Author Archive | Lucia

On Downton Abbey

June 1, 2014


During this six month hiatus we had surgery and treatment at Prentice Women’s Hospital, very grateful indeed to live near Northwestern!  Dr. Erie Dell Adams our late aunt from Lubbock, Texas once admonished, “if you go for one of those tests they’re sure to find something.”      

Writers need something to write about, Greene in Liberia, Orwell in Burma, Waugh in Abyssinia but here we are offering observations about The Lives of Others culled from books. Henry Hitchings’ Sorry! the usual pack of clichés about the mother country writes,“Anglophilia means loving not the English, but the more archaic fragments of the English past.”  So it is.

Pamela Mountbatten Hicks’s Daughter of the Empire is a hard headed, unsentimental personal history of the waning years of the British Empire. Her parents, Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, and Edwina (rather a bolter) loathed Wallis Simpson as much as the author does, “Princess” Diana.

The Cincinnati Museum of Art (in Ohio!) announced its Celebrate Diana exhibition on the same day the Murdoch hackers revealed the traitor princess dropped Buckingham Palace’s telephone directory, the Green Book, into their laps in 1992. Oh dear!

Fiona, the current Countess of Carnarvon, an accountant from Cornwall, met her then-married husband Geordie the 8th Earl in 1999 at a fundraiser. Following up her book about Almina Rothschild an American who bailed out the 6th earl (King Tut), her recent tome is a soft soap version of the life of the 7th earl and his American wife Catherine,(Mayflower and Robert E. Lee descendant). William Cross’ Catherine and Tilley about Porchy’s two beleaguered wives much more fun.

Servants by Lucy Lethbridge reveals that the so-named had to face the wall when their employers entered a room, so much for the confidences between maids and mistresses in Downton. Fellowes got that one wrong.

P.G. Wodehouse in 1945 wondered what to do when, “one is a specialist in country houses and butlers, both of which had ceased to exist.”

Well they do exist, physically, as hotels like Cliveden or corporations where heirs can still live in designated quarters providing they promote tourism to pay estate taxes. The grandest manse of them all is Castle Howard (not technically a castle) in the North Riding of Yorkshire. In 2012 we visited after many a summer, the swans were still there and we were pleased it had not been ruined by dollying up. No dreaded interactive displays benighted the Baroque beauty and even the requisite Brideshead exhibits on the second floor were a haphazard afterthought. The Temple of the Four Winds is still in a glorious Gothic state, moss, mold and crumbling stone.

Third son the Hon. Simon Howard was recently in Chicago to stimulate tourism, however unlikely that Americans ever venture that far north. Recently the very wicked Fourth Estate followed up on the old Vanity Fair piece about  the woman who sold her soul for the castle, who recently moved into a “ small, whitewashed cottage in the tiny hamlet of Wharram-le-Street………which could hardly be said to boast anything resembling architectural glory or historical significance.”Rebecca Seiff Howard , second wife of Simon, is rumored to have a boyfriend.

Artemis Cooper’s life of Patrick Leigh Fermor  who Somerset Maugham called ”that middle class gigolo for upper class women,” was gorged with facts, the reason we dislike biographies. Absurdly handsome Paddy was a celestial, transcendent travel writer with a cultish following, a reminder that in the middle of the last century there still existed people of education and culture in a frontierless unchartered Europe.  

The editors in chief of the New York Times and Le Monde who happened to be women were both fired on the same day, for poor management and abrasive behavior. Women simply must learn to be better top dogs. That Jill Abramson seems rather a crass piece of work, with the usual signs of potential top-blowing at poor staff! Good Grief!

Alexander Cockburn’s A Colossal Wreck excoriates another boss lady HRC (Hillary) and her husband Bill, a cunning Slobovian.  He urges us to recall “her commodity trades, or her membership on the board of an incinerator company, or her treatment of the employees of the White House travel office.” Her robotic memoir Hard Choices is not one of the best of the Obama years as is Robert Gates’ Duty where he describes Rahm Emanuel as “hell on wheels” with ADD and Biden the abiding dope most take him to be.  

Chicago Life magazine clearly states its writers do not accept gratuities. The other Chicago glossies do not tell us when hotels, dinners and airfare are paid for by the subjects of the articles, thus blurring the line between editorial content and advertising. Tsk.Tsk. If we missed the statement that the writers paid their own way at the Four Seasons in the Maldives or Costa Rica and Panama or the Qatar then excusez nous.  

Despite the tiresome bad boy act Anthony Bourdain stars in some fine travel programs on CNN. The segments on Congo and the Punjab were profoundly interesting, forcing one to think about the third world after “liberation” from European civilization. Now we need the brilliant Paul Theroux to get on the boob tube. Before you go on your next manicured safari-package read Last Train to Zona Verde:   Namibia the bloodiest country in the world for the savage sport of hunting. You must love a man who writes, “I have a hatred of taming animals.”  We do too. A bird in a cage actually makes us physically ill as do zoos and circuses which should be abolished.

At the dark unwelcoming Newberry a little celebration of Shakespeare’s 450th ( “Were I in England now, as once I was.”) recalling that the Shakespeare Theater’s first production in 1986 was staged on the roof of the Red Lion on Lincoln when the Fabulous Cordwells welcomed all things from their native land.

The Little Ice Age lasted from 1350-1850 reminding us that weather is cyclical due to changes in solar radiation, volcanic activity and ocean circulation.  The planet has been warming since the middle of the 19th century everything sped up of course by the Malthusian Nightmare (whatever happened to planned parenting?) that has become the world, where honeybees have been decimated by pesticides and bats by wind farms.

