I don’t have to want to do everything all the time. It means you miss out on the rest of life and life is getting shorter for me, as it does for everyone. I realise my days are measured.

How do you feel about turning 70 next year?

[Squeals] Yay! I am so excited. It’s hard to explain how getting older feels. I was formed so many years ago. All that’s changed is the outside, the person inside hasn’t. Getting older isn’t a sin. If you’re alive, you’ll get old.

There is no point denying it. F**k it, if you’ve done how much I’ve done, you are just jumping for joy when you hit my age. I have amazing things happening next year, so roll on 70!

So you wouldn’t want to wake up and be 40 again?

I’ve always wanted to be old. When I was 10, I wanted to be 18. When I was 18, I wanted to be 30. I love old. I love old people and I always knew old would be good for me and would contain great glories.
Next year will be utterly fabulous.

Joanna on Elvis Presley

ITVJoanna Lumley with Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me
With Priscilla Presley

Is Priscilla Presley your new best friend?

She’s a darling and it felt like we were old friends quickly. We’re very similar actually – except she is skinny and petite and I am a bit like a horse.

What was the highlight of the documentary?

Meeting Dixie, Elvis’s first girlfriend. I knew there would be enough women watching me so I had to ask her what it was like to kiss Elvis. Luckily, she said he was good to kiss.

Who is always on your mind?

My son Jamie.

Would you say you have a suspicious mind?

No. I’m an absolute sucker for everything.

What leaves you all shook up?

Elvis Presley of course! He was so easy to love.

Watch Joanna Lumley’s Elvis and Me, Wednesday 4 November, 9pm, ITV

The Kid Stays in the House **Robert Evans**Happy Birthday

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Chances are great that if you don’t know the name Robert Evans, you certainly know his work. While head of Paramount Studios and later as a producer he was responsible for such films as Barefoot in the Park, The Great Gatsby, Love Story, The Godfather, Chinatown, and many more. Actually, you really should know the name Robert Evans because he is a legend.  He was also married to Ali MacGraw but even more famous than all of these things is his house, Woodland, in Beverly Hills. The New York Times has just published a story about the home in T magazine.  I knew it looked familiar and I finally remembered that Matt Trynauer had written a very interesting article, Glamour Begins at Home,  for Vanity Fair about the architect, John Woolf.  It was built in 1941 for interior designer James Pendleton and is considered a masterpiece.  The style became known as Hollywood Regency and John Woolf’s life story is almost as interesting as that of Robert Evans.
In his autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture, as well as the wonderful video on The New York Times website, Robert Evans tells the story of how he came to fall in love with the house.  Actress Norma Shearer took him on a walk about 10 minutes from the Beverly Hills Hotel.  “We entered a hidden oasis, protected by hundred-foot-tall eucalyptus trees.   It was Greta Garbo’s hideaway whenever she snuck into town.  The house, a formal pavilion with a mansard roof, was beautifully proportioned.  But what really got me were the grounds-nearly two acres of towering eucalyptus, sycamores, and cypresses, thousands of roses, all behind walls.”
It was not for sale but Mr. Pendleton was a widower and living there all alone sold it to Robert Evans.  “For $290,000 the place of my dreams was mine.  Paramount took over…an army of studio engineers, carpenters, painters, electricians, and plumbers expanded the pool house into a luxurious screening room with state-of-the-art projection facilities, including the largest seamless screen ever made-sixteen feet wide.  A new, winding driveway was installed off Woodland Drive to create a second, more private entrance.  A greenhouse was constructed.  A north-south, day-and-night tennis court was designed by Gene Mako, the premier designer of hard surface courts.”


“Nature couldn’t be improved on when it came to the garden’s prize.  Standing among the over two thousand rosebushes was an enormous spreading sycamore, several centuries old, with branches covering half an acre.  Anything that’s been breathing that long needs lots of help.  For the circumference of the half acre, every three feet the roots are intravenously fed.  Many a time I’ve given it an anxious look: ‘You’re one hell of an expensive lady.’ But it’s more than a tree – it’s a piece of art.  I’d take a night job to keep its leaves aglow.  Twenty-one weddings have been blessed under its far reaching branches.  I’m sure its batting an average higher than any alter in the world.  Nineteen for twenty-one.  Not bad huh? Only two have failed – mine.”


