Town & Country Ten: June/July 2013

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Uh, sorry for the delay on this one! I usually like to recap Town & Country as soon as I take it out of my mailbox, but I’ve been pretty busy lately. But it probably doesn’t matter, as there won’t be a new issue until mid-July.

Anyway, here are ten things – in no particular order – that I found to be…noteworthy from this month’s issue:

1. Jay Fielden, in his Editor’s Letter, talks about reading Heart of Darkness while aboard the Jungle Cruise at Disney World.

2. An entire page dedicated to gold jewelry that would look good worn at the beach.

3. The blurb about a guy who gave up his real estate job to make furniture from “reclaimed whiskey and wine barrels”. Must be nice.

4. The two engagements announced, side by side: In Miami, “LeBron James, known as King James to friends and subjects alike, proposed to his queen (an high school sweetheart), Savannah Brinson, back on New Year’s Eve 2011.” And in Luxembourg, “HRH Prince Felix of Luxembourg is engaged to heiress Claire Lademacher”.

5. From Dwight Garner’s Manners & Misdemeanors contribution on the state of table manners and service: “I like unfussy food and rustic decor: taxidermy, vintage farmhouse tables. Admiring these things doesn’t mean you have to admire rustic behavior.” Burn?

6. Deborah Harry is the featured Cancer in this month’s Horoscopes.

7. The description of Lauren Hutton as “a gap-toothed wackadoodle” in the profile “Lauren Rides Again”.

8. “Superiority Complex”, an article about the glory days – and decline – of Time Inc., where I worked for two and a half years. (I also interned on “the apogee of the apogee”, the 34th floor, for one summer during college.)

9. The photo of a needlepoint pillow that says “IF I CANNOT SMOKE CIGARS IN HEAVEN THEN I SHALL NOT GO!”. (It’s part of an article about Palm Beach society fixture Joe Dryer and his house. I’ve come to expect at least one article about an elderly Palm Beacher each month, so let me say now that I’ll be disappointed if the next issue doesn’t deliver.)

10. Cover line: “HAWAII’S SEXIEST SECRET: BIKINI ISLAND”. The fashion editorial is more tasteful than you’d expect.

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‘Popping A Bottle of Taittinger in His Grave’: The Best of Town & Country, May 2013

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This month, Town & Country ranked the 50 “Great Families Who Rule America Now”. The T&C 50! This is, surprisingly, their first ever list of this kind. I know you’re all just as excited as I am about this, so let’s dive in!

Discussing these families for their wealth alone would have been crass, so the editors divided those 50 chosen into five groups: Inspiring, Generous, Enduring, Creative and Powerful. And then they ranked them. Frankly, many of the families could have fit into any of the categories. And any of them could have been ranked at any number and I would have been like, “OK. That makes…sense?” (You can find the full “rankings” here.) T&C devoted only a few sentences to each family so there wasn’t anything too juicy to pick apart. Anyway, here are the parts that I, personally, liked the best:

– No mention that Julia Louis-Dreyfus (of the Inspiring Louis-Dreyfus family) attended Northwestern University, which also happens to be my alma mater. But alas, I shouldn’t be surprised, since it isn’t in the Ivy League.

– The Cargills are Generous in many ways: “If you consume any kind of processed food today (don’t tell Michael Pollan), it probably contains Cargill ingredients.”

– Herbert Kohler Jr. is not only philanthropic, but he “also breeds horses and enjoys carriage driving.”

– And Ted Turner’s generosity extends to the animal kingdom, in the sense that he is “the owner of the biggest bison herd” in North America.

– The Wainwrights, almost puzzlingly grouped with other Enduring families such as the Du Ponts, Rockefellers, Hearsts and Vanderbilts, are the only family described as “dysfunctional”.

– There is a beautiful photo of David Rockefeller Sr. “at home with his art collection” in which he’s sitting in an armchair next to a big painting of a naked girl.

T&C notes that the Creative Coppola clan includes Nicolas Cage, “an Oscar-winning actor with a taste for Elvis memorabilia and European castles.” Which is like, the most tasteful way I’ve heard Nicolas Cage described in the past few years.

– The Kennedys were ranked the 5th most Powerful – behind Families Bush, Kerry, Murdoch and Emanuel – which I find SHOCKING for the obvious reason that you can barely read a page in this magazine without a Kennedy mention.

