"The imagination is not our escape. On the contrary, the imagination is the place we are all trying to get to."
April 22, 2012 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Last month, select portions of New York society observed the passing of Alan Z. Feuer, for some four decades a fixture at numerous benefits and balls, an integral member of the Quadrille Committee and the Germanistic Society of America, and, as friends and admirers remembered him, "a classic gentleman" and "the role model extraordinaire to the true gentlemen and ladies of New York". At his memorial service, they recounted "stories of Alan as the life and soul of the party, Alan the ex-service man, Alan as a very dear family friend – who became part of that family" and of his "ability to make you feel like the most important person in the room".

Few even suspected, and none knew, of his secret double life... until the other Alan Feuer investigated.
posted by Doktor Zed (30 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I arrived in a tie and blazer, but unfortunately also in what the maître d’ sniffingly referred to as “denim trousers.”

*heh* Reminds me of the time I went to the Louic XIV in New Orleans as the guest of Scholastic, the publishing company. As the maitre d tucked my chair in under me a the table, he murmured in my ear in a french accent, "We normally do not allow ze jeans here, but tonight we will make an exception."
posted by hippybear at 4:43 PM on April 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


It doesn't sound like he did anyone any harm. He just fudged the part about who his family was and where they came from. I wonder why?
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 4:50 PM on April 22, 2012


I admire his brother. In a paradoxical way I'd like this story better if it had never been published. Feels like cheating him of his victory, to have exposed him, when he went to the grave with his facade maintained as he had wanted it.
posted by Diablevert at 4:54 PM on April 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


Really nice story.
posted by carping demon at 4:56 PM on April 22, 2012


I'm curious about his Conservative Party politics. Maybe he represents the dream of all those who vote against their own self-interest.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:59 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's wonderful, like something from a fairy tale. The guest book page, linked above, is filled with improbable characters and names from an imaginary NYC I thought only existed in books.
posted by thylacinthine at 5:00 PM on April 22, 2012


honestly, this line made me tear up a bit:

“No,” he continued, smiling now, shaking his head. “There’s nothing wrong with that at all — with being a character.”

how boring all our lives would be without characters.
posted by sio42 at 5:00 PM on April 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


That's a lovely little story. Thanks for posting it.
posted by ph00dz at 5:13 PM on April 22, 2012


I read this this morning and felt the same way as the above commenter- that the 'other' Alan would have been so upset to have been 'outed' by the author.
I actually had an internal conversation with myself (I live alone!) As to the ethical-ness of this and whether the writer Alan had any little twinge of guilt in writing and publishing this, knowing how much the other Alan would have hated being exposed to his friends and acquaintances, even after death.
posted by bquarters at 5:27 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


What secret double-life? Article fails to deliver on the promise. He never claimed to be the rightful King of Albania or anything. He sounds like a lovely chap though.
posted by w0mbat at 5:33 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person who finds the fact that he appeared to be willing to take money from his mother, yet chose to deny her even in death, just a touch reprehensible? And was it so honorable to deny his Jewish background?
posted by Isadorady at 6:00 PM on April 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I read this this morning and felt the same way as the above commenter- that the 'other' Alan would have been so upset to have been 'outed' by the author.

By consenting to the 2011 article, Feuer had already broken his rule about his "kind of people" appearing in newspapers on only three occasions—"births, deaths and weddings". I suspect that in the last year of his life, he knew that the posthumous chances of concealing his humble family origins and mundane relatives would be more than his considerable charm could achieve. He therefore cultivated this New York Times writer, much as he'd cultivated so many socialites, in order to clinch favorable reviews of his four decade-long performance. That the self-styled blue-blooded bon vivant turned out to spring from an unremarkably red-blooded source seems, in retrospect, like just the sort of amusing anecdote he'd have told to entertain his fellow partygoers. The warm and comments today on his legacy.com page suggest he could have pulled it off.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:03 PM on April 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


I also think that the story should have remained unpublished. It served no purpose but to rattle the bones of a man who died happy and loved. Why try to make the people who knew him as he was feel tricked?

I consider this ethically akin to outing someone who successfully lived their life as an opposite gender. Outing them after death does nothing beneficial for anyone. This isn't real journalism any more than reports on starlet panty color is journalism.
posted by dejah420 at 6:07 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So you'd prefer that the paper leave a lie as the official record? Or maybe a page 10 retraction?
posted by empath at 6:33 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ha. Love 86-year-old society don Ivan Obolensky on the last page:

There seemed no better moment to ask Mr. Obolensky if he knew about Alan’s history.

“Oh no,” he demurred. “I don’t ask about lineage. It’s not done.”

“Well,” I said, “what if I was to tell you. ... ” And I told him. Everything.

My host sat back in his club chair, silenced, and I worried for a moment that I had made a terrible mistake. But then a look of wild delight sprang into his eyes — the look, I thought, of a man who hadn’t been surprised in 40 years.

Slowly, Mr. Obolensky said: “God bless him. That’s fantastic. Some people just need to be on deck, don’t they? There’s nothing wrong with that.

