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Sand Reef: 1942

January 14, 1942. "Prince and Princess Alexis Zalstem-Zalessky, residence in Palm Beach, Florida. Miss Knoop, Mr. Wessel, Prince (standing) and Princess on beach. Treanor & Fatio, architect." 5x7 inch acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

January 14, 1942. "Prince and Princess Alexis Zalstem-Zalessky, residence in Palm Beach, Florida. Miss Knoop, Mr. Wessel, Prince (standing) and Princess on beach. Treanor & Fatio, architect." 5x7 inch acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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More social notes: degrees of separation

Expanding on willc's account of the marital adventures of Johnson & Johnson heiress Evangeline Brewster Johnson:

After Evangeline left celebrity conductor Leopold Stokowski for her dubious prince, Stokowski promptly carried out a well-publicized liaison with Greta Garbo, then a few years later married Gloria Vanderbilt, who was 42 years his junior and 27 years younger than Evangeline. That marriage lasted 10 years, one less than Leopold's with Evangeline. Leopold's two sons with Gloria, Stan and Christopher, are half-brothers of Evangeline's daughters Gloria Luba and Andrea Sadja, and also half-brothers of Anderson Cooper.

Evangeline lived to 93, Leopold and Gloria both to 95.

"Lady Bountiful Sues Prince as Bad Boy"

Newspaper social pages and wire service gossip columns regularly featured snippets about the glamorous doings of the charismatic former Russian Prince and his Princess, whose lives and social prominence in the late 1930s and 1940s furnished popular character types for screwball comedies on Broadway and in the movies.

Born in 1897, Evangeline Brewster Johnson was a wealthy Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company heiress, whose first husband was Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski. To the delight of the tabloid press, in December 1937 she divorced Stokowski in Las Vegas and a few weeks later married Prince Alexis in Phoenix. Their marriage endured until the Prince's death in 1965, despite another cringe-worthy tabloid episode in May 1940 that appeared in dozens of papers from New York to California. Here is the New York Daily News rendition.

I recognize two names

Mme. Louis Jacques Balsan was born Consuelo Vanderbilt. Before Balsan she married Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. The duke wanted her money; Consuelo's mother wanted a duchess daughter. Even though Consuelo's first marriage was very unhappy, she is buried near Blenheim Palace; not on Staten Island with the other Vanderbilts, not next to her much-beloved second husband.

Elsa Maxwell was a society hostess, and a lot more. Read her Wikipedia page. She was very much a self-made woman. She testified in the Claus von Bülow attempted murder trial of his socialite wife. I remember film footage where Elsa was asked about Newport, Rhode Island social life.

[Ms. Maxwell died in 1963 -- you're confusing her with someone elsa. - Dave]

Damn! I have a very clear image of the film footage and her testimony. I can't find it on the Internet; therefore, it must not exist ... plus, she was dead.

Maurice Fatio was a very popular architect, both in Palm Beach and New York City. He and his wife were among the dinner guests. Of his work I could find, the Prince and Princess's home is relatively modern and modest. I couldn't locate their house on the beach and doubt it's extant. At the other end of the spectrum, the house he designed for the Balsans is more typical of his work and very much still there.

I wondered just where the prince hailed from. willc supplied Russia. I also found this:
Evangeline became a princess, wife of Prince Alexis Zalstem-Zalessky. In 'Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal, and Tragedy Inside the Johnson & Johnson Dynasty', Jerry Oppenheimer describes the prince as “of dubious royal lineage … better known in certain circles as basically a charming gigolo.”

Interestingly, guest and artist Guitou Knoop was also Russian, born in Moscow in either 1902 or 1909, depending on the source.

Cool house ... cool swimming attire

I remember as a kid, my dad wearing the matching swimsuit gear...although I don't think his was as hip as the guy in the photo. I bet at least one of the gents is wearing brown wingtip shoes. I'm curious about the bamboo pole. Is it being used as a flagpole? But you'd think it wouldn't be leaning like that and if the line coming from the top down to his hand was the flag halyard, it would be a continuous loop, a pulley being at the top. So is it just a cane pole for fishing???

[Sometimes I really wonder about you people. - Dave]

LOL ... pretty damn scary.

Palm Beach Notes 1.15.42

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