Bunny Mellon – The Life of an American Style Legend
Rachel Lowe Lambert Lloyd Mellon was born into an affluent family (think Listerine and Gillette), married into an even richer family and lived a life of unimaginable wealth. Known to most as Bunny Mellon, she was friends with Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis and, because of her expertise in horticulture, was specially chosen by President Kennedy to redesign the White House’s Rose Garden. Bunny Mellon’s circle comprised the ultra-rich and well-connected. She and her second husband, Paul Mellon, son of Andrew Mellon, spent their married life acquiring artwork, purchasing, building and decorating homes in Virginia, New York, Cape Cod, Antigua and Paris. And while Paul indulged his love for horses, Bunny immersed herself in designing the perfect gardens to complement their impeccably decorated homes. They made sizeable artwork donations to the National Gallery of Art and Paul’s philanthropy extended to many other worthy causes.
In 2003, Bunny, at age 93, became fascinated with North Carolina Senator John Edwards. Edwards reminded her of President Kennedy and she was sure he was going to be the Democrats’ next rising star. She contributed millions of dollars to his campaign and to supporting organizations, and in 2007, sent secret money to Edwards’s personal account. He used that money to support his pregnant girlfriend, Rielle Hunter, while his wife battled Stage 4 breast cancer.
Throughout her life, Bunny had intense friendships with such notables as jewelry designer Johnny Schlumberger and fashion designers Cirstóbal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy. Over many decades, Bunny cultivated and discarded many other friendships. Despite her wealth, Bunny endured much sorrow and heartache. The Lambert and Mellon families were loaded with sibling rivalries, feuds, affairs, divorce, estrangements and multiple plane crashes.
In this detailed biography, Meryl Gordon tells Bunny Mellon’s hundred plus year story. She begins with Bunny’s privileged childhood, elite education, and first marriage to Stacy Lloyd, Jr. and introduces Paul Mellon in a parallel build-up. Much of the book covers their married years, socializing with celebrities, dignitaries and royalty and, of course, buying things. Gordon also includes a great deal of the Kennedy story and American politics.
I enjoyed reading this biography, but I felt the book was too long and heavy with tedious details. I also tired of reading about Bunny’s talent for horticulture and love of nature and long descriptions of flowers and how they were arranged.
In addition to the length, I was frustrated by the author’s interpretation of thoughts and suggestions as to how Bunny, Paul and their friends may have felt in different situations. There were also times when the author’s opinions seemed to be mixed into the facts. Gordon’s thorough research and reporting would have been enough for most readers.
Nevertheless, Gordon does a great job depicting an extraordinary life. Bunny used her money to live extravagantly and foster friendships and she found beauty in nature, a theme that helped fill one of her many needs. Bunny died in 2014 at age 103.
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