Must Read: Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge

What a delicious article-0-05A86A230000044D-687_634x940 DollySisters_468x356 Dolly_Sisters Dolly_Sisters_onstageread this is. Part social history,part business bio, author16169879 Lindy Woodward’s finely detailed tale of Harry Gordon Selfridge was the inspiration for the Masterpiece series on PBS.


Lady Lavery

He was a merchant showman who  was drawn to spectacle and flamboyant harry-selfridge-610x578mistresses, most notably the Dolly Sisters,  twin gold diggers and compulsive gamblers whose reckless spending ultimately destroyed him. He died broke at 91, but it was a great and glamorous life that changed forever how we shopcaption. And yes, there reallythe dolly sisters 1927 - by james abbe 303px-TheRedRose 300px-Lavery_4953634059_c462240dd0_o was a Lady Lavery.


Too Much Information: The Secret Sex Lives Of Old Hollywood

It’s not surprising that this 29SCOTTIE1_SPAN-articleLarge-v2 51T4jR2SgeL._SY300_lurid Hollywood memoir became a Los Angeles and New York Times bestseller. What’s equally shocking to me, is that author Scotty Bowers, 89, never made a nickel from setting up everyone from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Kate Hepburn (according to Bowers, she preferred pretty brunettes). Bowers still works as a party bartender and Hollywood handyman, so I’ll assume he didn’t profit from pimping. As for his other shocking and excruciatingly detailed sexual adventures, we’ll never know the truth. All of the kinky players in Full Service  are dead. Celeb heirs all over Hollywood will not be happy with these revelations. Yuck!!!!!!

via New York Times:

“At the same time, a lot of what Mr. Bowers has to say is pretty shocking. He claims, for instance, to have set Hepburn up with “over 150 different women.” Other stories in the 286-page memoir involve Spencer Tracy, Cole Porter, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and socialites like the publisher Alfred A. Knopf. “If you believe him, and I do, he’s like the Kinsey Reports live and in living color,” said Mr. Tyrnauer, who recently completed a deal to make a documentary about Mr. Bowers.”–NY TImes


Stephanie Diani for The New York Times

Scotty Bowers, around 1944, after his return from his first posting abroad.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Cary Grant is among the celebrities discussed in the ribald new memoir “Full Service.”

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Katharine Hepburn.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Spencer Tracy.

Central Press, via Getty Images

Cole Porter.

STRAIGHT actors who wanted to pay for sex in the 1990s had Heidi Fleiss. Gay ones during the late 1940s and beyond apparently had Scotty Bowers.

His story has floated through moviedom’s clubby senior ranks for years: Back in a more golden age of Hollywood, a guy named Scotty, a former Marine, was said to have run a type of prostitution ring for gay and bisexual men in the film industry, including A-listers like Cary Grant, George Cukor and Rock Hudson, and even arranged sexual liaisons for actresses like Vivien Leigh and Katharine Hepburn.

“Old Hollywood people who have, shall we say, known him would tell me stories,” said Matt Tyrnauer, a writer for Vanity Fair and the director of the 2008 documentary “Valentino: The Last Emperor.” “But whenever I followed up on what would obviously be a great story, I was told, ‘Oh, he’ll never talk.’ ”

Now, he’s talking.

Mr. Bowers, 88, recalls his highly unorthodox life in a ribald memoir scheduled to be published by Grove Press on Feb. 14, “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars.” Written with Lionel Friedberg, an award-winning producer of documentaries, it is a lurid, no-detail-too-excruciating account of a sexual Zelig who (if you believe him) trawled an X-rated underworld for over three decades without getting caught.

“I’ve kept silent all these years because I didn’t want to hurt any of these people,” Mr. Bowers said recently over lemonade on his patio in the Hollywood Hills, where he lives in a cluttered bungalow with his wife of 27 years, Lois. “And I never saw the fascination. So they liked sex how they liked it. Who cares?”

He paused for a moment to scratch his collie, Baby, behind the ears. “I don’t need the money,” he continued. “I finally said yes because I’m not getting any younger and all of my famous tricks are dead by now. The truth can’t hurt them anymore.”

