My particular bête noir is “sneak peek.” I’d like to say it’s the only piece of decorator-speak that irritates me but “wow factor” comes pretty close, as does “a fresh take on …” and “... with a twist” as in “timeless yet modern twist on traditional style" - whatever that might mean! I fully appreciate we all have set phrases, patterns of speech, jargon – lord knows, I recognize mine each time I put fingers to keyboard - but there are times when the sloppiness and vacousness of it all
Last Thursday I said I intended to move away from Roderick Cameron and his friends for a while and look in other directions - my own fresh take, or a twist on tradition, if you will - and in this post I am doing so, but not moving too far. To be honest, I cannot say I had made the connection between Marguerite Littman and the men I've been writing about, but now it has been pointed out to me, I realize it's a connection I could have made for in the 1960s Littman and her husband were clients of David Hicks. Marguerite Littman, though not a decorator, fits into my theme of circles within circles because she is connected to a number of the men I have written about.
Mentioned by Edmund White in the latest chapter of his autobiography and, indeed, written about by him for Vanity Fair, friend to Princess Diana, Rock Hudson, Christopher Isherwood, Tennessee Williams and - well, the list is endless. In the main, I've stayed clear of the characters of those I've written about, preferring in my own way to stress positive rather than the opposite - not in any way striving towards hagiography but simply being clear that it is the work rather than the character that counts. Not that I want to sound naive - I'm very aware of the utter vacuousness and frequent viciousness that characterized the lives of the many style icons. It has never been my intention to be an apologist for the likes of ... but that is for another post and I want to stress just in case I have not expressed myself clearly, none of the above applies in my mind to Marguerite Littman.
For, if by their deeds ye shall know them is the standard by which we can judge then Mrs Littman comes, amongst these Blue Remembered Hills, pretty close to sainthood. In the mid-1980s when conservative and fundamentalist politicians on both sides of the Atlantic were ignoring or, on occasion, celebrating the growth of an epidemic she founded the AIDS Crisis Trust in the United Kingdom. If you are a gay man, or just a human being, of a certain age, you will remember how while a thin red line was being drawn through history anorexic socialites and their walkers danced till dawn with the unheeding leaders of Western society in the White House and other bastions of the establishment.
It is that thin red line, the Maginot Line of our times, that the likes of Mrs Littman, a woman to whom I shall return, recognized and walked across. It is the consequences of that red line drawn through late 20th-century history that underlies my fascination with the circles within circles and those who orbited within them.
Photographs of Mr and Mrs Mark Littman's house from David Hicks: A Life of Design, Ashley Hicks, Rizzoli 2009