How does one begin an intro about a trailblazing woman who's just penned a memoir that recounts her six fabulous decades spent jet-setting London, New York, Los Angeles, Milan, Paris, and beyond? Joan Juliet Buck is a force in the cult of fashion and beauty. And on one stop in particular--France --she made history as the first and only American woman ever to fill the coveted position of editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue.
But even before Buck made a name for herself, she was born into a glamorous movie-star world as the daughter of larger-than-life film producer Jules Buck. Her memoir, The Price of Illusion, is a captivating series of anecdotes about everything from her family life to the time she logged at French Vogue to how, after her dismissal, she slowly rebuilt her professional life as a sometime actor, writer, critic, and journalist. She'll be sharing all this, and more, at a reading and book signing this Saturday, March 25 at Sarasota Museum of Art's The Works.
"Buck's memoir is at turns sharp, tender and highly amusing. A deeply personal tale, I found it compelling for what it reveals about the radical shifts in the global culture industry over the last half century," says Anne-Marie Russell, Sarasota Museum of Art's executive director. "Running the gamut from the Hollywood blacklist to our current full expression of late capitalist-high corporatist culture, in all its complex vulgarity, we see massive changes in the way in which culture is produced and distributed. We also see, as the French say, plus ça change, plus ça la meme chose..."
I had the immense pleasure of asking Buck a few pre-event questions. I hope you'll love her answers as much as I did.
What would the style cognoscenti be surprised to know about the behind-the-curtain life of a fashion editrix?
They'd be surprised to know that the best times I had were not at the fashion shows or the parties, but in the office, in the big meetings when the creativity and imagination of everyone on staff would start flying.
What memories does that experience hold for you?
It was such a constant whirl that my clearest memories are of bicycling in Versailles alone on the weekends, taking in the beauty of that landscape and the symmetry the trees.
What photographers did you work with that changed the way you looked at fashion?
David Lachapelle turned every fashion photo into a wonderful spectacle that was often also a wonderful joke. And Michael Thompson, a chameleon, made the most beautiful images, in every style possible.
If you could relive any year from your life, which would it be and why?
It would be 1959-1960, when I was 11--when I first went to Ireland, met Ricki Huston, my godfather's wife, whom I grew to adore, and Anjelica [Huston], who became my semi-sister. I spent the summer [on a movie set] carrying around a Skye terrier while playing Ailie the waif in the Disney movie Greyfriars Bobby.
You’ve met all manner of celebs and figureheads throughout your career--were you ever starstruck?
I met Claire Danes the other day and realized I was still capable of being starstruck.
Since your memoir touches on your life in the chicest cities of the world…what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of London in the '60s?
Yellow, chiffon, Jaguar E-types, King's Road, the smell of old dresses for sale at Portobello Road, the long bus ride to Portobello Road, guys with long hair and velvet trousers, painting my shoes a tasty shade of rust, Jane Gozzett, who taught me everything about fashion, looking at the fashion drawings of Antonio Lopez, reading British Vogue, going to Harvey Nichols, and school school, school, school--the French Lycée of Cromwell Road.
Rome and Milan in the '70s?
Tear gas, prosciutto, bodyguards, kidnappings, cobblestones, train rides, fog, falling love, lugging around an Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter, ten thousand lira notes, cappuccinos, the first arugula I ever tasted, Missoni patterns, Walter Albini's clothes, early Versace, Valentino's atelier, buying a tiny coral alligator to hang on a chain around my neck, more tear gas.
Paris in the '80-'90s?
Paris in the '80s: Yves Saint Laurent suits, high heels, my garret overlooking the Seine, Helene Rochas and Egoiste magazine and Ines de la Fressange and a German boyfriend who directed Opera.
Paris in the '90s: Vogue office Place du Palais Bourbon, Vogue office Rue de Vaugirard, Vogue office Rue du Faubourg St. Honore, Vogue staff, Vogue parties, Taxi G7 always waiting for me, the pointy shoes on the feet of my fashion editors, dinners at Davé the Chinese restaurant, the rust-red carpet in my apartment, the nice washer-dryer in my kitchen, my refrigerator that looked like a 1950s car, my father padding around my apartment, the Ghost of the Rue Jacob.
And…lastly, have any rituals before you sit down to write?
Get out of bed, make coffee, sit down.
Joan Juliet Buck will appear for a reading and book signing at Sarasota Museum of Art's The Works on Saturday, March 25, at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10; free for Sarasota Museum of Art donors and Ringling College students, faculty, and staff. For more information, click here.