The Museum Behind Everyone’s Profile Photo

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Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room

Even from 3,000 miles away, I couldn’t resist the lure of L.A.’s Broad Museum. My friends’ Instagram accounts blew up with images from the ethereal Infinity Mirrored Room, which also became everyone’s Facebook profile photo. Overnight. Newly-opened and with a minimum two month waiting list, (even longer for select exhibits), attendance seems to delineate who’s who in the art world of LA. Which does exist, for all you naysayers. Most of the people who say L.A. has no culture simply repeat it because they heard other people say it. They also have an identical eye-roll when someone mentions “the valley.” Sheep.

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The curators at The Broad (pronounced “Brode”- I know) prove that a taste for captivating art is alive and well in the City of Angels. Work from local artists and brooding up-and-comers are mingled with stars of modern art, such as Jeff Koons, along with pop art icons Lichtenstein and Warhol.

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For those of you who are still on the waiting list and hoping for a sneak peek, here’s a smattering of what you’ll see. For everyone else, it’s simply here for you to enjoy.

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Unusual piece by Andy Warhol, featuring Jacqueline Kennedy at JFK’s funeral.

 

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Takashi Murakami

 

The two pieces below by Jeff Koons are always tempting to touch.

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The three pieces below are from my new favorite modern artist, John Currin. He captures the hope and humiliation in our everyday lives in a way that’s sometimes hilarious, sometimes embarrassing, but always provocative.IMG_4464 IMG_4463 IMG_4461

Hollywood Noir

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There are two versions of Old Hollywood. One is the rat pack at the Coconut Grove, Clark Gable driving his Deusenberg down Hollywood Boulevard and all things Liz Taylor.

The other Old Hollywood is a bit darker. It’s the Black Dahlia and zoot suit riots. It’s the debauchery of silent film stars in the roaring twenties, lasciviously described in Hollywood Babylon. This version was the theme of our recent rental in Los Angeles, and it created an atmosphere around our trip. The built-in bar was red, as were the leather bar stools. It was eclectic and full of secrets. A stolen street sign from Hollywood’s famous Cherokee Avenue loomed over the bar. There was a old pay phone (a relic; no dial tone), neon signs and vintage bar mirrors.

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If these walls could talk…

Instead of running around town to see old friends, they came to us. They took refuge in the dark recesses of the place. Huddling at the bar, rifling through the book collection and gathering by fire pit out back, where cotoyes howled all around us.

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At the base of the Hollywood Hills, this is where it all began. Looming over landmarks such as The Knickerbocker and Capitol Records, this home was built back when Pacific Palisades was “out in the country.” If walls could talk, there’d be tales of wannabe starlets who didn’t make it, hippies who had chance encounters with the Manson family and screenwriters working their way up at RKO.

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If you want to be surrounded by Mexixan kitsch, pin-up girls and a print of Krampus, this Airbnb rental will give your entire trip a once-in-a-lifetime feeling. To rent this place, click here.

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A house full of friends

Airbnb has truly saved us. We spend good money to travel someplace new, only to end up in a hotel that could be in any city.  You’re remote, with just a bird’s-eye view of the place you really want to be. The only place where giant hotels give you a feel for the town, is Las Vegas.

The other option used to be just bed and breakfasts. While they emote a local feel, the breakfast is always served too early and you’re forced to make pre-coffee conversation with strangers.

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Like many homes at the base of the Hollywood Hills, the yard is sloped and lush from mountain run-off

Thank goodness Airbnb swept in, with  rentals that range from log cabins in Colorado to five-star yurts in Nigeria, designed with tlc by the locals who own it. They fluff your nest with their old silverware and mix-matched dish sets. You use the towels from their old color scheme. Even if you never meet them, they were all around you. And if you pick carefully, it feels kind of great.

