LCDQ Legends 2013: Susanna Salk on C.Z. Guest

Last week I was able to go to the La Cienega Design Quarter (LCDQ) in West Hollywood for their annual Legends event. I had been once before, a couple years ago, and had a great time. This year I sat in on some great presentations and discussions, on topics including how to use social networking to help brand your design business, and the state of the interior design business today.

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On Thursday I sat in on a presentation by author Susanna Salk, who recently finished book all about C.Z. Guest. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about C.Z. before but Susanna had some fantastic tid bits on her very interesting life.

C.Z. Guest was a high society debutante from Boston who is most known for her all-American sense of style, both in fashion and design. Susanna described C.Z. as having a mischievous desire to be kicked off the social register. She was friends with the likes of Truman Capote, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Joan Rivers, to name a few. She once accompanied Joan Rivers to an interview with John Gotti in prison, mainly because she was curious and thought it would be interesting.

Rather than having a traditional wedding as would have been expected, she and her husband we married at Ernest Hemingway’s home in Cuba, with Hemingway as the best man. This was quite a departure from high society expectations!

Many people know that she commissioned Salvador Dali to paint a portrait of her. What less people know is that she also had traveled to Mexico to pose in the nude for Diego Rivera. This was quite scandalous at the time, especially for a debutante of the her stature. The resulting portrait hung over a bar in her and her husband’s home until, it’s rumored, her mother ordered it burned. To this day no one can be certain whether it was burned or simply hides in an attic somewhere.

Susanna Salk’s book on C.Z. Guest is called “C.Z. Guest: An American Style Icon” and includes some incredible photos that have never been seen before. It was a pleasure hearing about her process of collecting these images and some of the storied she collected from the people she interviewed in her efforts to know C.Z. more intimately.

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