It’s 1957 in a suburb outside of Chicago. Gladys Richmond and her husband Jack, who works in aviation in sales, are very proud of their newly built ranch style home. They are a typical middle class American couple, enjoying their postwar modern conveniences and the comfort of being a two car family. Gladys adores her 1955 Chevy Bel Air almost as much as she enjoys juicy gossip.
Tonight Gladys is throwing a cocktail party. Every detail has been carefully planned. She has been waiting to put on this party for almost five months; she just needed the new carpet to be installed, and then the brand new living room would be ready to show itself to the neighborhood.
It took a lot of convincing and many perfectly crafted gimlets to get Jack to agree to an entire living room redesign. After all, he did get that promotion he had been gunning for last year, and they were still using the furniture Gladys’ parents gave them when they got married in 1950. She squealed with delight when he agreed to the plan: brand new wall-to-wall carpet in the perfect shade of almond, and a delightful wallpaper pattern that is most popular among Hollywood stars. The wallpaper store clerk assured her that the print called “Tropical Paradise” with its gorgeous hues of teal, yellow, and pink, the name alone saying it all, is like having a piece of Maui right in your living room. And of course, she found the new Starlight sectional sofa in canary yellow and dual turquoise sitting chairs. It’s just a dream, this set. It perfectly compliments the new modern cherry wood Hi Fi cabinet and matching coffee table they purchased after the promotion came through. The purchase of a top of the line Hi Fi took a few less gimlets for convincing.
All of the furnishings have now been placed perfectly, even the gorgeous, new pink ceramic lamps with whip-stitch shades, a gift from Mother that accents the room wonderfully. Gladys was even able to find matching pink ceramic ashtrays with tiny little gold boomerangs inlaid, what a hoot. The last item that she needed was the perfect size starburst gold clock that she had seen in an advert somewhere, which took some searching. But finally, a fellow that Jack works with had a cousin in furnishing and found the largest one she had ever seen. She put it in its place right over the couch. The room was finished with perfection.
It’s now 4:30 p.m. Gladys has just returned from the Beauty Parlor and the groomers. Her apricot locks have been expertly coiffed in a stunning foot high bouffant and her nails freshly polished in the perfect shade of blush. The poodles, Petra and Petey, have been groomed and donned with pink and blue bows, accordingly. Jack should be home within the hour to prepare the bar. She has another cup of coffee from the electric percolator and takes a brief moment to observe the arrangements that she’s been up since 5 a.m. preparing. She spent all weekend planning the buffet and cocktail menu. Last month, when the Benson’s had a cocktail party, Carol laid out a spread of very exotic Asian hors-devours, such as Peking wings, pineapple and ham rings, Spam and cherry tarts. It was very impressive, so Gladys had to be sure to raise the bar.
She reviews her menu before putting on her face, carefully checking each dish and noting what time she should begin heating each item:
Strawberry Cheese Salad
Bacon Wrapped Mini Franks
Pickle & Pimento loaf Pinwheels
Bologna Cheese Wedges
Curried Tuna Toasties
Cheez Whiz on Crackers with Pearl Onions
Jello Cherry Cheese Charmer Mold
Finally, Jack walks in the door with several bottles of gin, as requested, along with two cartons of Chesterfields. Gladys tells him that there is a new Hawaiian print tie waiting for him in the bedroom and to please be sure to remember to change into it after he shaves. As always, she hears a “Yes, Dear” and a chuckle as she races down the hallway to put on her face and get dressed. She chooses a brand new Midriff interest dress made of a luxurious peacock blue crepe fabric. Its softly draped bodice is wrapped in a cummerbund-effect of fine pleating; the skirt is a whirl of tiny unpressed pleats. With its scoop neckline, this dress is sure to wow, or at the very least make Mary Patterson from across the street green with envy. At Mary’s last cocktail party, she had the nerve to show off her new red Asian print dress that her husband Barry brought back from a business trip that made her look like a model, or a mistress, even! This time, Gladys would be sure to outshine all her card playing gal pals with this amazing frock.
