Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Meanwhile back on the main thoroughfares

Lincoln Center. 11:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011. Beautiful, warm sunny day, yesterday in New York. The city seemed quiet, traffic-wise, but riding through the Park on my way home from lunch at Michael’s, the roadway of Park was jammed including runners, joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers, skateboarders, horses and carriages, cycling rickshaws (I don’t know what you call those things). A lot of them. All ages, sizes, types, motivations moving along at diverse speeds. The meadows and lawns and rocky outcroppings were havens for those luxuriating in the day. All of these lives in one wonderful place. Everyone knew it I’m sure; it was in the air.

Meanwhile back on the main thoroughfares – Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street, it was quieter. The late Huguette Clark lived for many years on that corner as the world now knows.

Across the way on the north side of the block is the Henry T. Sloane house, designed by Carrere and Hastings (who designed the New York Public Library at 42nd and Fifth) and built in 1896. The Sloane marriage fell apart soon after, Mr. Sloane divorced his wife who a few hours later married Perry Belmont, a son of the Rothschild banker in New York, August Belmont.
The Henry Sloane House on 9 East 72nd Street, built in 1896 with its adjacent extension, the Oliver Gould Jennings house, with restoration almost completed.
She and her new husband moved to Washington to get away from the scandal and rejection of her daughters who went with their father. Mr. Sloane never married again and sold the house only five years later in 1901 to a banker. For years it was the Lycee Francais in New York.

Several years ago, in the new century, it was purchased by a private party, and underwent extensive restoration, now a magnificent example of what referred to at the time of its construction as “Modern French.” The new occupant is said to be the Emir of Qatar.
A jam-packed Lincoln Center Plaza. 7:00 PM.
Last night over at Lincoln Center in Damrosch Park, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts presented the annual Midsummer Night Swing Opening Benefit honoring Daisy and Paul Soros for 18 years of generous support.

This is the first year the Summer Swing has been a benefit – besides being a great public event. Before that, the Soroses who are and have been very active in New York both socially and philanthropically wrote the check. They particularly love what this does for New Yorkers on summer nights.

There’s a live orchestra and everybody dances. Everybody. Even the people who don’t dance. It’s catching. Last night was a beautiful night at sundown. The temperature was right. The mood was up, and the music was from heaven with smiles everywhere and energy to match.
Daisy Soros exhorts the guests to enjoy the evening and "dance your little hearts out."
The Jonathan Stout Orchestra.
Meanwhile the evening opened with Daisy exhorting the guests (opening night was free to all the dancers on the stage) to “get up and dance your little hearts out.” Then the Daisy left bandstand to return to the stage to do just that, while the Jonathan Stout Orchestra (featuring Hilary Alexander) struck up a swing version of a Cole Porter tune and the whole crowd began to swing, including Mrs, Soros.

Chaired by Janice Savin Williams and Christopher Williams, and co-chaired by Noreen and Kenneth Buckfire and the wonderful gift of Paul and Daisy Soros, this is the New York New York’s a Wonderful Town.
Yesterday’s Diary about Victor Shafferman’s house at 973 Fifth just being put on the market got me thinking about houses and their vibes as I was riding up Madison. A friend of mine in Los Angeles who is a high-end real estate broker once told me that all houses have vibes and she sees examples of it all the time as she observes the fates of them. There are lucky houses, unlucky houses, haunted houses, happy houses, good marriage houses and bad.

Thinking about it, I was reminded of the Rothermere house in Beverly Hills back in the early1980s. Pat Rothermere, the Vicountess Rothermere, known as “Bubbles” in the press (and with friends behind her back), had acquired a one story house with guest house and a separate garage way up on Summitridge Drive in Benedict Canyon, with a fabulous view of West Los Angeles, Catalina and the Pacific.

Bubbles, the Viscountess Rothermere with film producer Lester Persky, photographed at Xenon by Bob Colacello.
The lady’s nickname fit as if assigned by a screenwriter. Bubbles, like in a glass of champagne. And lots of them for the girl. She was a small woman, but cherubic in stature. She was pretty also, and had a kind of witty glamour, very often moving about in a flurry of ruffles of silk or taffeta, her tresses tied up with a matching ribbon.