Gay Talese:” Anybody who seriously believes they’re improving themselves through some product, either a cream or a surgeon’s needle, is crazy. I have seen so many once-lovely women misguided in having surgery done, and they look worse. Even Jackie Kennedy had a bad job.”   A bientot


Switzerland by Rail

October 25, 2013

Switzerland was warm, sunny, and spectacular this October, always the best time to travel to Europe. Swiss Air, the only nonstop from Chicago, landed in Zurich and we headed out straight away for Luzern. Yes, that Lucerne on Lake Lucerne de rigueur on the Grand Tour of Queen Victoria, Mark Twain, and home of Richard Wagner. Today the old city remains intact, survivor of wars, with authentic 14th century ramparts and wooden bridges, 16th century clock towers and 17th century Rathaus and cathedral.

Smart Switzerland. Quiet Switzerland. In the airplane, the airport, the outdoor cafes with the wool felt knee blankets, in the restaurants and the bare bones Hotel Alpina — the lack of noise was startling, the muted tones, even whispers, of the citizens in public places and — no music. Two weeks of peace, no rap, no Sinatra, a vacation in itself.

Mountains being the raison d’etre of this trip, and trains being the chosen transport, we left the next day for Interlaken in the foothills of the Alps, beckoning in the blue mist. The original Alpine resort, another Grand Tour standard it has Jamesian reminders, the Victoria Jungfrau or Royal St. George hotels now afforded by those from the east, Arabia, India, the Orient. Bollywood films are made here instead of Kashmir so there are more currie, foo yong and kebab places than eateries like the Alps Restaurant where we settled for Rosti the potato national dish in a cuisine that doesn’t exist in the nether cantons. Would that the wonderful Fendant white wine, rye bread and Emmenthaler could sustain one.


Interlaken is however the best starting point for a visit to Jungfraujoch, in the Bernese Oberland, an hour away, the ”Top of Europe” with the Eiger, still claiming lives, though not this time when a 19 year old Brit had just scaled a huge rock face on the North Side, Paciencia. Jungfraujoch the highest railway station in Europe has the lowest temperatures and highest wind speeds in Switzerland and is accessible only from the village of Klein Scheidegg where we boarded a special cog wheel train straight up to 13,000 feet to the base of Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger.  Such a thrill to walk on the  Aletsch Glacier the glory of the high altitude Alps and a UNESCO Protected Area, 14 miles long and the largest ice glacier in Europe which sadly since 1950 has shrunk by one third.

The Jungfrau Erlebnis (Experience) was however not for sophisticates and Alpinists, with shrieking Japanese schoolgirls, a dreadful “Bollywood Restaurant”, a phony Ice Palace, Shopping Fun stores, Snow Fun kid runs. Switzerland caught the Kid Bug. in the years we were away as had England as when last year we saw Warwick Castle transformed into a grisly fun fair for children.

An antique steamer slowly cruised Lake Briesz which with the larger Lake Thun gives Interlaken its name, stopping at little wood-carving villages for fuzzy apples, picking up passengers who seemed Scandinavian but were actually speaking singsong Swiss German Schwyzeritsch. After vertically ascending the steep Harder Klum funicular for dinner at the top of a mountain we were off with the Swiss Saver Pass.

Eiger from Kleine Scheidegg

Heading south through landscape that instantly became breathtaking, and more breathtaking a half hour out of Interlaken, The Alps. Gasps all around, windows dashed opened in the rushing wind, iPhones and cameras on high alert. You could not snap enough photos quickly enough. Everywhere you look in Switzerland right around the corner there is an even better view than the previous, absolutely uncanny how absurdly beautiful the southern half of this small country is. Endless valleys with tiny mountain villages in the distance, and cows, glorious, big, subsidized by the government, brown cows, black cows trekking down from high mountain pastures in the annual Parade of Cows. And black faced sheep, larger and heartier than English Herdwicks.

Aletsch Glacier

Mountains and more mountains and finally three hours later, almost into Italy – Zermatt in the canton Valais. A classic ski town it was zwischenzeit, between times, the shoulder season, about to close down in November but due to earlier snows skiers and snowboarders were already taking the lifts up to Matterhorn Paradise Park. It was a stiff climb up Steinmattstrasse to the hunting lodge Hotel Jagerhof where our room had a direct view of the Matterhorn transforming itself by the hour from the cloudy shroud in morning to blazing pink at sunset.

On to the Gornergrat Bahn a high altitude cogwheel railroad all in the open air, no tunnels, was a completely different experience from the Jungfrauloch. From Zermatt to Riffelalp and Rotenboden to the viewing station over the Alps and the base of the Matterhorn we were outside, the apex of Europe, snow laden, cold, another world. So astounding to see lone hikers lighting out in the white wilderness, all glacial ice and a bleak netherworld of white peaks and treacherous steps, a challenge to keep upright. Seemingly every Swiss was born with backpacks and walking sticks, from small children to octogenarians. And yes, they were thin, tall and disturbingly good looking.

The Glacier Express to St. Moritz on the east side of Switzerland was booked up but we took the identical route, on the same tracks by slow local trains, five of them, in a nine hour journey, making all stops along the way. At Andermatt, the largest Swiss Army base, we had lunch watching soldiers on maneuvers. Switzerland has mandatory national conscription, the defense of the mountain paradise very much in evidence in fighter pilots whizzing overhead in formation. There is a huge underground network of hidden fortresses in the Alps and every new construction mandates a bomb shelter with supplies.

From Andermatt up the Oberalppass to Disentis, then Rheinegau finally St.Moritz in the beautiful historic Upper Engadine, the Eastern Alps, a long sunny valley, home of the Romansh people who still speak a Latin dialect. St. Moritz, the birthplace of Alpine resort skiing, celebrating its 150 anniversary of winter tourism in 2014, originated in 1864 when hotelier Johannes Badrutt urged his friends to ski in this insulted valley where the sun shines 323 days a year. There was no wind at all for three days and it was warm enough to walk along the lovely lake in shirt sleeves. We stayed at the Languard Hotel on the Via Veglia with its thick masonry Engandiner architecture built in 1867 and perfectly restored.

