Elsa Maxwell (May 24, 1883 – November 1, 1963) was an American gossip columnist and author, songwriter, and professional hostess renowned for her parties for royalty and high society figures of her day.
Maxwell is credited with the introduction of the scavenger hunt and treasure hunt for use as party games in the modern era. She also appeared as herself in the films Stage Door Canteen (1943) and Rhapsody in Blue (1945), as well as co-starring in the 1939 film Hotel for Women, for which she wrote the screenplay.
Elsa Maxwell was born at a theater in Keokuk, Iowa, during a performance of the opera Mignon. She subsequently was raised in San Francisco, where her father sold insurance and did freelance writing for the New York Dramatic Mirror. She developed a gift for staging games and diversions at parties for the rich, and began making a living devising treasure-hunt parties, come-as-your-opposite parties and other sorts, including a scavenger hunt in Paris in 1927 that inadvertently created disturbances all over the city. Returning to the US, Maxwell worked on movie shorts during the Depression, unsuccessfully. Following World War II, however, she gained an audience of millions as a newspaper gossip columnist.
Elsa Maxwell interviewing Marilyn Monroe at Walford Astoria, NY
Elsa Maxwell’s most notable achievements were the extravagant parties she threw for her friends in the worlds of art, science, politics, royalty, and society. She also hosted Elsa Maxwell’s Party Line on national radio and wrote a widely read newspaper column. Her constant companion, lover, and friend of fifty years was socialite Dorothy Fellowes-Gordon, affectionately referred to as “Dickie.” Maxwell left her entire estate (which amounted to less than $10,000 after all those parties) to Dickie.
Maxwell took credit for introducing Rita Hayworth to Prince Aly Khan in the summer of 1948. In 1953, Maxwell published a single issue of her magazine, Elsa Maxwell's Café Society, which had a portrait of Zsa Zsa Gabor on the cover. Anne Edwards' biography of Maria Callas (Callas, 2001) and Peter Evans biography of Aristotle Onassis both claim that Maxwell introduced Callas to Onassis. Edwards also claims that Maxwell was a lesbian who tried to seduce Callas, 40 years Maxwell's junior. Callas biographer Stelios Galatopoulos produced love letters from Maxwell written to Callas, who was less than receptive.
Maxwell told interviewer Mike Wallace in 1957:
I did not feel fit, to be only married. I belong to the world. I knew it instinctively when I was quite young. I belong to the world. Certainly I am the most shall we say immodestly, [among] the best-known people in the entire world today. Why, because I did not marry and I felt that I was not for marriage. It wasn't my ... thing to do.She died of heart failure in a Manhattan hospital. He longtime friend Dorothy "Dickie" Fellowes-Gordon was Maxwell's sole heir.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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