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Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by dhermann1, Apr 22, 2012.
After reading this I have no interest in condemning or judging this man. If anything I admire his determination to lead a life that he found engaging and richly rewarding. I think that most of us here do not have family backgrounds or history that we have to preserve and maintain. Like most Americans we choose to follow whatever path we find appealing and accessible. We are not the prisoners of the past, not even our immediate family history. I think that this is a great freedom.
My family background is modest. Building upon my parent's hard work and thrift I was able to aquire a college education and a modest middle class life. My goal is to help my children attain whatever goals they are willing to work for.
The gentleman in the article found a world of style, grace, and gentility that he immersed himself in. The fact that he was not "of that world", probably doesn't surprise or offend us. We are all trying to find a way to express the things that we value, and that we hope to emulate, especially here at the lounge.
A tip of the (top?) hat to this gentleman!
Thank you for the posting. It really made my day!:eusa_clap
The best line in the article comes from Obolensky: "I don't ask about lineage. It's not done." Now *that's* class.
Really enjoyed that story. I liked one of the comments about how all of us re-interpret ourselves, though less extremely, at various points in our life. How many put on a facade throughout their day to appear better salesmen, more knowledgable or more athletic. For that matter, why must we conform our identity to our status? Why be a carbon copy of everyone else out there, living our lives like everyone else will.
If I want to put a transformer helmet on top of my car, or wear a tophat to the grocery store, or wear a suit every day, what's the big deal?
Bless it! Now this is a very nice article! Thanks for posting it.
I can't imagine so totally lying about where I come from, unless there was something I was trying to escape. I do get concealing things- not all beginnings are equally advantageous and it's nice to be able to blend in to whatever you want to blend into. I do hope that this man didn't have something really dark in his past that made him change his beginnings story, just like I'd hope that for anyone else.
I don't understand what people were so upset about. So he lied about where his family came from. He never really lied about himself, nor did he misrepresent himself (as far as I can tell from the article). He did misrepresent his ancestry and heritage, I'm sure other people do that on a semi-regular basis, and that's not so much a lie about himself as a lie about others who are long dead and gone.
From the original article: "This was at a moment when I was covering New Jersey, and articles beneath my byline were likely to concern prostitutes in Newark or corrupt police officers in Palisades Park."
Except for his lack of composure when dealing with his mother's death, he really seemed like a gentleman, dealing with a past he didn't want to have to face. He made it work for him beautifully.
In his own way, I think this guy lived up to one of the most bedrock of American values: it doesn't matter who you *were.* All that matters is who you *are.* That's a value that's become increasingly lost with the modern fixation on identity politics, in which your identity is unalterably defined by the circumstances of your birth, but Mr. Feuer thumbed his nose at all that and defined his life on his own terms. Good for him.
I completely agree.
Well, the reason he reacted the way he did when his mother died, I assume, was because he was afraid a public obituary might expose him.
I know a guy upstate very similar to this. He's from Queens NY, and his family are straight out of King of Queens, or Archie Bunker. Nice folks but certainly not "cultured". He spent most of his adult life in England, in the theater, and was the partner of a pretty famous British actor who died a few years ago and left him pretty well set up. He now is back in the country, living a pleasant retirement in Dutchess County NY. He affects the same thick British accent, and is obviously uncomfortable with his family's reality. He doesn't pretend he's not related, tho. I think he shudders at their New York accent, etc.
It seems to be a phenomenon with some people, when they are ashamed of where they came from to a slightly pathological degree. Nothing wrong with it as long as they don't try to pass themselves off as brain surgeons. But still, a little neurotic, I think. Take all kinds, eh?
The question is, though, what exactly *is* his reality? I'd expect someone who lived the majority of his adult life in England to pick up an accent, and if he spent forty or fifty years traveling in British theatrical circles, that, to me, would *be* his reality, not the twenty years or so he spent growing up with the Bunkers.