Rick Steves hates “the glitz” in St. Moritz, so mild compared to Aspen’s. with all the usual suspects, Gucci, Lauren, Tom Ford and where everything was 25% higher and far too small for Americans. There were even acceptable restaurants the Steffani, the Schweizerhof, the Hauser and three wonderful museums the Segantini, Berry and Engadiner celebrating the local culture. We hopped a free bus to Pontresina (Saracen’s Gate) a chic resort with Engadiner style hotels and ski shops. Arabs made it this far north in late Middle Ages as they did to nearby Samedan but were nowhere in evidence though numbering 400,000 Arabs in country of 7.5 million. There is urban Switzerland and there is Alpine Switzerland, homogeneous, conservative, insular.

St. Moritz from the Languard

The real reason to stay in the area is The Bernina Express slowly traversing over 200 bridges and through 55 tunnels and high viaducts to Tirano, Italy, the highest railway line in the Alps from high glaciers to palm trees and Renaissance palazzos. After the Bernina Pass at Ospizio Italian speaking Switzerland begins and from higher up at Diavolezza you pass the famous Pitz Palu glacier in the Bernina Range the setting of the 1929 Pabst film The White Hell of Pitz Palu with Leni Riefenstahl in her first role. Then the Morteratsch Glacier receding 56 feet a year since 1878 and accelerating to 330 feet from 2005-2006.  The high Alps watersheds of Europe flowing into the Danube, the Rhine and Rhone have a problematical future.

Finally some days in Zurich, grey, Germanic, homely, functional bridges over the lake and Limmat River, no Pont Alexandre Trois here. We stayed near the university in the stark Hotel Bristol, the Bohemian Zurich of Cabaret Voltaire, Dada, and James Joyce, buried here with his family. A trolley tour revealed the other side of this rich city of 300,000 the richest city in Europe, many the descendants of the Celtic Helvetii tribe who Tiberius Caesar conquered and created the commercial outpost it still is.

The aloof, cool descendants of the tribes tolerate outsiders which is what you always will be if not Swiss born. With a federal system of 23 cantons where each has as much state’s rights as here in the States, the Italian canton of Ticino had just banned the wearing of burkas. The tax haven business is under attack by America and some small banks are folding but not UBS with its secret accounts in a country where one third of all global wealth is controlled.  The sheer number of building cranes in the sky reveal all is well here in  this beautiful country with the purest water in the world.








Middlefork Savannah



July 15, 2013

O Frabjous Day! Calloo Callay! Summertime and a long walk on July 4th in the Middle Fork Savannah grasslands of Lake County, the weather glorious, the livin’ easy. Unlike forests, savannahs have no dark tree canopies and speckled light shines on the prairie flowers.

Our joy was marred however by a jailed bird at a ramshackle zoo at Elawa Farms where the spectacular redwing hawk perched alone behind bars, so forlorn so forlorn. Remember the redwing hawks Pale Male and Lola who flew free from Mary Tyler Moore’s apartment building across from Central Park?

Met an old friend from the 60s, Barry Schutz, Visiting Scholar of African Studies at Stanford, at The James on Ontario. We laughed about old times in England, at the University of Lancaster, and the blowhard blogger Glenn Greenwald, the puppet master in the Snowden fiasco, obviously trying hard to make a BIG NAME for himself.

The James

The James has hazardous looking garbage littering the lobby but a bellboy said that it was ART. Maybe the MCA should take a look.

Friends and family of Fred Gohl bid adieu at a mass at Holy Name and a celebration of his life at The Arts Club in a touching tribute to a swell fellow organized by his wife Susan.

Louis XIV’s chef Francois Vatel killed himself when the seafood arrived late for a banquet at the Chateau de Chantilly. Today we have sadsack television cooks like Paula Deen or Martha Stewart who refuse to disappear.

“What I want for dinner is a bass fished in Lake Huron in 1920.” William Burroughs.

Self-styled Citizen of the World Orson Welles, a Kenosha, Wisconsin lad, gave hilarious interviews, just published, roasting old chestnuts like the libidinous Grace Kelly on the prowl in H’wood. He found Bette Davis and Woody Allen too ugly to look at, called Wolfgang Puck “a terrible little man” and refused to meet Richard Burton after he married the cosmic joke Taylor. ”The Godfather was the glorification of a bunch of bums who never existed”.

Renoir by Tissot

In Chicago for the unfortunate production of Private Lives Burton called his ex-wife “as coy as a fat owl”. Worth repeating it is so comical.

Speaking of owls the funniest book review we have ever read could just be Dwight Garner’s in the NYT of Terry Eagleton’s Across the Pond which “hauls out that taxidermied owl Alexis de Tocqueville” (will the guilty please rise). Eagleton gives Garner “that most queasy of literary sensations: that of encountering a writer who isn’t as charming as he thinks he is.” (remind you of someone you know?) as he runs the gamut of Brit vs. Yank clichés.

Cynthia Olson, The Best Brit in Town, invited us to the Sustaining Fellows of the Art Institute lecture by curator Gloria Grooms who described the exhibition we all were to see, Passion for Fashion, a real crowd pleaser combining actual 19th century dresses with contemporary Impressionist paintings. Over 800 guests retired to the Piano garden’s Versailles- length great hall for an extravagant buffet but most fun was dinner with Cynthia and Tom Gorman, the real estate guru. At RL we spotted Jocelyn Stoller and Mike Segal with Steve Lombardo and beaucoup d’autres.

Fashion as fashion strictly a middle class urban phenome, depending on advertising to sell shmatte. We prefer the comfortable “rural” Empire style as in Jane Austen or David’s Mme. Recamier. Shopkeeper’s wives submitted to wasp waisted, slope shouldered, tight bodiced, voluminous skirts that kept them in inside the house with all that mass produced Biedermeier furniture (the IKEA of the time).


Did you happen to catch Peregrine Cavendish’s tour of Chatsworth? Nice but no Castle Howard. The duke said that there is no more English aristocracy but gave his son the estate in the last gasp of primogeniture, only providing something or other for his daughters. The next Duke of Devonshire title is a photographer who goes by the name Bill Burlington.

