Saturday, December 09, 2017

Born Today in 1902: Journalist 'Luscious' Lucius Beebe

"Luscious" Lucius Beebe was born today, December 9, in 1902. He was an author, gourmand, photographer, railroad historian, journalist, and syndicated columnist.

Beebe was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts, to a prominent Boston family. He attended both Harvard and Yale Universities, where he contributed to the campus newspaper, Harvard Crimson, and the humor magazine, The Yale Record. 

During his tenures at boarding school and university, Beebe was known for his numerous pranks. One of his more outrageous stunts included an attempt at festooning J. P. Morgan's yacht Corsair III with toilet paper from a chartered airplane.

During and immediately after obtaining his degree from Harvard, Beebe published several books of poetry, but eventually found his true calling in journalism. He worked as a journalist for the New York Herald Tribune, the San Francisco Examiner, the Boston Telegram, and the Boston Evening Transcript, and was a contributing writer to many magazines such as Gourmet, The New Yorker, Town and Country, Holiday, American Heritage, and Playboy.

He wrote a syndicated column for the New York Herald Tribune from the 1930s through 1944 called This New York. The column chronicled the doings of fashionable society at such storied restaurants and nightclubs as El Morocco, the 21 Club, the Stork Club, and The Colony. Mr. Beebe is credited with popularizing the term "cafe society," which was used to describe the people mentioned in his column.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Beebe wrote more than 35 books. These dealt primarily with railroading and café society. Many of his railroad books were written with his longtime companion Charles Clegg.

Along with Clegg, Beebe owned two private railcars, the Gold Coast and The Virginia City. The Gold Coast, Georgia Northern / Central of Georgia No. 100, was built in 1905 and is now at the California State Railroad Museum.

A noted boulevardier, Beebe had an impressive and baroque wardrobe. Beebe's clothing included 40 suits, at least two mink-lined overcoats, numerous top hats and bowlers, a collection of doeskin gloves, walking sticks and a substantial gold nugget watch chain. Columnist Walter Winchell referred to Beebe and his wardrobe as "Luscious Lucius." Beebe's sartorial splendor was recognized when he appeared in full formal day attire on the cover of Life over the title of "Lucius Beebe Sets a Style."

Many of Beebe's articles and columns addressed men's traditional fashion. He was especially fond of English bespoke tailoring and shoes, and wrote glowing articles about noted court tailor Henry Poole and Company and no
ted bootmaker John Lobb, whom he patronized on a regular basis.

In 1940, Beebe met Charles Clegg in Washington, D.C. The two soon developed a personal and professional relationship that continued for the rest of Beebe's life. By the standards of the era, the romantic relationship Beebe and Clegg shared was relatively open and well-known. Previously, Beebe had been involved with society photographer Jerome Zerbe.

Beebe and Clegg initially lived in New York City, where both men were prominent in café society circles. Eventually tiring of that social life, the two moved in 1950 to Virginia City, Nevada, a tiny community that had once been a fabled mining boomtown. There, they reactivated and began publishing the Territorial Enterprise, a fabled 19th century newspaper that had once been the employer of Mark Twain.

Clegg and Beebe sold the Territorial Enterprise in 1961 and purchased a home in suburban San Fran
cisco. They continued the writing, photography, and travel that had marked their lives until Beebe's death from a heart attack at 63 on February 4, 1966. 

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