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Before I die: The Grand Bal

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Marlene Deitrich at the Waldorf-Astoria’s annual “April in Paris” ball in 1951 – Paris’ 2000-year birthday

Much ado has been made of the world’s response to our dear City of Light being terrorized. Support has poured in worldwide, but some question why our response to Paris being attacked is so emotional, when things like that happen in other parts of the world all the time. These critics are right, but one must acknowledge that the world has always had a love affair with Paris.

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The Imperial Grand Bal in St. Petersburg, 1903

The French brought us lingerie, croissants, Coco Chanel, the ballet and much more. Even in Paris’ darkest hour since World War II, nothing can vanquish the City of Light. I’d like to bring attention to one of the many things that makes Paris so brilliant – Le Grand Bal.

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An Asian-inspired theme – the food and costumes must have been to die for

What is a Grand Bal?

It’s the party of a lifetime. It’s an event you tell your grandchildren about. While it’s always black tie, the best ones are costumed or masquerade balls. It started centuries ago when Louis XIV held a Grand Bal at Versailles to demonstrate his power. Noblemen and dignitaries far and wide gathered to pass messages and spread influence.

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Louis XIV’s Grand Bal costume

Czars in Russia did it, and during the gilded age in New York, Caroline Astor hosted them. The tradition may have jumped from royalty to socialites hosting charities, but the goal is the same: establishing social and political power. Truman Capote held a black and white ball and these were so influential, that uninvited couples left New York for the weekend, so to appear unavailable for the invite. Famous hostess Elsa Maxwell (who lived in the Waldof-Astoria for free) hosted the annual April in Paris Grand Bal on-site. It was the place to see and be seen.

One day I’ll throw one as well. Costumes, Champagne fountain and other Gatsby-esque frivolities. My theme will be the roaring 20s.

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Truman Capote’s famous Black and White Ball

Carpe Autumn.

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Autumn was a little dramatic this year. There was no “jacket weather.” A frosty night jumped out at us after a summer’s day. Acorns and walnuts are falling from trees four stories tall, pelting our cars with a metallic ting. Every time you look up, leaves are spinning in mid-air.

A year ago, I blogged about how autumn had snuck up on me. It was halfway over before I stopped to smell the pumpkin spice everything. I had just had a baby, and autumn is a very short-lived party.

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playing in a giant pit of corn kernels

Last year I was determined to enjoy autumn despite having a kid. Now I’m enjoying it because I have a kid.

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I started last weekend. We hosted a bonfire in our backyard. Like us adults, Hamilton was mesmerized by the fire, clutching his Curious George doll with eyes as wide as saucers. We sipped sarsaparilla whiskey and shared old stories.

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Other things you can do:

It may be tempting to pick up a pumpkin at the grocery store while shopping, but take a day to slow down and visit an old-fashioned pumpkin patch. Enjoy the hayride, sip on some cider and let the child run free in the fields.

Even if your toddler is too young to go trick-or-treating, it doesn’t mean you can’t dress up! Put together a clever costume (extra points if it’s not store-bought) get a great shot and share it on social media.  Get into the spirit!

Jump into leaf piles.

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at a pumpkin-carving party with fellow Pinterest-obsessed girlfriends

Toddlers are just beginning to learn color, but you can make it fun by taking walks and hunting for special leaves. Especially beautiful ones can be used to decorate their rooms or be tacked onto their mobile.

Carve a pumpkin and toast the seeds with different spices. It teaches the child to be industrious, and less wasteful. You and the family can enjoy the treat while doing an official lighting ceremony for your new jack-0-lantern.

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comfort foods like imported Danish kringles, quiche and cookies helped us stay in “the zone” while crafting

Succumb to the shameless marketing and grab a pumpkin spice latte. A sip or two won’t hurt your little one.

Carpe Autumn!

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Party tip: A dash of spicy ginger beer takes apple cider to a whole other level

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Uncovering a Jackie O. Hideaway

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Growing up outside of Washington D.C., I’d pass the mysterious iron gates guarding Dumbarton Oaks, but the ornate black and gold facade hadn’t yet piqued my curiosity.

