Category Archives: 70s London

First Evening Bag

My first evening bag.
I bought this bag at the legendary Biba on Kensington High Street to go with my first long dress from Laura Ashley.  I was fourteen and the occasion was a party for an ambassador’s son at Quaglino’s, a legendary restaurant in London.  The restaurant was opened in 1929 by Giovani Quaglino and quickly became a favorite haunt of royals and wealth socialites.  It was in fact so popular with the Windsors that a special section was cordoned off so there would always be a royal table available.  It was the first public restaurant in which a reigning monarch dined (Elizabeth II in the 1950s).  By the time of our party, it was a haunt for the rich and famous from all over the world.
The restaurant was made over in the 90s by Conran and is still a place to be seen.  The dress is gone but my memories like my Biba evening bag are still with me.


Another of Mother’s London clothing obsessions was Jaeger knitwear.  Already a classic English brand founded in 1884 by Lewis Tomalin and named after German zoologist Dr. Gustav Jaeger who advocated the benefits of clothes made from animal fibers, Jaeger became chic on the same late 60s knitwear craze (some say begun by Arthur Penn’s 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde”) that influenced Ossie Clark’s reimagining of Chanel’s 1930s suits.  Mother couldn’t get enough of it — the classic lines and form-fitting cut of Jaeger’s sweaters looked fabulous on her–sexy not stuffy and perfect for everyday.


Ossie Clark

Ossie Clark (left) with his wife Celia Birtwell and Royal College of Art friend David Hockney (right)

When Mother moved us to London and she began her wacky expat divorcee phase, her wardrobe expanded and in some ways exploded with the flamboyant free flowing fabrics and radical cuts of Enlgish designer Ossie Clark (The King of King’s Road) and his wife, textile designer Celia Britwell.  She may have seen his clothes at Henry Bendel in New York (they bought his first collection) but she fell in love with them in London. 
His work came of age in the 60s and became the look and style of the 70s influencing Yves Saint Laurent, Anna Sui and Tom Ford among others.  His classic lines done for Radley are still worn by Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell and, of course, by me and Robbie and our friends in the Chanel Bonfire party.

The Underground

Mother would never in a millions years have let us ride the subway in New York.  She never did.  Even with our nannies we would take the bus or Mother would give them cab fare.  But after only a year in London, Robbie and I were riding the Tube or the Underground everywhere — by ourselves or with a pack of other kids from school.  Busses were fun but the Underground was fast and filled with cool people and round and much cheaper than taking a taxi.

And when you’re saving all your money for platform shoes and trips to Biba, that’s an important difference!


For Your Pleasure

My first album.

Of all the glam bands in all the world, in platform shoes or high heels, Roxy Music was and is my all-time favorite.  This album, “For Your Pleasure”, released by Island Records in 1973, was the band’s second and the last featuring Brian Eno.  The woman on the cover was lead singer and songwriter Brian Ferry’s girlfriend at the time, transsexual singer and model Amanda Lear.  Judi Dench’s voice can be heard at the end of the title track saying, “You don’t ask.  You don’t ask why.”

I bought the album with my own money at the WH Smith in Sloane Square and played it until the grooves wore out.  That copy is lost now–a casualty of a peripatetic childhood and young adulthood.  I may very well have left it in a taxi stuffed into one of the Bloomingdales bags I used to move apartments at a moment’s notice in New York in the early 80s.  More of that in the sequel to Chanel which will be coming your way sometime next year from Gallery Books.


T-Rex and the Young Americans

“The Groover”
If, as the song says, music can save your soul, then the Glam Rock of early 70s London definitely saved mine.  This footage was shot May 3, 1973 just as Robbie and I and our wild expat friends were stepping out and away all over London while our parents partied and went crazy.  We were truly becoming Bowie’s “Young Americans” and T-Rex was performing a great deal of our soundtrack.

Bands of Roaming Expat Kids

Clowning in a photo booth in London with my friend Lynn. 

While our parents were partying it up 70s style, my friends and I at ASL were roaming the city of London going to concerts, stores, restaurants and, on one occasion, sneaking into the Osmond Brother’s hotel so one of us could meet Donny.  Thanks for the photo, Lynn! 


Georgann Rea and Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ Superstar!

One of Mother’s London boyfriends, a TV producer named Herb Sargent, swept us all off to a Wings concert one night, and Robbie and I sat in the booth. We didn’t get to meet Sir Paul (Mother did), but we did get to meet Ted Neeley, who we recognized as super cute Jesus in the film of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. We had only played the record a million times, so it was a huge thrill for us!


Rags to Riches

From Kansas City to Versailles in one blog post!

A much quicker version of my mother, Georgann Rea’s journey from Iowa orphanage to Kamsas City Plaza dweller to Minneapolis actor’s wife to Dakota dwelling Broadway Producer’s wife to wealthy American Divorcee in London!  Thirty years from there to here and in ten more she’d be broke again.  

Here we are on an ASL trip to Versailles.  Note the crazy 70s styling.