"Style is primarily a matter of instinct.”
William Ralph Blass was a very handsome man, who happened to be gay. He produced clothes for many renowned women including Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Pat Buckley, Brooke Astor, Nancy Kissinger, Happy Rockefeller, Gloria Vanderbilt, Jessye Norman, Barbra Streisand, & Barbara Walters.
Bill Blass's life epitomised the Gatsby-esque American dream. Along with Oscar de la Renta, Blass was the American designer who most successfully brought together the roles of couturier & social butterfly.
At one point in my life I thought that escorting society dames to parties, lunches & events might just be the ticket for me. I had my eye on Diana Vreeland in the mid-1970s. Blass was one of the most successful 'walkers' ever. He was an indefatigable partygoer, showing up with some of the richest women in Manhattan at every party, gallery opening & hip restaurant. He not only loved the world of glamour, big money, high profile & style, but understood how to dress it, which is why his company was so successful for more than 30 years.
He was one of the founder members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He was the first to receive the CFDA Perignon Award for Humanitarian leadership beyond fashion. He donated the $25,000 prize to the AIDS care centre of New York Hospital. He was also a major donor to Gay Men's Health Crisis at a time when well known people were silent about AIDS. Bill Blass died of cancer aged 79.
Pears on the left & Britten on the right.
For 40 years, Peter Pears was the lover/partner of composer Benjamin Britten, who wrote the leading roles in many of his operas & song for Pears.Their partnership is important for the vast body of music & recordings it produced, & because many homosexual subjects figured in their work. Because Opera is just not gay enough.
Pears became a leading lyric tenor of the Sadler's Wells Opera, where he developed an extensive repertoire, but Pears's greatest triumph in this company, was his creation of the title role of the tortured & homosexual outcast in Britten's Peter Grimes (1945).
For the next 30+ years, Pears created many operatic roles that Britten wrote for him, including the title role in Albert Herring (1947), Captain Vere in Billy Budd (1951), Essex in Gloriana (1953), Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw (1954), Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1960), the Madwoman in Curlew River (1964), Nebuchadnezzar in The Burning Fiery Furnace (1966), the Tempter in The Prodigal Son (1968), Sir Philip Wingrave in Owen Wingrave (1971), & Aschenbach in Death in Venice (1973).
In 1974, Pears made, at last, his debut at the Metropolitan Opera Company in NYC, in the first American performance of Death in Venice. I wonder if my friend Will, the esteemed theatre & opera designer was in the house?
Even after Britten's death in 1976, Pears continued his singing career until nearly the age of 70. He spent the remainder of his life teaching & administering the Britten-Pears School. Pears was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, & died on April 3, 1986. He is buried next to Britten.