Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obsession with a snowstorm

Madison Square Park. 4:50 PM. Photo: JH.
January 29, 2009. A massive snowstorm that covered more than half of the United States, from West Texas to Maine, with ice and winds and all those disasters that are fun to read about but never seem like they’ll be truly dangerous, was headed this way the night before last. Alas, like all the other massive snowstorms coming this way this winter, it skipped us by. A light snow followed by rain and slush and more rain and who cares.

I’ve been hoping (against hope) for a big snow the way you did in school when it assured a “no school day.” Remember those? to the point where I was asking myself “what is this obsession with a snowstorm.”

Figure it out. Easy. The Big Snow leaves the city in a state of bright white calm and solitude. Everyone takes his or her time, and for a few days there Winter in New York is heavenly. When it is.

Click cover to order.
Last night I went down to a book party in the garment district for Jamie Cat Callan who has written a “treatise” (as in “treatise yourself”) called “French Women Don’t Sleep Alone; Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love.”

The opening page has the phrase: “Le mystere de la femme francaise cest que son homme sait quil peut la perdre a tout moment.” Which boils down to Always Keep ‘Em Guessing. Although Ms. Callan has recipes in this book that she’s acquired from French women when they talked about what she cooked for her man which leads to that other old saw: the way to a man’s heart is through is stomach.

Which reminds one of that other book about French women that did so well a couple of years ago ... ”French Women Don’t Eat Fried Eggs ...” or something like that. “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” This book is of that genre. “French Women Call the Shots” so to speak. Uh-huh.

That, I would say, is a matter of opinion. Although I can imagine Deneuve might be one of those girls. And Coco Chanel certainly must have been. And we all know what Madame de Pompadour could do with a king around his palace.

“French Women Don’t Sleep Alone” was inspired by Ms. Callan’s grandmother who was French. Whenever she had a fight with her husband it would always be resolved behind closed doors, bedroom doors, that is; after which the man would go out and buy his woman a hat. This was back when women wore hats. Bedroom doors haven’t gone out of style though. Billed as an “eye-opening book about relationships that will dramatically change American women’s approach to men and dating.” I see, said the blind man.

Would that Ms. Callan had decided to write a book about British men, the editorial slant might have been altered a bit. An Englishman named Dai Llewellyn died a couple of weeks ago and although the man had never really worked in his life, he was written up with fondness in all the major newspapers over there because of his lifestyle, or more specifically his approach to women. Evidently he approached ‘em by the dozen, and that wasn’t the half of it.

Sir Dai as he was later known in life after inheriting his father’s title, like those aforementioned French women, didn’t sleep alone either. Or rarely. Or even rarely with just one woman. The British journalist Paul Callan, quoted in the Daily Mail recalled: “He told me about a hilarious episode of having three debs in a bed, each of whom he was happily servicing, while a Mexican band stood naked around the bed serenading them.”

In 2005 he slipped away with another man's date to a discreet bedroom. Things were going well, Sir Dai said, until 'the corner of the bed started to go.”

Then, he said: 'We plunged through the floorboards and a wardrobe fell on top of us.”
Sir Dai told such stories with a gusto that was infectious. He would never get up in the morning planning to make love to three women, he would say, adding 'but if it happened, it happened.”

Sir Dai Llewellyn at a book party at the Westbury Hotel, London, 2006.
The Telegraph of London put it all very succinctly as well as with a respectful flourish for the memory of the dead in the following obituary.

Sir Dai Llewellyn, 4th Bt, who died at aged 62, became famous as a playboy, bon viveur and darling of the gossip columns, his reputation reflected in soubriquets such as “Seducer of the Valleys”, “Conquistador of the Canapé Circuit”, “Dai 'Lock Up Your Daughters’ Llewellyn” or simply “Dirty Dai”.

The son and heir of the gold-medal-winning equestrian baronet Sir Harry “Foxhunter” Llewellyn, and brother of Princess Margaret’s one-time paramour Roddy Llewellyn, Dai Llewellyn was celebrated for his serial seductions of “It” girls, models and actresses, his relentless appetite for partying and his outrageous indiscretions.

