There was a time when, if you showed up at the right party at New York’s famed St. Regis hotel, you might have caught a glimpse of Salvador Dalí tying Andy Warhol to a board (before splattering him with paint), Frank Sinatra and his cronies downing grasshoppers in the hotel’s hallowed King Cole Bar, and members of the Ballets Russes dancing on the rooftop until two o’clock in the morning.
Lamentably, this age is long gone, but once in a while, it behooves us to pay homage by dressing in our finest duds to listen to old-timey orchestra music and drink from a bathtub full of champagne. It’s only right.
Such was the scene on Wednesday night at the St. Regis’ John Jacob Astor Library, where a well-heeled intellectual crowd turned out for the launch of the Thornwillow Libretto, a spanking new literary series that will boast “ruminations, rants, reminiscences, and more” from some of today’s top literary talent.
The series’ inaugural essay, “It Happened Here,” delves deep into the fabled history of the St. Regis itself. Written by Lesley M. M. Blume (founding editor of The Window), the tale recalls the hotel’s golden era, when its halls (not to mention its bar) were inhabited by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Tony Bennett, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Andy Warhol, Nikola Tesla and Salvador Dalí (often accompanied by his pet ocelot). In her essay, Ms. Blume recounts the momentous evening when fashion revolutionary Carmel Snow “discovered” Diana Vreeland (then a Chanel-clad housewife) on the hotel’s rooftop. Not long after, the two were collaborating to turn Bazaar into the most influential fashion publication of the age.
Such glimmering bits of Old New York lore are what continue to fuel our romantic vision of this exuberant city. For instance, at Barneys, we still draw inspiration from the fact that, in 1923, Barney Pressman had the gumption to hawk his wife’s engagement ring (for $500) to fund the establishment of his legendary store. In this tradition, the essays in the Thornwillow Libretto promise to deliver tales of the glittering grit that continue to define life in New York.
- Tory Hoen
Dip into the decadence by clicking through the gallery below.
All photos courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency