THE RAINBOW PEOPLE: A Gaudy World of the Very Rich and Those Who Serve Them by Richard Collier

THE RAINBOW PEOPLE: A Gaudy World of the Very Rich and Those Who Serve Them

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Superficial, faintly sneering anecdotes, trivia, and gossip about British and American high-life celebrities--mostly from the pre-WW II decades, mostly third-hand material at best. Collier begins, predictably, with the 1902 coronation of pleasure-loving King Edward VII, whose circle of blue-bloods, artists, quasi-courtesans, and financiers became the first ""rainbow people""--""spoiled children"" spreading ostentation, ""seeking novelty, fleeing boredom."" Thereafter, loosely strung tales and details alternate with sweeping, often fatuous generalizations. (""Insincerity was accepted as the basis of all social relationships. . . . Often hard and cynical, at other times they were as naive and wide-eyed as children pressing their noses against a toy shop window."") The 1920s brought ""the real welding of the old families and the new-rich""--with society photographers, the Riviera boom, the ""parvenu's paradise"" of Palm Beach. The more precarious 1930s are symbolized by the Prince of Wales (and Wally) on the one hand, Barbara Hutton on the other--as the most familiar of transatlantic tattlings are recycled yet again. And a final 30-page chapter leaps from the war to Dior's ""New Look"" to the ""Wayfaring Windsors"" to Onassis, whose death supposedly marks the end of the Rainbow People era. (""The new-rich of the 1970s"" became discreet, careful ""to keep a low profile at all times."") When zeroing in, now and again, on the servants of the rich, Collier supplies an occasionally intriguing sliver of information--the training of stewards for the Queen Mary, for example. When touching on any matters of substance or complexity (e.g., the life and work of F. Scott Fitzgerald), he's inane or misleading. And, on page after page, personalities are distorted or over-simplified (Mary Berenson is ""a vast and jolly woman"") as the mini-vignettes roll along--fairly energetically but with no real style or point. For flavor or drama or just about anything worthwhile, look instead to some of Collier's better sources--from S. N. Behrman's Duveen to Ruth Brandon's The Dollar Princesses.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1984
Publisher: Dodd, Mead