Another good example of re-invention is the musical-comedy star Frances Day, who was the toast of London's West End in the thirties -- the very essence of the British singing/dancing stage star. Cultured accent, refined manner, icy good looks. And yet, at the end of her life she denied ever having been that person -- she presented herself as a nondescript English widow. Except she wasn't that, either, if you go by strict definition -- Her real name was Frances Schenck, she was born and raised in East Orange, New Jersey, and her elegant persona was entirely the result of stage training, elocution lessons, and lots and lots of brass.
So who was she really? Whoever she said she was.
I like this story. I do find it kind of funny. I could have told you this guy was not who he appeared to be for the simple reason that true old money and nobility are not quite so dedicated to preserving things quite like this. Sure, they still dress up, and organize balls. But this guy was obviously living a fantasy based on an older time. Maybe I m wrong, but I think his love and reverence for this way of life could only have come from someone aspiring towards it, not descended from it.
And I imagine we would all agree that given the choice of going to a true modern society ball full of truly rich people, versus the events he was into, which were, apparently, not the big high society mover and shaker events in New York, we would all rather go to the latter. Sounds like great fun.
I am actually a little surprised that the old true nobility guy was surprised. It seems other knew or suspected but didn't care.
In another time and place, he might have been one of those guys that moves into high society, and either cons them out of their money (surely this guy would not do that though) them or manages to work his way in and be completely accepted. I am sure there are people conning their way into high society at this moment. But this guy wanted to work his way into a past high society, not a present one, it seems. Well done.
The Era was full of people who brassed their way into Society -- another good example is Clifton Webb, who spent his whole life playing the part of the Most Debonair Man Alive, on and off the stage, even though he was the son of a railroad ticket-clerk from Indiana. Anyone who knew him -- and certainly not he himself -- would never have considered the Midwestern rube Webb P. Hollenbeck to be his "true" identity.
I think the fact that Obolensky didn't seem fazed by the revelation of Feuer's background is the mark of a true aristocrat -- such people have nothing to prove to themselves, so he'd be in no way threatened by the idea of a low-born man passing as a member of the aristocracy. The only people who'd find it threatening would be parvenus and social climbers who'd be afraid of losing their own status.
I just wondered why the Mr. Feuer who showed up at the New York Yacht Club in "denim trousers" felt obliged to "out" the late Mr. Feuer who seemed to live a quietly pleasant life, doing harm to no one? Seems a rather petty and mean spirited thing to do. But, as the Bard once wrote, "The evil men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones..." courtesy, it seems, of a reporter from The New York Times.
He seemed truly surprised. I would have expected a knowing wink while he said he was surprised, or him saying he didn't much care either way.
On the other hand, don't be so sure these people do not care. they may have no objection to a fellow like this. But that doesn't mean they would approve of their child marrying one, to paraphrase an old phrase.
Precisely. I don't think she was lying, nor do I think this gentleman was lying. The word "lying" has connotations that I don't think fit this story. A similarly, I don't think the word "fantasy" applies.
So who were these people? Whoever they wanted to be; and why not? Especially this gentleman. I don't think he misrepresented himself, or lived in a fantasy. He preferred to keep some of his affairs private. And in any case, why shouldn't he be able to live how he liked? [huh]
As a reporter, it's just part of the job - telling the stories that sell. This particular story is infinitely more interesting once you find out his past isn't what you'd expect. A rags to riches story is interesting - moreso when the riches are all an act, and the rags are kept secret from the world.
I wondered aloud, "And you called him your friend?" I would think good manners (to say the least!) would dictate this journalist to leave sleeping dogs lie.
It seems he did allude to being of Austrian nobility, but I am not so sure anyone cared. It was a lie, but likely, a pretty harmless one of living out a fantasy that everyone seemed to not care much about, and to go along with. I doubt he would have been ostracized or kicked out if he were to tsay he was of peasant stock, and born in new Jersey.