Jolly Posh the English food shop on Montrose sells the usual Heinz beans and Branston Pickle but could spiff the place up a bit. You don’t have to be that English after all.

Oxford donnish sex symbol 49 year old Niall Ferguson has a new book The Great Degeneration , how over regulation is ruining the West along with the education system which perpetuates a mandarin class. He apparently wants socialism and capitalism at the same time. Niall, darling, don’t let the fool’s gold of popular publishing waste any more of your time.

Tom' O' Gorman's Plein Air exhibit

Aren’t these Big Concept books always a bore anyway — and off the mark? We recently read David Halberstam’s  American Century published in 1991 where he tapped Japan as the next super power with no mention of China.

Best Boring Rag that Used to be Somewhat Readable: The Chicago Reader.

Women should never ever be photographed standing next to Gwyneth Paltrow—they invariably look dumpy and short not to mention ungroomed. The ubiquitous actress was recently bestowed a “Renaissance” Award at the Siskel Theatre.

A previously beautiful TV “anchor” as seen in a recent online column is now a candidate for the Meg Ryan Funny Face award. And no the 86 year old Queen of England should not lose 20 pounds and get all dolled up as has been suggested by some in Chicago, Illinois.

Renaud Hendricks’ Belgian Bakery on Walton charges a few extra pence for buttery croissants but they are worth it.


You are invited to join Lydia De Chakov and Symposia on the First Thursdays of the month at noon at the Shanghai in the Peninsula. This week we were joined by dress designer and fine artist Yolanda Lorente and Tom O’Gorman who will be exhibiting his paintings at O’Brien’s in August with Adam Umbach.

We chatted with Tom and Joan Cusack, unforgettable as “Cyn” in Working Girl, at Judy Maxwell’s, her shoppe that is an artwork in itself, with Edwardian jewelry, antique nightgowns, paintings by Dorian Allsworthy. Unfortunately they have to vacate the premises on State by August 31s. This little strip of street has been a mess for years.

Golfer Sharon MacGregor visiting from Chandler AZ met old friends like Diane Angstrom, Ron Luccicione, and Jack Reynolds at the East Bank Club. Joey remained at home in the west but we drank to the health of this most psychically brilliant African grey who roams uncaged.

Middlefork Savannah

We counted four policeman on every corner of Michigan Avenue one recent Saturday night, presumably so Dubuquers can feel assured they won’t be assaulted by packs of teenagers. Some have blamed the paucity of shoppers in Bloomies as well as Water Tower on fear but it has more to do with monotony of goods offered in a Coachified World.

Sur La Table is now at 900 Michigan but is no Williams Sonoma, so cluttered, and let’s face it you don’t need 97.5% of these kitchen gadgets. Anyway the Kitchen, Cooking, Chef Craze is OVER! Finito! Kaput!

In 1972 Angela Davis was found not guilty by 12 white jurors on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the death of Judge Haley killed by guns registered in her name.

Go rent Gosford Park written by Julian Fellowes a bracing antidote to the saccharine Downton Abbey .

Peggy Noonan versus Maureen Dowd. Both are annoyingly predictable. Column writers a thing of the past anyway. Shake up the mix a bit.

Pauvre Ami

The UK offshore tax shelters are Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, the British Virgin Island, Cayman (you knew that) and Bermuda.

Bill Ayers memoir Fugitive Days came across our desk recently – what a naïve dumbbell this guy was – and he’s a university teacher?

” I let out a ghastly laugh when I thought of anyone saying over my battered corpse, He died doing what he loved.” Paul Theroux





Lit Fest


June 15, 2013

At the Belmont Stakes who was high-fiving it in the Palace Malice winner’s circle right next to trainer Todd Fletcher but…..Jerry Berliant…. on Live TV. What was once a huge joke is now very sinister and gate crashing is no longer funny.

We attended several streets fairs this cold dull month.  Midsommerfest in Andersonville was awash in Gay Marriage and Adopt Dogs stalls, Division was more sophisticated but rain forced us inside to eat muffins, and those Art Fairs in Old Town, well, were The Same as the last 20 years.

The Guerilla Truck Fair on Fulton staged for NEOCON featured rented U-Haul- It and Ryder trucks with “independent” (i.e. amateur) furniture designers and artisans therein.  Morton Sinoway should really jury it next year.

Printer’s Row LitFest … you need to get there an hour before the tatterdemalion book lovers swoop down. Prices a bit higher this year but we did buy Warhol’s memoirs from the 60s, Popism. The sublime simpleton role was just an act of a clever marketing man. Of Capote’s Black and White party at the Plaza he wrote it had “the densest concentration of celebs in the history of the world”. Did not know Cecil Beaton was part of The Factory crowd.

Have you been following the messy Warhol authentication controversy? An exposé published in the New York Review of Books is yet another chapter in dubious “art world” shenanigans– what is and what is not real? If you own one you may never know since the Warhol Authentication Board flew the coop in 2011.

And how about that Trotter lawsuit filed by Bekim and Ilir Frrokaj (are they Albanian?) who paid $46,200 for a bottle of 1945 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti then was told it was fake. Quelle idiots!

We once drank a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem 1928 sauterne and it was perfectly ghastly.

Peter Nolan’s best-selling book about the Chicago mayoral election Campaign!  (the one in 1983) was featured at the Amika Press table in Printer’s Row.  It tells the story how the white vote was split between Byrne and Daley and Harold Washington won. Soon after the Council Wars began when the “29” under the direction of the Two Eddies blocked reform legislation by the mayor.

Who died and left Bacci Connors Park to the Argo Tea company? This is no kiosk like Whispers in the Viagra Triangle but a mammoth space- consuming Bogarting affair which is plain ugly.

Memo to Field Museum: we know you’re 110 million in debt but just maybeeeeee that static attendance could be the prohibitive cost of entry. And just maybeeeeeeeee it could be the pain of parking….and maybeeeeeeee it could be the ancient exhibits everyone in the Milky Way has already seen.