“No,” he continued, smiling now, shaking his head. “There’s nothing wrong with that at all — with being a character.”

posted by mediareport at 6:56 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was cool...of course, many people have done this throughout time. Alfred Jarry, creator
of "Ubu Roi", a scandelous, scatalogical Dada Theatrical Character in France @ turn of 1900
actually took on the character as his personality. Freud famously dubbed it the "Jarry complex" ...
he was observed in Paris, wandering the street in costume, behaving as his character.

And, of course, Martin Sheen in "Apocalypse Now", George C. Scott in "Patton", Jim Carry in "Man in the Moon",.....it's a professional hazard for actors.....they're not findiing who they are...they get off on and get lost in (the bliss of, really,) becoming a character.

I was in a play with Broom Street Theatre in 1971. We took part of it (it was 4 hours long)
to a bar in Osh Kosh (Begosh) Wisconsin. After the show, a professor at the university ther
invited the whole cast to his house to party. After a while at his house, he said: "Don't you people ever stop acting?" Because we had remained in character from the play

But this person found his character and went with it.....fantastic....think: Captain Beffheart, Wavy Gravy, Frank Zappa, All of the Greatful Dead....ect.

Think Jackie Robinson, for god's sake.
posted by eggtooth at 6:56 PM on April 22, 2012


The classic example is, of course, Emperor Norton.
posted by empath at 7:22 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bravo, him. Like we're not all characters playing at something we're not. Especially those who know they're genuine.
posted by Twang at 7:24 PM on April 22, 2012


Twang: That's the point of this, isn't it? Choose what character you want to portray wisely
posted by eggtooth at 7:35 PM on April 22, 2012


Brings to mind "Clark Rockefeller" without the con, fraud and other related crimes.
posted by ericb at 8:07 PM on April 22, 2012


I love Mr. Obolensky's reaction. And good for the late Mr. Feuer for making a life that made him happy.

But I also think this kind of article is important to write, because anything that demystifies the bullshit idea that inherited social position is anything but a whopping multigenerational con game is all to the good. I applaud Mr. Feuer for conning some big players in his day.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:14 PM on April 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Whit Stilman needs to make a movie about this guy.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:30 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


an invitation to one of Alan’s balls.

Sorry, but my inner 14-year-old snorted milk at this.
posted by chavenet at 2:52 AM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Brings to mind "Clark Rockefeller" without the con, fraud and other related crimes.

Feuer was much more elegant about it than "Rockefeller." No name change, and he seemed to make his way mostly through omission. Feuer's restraint is probably why the ruse lasted until his death.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:31 AM on April 23, 2012


I agree with everything here. But I think the answer to the mystery is in the language the brother used to evade the question. Basically, "I ain't sayin' nuttin'." I'm not a mindreader, but I can guess that Feuer grew up in the hardscrabble New York of the time, went to England and saw a different way to live, and decided that's how he wanted to live. Not that he was exactly ashamed of his working class roots, but that didn't see much to be proud of.
posted by gjc at 7:20 AM on April 23, 2012


I agree with everything here. But I think the answer to the mystery is in the language the brother used to evade the question. Basically, "I ain't sayin' nuttin'." I'm not a mindreader, but I can guess that Feuer grew up in the hardscrabble New York of the time, went to England and saw a different way to live, and decided that's how he wanted to live. Not that he was exactly ashamed of his working class roots, but that didn't see much to be proud of.

What working class roots? Your decision to render his borther's words in dialect is a curious one, and contrary to the direct quote in the Times. The family lived in the suburbs; his father had a law degree and owned a business; his grandfather did the same, and he went to college out of state. You appear to be shading these facts with your own presumptions.
posted by Diablevert at 8:05 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the twin is the hero of the piece. Everyone has that one family member who is always socially climbing, and you can either hate them for turning away from their roots or accept them the way they are -- as having different goals than you, but still your family. What a good brother.

I told him what I wanted: to know why Alan had felt compelled to reinvent himself.
“I know exactly why,” he said, “but I’m not saying nothing. And it’ll stay that way till my grave.”
Taken aback, I said tactically, but truthfully, that I also felt responsible for having helped perpetuate a story that wasn’t true.
Stephan surprised me with his sensitivity, his protectiveness of Alan.
“Listen,” he said, “you didn’t perpetuate nothing that wasn’t true in my brother’s eyes.”

posted by bluefly at 9:26 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


My father went to high school with Van Cliburn. A more appropriate career for Mr. Cliburn, having grown up in that particular part of Texas, at that particular point in time, would have been to be a piano player in a whorehouse.

There is nothing wrong with Alan Z. Feuer's accomplishment. Transgressing caste is something that should be outed; those who love and admire Mr. Feuer for who he was, as they knew him, won't mind. Those who do mind were not Mr. Feuer's friends, and are people of little account, despite perhaps their noble origins. Take that with a grain of salt, as well; there are doubtless many pretenders in those circles.
posted by Xoebe at 10:03 AM on April 23, 2012


I love this story, and also feel a little regret that it’s in the New York Times, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that it is. Of course I want to know it, but I wish it was told to me privately by the author.
posted by bongo_x at 11:03 AM on April 23, 2012


So you'd prefer that the paper leave a lie as the official record? Or maybe a page 10 retraction?

God forbid a lie appear in the pages of the New York Times.
posted by atrazine at 10:07 AM on May 8, 2012


« Older In an effort to lose tons of weight before their w...  |  Cowboy Bebop director Shinichi... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments