“It is a miracle that all this docile strength waits behind one tiny lever for the pleasure of my hand,” T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) wrote of his Brough Superior in the 1920s. Built by hand in Nottingham, England from 1919–1940, the “Rolls-Royce of motorcycles” became an instant legend thanks to the likes of Lawrence, who owned eight of them. Extremely fast, exclusive and expensive, no two of the custom-built bikes were exactly alike. At its Stafford, UK sale at The Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show on October 18 Bonhams will be offering some exceptionally rare examples of the magnificent machines, including some project and dismantled bikes, carefully assembled and preserved over the past 40 years, a number of them flown 9,000 miles from a private collection in Australia.
For over 200 years James Purdey & Sons of London has been crafting the world’s finest bespoke shotguns and rifles. The firm has enjoyed royal patronage since 1838, when Queen Victoria placed her first order, for a pair of pistols. King Edward VII granted the first official Royal Warrant to the founder’s son, James Purdey the Younger, in 1868, a practice continued by each successive English royal including Prince Charles and the present Queen. In 1882 Purdey established its workshop and showroom at Audley House in Mayfair, which the sporting periodical Land and Water called a “palace amongst gun manufactories.” A business so steeped in tradition has had little need to modernize over the years – the firm’s gunmakers still craft their own tools by hand at the beginning of their five-year apprenticeships before using them to fashion the world’s finest firearms – but nearly 135 years later Audley House has been subtly “refitted”, ushering in something of a new era for Purdey.
One of Purdey’s first concessions to modern times was the introduction of a range of high quality shooting clothing, in 1973 – the first London gunmaker to do so. The updates to Audley House are mainly aimed at devoting more real estate to this burgeoning part of the business, allowing for a dedicated clothing and accessories section on the shop floor, with the main gun room now located exclusively in the building’s historic Long Room, which once featured a “well” for looking down into the firm’s workshop below. Whilst saving up for a London-made Purdey 12-bore – or perhaps in lieu of owning an actual gun – enthusiasts can acquire thick tweed coats and other items redolent of grouse shooting weekends at English country estates, conjuring images of muddy Land Rovers, muddier gun dogs and lots of smoky single malt. Purdey’s new range of clothing for autumn includes variations on classic tweed patterns custom milled in the Scottish borders, new windproof knitwear made in England, and the first-time offering of suede and leather pieces.
Blue Note’s jazz records are true icons of American cool. A little ironic, then, that the music label was founded by two white guys from Berlin. One of them, Francis Wolff, began his career in Germany as a commercial photographer and carried his camera along to every Blue Note recording session in New York City in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Many of his images were incorporated into Blue Note’s now legendary album covers, and a new book by musician and producer Michael Cuscuna from Flammarion being published next month offers up some of his best work along with a number of previously unpublished pix. Over 100 of Blue Note’s most revered artists, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, Hank Mobley, Grant Green and Sonny Rollins are included in the book, which features more than 150 of Wolff’s shots.
Naturally recording a jazz album required a lot of smoking, and it seems like Blue Note definitely did its part to boost the shares of Philip Morris; though while many may have mastered the art of lighting up like Art Blakey, hardly any could come close to playing the drums with the same panache. The photos of Wolff (and later Blue Note designer Reid Miles) were candids of artists at work and not staged, however, unlike the many copies and “homages” in the years since, and there’s a lot of great stuff here to pore over. Wolff “didn’t waste shots reaching for an image,” Cuscuna writes. “His eye and his technique nailed it, usually in the first take.” Originals of some of Wolff’s photographs can be found at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in NYC. The book, called simply Blue Note, is available for pre-order on Amazon. We recommend making some space on the shelf now.
In Palm Beach they take their polo very seriously indeed. In the Hamptons it was all about rubbing elbows and such in the VIP tent, never mind what’s happening on the field. And in Newport, Rhode Island it’s about having a damn good time, before, during and after the match. Not long ago we watched team USA / Newport defend their winning record against a team from Italy in a six chukker match at the Newport Polo Club grounds at historic Glen Farm in Portsmouth, RI. The Newport Polo Club is the functioning body of the Westchester Polo Club, America’s first polo club. In 1876 the Westchester Polo Club of New York, which was active until 1929, established its summer headquarters in Newport. In 1992 the Westchester Polo Club was revived in Newport and is now popularly known as Newport Polo Club.