Wrapports LLC unwisely let Sun Times’ Terry Savage go, she who writes one of the best financial columns in the country. If you’re smart sign up for her emailed newsletter which never disappoints with smarter than smart and not always PC advice.

We visited The Clare where retired surgeons and their wives can afford to live. In the lobby Joyce Saxon was waiting for Joey Streeto and Jane Field was about to take Buckley for a walk. You can rent now as well as buy which makes sense unless The Children Waiting in the Wings think otherwise.

Do not read the (Manchester) Guardian, even online, anymore after their complicity in the espionage of that Snowden creep. Brits should know these are the same traitorous activities as Kim Philby’s or Anthony Blunt’s and others who sold secrets to the Soviets.

Today, however, even uneducated morons can be spies. Neither Snowden nor Bradley Manning has a college degree or academic training in computer science yet both were able to navigate computer networks and smuggle classified files. Saw We Sell Secrets the Wiki leaks film a harrowing tale about misogynist psychopath Assange. Hope he’s driving the Ecuadorians crazy.

How much do nonprofit executives earn? How about half a million or better per year. Before you make that donation you should check it out at Crain’s.

Barbara Brenner founder of Breast Cancer Action passed away recently. She was among the first to question the “pinkwashing” of America, not Victoria’s Secret, but the retro pink marketing “movement”. Her group Think Before You Pink urged consumers to look out where their money was actually going before donations to cancer research.

The current exhibition of Treasures of Faith, manuscripts and books from the Newberry’s collection, but so dark it is impossible to actually see them. Recently we were told by a menacing Cerberus at the gate to remove our sweater and securely lock it away before heading upstairs. We left.

Cynthia Olsen in London saw Helen Mirren in Audience and said it was absolutely thrilling theatre. The country is shaken about the ghoulish murder in London of a British soldier by enemies residing inside the moated walls. The Barbarians are no longer at the gate – they are here.

When Rock Hudson was asked why he dropped out of psychoanalysis he said about his shrink, “He just sits back and never says a word.”


At RL’s front table painters Tom O’Gorman and Adam Umbach greeted friends and talked art. We joined them and said howdy to Cookie Cohen in a Blackhawk  jersey, Bunky Cushing, Megan McKinney and Mamie Walton. The week before we had lunch here, like a regular Michael’s, with Yolanda Lorente and Helen Schubert with tables full of ladies who lunch.Ladies Who Lunch– Isn’t that so 80s? Maybe 70s? Like “power lunching”?

Gibson’s definitely needs a dress code. On a recent visit for dinner it was shocking to see tables of loud sloppy men in T-shirts. In the old days Steve Lombardo wouldn’t have permitted that shabby deportment.

They also need to read the recently translated Galateo by Giovanni Della Casa, a 17th century handbook of polite behavior including rules for table manners. Has anyone else noticed that even the most manicured looking people grasp their cutlery like weapons? Verboten also is talking about one’s dreams or bragging about children.

 CS’ Travel & Leisure and other magazines should take a tip from Financial Times that acknowledges travel writers’ comped services thusly: “John Doe was a guest of Mars Hotel and Tsunami Airways.”  That they do not is odd.

The richest man in England is Gerald Grosvenor the 6th Duke of Westminster who allegedly uses the same hooker service as Eliot Spitzer. While we’re on it make your application to Robin Birley’s  5 Hertford Street Club the UK’s most exclusive.

The new book The Unwinding about America today claims Oprah has magical thinking, promoting the myth that positive thoughts lead to fame and fortune. George Packer also takes potshots at elitists who nag the poor to eat expensive organics but he lets Elizabeth Warren, who lied about being American Indian, off the hook.

S Spring 2013

For a huge laugh read Tatler’s “The Horror of Skiing” by Annabel Rivkin about striving nouveaus learning to “ski” at 45, a variation of the Instant- “Hey I Made It”-  Horsewoman syndrome.

Once more with feeling: Thomas Dyja’s book on Chicago which started the Shteir Wars reminds us how homogenized the city has become from the days when 620 N.Michigan, the converted fish warehouse, was the center of the art scene with Walter Kelly, Kelvyn Lilley, Susan Mongerson (now Wunderlich) and Sonia Zaks. And there was a bedraggled Woolworth’s down the street with hot dogs and chartreuse relish.




Lascaux Caves


May 17, 2013

The Old Friends Luncheon at the Racquet hosted by Susan Wunderlich, now living in California, and Genny Plamonden was a tableau of The Right Stuff Lake Forest style. Here’s an on the spot photo; Susan is in the middle. Judy Bross, Vicki Jackson, Maureen Smith, Helen Applegate, Sugar Rautbord and Faye Peck were also there.

We made a quick trip to our alma mater the University of Wisconsin in Madison which New Yorkers used to attend en masse. The object was to consult a tome only available in the whole USA at the Memorial Library in Madison, our old refuge from football games. The little city on the lakes never changes too much; we saw it from Greeks to Revolutionaries to well whatever it is today with its shabby student look. We prefer the pleated skirts and matching sweater sets to the teeny shorts and tight tank tops of today’s “coeds”, or the unshaven rather slovenly young men who in our day wore Brooks Brother to class. The Rathskeller is now a Laptopia and there is silence where once there was debate and conversation.

Old Friends

We did manage to get to the Field Museum for The Lascaux Caves and the best part was the all room recreating the interior of the actual caves. Rather wonderful  and thought provoking. It was a wet day and we had to park half mile away to avoid the $$$$$$$$$ parking lot and the museum mainly foreigners. We had a chance to look at Soldier Field from the front steps – Good Heavens – who approved that renovation?

Tom O’Gorman’s paintings get better with each exhibit at Kiki’s. The 18th century Dublin Georgian houses are rendered in vibrant impasto. Always un plaisir to see Cynthia Olson an aficionado of Julian Fellows and the only other person we know who’s read his uproarious masterpiece Past Perfect.


