From Elaine’s Lumière column for T Magazine’s The Moment.
Jacqueline Kennedy at a gathering in December 1961.
Susan Mary Alsop would be shattered. A grand hostess of the nation’s capital in the 1960s, she transformed the Georgetown town house she shared with her husband, the columnist Joseph Alsop, into a Parisian-style salon for the elite, including President Kennedy himself.
She had learned to give great parties in Paris, where she lived as the young wife of an American diplomat. In Georgetown, she wore Balmain and Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent with Roger Vivier shoes. She entertained with French cut crystal, French porcelain, French sterling silver cutlery, French souffles and two French maids. When she married and moved in with Joe, she brought the contents of her French wine cave with her.
“For Susan Mary, entertainment was a job,” said Sophie-Caroline de Margerie, the French author of “American Lady,” a biography of Alsop in French that will be published by Penguin in English next year. “She felt that putting important men together — and it was always men — in congenial surroundings with a glass of whiskey would help them get to know each other. Conversation mattered. It was not an afterthought.”