Good-looking in his youth, with dark Welsh curls, his success with women was famous. He claimed, in his heyday, to be in the habit of going through Queen Charlotte’s Balls “like a dose of salts”. He insisted, though, that he “never got up in the morning and thought, 'I’m going to screw three girls today’.” But: “If it happened, it happened.”

His seduction methods were direct and somewhat lacking in refinement: “I am not one of these oily Italian method-pullers,” he said. “Thirty years, and I still can’t undo a bra. The only trick is that I do not waver. I know what I want and so do they.”

Stories of Llewellyn’s priapic exploits, mostly gleefully retailed by the Don Juan himself, proved irresistible to the tabloid press. The journalist Peter McKay, who became a friend, was once having lunch with him at San Lorenzo when Llewellyn suddenly leapt from the table and disappeared for half an hour. “What happened?” asked McKay when his host returned, looking flushed. “Oh, I just remembered,” said Llewellyn. “I left my secretary tied up in the bath.”

Nor, it seemed, were members of the opposite sex put off by his claim that women were “past it by the age of 30”, a fact which, in his view, gave older men the “right” to have affairs with young girls. In later life, however, he admitted that time and the accretion of several stones in superfluous body fat were taking their toll on his technique: “At my age and weight, it’s taking me about a month to laugh the ladies into bed.”
With his first love, Lady Charlotte Anne Curzon. Sir Dai in better days on his way to ...
Quite what Llewellyn did by way of a career was never entirely clear. He once described himself as a “a kind of upper-class redcoat” who “earned his living out of being Dai Llewellyn”. In practice this seemed to involve a bit of PR work, organising the odd celebrity party, and a lot of schmoozing of rich toffs in jet-set nightclubs such as Tramp and Annabel’s. “Dai Llewellyn’s London,” wrote one interviewer, “is a web of reciprocal favours, backhanders and feuds which require all his reputed Machiavellianism to manage.”

One feud was that with his younger brother Roddy, with whom he fell out in the 1970s after he spilt the beans in the press about Roddy’s relationship with Princess Margaret. Dai claimed that his indiscretion (“for which I have eaten humble pie ever since”) was merely a “pretty tame” section of a four-part autobiographical series about his own life, published when the affair with Princess Margaret was already “common knowledge”. Roddy Llewellyn, though, took a different view.

If truth be told, Dai’s appetite for humble pie had its limits. When Roddy Llewellyn told the Daily Mail in 2006 that he could not forgive his brother’s “betrayal”, Dai dismissed him, with characteristic insouciance, as a “snob and a resentful, chippy little twerp”, proclaiming that he had become “bored to tears by the little twit”. The brothers were reconciled shortly before Dai’s death.
At a fancy dress party in 1979. Proud father, 1982 with ex-wife Vanessa and baby daughter Olivia.
David St Vincent Llewellyn was born at Aberdare on April 2 1946, followed, 18 months later, by his brother. Their family were Monmouthshire yeomanry who found coal under the farm in the 19th century and then wangled a Lloyd George baronetcy. Their father, Sir Harry Llewellyn, 3rd Bt, would win a gold medal for showjumping at the 1952 Olympics on his horse Foxhunter. A second son, he had already been knighted for services to sport when he inherited the baronetcy from his elder brother, Rhys, in 1978. Dai’s mother was the second daughter of the 5th Lord de Saumarez and a descendant of Admiral Sir James Saumarez, second-in-command to Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. “I hardly had a relation who wasn’t titled,” Dai Llewellyn claimed.

After an early childhood spent at Gobion Manor near Abergavenny, the family moved to Llanvair Grange in Monmouthshire. Dai was sent to prep school at Hawtrees, and then to Eton, where his romantic inclinations were aroused by the custom of soliciting letters from girls at nearby schools. “All the letters that came back were put in a rack, and if the postmark said 'Ascot’ then you knew it was from a Heathfield girl; West Sussex was 'Southover’.” Unfortunately, Dai was a late developer. His voice did not break until he was 15, so the coveted letters never did arrive in his rack.
With actress Carole Ashby in 1999. Better days (1991 with his former fiancee Claire de Jong).
He made up for lost time when he went to study Philosophy at the University of Aix-en-Provence. There he lost his virginity to an older, American woman “who smelt so disgusting that it put me off doing it again for several months”.