Friends gathered on Cinco de Mayo on Hutchinson for Joe Winjum’s birthday party, the start of a weekend of festivities. Jonathon Wells made a walloping sangria and Mexican pot roast, enjoyed by Kim Gleeson, Sharon LePere, Tom Cooney, Richard Dormer, Heather Jane Johnston and beaucoup d’autres.

We feel obliged to “weigh in” on Rachel Shteir’s NYTimes book review Chicago Manuals in the April 21st issue in which she says Chicago suffers from “bloviating boosterism.” Well let’s face it – it’s true. We have for decades hurled a barb or two at the persistent Our Town syndrome, Sherwood Andersony small town pride as in whenever persons with a reputation that exceeds the Greater SMSA appears in print they always are preceded by the inevitable Our Town’s Harrison Ford or Our Town’s Saul Bellow or Our Town’s Michelle Obama.

Yolanda Lorente

Shteir’s daring review of a boostering new book about Chicago, no party line here, The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja caused quite a bloviating stir. The NYT gave Our Town’s Scott Turow a chance to review the book too and he objected to the title which he thinks patronizing and then wrote yet another encomium to his hometown. (We immediately thought of The Mosquito Coast). Anyway the usual Fabulous Architecture and black Blues music are the ultimate cultural connections in the Dyja book which throws in Hugh Hefner and Burr Tillstroom. whom we had the grand pleasure of knowing a bit, Nelson Algren, the Daleys, and a full shopping list of all the usual suspects of 20th century Chicago nonpolitical history. We think this Booster Book makes Chicago look even more provincial which Our Town’s Scott Turow would obviously not agree with.

Besides who needs boosterism today when New York is the Third World of Tacky Stars. The New York of our youth when it was the sophisticated capitol of the universe is gone with the wind. The Met Gala is now the preserve of RAP stars, ball players and soap opera persons. Jane Wrightsman or Jackie O where art thou? Let’s face it a paradigm shift has occurred in the past ten years and it is now officially The 21st Century.

Tom O'G

We did love it that the Number One golfer Tiger Woods got looped playing the role of the reluctant boyfriend forced to accompany his girl, the Number One skier Lindsay Vonn, to a BLACK TIE. Haven’t we all been there? Well Arpad Busson says no more galas. He has scrapped Ark’s annual multimillion moneymaker as being an inefficient way to raise money. Smaller fundraisers are usually more effective anyway.

The International Antiques Fair at the Mart was really staggeringly beautiful but alas the opening night party for Rehab Institute was poorly attended though we did see King Harris, Lisa Malkin, Jim Kinney and Brian White. When the elevators opened after the VIP reception the masses swooped in.

The Dutch monarchy called “publicly subsidized performance art” of mind boggling absurdity did replace one puppet with another last week when the Queen stepped down in favor if her son, but we don’t recommend it for the Brits. In the first place they more than pay their own way and make money for the republic….and the entertainment value priceless as in the Greenwich CT’s English Speaking Union bloviating over Prince Harry the least likeable of the royals.   He takes the heat for his brother and like Pippa feeds the crazed press some Cheerios, poor sods.

At the Fair

Have you read Paul Theroux’s latest travel book The Last Train to Zona Verde? The lovably sourball 70 year old traveled alone on foot from Cape Town to Angola and the picture more excoriating than Dark Safari. A poor continent getting more miserable by the hour due partly to the mammoth increase in population. When Westerners go on safari it is not Africa they see but an animal theme park not reality. While you’re at it read V.S. Naipaul’s’ Mask of Africa another frightening book which makes us renew our vow to never go east of Vienna or south of Gibraltar.

We don’t want to pick on the President at this sensitive time but did you know he removed the bust of Churchill in the White House? Kennedy had it placed there when he granted the great warrior honorary American citizenship. That Churchill shared the prevailing opinions of his time regarding the East etc. seems to have eluded the administration which does not appear to know much about history.

The Art Business can make you quite ill. Another mass Black Tulip inflation of prices in the latest Christie’s sale. Thus a bland Barnett Newman sold at auction for 43 Million. Then again we were always wary of the so called ”conceptual art movement” of the 80s. Even Sol Le Witt …well never mind.


Howzabout the money laundering and gambling operation masquerading as the Helly Nahmad Gallery in the Carlyle? Huge bidders at Sotheby’s and Christie’s the family is now the FBI’s domain. One always had the suspicion that many art businesses were excuses for tax write offs or other illegal activities.

See portrait painter Eric Fishl has now focused his East Hampton ambition on writing..…as in a new memoir Bad Boy. The Unsinkable Mary Boone probably cooked up that idea to get even more name recognition.


Fair Warning! Just when you thought Hollywood couldn’t get any worse! Would some Structuralist please deconstruct the difference between the suave Redford Gatsby and the ghastly Luhrman Gatsby, the beautiful pastel version versus the dark electronic games version. DeCaprio’s squeaky voice and bartender ambiance always ruin a movie since you cannot suspend your disbelief. Kewpie Doll Carey Whatever looks like Daisy’s maid not a Long Island deb.


Lord Chesterfield’s Letters



April 21, 2013


We delayed writing because we had nothing to write about. Think Waugh in Abyssinia or Greene in Macau. Well in the absence of some thing new or some place new we’ll have to settle for more opinions.

F. Scott Fitzgerald lamented 75 years ago that the radio had the power to clutter the mind of his daughter Scotty, creating a bird’s nest of confusion. He also foresaw the future of a child who  “may live in a communist state or marry a girl from Mars or sit under an electric fan in the North Pole.”1926.

A Daughter’s Tale is the new memoir of Mary Soames the youngest child of Winston Churchill and the only one to escape the curse of a busy, famous father. Why were his children such a disaster? Diana committed suicide, Randolph and Sarah both died young of alcoholism. The common thread was the almost total absence of their mother Clementine; throughout the book Winston’s wife never seems to have been around her children in their formative years, preferring five month cruises or accompanying her husband on the world stage. A mother is usually the measure of the family as we all know.