Artwork and objects collected by Robert Evans over the years.


Robert Evans had help decorating his home from Paramount since it would also be used for “clandestine meetings for historic deals – both legal and illegal.”  Evans himself bought the art including a wonderful Monet from the Wildenstein Gallery in New York.  You really do have to readThe Kid Stays in the Picture for the full account of Robert Evans life and the life of the house.


The dining room has a view of the garden.


A hallways is lined with photographs that chronicle Robert Evans’ life in pictures.


His signature glasses.


The pool and house today which is barely visible behind the ivy.
Robert Evans by the pool in 1968.


A view of the pool house with the Pendletons and friends around the pool by Slim Aarons.
All of the following photos are from 1968 and show Robert Evans and his friends enjoying the house.  It’s no wonder that he’s remained in it to this day.  It really does look like a dream house.








Photos: 1-10 Jason Schmidt; 12 Slim Aarons; 11, 13-22 Alfred Eisenstaedt
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The exterior and foyer of Robert Evans’s house in Beverly Hills.

Some houses you just can’t get out of your head. Woodland, the Beverly Hills, Calif., home of the producer Robert Evans, is not exactly a secret; it has been published several times and was a character unto itself in “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” the 2002 film based on Evans’s blunt, colorful autobiography. The facts are well known: that it was love at first sight when Evans first saw the house (which was designed in 1942 by the architect John Woolf for the interior designer James Pendleton) in the mid-1950s; that after he bought the house a decade later, it became an epicenter of industry deal-making; and that after selling the house during one of the bleakest periods of his life, Evans bought it back with a little help from his friends, who included Jack Nicholson. But no matter. For me, the house is not just a portrait of its owner; it’s also a portrait of an era that’s quickly fading from memory.

I spent a lot of time in Los Angeles in the 1980s and lived there in the early ’90s, and I watched as the last vestiges of old Hollywood glamour — the people and the places, including houses — disappeared. On film and in photographs, Woodland still captured that glamour, which was all about a casual chic that looked effortless.

And the house, unlike some movie stars, is as seductive in person as it is on film. It’s easy to see why, with a crib like that, the seven-times-married Evans was such a legend with the ladies. Who could resist that swank little pavilion with the elliptical swimming pool and the enchanted garden of roses and trees? As Evans said of his ex-wives, “Maybe they fell in love with the house and not with me.” Woodland is modest by today’s McMansion standards: it is basically a one-bedroom house, on one floor, with a tiny guest house, a living room and dining room sized for mere mortals, and the kind of kitchen you’d find in, well, your house. But it’s not the square footage that matters; it’s the elegant proportions, details and decorating that give Woodland its larger-than-life charm.

John Woolf made famous the architectural style that is now called Hollywood Regency, and Woodland is a well-preserved example. Visitors enter the house under a mansard roof, through a pair of tall, skinny doors flanked by small, elliptical windows. Through the foyer, another tall doorway frames a view of the living room fireplace. The fireplace seems to float in a wall of glass that offers a view of nothing but greenery. As they said in the movies, you had me at hello.

Flanking the living room windows are another pair of tall double doors, each of which is topped by an elliptical niche occupied by a backlit statue. The decorating mixes comfortable upholstery and antiques with a French accent. It’s a movie mogul’s version of the Petit Trianon, only with racy photos by Helmut Newton (a great friend of Evans’s, who shot many pictures at Woodland) and a wardrobe of tinted glasses in the dressing room closet. The corridor from the foyer to the kitchen is lined with photographs of Evans with every celebrity imaginable, from Henry Kissinger to Michael Jackson to ex-wives like Ali McGraw and Phyllis George. Even the butler has panache. The gracious and witty Alan Selka, who has been with Evans for many years, occupies a room that is crammed to Victorian perfection with his favorite things, which include an old-fashioned Victrola.

