Category Archives: Oliver Rea

Come Fly With Me!

The new paperback edition of Chanel is out today!  And it’s being featured at the Hudson News Store in all your favorite airports!  Perfect for vacation reading!

Both the photo of my mother, Georgann Rea and the one of me and my sister Robin were taken by my late step-father, Oliver Rea.  The new edition also includes the first chapter of the sequel, Heart of Glass due out in March 2016!
Happy Summer!  Happy Reading!


New Cover for Summer!

Chanel Bonfire reissue (1)

This is an early proof copy of the new paperback cover for Chanel due out this summer!  The reissue will include the first chapter of the sequel, HEART OF GLASS!  That’s my mom on Lyford Cay with Robbie and me in the inset.  The photos were taken by Pop, my once-upon-a-time stepfather Oliver Rea (note the misspelling of his name on the credit).  Should be out in July in time to take to the beach!


Hot Night at El Morocco

Okay, I don’t have any pictures, but we were there. One of the hottest nights in my memory, as if a garbage filled blow-dryer was pointed at your face. It was NYC, 1974, Robin and I in our long Laura Ashley dresses, getting drunk on champagne while Mother and Pop Bossa Nova’d and didn’t pay attention to anyone else. Listening to “Midnight at the Oasis”. Later, I passed out in the taxi. My first faint. Stay cool out there this summer.

Years later, in a strange, worlds collide, my husband and I were living in Hell’s Kitchen and we’d just had our first child, Harry. We lived in Manhattan Plaza, a building for people in the performing arts. An old lady named Mrs. Valentine who had been Toscanini’s secretary lived a few floors down from us and knitted booties for Harry. Her husband, Harry Valentine had been the Maitre ‘d at El Morocco until his retirement in the early 80s and probably poured us all into the taxi!


Ouarzazate, Morocco

Ouarzazate, Morocco nicknamed “The Door of the Desert”

With the Atlas Mountains to the north and the desert to the south, the ancient city of Ouarzazate, inhabited and chiefly built by Berbers, was an important stop for traders from central Africa and the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of the continent.  It sits on a plateau about 3,800 feet above sea level.

It was to Ouarzazte that Mother and Oliver traveled when scouting the location for the jetsetters resort he hoped to build.  The French had converted the trading post into a garrison town but starting in the early sixties with “Lawrence of Arabia”, Hollywood was turning it into a movie location.  

He never built his resort but Oliver was right about the area.  It is now a major tourist destination for Moroccans and Europeans and the area is filled with luxury resorts and condo towns.  It is also home to Atlas Studios one of the largest movie studios in the world where everything from “Lawrence” to “Gladiator” to “Game of Thrones” has been shot.

The Hotel Ritz

Hotel Ritz, Paris

It was at the bar at the Hotel Ritz that Mother conducted the “business” that brought our ex-stepfather back into our lives for a time while we were living in London.  I don’t know if it was the Ritz Bar, the Bar Vendome or the Bar Hemingway over Rainbows (a signature cocktail) Blood Marys (said to be invented here for Hemingway) or Champagne (although my step-father did favor a Gibson) but whatever they drank in whichever bar overlooking the Place Vendome, it was a success and she brought our now fairy ex-stepfather back to the Hotel Sydney Opera to take us away to the Inter-Continental.

The Ritz was a favorite hotel of Oliver’s and run at this time by Charles Ritz the son of the hotel’s founder Cesar Ritz, the legendary Swiss hotelier whose name is still synonymous with glamour and luxury almost a hundred years after his death.

The Inter-Continental Hotel, Paris

The Westin Paris-Vendome built as the Hotel Continental in 1878 and known to us in the 70s as the Inter-Continental.

My daughter Grace on the same balcony overlooking the Tuileries that Robbie and I shared.

When our fairy ex-stepfather materialized at the Hotel Sydney Opera to rescue us from the horrors of two star accomodations, the Inter-Continental is where he took us.  Opened in April of 1878 as the Hotel Continental it occupied a full block at the intersection of the rue de Rivoli and the rue de Castiglione over looking the Tuileries Gardens.  It was the largest and most luxurious hotel in Paris for decades.  Renamed the Inter-Continental in 1969, It became the Westin Paris in 2005 and the Westin Paris – Vendome in 2010.  It was for Grace and I, as it had been for Robbie and I a wonderful and enchanting place in which to flop on the beds, drink Coca Colas and race across the street to the gardens.


The Mamounia

La Mamounia

The Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco or La Mamounia as it’s commonly known sits at the heart of the old section of the city facing the Atlas Mountains.

 We stayed  here while our step-father was scounting locations for a new resort in Morocco.  It was a wonderful, mystical-feeling place in which a couple of young girls could have a lot of adventures.  Mother and Oliver’s version of the trip had it’s own kind of magic but sadly it’s own very grown-up kind of sorrow.  

