Notes From The Carlyle – September

I’m sitting on a corner banquette writing this on cocktail napkins. You’d think a writer would always have a notebook handy. Not this one since it doesn’t fit into her 30 year old Fendi clutch.

One of the best parts of popping into Bemelmans is dressing for it. I’d never stroll in wearing jeans and a tank top, I don’t care if the Dukes of Hazzard are at the bar. For me patronizing a hotel watering hole is still an event, one that I hope continues in its lofty ritual.

Actually I’m in good sartorial company at the moment. It’s a Sunday so there seems to be a Waspy church crowd in attendance. St. James Episcopal is right down the street so its flock must have flown right from the altar to the bar.

I so want to snap a few pictures to add to this but one, it’s too dark and two they’d probably sue me for at least the price of their cocktails. To be honest, it would be worth it.

The idle rich will forever fascinate me. Reminds me of a Dorothy Parker quote:

“If you want to know what God thinks about money, just look at the people He gives it to.”

The two geriatrics seated across from me look as if they’re right out of an Edith Wharton novel. The woman is sewn into her dress that covers every part of her body with a hairdo that appears epoxied to her head. It’s called, I get my hair done on Saturday and it stays that way till I say otherwise. Her husband, who’s as thin as she’s rotund, is quite natty in blue pinstripes with a watch fob suspended from his vintage vest pocket.

He smiles at me, she does not.

No surprise there. Women of any age don’t cotton well to the lone one seated sedately in the corner. Now if he were here alone he’d be asking the bartender if I’d like anything. It doesn’t matter that he’s at least 85.

Some things in a man do not expire until he does.

Another couple just came in who are Gatsbyesque decked out in Polo from head to toe. I actually love how they look; 30ish, lean – she has on a pair of Ralph’s off white sailor pants with a blue and white button down, slightly open, for a peak at what looks like a racy, lacy La Perla black brassiere (the Cartier of Lingerie); sleeves rolled, a navy blazer thrown over her arm. Her beau looks practically identical (no bra) in loafers without socks, she in navy kitten heels…


I bet they work at Polo on 72nd and Madison stopping in on their lunch break. Or perhaps they’re merely parched from a morning of carefree window shopping. I could write a whole novella on the four of them just by losing myself in what they’re wearing. The elders are a little staid but blend beautifully with the hotel’s history (named after Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle opening its doors in 1929).

There’s something about Bemelmans that piques ones imagination no matter who’s there. Could be the famous Madeline mural gracing one wall. Ludwig Bemelman in exchange for accommodations, painted whimsical drawings of Central Park devoting one panel to his heroine Madeline. It’s not unusual to watch mothers drag in their little ones to see his renowned artwork.  

I’ve ordered another Cabernet, which is unusual, but I’m just not ready to leave as yet. I haven’t seen enough, besides I’m relieved to be in the company of the nicely dressed for a change. I say it every month, I long for the reissuing of a proper dress code, or at least a compromise. No shorts, flip-flops or sloppy T-shirts. They could post a sign…

Trailing Sand On Route To Bar Is Prohibited.

While I gaze covertly at both couples sharing the peace of the room, it brings me back to a classier time, one that I truly miss or missed rather since it was way before my time gracing the premises.

As I slip into a 60s dream I can almost see Jackie Kennedy in that black and white day dress she wears in the photograph hanging in the Madison Avenue entranceway, white gloves fastened at her wrists.

Do you hear that?

Those are her pumps clicking on the freshly waxed foyer floor.

Fifty years later Mrs. Kennedy can still stop traffic, even from a picture.

Why didn’t I remember to wear my pearl choker?                

Next time.


Written September 1, 2012

About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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29 Responses to Notes From The Carlyle – September

  1. I want you to do a series of short stories from the Carlyle….I LONG to read these tales. Chronicles from the Carlyle by Susannah Bianchi…you’re half way there. My daughter was obsessed with Madeline as a little girl, that brought back a happy memory. As for Jackie…please, I think there should be a cardboard cutout of her in all public places with a the words “have you looked in the mirror today?”


  2. Rob says:

    Part of me shares your yearning for more genteel times; whilst another part of me just thinks you’re a snob. All of me loves the things you write though.


    • A snob, hmm..never think of myself that way but I do like the finer things…I like when people dress since it’s a sign pf self-worth…taking the time. Even if one’s broke you can still look as if you’re emanating that self-esteem. A snob…a first Rob but I kinda like it since it’s so not true.


      • merryprangster says:

        Susannah, I try to dress well, I truly do, but some people (or maybe just me?) seem to have an inborn slob that untucks every blouse, wrinkles every pair of panty hose, skews every collar, twists every skirt, and, to be honest, my posture doesn’t help a bit. As a model your posture is no doubt perfect, but as a person whose worth was constantly questioned by a cold mother, mine is more that of a beaten dog who never quite made it past the shelter days. So dress is a bit of a problem for me. Now my mother could take off the rack at Walmart and make it look couture. There must be something psychological in there somewhere. I’d have to meet you in person to tell if you were a snob, but I don’t think you are. After all, you talked to Camille. Now go buy yourself something pretty.


