Category Archives: Wendy Rea

RIP Geoffrey Holder

Rest in peace, Geoffrey Holder.  I worked as his wife Carmen De Lavallade’s dresser at the American Repertory Theater in 1980, where she was appearing as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  He arrived for the opening night party in a tuxedo, a black cape lined with red satin, and a silver-topped cane.  We were all agog at his elegance and style.  An actor, a painter, and a dancer — I heard that night that he designed many of Ms. De Lavallade’s clothes.


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.

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.

Scene of the Crime

It’s strange to find myself in Boston on Mother’s Day weekend.  I’m speaking to students and alumni at my old high school Beaver Country Day (scene of Mother’s arrest at my sister’s graduation).

And look what I found:

My old self, Wendy Rea, dreaming of Broadway.   And despite everything, ten years later that’s where I ended up in the Heidi Chronicles.  I talked to the students about Chanel and surviving a homelife I’d tried to conceal.  I think it’s important for kids, for people, who may think they’re alone in that situation to know that they’re not and that they can come through it and achieve what they hope to achieve.


Chanel Bonfire, Hyde Park and Horses

This is Lilo Blum…

She was the owner of Lilo Blum’s Stables just off Hyde Park in London. Caroline and John Kennedy rode there as did their cousins the Radziwills and Zsa Zsa Gabor and Topol and many others.  She was a feisty older lady when I was a girl in London.  While Mother was off spending her giant divorce settlement, I worked for Lilo grooming horses, mucking out stalls and leading tourists on horseback through the park in exchange for time on a horse.  I was crazy about horses then.  There’s a hilarious story about me and a group of young Saudis that didn’t make the final edit of Chanel Bonfire.  I’ll post it on the blog soon.  But in the meantime, here’s a story about Lilo from The Age in 1972 right about the time I was there.