11 May 2009

Elsa Maxwell the original party animal

Elsa Maxwell by Hoyningen Huene

"not rich, not beautiful, Elsa Maxwell... is perhaps the most widely discussed figure in international society. Original, at once charming and ruthless, with a genius for riding the social merry-go-round, this purposeful, if massive, butterfly has become a social arbiter de luxe. Her fame... rests on her original parties; on her friendship with the great and near great in the world of art, musician royalty and her authentic talents as a pianist and composer." from Vanity Fair 30's & vogue '75


(all written by Elsa LA Maxwell except where italicized)

a party is like a SOUFFLE the ingredients...must be weighed and measured by the hand of an artist...taken out of the oven at exactly the psychological moment- and served HOT.

the JOY of the hostess in her own party must be the first element encountered by the guest. NEVER show the slightest anxiety about the ulitmate success of your own PARTY.

one should never HAVE to ask people to a party just because they are on one's LIST. No, the gravest menace to a good party is the dangerous emotional kindness of most hostesses in the extension of their invitations.

RUTHLESSNESS is the first attribute towards the achievement of a PERFECT party. WEALTH does not play a large role toward the giving of a good party. SNOBS are incapable of gaiety, so CUT THEM OFF RUTHLESSLY.

always endeavor to incur the opposition of one or two of the so-called "social- powers- that-be." guests will take sides, feelings will run high, excitement will ensue.

a great MISTAKE is letting guests do as they want. No guests want to do what they want- everything must be done for them at a successful party.

guests should be selected for their HUMAN attributes. a Maxwell fantasy includes preparing a sumptuous dinner for all well known bores... turn on the deadly laughing gas, and they would all die painlessly, laughing gaily for the first time in their lives.

a good party should occur in one room only, and that room should always be too small for the number invited.

WHAT makes or BREAKS a party? a NEW IDEA, plus a sense of HUMOR, makes a party- AND THE BORES BREAK IT.


  1. I always feel that a good balance between people who already know each other and people who don't helps. But this is in an area where it takes real skill to find people who don't know each other. I love the idea of ruthlessness and humor.

  2. I would love to have been a old fly on the walls at the Maxwell salon, ruthlessness surely prevailed over humor! thanks for commenting.G

  3. Love this post thank you. My book entitled 'Camp: The Lie that tells the truth' says this of EM [talking of overweight lesbians like EM and Gertrude Stein] "..Arriving in Paris in the late 1920s, penniless but gregarious, Elsa fell in love with Elsie Mendl and began a long career of introducing the rich to the rich at their own expense.... one of the most disliked and indispensable ladies of her time." Hmmm.. a little arch, n'est ce pas but probably not unadjacent to the truth!

  4. I'll bet- best of all she has introduced us! thanks elsa. and elsie m.loves continue- how did she inspire such devotion- ahh to know. thanks for commenting and reading. G



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