This book could be a prequel to Downton Abbey revealing how glorious a privileged Edwardian childhood was –at least on the surface. Birth advantages are as you know 90% of our lives. Oh dear! So much for all the claptrap promoted about dreaming your way to the top even if you’re poor and illiterate. Inane.

The Company You Keep showing at the eerie time warp Century Landmark is the usual slowww ponderous Redford offering but lacking the visual beauty of his other films. What happened to his eye?  The story about Weathermen Underground radicals in old age is evocative enough but the script is a real clunker and RR looks so old. Julie Christie   has The Mask and Puffy Lips Look.

Cliff Dwellers

Margaret Thatcher is still stirring up controversy in death. We left England just when she became PM but think she had many right ideas like taking on the unions that had become potentates. They did their job after the grotesque excesses of the Industrial Revolution and bravo to their memory; we do wish that demeaning movie of her last years portraying her dementia had never been made. Ghoulish Hollywood. Simon Schama wrote a fine encomium in the FT and notes her inadvertent ecologism by forcing coal mining to move out of Britain to wreck the earth in foreign lands.

There is little doubt she was treated a tad differently because she was a woman, which must gall Hillary since America still hasn’t stepped up to the gender plate for the Big Job.

Who (ill) advised FLOTUS to do another cover of Vogue? She looks pretty enough but remember the Desiree Rogers flap? Her fashionable posing in MAGS was not  help her career. We know the fashion industry is big biz but it never ultimately helps women — only financial independence does. And why bother to be even more attractive to men? They only want us to look like putains

Spotlight Days

Roger Ebert was heavily promoted by the Sun Times as having a Pulitzer. Well so have many of our friends and acquaintances but they were never so lionized. Brilliant Thea Flaum started the juggernaut with that public TV show with Gene Siskel.

Advertising affects every word that appears in print, actual print, these days. At least the quid pro quo is out on the table, honestly, in the open. When we were at Spotlight in the 90s it was all a hidden agenda, a pretense of objectivity.

We saw Maria Tallchief dance Swan Lake many times in our youth and what a thrill to meet her years later in Chicago. Here is a photo of the board of the School of Chicago Ballet when we were involved with fundraising. We once introduced Maria to actor Tom Selleck (Magnum PI) – she thought he was delightful and handsome and he had never heard of her.


Bob Irsay's Wedding

Crain’s reports it costs 16K to obtain a seat on the comme il faut Joffrey Board. In olden days there was no upfront ante for boards as there is today just a willingness to work hard and perhaps co-chair an event.

Madewell is a new clothing store on Rush where the old Starbucks was once far more happily situated. Unfortunately all the clothing sizes are for preteens. So over to Brooks Brothers for some ladies’ shirts –you would think buyers would know that women who can afford the prices just might be a bit larger than the Wallisites. No Sale!

In 1950 the population of the United States was 127 million; in 2013 it is 315 million. Along with automation one doesn’t have to look far to see why there are no jobs. A radical paradigm shift in thinking is necessary to address this problem.

Cannot believe Argo won the top prize, rather more like a made- for- TV movie with so many of the plot items were borrowed from better flics like No Way Out.

Beautiful Augusta

What did you think of Hilary Mantel’s comments on Kate Middleton as a plastic clothes hanger with a personality formed by a committee? Classic bitchy academic barbs.

Maureen Dowd must have an army of stringers to churn out all those columns each week. She is always always politically correct and predictable and tres verbose; we prefer plain writing that gets to the point without too much overt cleverness, which is considered so middle class in England.

It was always good sport to decide what was U (as in upper) and non-U in Old Blimey, obsessed with class which you can never ever escape because an indelible accent tells the whole story. Even Brits in America are branded by the Tyranny of Voice and Vowels. No Way Out.

After lunch at the Cliff Dwellers which was jumping and still lively with the best views in the city, we popped across the street to the Art Institute. It was almost empty. Picasso in Chicago a yawn. Where are the blockbusters of years past? The museum scene so moribund these days. They have priced themselves out of the market.

Mary and Jonathon

We are however most anxious to see the Lascaux caves at the Field Museum but rue the hassle not to mention the cost of parking on the “campus” (speak about ill-advised ideas) which with the entrance fee and the cost of lunch makes it a C-note day.

We were at RL twice in one week, for lunch which is still a crowded people – watching carnival and at dinner which was –ahem- decidedly not. Prices high, “Amish” chicken tiny, excellent wine, salad drowning in dressing, and service swell enough. New York Noise.

Remember Hans Williman the GM of the old Four Seasons who created the number one hotel in the entire world? Well ain’t no more.—waiting for friends in the lobby we noted crumb filled tables and inordinately loud RAP music; when we suggested Debussy might be more the ticket no action took place so off to the Peninsula.

RIP to Pat Derby (a descendant of Percy B. Shelley) who said “I was born in love with all elephants”. Her book The Lady and the Tiger is a plea against keeping animals in captivity. Next time you’re at a zoo think about the fact they should be converted into managed game parks.

Did you read Lean In the pseudo-feminist opinions of an unconscionably privileged woman (whose family friend was the president of Harvard, not bad for a jump start!). We prefer Camille Paglia or Germaine Greer to burnish our consciousness every now and then. A propos of which we agree with Helen Schubert that Diane Sawyer did the best round the clock reporting of the Boston Marathon disaster. But alas she’s getting older and there are reports the network wants her out! Ladies get out your placards.




The Space Coast

March 1, 2013

February in Florida

Au revoir to the Moon! The private enterprise SpaceX Falcon  rocket just blasted off from Cape Canaveral to deliver cargo to the International Space Station; NASA has been gone for three years from the “Space Coast”, Titusville to Melbourne on the Atlantic. During our recent sojourn there we noted the landscape was still military, industrial, with fuel storage tanks, gigantic white cylinders, mechanical forms dotting the sky, and a curious lack of population.  The staff of mostly NASA are gone, and Port Canaveral has lost 95% of its staff in the past five years.

Over on Merritt Island the Kennedy Space Center is now a missile museum though we declined to pay the $75 admission fee for a look at space capsules and an interactive learning center always a phenomenal bore.

