I have a birthday coming up this week. Now, I'm not announcing this because I'm seeking well wishes from you. Actually, I don't like to make a big deal of it. (I swear.) It just seemed like an appropriate segue to a post about gifts.
Have you read the 1985 book Only the Best: A Celebration of Gift Giving in America by Stuart E. Jacobson? It's a charming book which recounts gift giving amongst the rich and famous. Oh sure, there are anecdotes about gifts of largesse that will make your head spin (a Newport estate, anyone?) But, it's not really about that. It's more a celebration of the thought and meaning that has gone into some truly special gifts. Take, for example, the trash can below filled with daisies:
When Steve McQueen first fell for Ali MacGraw, he sent her daisies which she promptly threw into the trash can. Undeterred, McQueen sent her a very large bunch of daisies nestled in a galvanized trash can. It must have worked because after that, they both sent daisies in trash cans to one another until they ultimately married.
Marietta Tree gave her husband, Ronald Tree, renderings of items near and dear to his heart. This one, given in 1948, features his reading glasses and pipe, photos of their homes in Barbados as well as Ditchley (their English country house), and favorite magazines.
What has to be one of the most romantic gifts featured in the book. Mary Lee Fairbanks presented her husband, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., with a Cartier designed gold envelope that had all of his addresses engraved on it (Fairbanks had lived in quite a few homes) as well as the return address of Mary Lee. Inside the envelope was Mary's engraved message to her husband: "But at last I reached you, My Love."
Vincente Minnelli must have made his daughter Liza very happy with a gift of famous MGM costumes in a size fit for a child. This sure beats the prairie skirt that I used to play dress up in! If only I had had a feathered headdress...
I'm sure this vignette in the home of Tony Duquette looks familiar to you, but did you know that the dolphins flanking the sofa were given to the Duquettes by Frances Elkins? They once belonged to Misia Sert.
Leave it to Fleur Cowles to give Jerome Zipkin such a chic gift. While attending a luncheon at Zipkin's home, Cowles had admired his collection of Meissen leopards. She asked to borrow one, which was later returned with a thank you note. A few months later, Cowles sent Zipkin the small painting seen above which featured one of Zipkin's leopards. This leopard, though, held one of Cowles' signature roses in its mouth.
(All images from Only the Best: A Celebration of Gift Giving in America by Stuart E. Jacobson; Jesse Gerstein photographer.)