If it sounds like you’re in another world at Woodland, you are. Beverly Hills is a lot more crowded than it was when the house was built, and you can see cars whizzing past the fence, a reminder that things move faster these days. But inside the house’s gates, as Evans said, “You don’t think you’re in L.A.”

Gerard Butler and his NY loft built for a KING!

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I have had a crush on this man whether he is onscreen or not…his loft is too fabulous. I love it!! JA/2015 

MORE SNAPS AT FORBES.COM

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With a background in designing and building commercial sets for television shows, movies, and restaurants, Restaino brought Butler’s fantasy to life in his very first residential project. Restaino spent four years planning and working with Butler to create a personalized home design that represented the actor in every way. Restaino and Butler met at unusual places to gain inspiration and ideas. They walked through architectural buildings, studied walls on streets, stepped through salvaged yards, and dug through remnants of past dilapidated objects that could be resurrected; all to depict the masculinity and ruggedness of Butler. As a creator of fantasy and illusion, Restaino translates a human’s heart and personality into design as he will “take someone, suck them out of their world and take them to a place where they are transformed and get to be whoever they want to be.” He sticks to his philosophy of a design based theory through entertainment, where he creates, “this secret life” that once it is illuminated, you’ll be changed forever. And that’s exactly what he did with Butler’s home.

The design of Butler’s loft recycles the past through a soft European-bohemian style, with a bold hyper connectivity of passionate, feminine architectural features. In fact, Restaino chose to balance two completely opposite styles because “as raw as it is, there’s these claimed feminine qualities that are always in the shadow of the rustic features,” such as the chandeliers.

The cascading chandeliers over the dining table are a feature not to be overlooked. Restaino had them hanged in their original state; they were not measured, leveled or disturbed. They were as Restaino says, “organically picked from the universe.” Once the two components of feminine delicacy and erratic placement merged, Restaino knew he had disrupted the norm of interior designer ways. Being the featured focal point of the loft, Restaino described the chandeliers with such passion, as these, “heavy rounded creatures, which represented who Gerry is, very masculine and grounded, those chandeliers represented who he was in his creative mind.”

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Choosing to recycle and recreate rather than purchase new, Restaino painted a large mural covered with Plexiglas for the ceiling. To create the vintage feeling, he painted the mural on canvas, aged the glass to look like dirty glass tile pieces, and held it all together by custom made tiny glass stars. Everything is tinted, textured, and worn down layer by layer. The entire place was previously a white gallery compartmentalized for a family that Restaino and architect Alexander Gorlin completely gutted. The walls are dynamic, containing layers and layers of colored plaster. Their personalities are brought out through the texture, as if they are organically growing. The massive ceiling beams are painted a faux wood grain, and the columns are composed of wood and chicken wire. Restaino made a point to refurbish everything by scavenging for “graveyard” items and giving them an extra lift to create the ultimate personalized design.

Butler’s loft goes beyond the typical New York home. It’s “a fascinating journey that you wouldn’t even imagine,” Restaino says. “If I blindfolded you and set you in the center of the apartment you would know it’s his place without ever knowing him, because of the design.” While the actor is constantly on the move filming his latest action thriller film London Has Fallen or serving as the face of Hugo Boss fragrance, his old-world, rustic Manhattan home will be waiting for the king to return.

All photographs courtesy of Durston Saylor

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MADONNA

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CLICK BELOW TO SEE MADONNA’S NEW VIDEO.  SHE HAS THE PULSE ON EVERYTHING AND THIS IS HER BEST WORK IN A WHILE. IT TRULY MADE ME TEARY. BRAVA MADONNA AND TERENCE HOWARD FOR HELPING MAKE US ALL THINK. JA/2015

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MADONNA **GHOSTTOWN**

Ghostown video on Vevo now!!! Enjoy! #rebelheart

Museum of the Moving Image **Madmen**

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I have been a fan of this once in a lifetime show, and emotionally reeled in deeply…growing up in the 60’s in NY and the CT. suburbs.  I’m in way deep because I’m a Vintage lover and in the biz>>>>SO>>>>I’m TRULY saddened it will our last hurrah with these people, the clothes and the FABULOUS VINTAGE FILLED sets…oh Madmen you are breaking my heart!  Starts again (I just watched it) and each Sunday here after until the end…tonight Season 7 last episodes…and then poof>>>> JA/2015

