Whatever happened to professional drinking? You know, the Mad Men two fingers of scotch to seal the deal, the neat whiskey and a steak that sustained 60s Vogue editor Diana Vreeland or the vodka rocks imbibed by the first supermodels – Dorian Leigh, Suzy Parker and Dovima – in the 1950s. Between them, Hemingway and Dorothy Parker probably drained a couple of wine lakes before breakfast.
Today, if you order anything stronger than a Badoit or a kale smoothie with a business lunch there would be an intervention. The perfidious Human Resources departments would be giving you a verbal warning. Before the death of the studio system, Hollywood was fuelled by liquor. Those who tipped over into the abyss – W. C. Fields, Bob Mitchum, Judy Garland and Spencer Tracey – were shielded until the addiction could no longer be hidden by good make-up and lighting.
I was fortunate to work in fashion magazines as a kid when energy was kept-up by an intravenous drip of Bolly and after-work drinks in the offices at National Magazine House were Monday to Friday. The last truly hell-raising editor was GQ’s late Michael Vermeulen. I interviewed him in the early 1990s and even an hour in the office made me think that this was what Warhol’s Interview magazine must have been like.
But, in the words of Evita, that’s all gone now. We all have to adapt to the new puritanism or be viewed as dinosaurs by younger colleagues. What I find interesting is the disparity between professional conduct and what young people get up to on Instagram and Twitter. The three most popular subjects on social media are alcohol, sex and pets in no particular order. It appears that as soon as the people with plastic ID cards hanging around their necks get within spitting distance of a public house they behave like a pack of mad dogs.
It seems to me that it is all about appearing in control of one’s life these days and, of course, being seen to be very very busy. Most distressing on the streets of London is the army of ear piece people who take urgent hands-free calls as if they are heading-up Madonna’s security team: all furrowed brows and Transatlantic accents. When do these people have time to smell the diesel fumes and ponder an ashy, dying window box for the love of Lydia?
I must say gym culture has made a vast improvement on the street totty; particularly in the summertime. There is no getting around the fact that a gym-toned body of any age is bound to be a finer sight than those who have surrendered to the pull of gravity and the lure of fast, processed food. In this respect you’ve got to admire generation smoothie who probably spend more time in Fitness First than they do with their significant other.
A couple of years ago, I thought gravity and Gavi would have their wicked way. I imagined all of us lunchtime drinkers like the elves at the end of the Lord of the Rings film drifting off to another land because they had outlived the one they were living in. Naturally, lunchtime drinkers would probably prefer to drift off on a decommissioned P&O ferry with a fully-stocked bar rather than a fairy galleon but you catch my drift.
However, comes a time when one realises that if you’re going to do even a quarter of the hell-raising you did in your youth then keeping relatively fit is fundamental. As you know, I got out of the habit of my morning swim for months. I then joined the Marshall Street baths in Soho made famous by Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming Pool Library.
Much as I appreciated the men’s changing rooms at Marshall Street it simply proved too far from Bloomsbury to haul one’s tired old bones out of bed at 6.30am. So I’ve switched allegiance to the glorious if slightly faded Edwardian hotel the Waldorf on Aldwych. The swimming pool in the Waldorf basement is darling. It is reminiscent of a conservatory with stucco walls, mirrored panels, loungers, a sauna and steam room.
It was my debut swim this morning but by Christmas I should have toned-up sufficiently to bear all on a Balearic beach without fear of unkind comments. I am all for body confidence and feeling comfortable in your own skin. But I feel more comfortable in mine when it actually fits.
You need to be fit to live in London now. That isn’t necessarily the same thing as being thin. It was the Duchess of Windsor who first said ‘you can never be too rich or too thin’ but, as it turned out, neither could she be entirely happy. I think there is such a thing as optimum weight and once one gets past forty being super skinny isn’t a plus.
There is such a thing as a naturally healthy body and by that I don’t include muscles like walnuts and veins that stand out like the Great Wall of China from space. I can’t bear the gym – hence the swimming pool – and would rather a swimmer’s body than pumped-up, dehydrated and sustained by protein shakes.
But enough about the weighty issues of the day. It is two weeks to go before the London launch party of Jewelry for Gentlemen at Bentley & Skinner and the guest list is shaping-up to be a real friends and family plus the royal family of London jewellers. Glorious tintanabulations, the New York launch is also back in play so – fingers crossed – Broadway here I come again. Until next time…