An entertaining and in-depth biography, the first of its kind, of philanthropist and White House Rose Garden designer Bunny Mellon.
When Bunny Mellon died at age 103 on March 17th, she was the last embodiment of a Gilded Age lifestyle. Born into money (her grandfather invented Listerine), she married into even more money (the Mellon banking and oil fortune) and went on to build, decorate and preside over six luxurious homes in Washington, New York, Paris, Antigua, Cape Cod and Nantucket. She treated her pricy possessions as a casual backdrop to her daily life, including an unframed Van Gogh, "Green Wheat Fields, Auvers," she propped upon her living room fireplace mantel.
Bunny Mellon operated in the intersecting arenas of politics, art and fashion, mingling with Presidents, Queens, Duchesses, Hollywood actors, couturiers, artists and Russian ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. She was on intimate terms with the giants of her era: when she wanted to deal with lingering childhood insecurities and a difficult marriage, she went into analysis in the 1940's with Carl Jung. Bunny reveled in putting amusing people together, such as giving a small luncheon to introduce Princess Diana and Prince Charles to America's royalty, Jacqueline Onassis and her children, Caroline and John Kennedy.
An ardent gardener who created the Rose Garden at the behest of her dear friend Jacqueline Kennedy, a savvy art collector, a discerning self-taught decorator who gave advice to her Foxcroft classmate Sister Parish, Bunny became revered for her style and good taste. Everything she did made news: creating a gardening fad for miniature topiaries; giving her blessing to fledgling artists and designers; turning up at her husband Paul Mellon's side to watch his thoroughbred, Arts and Letters, win the Belmont Stakes.
Yet Bunny Mellon deliberately cultivated an air of mystery. Regal and intimidating, mischievous and effervescent, the soul of discretion, she cherished her ability to wield influence in a quiet behind-the-scenes way, until now. In this illuminating biography, written by bestselling author Meryl Gordon, readers will finally get to know the real Bunny Mellon.
About the Author
Meryl Gordon is the author of the New York Times
bestselling Mrs. Astor Regrets
and Phantom of Fifth Avenue
, a Wall Street Journal
bestseller. She is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor to Vanity Fair.
She is on the graduate journalism faculty at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is considered an expert on "elder abuse" and has appeared on NPR, CNN and other outlets whenever there is a high-profile case.
"With an eye for telling detail balanced by nuanced understanding, Meryl Gordon explores Bunny Mellon's impeccably designed homes and gardens as well as the marital deceptions, family tragedies, intense friendships, and political intrigues. A tale of surprising creativity and resilience."
Sally Bedell Smith, author of Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
"Who better than the wry, insightful Meryl Gordon to chronicle the life and legacy of such a colorful woman? Gordon is a master at delighting her readers with equal parts history and dish."
Julia Glass, award-winning author of Three Junes and A House Among the Trees
"Journalist Gordon...again fascinatingly chronicles the remarkable life of an elite twentieth-century American woman....Readers interested in gardening, art, and interior design will drool over Bunny's fine tastes, and her ease at fulfilling every one of them, but all lovers of biographies will marvel at Gordon's portrayal of Bunny's long life, and the significant figures who buzzed in and out of it."
Booklist (Starred Review)
"A rapturous biography.... and a window into 20th century American aristocracy."
"Jacqueline Kennedy looked up to her socially. President Kennedy counted on her good taste to design the Rose Garden. Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon lived in a world ardently protected by discreet guards, long driveways, and noble family retainers. Thanks to Meryl Gordon we get past them."
Chris Matthews, anchor, MSNBC's Hardball, and author of Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero
"Meryl Gordon's heroic reporting and shrewd insights have given us a fully drawn portrait of one of the twentieth century's most compelling figures, by turns warmhearted and cold-blooded, coping with an emptiness no treasure chests of jewels and art could fill."
Jeff Greenfield, author of If Kennedy Lived
"As stylish and fascinating as its subject, this book is a biographical tour de force."
Linda Fairstein, New York Times bestselling author
"Meryl Gordon's enchanting story takes us deep inside a lost world of taste and class-a world, as Caroline Kennedy said of Bunny Mellon's life, that was 'beautiful, well-built, and infinitely interesting.'"
Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies
"Gordon illuminates the virtues and contradictions of socialite Bunny Mellon (1910-2014) in this entertaining tell-all chronicle... The result is a juicy behind-the-scenes tale of American aristocracy."
"A gossipy read."
Wall Street Journal