Twenty-six years after Hudson’s death from AIDS and more than four decades after “Hollywood Babylon” was first published, it will come as a surprise to no one that the images the movie factories created for stars of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s — when Mr. Bowers was most active — were just that: images. The people who fed the world strait-laced cinema like “The Philadelphia Story” and perfect-family television like “I Love Lucy” were often quite the opposite of prudish in private.

At the same time, a lot of what Mr. Bowers has to say is pretty shocking. He claims, for instance, to have set Hepburn up with “over 150 different women.” Other stories in the 286-page memoir involve Spencer Tracy, Cole Porter, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and socialites like the publisher Alfred A. Knopf. “If you believe him, and I do, he’s like the Kinsey Reports live and in living color,” said Mr. Tyrnauer, who recently completed a deal to make a documentary about Mr. Bowers.

“Full Service” at the very least highlights how sharply the rules of engagement for reporting celebrity gossip have changed. The sexual shenanigans of movie stars were a currency for tabloids stretching back to Hollywood’s earliest days, but studios and, subsequently, squadrons of privately hired public relations experts could usually keep all but the most egregious behavior out of the news media. Secrets were kept.

A degree of that still goes on, of course, but it’s much harder to keep details as salacious as the ones Mr. Bowers outlines under wraps. Now all it takes is one pair of loose lips for TMZ to beam all manner of embarrassing information around the globe.

The people behind the memoir, including Mr. Bowers’s agent, David Kuhn, and Morgan Entrekin, the publisher of Grove/Atlantic, insist that “Full Service” is not a prurient tell-all, but instead provides a window into an erased, forgotten and denied past of Los Angeles. In his pitch to publishers, Mr. Kuhn positioned it as no less than a tale about “the complex and conflicted psychosexual history of America’s soul.”

A lot of big publishers didn’t agree, or at least were not willing to risk the bawdy stuff to get to any larger point. (Yes, the book was offered to Knopf.) Mr. Entrekin said he decided to publish “Full Service” partly because “there seemed to be nothing meanspirited about it at all.

“You don’t get the sense that this guy is trying to exploit these experiences,” he said.

The heirs and estates of some of the people mentioned in the book are bound to feel otherwise. Fans, too.

“He needs to brace himself for attacks,” said William J. Mann, the author of celebrity biographies like “Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn,” which details what he says was Hepburn’s lesbianism and Tracy’s bisexuality, using Mr. Bowers (identified as Scotty) as one of several sources. “Some of the pushback is going to be homophobia,” Mr. Mann added. “But there will also be people who say he’s making it up to sell books and others who say why can’t you let these people rest in peace.”

“Kate” drew all those reactions and more when it came out in 2006. In particular, “Spencer Tracy: A Biography,” written by James Curtis and published in October, dismisses Mr. Mann’s account of Hepburn’s and Tracy’s sexuality, characterizing Mr. Bowers as unreliable. “Bowers is full of glib stories and revelations, all cheerfully unverifiable,” Mr. Curtis writes.

Jennifer Grant, the daughter of Cary Grant, declined to comment on Mr. Bowers’s book. But her spokeswoman said Ms. Grant’s book, “Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant,” published in 2011, acknowledges that she knew him to be very straight and that he was amused by chatter that he was bisexual.

The ABC News anchor Cynthia McFadden, an executor of the Hepburn estate, said it was its long-standing practice not to comment about books like “Full Service.”

Mr. Entrekin said that the book had been vetted by a libel lawyer. “Based on his comments, we deleted some information,” he said.

Lawyers who specialize in celebrity-related matters said neither federal copyright law nor the patchwork of state-based “right of publicity” laws offer recourse to heirs or estates displeased with assertions published in a memoir. “They might be in tears, but there’s nothing they can do about it,” said Alan U. Schwartz, a veteran entertainment lawyer at Greenberg Traurig.

A $20 bill, given as a tip, according to Mr. Bowers, bought his services in the beginning. That was 1946, and he was 23. As Mr. Bowers tells it, he stumbled into his profession by accident.

Newly discharged from the Marines after fighting in the Pacific during World War II, Mr. Bowers got a job pumping gas at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, not far from Paramount Pictures. One day Walter Pidgeon (“Mrs. Miniver”) drove up in a Lincoln two-door coupe, according to the book, and propositioned Mr. Bowers, who accepted.