Kennedy Space Center

After the Civil War freed slaves and the occasional Confederate colonel came to this area of central Florida and it remained remote and moribund until the 1950s and 60s when the lunar quest ignited it; Cocoa Beach became a city where NASA personnel lived until it closed down in 2010. Today the 60s Pier is in disrepair, the scores of 90s condos on the beautiful sandy beaches seem largely uninhabited and in the middle range “gated” communities nothing much seems to be happening. Ron Jon surf center and others wait for the surfers to come but we did not see a one in the February high season though we were invited to a presentation by the Ron Jon Caribe Resort a development by one Joseph Zilber from Milwaukee who has created a village of time shares now called ”vacation ownership”.

Port Canaveral Dusk

We stayed in Cocoa Beach at the exact moment in time the drama of the stranded Carnival Triumph was being played out live…….everyone knew that the damned thing could have been back in a Mexican port a day after the fire but was towed to Alabama because it was cheaper than flying everyone home from Cancun. Still, yes still we saw thousands more wedged into the floating Super 8 Motels, the Disney and Norwegian cruise “liners” lurking menacingly at Port Canaveral.

This is Real Florida – not quite Everglades City or Lake Okeechobee—but still the UnNaples or UnMiami where Astronaut Boulevard had Cheaters, and Lido strip joints and biker eateries called La Cantina and hundreds of booze stores. You can still smoke in outside restaurants, really rather fun, such as Milliken’s Reef on The Cove in Port Canaveral. The music, the sheer number of talented bands, and singers and musicians in Canaveral, Cocoa, and Melbourne is very notable. Every dingy little bar has a talent or two singing and strumming away. At Heidi’s Jazz, Corky Siegel was singing away and we liked singer Paul Christopher alot.Check out his website.

Only Imagine!

The drive to Melbourne past Patrick Air Force Base recalls the military atolls in Guam with scores of seemingly empty condo buildings on the shore side of the highway. Who built all these? Who could ever afford them? Where did they expect the numbers to materialize? This is what Dubai must be like. More than 12,000 civilian Air Force workers at Patrick Air Force Base and other Florida military installations faced furloughs of up to 22 days because of sequester this week. This saved the government $94.5 million and the Defense Department $46 billion from its fiscal 2013 budget. Whether we get bombed by North Korea or Iran before September 30th is anyone’s guess.

All Aboard

Though Melbourne was also founded by freed slaves one wonders where their descendants went since it is all lily white today. At the Eau Gallie Fish Fry one Saturday we could not help but note how homogeneous the population is in this curious backwater. By the way at the Bay Tree Country Club in the city when we mentioned Chicago everyone chimed in “Murder Capitol of the World.” Rahm should really hire a damage control company to address this. Or even better try to come to serious terms with the problem.

Selby Library

We escaped and drove west to Sarasota trying to avert our eyes as we passed Orlando so as not to see the pink and blue goofiness of the skyline as we imagined dumb hordes waiting in line. We never have, even as a youth, and hopefully never will have to, do anything to do with Disney’s democracy- in- action theme parks. Though born in Chicago (2156 N. Tripp) Disney was from Missouri, conservative middle America, and he could put his juvenile stamp on American culture for all time because he lived at the right time when the Country Was New.

Orlando has third highest foreclosure rate in America and is also the country’s “most financially stressed city” (Ocala number one and Miami number two). In Sarasota the foreclosure nightmare was said to be abating as New York investment firms are buying up SW Florida residential properties to rent indicating rental is the future of the foreclosed properties.

Buffalo Creek

We stayed in a gorgeous condo right in front of the V- Day kissing couple obviously from same “sculptor” as the Monster Marilyn, overlooking Sarasota Bay, Jack’s Marina and the suave bridge to St. Armand’s Circle with its expensive fish restaurants. Not inclined to do anymore sightseeing we spent time in the Selby Library designed by architect Eugene Aubry and opened in 1998,( the previous one in the 70s designed by Walter Netsch apparently in the shape of sails.)  It is located in downtown “historic” Sarasota across from Starbucks and Whole Foods and far from the blistering social problems of the rest of the sprawling city. Each morning busloads of the homeless settled into the library for free coffee and made the library so odiferous it was almost unusable. The sweet shufflers pretended not to notice.

A few observations

Sarasota Sunset

Deltona is the real Florida, poor white people with WASP surnames living in what appear to be shacks or trailers. Windows in cars are blacked out, no one wears motorcycle helmets. Lutheran, Methodist , Baptist, Church of Christs abound. You are in the South.

A great shortage of doctors in Florida is a big problem if you’re thinking of moving there. Slapdash Urgent Care centers are the temporary solution though care there spotty at best.

On the upside Florida is very aggressive in protecting the environment which is of course the livelihood of the state. Some 68 python were found in the Everglades in a contest to find as many of the invasive species as possible. Invasive plants are also snuffed out.. From water quality to land acquisition of environmentally important land recalls Jeb Bush’s Florida Forever campaign.

On the drive back to Chicago we stayed in foreclosure capitol Ocala presumably horse country but all we saw was La Quinta and Outback Steak, typical of highway driving routes all over the country.

Georgia must be the only state that permits thousands of billboards,  nonstop gigantic overhead advertising, mainly touting truck stop hookers, along the interstate. At the Magnolia House stop along the way you can buy pecans or T-shirts with the confederate flag.

Then overnight in Chattanooga where there is some local industry in the beautiful southern Appalachian setting —  VW, Coca Cola Bottling, Wrigley’s Altoids and Life Savers and McKee’s Little Debbie are all made there. Two tone mesh baseball caps on local guys running around in packs of three or four at the chain Logan’s Roadhouse.

There are scores of stray house cats all over Florida, as well as omnipresent cheeky vultures and wild peacocks, brown hens and resplendent blue males.


Travel Photos

December 25, 2012

A Visual Year in Review. Truly appreciate your reading Lucia’s Symposium. Best to you all.