smelling to heaven in bathtubs of champagne

Maury Henry Biddle Paul was a short, plump, chain smoking dandy who pinned a fresh carnation in his lapel each day and worshipped his widowed mother. From his bare, draughty office (where he entertained a string of elegantly frail young men) he telephoned all day to his upper crust contacts, fly zipper open to ‘relieve pressure’.

Image found here

By 1919, when Hearst hired him as Cholly Knickerbocker for the American, Paul was writing columns for three New York City papers under three different names, and making $140 a week. Hearst called him, declaring: “You’re working too hard.” For $250 a week, Paul agreed to write only one column. Eventually, with his Cholly Knickerbocker column widely syndicated, Paul earned more than $100,000 a year, becoming the highest paid society reporter of his time.

image found here

Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton reportedly sent him ruby and diamond cufflinks; hotels showered him with cases of liquor; and there were personal gifts of gold lighters, silver ornaments, jewellery, Aubusson rugs and even a cellophane wrapped station wagon. He took extended holidays with his lover, the illustrator Carl Haslam, and bathed other more casual boyfriends in bathtubs of champagne.

naked human bath tub found here

As a self-avowed snob, he considered himself the high priest of what remained of the old social aristocracy which had been all but obliterated by the rising horde of new millionaires spawned by the ’20s.

In Park Avenue drawing rooms and 52nd Street nightclubs he cut an exquisite figure. Always heavily perfumed, he was in the habit of remarking complacently: “I smell to heaven.” He carried his own special brand of tea in a silver snuffbox to drink in nightclubs. He wore evening scarves by Schiaparelli, delighted in yanking up his pants leg and displaying his solid-gold garter clasps, studded with his four initials. He took up golf once but dropped it immediately, after finding himself in a locker room with a crowd of muscular, boisterous players. “It was too goddamn manly,” he said.

image found here

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38 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve often wondered why almost all prominent people of some degree or sort in high society have such bizarre natures as part of who they are.

    • I have noticed that too. I wonder if privilege confers a certain sense of entitlement upon a person whereby there is no real impediment to the expression of their stranger desires so they just let rip. Michael Jackson appears to have raised this to an art form.

      • No doubt because they have the money and status to get away with it. I think we’d all indulge our bizarre natures if it wasn’t for the fact that we’d more likely be sacked and ostracised.

  2. Novel bathtub, but how would one avoid the plug?

  3. *Sluuuurrrrrp*
    It seems my tea drinking style isn’t quite up to par with high-society… I do my best to chew with my mouth closed, though. Most of the time. That’s a start, right?

  4. My husband loves golf. He plays with his friend, and whoever loses has to wear the pink hat of shame the next time out. It’s my hat. I sort of resent the implication.

  5. Boisterous, muscular, golfers? It must have been a more physical sport back in the day.

  6. I’m wondering where I can get one of those bathtubs.

    • me too. i could use a good soaking in that tub….

      • Stand aside ladies. I’m first in the tub…..

      • That tub even looks appealing to me. And I don’t like … baths.

  7. This is the second time I have seen someone this week mention woolworths. I had to verify that indeed it was defunct everywhere and as of 1997 it was.

    • Woolworths is a high-end retail chain in South Africa.

      • Woolworths is one half of the grocery retail duopoly in Australia (along with Coles.) Sales for the First 1/4 of 2011 were 9.2 billion!

      • You are right…I should have said everywhere in the US. The Woolworths in other countries based on wikipedia wasn’t related to the one in the US.

  8. Didn’t Paul die under a bit of a scandal? *goes off to check on Google*

    • Hmmm… I don’t think so Cindy. I read it was a common garden variety heart attack at home. Let me know if you find out differently

  9. This is a man with STYLE!! Love it!!!

  10. “It was too goddamn manly.” Oh, I know the feeling. Where are all the effete, wilting young men when you need them?

  11. Solid gold garter clasps eh? Of course, in England, no self-respecting man would wear anything other than a Threadgold’s Thoroughgrip Garterette.

    A peer was stalking a roebuck
    In a misty Scottish glen.
    BANG! went his well-charged rifle.
    A miss, then BANG! again.
    “TWO misses”, roared his lordship,
    as his stockings trailed in the wet,
    “Serves me right for not wearing
    a Thoroughgrip Garterette

    • As worn by Col. Grytpype Thynne. They went out of production because they couldn’t get the wood, you know!

      • 🙂

  12. He kept his tea in a silver snuffbox? How dreadfully nouveau riche. Many a gentleman has been thrashed on the steps of his club for lesser crimes.

  13. Well said, NickQ. That’s what walking sticks and riding crops are for.
    One must have standards, and the standard for Friday is…

  14. Did he bathe the boyfriends in champagne before use or was it a kind of after dinner washing up type thing?

    • Excellent point. I vote for the ‘before’ version

  15. Forza Azzurri!

    That last photo always gives me footie fever.

  16. I bet this guy never put his shirt on inside out by mistake and wandered around all day with a label exposed. But when you think of someone who sits around with his fly open, you wonder where they might draw the line between personal comfort and a statement of style. Surely there are many of us male types who would enjoy venting of this nature. Perhaps this is why he enjoyed his own odor so much. And perhaps it is at least partially due to his champagne based bathing habits.

  17. Why can’t I have a job where people shower me with flowers, jewelry, wine and Aubusson carpets?

  18. Hey, I take my tea with me sometimes when I go out… and I don’t make nearly that much money. I guess that makes me rude or nuts, since it takes money to be eccentric. 🙂

    • Do you take it in a thermos? Because I think that’s fairly normal. But in a silver snuff box… too nouveau riche according to Nick Q

  19. A naked human bath tub? People never know what to get me as a birthday gift because they think I’m the man who has everything, but the naked human bath tub is something I still don’t have.

  20. ‘relieve pressure’ – I must try that one next time I’m in court ………

  21. Just put my Craigslist post in for naked human bathtub. I’ll keep you posted.

  22. Full disclosure: I own a pair of Ella Schiaparelli silk stockings, given to me by my grandmother. She had bought them in 1946 after the war, and put them away for her first granddaughter, who happened to be me 🙂

    And yes, Myra, they are heavenly!!

  23. I could go for a bath and some champagne…. a champagne bath will do! 🙂

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