Simpson has been credited with the diabolically Marie Antoinette–esque remark, “A woman can never be too rich or too thin
The lifestyle has caught on uptown: Her eponymous catering company has supplied organic vegan food for such fastidious fashionistas as Diane von Furstenberg, Valentino Garavani, and Donna Karan
” But while that might be her most famous diet-related bon mot, it’s not her best. She is also reputed to have said to her future husband, one night when he was weighing giving up the crown: “Darling, you can’t abdicate and eat it.”
San Francisco, 1942: The socialite Irma Schlesinger puts her chubby 12-year-old daughter on a diet. The girl, the future Nan Kempner, promptly takes up smoking as an appetite suppressant. (She opts for Parliaments, her mother’s brand.) Kempner-along with pals like Pat Buckley (both women are pictured up top alongside Wallis Simpson)-goes on to inspire the term “social X-ray,” coined by Tom Wolfe in his 1987 satire of Manhattan manners, Bonfire of the Vanities, to describe the city’s skeletal social set.
As a child in the 1960s, future debutante poster girl Cornelia Guest announced to her parents (society golden couple C. “When I was very small I remember having an argument with my poor father: ‘Daddy, I’m not going to eat these cows,’” she tells T&C.
The story that after she was widowed for a second time, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s daily diet consisted of a single baked potato with a dollop of beluga caviar has passed into New York lore-never mind that it may be apocryphal.
Z. and Winston Frederick Churchill Guest) her intention of becoming vegetarian
In 1998, however, her longtime housekeeper, , a book that provides the most concrete evidence of the former first lady’s tastes. Flavor-challenged highlights include a cheeseless risotto and a noodle casserole made with cottage cheese. No wonder Jackie wore those huge dark glasses: She probably couldn’t bear to look at the food.
Carolyne Roehm and her then-husband, billionaire corporate raider Henry Kravis, were icons of conspicuous ’80s success. Profiles from the era attributed Roehm’s enviable figure-which was often clad in Oscar de la Renta, for whom she had been a model and an assistant designer-to, improbably, Kentucky Fried Chicken and cookies.
“Sometimes I just go really pure junk food, like Oreo cookies,” she confirms of her diet to this day. “Sometimes I clean it up a little bit and go to homemade chocolate chip.” The Upper East Side irony of it all is that Kravis would later be depicted in the book Barbarians at the Gate as the model of predatory capitalism for his aggressive, leveraged buyout of Oreo’s parent company. But Roehm insists she came by her cookie quirk honestly. “No,” she says with a chuckle, “this was before my husband-at-the-time owned RJR Nabisco!”
In 1984, Merla Zellerbach, a San Francisco socialite and editor of the upper-crust chronicle the Nob Hill Gazette, published Detox, a diet book based on her theory of eliminating toxins. “Zellerbach’s promotion of detox was unusual for her social station,” Bitar writes in Diet and the Disease of Civilization. “The diet itself was complicated: Foods were divided into families, and then each family followed a specific rotation every four days. All these foods could be cooked only with spring or filtered water and in specific materials. Stainless steel, glass, porcelain, and cast iron were permissible, but aluminum, nonstick, and plastic cookware were prohibited.”
Bitar also notes that Zellerbach “was among the first diet book authors to include wheat and meat alongside cocaine and alcohol as addictive substances.” Her message may have been scary, but the timing was right, and the book’s environmental message made it a hit among the gilded granola set on both coasts.