And thus concludes my notes on the biggest letdown of a cover story ever.

So now, let’s back it up. To the Editor’s Letter! This month, Jay Fielden discussed tax season and wealth. “Whatever your opinion of the new rates, as members of perhaps the wealthiest readership of any magazine, you are also among the most highly taxed.” He really knows his audience. Except for me, of course, who is not anywhere close to being among the most highly taxed! However, it does seem that the common people crept into his consciousness in the last month. He went to see Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye whilst in France and noted that “It says, by way of its geometry of beauty and blankness, that the proletariat are people too.” We are, indeed.

I found some more sharp commentary in the Inbox. One reader, an etiquette coach from San Jose, California, says that she “must respectfully disagree with the photo essay reflecting the perfect way to exit a car.” (This was in the March issue.) So, how does one exit a car? “The knees must remain glued together, prohibiting paparazzi from snagging the compromising photo.” She details the steps but I stopped reading there because, I dunno, maybe I secretly want paparazzi taking scandalous photos of me exiting a car some day.

This month’s Scorecard: John Kerry’s Ties vs. Madeleine Albright’s Pins. Who wins? It’s actually very unclear.

They are doing a whole thing about The Great Gatsby this month. Francis Ford Coppola wrote about retooling the 1974 Gatsby script. And they republished the the magazine’s original review of the novel. There isn’t much on the new movie but then, new isn’t really their thing, is it?

Speaking of stuff based on olden literature, there is a piece on the new production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It contains the following sentence: “That comparison surely has good old Tru popping a bottle of Taittinger in his grave.” I wanted to explain the context of this line but, now that I think of it, there is no need.

Anyway, what’s in style this season? T&C’s Style Spy tells us!

– Two things: designer athletic equipment (ex. Tommy Hilfiger baseball bats) and evening flats (which are a thing I can definitely get down with).

– Also, HATS. Only they are super fancy and designed by Aaron Keppel (of id Design, based in – gasp – Brooklyn), who created a dope headpiece that the magazine calls a “skull flowers creation” for a contributor.

– Luxury closet organizers. (“In closets, as in life, we all need rules to live by.”)

– Rugby shirts. (Perfect opportunity to work in some rugby/sporting lingo: “Oddly enough, a desperate search last fall for the perfect rugby shirt turned up few players; expecting a scrum in the online marketplace, we stumbled into the equivalent of a bye week – a virtually empty field.”)

Where should we travel? Rome! The T&C Beauty Insider’s guide to Rome actually made me super stressed out and I am now convinced for sure that I’ll never have a decent Roman holiday. I have been there once and I spent the entire time lost, cold and trying to think of the Latin word for “cudgel”, but that’s a tale for another time. Anyway, here are some things I learned about the beautiful people of Rome:

– “How is it that Roman women can eat pasta on a daily basis – Italian women do have joyous appetites – and still ease into their sleek, fitted clothes?” All of them see personal trainers.

– “One of the hallmarks of the Roman woman’s composed and exacting style is that there’s never a hair out of place – literally. Women visit the salon three or four times a week for professional blowouts.” Haha, stop it.

– Some Roman people like to visit an “Austrian naturopath, who specializes in ‘energy vibrational therapy’”.

Also, we should travel to Paris to learn how to take care of our skin! Sadie Stein’s essay on this is actually lovely. Read it.

What’s everyone been up to in society these days?

Well, some dudes (Hasty Pudding) honored another dude (Kiefer Sutherland) with their Man of the Year award and now there is a page in T&C with pictures of past honorees in silly bras! Also, designers appear on the runway after their shows in different ways.

The Kentucky Derby is coming up. Whitney Tower, Jr. took us along with him on his first trip to the Derby, which seemed full of appropriately charming festivities. (One of his hosts noted, “We mix tradition with fun. We use heirloom goblets to drink Coca-Cola.”) My favorite part of this piece wasn’t about the Derby, though. It was discovering that everyone in his family has almost the same name: “Bumping into members of my extended family – my great-aunt Marylou Whitney, of Saratoga fame, and my cousin Whitney Miller Douglass – brought back memories of reunions in the Adirondacks and at our plantation in Aiken, South Carolina.”

