The Swans of Society: Babe Paley

Way before Paris Hilton orgasmed her way into the nation's hearts and minds, the American socialite was a thing of beauty. Wrapped up in our security blanket of democracy, Americans have nonetheless been openly envious of royalty, having tried for centuries to replicate their own. The Rockefellers, the Astors and the Vanderbilts rose to prominence during the 19th century, establishing their own regal dynasties in the process and other families soon followed suit. What they lacked in title they more than made up for in wealth. And even with fluctuations in the market, they at least had their good breeding to fall back on. The age of the modern socialite peaked with Truman Capote's  Black and White Ball in 1966 where the cream of society -- New York socialites, Hollywood stars, foreign royalty and dignitaries -- hobnobbed with one another in their finest finery all under the lustful gaze of the Pucklike scribe as he celebrated the recent success of In Cold Blood. Capote surrounded himself with only the most elegant of women, socialites who embodied his ideals of style and refinement: his swans. "Authentic swans," Capote said, "are almost never women nature and the world has at all deprived. God gave them good bones; some lesser personage, a father, a husband, blessed them with that best of beauty emollients, a splendid bank account. Being a great beauty, and remaining one, is, at the altitude flown here, expensive." -- Party of the Century, Deborah Davis. John Wiley & Sons, 2006 This week we'll profile some of these swans beginning with the head of the flock, Babe Paley [1915-1978].