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Decorative Life of a Designing Woman

November 08, 1987|MARY LOU LOPER | Times Staff Writer

Elsie de Wolfe (Lady Mendl) was the actress, tastemaker, hostess supreme of New York, pre-World War II cafe society Paris and wartime Los Angeles whose world of art and decoration inspired the elite.

She loved French furniture, leopard prints and green and white fern-patterned chintz. Her advice helped build the collections of the Fricks, Vanderbilts and Morgans, and, says her biographer, Jane S. Smith, she "taught Wallis Simpson how to make a home fit for a king."

It's this Elsie--myth, legend, fact--who will be celebrated in the preview of "The World of Elsie de Wolfe: A Revolution in Style" next Sunday in La Sala de Libros y Artes de San Juan Capistrano, the library and cultural center designed by Michael Graves.

Two rooms will be created at the exhibition: The first will depict the style of decorating at the end of the 19th Century, a late Victorian/Edwardian look with dark colors; the other, created by Hutton Wilkinson, will depict the style of Elsie de Wolfe and feature paintings from her personal collection including those from the Villa Trianon, her famous country house at Versailles. Also in the exhibition will be the decoupage secretary she once owned.

Organizers hope Tony Duquette, her protege and a director of the Elsie de Wolfe Foundation, will fly from San Francisco for the affair, though his wife has been hospitalized.

One of England's top decorators, Nina Campbell, will appear in celebrity lectures Nov. 16 and 17 at La Sala ($25 per person). Definitely on the scene will be Joan (the decorator) and George (the film writer/director) Axelrod, who once lived in Sir Charles' and Lady Elsie Mendl's home in Benedict Canyon, the one De Wolfe once described as the ugliest house in Beverly Hills--until she decorated it. This was the house, according to Gep Durenberger, chairman of the exhibition, and Joyce MacRae, West Coast editor of House & Garden, that the Mendls resided in after they fled the Nazis, crossing from France to Spain in their Rolls-Royce, and catching one of the last wartime ships from Lisbon for America.

A galaxy of stars will attend: Sir Daniel Donohue, a patron of the arts, who will bring Loretta Young; Judith and Steve Krantz, Ross Hunter, Jacques Mapes, Nancy Sinatra Sr., Laura Mako, Tom and Evelyne Peardon (he's president of Brunschwig & Fils, the fabric firm) of New York, Bob and Laurie Warmington, Gavin and Ninetta Herbert, Jack and Jody Pike, Lee and Joan Sammis, Elaine and Kenneth Leventhal, Suzanne and Frederic Rheinstein, George and Mary Lou Boone. They'll dance and dine--focusing on support of the decorative arts.

KUDOS: The Bachelors of Los Angeles have elected their board: Andrew Woodward of Hancock Park, president; Casey Griffin of Pasadena, vice president and ball chairman; also Nelson Wheeler, Mark Hennessy, David Sargeant, Stephen Auth, John Corby, Charles Rodney Wilger, Robert Forward Jr., Grant Ivey, Sean McCarthy, Albert Rasmusen III, James Stuart Jr. and Walter Wilson.

CAMELOT: The Rainbow Guild of the Amie Karen Cancer Fund for Children honors Shelley Duvall--for her devotion to the imaginations of children everywhere--at its black-tie champagne dinner Nov. 21 at the Beverly Wilshire. Chairmen Jennifer Goddard, Maxine Moshay, Leslie Cane Schneiderman are planning a "Camelot" theme. Elliott Gould will host the evening.

PRE-OPENING: Theatrical and literary giants and royal girls Fergie and Di have helped make London's Langan's Brasserie (up the road from the Ritz in London's West End) renowned with the jet set. Now, America will have its Langan's Brasserie in January. A hard-hat pre-opening Nov. 19 at the corner of Little Santa Monica Boulevard and Century Park West is planned by Peter Langan. He's inviting bicoastal and trans-Atlantic friends for "a dekko" (Brit slang for a look). The invitational affair will benefit the National Down's Syndrome Congress. Chef Lydia Shire will do a picnic.

ESCALATION: California State University Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds hosts a reception Wednesday at State University House in Los Angeles to celebrate the third annual Distinguished Artists Forum. . . .

The Fraternity of Friends of the Music Center jaunt to Santa Anita Racetrack next Sunday. Stephen and Ginger Bryant, Bernard and Teresa Garfield, Jerry and Gloria Godell and Philip and Betty Ann Koen will be among those attending. . . .

The San Marino Guild of Huntington Memorial Hospital puts on the ritz Saturday at their Thanksgiving Ball at the Pasadena Hilton. The evening salutes W. Kevin Hegarty, president and CEO of the hospital from 1973 to 1985. . . .

Pat Haden speaks to the President's Circle, the USC support group for the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, at a dinner Nov. 17. . . .

The Los Angeles Mission telethon raised $360,000 in pledges to feed the hungry, according to mission director Rev. Mark Holsinger.

HOLIDAY SPREES: Les Dames de Champagne will go on a holiday shopping spree Friday at Lucy Zahran's Atelier in Beverly Center, sharing sales for charity. . . .

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