Stylish survivor/novelist/editor/critic/essayist Joan Juliet Buck spoke on Wednesday, March 8, at the French Institute: Alliance Française (FIAF) in midtown Manhattan. Her new memoir, The Price of Illusion (Atria; reviewed in LJ 2/1/17), recounts her golden fairy-princess life as an American ex-pat in France, growing up with glamorous parents (father Jules was a film producer who worked with John Huston and launched Peter O’Toole’s career; mother Joyce was an actress and, later, an interior decorator), and a life in fashion, first as features editor of British Vogue and then as the only American woman to be editor in chief of Paris Vogue.
FIAF speaker series curator Melissa Ceria, herself a former fashion journalist, conducted a lively Q&A with Buck, whose answers were liberally peppered with French phrases. LJ’s humble correspondent (moi) squeezed into FIAF’s intimate penthouse space amid a cloud of L’heure Bleue and Mitsouko parfum and had a listen.
Buck discussed her relationship with her parents—dad was warm, mom was cold—and how she “adopted” John Huston’s wife Enrica “Ricki” Soma, to her mother’s dismay. Ceria asked about her high-profile romantic entanglements and Buck mentioned her enormous, youthful crush on writer Tom Wolfe (“Ricki said you should find yourself a ‘cub,’ not a wolf”) and her 1974 on-set romance with Donald Sutherland (“after the movie wraps, the intensity dies away”).
The author also talked about her life as a fashion editor during heady, creative times and how Paris Vogue “forced” her to take a two-month sabbatical and enter rehab in Tucson, AZ. Since she was not an addict, she rebelled at first but came to a startling realization during a Narcotics Anonymous meeting: she was addicted to Paris Vogue!
After the Q&A, the audience got to ask a few questions. Your correspondent wanted to ask what the author was wearing but instead inquired whether Buck, who has written novels, plays, screenplays, and essays, read any memoirs to prepare for writing her own. She named several titles: Elia Kazan: A Life, which she found “remarkable” despite her father’s antipathy toward the director who “named names” during the McCarthy hearings; J.R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar; The Confessions of Jean Jacques Rousseau, a multivolume French classic; The Confessions of St. Augustine, another oldie but goodie; and Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg, about which Vanity Fair exclaimed, “Quel scandale!”
Luckily, another audience member asked Buck what she was wearing: her well-cut, silver-gray jacket was designed by Zac Posen, who is a personal friend. “He’s a really good cook,” she added, then urged the next questioner to “buy the book” to find out more juicy details about her remarkable life.