Much of Beebe's affectionate skewering of the wealthy was co-authored and illustrated with photographs taken by Beebe's long time partner Charles Clegg. Beebe was open about his relationship with Clegg in a time before it was acceptable. They were both from wealthy New England families. The rich, after all, have always enjoyed a morality not permitted to the poor, the middle classes, or to those who are merely well-off.
Beebe's first photographer/partner (during the 1930's) was Jerome Zerbe (also wealthy), one of the inventors of what became the genre of celebrity and society photography (now relegated to the paparazzi - although Zerbe would have been horrified at the ambush tactics so popular today). Zerbe is also credited with the invention of the vodka martini. It was Zerbe who, being a friendly insider, was was allowed to take photographs of Cary Grant and Randolph Scott during their years together.
|above, and on the right,|
"Cary and Randy" at home
from a series of photographs taken for
"Modern Screen" magazine in 1933.
Beebe and his two partners chronicled "cafe society" (a term invented by Beebe) for New York City newspapers from the early 1930's through the 1940's. Of those days, Beebe remarked, "I considered my function that of a connoisseur of the preposterous... I did have a fabulous time. I did drink more champagne and get to more dinner parties and general jollification than I would have in almost any other profession."It was Beebe who wrote one of my favorite descriptions of New York City as "Babylon-on-the-Hudson, sinful, extravagant, full of the nervous hilarity of the doomed".
Walter Winchell, a rival society columnist, often snippily called him "Luscious Lucius". During their time together Beebe made so many flattering remarks about Zerbe in his column that Winchell wrote that Zerbe should change his name to "Jerome Never Looked Lovelier."
When it was noted that the possible election to the presidency of Republican Thomas Dewey would set the country back 50 years, Beebe immediately replied, "And what was wrong with 1898?"
In 1950, Beebe and Clegg set out for the once grand mining town of Virginia City, Nevada, where they renovated an old mansion, resurrected a once famous newspaper that had given early employment to Mark Twain, and began restoring old railroad cars. For one, the "Virginia City", Beebe brought in a friend who was a Hollywood set decorator to redesign the car in what he called "Venetian Renaissance Baroque". They used it for their travels.
|Clegg and Beebe in their private railroad car, the "Virginia City".|
Beebe once wrote, "If anything is worth doing it is worth doing in style, and on your own terms, and nobody's Goddamned else's!". He and his era are gone, and I often think that we are the poorer for it. There are still a few people around with style - but almost none of them seem to be rich folk. The rich of our day are of a different coarser breed. $8,824.00 for a cocktail is practically an obscenity. Lucius Beebe would have had a good comment about it.
"All I want is the best of everything and there's very little of that left"
-attributed to Lucius Beebe