Soon, word got around among Pidgeon’s friends, and Mr. Bowers, from his base at the station, started “arranging similar stuff” for some of Bowers’s more adventurous friends.

Many clients were not famous, Mr. Bowers said. Film production was flourishing in the late 1940s, and Los Angeles became a destination for writers, set designers, hairstylists and other “artists with open minds,” as Mr. Bowers put it. It was also a time of the vice squad, which raided gay bars. “The station was a safer hangout,” he said. “Sometimes police would come around, sure. But I think I never got caught partly because I kept everything in my head. There was no little black book.”

Perhaps it’s hard to look at Mr. Bowers today — an elderly man with sloped shoulders and a shock of unruly white hair — and believe that a half-century ago he was sought out by some of the most handsome men to have ever strutted through Hollywood. But after some time with him, the still-sparkling blues and the impish smile help convince you that he could have definitely had seductive powers.

Mr. Bowers quit pumping gas in 1950 and says he supported himself for the next two decades through prostitution, bartending and working as a handyman. Mr. Bowers writes that, in addition to his gay clients, he also gained a following among heterosexual actors like Desi Arnaz, who used him as a type of matchmaking service. Mr. Bowers, who says he personally “prefers the sexual company of women,” says he never took payment for connecting people like Arnaz with bedroom partners.

“I wasn’t a pimp,” he said. (Mr. Arnaz’s wife at the time, Lucille Ball, apparently felt otherwise, according to “Full Service.”)

Mr. Bowers said he continued this life until the onset of AIDS in the 1980s; he also married in 1984. AIDS “brought an end to the sexual freedoms that had defined much of life in Tinseltown ever since the birth of movies,” Mr. Bowers writes. “It was obvious that my days of arranging tricks for others were over. It was too unsafe a game to play anymore.”

Over the years, according to Mr. Bowers, various writers he encountered considered writing about him. One was Dominick Dunne, whose son, the actor and director Griffin Dunne, provided a blurb for the “Full Service” book jacket. (“A jaw-dropping firsthand account of closeted life in Hollywood during the ’40s and ’50s.”)

Mr. Bowers says Tennessee Williams, during a visit to the Beverly Hills Hotel in the 1960s, wrote “a revealing exposé.” But Mr. Bowers hated it, and Williams scrapped it. “He made me sound like a mad queen flying over Hollywood Boulevard on a broomstick directing all the queens in town,” he said. “It was way over the top.”–NY Times

New Balenciaga Bio Reveals His Favorite Clients Were Short, Plump And Middle-Aged

f8733ff988df852bc105f5a35ecfc061Now that every great couturier that ever lived has been reduced
to being a coveted label inside the “It” bag contender for the season, it’s time to remember “The Master Of Us All “,  Cristobel Balenciaga before he was a purse.

Author img-masterofusalljpg_185428967798.jpg_article_singleimage-1Mary Blume, in her new book, The Master of Us All, Balenciaga: His Workrooms, His World, reports that Balenciaga was so private that bf6083ef04b9ccc4107f45b53b158c8819b2e977bc7df7147df82f1f439cc9e10b551360ba3898194ec2d45c6b941b2c417LGnpKNvL._SX225_2750c7a2710e9207371c558a7d588d27even his most notable  clients (Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Hutton) had never met him. Told through the eyes of his top vendeuse, Floret Chelot, the book reveals that “The women he really liked to dress, French or not, were oddly enough small, plump and middle-aged.  They were part of his experiments in sculpting form: ‘Monsieur likes a bit of a belly’ was the saying in the house. Their roly poly bodies told him how to confer, or to enhance, beauty.”

Yesterday’s Blonde: The High-Wasp Perfection of C.Z. Guest

tumblr_mhzn25r2761qe37dpo1_500With her best-of-breed 51BxugYJcJL hbz-czguest-style-5-de-97920207 hbz-czguest-style-6-de-32304799 hbz-czguest-style-9-de-2111559blonde beauty and debutante goes wild (to a point) past, C. Z. Guest was Daisy Buchanan without the dark side. In later years we knew her as a best-selling garden guru and author, but like Grace Kelly she was born to the life Ralph Lauren creates for the rest of us.

