Bird on a Wire
august's julia lyndon is a high-riding equestrienne and the fastest phone in the west
Julia Lyndon is a serious information freak, a one-woman rumor-control center. And from the sound of the telephone ringing, everyone in the world has her number. Calm, competent, our August gatefold girl juggles calls from Rome, Montreal, Provincetown, Los Angeles and Chicago, setting up a lunch date with one of her former teachers ("the one who went nude swimming at Truro Beach"), returning a business call from her copy writer ("It's not urgent; I was just making a bit of a panic"), cross-referencing two friends alone in a distant city ("I've already told her you'll call") and planning a rendezvous in Hollywood ("We can spend a day at the Malibu Riding and Tennis Club"). The tool of Julia's trade is one of Ma Bell's best: a push-button phone with accessories for call forwarding, conference calls and call holding. "If someone is trying to reach me while I'm on the phone, which I usually am, I hear a beep, ask my party to hold, press the receiver and ask the second caller to hold. Sort of like tag-team telephoning." In a sense, Julia is in competition with the phone company. She is in San Francisco for a year, putting together a hip Yellow Pages, a directory of chic shops, haute restaurants and genuinely good places to go: "Are you interested in circus antiques and neat things? Try Hot Flash of America on Upper Market. What about Sherlock Holmes? You look like the type who likes detective stories. There's a bar and Holmes museum in Grosvenor Towers. We can go there for drinks after dinner." Over a fine French meal at L'Etoile, Julia explains her fascination with and energetic pursuit of information. "It probably began in high school. I went to a small girls' school in Upstate New York. There were 300 courses available. You designed your own curriculum. When nothing's required, when you are doing what you've chosen, you have to devote all your energy to it. You can't make excuses. The cat can't eat your homework. I was tutored in Italian, Japanese history, Shakespeare. I booked movies for the film society. I was in pre-Olympic training for the equestrian team. But then I discovered cities. I began to major in weekends. Every Friday, my girlfriend and I would journey down to New York to see the Juilliard Quartet or to attend a gallery opening or a literary party. I financed those weekends by playing high-stakes backgammon in the parlors near Washington Square. I was hustling backgammon before Hef ever heard about the game. Also, on the Upper East Side I resold Victorian lace dresses that I found in Village thrift shops. I had a thing for Paul Poiret -- a turn-of-the-century dress designer -- and I would sort through discard bins, hoping to uncover an original. I did find one. The rest was profit. But I learned a basic survival skill by the time I was 14. I learned to personalize the city. When I go out, I make a point of meeting the person responsible for my evening's pleasure. The owner or chef at a restaurant. The artist whose work I admire at an opening or the man who runs the gallery. I try to add a who to the where. That way, I'm always visiting friends. It's a one-on-one relationship. Essentially, that's what I'm doing in San Francisco right now. I don't love this city, but I know it on a first-name basis." The talk moves on -- a connect-the-digression rap involving the sense of theater in Los Angeles, the significance of spiral staircases, Japanese literature, the Italian commedia dell' arte, writing (she keeps a loose-leaf notebook of events that seemed to have been staged for her benefit) and, finally, back to names. "I have on occasion used an alias. Once, my girlfriend had her heart set on going to the Rainbow Room in New York for Easter Sunday brunch. The maître de looked at these two teenage girls, arched his eyebrow and asked, 'Do you have a reservation?' My friend was about to turn and leave, but I grabbed her hand. 'Yes, I'm sure my mother called in from Tarrytown.' 'What's the name?' 'Rockefeller.' 'Right this way.' We had the best table. Now, whenever I go back, I get treated like a Rockefeller. I guess this pictorial blows that, right?" Yes. We can imagine the gatefold stapled to the maître de's station at the Rainbow Room, with the warning: "This girl is not who she claims to be." But we suspect she'll get a table.
Photography by Phillip Dixon