Photo by Thanassi Karageorgiou

EXHIBITION
Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men

March 14–June 14
Changing Exhibitions Gallery

This new major exhibition explores the creative process behind Mad Men, one of the most acclaimed television series of all time, now launching its final seven episodes on AMC. Featuring large-scale sets including Don Draper’s office and the kitchen from the Draper’s Ossining home, more than 25 iconic costumes, props, video clips, advertising art, and personal notes and research material from series creator Matthew Weiner, the exhibition offers unique insight into the series’ origins, and how its exceptional storytelling and remarkable attention to period detail resulted in a vivid portrait of an era and the characters who lived through it. The Museum’s exhibition marks the first time objects relating to the production of Mad Men will be shown in public on this scale. The Museum will also present An Evening with Matthew Weiner and a film series featuring movies that inspired the show, selected by Weiner.

The exhibition Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men will be joined by other initiatives around New York City celebrating the series. Mad Men’s final seven episodes will air on AMC on Sundays at 10:00 P.M. ET/PT, from April 5 through May 17. Visit amctv.com for more information.

To avoid lines on weekend days, visitors are encouraged to arrive before 2:00 p.m.

Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men is presented with generous support from AMC and Lionsgate.

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This is the one and only>>>Betty Drapers kitchen which is in the show now in NYC.

This is the one and only>>>Betty Draper kitchen which is in the show now in NYC.

LAUREL CANYON…BOHO DAYS!!

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LAUREL CANYON DAZE | CSN, JONI MITCHELL, JACKSON BROWNE, MAMA CASS, THE EAGLES

The epic tales of Laurel Canyon’s heyday continues to linger like the warm smell of colitas rising up through the air… It’s here that the SoCal sound was born out of an era of relaxed morals (fucking sex), folks expanding their mental horizons (drugs), and a wave of eclectic misfits coming from all over to launch, reinvent, or escape their musical careers (rock ‘n’ roll) in this sleepy, smoky, winding hippy enclave. And the women, Mama Cass & Joni Mitchell, were the (wise and worldly beyond their years) matriarchs watching over over this peaceful, easy-feeling, community headquartered on Lookout Mountain. Henry Diltz was a friend and photographer to many in the scene those days, and his visual record and memories of these times is priceless.

“When I first came out to L.A. [in 1968], my friend Joel Bernstein found an old book in a flea market that said, ‘Ask anyone in America where the craziest people live and they’ll tell you California. Ask anyone in California where the craziest people live and they’ll say Los Angeles. Ask anyone in Los Angeles where the craziest people live and they’ll tell you Hollywood. Ask anyone in Hollywood where the craziest people live and they’ll say Laurel Canyon. And ask anyone in Laurel Canyon where the craziest people live and they’ll say Lookout Mountain.’ So I bought a house on Lookout Mountain.” —Joni MitchellJoni Mitchell home Lookout Mountain Avenue Laurel Canyon 1970 © Henry Dilitz“Joni Mitchell was quite a true artist: deeply creative, very thoughtful. A lot of art is imitation but for Joni it was original, from her heart. She was really a poet, and she was a painter before she made music. She was lots of fun to photograph because she spoke so brilliantly about everything. It was fun to hang out with her and listen to her talk about whatever was on her mind. She’s a grand lady now, she holds forth if there’s anybody nearby to listen. You’d see her at a party with a whole bunch of young people sitting at her feet listening to her hold forth about religion, art, the generations, life, everything.” photo by © Henry Diltz