A wonderful series of photos and history of the hotel can be found on The New York Social Diary at the link: 


The Ritz-Carlton Boston

I used to say, after my mother divorced my step-father, that we changed addresses the way other people changed storm windows.  An important part of this peripatetic lifestyle–sublet flats and leased apartments and houses from Park Avenue in New York to Sloane Square in London to Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge–was the hotel.  Hotels were a bridge into new cities and countries, between addresses within cities.  Sometimes they would serves us as an address or home and other times as a reminder of what a home could be–an oasis in an unfamiliar, often foreign, world.  I sometimes feel that I feel more at home in hotels than homes because no matter where they are–Morocco or Omaha–or what kind of place–four star luxury or Best Western–they have, at a minimum, a bed, a bath and clean towels.

The original Ritz Hotel in Paris–the cornerstone of what would become the Ritz-Carlton chain–was founded by Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz and chef August Escoffier in 1898 overlooking the Place Vendome in Paris.  Proust, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Edward VII, Coco Chanel and Marie of Roumania were just a few of the wealthy, royal and famous who stayed there.  The chain (named also for the Carlton Hotel in London) expanded into the United States (New York, Philadelphia and Atlantic City) in the early 1900s.  My step-father Oliver Rea was born at the Ritz-Carlton in New York in the twenties. The Ritz-Carlton in Boston (overlooking the Boston Common) was not originally a part of the chain’s expansion.  It was a 1926 real estate development that was originally begun as the luxury Mayflower apartment building but was finished, thanks to the persuasiver personality of Boston’s mayor James Michael Curly, as the 300 room Ritz-Carlton hotel and opened in 1927.  

We did not live at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, but we spent a fair amount of time there.  Mother would meet “ladies” there for tea or beaus for cocktails.  Our fairy-ex-stepfather would stay there when he came to town to get us settled or “fix” some problem (before the final fall-out) and sometimes we would just go for supper or tea to feel at home in a strange new city.  

We used to see an old woman there dressed in Victorian mourning clothes.  She lived in the hotel and ate supper by herself every night.  I imagined that, like me, she felt that even living by yourself in a hotel you are never alone–a comforting thought.

I’ll be talking about hotels all week this week but I’ve already posted about one special hotel in which a fun scene from Chanel Bonfire was set: The Hotel Sydney Opera.  Here’s a link to that March 11th post!

The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups)

The Original Poster for The 400 Blows

It may seem strange that an eight or nine year old girl’s two memorable fictional icons are Eloise and Antoine Doinel the boy in les quatre cents coups (The 400 Blows) but there you are — my childhood in New York was not usual or often appropriate.  I do not remember the year exactly (’68, or ’69) that my stepfather rented Andy Warhol’s house in South Hampton but I do remember that in addition to whip cream fights and swimming and other exercises to introduce Robbie and me to his children from his first marriage, he showed a series of Truffaut movies on a screen in the living room.  Mother and Oliver’s relationship was already quite volatile and would get much worse, end and then get better but I remember watching the troubled Antoine as he listened to his mother and stepfather fight and feeling that I knew how he felt.  The film ends with a freeze-frame of his face at the beach and it stuck with me through that summer and forever — even as I finished the final scene of Chanel.

La Grenouille

La Grenouille 3 East 52nd Street

The number of things my mother Georgann Rea did right as a mother could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare (for cocktail rings probably) but one of them was taking Robbie and me, at seven, eight and nine years old, to restaurants — very very good restaurants.  

Her role as a young, glamorous trophy wife to a wealthy older man (my stepfather Oliver Rea) demanded she be seen in all the best places and sometimes with children in tow to prove that she was not just some piece of white trash with great figure and a certain je ne sais quoi men found irresistible. 
And while normally she was not above using threats of violence, destruction of prized possessions or limiting visits with our father to get us to do things she wanted and behave as she saw fit, none of these tactics was necessary at places like La Grenouille.  

Despite its funny name–“Frog?  Why would you name a restaurant frog!?” –the exquisite, jewel box of a restaurant with its elegant patrons and severe waiters demanded decorum even from little girls who may have spent the morning digging for worms in Central Park or running around the apartment screaming like wild animals (provided Mother was out which, of course, she almost always was).  

Naturally, all of the hushed politeness and pretty table settings didn’t stop me from trying to order a hot dog.  But it did make hearing that that would not be possible from the handsome waiter not so bad and trying Clams Corsini even better and realizing that a chocolate souffle makes even the most wonderful chocolate cake seem like a brownie the best of all.

La Grenouille was opened in 1962 by Charles Masson and is one of the few temples of classic French cuisine from its mid-50s to early-70s heyday left in New York City.  Charles McGrath did a wonderful piece on it in the September 2008 issue of Vanity Fair and you may follow the link to read it.