In this age when e-books are becoming the norm, Thornwillow Press is trying to buck the trend by launching “Thornwillow Libretto,” a series of limited-edition books printed in the traditional way and produced with a letterpress wrapper binding or as a leather-bound signed copy. The first of the series is called “It Happened Here” which is written by Lesley M.M. Blume. She explores the history of the St. Regis Hotel in the book starting right from the year 1900. It was in the first decade of the 20th century that John Jacob Astor IV came forward to build the hotel in partnership of Waldorf-Astoria.
The book traces the growth of the hotel into one of the grand hotels of New York and became the popular gathering place for the city’s creative elite. Lesley did extensive research for the book. She read several books about the Astors and that era. Richard Blodgett, the in-house historian of the hotel also provided her with a lot of material. She also talked with several longtime staff members. Salvador Dali had a strong connection with the hotel and he features prominently in the book.
Dali spent most of his winters with his wife, staying in suite 1610. He took his pet wildcat with him to the brunch. His antics take up a lot of space in the book. The highlight is the story about how he tied Andy Warhol to a spinning board, splattering paint all over the pop artist. There are several incident and anecdotes about many celebrities of the time who frequented the hotel. Wallis Simpson, Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich were the star attraction. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Tony Bennett were regulars to the hotel. And another interesting story is about Vogue editor Diana Vreeland who was spotted by Carmel Snow in the hotel because of her daring clothes and hired her for Harper’s Bazaar.