December 03, 2013
I recently sat down with a friend of more than fifty years, Reinaldo Herrera, and was filmed while lunching by Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, also an old friend, discussing the past.
The Herrera house is a grand one, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and Graydon’s idea was to film two people who had experienced what life was like back during the 1950s and early 60s, when manners mattered more than money and how elegant and graceful life was for”to put it bluntly”the haves such as my friend and myself.
Well, I never enjoyed a luncheon more, however nostalgic and at times sad it was to recall friends no longer with us and parties that now, through the mists of time, resemble what pleasant dreams are made of. Basically we both talked about how wonderful it was to live in a world where manners were paramount. Yes, it was still quite snobby, and an upper-class twit took precedence over an intellectual at a lady’s lunch, but as I said on camera, to be twenty years old and playing polo in Paris in June, with the stands full of well-dressed ladies and blazered gentlemen, beats tailgating with fat slobs at a pro football game somewhere in America on a Sunday afternoon by a very long mile. The editor of Vanity Fair egged us on, and I am told the shoot was very successful. Young people today have no idea what they missed. I know, I know”every generation says the same thing, but in this case the facts are undeniable.
First and foremost, it was a postwar period, and after Germany, Britain, France, and Italy were reconstructed, there was a mad dash by everyone to have fun. The French aristocracy opened up their chateaux”ditto the Brits”and gave nonstop balls. Rich Argentines and Brazilians flocked to Europe, as did well-bred Americans.
In one year alone”1962″I went to the Rochambeau ball in Paris, the Agnelli ball in the Bois de Boulogne, the Rothschild ball in their family seat, FerriÃ¨res, outside the capital, the Cadaval ball in Portugal, and to a crappy little party I gave to pay back the invitations at the Tour D”Argent, the famous restaurant on the Left Bank, where the owner whom I played polo with made me pay only ten percent of what was consumed that night. I was 26 and having the time of my life.