On his return to Britain, however, he “met someone wonderful and never looked back”. His career as a fully fledged cad and bounder had begun.

After Aix, Llewellyn got a salesman’s job with Qantas, ran a travel agency in Cardiff and moved for a while into advertising. Then, in the late 1960s, he was invited to lunch by Victor Lownes, who ran the Playboy Club and had recently bought the Clermont casino from John Aspinall and wanted Llewellyn’s advice. When Llewellyn suggested that it needed “more window-dressing to bring the Arabs in”, Lownes responded my making him the club’s “social secretary”. “Start on Monday,” Lownes ordered. “Double the salary.”
Chinese New Year party last year. With his then fiancee Cristel Jurgenson in 2006.
According to Llewellyn, his job description was “to sit at a table, drink a lot of claret, eat a lot and have a simply lovely time”. Though he subsequently left the Clermont and opened Tokyo Joe’s in Piccadilly and Wedgies on the King’s Road (eventually resigning from both, “exhausted”), he continued to live the onerous life of a Mayfair boulevardier into the 21st century.

It was Nigel Dempster, in the early 1970s, who first noticed Llewellyn’s impressive track record in the bedroom and elevated him to the status of gossip column fixture: “There was no AIDS or anything — it was a marvellous time,” Llewellyn reminisced. Quite what Sir Harry Llewellyn made of his son’s chosen career is not recorded. While Dai admitted that his father would probably have preferred him to be “slightly more sensible”, he felt that his parents were at least relieved that he had not turned out to be a “pansy”.

Llewellyn claimed to have fallen in love three times, firstly with Lady Charlotte Curzon, to whom he claimed to have proposed 100 times in a single evening (she turned him down). In the 1970s he was engaged to Beatrice Welles, daughter of Orson, but their relationship became so tempestuous that people stopped inviting them to parties. Inevitably, he broke it off.
Last year with his youngest daughter Arabella. With brother Roddy, reconciled only last November.
In 1980 he married Vanessa Hubbard, the convent-educated niece of the Duke of Norfolk.

Signalling his determination to go on as if nothing much had happened, he reportedly rolled up at the wedding, reached out of the car and handed a near-empty bottle of champagne to a group of gawping youths. The couple had two daughters but divorced seven years later.

Other women in his life included the 1960s pin-up Annegret Tree, Tessa Dahl, daughter of Roald (“much prettier than Sophie”), Judith (now Lady) Wilcox and the Swedish-born interior designer Christel Jurgenson, to whom he was briefly engaged in 2006.

After succeeding in the baronetcy on the death of his father in 1999, Dai Llewellyn bought a house at Aberbeeg, near Abertillery, and briefly flirted with the idea of returning to his roots and becoming a respectable pillar of Welsh society. In practice he spent little time in Wales, and in 2003 he announced he was packing his bags, claiming he had been forced out by rampant nationalism.

Llewellyn promised the (largely indifferent) Welsh people that he would return across the Severn Bridge only for his own funeral, but in 2007 he injected some excitement into the Welsh Assembly election campaign by announcing that he would fight the marginal Cardiff North seat for the UK Independence Party. Britain’s withdrawal from the EU was “the most important issue there is”, he proclaimed, and the Assembly was “a load of Horlicks”.

He never grew up. On a visit to South Africa aged 60, he claimed to have fallen through a bedroom floor into a cellar while “attempting to roger a girl called Nettie”, the girlfriend of a friend. “I wish I could tell you this was an isolated incident,” he told a journalist.

Sir Dai Llewellyn is survived by his two daughters and numerous former girlfriends. His brother succeeds him in the baronetcy.
Photographs by THE DAILY MAIL.
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