As opposed to the professional high-goal polo played in Palm Beach, the teams competing in Newport are mostly talented amateurs, members of clubs like Newport. Whereas most top-tier teams with corporate sponsors are dominated by South American players, in Newport younger players and several women take the field, with the action a little less intense than among high-goalers. In Newport a day of polo is more of a family outing, where everyone packs a picnic including their wine, beer and spirits of choice. Spirited lawn games are played on the field before and after matches and during half time and tailgating is the thing, with only a couple of Ferraris thrown in for good measure. Though there is a Pavilion it doesn’t quite have the feel of a VIP enclosure, and there are generally fewer champagne corks popping than in Palm Beach or Bridgehampton and much less Lilly Pulitzer on display.
“For more than five centuries Winchester has molded tough-minded English gentlemen,” LIFE magazine wrote about one of the oldest public schools in the UK in 1951. While Winchester College in Hampshire, UK has never attained the the fame of Eton or Harrow, it is safe in the knowledge that having been founded in 1382 it is “older than almost all other public schools and the model for most of them.” For more than 500 years Winchester had been “helping to perpetuate a breed of Englishmen whose authoritative bearing and strait-laced espousal of ‘fair play’ have always set them aside as a public school product”. Winchester men call themselves Wykehamists, after their founder, William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester.
Until 1984 Wykehamists were also well known for their straw boaters, or “strats” which featured students’ house colors on the band, still sported by Old Wykehamists on Winchester Day. The term “public school”, confusing to Americans as it equates to private and boarding schools here, came about because schools like Winchester were originally established to educate poor scholars who could not afford private tutoring, with a smattering of noblemen’s sons for good measure. While some now take a public school education as a signifier of snobbery, as LIFE wrote, “To Winchester men the motto ‘Manners Makyth Man’ on the school coat of arms sums it up: rugged discipline and a sound education, not noble birth, determine a man’s stature.”
Heir to both a Danish nobleman’s title and the vast Woolworth fortune by birth, Lance Reventlow had Cary Grant for a stepfather, a Bond Girl for a wife and James Dean for a best friend. The only child of heiress Barbara Hutton and her second husband, Count Kurt von Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow, he became a successful racing driver, race car constructor and entrepreneur before dying in a tragic airplane accident at the age of 36. Another of his stepfathers, Russian Prince Igor Troubetzkoy, had exposed him to the world of grand prix racing at a young age. Troubetzkoy, the first grand prix driver to compete in a Ferrari, won the 1948 Targa Florio at the wheel of a Ferrari 166 S. Reventlow was later determined equal the feat in an American car.
In the 1950s Reventlow set up Reventlow Automobiles Inc. (RAI) in Venice, California, to construct Chevrolet-powered race cars called Scarabs to go racing “for America” in grand prix competition. Chuck Daigh drove a Scarab to victory in the 1958 Riverside International Grand Prix in California, trouncing the likes of Ferrari and Maserati. Daigh and Reventlow himself drove two Formula 1 Scarab single-seaters in the 1960 F1 season, making their debut at the Monaco GP, though success proved more elusive. Nonetheless the dashing racers won fame as the world’s first all-American team of F1 cars, while Reventlow, who had just married Jill St. John – later to star as Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever – captured the attention of the celebrity press.
In its entire 164-year history Great Britain has never won the America’s Cup. Land Rover and the dashing Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history, are looking to change that in 2017 at the 35th America’s Cup race in Bermuda. In order to challenge defender Oracle Team USA, which is backed by BMW, the newly formed Land Rover BAR (Ben Ainslee Racing) team will first have to win the 2017 Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. Ainslie has had a good showing so far, having won the first race in the UK and placed second in the next, though points-wise the Brits are lagging behind Team Emirates New Zealand heading into the final World Series event of the season in Bermuda in October. Sir Ben and the boys are counting on Jaguar Land Rover’s Advanced Engineering division to give them an edge. All of the America’s Cup teams are racing in foiling multi-hull catamarans with no engine to help work the hydraulics.