Email this review


A generally light-hearted interloping into the affairs and galas of two comradely if dissimilar brilliants -- America's turn of the century sex symbol, Lillian Russell, and Diamond Jim Brady, who rose to gilded and corporeal eminence from lowly Manhattan origins via a career in super-salesmanship. The author follows the high-living pair through early triumphs, a string of Brady's deals, and a garland of Russell operettas, musicals, and four marriages. But he is mainly intrigued by the platonic conjunctions of Jupiter and Venus. Both enjoyed cards, good company, grand entrances, and gourmandizing. Jim did at one point offer marriage, but was rejected because Lillian felt that their beautiful friendship would be destroyed. The regal New York lobster house excursions, the processions in Central Park on gold-plated bicycles, and parties in Gatsby country at Great Neck garnish the essentials of Lillian's rather wacky but good-natured modus vivendi. The pink canary with the impressive cleavage eventually became President Harding's Special Commissioner of Immigration who returned from abroad with the advice to slam shut the golden door and the slogan, ""America for Americans."" Brady, who died of numerous internal disorders, was discovered to have a stomach six times the normal size, but for Lillian he obviously had a heart to match. An amusing collection of anecdotes and appreciative evocations of an opulent age and its two prime paradigms.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1972
Publisher: Putnam