An article from TTOasia Magazine February 2008
by Leona Denis
I first met Gwendolyn Chabrier in the Oriental Hotel’s Bamboo bar, her very favourite hang-out in Bangkok.
“Gwenny” is an American heiress who one day decided to exorcise her demons and tell her story to the world. This is the tale of a very lonely little girl in “Wonderland” telling us bribes of her past in her real/false life novel.
When she was a little girl, every week during three years from Mondays to Fridays a musician would come to her mansion at 510 Park Avenue (NY) to give jazz lessons to her mother. It would have been unthinkable for her to hire any common teacher, only the prestigious Jazzman Teddy Wilson from the Benny Goodman quartet was good enough for her… During this time her mother was having a torrid affair with a German Baron who was crazy about Jazz, so maybe she was hoping to make him melt to her charms by becoming a Jazz pianist virtuoso?
Gwendolyn was only 3 years old at the time and while her mother was playing the piano she would dance and gaily skip around the living room under the strict surveillance of “Mademoiselle” her half French half German tutor. She also had a lot of fun while playing the piano but would end up losing her concentration very quickly, so although she was talented, she was not the very best pupil and Teddy would get mad at her much to her mother’s despair. So during three years the spoilt little girl had the incredible chance of being tutored by one of the greatest Jazzmen the planet has ever seen!
Her parent’s separation put an end to the piano lessons but when she turned sixteen, Teddy who had kept in touch with her family took Gwenny to the “Cotton Club” where he was the lead show. He died in 1986.
Just after her divorce Gwendolyn’s mother thought that a trip to Thailand would constitute the ideal distraction for her young daughter. Naturally they stayed in the Oriental Hotel and one evening they were invited to join Jim Thomson and his entourage for dinner. The mere idea of a meeting face to face with someone who had been a spy during the First World War and had been a member of the Intelligence Service seemed enthralling to the young thirteen year old girl. She was totally overwhelmed by his personality and his passion for ancient Asian Art, he possessed an incredible collection of Cambodian bronze sculptures, Ming vases and Burmese lacquer pieces. Jim would answer Gwenny’s incessant questioning with good humour and after a boat ride in the klongs he took her to visit some Antique shops. Her mother received some fabulous silk especially designed for her and had the most beautiful dresses designed by a renowned tailor. Later when Gwenny found out that her charming host had mysteriously disappeared during a trip to Malaysia she was very saddened by the news…
…His friends would call him Dicky, he was the great grandson of Queen Victoria and he was also Gwenny’s step-father’s uncle. For the young Gwendolyn Didi Mountbatten was just a fun and charming man. Being an Admiral and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Burma, Malaysia and last but not least Vice King of India were ideal qualities to reduce her mother to pulp. Their common passion for rare Faberge Eggs strengthened their bond. The day before her mother’s passing away Didi had the delicate attention of bringing her a rare specimen at the hospital. Gwendolyn also fondly recalls her fourth birthday when Didi arrived disguised as a clown to surprise her…
Prince Charles of England was Gwendolyn’s mother’s greatest fantasy! Ever since her birth, her mother dreamt of a Royal match for her only daughter and she had set her eyes on Charles. Regularly she kept hearing about his imminent trip to New York or her going to a tea-party in Buckingham Palace. The truth is that he didn’t appear to be Gwenny’s cup of tea as her memories of Charles, who at that time went by the nickname of “Plum-Pudding” are very blurry.
In the end -much to her family’s horror- Gwenny fell in love with a French lawyer from the Bourgeoisie who gave her the much awaited opportunity to flee from New York to a more mysterious and exotic France. After seven years of a tumultuous union they separated, Gwendolyn now spends her time with her favourite dog Junioress in her “hotel Particulier” in the 16th Arrondissement in Paris or jet-setting between her villa in Nice and Asia. She regularly comes to Bangkok which is now almost a second home.
Ms. Chabrier graduated magna cum laude from New York University with a BA and MA. She began her Doctoral studies at Harvard, which were completed in France, and she holds a Doctorat d’Etat with highest honors from the Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne. Ms. Chabrier has been a professor of literature at New York University, the University of Rouen, and the Sorbonne. She has also been a literary scout for Les Editions Lebaud in Paris.
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