Let me entertain you...
This week much of the contents of
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth's twenty
two room coop at 960 Fifth goes up
for auction at Christies. Collector,
connosieur, and purveyor of Asian
artifacts - "Bobby" was known as
the "King of Ming." He never had
a "shop." Instead he subtly hawked
his wares by practicing the art of
"understated dealing." Said skill
required residing in a good building,
filling your apartment with fabulous
antiques, and serving lethal cocktails.
A life well led
His friend and client John D. Rockefeller
the third once queried Mr. Ellsworth as
to whether he had to live better than his
clients. Bobby's response? "No, I just
have better taste." While a renowned
scholar he was in reality little more than
an extremely subtle shopkeeper. A Blue
Book WASP - he daily drank gallons of
bourbon while smoking several packs
of cigarettes. Somehow he lived to the
tender age of eighty five. Oh... and spent
over thirty years quietly living with and
loving Claudette Colbert. What a life!
A night to remember
New York used to be full of elegant
gentlemen. At age eleven I first read
"A Night To Remember." Enthralled
with this outline of the last hours on
the Titanic - I re-read it twelve times.
For my birthday that year somehow
Ethel arranged for me to meet it's
author, Walter Lord. I remember
riding the elevator up to his classic
Fifth Avenue coop. After tea Mr.
Lord gave me a tour of his Titanic
artifacts. And for years afterward
annually sent me a birthday card.
Gone but not forgotten
In our age of Kardashian candor, the
very idea of a man quietly enjoying
a genteel existence sans his publicist
may seem more than a bit archaic.
And yet that's exactly what I strive
to do on a daily basis. Sadly, my
standards are not anywhere near
those of whom I hope to emulate.
My day is spent in ensembles that
can only be at best described as
"comfortable." Whereas I'm certain
their uniform was a freshly pressed
white shirt, cardigan, and cravat.
I want to be a class act and yet I can't
seem to get my act together. Don't get
me wrong, my surroundings are quite
elegant. When we entertain the food
and accoutrements are as good as can
be. The problem is me. Like it or not
we lack the local talent to help make
it happen. Hence I'm cleaning lady,
laundress, maid, butler, and chef.
Which means that by the time our
guests arrive, I'm exhausted and more
than a bit worse for the wear. And in
my opinion, at best an improper host.
Birds of a feather
Old school lads have a rather laissez
faire panache about them. Raised in
a privileged world, they have little
to do except whatever they desire.
Thus said sophisticates tend to live
above it all. While their food isn't
always the best, the drinks are. At
times there may be a layer of dust
on the family heirlooms but usually
the paintings more than make up
for it. And if one isn't speechless
it's only due to their host's skills in
the art of conversation. BRAVO!
Sadly I lack that the time, energy, and
resources to live as they do. Whatever
peasant stock that lurks beneath my
urbane exterior tends to bubble up by
the time my guests arrive. I invariably
rush to take a five minute shower five
minutes prior to hearing the doorbell.
Therefore I'm always disheveled as
I try to pour cocktails as I watch the
oven. I rarely have time to drop a few
bon mots while I serve the bon bon's.
Proof that true élan is probably only
achievable with lot's of HELP.
Buzzed and well fed
Someday I want to be the host who
strolls into a room full of guests
and quips "Are we happy?" All as
some silent soul dispenses libations
on a silver salver. Once ensconced
in my dining room I'll periodically
press an embroidered velvet slipper
on a buzzer affixed beneath my seat
to summon each course. My cool,
calm demeanor will make it seem
effortless and hence my guests will
enjoy the show. Now... what could
possibly be more elegant than that?