cover image Bunny Mellon: Life of an American Style Legend

Bunny Mellon: Life of an American Style Legend

Meryl Gordon. Grand Central, $28 (528p) ISBN 978-1-4555-8874-9

Gordon (Mrs. Astor Regrets) illuminates the virtues and contradictions of socialite Bunny Mellon (1910–2014) in this entertaining tell-all chronicle. Making use of newly available private papers, Gordon paints her subject as an entitled woman with a green thumb and a complex patriotic streak. Over the course of the book, the Listerine-fortune heiress, born Rachel Loew Lambert, evolves from shy schoolmate of interior designer Sister Parish at Foxcroft preparatory school to staunch Democrat and “first friend” during Camelot’s heyday to a centenarian planning her own funeral, with a role for Bette Midler singing “The Rose.” (When the time came, Midler complied.) Mellon’s most celebrated attribute—her aptitude for landscaping—resulted in a request from Pres. John F. Kennedy to design the White House Rose Garden. She had many contradictions. While she flaunted her friendship with Hubert de Givenchy, an overtly gay fashion designer, it took decades for her to accept her daughter’s sexual orientation. Despite her generosity to such public figures as John Edwards—she donated millions to his 2008 presidential bid—she wrote a parsimonious will that disappointed her heirs. Gordon peppers the book with interviews with intimates of Mellon’s such as her goddaughter Caroline Kennedy, who recalls that Mellon “and Mummy [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] were best of friends... with their own special language.” The result is a juicy behind-the-scenes tale of American aristocracy. Photos. (Oct.)