- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2005

It was an age of snobbery and civility.

When men carried perfectly starched white hankies in their breast pockets and discreetly snoozed off one too many lunchtime martinis in the library of the Metropolitan Club. When hairdressers had one name: Maurice.

When women wore pearls and parures, cocktail hats, white gloves and stockings with seams. They carried engraved calling cards and wouldn’t dream of sitting next to a known “F.P.” at a dinner party.

That’s “fanny pincher.”

“Yes, she did have notation in her cards for those people who were known as ‘F.P.s,’” 81-year-old Thomas J. Murray Sr. recalls, his silver hair neatly clipped and his Chanel tie properly knotted. “And ‘B.D.s,’ as well.”

That’s “bad drunk.”

He is referring to his late mother-in-law, famed Washington arbiter of manners Carolyn Hagner Shaw, who oversaw the Social List of Washington, D.C. (known as the “Green Book” because of its emerald felt covers). It caused fear and loathing throughout the capital.

It was never just a social list, per se. It became a directory of well-born, well-connected party givers and goers who oozed the kind of social status those below the salt would envy.

Actually, it was Mrs. Shaw’s mother, Helen Ray Hagner, who hatched the idea in 1930 by collecting guest lists for debutante parties. She set up a tiny Social Bureau in the Shoreham Hotel. So the Green Book was born. The privately published directory celebrates its 75th anniversary this week, and a look through Mr. Murray’s scrapbook and faded collection of directories reveals a vast treasury — a King Tut’s tomb of Washington tidbits — detailing who was in over the years. And who was out.

Those who lived by the Green Book died by the Green Book.

“People killed to get into it,” former White House social secretary Letitia Baldridge says. “People took it very seriously. They spent their whole life trying. It was so important to them.”

What seems a quaint record of WASP Americana was originally a bible of belonging. Every October, just as the fall social season was getting started, the plain brown cardboard box arrived in the mail. Then the phones started ringing. One could get dropped for divorce, arrest, indictment, becoming an “O.F.” (an “old fool” who married a woman his granddaughter’s age) or merely having a bad choice of spouse.

“If a man married a woman of bad reputation, he was dropped,” Miss Baldridge says.

No doubt there were those who stayed together to stay in the Green Book.

It was rather thin in the early years, when it cost $12. Later, the Green Book gradually grew to more than 6,000 names, and the rate has climbed to $75, which includes free telephone advice on matters of protocol and etiquette.

Nowadays, it is regarded as a handy phone book that lists not only socialites and gentlefolk, but also top-ranking diplomats, the current administration, Congress and Supreme Court justices and even includes a maiden-name crisscross directory.

The telephone advice line has handled a flurry of perplexed callers.

One year, an elderly person listed in the Green Book expired. His final wish was to be buried in his favorite white tie and tails, but the funeral was at 2 p.m., a faux pas in anyone’s book. His widow’s friends warned her, so she called the Green Book, which graciously gave her the green light.

To be included, one must have two sponsors write letters of recommendation. Then a questionnaire was mailed to the applicant asking for clubs, schools, occupation and vacation homes. Through the years, these maisons secondaires appeared with such names as Peaches’ Place, Wink’n’Fox Farm and Summersalt. Mrs. Charles A. Camalier Jr. still holds pride of place for five — count ‘em, five — residences from Naples, Fla., to Nantucket, Mass.

Race and money issues were never raised — it was assumed the secret “board of governors” already knew all that.

In 1943, the legendary Mrs. Shaw, a flamboyant woman known as “Callie,” took over as editor from her mother. Herself divorced, she remained in charge until her death in 1977, when the book passed to her daughter, Jean Shaw Murray, Mr. Murray’s late wife, who died in 1985.

By the 1940s, phone numbers appeared. In 1971, the first black couple, Mr. and Mrs. Churchill Willoughby, was included.

“Time moves on, you know,” Mrs. Shaw said then. “And I’m moving with the times.”

It did no good to send her flowers or whiskey. Trying to bribe your way into the Green Book “only backfired,” and Mrs. Shaw announced that those guilty of such a blatant approach would get in only over her dead body.

To be dropped by the Green Book (in social terms known as “the deep freeze”) has, in past years, been met with hara-kiri or hilarity, depending on how seriously one aspired to social greatness.

Asked his reaction to being dropped after outrageously rude behavior in public, former Jimmy Carter adviser Hamilton Jordan said he was “devastated.” When Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee was omitted after his divorce from wife Toni and his love affair with writer Sally Quinn (to whom he is wed), he told People magazine, tongue firmly in cheek, that it was “a cruel, cruel blow.”

Other victims of unpleasant notoriety were Madeira headmistress Jean Harris, who was dropped after fatally shooting her lover, Scarsdale Diet author Dr. Herman Tarnower.

Author and socialite Barbara Howar also got the boot when she blabbed inside details about Luci Baines Johnson’s White House wedding. “I guess I talk too much,” she was quoted as saying.

It was bye-bye to Martha Mitchell, too, after she made that loopy late-night phone call to United Press International correspondent Helen Thomas during the Watergate affair.

Mr. Murray says the publication used to announce who was dropped off the list, but no more. “They’d sue us,” he says.

ABC News anchor David Brinkley was blackballed one year during his divorce, then reinstated when he remarried. “The real problem was, ‘Where would you send the invitation?’” Mr. Murray says. “And how would you address it?”

Old-guard society folk such as Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, Mr. and Mrs. David K.E. Bruce and Mesdames Truxton Beale, Robert Low Bacon, George A. Garrett, Sidney Kent Legare (grandes dames always used their husbands’ names in polite society) eventually went to that great ballroom in the sky and have been replaced by nouveau society: real estate moguls, construction kings, dot-commers and others in what used to be described loosely as “those in trade.” Not that they don’t deserve it. After all, most of them do raise megabucks for local causes.

“There is no real society in Washington anymore,” Mrs. Baldridge pronounces. “It doesn’t exist anymore.”

So, why the need for the Green Book?

Mr. Murray acknowledges that the social scene has changed dramatically since his mother-in-law’s day. “It’s certainly not the way it was, but it’s a shame,” he says. “This whole idea was to reward people who accomplished something.”

Or punish one for being an F.P.

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