JONI MITCHELL YOUNG

“David Crosby came to see Joni Mitchell at the Gaslight South, in Florida. ‘Right away I thought I’d been hit by a hand grenade,’ he later said. There was something about the way Mitchell combined naked purity with artful sophistication that shocked Crosby – the sense of a young woman who had seen too much too soon. He set Joni in his sights, bedding her that week. The affair was never likely to last. ‘These were two very willful people. Neither was going to cave in. I remember being at Joni’s old apartment in Chelsea in New York and I heard this commotion on the street. And it was Crosby and Joni screaming at each other on the corner. It gave me a real sense of the volatility of their relationship,’ recalled Joel Bernstein. The volatility did not obscure David’s deep admiration for Joni’s talent, nor his awareness of the obstacles she and Elliot were encountering. ‘Everything about Joni was unique and original, but we couldn’t get a deal,’ said Elliott Roberts, who took tapes to Columbia, RCA and other majors. ‘The folk period had died, so she was totally against the grain. Everyone wanted a copy of the tape for, like, their wives, but no one would sign her.’ A demo session was green-lighted on condition that David Crosby produce it. ‘David was very enthusiastic about the music,’ Joni says. ‘He was twinkly about it. His instincts were correct: he was going to protect the music and pretend to produce me.’” via

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“The sessions that eventually became Joni Mitchell could not have been more auspicious. Recording at Sunset Sound, Mitchell and Crosby kept things stripped and simple: in the main just Joni, her guitar, and such well-worked songs as ‘Marcie’ and ‘I Had a King’. The two had now officially split up. ‘They each described to me crying at the other through the glass in the studio,’ says Bernstein. Sitting in on occasional guitar and bass was Stephen Stills, who was across the hall with his group Buffalo Springfield. His bandmate, the dark and brooding Neil Young, was known to Mitchell from her apprenticeship on the Canadian folk circuit. Sharing a uniquely dry Canuck humour, Young and Mitchell had an easy rapport.” via

Eric Clapton David Crosby 1968 Laurel Canyon

“That was the day (Feb. 1968) ‘Mama’ Cass had her backyard picnic for Eric Clapton, because he didn’t know anybody. I met Eric that day, and Joni Mitchell that day. Mama invited David Crosby up, thinking that he and Eric were both musicians and they’d relate to one another. She was playing the earth mother again. We used to call Mama Cass the Gertrude Stein of Laurel Canyon because she would get people together – she introduced Graham Nash to David Crosby and Stephen Stills. Crosby brought this young girl he’d just discovered – Joni Mitchell. She sat on the grass playing her guitar and Clapton sat there mesmerized with her playing. Joni Mitchell played differently, she tuned her guitar to a chord, and Eric Clapton had never seen that before.” Photo by © Henry Diltz

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“Eric Clapton sat spellbound on the lawn as Joni cooed ‘Urge For Going’, a song inspired by the death of the folk movement. Crosby was at her side, a joint in his mouth and a Cheshire-cat smile of satisfaction on his face. ‘Mama Cass organized a little backyard barbecue, because she’d met Cream she invited Clapton, who was very quiet and almost painfully shy. And Joni Mitchell was there and doing her famous open tunings, and Eric sat and stared at her hands to try and figure out what she was doing. Cass’s daughter Owen is sitting in the foreground.” Photo by © Henry Diltz. via

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Mama Cass Elliot on her red 1968 Norton Commando motorcycle. “That’s ‘Mama’ Cass with her daughter Owen. When I started taking photographs, they all started saying ‘oh I need a publicity photo, or a poster, or a record cover’. And my hobby turned into a kind of job – but it was always really a fun thing. I was photographing all day long – flowers and dogs and cats, pretty girls, old pickup trucks. It was just good when taking photos could pay for itself.” Photo by © Henry Diltz

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Crosby, Stills and Nash, Los Angeles, CA, 1969.  “”The famous First Album of CSN sitting on the couch in Downtown LA. What most people don’t know is that the house was torn down a few days later so the band could never to retake this photograph sitting in their (proper) group name order.” Photo by © Henry Diltz

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“Errant Byrd David Crosby and former Buffalo Springfield guitarist Stephen Stills were brought together in 1968 by Mama Cass Elliot. Graham Nash listened to the pair sing You Don’t Have to Cry, asked to hear it again, then on the third performance joined in with his own perfect harmony. The high point of their collaboration came with Déjà Vu, their second album – the sound of California in a way the Beach Boys had been a few years earlier. You could argue the trio never stopped symbolizing the Laurel Canyon scene: their formation spoke of its optimism and talent, their transformation to coked-out, cocooned multimillionaires, unable to contain their own egos long enough to make an album, told you how things had changed. Occasionally participating (he was on Déjà Vu), but always from a distance – the funkier, scruffier neighbourhood of Topanga Canyon – the zealously independent Neil Young was the first to call bullshit when he saw things going wrong: the off-key, agonised howl of 1973’s Time Fades Away as perfect a summation of what the hippy dream had become as the songs on Déjà Vu were an expression of what it might have been.” Alexis Petridis via

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“That was the first moment (1969) I’d ever seen James Taylor. The phone rang one day and it was [British record producer/manager] Peter Asher. And he said ‘Henry, I have this musician here, James Taylor, and we need a publicity picture’. So I went to the Peter’s house, and he opened the door and there was James, sitting just like that. He was playing a song called Oh Suzanah, fingerpicking. It sounded like a music box – as a musician, it blew my mind. I went over and just fell to my knees a little in front of him. And as I listened I started taking pictures. Later that day we went out to my friend Cyrus Faryar’s, who had this place called The Farm, a little commune with little sheds and barns there. And so we went out there to finish the day, taking photos, and one of those became the album cover for Sweet Baby James.” Photo by ©Henry Diltz

Lookout Mountain James Taylor Joni Mitchell January 1971 © JOEL BERNSTEIN

James Taylor reading a Kool-Aid packet (read: stoned) with Joni Mitchell on the porch of her Lookout Mountain cottage, 1971. Photo by © Joel Berstein. “My dining room looked out over Frank Zappa’s duck pond, and once when my mother was visiting, three naked girls were floating around on a raft in the pond. My mother was horrified by my neighborhood. In the upper hills the Buffalo Springfield were playing, and in the afternoon there was just a cacophony of young bands rehearsing. At night it was quiet except for cats and mockingbirds. It had a smell of eucalyptus, and in the spring, which was the rainy season then, a lot of wildflowers would spring up. Laurel Canyon had a wonderful distinctive smell to it.” ~ Joni Mitchell

2401 Laurel Canyon Boulevard – Today it’s a grassy field (after having burnt to the ground in 1981) but in the late 1960s it was the site of Frank Zappa’s famous log cabin. The rustic home, built originally by Hollywood cowboy star Tom Mix, is where Zappa called home in 1968. It was also a veritable revolving door of rock and roll history. Zappa held all-night bacchanals with groupies such as the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously) and Pamela Des Barres, once threw Mick Jagger out of his house for being an obnoxious drunk, Alice Cooper auditioned for Zappa’s record label there and got himself signed, and Mama Cass introduced Graham Nash to David Crosby and Stephen Stills there too. via

Laurel Canyon Country Store 1970

Canyon Country Store, ca. 1970. The Laurel Canyon Lizard King, Jim Morrison himself, lived right near the store with his girlfriend Pamela Courson in a cozy 3 bedroom bungalow built in 1922 on Rothdell Trail. Morrison referenced their pad in “Love Street” and the Canyon Country Store as, “the place where the creatures meet.” 

.Joni Mitchell in Window

“Elliot, David, and I migrated from New York to Los Angeles. David was my agent; Elliot was my manager. I bought this little house, and David Crosby chided me for it; he said I should have looked around. But I liked that house. The hill behind my house was full of little artificial man-made caves. The house was charming. I paid $36,000 for it, but I paid it off. I probably paid more for it because I paid it off. It had a fireplace and it was mysteriously protected by a force. My neighbors, who were six feet from my house, were junkies; I was out of town and came back and their house had burned down to the ground.” ~ Joni Mitchell | Photo by ©Henry Diltz

