Category Archives: ASL

The London Hilton

The London Hilton on Park Lane

The London Hilton on Park Lane was not a hotel we ever lived in.  But we did spend a fair amount of time there for two reasons: Mother’s best new friend in London, Mary Broomfield, was the hotel’s upper class consierge and Trader Vic’s was in the basement.

The hotel was built in 1963 in the swanky Mayfair section of London and towers over Hyde Park (it remains the tallest hotel in London).  In 1967 the Beatles met the Mararishi Mahesh Yogi there and in 1975 the IRA bombed the place killing two and injuring 63 including Mary who lost hearing in one ear.  Trader Vic’s was the faux Polynesian bar chain (which originated in San Francisco, I believe) whose big, colorful, fruit-garnished drinks and Tiki mugs were an irresistible draw for teen expat wanna be grown-ups like me and Robbie and our crew from ASL (The American School in London).

Picture of Wendy Rea

Wendy Rea by Pedro Menocal

Pedro Menocal, Cuban-born portraitist to high society (and their horses), was in London in 1972 when he did Mother’s portrait (featured on the cover of Chanel).  He had done our, by then ,ex-stepbrother’s and ex-stepsisters’ portraits in New York so Mother had him do ours as well — me at twelve and Robbie at eleven.  It was during the phase between my stepfather Oliver Rea and Mother when they were happily living apart but kind of falling in love all over again.  Mother sent a note to The American School and told them Robbie and I were to be called Wendy and Robin Rea in an effort to further lock her self in with Oliver.  I supposed having our portraits done by the same artist who had done our stepfather’s other children was another way of strengthening the bond.  I would be officially known as Wendy Rea until I was twenty and changed my name back.

Babycham Monday

Like Champagne for Little Girls!

When the IRA was bombing London and a couple of threats were called in to our school (The American School in London) we had to evacuate and so went to the pub nearby and tried, with the biggest platform shoes and the greatest amount of lipstick, to look old enough to order Babycham, Sparkling Perry.

Originally called “Champagne Perry”, Babycham was invented by brewer Francis Edwin Showering in Shepton Mallet, Sommerset, England.After the French complained about the use of the appelation Champagne, the name was changed to “Sparkling”.  Perry is an ancient alcoholic beverage made from fermented pears traditionally popular in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and parts of south Wales as well as in Normandy and Anjou, France. 

Despite its juvenile fawn mascot and name, Babycham made us feel like grown-ups even as the real grown-ups in our world were acting like children. 


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! 


Saturday Night’s Alright

One of my musical heroes and great crush when I was a girl…

Here he in Central Park in 1980.  I first saw him at benefit at my school ASL in London.  Kiki Dee opened. It was before their “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” duet.  Our concert was in the fall just after the release of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road which of course became a very important album for me.  He appears briefly in CHANEL BONFIRE or at least his bottom does!


Out of Africa

When we were at the American School in London, a Thames Television show called Magpie sponsored  us on a flamingo-tagging trip to Lake Nakuru in Kenya.

We flew into Nairobi and took a buss to Lake Nakuru.

We had to wear paper underwear because there was no way to do laundry.

And we discovered that the woman our science teacher had brought along was his mistress.  Oh, and many flamingoes were tagged.  

Thanks to my friend Lynn Williamson for the pictures.  As anyone who’s read the book can imagine any pictures Robbie and I had didn’t survive.


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.