Born in 1874 little Marie Rose Antoinette Catherine de Robert d'Aqueria de Rochegude of Le Havre would, in 1895, marry in Paris and hence become the Baroness Catherine d'Erlanger. In London where she and the Baron lived at 139 Piccadilly (Lord Byron's old joint, don't you know) she would be more commonly known as "Flame" for her hair color.
|Flame as painted by William Bruce Ellis Ranken|
Before you begin to feel to sorry for Flame being couped up in that city house, do know that it was one of three in which the Baron and she encamped.
|139 Piccadilly exterior and....|
|Falconwood drawing room as painted by Sir John Lavery|
And lastly, there was the place in Venice. What. Everyone needs a place in Venice. But do they really need to name it Villa La Malcontenta?
The Baroness loved the arts and she loved the artists. Here she is being the art by participating in a tableau vivant, The Five Senses at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, 1900.
|"Tasting" is the sense that the Baroness embodied.|
In short, she knew people. So much so that when Helena Rubenstein was launching what would become her empire in 1908, she hired Flame to be her guide though the complex hierarchy of London Society.
The other thing we find out about the Baroness (and in Rubenstein she had a kindred spirit here) she was a junker -- a picker! She absolutely adored trolling through the London flea markets searching for 'beautiful things'...at bargain prices. Cecil Beaton once described her homes as being "decorated with an eclectic display of shell flowers, witch balls and mother of pearl furniture, all picked up for a song at the Caledonian market!"
Things in the 1930s, as we know, were getting a little dicey on the Continent, and at some point she appears to have loaded a container or two with some treasures and beat a path to North America. Now, should you even be surprised when I tell you that her move led her to settle in Hollywood, U.S.A.?
She bought a lovely and shockingly unpretentious home just a couple of blocks north of the Sunset Strip. Life did not slow down for our Flame. It's probably also no surprise that she discovered and became dear friends with the fabulously mad decorator/artist Tony Duquette. They would actually influence one another.
You can see elements of her Duquette-icised living room. The crystal room divider. Silver lame drapes with crystal valances.
In 1939, in the same building that would house Spago in the 1980s, our gal opened up Cafe Gala.
This nightery was recently mentioned again in the Scotty Bowers book as he was the bartender who opened the place. Shortly after this time though, after a very large, long and fabulous life, the Flame started to dim. She was getting a bit dotty and slowly receded from public life. She spent her days, tiara firmly on her head sitting in the garden behind her house and in 1959 booked passage on the Fabulon Express.
|Just another day in a Hollywood garden.|