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“This was going to be for Jackson Browne’s ‘Late for the Sky’ album, but it wasn’t in the end. The car was an old ’55 Chevy. The feet you can see pressed against the window are the girl’s who owned the car. That car was originally a present to Jackson from Glenn Frey of the Eagles. Jackson in turn gave it to an old girlfriend. We had to borrow the car for the afternoon and she was laying down in the back seat – you can see her feet.” Photo by © Henry Diltz

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A young Linda Rondstadt photographed by Henry Diltz in fron of her Santa Monica home. The Eagles owe a lot to Rondstadt, as their original line-up of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon were first assembled as her backing band. Linda was generous enough to let Glenn take the mike on tour and sing lead on one of his own original songs. That ultimately lead to the birth of The Eagles. Glenn and Don decided they wanted to leave and form their own band. She was good to them, and they parted ways with no ill will, so the story goes. Frey and Henley always seemed to quickly move along to the next stepping stone, leaving sentimentality as a vehicle for their songs, not their lives.

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“It’s no secret that when they came together they were Glenn’s band, although Don could sign anything he wrapped his voice around. We used to call Don ‘The Secret Weapon’ because he sat back there behind all those drums with his big fuzzy hair. It wasn’t that obvious, but that insanely beautiful voice, like 400 grain sandpaper, rough but fine, was incredible to hear– even if you didn’t know where it was coming from. Glenn was a great natural country singer, and a pretty good guitar player. He brought that R&B sensibility to the table with him, and kind of learned country along the way. And brilliantly. As for Randy, he was a very important component as well. It would never have been the same band without him. His singing on the high end is unlike any other sound. He also defined a style of songwriter-rooted bass playing, not unlike Paul McCartney. He always managed to make a nice melody underneath what the others were doing. And he could play light, with the tips of his fingers. The only other person I heard do that was Stephen Stills. And Bernie was one of the best and most overlooked guitar players around. All those great opening guitar riffs, in the beginning, came from Bernie. The great, grand opening of ‘Take it Easy,’ that’s Bernie Leadon. It was the combination that worked beautifully. Someone from East Texas, a guy from Detroit, another from the Central Plains. and one from Florida. There was nothing Southern California about that band. They were an all-American rock and roll outfit.” J.D. Souther 

Glenn and Paul Sitting on Car

August 1973– Glenn Frey of The Eagles and a record promoter dude named Paul Ahern (buddies and roommates at the infamous “Kirkwood Casino and Health Club,” a named bestowed on their non-stop party pad ), sitting on the hood of Frey’s 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. The Eagles were the most popular band of the 1970s largely thanks to Ahern, a promoter for their record company who relentlessly and effectively pounded key radio stations in the major markets across the country getting them to play Eagles’ singles over and over and over and over. — Image by © Henry Diltz

The Eagles campfire Henry Diltz

I personally don’t have a lot to say about The Eagles. They always felt more “catchy” than sincere, if that makes sense. More about getting drunk, laid, and rich (which isn’t all bad), over artistic merit. But they were musically sound and highly proficient at cranking out radio hits based on Glenn Frey’s clever lyrics. Don Henley always had a better voice, and a drummer who was able to lead a band, so he’s pretty solid in that regard. Joe Walsh definitely gave the band character, rock ‘n’ roll legitimacy, and a much needed set of balls. I will say this for The Eagles– as a kid the lyrics were mesmerizing, laying out a storyline that deftly painted a picture in your head. I was a big fan of ‘storytelling songs’ back then– like Jim Croce, Three Dog Night, Johnny Cash, etc., and The Eagles had strong game. Do I own any of their music, or crave an Eagles fix ever? Not really, I feel like it’s in my head whenever (if ever) I need it. I’ve heard enough Eagles’ tunes to last several lifetimes. The Eagles didn’t want to blend into a SoCal scene, or any scene. Their sole ambition was always to achieve commercial success. To be a machine. The Eagles feel like oddballs in this lineup, and the end to that Laurel Canyon music era. While Joni Mitchell and CSN represent personal craft perfected on vinyl, The Eagles were the 8-track player in your shiny new hatchback Mercury Bobcat. Both good, just very different.

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