A bon vivant and blueblood channels his inner Proust, to marvelous effect.
British designer Haslam is a master of the well-dropped name: Here comes Jack Nicholson, there goes Diane Vreeland, here Andy Warhol, there Mick Jagger. But he is more than that; he’s also a summoner of memory to rival, it seems, Jorge Luis Borges’s Funes. The evoker of this memory is not a buttery madeleine, but the clinking latches and billowy cloudscapes of southern England, among the opening images in Haslam’s recounting of an offbeat but decidedly interesting childhood in a country house called Hundridge among an artistic family whose elders had little use for convention. His father and mother had been familiars with the likes of Maxim Gorky and H.G. Wells. Haslam grew up to be as flirtatious as his bohemian mother, collecting a wonderful menagerie of friends—one an 80-year-old jetsetter who complained, after zipping over to Rio for the weekend, that she knew she was getting old because she had to quit nightclubbing at 4 a.m. Working as a designer and fashion editor, Haslam hobnobbed with the best of them, hanging with a novice Barbra Streisand and a well-seasoned Chrissie Shrimpton and filling the autograph books of his memory with signatures of the famous (“Jack Lemmon kissed me as we were searching for a particular record among Jean’s [Howard] massive collection”). Save for those interested in the contents of Paris Hilton’s refrigerator—Haslam is both a complete chronicler and catholic in his roster of acquaintances—readers will find the mere celebrities a tedious lot compared with the authentic old-school eccentrics in the crowd.
A delight—gossipy, fluent and literate, all set in motion by “a sudden view, a muddy scent, the creak of a hinge [that] might manifest childhood’s mirage.”