Monday, December 17, 2012

Lucky Velvet


Here we have the gallant Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan. Lord Lucan…“Lucky” Lucan to his coterie of chance games friends.
Born in 1934, Lucan's aristocratic trajectory was formulaic...for a while. He spent two years at Eton where he seemed to hone his skills and appetite for anything but academic pursuits...mainly gambling.  And his poker skills, they say, sharpened during his next stop-off, this time with the Coldstream Guards. Lucan would inherit his father's titles in 1964.
The dashing Lucan eventually eschewed the ennui of traditional work for what he felt was a more thrilling method for generating dosh…gambling. Lucan had annual income from various family trusts but I suppose like other landed aristocrats, he needed to supplement it. So after the Guards, he took a position with the merchant bank, William Brandt's Sons and Co. After winning twenty six thousand pounds in two nights playing Chemin de Fer, Lucan declared "why should I work in a bank when I can earn a year's money in one single night at the tables?"
I reckon, in addition to  my absence of Lucan caliber dashing good looks and my now missing aristocratic papers, the other huge difference between Lucky and me is that I’m the worst gambler in the world. I saw Las Vegas, reluctantly last week but my money’s safe ‘cause I didn't go near the gaming tables.
But Lucky felt that he could beat the odds and keep the cash rolling in…forever. Seems to me like he had a low-grade death wish. Sort of a Charge of the Light Brigade calibre hubris not unlike the 3rd Earl of Lucan.  I won’t belabor the story because like most gamblers, the next chapter in Lucky’s saga is again formulaic. The House, in the long-run, always-always wins.
Lucan was a regular at John Aspinall’s Cleremont Club in Berkley Square where highbrow titled folks gathered to gamble and also flirt with I suppose, additional randy pursuits. It was said of Aspinall’s Club member roster that…The list of the club's original members reads like a Who's Who of the British aristocracy: five dukes, five marquesses, 20 earls and two cabinet ministers.” And they all loved Lucky.
Happy endings are probably rare in the lives of professional gamblers...titled ones notwithstanding. Debt laden, amidst a contentious divorce and custody battle for his three children, it is presumed that the maniacally desperate Lucan himself was the bag-man who broke in to (he had a key) the family home on a November evening in 1974 at 46 Upper Berkeley Street and beat to death the family nanny. He also took a few good whacks at Lady Lucan, his supposed true intended victim.
I’ll leave the rest of the Lucan saga to you to sort out but suffice it to say the riveting is an understatement. Lucan disappeared and to this day, his whereabouts and status, while much debated, remains unresolved. Efforts to have him declared legally dead so that his son, the presumed 8th Earl may take his place in the Lords have so far, I believe, been unsuccessful.
So how the hell did I happen upon Lucan? It all came about when I was doing an internet search on the unknown to me, bespoke tailoring establishment, Cooling Lawrence and Wells. I’d never heard of them and was amidst reconnaissance as I was perilously close to pouncing on a velvet smoking jacket that according to the ebay seller’s measurements...was just my size. My appetite for velvet jacketings is well documented but I've always stayed away from the tricked out versions. Why have things that, as my Cousin Willie says, are for "parties that you no longer get invited to."
Tricked out versions? You know, one of those jackets with the really cool frogging…rope adorned sleeves and those twee little Siamese twin front closure buttons that say… “Even though you’ve seen my likes every time you’ve been in London, YOU of all people have no business buying one of me at full-retail. And you’ve even got less business buying one of my double breasted cousins.” 
Ok, point well-made but an ebay bargain ain’t ever out of the question or out of bounds. Shut up. So my research was important as I made a decision regarding what my maximum-minimum bids would be.
I searched Cooling Lawrence and Wells and the outcome was almost nil regarding the tailoring firm. None the less, the Lord Lucan smarmy back story bounty was enough to keep me enthralled for half-a-day. It seems that C-L&W were Lucan’s go-to tailor as well as his source for maintenance of his coronation robes.
They were on St. George Street in Hanover Square for a time before finishing out their existence as Wells of Mayfair over at 47 Maddox Street. Sadly, like much of the London I love; venerable old places like the C-L&W digs give way to, in this case, Browns Bar and Brasserie. I found a photo of  47 Maddox's current state on Google maps. What is Browns, you might ask? Think T.G.I. Fridays…butcept with a Cockney thang going on.
It seems that Lucan left quite a few of his suppliers in the lurch when he vanished. Lucan’s tailor wasn’t the only creditor lined up in the queue seeking relief once it was fait accompli regarding the likelihood that the old boy wasn’t gonna come round and square up any of his debts. Interestingly though, C-L&W decided that the coronation robes represented better collateral against Lucan’s debt than some silly old judgement. Smart they were.
Armed with my imagination, a trove of superficial information about Lucan and the confidence that the Velveeta avec frogging jacket was surely my size, I set my bid. Surely if the jacket had been made by Huntsman or Kilgour or Poole, I'd have set my bid slightly higher. Maddox Street...off the Row and unknown to me doesn't mean that the jacket ain't gonna be keen in every way. But I was treading in unknown, albeit fuzzy as hell, water.   
Leonard Logsdail gave me a bit of a tutorial on some of the off the Row tailors that are generally within a half mile or so of Savile Row. Many of them; and G. The Bruce Boyer also shares this view in his book, Elegance, are as good as or better than some on Savile Row. They simply lack the brand cachet of Poole, Huntsman and the like…and probably the price tag too.
Len also shared when I met him at the Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. auction reception, that some of the off the Row tailors like Fairbanks Jr.’s Stovel & Mason Ltd did pretty decent work on thicker fabrics such as velvet or those used for country pursuits togs, while not turning out quite the same garment in lighter weight fabrics where clever cutting and sewing nuance with adroit hands is required.
All’s well that ends well and I suppose I’m lucky that there wasn’t another 38 Regular-esque Downton Abbey wannabe sartorialist bidding on my C-L&W velvet fuzzy out-the-a_s dinner jacket. It arrived here at Manor Minimus, shipping included, for less than a Benjamin.
And it fits like a damn glove. 
January 1976 saw its completion and my imagination wants me to believe that perhaps Lord Lucky's coronation robes remained somewhere on the premises, in fellowship for a while, with my jacket.
Rumor has it that I’ll see 2012 out and 2013 ring-in down Richmond,Virginia way as the guest of Mr. Elegantologist himself.
Furthered by the rumor mill is that Messrs C-L&W’s creation will be on my back…at least till I decide to take my clothes off. Now I’m wondering if I can wear this thing with 501’s?
Onward. No Christmas tree this year. No ho.

ADG…Deuce

13 comments:

lindaraxa said...

You will be the star of the evening...very dapper and very elegant indeed. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Too Bad you cut the beard. I hear they are looking for a Skinny Santa down at the Running Shoe store.

I have the green DB coat, with the frigging frogging etc. Mine was spec'ed by J Peterman as a repro of the ones in the movie of The Avengers, then sold on the cheap when JP jumped into the fire. I did finally put it on for a couple of hours on my 50th birthday, otherwise it is surely gear for a sport I no longer play...

I notice you did not mention how velvet seems to attract the fingers of every lady at a party. Don't tell'em, or there will be more competition.

Willie, still in the country

Mrs. Blandings said...

It would be a damn waste to not wear it with jeans. And, in my book, "no ho" is a good state for you. Toast Chris for me.

brohammas said...

tell Easy E I said hello. He's then best host I kow.

ADG said...

Bro-hammas an'em...Indeed I will. But there ain't nothing easy about that boy.

Mrs.Blandings...I am gonna give it a "go" with jeans. Stay tuned. I'll indeed toast Chris and his even more intriguing/engaging wife. But the jury remains out on the "no ho" being a good state.

Willie...If I hadn't a been in Las Vegas, miserably awaiting my time to speak to my customers, I'd a probably made it through that dreadful "third week" of pre-beard nastiness. Alas, I was in amidst a weak moment and a state of aesthetic whateverishness...so I cut it. I'd not considered too much, the tactile inducing aspect of velvet. But it makes sense and I'm a have a pair of pants made. Today.

Lindaraxa...thanks!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

what a great find and it DOES fit like a glove. Amazing. It was meant for you!

Anonymous said...

"my imagination wants me to believe that perhaps Lord Lucky's coronation robes remained somewhere on the premises, in fellowship for a while, with my jacket"

After the story you tell here? you say you hope your jacket came near HIS jacket? I should of went to a better college, my education fails me. I read this piece several times already and I still can't find no reason you'd want anything you own to share quarters with this man.

I can't find a redeeming quality anywhere, so please don't tell me you've fallen into the fatal dead end of but-he's-rich-and-handsome. Cheesy is cheesy, Max.

We need to talk.

-F

Anonymous said...

Ebay currently has a Sulka smoking jacket in what appears to be a 38R. You've got one in velvet, but do you have one in silk?

Reggie Darling said...

Ah, Lord Lucan. I remember his mysterious disappearance well. Happened when I was at school in England, where it was a media sensation. The papers were full of all the lurid details for weeks on end. Taki has written about it extensively, and is thought to have been one of the fellows who helped Lucky Lucan slip out of the country. There's clearly a post-script to that story that will come out one day. As to your velvet wrap, excellent luck and choice, and of course one is somewhat green (or shall I say Burgundy) with jealousy, old chap. Wear it well, as I know you shall! Reggie

ADG said...

Reggie...thanks old sport and...Merry Christmas to you and Boil Fenwick.

AnonSulka...damn you.

Flo...settle down sister. Alls I was saying is that it's fun to spekalate about my jacket being amidst all the chatter and pablum associated with his "episode."

Architectmon-mon...thanks!

Pigtown*Design said...

that lord lucan story is quite something. i've read a bit about it in vanity fair, although probably the uk edition.

have a brilliant time with chris and mrs. e+e. i still have artwork by their adorable children gracing my kitchen. especially dear and the pictures of connor.

love ya. mean it.

Anonymous said...

"settle down sister"

I'm calm. I just don't want no bad comma coming your way, thasall.

maven said...

Oh, Max, I love the velvet jacket!

I think that it would look great with 501s and cowboy boots at the Cactus Cantina.

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