This is Gladys’ favorite time, where she gets thirty minutes to herself, a perfect break for pampering and running through final plans in her head while preparing her look for the evening. Taking her seat at her vanity, she spreads out her makeup items. She just had a lengthy discussion with Eva, her Avon Lady, last week about tonight’s event. Gladys wanted to be sure she had the latest in eye shadows and lip shades; pinks and misty blue shades were chosen. Shalimar will be her signature scent for the evening. Jacks knows it’s her favorite and always gets her a bottle for her birthday, which she saves for special occasions. After a few puffs, she wriggles herself into her girdle, stockings, and her new dress. And what dress wouldn’t be complete without a gorgeous pair of strappy, pink, peep toe pumps?
Gladys emerges from her bedroom forty-five minutes later with her face neatly “on,” her eyes powdered in risky blue with her darkest false lashes draped across her lids, her cheeks perfectly blushed, and her lips decked in Double Dare red. Her dress is tighter than she remembers when she tried it on. Sitting will be challenging, but no matter; she looks ravishing, and, after all, she is the hostess.
Gladys checks with Jack to see that the bar is fully stocked and ready to go. They jointly review the cocktail list:
Gladys reminds Jack of the fun little umbrellas that she purchased for the party. She saw them in a McCalls feature and thought they would be a darling addition to tonight’s cocktails. She admires the ice bucket they chose last year when they purchased their bar. She loves the multi colored starbursts and the gold handle, which matches the room perfectly.
Guests are due to arrive at 6:00 p.m. Surely, Vicky and her husband, John Pool, the car salesman, will be the first to arrive, promptly at 6:02 p.m. Vicky has never understood the practice of the term “fashionably late.” Gladys is fairly certain that the Pools fast all day before a party or card game and are first to arrive so as not to miss the spread.
The food dishes are now heated and the buffet table is stocked. Jack admires the bounty and tells Gladys that she has outdone herself. Just then, at the stroke of 6:03, the door bell rings. Jack and Gladys look at each other and laugh as they simultaneously mouth “The Pools.” As
Gladys goes to the door to greet her guests, Jack starts the music, choosing Martin Denny’s new album Exotic to begin the evening. Gladys thinks one last thought before she opens the door, imagining several types of murder scenes and the possibility of prison if anyone spills anything on her new furniture. She quickly ushers the poodles off the new couch and rounds the corner to the yellow double doors to greet her guests.
By 8:00 p.m. Gladys’ house is packed. She has clearly impressed the ladies from her bridge group, and she overhears Nancy Gold tell Susan Schaefer that Jack must have gotten a rather large promotion, because the new living room looks like it cost a fortune! And the dress, all of the ladies have been absolutely falling over for it, and even Margaret Prescott asks if Gladys has a new diet plan, and Margaret is rare to hand out the compliments as she was born a size zero!
Phyllis Spencer tells her husband Dick that she wants the exact same carpet when they re-do their family room. Gladys thinks that the shade will be odd with their country style decor, and wonders if perhaps she can talk her into another shade, perhaps a lovely orange, at their next bridge game.
Stan Mitchell is drunk again and trying to dance with anyone who walks by. The smoke is thick in the air and the only items left on the buffet are a few slices of Jell-o mold and a couple of mini franks. Carol tells Gladys that she certainly succeeded in outdoing her own Asian inspired shin-dig and could she share the recipe for the wonderful strawberry cheese salad, Bill just adored it! She had been seen with several Martinis, but Gladys decides to take the compliment as true statements and not the booze talking.
It’s a job well done. Gladys gladly accepts another Tom Collins (this might be her fourth, but who’s counting?), kicks off her shoes, and allows Jack to take her for spin around the living room to some Bossa Nova. Gosh, this carpet feels heavenly!