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Boaz Mazor has worked for Oscar de la Renta for forty years, having now earned that wonderful “At Large” title (although technically he is a vice-president) and this is one of those conversations that made us feel we had met someone who really relishes and celebrates life. He must have his demons because he has depth, but he is an unapologetic maximalist and we loved the exuberance of his apartment and his expansive emphasis on genuine face-to-face connection with people as opposed to the dislocated world of Facebook and Twitter and iPhoning. He was born and brought up in Israel and speaks with a rich, Hebrew-inflected accent that also sounds strongly French, which he also speaks. We loved the lengthy replies he gave to our questions as well his idiosyncratic way with the English language: “Tel Aviv! It’s the heart and the beat of the Middle East! Amazing! And the good looks ... the girls ... the boys!”

So you said as we came in that you don’t believe in decorators…

No, it’s not that I don’t believe in them—I don’t believe for myself.

You obviously have great confidence in your own eye.

Well, I guess so. I ask occasionally people like Geoffrey Bennison or John Richardson [for their advice] … but I look at people who have minimalism now … I look at the pictures and I always think “My God, what do they do with their books?”
In the master bedroom set of Parrot prints by British artist, Elizabeth Butterworth fill the wall. The four-poster bed is American, early 19th century. A bust of an English philosopher found in Pimlico. A mahogany standing column lamp is topped with a green silk-and-fringe pleated shade. The small slipper chairs are covered in a fabric selected by friend, Mercedes Bass. The crown molding and beams in the bedroom were painted in faux-bois by artist, Malcolm Robson.
An Irish paisley is draped over the desk chair.
Photos of family and friends fill a small desk in the bedroom.
They don’t have books. They have a Kindle.

It’s not for me. I love books. I love bookcases. I love magazines around your bed. To a point. I exaggerate a little bit, I’m afraid. You’ll have to edit everything. However, life is all about magazines and paintings and drawings and objects.

Yes, external evidence of a rich inner life perhaps.


You know we have these … stagiaires, how do you call it? interns? who come by [my desk] fascinated by my board—there’s clips and there’s notes and there’s pictures of people everywhere. Everybody else has a very tidy little desk. They all have their computer and they all have their little … thing [taps his thumbs indicating an iPhone/BlackBerry] … and I see a line of interns standing my desk … saying “Oh look …” It’s a mess, a mess of a desk. I just don’t know how to be minimalist.
A portrait of Boaz and his pet parrot is by photographer, Marc Arbet and was part of an article on ‘Men of Style’ in Avenue Magazine. Peeking at the overflowing bedroom bookshelves and desk.
The ever-practical calculator shares space with small decorative objects atop the bedroom desk.
Antique lace softens the light emanating from a bedside table. Piles of books are topped with personal mementos in a corner of the master bedroom.
Minimalism or even just being very tidy can seem very safe. Perhaps you’re not a safe person. Tell us about not being safe.

[Sighs] No, never being safe. Not being safe is going where your heart is. I always took risks, but not in my job though. It’s funny but I’m the only one in my job that has been with one company for forty years. I’ve been with Oscar de la Renta since 1968.

Why have you stayed for so long?

You know, it was another life. It gave me a lifestyle that I enjoyed. It was the same as in those days when the girls used to work at Vogue. They were never paid any money but Vogue had the chauffeurs and the cars and the best hotels. It’s all about living well. The same thing with Oscar de la Renta – you work but we always had the first class of everything. And I’ve lived like this for forty years.
The Red Room. Front and center in the Red Room is a collage made out of pasted jewels in the shape of an egg with inset portraits of famous painters. The piece was created by a White Russian artist and purchased from the Ivan Karp Gallery.
A mirrored wall opens up the space of the Red Room. The sofa overflows with opulent antique textile and needlepoint pillows. Standing below a 19th century painting of a dog and a painting of the country house of William Astor is pair of blackamoor busts that were gifts from Annette de la Renta.
Cigarettes—remember when it was normal to have them offered in a home? The table comes from the estate of famed socialite, Kitty Miller.
What is your relationship with Oscar de la Renta like?

He’s my boss … I just spent the weekend with him and Annette. But I would say it’s like family.

Have you argued with him?

Many times. And many times he scolds me. And many times he teases me. We know each other better than anybody in the world. I hate to think he’s not happy with me. He’s a father figure for me.
A drink tray stands below a portrait of the King of Persia.
A painting of the King of Persia during the Qatar dynasty dominates a wall of the Red Room. The portrait was painted by a Jewish artist in the 19th century. In the upper left corner hangs a drawing by René Bouche of the wife of Arthur Penn. A group of Napoleonic watercolors hangs above a slipper chair covered in Clarence House chintz.
A group of 19th-century Napoleonic watercolors and a gilt mirror hang above a comfortable banquette in the Red Room. Looking across the living room into the dining corner.
What was your childhood like – were you ever poor?

No, we were not poor. We were middle class, I would call it. I was born in Israel and I was raised in Tel Aviv. I did the army. I came out of Israel when I was eighteen and I became a model for Pierre Cardin in Paris. I came to New York as a male model. My agency sent me here. I was in the Dorian Gray Agency. It was up and down and that’s when I started to realize that I needed to do something else.

Your sister is Judy Taubman, isn’t she? She came here ahead of you, didn’t she?

