At Long Last Love
Published: April 29, 2001
With due respect to Patrick Dennis, his Auntie Mame had nothing on Elsie de Wolfe. The world’s most celebrated interior decorator stood on her head at the slightest provocation, served cocktails in the bathroom and had a blithe disregard for personal space. ”She was always jabbing you,” says the designer Albert Hadley, who got the sharp end of her elbow more than once. When Cartier delivered an aquamarine and diamond tiara, Elsie dyed her snow-white locks pale blue in color-coordinated homage. But nothing this design diva did in all her years on earth topped what Elsie did on March 10, 1926. She got married.
As mergers and acquisitions go, the de Wolfe-Mendl pairing was decidedly odd. The 55-year-old groom sang lieder at the top of his lungs and was dedicated to a corps of “ravishing creatures,” including the film siren Arlene Dahl. He also snored, prompting the new Lady Mendl to soundproof his bedroom. As for the peppy bride, she was easily a decade older than the 57 years she claimed. And her only known romance was a three-decade liaison with the pioneering theatrical agent Elisabeth Marbury. Still, Elsie never met a title she didn’t like. More important, she rapturously announced, “He looks so wonderful against the fireplace.”