Redeeming Features, By Nicholas Haslam
Sunday 21 November 2010
The interior designer, journalist and socialite Nicky Haslam has met almost everyone who's anyone. (He must have inherited the knack from his parents: his dad was a friend of John Maynard Keynes and LS Lowry; his mum had a fling with JB Priestley). This memoir takes us from his childhood (polio left him bedridden for three years) and Eton schooldays to his triumphant entry into the glittering social citadels of London and New York.
At the age of 15, he went to a party chez Tallulah Bankhead. She is the first in a line of famous acquaintances who include Cecil Beaton, Joan Crawford, WH Auden, Lucian Freud, Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Cole Porter, Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.
The encounters are often brief (Haslam met Elvis, but Elvis was half asleep at the time), while characters who we are told became great friends barely reappear. Every page is stuffed with proper nouns. The exuberance is enjoyable at first, but the endless parade of famous names palls. This isn't so much name-dropping as name-carpet-bombing.
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