Oh yes. I came here for her first wedding and I fell in love with New York. Everybody was so wonderfully dressed! Ohh …! Beautiful black dresses with white pearls and white gloves … and the models were walking on the street, on Park Avenue, and every model had all their makeup on. You didn’t go like today for a casting. You went from studio to studio all made up with the eyelashes and everything. It was fantastic! And I went first time in my life to El Morocco and my sister came to pick me up in a long limousine; [the women] were all wearing long dresses and my sister had a long shawl in mink. The men were in black tie … ohh!
Looking across the living room into the dining corner. Boaz created a chic and cozy dining space by surrounding a fabric-covered table with pillowed-filled banquettes. The paintings are by 19th century English artist, William Etty.
The living room is filled with art and antiques collected from trips to Europe over the years. The painting of a young boy on the far wall is by a Dutch artist and was once part of the collection of The Cleveland Museum, identified as a work by a student of Rembrandt.
A group of six bronze sculptures: “My six slaves,” says Boaz. “Four belonged to Virginia Chambers and were in the Paris Hotel Lambert of Baroness Marie-Helène de Rothschild. The first two came from directly from Virginia; the De la Rentas gave me the second two and the third set I purchased from an antiquaire in Paris.”
On the rear wall a pair of busts and columns belonged to Ferdinando Sarmi, head designer for Elizabeth Arden.
A painting of the Battle of Waterloo hangs above a sofa covered in a Clarence House fabric.
A collection of snuff boxes, some from the estate of Diana Vreeland, fill a side table. The photo is of a “slightly younger” Boaz. A shell collection is carefully arranged next to a 19th century blue-and-white porcelain lamp.
Do you feel modern life is not for you? I mean life is not like that now, is it?

I love modern life for the practicality. I love the fact that the telephone has many extensions. I love my cell phone. I cannot stand people clicking on the BlackBerry during dinner. There is a problem with young girls who sometimes have to travel with me, or assist me [with clients] and they are clicking [does his thumbs again] and I say, “What is so important?” And they say, “The office is waiting …” and I say, “You know what? I went for forty years without these things and we survived.” Once a day, at the end of the day or if it is an emergency—that’s all you need.

Yes, it’s depressing.

Most pathetic is I see couples in a restaurant not talking to each other and each one is on their BlackBerry. The one thing I learned in New York when I came is the art of the conversation. It’s an art. You have to practice the art. You cannot be at a Helen Keller party. You are not supposed to come to dinner if you have nothing to contribute.
Looking up at Boaz’s bronze ‘slaves.’
A painting by William Etty hangs on the mirrored wall of the dining room. The paisley covered dining table is filled with candles sticks, plants and bowls and bibelots – “until dinnertime.”
A living room wall is lined with books, paintings and small objects. The small brass adjustable table was custom made in France. The same design was originally in the Paris apartment of designer, Hubert de Givenchy.
The small drawing is by French artist, fashion illustrator and costume designer Christian Berard. The silver boxes are from the estate of Jerry Zipkin.
A group of blackamoor heads, small paintings and silver boxes are arranged atop a lamp table. An oversized flowering azalea and a pair of bromeliad plants adds a touch of greenery to the living room.
Is that your gift then?

You say :“I’m going out tonight to be with you.” You have to light up [the room]. If I see that it’s dying … I don’t let it die. I jump in—and people say, “My God, he doesn’t stop talking!”

People expect it of you now!

They say, “We hear you are great story maker.” They invite you, and sometimes you let them down because you are not in the mood … sometimes. I go to Palm Beach or San Francisco and someone says, “Oh we hear you have very naughty stories—tell us!” And it’s like somebody has clipped your tongue … it has to come naturally.
Another view of the living room.
There is comfortable seating for guests in all rooms of the apartment Peeking into the Red Room from the living room.
A mirrored wall surrounding the fireplace mantel enlarges the appearance of the living room.
The small painting is by Orientalist artist Benjamin Constant. A pair of 19th- century, blue-and-white porcelain vases flank a 17th century bust that was restored with a 19th century head.
You seem very confident – have you always been confident, even as a young man?

I think confidence comes from realizing that if you have it, people listen to you. The moment people listen to you, you know you are on the right track. I think being around for a long time makes you confident. It sounds very arrogant, which it’s not, but when I see kids coming to the office and they all come with their “new” ideas. For them it’s new, for me, it’s old. Sometimes I say, “Do you realize that we have gone through this door already?” But one should welcome it because it’s full of enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is the most valuable thing young people bring.

I love to see it, to [hear] them say “Oh my God!” when they see the collections. I am excited when I see them excited.
A brass and leather fireplace club fender surrounds the faux marble fireplace mantel.
Close friend, Geoffrey Bennison ‘gave permission’ to Boaz to purchase this 17th century ceramic dog and needlepoint pillow from him shortly before he passed away.
What do you do at the end of the day—do you tend to have a dinner engagement?

Most evenings I have a dinner

How do you cope with all the food and drink?

I don’t cope. I eat it. I drink it.

What do you like to drink?

Cranberry juice with vodka—sort of a semi-Cosmopolitan.

And music?

I listen to opera non-stop.

• Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge
• Photographs by Jeff Hirsch





© 2013 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com