And now for some shameless name-dropping….

While dusting off my blog in preparation for tonight’s departure for Roger’s “Birthday Which Must Not Be Named” celebration in Germany, I found this unpublished blog post. It should probably remain unpublished, but I’m shameless enough to post it now – mostly as fair warning that more musings are on the way.  You might want to take this opportunity to disable your subscription.  Or not.

These events are from summer/fall of 2014:

Shameless name drop #1:   We’d first arranged a short trip to London when we learned that John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (did I need to tell you that?), would be teaching a two week course at Roger’s law school’s summer program.  We thought it would be intriguing to attend his “History of the US Supreme Court” lectures, if only to see if he knew his stuff.  (Turns out, he did.)  A few weeks before the trip, we were asked to submit a photograph to Mr. Chief Justice’s administrative assistant; we figured it was probably for security purposes and didn’t give it another thought.

The first day of class finally arrived, and Mr. Chief Justice entered the room without fanfare (although  two security attaches lingered nearby.  We assumed they were Secret Service, but they weren’t the kind of fellows you engaged in small talk:  “So,  you Secret Service, or what?”   “Bang.  Bang.  Bang.”    The 84 first year law students sat in stupefied silence (or well mannered respectful silence – it can be hard to tell the difference) as he assumed the podium.  In the first five minutes of his lecture, he began asking questions –  to our collective horror AND amazement, he looked directly at students and called each of them by name!  (So THAT’S what the photos were for!).  Sitting safely on the sidelines (terrified that he might accidentally call on one of us), it was riveting to watch the students anticipate their turn in the hot seat.   When MCJ (takes too long to type Mr. Chief Justice) briefly stumbled on one student’s name (c’mon, he’s human.  Probably.), the poor kid couldn’t remember HIS OWN NAME.  One can only imagine the thrill of being a young, hopeful, innocent aspiring attorney (I may have just invented this person) having an opportunity to impress (or even just to interact with) the Chief Justice.  And then forgetting your name. Most of those kids will never again be in the same room with any Supreme Court Justice, let alone the Chief.   It was a mesmerizing performance .. by all involved.

The gregarious and charming secret service guys (“Stand there!”  “Stop here!”  “You sit!”  “DO NOT TAKE ANY PHOTOS!”) helpfully arranged all the students so I could take this photo.  (can’t get me now, can you SS??)  If you peer closely at the photo with a magnifying glass, you can see John Roberts sitting right in the middle, with the light-colored pants on.  (It’s very hard to take an iphone photo with your knee.)

John Roberts 2


Shameless name drop #2:  The next night, we attended a play titled “The Commitments”.  If you’re heading to London, book tickets NOW!  If this ever tours and comes to your town, book tickets THEN!  It was one of the best evenings of theater we’ve ever experienced.   Adding to the evening’s fun was the presence of Stanley Tucci, sitting directly in front of us, on his feet dancing throughout the second act (as were we all) with his 3 good-looking, but not bald, children.

Shameless name drops #3 and 4:  We stayed at The Ritz in London.  I can recommend this hotel without reservation.  (Unless you’re planning to stay there.)  The hotel is probably best known for their afternoon tea:  finger sanwiches, pastries, scones, pots of perfectly prepared tea and foot massages by uniformed servers (maybe memory has embellished the experience a bit) in an unparalleled setting. (Lots of gilt and mirrors.  It’s like having tea at Versailles. Or in a very upscale Fun House.)  One morning, at breakfast, who should be sitting at a table nearby but Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue magazine.  (And the inspiration for the lead character in “The Devil Wears Prada”.) I quickly reviewed what I was wearing (OMG!) and tried to hide behind three napkins and a tablecloth.   She had on the single most beautiful suit I have ever seen.  And huge jewelry.  And stilettos.  At breakfast.  She was adorable.  Guess what I wear at breakfast after seeing Ms. Wintour?  (That’s right – my jammies!)

Shameless name drop #5:  The play “Skylight”, starring Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually, The Best Marigold Hotel) opened on the West End.  Despite a poor dear coughing out a lung behind us (note to poor dear:  STAY HOME when you’re sick.  PLEASE.), the play was engaging and smart, and is on Broadway now.  (Seeing Bill Nighy in person was, to me, much more fun than being terrorized by MCJ.)

Shameless name drop #5:  The stellar concierge at The Ritz arranged for us to visit “Highclere”.  Here are some photos.  If you don’t rcognize this house, you need to watch more PBS.  (Taking a cue from MCJ’s secret service, no photos are allowed inside the house.  If you’re interested, I can do some sketches.)  And yes, it looks exactly like it does on “Downton Abbey” (now I’ve given it away) except that it is filled with portraits and photos of the family (the Carnavons) that actually lives there.  The sixth Earl of Carnavon discovered King Tut’s tomb and tradition holds that he was cursed by it.  (Yes, sadly, his family now has to endure the millions of dollars being generated by allowing their home to be used on TV.)  There were some artifacts in the basement but not a trace of Carson, Mr. Bates, Daisy or even a kitchen.  The Tut stuff was interesting if you could suddenly switch gears from ‘English Upper Class Fantasy Land’ to ‘Tut Tomb Leftovers’ (all the good stuff tours the world in museum shows).

