Redeeming Features: A Memoir

Redeeming Features: A Memoir

Nicholas Haslam

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0307271676

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From British interior designer Nicholas Haslam, a dazzling and witty account of a frenetic and full life—from the 1940s to the present—in Europe and America, in a crowd of friends and acquaintances that includes virtually all of the cultural icons of our time.

Haslam has found himself at the center of some of the most interesting circles wherever he is—at parties, opening nights, royal weddings. In London in the late 1950s he crossed paths—and more—with Cecil Beaton, Francis Bacon, Diana Cooper, Greta Garbo, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, David Bailey, and Noël Coward. A time living in the still unspoiled south of France was an education in everything from the work of Buñuel to the style of toreros like Dominguín and Ordóñez. In Paris he met Jean Cocteau and Janet Flanner, and, in Saint-Tropez, danced with Brigitte Bardot. In the 1960s, in New York, he encountered Dorothy Parker, Cole Porter, Andy Warhol, Jack Kennedy, Joan Didion, and Marilyn Monroe while working in the art department at Vogue and later as art director, following Henry Wolf, at Huntington Hartford’s Show magazine. After Show, Haslam moved to a ranch in Arizona to raise Arabian horses—Truman Capote and John Richardson, among others, came to stay—and he began designing and commuting to Los Angeles to decorate for the stars.

Back in England in the 1980s, he worked on David Bailey’s Ritz magazine, attended the wedding of his cousin Diana Spencer, and designed for everyone from the financier James Goldsmith to rock star Bryan Ferry.

Redeeming Features is about much more than documenting a life among the celebrated and the eccentric: it is a vivid, at times humorous and moving portrait of a way of life that has all but disappeared. Haslam has an exacting eye for the telling detail and his story is a compelling and wholly fascinating document of our times.

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And Lady Ebury, was a lovable and loving last echo of the Edwardian swansong. Lord Camrose had a far more complicated nature. His incisive mind and retentive memory, Celtic profile, thick dark hair, and perfectly cut clothes disguised a lifelong insecurity. It was said that his not being the match for such brilliant youthful contemporaries as Brendan Bracken or Randolph Churchill had also added inferiority, and this led from time to time to his going on a roiling binge. He was as ghastly drunk.

Only.” The first time we went to London, we emerged from the still blacked-out Marylebone Station into a sunlit windy day, with smuts and ashes swirling into one’s eyes and mouth, and barrage balloons among the clouds above, rocking at their invisible moorings. Willow herb was already rampant on bomb sites: Windows and doors, and even furniture could be seen swinging recklessly high above our heads from buildings shorn in two by doodlebugs. Walking down Park Lane, I was astonished by the grime.

Forest. Dorelia would be in the kitchen, which was filled with wildflowers in jam jars, still dressed in exactly the hazy blue peasant clothes that John so often had painted her wearing. Their children and grandchildren were often in evidence, among them Poppet Pol, whose daughter, Talitha, I would later watch, over the course of several summers in Saint-Tropez, growing from nymph-child to raving beauty. Talitha married Paul Getty, Jr., but died too soon afterward of an overdose, her exquisite.

Magnet for the new mascara-eyed, beehived “dollybirds” who had sprung up across the dance halls of the capital. We would smoke endless Capstans while they buffed their nails or took to the dance floor together, dancing to the by-now-commonplace rock ’n’ roll, coyly throwing glances across the room to measure the impression they were making. Eventually we would join them to swig a Tizer or, more daringly, a Lemon Hart rum or the pathetic English version of hardly known Coke, Kitty Cola. Rarely, if.

Anderson elected to speak no known tongue, only grunts. Some tea was brought, and Lesley poured. Suddenly Anna/Anastasia shrieked: “No! No! Milk in first!!” Lesley’s utter romanticism erupted. “There! English nanny! Of course she’s Anastasia!” Michael had a sweet old friend, a hangover from European courts, the ugly, shapeless Countess Maudina de Montjou, who lived in a many-leveled, potted-palm-filled warren of a house atop La Turbie, the highest village of the Côte d’Azur with a terrifying.

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