A socialite wouldn’t be sexy without a bit of rebellion. C. Z.posed nude for Diego Rivera. (Her husband’s family bought the painting to absorb the shock. ) Like Gloria Vanderbilt, she had a short,showy fling with Hollywood, hoping “to be just successful enough as an actress  to get thrown out of the social register”. It was not hbz-czguest-style-13-de-58349589 hbz-czguest-style-14-de-91751527-1 hbz-czguest-style-10-de-90643766 hbz-czguest-style-7-de-6369349to  be.

A new book, C. Z,Guest, American Style Icon,  by Susanna Salk, chronicles the visually stunning life of this classic American beauty, her Long Island home ,Templeton. (Can a name be any more Wasp-ish? ) and her gardens. Like Babe Paley and chic surviviour Gloria Vanderbilt, Guest had a personal flair that was uniquely her own. From CZGuest_HouseGarden_2004-1-1 CZGuest_HouseGarden_2004-2-1 CZGuest_HouseGarden_2004-3-1 CZGuest_HouseGarden_2004-4 CZGuest_HouseGarden_2004-6-1-1 CZGuest_HouseGarden_2004-7-1 CZGuest_HouseGarden_2004-9-1the simple clean Mainbocher clothes to the surprise of leopard-pattern carpet underfoot at home, she did  glamour in a comfortable, born with it, American way.  Ralph wouldn’t be Ralph if C. Z. hadn’t done it first.

Churchill The Chowhound And My Own Private Nobu–NY Times

The Do It Yourself Sushi Chef Kit
Somehow,  this has the potential to get very Lucy/Ethel very fast. But it is quite beautiful and if you’re not up to the challenge (who is?!!!) , order a Chef on the side for an extra $350.

The  20BURNER1-blog480-v2Nobu Hand Roll Box, described by the NY Times as ” nothing short of designer D.I.Y.  It’s everything you need to make  sushi for 10 to 12.  The box, with 20 different ingredients, is $550. For another $350 a chef — will show up for personalized instruction. Delivery and returns are $100 each way, though you can do both yourself: At Nobu restaurants across the United States, Three days’ notice is required. In New York: (212) 757-3063.”–Front Burnter, NY Times

Do treaties go down easier with a good meal?  Turns out that not only could he write a speech for the ages and do his greatest geneneration best during WWII, but we now learn that Winston Churchill was quite a foodie.

From the New York Times:

“To Read: Peace, With a Side of Champagne

… “He  paid astonishing attention to the details of his dining experiences throughout his adult life, especially at meetings of the Big Three (with Stalin and Roosevelt or Truman) in far-flung destinations during World War II. These meals, and even white-linen picnics for generals in France after D-Day, are chronicled in “Dinner With Churchill” by Cita Stelzer (Pegasus Books, $27.95). Churchill relished good food and believed that delicate negotiations were often more successful at a meal than in a more formal conference room. Somehow, copious supplies of tableware and ingredients, including wartime luxuries like butter, were obtained by ship and air, and there were cases of Champagne, fine wines, whiskeys and brandies, too. But, the author notes, based on testimony from guests: “Churchill combined caution with a capacity, developed over a lifetime, to hold his alcohol.”

Music Man Clive Davis, 80, Out With a Memoir, Reveals He Also Likes Boys But Does Not Like Kelly Clarkson

“I refuse to be bullied, and I just have to clear up his memory lapses and misinformation for myself and for my fans,” the chart-topper says in a lengthy letter posted Tuesday on WhoSay. “It feels like a violation. Growing up is awesome because you learn you don’t have to cower to anyone — even Clive Davis.”–Kelly Clarkson

None of the American Idols are on my all-time Hit Parade, but Clarkson’s bratty 00290065-0000-0000-0000-000000000000_913e6ef8-b8d5-4f20-9d47-e99c063550a6_20130219210903_h_00677095response to Davis’ book proves his claim that ‘she often speaks in public before she realizes the implications of what she’s saying’. Describing creative differences with Davis as “bullying” trivializes the pain and lifelong trauma suffered by actual victims — something the very lucky
(notice I didn’t say talented)  and  successful Clarkson is not. Using words like violation and cower also imply a level of abuse which I doubt existed
between the music exec. and the young singer.

