Category Archives: Park Avenue

Holly Golightly

Holly Golightly aka Lula Mae Barnes

Eloise was an icon that symbolized my childhood in New York–unsupervised, wild and crazy, lonely, but always, somehow safe and frequently fun.  Holly Golightly was the symbol of my mother’s time in New York.  The Georgann Rea of the Dakota and Park Avenue, with charge accounts at Bergdorfs and Bendels and Bloomingdales and tables at La Grenouille and Lutece was a creation of my stepfather and his taste and money and also of my mother and her aching desire to have the perfect life she’d always dreamed about–glamourous and romantic and important.  She’d glimpse it, grab at it and hold it in her hand like the exquisite jewelry my stepfather bought for her but she’d never be able to hang onto it.  Underneath her frosted hair and her little black Italian silk cocktail dresses, mother would always be the Iowa orphan (Loreta May Gronau) and abused little girl from Kansas City (Georgann McAdams) looking for unconditional love and a sense of belonging.

Venus in Fur a la Place de la Concorde

Mother in her mink at the Place de la Concorde
It is hard for many in this post-PETA, animal rights oriented time to understand the meaning of fur, especially mink, to women of my mother’s generation.  More than the couture clothes, fabulous jewelry and furnishings she was able to buy, the apartments in the Dakota, on Park Avenue, in South Kensington she was able to rent or own, a fur coat signaled her arrival to herself.  And of her many fur coats, her mink was the most important–an incredibly warm, impossibly soft piece of fashion armor that was also as intimate as any item of lingerie.  Her mink was for Mother a cocoon she could wear–it signalled her transformation from provincial Kansas City girl to jet-setting socialite even as it comforted her and protected her from doubters, snobs, and inconvenient questions.  And as the money began to run out, the jewels and Mercedes sold, the coat could provide glamourous cover and a blanketing reminder of where she’d been and how far she’d gone.

Our beloved Maudie in the kitchen on Park Avenue…

“The elevator man walked by with another suitcase and our cat, Maudie, in her carrier, yowling like an angry baby.  Maudie was a chocolate-point Siamese and always meowed loudly like a person who wouldn’t be ignored.”  Chanel Bonfire

Note the unglamorous, pre-Martha Stewart, surroundings.  Before the 70s, only cooks and children spent any time in Park Avenue kitchens.