      • Now, I’m almost certain it’s not quite as bad as all that. You’re a very artistic person…perhaps you’re focused so much on your creativity fashion doesn’t matter to you. And as far as this snob business goes, I don’t feel I’m one but as they say in 12 Step…What you think of me is none of my business, so it’s okay. I was just reporting on what I saw. I go there now to feed a post..Before it was strictly social. Since I started the monthly essay, I need fodder as my pal Bill says. I’ll end with, I’ll bet you’re a very pretty lady.. Just a hunch.


    • jimmie chew says:

      S.B. a snob?
      There is NO WAY this girl is a snob.
      She just has good taste. (and manners)


      • Ah Jimmie…thank you. How are things in Hollywood? Looking forward to your next indy film. Let me know when you’re back in town. maybe we can grab a milkshake… I appreciate you saying i’m not a snob. I’m not, I’m the nicest girl goin. 🙂


  3. Rob says:

    I like dressing up. I like when other people dress up too: it creates ambience. My problem is that appearance is taken to mean too much. You can put a war criminal in a sharp suit: he looks great but still has blood on his hands. Self-worth is important: it’s a vital component of good mental health. Recognising and respecting the worth of others, whatever they’re wearing, is more important. I know you do this.


    • I like looking at pretty things. It’s nice when a person dresses. I’m not talking about personalities whether they be war criminals or creeps at libraries that stalk and pander.. it all boils down to a nicer atmosphere. you can think I’m a snob Rob, it’s perfectly fine. Like ya just the same.


      • Rob says:

        I don’t really think you’re a snob. You try (succeed?) to glean so much from people’s appearance, in a way that I never could. You can tell the designer of a piece of clothing, without looking at the label: also beyond me. I spend very little on clothes. I think (hope) that even if I was rich, I would still spend very little on clothes. I can look smart on a budget. I really wouldn’t feel comfortable looking like I’d spent the price of a cataract operation on a suit.
        You’ve had a life in fashion and so it’s inevitable that such things are important to you, in a way that they never could be for me.


      • I wrote a post today just for you Hope you take it in the spirit of which it was written 🙂

        It doesn’t necessarily cost a lot to look great by the way.


  4. Jed says:

    Love this line: Some things in a man do not expire until he does.
    Did you know Bemelman is buried in Arlington Nat’l Cemetary?


  5. Nabilla says:

    This is one place I’d surely visit when I a in NYC next, just because you write about it so eloquently and beautifully


  6. D. D. Syrdal says:

    I don’t think it’s snobby to want to dress nicely. People have become complete and total slobs, and if the opposite of that is snobs, I’m in the latter camp as well. I don’t have to be dressed to the nines all the time, but whatever happened to neat and clean? Is that too much to ask?

    Love your ability to capture all the details, you paint such a vivid portrait of these people 🙂


    • Ah, thanks Dame. Like slob verses snob. Makes the latter a whole lot more attractive. I don’t dress up all the time either however, certain places warrant more effort. I was raised that way. I always had separate church attire since that was one of those places where you’d make that extra effort. In my blood.


  7. Ed Crescimanni says:

    There’s a huge difference between snobbery and an innate sense of style. Snobbery requires a degree of meanness of which you are constitutionally incapable. Style is something I have seen you maintain even when consuming lo mein without utensils.


  8. backonmyown says:

    I love this post, Susannah. Probably because it is SO not me. I’m the one who would go strolling in wearing my jeans and a “Life is good” t-shirt. The Dorothy Parker quote says it all. I wish I’d said that. 🙂


    • I can handle jeans, just for the record. That post caused me angst but I do like writing them once a month. Thanks for reading, as always I am humbled to be read.


      • backonmyown says:

        I hope you won’t suffer too much angst. I find your writing honest and straightforward. It always rings true for me. As I used to say to my high school Spanish students: Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all thought alike?


      • Thank you, you always write such nice things to me. I’m very sensitive so even though I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt my feelings they got pinched anyway. I kept asking people, am I a snob? The consensus said no, I am not, but he got me thinking. Perhaps I am a little stuffy in areas 🙂


  9. rachel bar says:

    OK, now I understand. I read your last post before this one. Rob strikes me as such a sweet guy under his cynical demeanor. I have to say that since I’m older than you, and I’ve gone through my black dress period (although even then I hated paying money for labels, expecially when they were printed on the blouse or purse, it just makes me feel like sheep), I enjoy not thinking about it when I come home from work. I have to dress up for work, and it’s a pain in the b… I wrote about it already, though, so I’m not going to rant about it here.


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