On a beautiful cloudless afternoon in San Francisco in the late 1930s, there were probably hundreds of luncheon parties being thrown, but only Lucius Beebe could have thrown this one.
The exact menu is unknown, but knowing Beebe it likely began with champagne, moved on to dishes rich and rare, and concluded with cognac and cigars. Then, to clear the meal’s remains, Beebe later recounted, “We threw the eggshells and other incidentals on Mr. Hearst’s elegant San Simeon estate.”
The luncheon, you see, took place on a Goodyear blimp. Among the clouds it was champagne, laughter, and eggshells aimed at America’s richest newspaper baron, while thousands of miles away the world prepared for war.
This is how Lucius Beebe spent his life: host of an endless moveable feast as untethered to the realities of time and place as that balloon floating above the Pacific coast. Beebe was a supreme example of the detached ironist laughing at the foibles of the modern world, but that vantage point came at the price of a kind of splendid isolation.
There was a time when Lucius Beebe was the most famous dandy in America. Fifty years ago, housewives in Fresno could tell you the number of suits in his well publicized wardrobe (there were 40). Commuters driving home to Westbury or Winnetka could describe the décor of his private railcar (Venetian Renaissance, complete with Turkish bath). And young men imagining a life beyond Springfield knew which of his lapel ornaments had been temporarily swiped by a socialite at a Noel Coward opening night (a diamond gardenia worth $10,000).
But say his name today and you’ll likely be met with an expression as empty as a speakeasy raided by New York’s finest.
Beebe was an author, bon vivant, and unrepentant Tory; a connoisseur of fine wines, railroad lore and bespoke haberdashery; and, due in great part to his own indefatigable efforts, he was once a legend on the order of Beau Brummell, King Kong, or P.T. Barnum — notables with whom he shared not a few idiosyncrasies.
—Lucius Beebe: Part One By Robert Sacheli (HT Dandyism.net)