Monday, August 16, 2010


We finally got an actual thunderstorm! I'm so thrilled. I sat out on the balcony and watched the whole thing and listened to all that lovely thunder. Of course, it's now a total steam bath outside, but, given this summer, what else is new?

I went and did my open call, which was predictably dull and cost me at least a million new split ends what with the teasing and spraying of my poor hair. But I got to say hi to a couple of my Boardwalk pals and get a new picture in Grant Wilfley's files, so it shouldn't be a total loss.

And finally, as promised a while back here, I will tell you about my new favorite book. It's called Entertaining Is Fun! by Dorothy Draper, who was one of the great American interior designers of the 1930's and 1940's. The book was originally published in 1941 and was re-issued, completely without any kind of editing, in 2005 (I think).

You MUST read this book. I haven't had this much fun in years. Just opening it at random, I come across Miss Draper's description of a Tyrolean party, where all the men came in liederhosen (those little leather shorts) and all the ladies in dirndls. There was, among other delights, a procession by candlelight from the "cocktail room" to the dining room, and Miss Draper had managed to find and hire "an amateur Austrian band consisting of Austrian workmen and shopkeepers", who brought their wives or girlfriends with them and demonstrated "some of their gay,elaborate folk dances for us." They even allowed the guests to do some of the simple ones, which I think was sweet of them. Well, think about it. When you're doing the time honored traditional dances of your homeland, it's really awfully nice of you to let a bunch of clodhopping New York socialites join in. Miss Draper was also in costume, of course - "I had a headdress of cornflowers with silver and great long diamond peasant earrings..." Um, what? Personally, I haven't seen a lot of peasants wearing long diamond earrings, but, you know, maybe things were different in 1941. My favorite piece of this report is a line which reads: "Elsa Maxwell, I remember, came dressed like a man, in leather shorts and an embroidered white shirt and flowered suspenders." This is just sort of casually tossed off..

I could go on and on about this book, because I am hysterically in love with it, but I must leave you with two of her more inspired flights of fancy, the first of which is that in her lists of what you must have for entertaining (which are a trip and a half), she includes "A pair of candelabra. To stand on the piano or the buffet when you entertain." Of course.

But the best thing in the book is one of her descriptions of someone making do with what they have. To give her all credit, actually all of the suggestions in her book are just as workable now as they were then, regarding things like, if you don't enjoy your party, no one else will; do the best you can with what you've got; and so forth. However, she tells the story of a young bride in the damnedest circumstances I ever heard of.

Seems this young lady started her marriage in a freight car drawn up at a siding in the wildest part of Idaho. I hasten to add that this was because her husband was a railway engineer who had to be on site to do whatever it was he did, and her only alternative was to live alone in a hotel 100 miles away and see him rarely.

Well, you'll just have to read the book, but "Ultimately (and in remarkably short time, too), the freight car was transformed into what closely resembled a cottage in the Bavarian Alps."

By the way, Dorothy Draper was truly one of the American greats, and the next time you think of decorating with a red rug and lavender walls, you may bow to her, since it was she who shook Americans out of the hideous Victorianisms and all beige homes that were still persisting in her time...her interiors were GORGEOUS. And there is still a Dorothy Draper Inc. decorating company, now run by Carleton Varney. So there.

But the book is a HUGE treat.

Love, Wendy

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