Michelle Kwan got married. “The January wedding was a suitable choice for Kwan, who competed in the Winter Olympics twice.” What I’m getting from that is that her wedding wouldn’t have made it into the magazine if it had been in the summer.

Manners & Misdemeanors was a doozy this month. It was about ‘friendnapping’ and it begins like this: “What can you say about the friendnapper, the smiler with the knife who lurks in our midst?” And then: “He is a stripe of social climber subtler and more insidious than the parvenu, a kind of upwardly mobile bottom-feeder who specializes in divide-and-conquer tactics.”

OK. Who injured the author so grievously that he was inspired to write this piece? Only the most delightful French couple of all time! “The man, whom we’ll call Maurice, designed landscapes; he had a moderately successful practice, nothing fancy, based largely on his pleasing color sense. His wife, Camille, was more aristocratic – she had matrilineal ties to Proust – and she kept a lovely home, entertained with aplomb, and lunched, when she could, with gay men of style.” They can friendnap me anytime!

OK, what else? Indeed, there is more! Including…a fashion editorial starring an old, rich lady named Fern Tailer (“known as Big Fern”) who lives in Palm Beach and her thirty-ish year-old first cousin once removed, who is attractive in a model-y way, which makes sense because he is described as “hat designer and model Nick Fouquet”. The whole thing is bizarre and filled me with indescribable joy. Especially the part where they interview the two of them and Big Fern tears up when she read a note the dude – who cares what his name is really – wrote her. (It says: “What an awesomely cool and inspiring woman you are. I always enjoy our conversations. Keep rocking.”)

And finally, we have an excerpt from The Astor Orphan, a memoir written by Alexandra Aldrich, a descendent of John Jacob Astor, who grew up in a dilapidated forty-three room mansion that her family inherited. The excerpt was fine, but it left me with a desire to watch Grey Gardens, which I might just indulge right now.

So, there we have it. Please join me next month when I will once again attempt to find new ways to talk about Town & Country finding new ways to talk about the same rich people all over again!

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a ‘Nice Hack’: The Best of Town & Country, April 2013

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This month’s issue is all about the Ivy League! Cover girl Allison Williams – whose name isn’t even mentioned on the cover, she’s just “Brian Williams’ Daughter” – went to Yale. And 19 other “Brainy Beauties” are apparently “Taking Hollywood By Storm”. I was hoping for some juicier details about America’s most celebrated institutions of higher learning but was sorely disappointed, as the coverage of Ivy League schools is limited to an Editor’s Letter about the summer he spent at Yale while he was in high school, a profile on Allison Williams, and a two-page spread on already established actresses who only needed to attend a couple of years at an Ivy League college in order to be included in their roundup.

The best bits on those things related to the Ivy League:

Editor’s Letter:
Jay Fielden, the EIC of Town & Country, spent the summer of 1987 at Yale, living in Silliman College and taking two classes (in American Studies and the religions of Africa, he tells us). It seems from his letter that what he really got out of this summer, aside from an appreciation of WASP culture, was a lasting love for reggae and “Bud in a can”. Also, hacky sack. Apparently, he spent many an evening “in pursuit of ‘a nice hack’”. (OMGOMGOMG). Also, no mention of where he went to school but The New York Times is telling me it was Boston University.

Allison Williams, “Ivy League Siren”:
– On the night of the Golden Globes, “she giddily snapped photos of her self with the actor who plays Abu Nazir on Homeland”.
– She “cops to occasionally veering into Tracy Flick territory”.
– According to the author of the profile, she had a “Rockwellian childhood”.
– She says she slept for four hours a night in high school and college. (Which I can relate to. I also was busier then than I am now. Which is obvious. Because I’m recapping Town & Country issues.)
– She met her best friend while “vacationing at a Montana dude ranch” as a child.
– “She gave up drinking after college”. SHE GAVE UP DRINKING AFTER COLLEGE.
Style icon: Grace Kelly. There is no other choice.

“Rousseau, Rilke, and the Red Carpet” (Or, Other Ivy League Sirens):
Everyone who you already knew went to an Ivy League school. (Except I guess I didn’t know Amanda Peete went to Columbia, but you learn something new every day.) Also, I would argue that most of them have already taken Hollywood by storm, though not all of them have remained in the spotlight. What I’m saying is, I’d really like a Leelee Sobieski profile next month.

