In the dining room, the setting of her famous dinner parties. She wears her own Ralph Lauren shirt and jeans, pumps, and jewelry.
Model: Georgette Mosbacher, Photographer: Patrick Demarchelier
The World of Georgette Mosbacher
By Nancy Collins
Glamour is not something that politics understands," says the glamorous ruby-haired Republican, tucking herself into the silk sofa in the living room of her elegant Fifth Avenue apartment in New York. "In politics, attention is power and glamour always steals the limelight. The last thing politicians want is the camera off them. And then there's the stigma that when you're glamorous, you can't be smart-the dumb blonde syndrome."
Georgette Mosbacher is no dumb blonde. In fact, this one smart cookie of a redhead, the chairman and CEO of beauty company Borghese, has always been an exception to the political rule that savvy politics can't come in fancy packaging. In fact, the New York Republican National Committeewoman, one of the party's most ardent fundraisers, is a past master at wheedling dough for the cause from VIPs and true believers, many of whom will happily be traipsing to her receptions and dinners during next month's Republican convention in New York.
It isn't her first time at the GOP rodeo. During the first Bush administration, as the wife of Robert Mosbacher Sr., Secretary of Commerce and best pal of the president, Mosbacher was privy to the epicenter of power, a position she loved and "never took for granted. Every time I went to the White House, I thought, How did a girl from Highland, Indiana, who ironed shirts to get through college, end up here? The truth was, I got lucky and fell in love with a man who took me there."
Still, in a town where beige is fashion statement, Mosbacher was fire-engine red-starting with her job as the head of La Prarie, the prestigious skincare line that she bought, turned around and sold in three years. "There wasn't a tradition of cabinet wives being professional women," she says of the career that required almost daily commutes between Washington and New York. "I was well known on the 6:30 A.M. shuttle," she says with a laugh. By 5 P.M., she was back in Washington, hosting on of her frequent parties. "I loved entertaining," she says of the dinners where she first served up "policy discussions" on the menu. "Since I had access to some of the most brilliant minds running the world, I thought everyone would like to hear what they had to say. And frankly it was a learning experience for me. I've always been very curious."
Almost twelve years-and one husband-later, nothing has changed, except the venue. An invitation to Mosbacher;s Manhattan salon, with its 20-foot ceilings and massive Chinese screens, is still a hot ticket. "I love having friends over; in fact, my great joy is mixing eclectic groups for great conversation. It isn't a successful party unless you've met someone new."
Notoriously organized, Mosbacher runs her parties as she does her life-with gracious clockwork. A man's woman who loves to shoot and fish, Mosbacher is also a great girlfriend who makes it clear that when it comes to her soirees, no woman need worry about showing up solo. "Any woman can come to my house alone-they don't even have to ask. I want my girlfriends to be attractive and smart, and they're always welcome, with or without a man."
It is this independence that makes Mosbacher's monthly dinner parties such a movable feast. For starters, there's intimacy, the single, round table seating 18. And though he food is "basic-beef Wellington is as fancy as it gets," she says, "with perhaps a salmon tartar starter and deep-dish apple pie for dessert"-delicious cuisine is mere backdrop for the main event: conversation. Cocktails begin at 7:30 P.M., with guests at the table no later that 8:10, "because men don't like late nights." Though the first course is reserved for chatting up dinner partners, by the entrée, Mosbacher has thrown a question onto the table - "Iraq, economics, some current event "- and the sole discussion is off and running. "If you want to just listen and not interact, fine," she says, "but we've had some very spirited conversations."
Still the most dazzling element at any Mosbacher get-together is the hostess herself. Vivacious, generous and down-to-earth, Mosbacher knows how to have a good time and brings everyone else along with her. "I want people to have fun. And I'm not fussy. The most valuable thing in this apartment is my dog, Eve, who's allowed to climb on any piece of furniture," she says, motioning to an antique English partners' desk. She pauses. "Many people aren't adaptable, but I'm game. You make your own fun, and I do, whether I'm out in a tent or hip-deep in cold water, fly-fishing-which isn't how most people see me. All they see is the glamour."
That persona is only part of the Midwestern gal who grew up in a "one-parent family on the edge of poverty." When Mosbacher's father died, leaving her 27-year-old mother with four children under the age of eight, her maternal grandmother and great-grandmother circled the familial wagons. "We were raised by women who taught us to work hard, take responsibility, honor God, and respect your elders and believe in self-determination," says Mosbacher, who, as oldest, was "always the enforcer and caretaker,. My mother didn't read my fairy tales. She read The Power of Positive Thinking," which didn't mean, she adds, "that you had to dress or act like a man. My grandmother was a railroad switcher, and she still wore high heels and silk stockings to work."
"What it boiled down to was self-respect," she continues, "And I also learned that looks count. The women's movement did a disservice saying it wasn't true. It may not be fair but given the choice between two equally smart people, one groomed and attractive, the other not, who's going to win? Anyone who says it doesn't matter is a liar. I always want to look good."
Toward that end, Mosbacher designed a Command Central of a closet, glorious enough to make any woman swoon. "It's my cocoon…where I feel safest because it encompasses my life,: she says of the converted bedroom with its rows of open racks and shelves, "to see where everything is. I like being surrounded by all my personal things, my computer, flat-screen TV, lounge chair, Jacuzzi, packing island, desk, tub, shower and refrigerator-it's that self-contained. I utilized every inch, including a desk, because I work here. This is my home office."
When it comes to clothes, Mosbacher intuitively understood that if all the world's a stage, costume accordingly. "Greowing up we didn't have money for clothes, so it was important for me to have them later," says the woman who thrives in a $20 white shirt or a feather-and-Lesage-embroidered gown by Ralph Rucci, her favorite designer. "As soon as I could afford it, in my thirties, I bought couture, Givenchy and Gianfranco Ferre" - an obsession since outgrown. "I aspired to what my family didn't have, and once I got those things, they weren't interesting anymore. Now I'm more excited about attending a seminar or think tank. Nevertheless, you can bet Mosbacher will show up perfectly turned out. "I'm of the old school: 'Put your best foot forward.' I always make an effort, even in jeans. I might not wear full makeup, but always lipstick. That's a constant."
As is, often, some outrageous hunk of magnificent, oversize jewelry. "I like things that are whimsical and eccentric," she says, "conversation pieces"-like her beloved black, white and gray pearls, part of last year's $500,000 heist at the Charles de Gaulle airport that included a Cartier Panthere pin and matching earrings. "You can't find the size and quality of the pearls in that triple-strand necklace, earrings and ring anymore," she sighs. "I wore them with everything from ball gowns to jeans."
The complete article appears on page 112 of the July issue of Bazaar. Or subscribe today and get Bazaar delivered directly to your door every month.
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