Earlier this week three or four friends referred Etiquetteer to the latest Joan Crawford meme (see above). This time, for a refreshing change, the subject isn’t child abuse, bad behavior, or Bette Davis, but entertaining at home. And vodka. In fact the part of this meme that seems to have captivated most people is the last two sentences: “Another important party secret is I always add a splash of vodka to everything. Nobody ever knows and everyone ends up having a wonderful time.”
Etiquetteer recognized the first part of this lengthy quotation. It comes from La Crawford’s book My Way of Life, which really lets you into the rarefied state of mind she inhabited in her last decade. Her advice on how to assemble a group of party guests, “The best parties are a wild mixture of people,” comes in Chapter IV, “The Pleasure of Company.” Unfortunately, it does not include advice on the Secret Omnipresence of Vodka! Which just goes to show, once again, that just because something is on the Internet doesn’t make it true. (If you have an original source for Joan Crawford saying it, please send it to Etiquetteer at once. And no, Tumblr isn’t an original source.)
“So, what about Joan Crawford’s party advice,” you might ask. “Is it any good? Does it hold up in the 21st century, Etiquetteer?” For the most part, yes. Much of this chapter is the typical advice for a Perfectly Proper party: plan well and plan well in advance, hire help if you can afford it, keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold, don’t always serve the same foods to the same people, etc. For Joan, twelve was the best number for a dinner party. One unexpected gem came from her good friend William Haines: you can move the party from one room in your house to another, but not from one place to another. She also suggests how to plan so that one of the helpers can tidy in the living room while everyone is serving themselves in the dining room by emptying ashtrays and clearing empty glasses. Etiquetteer doesn’t know about you, but has very rarely been to a party in the last ten years at which ashtrays were even required.
She also suggests “rehearsing” your outfit. “Whether you’re having only six for dinner or fifty for cocktails, wear a lovely gown. A hotess has earned the right to look special. When all the other ladies wear short skirts, she can look smashing in a long one, or in hostess pajamas. She can sparkle, glitter, and greet her guests in a riot of color. It’s her special privilege.”
While that whole “splash of vodka” thing is amusing, Etiquetteer has to be very stern in advising you against it. Aside from those who are recovering from addiction or have medical reasons to avoid alcohol (and you may not know), you never know who might be subject to random drug testing because of their careers (and you may not know). Etiquetteer must urge you not to take the chance.
Returning to Joan’s original advice about mixing up the generations - it’s wonderful, and you should do it. One has older friends for wisdom, good stories, and good humor, and one has young friends for freshness, originality, and good humor. Whoever created this meme, however, has totally dissed the sciences. In the book, the sentence ends “. . . a hairdresser, a professor of physics, toss them all together, and try to get them to stop talking long enough to eat!” Academics make very entertaining guests, and should always be included!
And with that, Etiquetteer will conclude with the words of the late Mame Dennis, “Then we’ll just add water and stir.”