The Sisters: Babe Mortimer Paley, Betsey Roosevelt Whitney, Minnie Astor Fosburgh - The Lives and Times of the Fabulous Cushing Sisters

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9780394584164: The Sisters: Babe Mortimer Paley, Betsey Roosevelt Whitney, Minnie Astor Fosburgh - The Lives and Times of the Fabulous Cushing Sisters

Americans had a forty-year love affair with the three Cushing sisters -- Minnie, Betsey, and Babe -- from the 1930s through the 1970s. They were like movie stars, setting trends and fashions, leading glamorous lives. Daughters of the world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Harvey Cushing of Boston, the sisters were not born rich, but their marriages catapulted them into a world of wealth and power.

Minnie married real estate tycoon Vincent Astor after a lengthy affair, becoming a pillar of old-money New York society. Tiring of his sporting life, she divorced him to marry painter James Fosburgh, a homosexual, and became the doyenne of New York's artistic circles, establishing a glittering salon. Alan Jay Lerner, Claudetted Colbert, Renata Tibaldi, David Hockney, Dorothy Rodgers, John Hammond, and Robert Motherwell were frequent guests at her soirees.

Betsey Cushing married James Roosevelt and, as President Franklin Roosevelt's daughter-in-law, became his unofficial hostess at the White House. When her marriage to Jimmy Roosevelt foundered, she became Mrs. Jock (John Hay) Whitney and one of the richest woman in the world.

And finally Barbara, known as Babe, married Standard Oil heir Stanley Mortimer of Tuxedo Park, then went on to wed the legendary CBS board chairman William Paley. The only "working girl" among the Cushing sisters, she was a fashion editor at Vogue magazine. Her sense of elegance set a standard for the style-conscious; she was the Duchess of Windsor and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis rolled into one. Her celebrated friendship and bitter feud with Truman Capote is the stuff of legend.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The story of the glittering trio who exemplified glamour (and shrewd matchmaking) to a captivated public gets a curiously lifeless treatment from biographer Grafton (Red, Hot, and Rich, 1987). Daughters of renowned brain-surgery pioneer Harvey Cushing, Mary (``Minnie''), Betsey, and Barbara (``Babe''), apt pupils of a strong-willed mother for whom ``marriage was a business,'' lived a saga that would put most romance novelists to shame. Betsey, favorite daughter-in-law of FDR while wife of his son James, traded up to equally well-bred (and much wealthier) John Hay ``Jock'' Whitney. Babe went from socialite Stanley Mortimer, Jr., to CBS founder William S. Paley, a demanding philanderer but rich enough to secure her position as the ``ultimate fashion and social icon of New York's dazzling scene.'' Minnie endured a miserable union with sullen multimillionaire Vincent Astor before establishing a lively artistic salon with a second husband--the impeccably patrician (and openly homosexual) painter James Fosburgh. Only Betsey managed to find marital happiness along with wealth, but none of the sisters blamed adored mother Gogsie. Featuring an unusually varied cast of society, political, and artistic figures--from the British royal family to Truman Capote--what could have been a fun, frothy gossip- fest is instead a leaden recitation of guest lists, jewelry details, and clothing descriptions. Not that Grafton doesn't drop a juicy tidbit or two--the stylish Babe had all her teeth knocked out in a teenage auto accident; Eleanor Roosevelt didn't shave her underarms--but he hedges a lot: the Astors' marriage may not have been consummated, but, then again, Minnie may have been a lesbian; on the other hand, she was Vincent's mistress for years before the wedding. Subjects who deserve at least style, if not substance, get neither in this superficial chronicle. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

With this deftly stylish account of the three sisters from Boston who made marrying well into a social art form, beautiful people insider Grafton ( Red, Hot, & Rich!: An Oral History of Cole Porter , LJ 5/1/87) has created a sizzler. The Cushings became tastemakers who created the glitterati, setting standards for elegance as they presided over the transformation of the Cafe Society into the Jet Set. Participants have told their stories in other venues (Slim Keith's Slim: Memories of a Rich and Imperfect Life , S. & S., 1990; Brooke Astor's Footprints: An Autobiography , LJ 8/80; and Truman Capote's Music for Chameleons , LJ 8/80), but Grafton renders with feeling the betrayals experienced by the women who became role models for a generation and "expressed values for people who needed to believe in fairy tales." Glamorous and irresistible, The Sisters is every bit as fabulous as its subject matter and is highly recommended for libraries interested in social and cultural history and biography.
- Susan E. Parker, Harvard Law Sch. Lib.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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