I have the good fortune to know one of England's most alluring eccentrics, Amanda Eliasch. We met years ago during my London days, and have kept in touch ever since. It's always fascinating to hear what she's been up to.
Photographer, actor, artist and now poet, she has just released a book entitled "Cloak Dagger and Butterfly: A Journey Through the Madness of Passion via Blackberry."
Composed of actual emails sent to paramours in the throes of long insomnia-filled nights, her word lie provocatively alongside her photographs of burlesque dancers. According to Amanda, the emails proved to be a good way of courting, acting as they did as an old-fashioned form of seduction. "Although some [of the poems] are salacious, they're still just writing, they're not doing," says Amanda.
Passionately curious about everything, she is a glamorous renegade, someone who follows her own inklings, whether they be hiking deep into the hill villages of Chiang Mai or painting her convertible Schiaparelli pink and hiring an ex-gang member to emblazon it with skulls.
In Paris, she lives in a building designed by Robert Mallet-Stevens, who, along with Corbusier, is widely regarded as the most influential French architect in the period between the two World Wars.
(Courtyard entry, Mallet-Stevens building)
(View of front of building)
The apartment comes with quite a provenance, being the former home of another female artist, Tamara de Lempicka, who lived there in the 1920's. "I wouldn't be so arrogant as to compare myself to her," says Amanda, "but I am fascinated by her. She was a free spirit."
Influenced in equal parts by burlesque and Art Deco, the first floor is a stunning space with huge double-height windows and a zig zag staircase.
(Interior of Amanda's apartment, formerly owned by Tamara de Lempicka)
In London, she lives in elegant Chester Square in a house originally designed by Sir Hugh Casson. "It was a massive project and took two years of our life to complete," says Amanda. "I did it up with huge help from my ex-husband, who was a complete star. Nobody really liked the house with its chain metal lights hanging in swags in the dining room, the aviary at the back or the cork walls and purple carpet in my bedroom...however, I did. Needing a lot of love and attention, I kept its craziness and made it mine."
In Los Angeles, she has recently laid down roots atop the Hollywood Hills, in a wonderland of mid-century modernism designed by famed architect Hal Levitt.
Over Christmas, Piero and I had a cozy dinner at her house, furnished in Amanda's cheeky mix of decadence, wit and royalism. Skulls feature prominently, as do tiaras. Her teenaged sons, Charles and Jack, had us spellbound with tales about their proper English boarding schools while her baby greyhounds raced around us in circles.
At one point in the evening Charles, a virtuoso pianist and aspiring opera singer, gave in to our pleas and sat down to play a piece by Handel. Seconds later, Amanda joined him at the piano and their voices rose in strong and stirring harmony. It was a very "Bloomsbury" moment.