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Then, like many people around the world, I became fascinated by the Kennedy family and discovered that Jackie O. and many other Washington socialites liked to relax at Dumbarton Oaks. Just a few blocks north of bustling Georgetown, it features 53 acres of serenity and was but walking distance from the Georgetown home Jackie moved into after JFK’s assassination, pictured below:

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The home was purchased in 1920 by Milded and Robert Bliss, and found the grounds rather neglected. They hired progressive landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand to design the various terraces, gardens and more.

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I spent a summer day alone on the grounds, exploring and taking note of inspiring techniques which I will use on my own property. Every home needs a cutting garden as does mine. But this estate goes far beyond flowers. I’ve since installed fruit-bearing trees, a grapevine, ornamental trees and am on the hunt for a spooky, romantic weeping willow.

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Dumbarton Oaks was a place that provided much solace for a grieving Jackie O., and it most certainly gifted me with an exhilarating Sunday, free from the stress of daily life. It’s a must-see for all nature-lovers, gardeners and would-be Bunny Mellons!

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Backyard Pop-Up Wedding!

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A sweet chalkboard message and carport strung with white curains serves as a warm welcome.

Attorneys Marcus Lange and Zawadi Brown were already engaged, but when a San Francisco law firm offered Marcus a dream job, he and his fiancée decided to start this new venture as man and wife.

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the happy couple

We had two weeks to pull off one of the happiest days of their lives, and it was a success!

Sans Fancy Venue!

Everyone knows that a wedding date is at the mercy of the wedding venue. Since official venues were out, we chose our backyard! Since it’s the East Coast, we got a spacious white tent in case of rain.

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Sans Caterers!

Instead of locking down official caterers, the couple cherry-picked their favorite foods, and dishes that highlighted their heritage. The groom is German, which meant schnitzel and sauerkraut potato balls. The bride is from Trinidad with a Rastafarian and vegetarian family, which meant a mix of vegetable patties, jerk chicken and plantains. They also offered one of their favorite dishes: mutton biryani from India.  Guests are still raving about the All-Around-the-World menu!

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Sans Bakery Cake!

Instead of trying to score a last-minute wedding cake from a bakery, they called on food artist Carol Brown, known for her impeccable baking at Dixie Donuts and beyond. She outdid herself, with a homemade red velvet cake, chocolate brownies and a classic pound cake. For good measure, Marcus and Zawadi provided chocolate-covered strawberries as well.

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Sans Decorators!

Rather than hiring a decorator, Zawadi and friends, (including myself) created hand-made decorations in various shades of purple, the wedding color. Silver was the accent color. Billowy tissue paper balls were strung about, wisteria hung from the railings and the ceremony took place under a tree that was positively dripping with colored ribbons and strands of crystals. When the wind blew, it was ethereal.

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Sans Florist!

The couple skipped major florist fees by marrying outdoors, as our yard has a peach tree, fig free, Concord grape vines, a weeping cherry, daisies, hydrangea bushes and more. In fact, every flower from the purple hydrangea was snipped and placed on every table. Adding to the rustic theme were mason jars filled with sand and lit candles, lanterns hung from the trees and burlap runners featured ladylike polka dots.

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The ceremony was short, sweet and personalized with the couple’s own vows.

Sans Bartender!

Rather than hiring a bartender, the couple offered a conveniently pre-mixed signature drink, the Trinimeister. Combining both their heritages, it was a mix of Jaegermeister, coconut rum, pineapple juice and Sprite, which fit right in with the summer day. Beer and wine were also available, though as the party went on, more and more bottles of liquor filled the bar.
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Who needs a wedding planner when you have friends?

It was a day with zero humidity, sunshine and a cool breeze. It may well have been the prettiest day of summer. Mr. and Mrs. Lange were surrounded by love, with friends and family who all rallied together to make this day unforgettable.

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Bree Hall (pictured right) was a force during the wedding planning.

We wish Mr. and Mrs. Lange the best of luck with their new adventure in San Francisco!

