Liz Smith: Gloria and Consuelo — High Society’s Most Glam Twinset

The enchanting Brooke Shields

And more from our Liz: Will they really “kill off” Charlie Sheen? … billion dollar movies … Brooke Shields, boffo on Broadway

“EXCLUSIVENESS is a characteristic of recent riches, high society and the skunk,” said dear old Anonymous.

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What’s left of the tattered rags of International Society is still being exhumed and exalted in the words of reporter Bob Colacello. This month in Vanity Fair magazine, he tells us of the famous Irish Catholic twins — Gloria and Consuelo O’Connor — and how these beauties dominated the Vogue contingent, the Bill Paley CBS contingent, the Oyster Bay contingent, the Colony Restaurant contingent and, eventually, Rome, in its most la dolce vita moment back in the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Gloria became a Vogue editor under Diana Vreeland and a leading member of New York society when she married insurance ace Frank Schiff. Consuelo was the leading lady of Rome after marrying Count Roldolfo Crespi, a P.R. king of rising Italian fashion.

I used to watch the twins with their dark glasses on; they were so stunning. This article is a look back at that most glamorous and stylish era.

I once sat next to Consuelo at a Grace Mirabella dinner party. The Countess Crespi moved in an aura of modesty when she had no need of modesty. As she seated herself, I’ll never forget, she brought out of her purse a folding cosmetic compact and opened it by her plate. She constantly referred to it throughout dinner, saying to me: “I would hate to have spinach in my teeth or a bean stuck to my nose.” Maybe some thought this was vanity; but for Consuelo – she was simply “checking” – to remain perfect.

Her twin Gloria was better known to me. When my boss, the society columnist Igor Cassini, decided to take a month off for Europe, he gave me a list of 30 international beauties for me to write about in his absence, one a day. I knew about only one of these women – Gloria Vanderbilt. The rest were Greek to me. Having just begun working on a society column, I protested this assignment. But Cassini said simply, “Call Gloria Schiff of Vogue. She’ll help you.”  And so she did and I won great kudos for being so smart about the Maharani of Jaipur, about the Princess Hercolani, about Jacqueline de Ribes, about Marella Agnelli, and like that.

So, I owed my first success at writing about high society to Gloria Schiff. I note that reporter Colacello discusses these famous twins as being so beautiful that others were jealous and as being so elegant that they turned heads.

But my verdict on them was that they were a rare duet – not snobby, but very sweet, realistic and down-to-earth beauties who actually thought they were lucky.

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I KNOW there is terrible bad blood between Chuck Lorre, the producer of “Two and a Half Men” and that hit series’ former star, Charlie Sheen, but I am hoping the rumor is untrue that when the season opens, Charlie’s character will be dead — paving the way for Ashton Kutcher’s character to come on board.

It seems mean-spirited and pointless. Not that Sheen would ever return to the show, but then again … who knows? And while it is a good thing that “Two and a Half Men” continues; that the cast and crew are getting their paychecks, why am I not convinced Mr. Kutcher is going to go over like gangbusters? Well, it’s at least one more season of work for everybody.

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REMEMBER WHEN a movie made $6 million dollars it was considered a huge hit? Well, I do. But those days are far and away. The magic box-office number nowadays is one billion dollars. The latest to cross over is “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” The robot epic follows the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” adventure and the final “Harry Potter” movie as billion-dollar babies. With the stock market roller-coastering every day, and the debt crisis not averted — six months from now there will be another one! — the thought of billions of dollars shelled out for movies makes me vaguely queasy.

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OUR GIRL Brooke Shields will extend her run as vampy Morticia, in the hit Broadway musical “The Addams Family.” Brooke will glide cautiously (you’ve seen the traditional Morticia gown? You can’t do somersaults in that number!) at the Lunt-Fontanne until the end of the year. Roger Rees remains in place Gomez, as does Brad Oscar as Uncle Fester.

Brooke has swum a long, long way from “The Blue Lagoon.” She has consistently re-invented herself in every medium, always moving ahead, learning, taking chances. And she remains one of the nicest people in the biz.

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TODAY — ONE day only. The Stella Adler Studio of Acting and Outreach Division in Manhattan are presenting an abridged version of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” This is part of the outreach program, and the show will star teenagers, eager to act, and get their feet wet in the classics. This “Julius” runs a neat 45 minutes, directed by Heidi Mueller Scott. Tickets are a mere $5. For that you encourage low income kids with ambition, and brush up on your Shakespeare. The place to be is 31 West 27th Street, 3rd floor. Call 866-527-5376 or 212-689-0087.


4 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    Liz, on “killing off” the Sheen character: how else would they write his sudden, plot-unexpected, and permanent absence into the show? In real life, the usual cause of very suddenly and unexpectedly never coming home is – death. A car accident, most likely.

    It’s not like they had a chance to shoot an episode or two to set up a benign absence, so I don’t see it as “mean-spirited” to kill the character off. It would be totally believable, though not very comic, to say that his car flew off of Highway 1 while he was texting, or some such.

  2. avatar French Heart says:

    What’s a billion, Liz? Just a decimal point edged over one space 😉

    Gloria Vanderbilt. Such a lovely, nice woman, so talented, in person much softer than appeared in her jean’s commercial. Read her book ‘A Mother’s Story’ very helpful for anyone who’s suffered the shocking death of a loved one, as did her darling son.

    Brooke Shields will be hysterical as Morticia….

  3. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Society, high or low, ain’t what it used to be.  We have what’s left of the Old Guard, a few who might be called the New Guard, and everyone else, well, is in desperate need of Right Guard…