Highclere Castle

Shameless name drops #6, 7 & 8:  If you’re reading this anywhere near Chicago, do yourself a favor and click this: “Chicago Humanities Festival” and get tickets for the spring events:  Nick Offerman, Judd Apatow and Azis Ansari.  (And if you don’t know who they are, learn.)  Through our association with the CHF, we had the thrill of sponsoring Lena Dunham, Wallace Shawn and Paula Poundstone last fall.  And if you don’t know who those people are, we can’t be friends anymore.


Shameless shamelessness #1:  My altar to Lena Dunham (and her bracelet, which I admired and which she sent to me the day after her appearance)


Lena's altar

We’ll be at the Festival in the Fall (typically late October/early November).  Do yourself a favor and bookmark the festival, then come see the inspiring programs and events (and us!) before the holiday rush.

And, a parting Shameless photo:  Hugh Jackman on the streets of New York in November

Hugh Jackman

15 Responses to And now for some shameless name-dropping….

  1. Morgan Wood April 27, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    I am so, so, SO glad you’re baaaaack! Loved that you shared this. Hilarious as always. So looking forward to your upcoming musings.

  2. Linda Czajka April 27, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    It’s wonderful to have you back! But shame on you….I would have expected you to wear “the special pants” to breakfast with Ms. Wintour! Look forward to hearing the details of the “BWMNBN” trip. And more Hugh Jackman, please!!

  3. Libby April 27, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    Loved this and looking forward to more. With or without Hugh Jackman but we noticed you saved him til last . . .

  4. Rem Cabrera April 27, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

    Am now a subscribed fan of this marvelous blog. When I visited the no-relation-to-the-cracker Ritz to ask about arrangements for High Tea, I was politely but firmly informed by the Ritz Person in the Ritz Lobby that sneakers are not allowed to be worn in the Ritz. I tried to stammer out that I just wanted to make a reservation to return on another day for High Tea, but the Ritz Person kept interrupting me with his quiet affirmation that Sneakers Are Not Allowed To Be Worn In The Ritz. Apparently, it is an affront to some Highly Moral Law that I wasn’t aware of—bet MCJ was—to even so much as step into the Ritz lobby in one’s offensive sneakers. I slunk away in shameful defeat, never to return, never to have my High Tea, thinking in my snarky way that if I had been Woody Allen—who was known for wearing sneakers with his tuxes—the Ritz Person would have carried me in on his back to ensure that the Ritz floor didn’t come in contact with the sneakers on my famous feet. If you swapped emails with MCJ, please shoot him a note and ask him not to be a pinhead with the Oberfegell case like he was last time with Windsor, okay?

    • Elaine Haydock April 27, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

      Hi Rem! Nice to hear from you! Of course, MCJ and I are Facebook friends, so I’ll put your request in… (the guy has a HILARIOUS timeline and his status updates are pricless)

  5. Janis A. Wyandt April 27, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    Can’t match all your shamelessness BUT I attended a wedding at Highclere and it was amazing. This was pre-Downton.

    • Elaine Haydock April 27, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

      Wow, Jan! That must have been beautiful! How’s Colorado??

      • Janis A. Wyandt April 27, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

        Yes it was a Jewish, Indian, Christian ceremony. Colorado is great . Spring is arriving. We may be heading to Spearfish area later this spring. Check out Mt. Rushmore. Will you be in Aspen this summer?

        • Elaine Haydock April 28, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

          Hi again! Sadly, we won’t be in Aspen this summer; we’ve decided to spend a bit of time in Minnesota after this trip to Europe. Roger will be in Spearfish in early June – when do you think you might be in the area??

  6. Gallo April 27, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

    Who is this Tucci guy?
    You told us John Roberts was in the Supreme Court but I already knew that…
    Great photo of Jackman; he looks like a college kid.

    • Elaine Haydock April 28, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

      Hi Dr. Steve! Good heavens, you KNOW who Stanley Tucci is! Google him for a photo… you’re probably a fan already! John Roberts said he knew you were a physician trying to pass the Boards….

  7. Sandy Lew-Hailer April 28, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    Ah Elaine,
    Amazing and wonderful and nicely dropped names/pictures!
    I am in NYC – a little work and a little fun~ saw “Something Rotten” a musical that just opened and highly recommend it when next you are here!
    Seattle still beckons you!

    XO sandy

    • Elaine Haydock April 28, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

      Hi Sandy! Thanks for the recommendation! Are you in NYC buying some Xenia Design?? I’m jealous!! (And I DO hear Seattle calling my name – specifically from a little unparalleled boutique! To everyone reading this: When in Seattle, don’t miss a trip to Sandylew – absolutely the best women’s clothing and accessories store on both coasts!!)

  8. Judy Stewart May 3, 2015 at 5:00 pm #


    Jim and I are extremely jealous that you stepped foot in Highclere. We are loyal fans of Downton Abbey and even drink the Downton Abbey tea. We have all the DVD’s of every show and watch hours at a time. Were you able to see any of the fabulous costumes that are worn on the show. I would give anything to just have one dress and tiara from Downton. I hope I can go there someday. In the meantime, you an take me places that I can’t get to right now. Buy more shoes!

    Judy S.

    • Elaine Haydock May 3, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

      Judy, I’d be happy to return to Highclere and relieve them of one of their tiaras IF you would promise to wear it to the next cousins lunch we have!!

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