48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2009
I knew very little about Nicky Haslam prior to reading this book. I noticed photographs in the newspapers some years ago of him - a rather elderly interior designer in London who was obsessed with Liam Gallagher and had changed his appearance to resemble his new hero. I grew up on a Manchester housing estate quite similar to the Gallaghers which made this society figure's obsession seem incredibly weird. Who was this man and why were the press so indulgent of him?
Here is the answer. From his youthful wealthy and privileged background, Haslam was attracted to Gypsies and Teddy Boys. He has a knack of accumulating distinguished and entertaining friends from Tallulah Bankhead and Diana Coopper to Andy Warhol and the Prince of Wales. His perfectly functioning gaydar leaves one to believe that in 1950's London practically every male - married or otherwise - was either gay or bisexual. It is also beautifully written and highly amusing.
Talleyrand was supposed to have said that those who did not live in the years before the revolution could not understand the sweetness of living. One feels much the same sense of a past, sweet existence on reading this warm hearted and utterly engaging story.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 19 December 2009
This is an enjoyable romp through the gay world of London and the States in the 50s and 60s. But it is more than that. Beneath the clatter of dropped names of faded stars there is someone with an observant eye for his surroundings and real literary talent.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
When I've flicked through magazines with photos of 'celebrity' events in them, I have often seen famous people posing with someone called Nicky Haslam.
I never knew who he was. Sometimes he was described as 'interior designer Nicky Haslam' and sometimes as 'crooner Nicky Haslam' - or 'socialite' etc.
Then I read an article in a newspaper supplement written by him and he came over as a really interesting, opinionated, witty and amusing character, so I sought out this book.
Sadly it isn't as entertaining as the newspaper article was.
It seems to be rather boring and tedious.
There's lots of name dropping of famous people - which is great, but he doesn't go into enough detail about them for me. It almost becomes a book of lists of people he once met.
It could have been much more entertaining and funny.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2014
I bought this book for my Kindle having read a couple of quite glowing reviews about it but oh, what a self indulgent book of reminiscences. The first couple of chapters I quite enjoyed but after that it became just lists of "important people I have met, men who have fancied me and men I have slept with". What is it about many homosexuals that they think their sexual orientation is so important that they must constantly refer to it.? Rupert Everett's autobiography was much the same. If one is homosexual that is fine by me, but don't feel the need to keep referring to it. By the time I had read the names of all those Mr Haslam alleged he had slept with I began to wonder if there were any straight men left among the society set. I could not finish the book. Too much importance placed on meeting the "right" people and name dropping. What selfish lives many of these celebrities seem to lead and Mr Haslam most of all. Has he ever done anything to benefit anyone who is not well known or well connected? Any work for charity, other than buying tickets to a charity ball? Somehow I doubt it. The kindest thing I can say is that the author writes well. Just a pity his subject matter is so shallow.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2010
Nicky Haslam has been a social fixture on the transatlantic scene for decades. He's legendary for all sorts of reasons, and obviously either has an eidetic memory or keeps detailed journals stretching back decades on every party he's attended, every house he's entered, and every person he's ever met or slept with. He is, as someone said, a man who would attend a lighted candle, needless to say a party. Perhaps due to his great good looks and his all-encompassing charm Nicky has met simply everyone interesting, starting in his early teenage years with an afternoon with Tallulah Bankhead and onward from there. Every single page of his autobiography glitters with famous names. And, surprisingly enough, the book is well-written, as well. In particular, it seems that Nicky worked especially hard on adding particularly elegiac observations on the countryside as a way of keeping his book from being simply a laundry list of the great and good, the notoriously bad, and the ugly.
Ugly is something I would also use to describe some of what Nicky writes in Redeeming Features. He deliberately inserts some of the very most disobliging things about people in society that I have ever read. In particular, Mr Haslam seems to really dislike the late Alvilde Lees-Milne, and provides certain quite repellent assertions on her personal life with the late Princess Winnareta de Polignac, nee Singer, as well as supposedly recording a catty remark regarding Winnie and Alvilde by her husband's old school chum Harold Acton. Since there are no book sales to be made from mentioning someone so long dead (1994) and comparatively unfamous one can only assume that Nicky was settling an old score. It's a good thing that one cannot libel the dead, because undoubtedly Nicky and his publisher would have ended up in court over just those two stories. Perhaps the fact that James Lees-Milne, the UK's greatest 20th century diarist, never mentioned Nicky once in all the 12 volumes of his published diaries pricked Mr Haslam's notable amour-propre.
