Cameos from the lives of almost 200 of the rich and famous are the excuse for another shameless display of self-absorption...



Cameos from the lives of almost 200 of the rich and famous are the excuse for another shameless display of self-absorption (after Friends and Memories, 1977) by a woman astonishingly oblivious to how (or even that) the other half lives. Cowles inhabits the kind of world where she can refer without embarrassment to her castle in Spain (one of three residences she shares with husband, Tom Montague Meyer, to whom she is volubly devoted here) and her personal maid (who saved the day when King Paul and Queen Frederika decided impulsively to stay for dinner on the cook's night off). Every gesture she reports with a straight face comes across the cultural divide as showing off, such as the party for the duke of Windsor she gave on the top floor of her New York City townhouse (""in the area normally used as our movie theatre""); even her considerable philanthropy sounds less like promoting good causes and more like promoting herself. She repeatedly refers to her appointment as Eisenhower's ambassador to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, at which Cowles, then editor of Look Magazine (and then-wife of its publisher) didn't miss a thing: ""I now never lose an opportunity to put fuchsia and orange flowers together."" In a pageant of retrospectives that range in length from a scant paragraph to several pages, the inconsequential consistently wins out over the useful or even interesting: We learn, for instance, that Gloria Swanson hated salt, that Isak Dinesen loved Marilyn Monroe, and that Pat Nixon's high school ambition was to own a boarding house. Special affection is bestowed on Cary Grant, the queen mother, and President and Mrs. Johnson (whose ranch is memorably described as ""redolent of family life""). Eva Per¢n is the only recipient of serious vitriol. Trivial notes on the powerful and the famous.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 1996

ISBN: 0060955058

Page Count: 416

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996