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Hydrangeas popped on every table, and wedding toasts made guests laugh and cry.
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Silver accents complimented the purple and white decor.

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Gift bags were filled with homemade air freshener spray (created by the bride’s brother) and German beer.
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The couple’s friend Mark is also a taleted musician, who performed a warm, personal tribute.
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happy to open our home

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Top Five Ways to Spring into Spring!

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My son and I, soaking up spring in the South of France

Finally! Those deadly icicles have dropped from the roof. They stabbed the dirt. They fed the roots and bulbs biding their time below. Without the bleakness of winter, one cannot fully enjoy the excitement of spring. It’s more than the burst of colors pushing through the brown. It’s the promise of things to come; a summer filled with barbecues, beach outings, and the smell of coconut sun lotion.

Too many people are content to admire the warming weather from office windows. That will not do. Here are the top five things to help you spring into spring!

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weeping cherry tree

1) Buy a flowering tree or shrub, and plant it in the yard.

Studies have shown that when people literally get into the soil, they don’t just feel more in synch with the outdoors, but are happier and live longer. Year after year, this plant will be the first to bloom in April, a beautiful congratulations for surviving winter.

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The biggest challenge with a hammock is staying awake

2) Buy a hammock!

You don’t need two perfectly-spaced trees, or even a yard! Hammocks can be sold with a stand, and can even fit on balconies. The best part? A hammock forces you to look where you usually don’t: UP. You’ll slow down and notice the blue jays, passing clouds and gorgeous sunsets.

3) Make a fresh batch of sweet tea or lemonade.

Never underestimate the power of taste buds. A refreshing, warm-weather drink can transform your mood and offer something a little more interesting than ice water.

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I uncovered this mysterious gem while hiking the woods along the James River in Richmond, VA

4) Get moving!

Whether it’s a volleyball game or a hike along the river, enjoy the cool air before summer ushers in humidity or scorching heat. Not only will you feel great toning up your winter body, but you can work on your tan as well!

5) Do a mini-makeover in your home!

I would suggest spring cleaning, but cleaning is so awful! Instead, lighten up your home. Replace heavy draperies with sheer ones, lighten your bedding, switch out your jewel-toned throw pillows with pastel ones, which look great with a geometric pattern. If you have a backyard sitting area or balcony, spruce it up so it’s ready for last-minute company or a solo glass of wine.

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The Boathouse in RVA knows how to deck out their outdoor seating area!

Happy spring!

A Week in Provence

IMG_0314I’ve always been inspired by Peter Mayle’s  A Year in Provence. He drives around the Provencal countryside eating epic meals and describing the hilarious locals, many of whom are grumpy and backwards. But no matter how many holes are in their socks or much they hate Parisians, one mustn’t ever call them rednecks. Mais non! It’s the South of France, and they still have a nose for great wine, hunt for truffles and were farming organically before organic farming was cool.

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So we rented a villa in the hilly village of Mougins, outside of Nice. When hiking, it offered sweeping views of the Mediterranean. We had a local boulengerie and patisserie, and daily we’d grab cafe au lait, croissants and quiche. We explored surrounding villages and stopped in bigger towns, such as Cannes and Nice.

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But the focus of our trip was relaxation, and our villa gave the restorative feel we needed. The old stone house was shaded by giant olive trees. I uncovered a stone slab table in the yard – perfect for writing. There was a zipline, a hammock, avocado and lemon trees and a horse across the way. The semi-arid and sunny weather mirrored the paradise of Southern California. We didn’t want to leave.

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Until we return, and return we will, we can always read A Year in Provence, Encore Provence and Toujours Provence. Over and over. Readers, I warn you. Don’t even think of opening these books while hungry!

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Cocktail Party for One Year-Old Birthday? I’ll Drink to That!

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Olive Seward turns one!

The Sewards of Richmond, Virginia decided to make their one year-old’s birthday party exactly as it should be – a party for the parents! They survived a year of sleep deprivation among other atrocities,  and it was time to let loose.