However, there are many claims Nicky makes in Redeeming Features which have been denied or doubted by others, which undoubtedly have boosted sales. Like, for example, Nicky's assertion that he slept with Tony Armstrong-Jones (which Lord Snowdon denies). Or, as merely one more note... Nicky's suggestion that the famed (a word Nicky loves) astrologer Patric Walker killed his mentor the other celebrity stargazer Celeste by pushing her down a flight of stairs in 1974. While Nicky says he and Patric were great chums, why does Mr. H persistently spell Patric's name as ending with a 'k', when PW notoriously hated his trademark name (for this is what it was) wrongly spelled. Too annoy Patric in the other world?
All in all, from even a cursory examination of Redeeming Features, one can only conclude that this is the record of a charmed life. After reading the whole thing one wonders, however, "but has all this rushing about, partying, making love, chattering, photographing and designing interiors really meant something that's at all important?" No one I can think of has ever traded so successfully on looks, charm, and being the minor connection of an Earl. This book is certainly not boring.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2010
Redeeming Features is a hilarious, engagingly readable romp through one man's charmed life; full of anecdotes, indiscretions, and information about the rich, the creative and the famous. Well-written with evocative passages recalling a childhood in the countryside. What a memory - Nicky must have kept daily diaries for years. I thoroughly recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 November 2013
I read this biography and fell in love with the 70 year old homosexual author.He's the gay mate we'd have had if we were Paris Hilton, or back in the day, the beautiful Diana Cooper. His tales of La Dolce Vita are peppered with gloriously amusing anecdotes of the beautiful, rich and famous that drip with honeyed ease off his pen. I frequently dip into this book so that I can pretend I am the beautiful Vanessa Redgrave striding down to the lake they both lived on, where Nicky held one of his many fabulous parties. With my nose in between these pages,I live a glamorous and fantastic double life, the life that truly was and still is Nicky Haslam's.
on 14 March 2015
Awful meandering memoir of a seriously dysfunctional man. I can't really see the point of this book. It doesn't explore his character or his personality. We don't know much about him other than the fact that he considers himself devastatingly attractive to any man he meets. It is a tedious chronicle of his sexual conquests and a tiresome account of all the famous and well-to-do people he considers his friends. What a vacuous creature he seems to be! There appears to be nothing at all worthy about his narcissistic life. The book is a paean to our well known British vice of snobbery and class distinction. It is laughable how self-important this being is. With all the advantages he was born with he should have done something more worthy than party his way through life for the last 6 decades or so. Not at all likeable, he comes across as selfish and self-obsessed. The name dropping is simply boring. For example, he goes into detail about the time he met Elvis. The King said "Howdy" to him and that was it! Why bother to recollect that? Ah, but it is all in the name, and the book goes on and on like that ad infinitum.
Not recommended, it is an uninteresting read by a rather childish, silly man.
on 5 January 2011
Nicky Haslam's autobiography will delight those who know him or any of the plethora of famed "dramatis personae" that he engaged with. It is equally certain that it will enervate a fair percentage of those who did not. For the uninitiated the sheer weight of names, described by some as worse than a telephone directory, is extremely daunting and this attitude is understandable. But Mr.Haslam has a deft lap-top and can write extremely well. There are some well told anecdotes and his book will become a mine of information for social historians to come. Practically all those he meets, works or sleeps with are most likely "ex-directory" and the locations that his unusual but utterly successful life has touched are equally exotic. Recommended reading for the A-List and the passionately curious.
on 1 January 2013
This is a fabulous memoir of high living and exquisite tastes. The society cast runs into hundreds who feature in major and minor roles. Frederick Ashton, Cecil Beaton, and Stephen Tennant appear, to name but a few. The author has had a charmed life and can be charming and alarmingly frank about its gorgeous detail. His love of grand objects, grand people and grand locations comes across clearly. The book is well written and thoughtful. It follows the changing tastes and mores of post war Britain with intelligence and allows younger readers to appreciate the gay world pre 1969. I only wish I could sit in a country house or Chelsea flat to finish this book!