"There was Joe Goldstein, the public-relations counselor for Roosevelt Raceway, sitting around the office brooding about how he could improve the image of the seventh edition of the $100,000 Roosevelt International trotting championship. Because, let's face it, it was a poky sort of image with horses like that and maybe he needed to counsel some kind of stunt that would get it the hell into the papers.
Zounds! he said in that earthy way public-relations counselors talk. That was it, of course. Before you could pronounce discoth√®que, he was on the telephone to the counselor for the club Arthur, the nation's newest orgone box with built-in stereophonic torture chamber sound, to make a tie-in.
Would the owner-hostess of Arthur, the newly wed Mrs. Jordan Christopher, onetime wife of Actor Richard Burton, would she consider lending her heaving, wailing, jiggery palace on Manhattan's East 54th Street for a party in honor of her fellow Welshman, Geoffrey Lord Langford, the World War II hero and trotting driver from North Wales? He and his trotter, Hans B., would be representing Great Britain in the Roosevelt International—the first time that country has participated.
Mrs. Christopher said yes she would cooperate, because she is nothing if not accommodating. The wives of the working press went into action as soon as they saw their husbands' invitations. "I hope you can make it...SYBIL CHRISTOPHER." Imagine! Summer furs were shaken out all over the Bronx and Queens and the wives started saving their appetites for those little bits of Kennel Ration you get on crackers at cocktail parties.
August 1, 1965
When the party started, Sybil sat in her usual station in the corner, against the multicolored, nightmare-lighted Mondrian-like wall and his Lordship sat across the room fending off attacks from the press. He was charming about it all. Sybil was charming about it all, too.
The waiters in their marvelous Beatle haircuts and gray shirts with the white collars and cuffs brought drinks in those big, heavy old-fashioned bell glasses that are the only glasses used at Arthur and practiced their Mersey accents, several of the waiters being native New Yorkers.
A tall, dreamy-eyed English-appearing young man with long hair asked Sybil to dance. "No, luv," said Sybil to the young man, who turned out to be Joel Schumacher, the designer of the dress she had worn on the Arthur opening night. "I'm not up to it. But I want to talk to you about running up those velvet pajamas you sketched." Mr. Schumacher saw someone doing the twist. "No one has ever done the twist in Arthur before," he said. "What a mippy party."
Asked what 'mippy' meant, he said he didn't know, he'd just made it up. Asked if he were one of the many English designers imported to work for Seventh Avenue's Puritan Fashions Corp., he said no. "I grew up in Queens over the candy store. Do you love it?"
Lord Langford continued under attack at a small table, his back helplessly exposed to the dance floor. "You can have his Lordship as soon as Earl Wilson finishes," said a Roosevelt assistant flack. A reporter shoved him aside, ignoring his turn, and said, "What about your trotter, Hans B.? What makes you think he's got a chance?"
"Obviously a sports reporter," someone whispered to his Lordship, a dapper, genial man with sandy hair and a trim mustache. "They're the rude ones."
"Would you like to meet your hostess?" his Lordship was asked. "Oh, dear, yes," he said in his simple Welsh way. Lord Langford, Mrs. Christopher and Trainer Noel Simpson posed for a picture. NBC snatched Sybil from the scene for a private backroom interview. The press closed in on Lord Langford.
Reporter: Sir, have you ever been in a discoth√®que before?
Lord: To give a short answer—no.
Reporter: How do you like it?
Lord: I don't really know, you press people have been around like flies.
Reporter: Is your tie regimental, sir?
Lord: No, old school, Marlborough College. It's red, white, blue, red, white, blue, on and on, forever and ever.
Reporter: It's very dashing, sir, and I noticed a while back when you opened your coat, red suspenders.
Lord: Ah, yes, but in my country we call them braces. Suspenders are something you wear down here.
He pointed to his socks.
Sybil came along and the Roosevelt people invited her and her husband to the International on Saturday night to watch Lord Langford race.
"We'll be out of town over the weekend. I wish we could come," said Sybil.
A few days later the race came as rather an anticlimax to the excitement at Arthur. Sweden's Pluvier III won—and Lord Langford's horse, Hans B., finished eighth in a field of eight. For sheer mippiness, it's hard to beat that.