Now, here are the rest of the best parts of the April 2013 issue:

A man from Lexington, KY wrote a letter to the editor to complain that Jack Kennedy Schlossberg, “the only living male heir to Camelot”, was not included in “T&C’s 50 Top Bachelors” back in February. The Editors apologized.

I assume they devote one page each month to C.Z. Guest and this month they’re talking about the celebration of her life in a book called C.Z. Guest: American Style Icon. “Often photographed for this magazine, Guest was never overly concerned with what she wore, preferring to spend her time outdoors, cultivating her topiaries or riding.”

Two-thirds of a page is devoted to the recent trend of rich people literally purchasing entire medieval towns.

In a rundown of rich people moving to foreign tax havens, there is this sentence: “‘Texas is home to liberty and low taxes,’ Governor Rick Perry tweeted to golfer Phil Mickelson.”
From the “Style Spy” section:

“When one visits Marissa Collections in Naples, Florida, it’s hard not to think of the Cheers bar in Boston (or at least in syndication). True, there might not have been Lanvin dresses and Alexander McQueen clutches in Sam Malone’s saloon, but both places serve as gather spots for the like-minded.” I think this is a stretch.

“There are endless choices involved in embarking on a day by the sea: suntan oil or lotion, book or tablet, caftan or cutoffs. And now, Valentino espadrille or Chanel jelly.” Suntan lotion, book, caftan. And like 10 year-old flip flops.

“There’s something about a lamp shade that makes you think of a party (at least, it should).”

And a guide to fancy English umbrellas! Complete with three pictures of Prince Charles!

From the “Looking Glass” section:

-“‘Who is woman?’ Town & Country wondered in March 1971 – a question for the ages but also unmistakably of the age.”
– “According to the feature, ‘the ‘seventies chic’ involved cropping the top and sides of one’s hair while the back had ‘long wisps in strands to soften the total effect.’ In short, a mullet.”

From the “Social Network” section:

Several photos of Charlotte Casiraghi (above) competing in an equestrian competition dressed as a Native American.

Two people called Halsey and Griffin got married. And here is the part where I admit that I read their wedding announcement in The New York Times this summer.

And elsewhere in the issue:

This months “Manners & Misdemeanors” was written by a mom who sexts. Here are some things she says:
– “At age 12, my daughter has started to attract the opposite sex, and now that my divorce scars have finally healed, I’m happy to say that I have too.”
– “Post-divorce I’ve been introduced to ‘sexting,’ the saucy written cell phone chats that I, being a writer, have realized I’m actually rather good at.”
– “I’m so petite (five-foot-one if I stand up extra-straight) that I can buy my datewear at Gap Kids or Crewcuts, where I’m typically the only person in the dressing room pulling on brocade dresses while returning business emails and wearing $85 French lace panties.”

There’s a piece on Aristotle Onassis’s Olympic Tower that the cover referred to as “Jackie O’s Tower of Power”, of course. It includes a photo subtitled: “‘70s Primitivism: Helene Rochas reclines in the shade of her luxuriant and well-tended kentia palms, 1979.” And that is all you need to know about THAT.

Mary McCartney wrote a thing on her mother’s cooking and how the entire McCartney clan is vegetarian. The McCartneys seem nice/very down to Earth.

T&C urges us to travel to the following places abroad: Antarctica (six different proposed “adventures”, depending on your personality), Walt Disney World (but you should only stay at the Waldorf Astoria or Four Seasons), the Republic of Congo, Mani (the region of Greece where my actual hero Patrick Leigh Fermor* lived for much of his life), and Portillo (“the other Aspen”, in Chile). Also, Qatar (to dive for pearls) and Tasmania.

There’s also an American travel guide, divided up by the following pursuits (and from there, by skill level): golf, camping, and sailing.

That said, it’s time for us to sail away from T&C until next month. If you need to reach me before then, I’ll be tending to my topiaries.

*I’ve talked about his books A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, here and here. Read them! They are beautiful, beautiful portraits of Europe just before WWII that are full of incredible and mostly obscure history and plain old fun facts. And the writing isn’t bad either.