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Our hosts, Jake and Kristin Seward, left.

The invitations could not have come at a better time; many in their circle were itching with cabin fever, as the snowy weather kept them home-bound with their even more listless children.

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Revelers stepped in from the cold in snow boots and were welcomed by a warm glow. Candles were lit throughout the house. Stringed lights hung over tiny nooks, encouraging party-goers to indulge in adult conversation. There were stations for cocktails, wine, liqueurs and a fine whiskey awaited those in-the-know in the kitchen.

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The Sewards knew the tried and true tricks of all skilled hosts. They were at ease, drinks in hand. They placed little food and drink stations around the home. This kept guests circulating and discovering treats throughout the house.

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Tabletops in every room offered diversions.

My favorite station was the dessert drink station. A pot of fresh coffee sat beside bottles of Frangelico, Bailey’s Irish Cream, whipped cream and sweets. Some guests stirred in chocolate candy to make their drinks richer, while others dipped in their Biscotti. It was heaven.

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Most impressive spread – the dessert cocktail bar!

Of course, no one lost sight of why we were there. Olive, their daughter who turned one, was fast asleep upstairs but celebrated in the details below. A mini olive bar stuffed with different cheeses glistened below a sign that read “Olive You” – the popular hashtag used by Olive’s mother, photographer Kristin Seward.

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The Nor’Easter Champagne cocktail

Other treats were the Winter Champagne Cocktails with rosemary and orange peel. The Tuscan-inspired spread with giardiniera, crusty breads brushed with high-quality olive oil and a collection of European cheeses. But the best part was the company, with conversation that made the hours whir by in what felt like minutes.

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great company

As everyone stepped into the snowy night, they didn’t feel a thing. We were toasty inside and out as we trudged through the snow under clear, starry skies.

Happy birthday, Olive!

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Socialite Obsession: Millicent Rogers

Millicent Rogers Muse 1The word “socialite” is thrown around too loosely, just like the term “genius.” I have a slight obsession with socialites – the classic ones. I don’t favor the nouveaux riche girls – gold-digging, ostentatious and all too willing to use a sex tape to bolster them to very temporary tabloid fame.

At least socialites back inRV-AE203_ROGERS_G_20110909030651 the day had a tougher time breaking into a man’s world. And those glass ceilings gave a lot of them gumption; one of the reasons why so many gay men adore them.

Take Millicent Rogers. An heiress to the Standard Oil fortune, she’s regarded as a fashion icon and art collector. All of these things are true. But she was also a pioneer. With art, she didn’t collect just the standard European classics. She was an early champion of Southwestern-style art and jewelry. In fact, she’s credited for bringing international attention to this style.

Most New Yorkers retreated to Palm Beach or Italy to get away from the city, but Millicent retired to Taos, New Mexico. Back in the 1940’s, Taos was but a small artist colony. It wasn’t yet the spiritual stomping ground for Julia Roberts and Dennis Hopper. She was ahead of her time. So ahead of her time, that she was one of the first celebrity activists for Native American civil rights.

But the thing I am most impressed by, is that she wasn’t a whiner. Her heart was bigger than the average heart. I’m 03-18-12-dogs-in-vogue-book-05not talking about kindness. At her autopsy, her heart was discovered to be four times the size of a regular human heart. She had rheumatic fever as a child, and doctors said she wouldn’t live past ten. While they were wrong, she suffered poor health the rest of her life. This included heart attacks, bouts of double pneumonia and by the time she was 40, she was mostly crippled in her left arm. She died following surgery for an aneurism.

That didn’t stop her from marrying three times, and having romantic trysts with the likes of Clark Gable and the Prince of Wales. She raised three children. She lobbied for civil rights in Washington. She was a hot item on the New York social scene and photographs of her were often featured in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

She never dwelled on her ill heath, failed marriages and she certainly never tried blending in with the pack. Every time she veered off the reservation, she did something great she was remembered for.