As the wife of Vere Harmsworth, the Viscount Rothermere, British presslord and owner of the London Daily Mail as well as the Evening Standard, and herself a one-time actress, Patricia, or Bubbles, was friendly and fun, even when she seemed frowzy from all those bubbles.

The Rothermeres had several houses in London, Jamaica, the South of France, as well as a chalet or chateau somewhere out there. It was known by their friends that they were together but separate – they were both in their late forties. He had a mistress and she had a couple of boyfriends, a bit younger and a bit of the belly-up-to-the-bar type. And she had fun; that’s what Pat did.

She wanted to be in LA where the action was. In the 1980s it was a destination for the international set, as well as home to all those movie stars and their admirers. The British also love the Southern California climate.

The house on Summitridge was purchased from a very successful Broadway songwriter who dabbled in local real estate, and used it only part of the year. When he was not in residence, there was a caretaker who lived in the guesthouse, and continued to live there right up until Pat took possession and began renovating.
A marks the spot. The Rothermere villa in Beverly Hills is now lost in the mass of houses that have since been built in the past thirty years.
Her decorator was another Englishman who had migrated to Los Angeles, Tony Cloughly, who proposed doubling the size of the house by connecting the guest house and the garage to the main house, making it one long Southern California modern.

When construction began, the resident caretaker remained in his digs as the night watchman, until they needed the house.

It turned out, however, that the man had a penchant for recently released ex-convicts whom, so the story went, he would meet at the release center, and invite up his lair for some re-entry therapy, like sex, drugs and rock and roll. One weekend, shortly after work had begun on the house, the caretaker brought home a guest who in the course of the evening murdered him, cut his body up in pieces and stored it all in a cabinet under the kitchen sink.

The following Monday morning when the construction crew arrived at the site, they found the guesthouse door open, and just inside a wide trail of blood that led to the kitchen sink.

Patricia Harmsworth, the Viscountess Rothermere, with David Frost in London.
Bubbles in recline.
Pat Rothermere was in London when she learned of the grim details. “Tear it down!” she shrieked at Tony Cloughly over the long distance wires. “Tear it down immediately!”

And so they did; took it right down to the ground. A few weeks later Bubbles returned with her decorator Mr Cloughly to see the progress on her Beverly Hills villa. As she was getting the tour, she passed by the cement base that was the floor of the guesthouse where the caretaker lived and died. She stopped.

“What is that?” she wanted to know, glaring; her pert nose wrinkling, her upper lip curling with repugnance, pointing to the long wide bloodstain on the cement surface.

“Oh that’s the base of what used to be the guest house,” Cloughly replied.

“I told you to take it down.”

“We did.”

“No; that! That thing ! Take it out! Now!” And she turned with a shudder, and left. The next day the bulldozer came and the morbid remnants disappeared down Summitridge Drive on the back of a dump truck.

The house was finished within the year. The Rothermeres moved in – although Vere rarely visited. Bubbles’ bedroom was all pink and chintz and lace and ruffles, with a similar sensibility throughout the master bath with its open-to-the-sky ceiling and gardens surrounding on the other side of the glass. It was a boudoir which you had no doubt was fully enjoyed by the lady.

She was a sexy lady, always with that girlish grin, rings and things and buttons and bows. She liked to flirt, to party, to laugh, to dine, and to flirt. Her husband who was tall and handsome -- and apparently agreeable -- seemed somewhat shy but very respectful of his wife. At least in the presence of others.

Something did not work out, however, for the Rothermeres and the house. It didn’t see much use other than a few weeks here and there across the year. A few years after they moved in she put it on the market.

Bubbles died in the South of France of a heart attack at age 59 in the summer of ’92, while staying at their villa on Cap d’Ail. The ex-convict, who had been the overnight guest pre-Bubbles, was eventually caught in Los Angeles. Although it was determined that he was the killer, He got off on some kind of self-defense plea.

Today Bubbles’ house is unrecognizable – at least from a Google map. What was then almost a remote part of the hills is now chockablock with a score of enormous houses, pools and landscaping. I’m sure that if the house hasn’t been torn down, what exists of it bears little resemblance to the house Bubbles built, and certainly no sign of the bungalow where the ill-fated caretaker brought his guest on that night in 1980.

Comments? Contact DPC here.