- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Jason Tesauro talks of ascots, fine wine and Algonquin Roundtable-style badinage without a trace of irony.Being a gentleman isn't a postmodern riff on his parents' or grandparents' generations. It's a genuine affection for a time gone by and one that will live on, if Mr. Tesauro has anything to say about it.
The 30-year-old author and Richmond resident co-wrote the book on how a respectable man should behave: "The Modern Gentlemen: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy & Vice."
The 330-page book defines what makes one a gent these days, from proper tipping etiquette to suggestions on adding sparkle to social events. It is all presented in rarefied verbiage that is both literate and engaging.
The book has gone back to press three times since its September release and has been mentioned in Esquire, Details and Playboy magazines.
The project took shape, inadvertently, when Mr. Tesauro stumbled across a moldy copy of Amy Vanderbilt's 1958 Book of Etiquette lying on a street curb.
"It was so antiquated," Mr. Tesauro says during a recent visit to the District. He notes that while the book offered some solid advice, it did not address many modern issues. Where, he asked himself, could one find tips about wooing women in the modern era? The role of e-mail in courtship, for example, with hints on impeccably written notes bursting with romantic potential.
"Gentleman," co-written by longtime pal Phineas Mollod over a four-year period, also includes extensive information on how to cultivate a finer taste for food, literature and music.
"If all we had were manners and vice, we'd be hollow," Mr. Tesauro says between sips of a perfect Manhattan at the tony Hay-Adams Hotel.
Those unsure about refining their cultural palates are treated to information based on the authors' own experiences.
That includes a music section with "10 serious jazz albums no man should be without," a checklist that includes selections by Charlie Parker, Grant Green and Charles Mingus. "Even if you couldn't stand band in high school," Mr. Tesauro says, "here's a way to expand your symphonal mind."
Don't accuse Mr. Tesauro of not practicing what he preaches. The precise prose that spills forth on the printed page pours just as swiftly from his mouth, which is framed by a lush but orderly goatee.
Mr. Tesauro, a poet and marketing director for Barboursville Vineyards in Virginia, also thinks a gentleman should savor more decadent desires perhaps a quick dip, au naturel, in the nearest pond.
Portions of his book feature tips hardly meant for those of stiff moral rectitude: horse-track betting, strip-club etiquette, etc. Other less-than-savory topics include the use of birth control under the heading "prophyletiquette" and various hangover remedies.
Hedonistic pursuits, Mr. Tesauro says, define a gentleman as much as holding open a door for a women.
Only to a point, however.
"A gentleman should maintain his libidinous discipline," he warns.
The Patterson, N.J., native attended Drew University in his home state, where he met Mr. Mollod, a lawyer in training. The two found their tastes complemented each other, but both felt their lives needed more spice.
Rather than engage in such typically twentysomething activities as excessive drinking, the pair went ascot shopping. Soon, they had gotten in touch with their inner gentleman.
Their sophisticated style provided a side benefit: Women loved it.
Take it from a reformed cad the book's acknowledgments feature Mr. Tesauro's vague apology to those who knew him in his pre-gentleman days women do prefer the sophisticated man.
The author casts an appreciative gaze at the stylish '30s and '40s for inspiration.
"There's something about that era men wearing hats and pocket squares, women carrying themselves with a kind of coyness," he says.
He found a fellow believer in his wife.
"Elizabeth is a reincarnation of a woman from that era," he says. The pair married in 2001, with Mr. Tesauro bedecked in an ensemble inspired by one of Clark Gable's suits from "Gone With the Wind."
Not everyone is on board with his stylish manners. He has seen his social circle shrink over the past few years, and some in his family appear unconvinced of his transformation.
His cousins from New Jersey tell him in no uncertain terms to "stop using the big words," he says.
Mr. Tesauro soaked up sartorial influences wherever he could to help shape the book, but he also looked to his family for help.
"My own father was a gentleman in his younger days," says Mr. Tesauro, sporting his grandfather's tie tack. "He wooed my mother and was a sharp dresser."
Not every occasion calls for a gentlemanly polish, but Mr. Tesauro suggests that even the most mundane moments can be improved with a touch of style.
"If you're having your Salisbury steak dinner put a linen napkin on your lap," he says. "Stick a frilly toothpick into your turkey club."
Such maneuvers may seem modest, but he points to gentlemanly behavior as a vehicle for self-improvement.
He sees America at a stage where significant social mobility is within reach, pointing to Bill Clinton's rise from poverty to the presidency.
Someone perusing his book won't necessarily make such sweeping personal changes, but it could mark a shift toward a more fulfilling life.
"We're telling people you've got the same opportunity to better yourself," he says.

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