Davis’ version of the feud  from the book, “The Soundtrack Of My Life”, in which the twice-married Davis also admitted that his Facebok status should change to  “bi-sexual” and “in a relationship” with a man. Kudos for his candor and courage in coming out at last. The book was released yesterday and is already a bestseller.:

On “Since U Been Gone”… “… you have to take direction. Kelly didn’t like it. Max and Luke were merciless in pursuit of getting the right performance for their song. Kelly got her back up, and, from her perspective, she had a horrible experience in the studio. She’d never work with them again, she said … I could not have been more thrilled. … Everyone loved the end result, and I could just feel the momentum building. … RCA was having an international convention in New York that I would be addressing. … I played the songs. … On the basis of those two songs, Kelly had been prioritized for massive worldwide success.

In the meantime, before any of this transpired, Kelly had requested a meeting with me, which was scheduled for the day after the international meeting… To this point I had never really spent much personal time with her… Kelly began the meeting by saying, ‘I want to be direct and to the point. I hate ‘Since U Been Gone,’ and I hate ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes.’ I didn’t like working with Max Martin and Dr. Luke, and I don’t like the end product. I really want both songs off of my album.’ I sat there, shocked… I said, … ‘I had to use a lot for personal leverage and persuasiveness to get those songs for you… You are going to be the top international priority. Why? Because of “Since U Been Gone’ and ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes.’ I beg of you to understand the bigger picture here. Your first two singles must have tempo, must have drive, and must have edge. Consequently, I can’t take them off the album. I just can’t.’

It was a very tough conversation, and it didn’t get any easier when Kelly burst into hysterical sobbing. We all just sat there as she cried for several minutes. No one knew what to say. Then she left to go to the ladies’ room. When she came back the tension in the room was thick… ‘What you’re asking me to do is impossible. I’ve committed to all our executives all over the world. The stakes are just too high. ‘Since U Been Gone’ is going to be the first single, and it’s going to be a game-changer for you.’ Kelly didn’t say another word. She just looked at me with red, puffy eyes and a swollen face, and got up to leave. I truly felt awful. I’ve had differences of opinion with artists and my share of tough meetings, but I really had never been in a situation like that before. Of course, the rest is history…”


After The Ball Gown: The Haute Couture Secrets of Cristobal Balenciaga

Balenciaga+Portrait Balenciaga+Spain tumblr_lwi6exd9dx1r4u0ixo1_500 Vintage-balenciaga-2 vintage-suit-Balenciaga-1951-1-600x553

From the  Wall Street Journal review of a new book about Balenciaga, the reclusive couturier whose sculptural sophitication defined  the extravagance of post-war fashion. “It is from Dior (who called Balenciaga ‘The Master of Us All’ ) that Mary Blume, a longtime Paris reporter for the International Herald Tribune, takes the title of her new book, “The Master of Us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, His World.”

“Most books on Balenciaga are balenciaga+pink_black+dress+rear+viewbalienciaga1959Balenciaga-1931-Metropolitan-Museum-of-Artbalenciaga+perfume+ad+1987coffee-table tomes with text by curators or scholars who don’t disturb the zone of reserve that surrounded the master. This book, small and intimate, contains a voice from the inside, that of Florette Chelot, Balenciaga’s top saleswoman and the first person he hired to work in his Paris salon, back in 1936.

“Monsieur likes a bit of belly,” was the soothing refrain in the house.”

“In 1965, Chelot sold the fledgling reporter her first Balenciaga, a wool suit. When Chelot was in her 90s, Ms. Blume taped a series of conversations about life in the fashion house at 10 Avenue George V: its intricate hierarchy of workers; its clients with posh surnames (Guinness, Rothschild, Mellon); and, of course, its discreet deity. The book is a two-part invention, with Chelot’s autobiographical facts and anecdotes punctuating and expanding Ms. Blume’s researched narrative of Balenciaga’s life. The older voice is worldly, accepting of human frailty and folly; the younger voice more skeptical and searching.”–Wall Street Journal